Isla de Ometepe // A miracle in a lake
Nicaragua has plenty of volcanos. There are 19 active ones. Some are bigger and some are more active than others. Most of them are spread parallel to the pacific coast. Nicaraguas biggest lake, lake Nicaragua, starts right after the Costa Rican border on the pacific side. And this giant lake ( 8.000m² ) has about 400 islands on it. Okay thats not to special, I know, but what if I tell you there are two volcanos rising from the lake, forming an island? Mh, doesn’t that sound awesome?!
So because a volcano is pretty big this island is also pretty big and there are different towns and villages along the island as well as some intresting things to do.
If you get seasick easily you won’t like the one and a half hours to get to Ometepe. And yes even though you are on a lake it is quite wavy. If you pick the bigger ferry (2$) it is more compfortable than the smaller ones which mostly carry comoditys and only few travelers ( ~ 1$). And if you are late as me you will see a beautiful sunset, but better don’t be late ( a ferry after 3pm) because there are almost no buses anymore in the afternoon.
Most ferrys and boats arive in Moyogalpa some do in San Jose. Moyogalpa and Altagracia are the two biggest city and also the most touristy ones. You can find there anything. Resataurants, hotels, hostels and many offered tours. You are looking for something more quiet? Perfect. Go anywhere else. The are ecolodges and layed back hostels all over the island.
Most famous ecolodges are Zopelote and finca Magdalena on the smaller volcano Maderas. Generally I should mention that Ometepe is not a party island. Not at all. You can get beer anywhere and also some bottles of rum, but there are no party hot spots or clubbing options. It is seriously layed back and a lot of ” hippies” come here, because it is such a peacefull place and still pretty rural.
I stayed in Balgue at the Lazy Crab hostel which is really great, small and a fun place with an awesome owner.
Another awesome thing on the island is even though they have to bring almost anything by ferry the food and accomodation is cheap! I slept in Moyogalpa in a dorm for only 5,5$! Ususally hammocks are about 3$ and dorm beds 5 – 8$. Amazing huh?
How to get around?
Don’t take a cap. Do not. Instead a chickenbus ( half an hour 1$), they mostly drive in the mornings and after 3pm you have to change to hitch hiking. It is pretty common on the island, but there are actually not a lot of cars so that might be tricky to. If you want to explore the island rent a scooter (25$) or a bike(5$) thats the best way to get around.
What to do?
Explore the island! Get a bike, scooter, horse or walk and find your way around or between the vulcanos and enjoy the beauty of it! You can get some kickass views.
Hike. There are two vulcanos. Maderas (8h), the smaller one is muddy and coverd in a cloudforest and Concepcion (10h) isn’t muddy but very steep and windy and not so common to hike.
Bike. You can bike around one vulcano, around both vulcanos or just use them to get to an attraction.
Kayak. I kinda regret that we didn’t went kayaking. You’re supposed to see tons of cool animals and just have nice time floating down the river!
Ojo de agua. On the east side of the island between both volcanos you will find a beautiful swimmingpool made of natural stones. The water is crystal clear fresh water and you can swim, read a book, slackline over the water or enjoy coconuts there. You pay a small fee to enter and you can get a spa like day chillin at the pool.
Waterfall San Ramon. At the Madera volcano there is an 3h hike up to the San Ramon waterfall. I went there in dryseason so there wasn’t that much water, but enough to take shower and it is a cool hike!
Money. Take plenty, I came across two ATMs and both only for VISA. There are places you can pay with creditcard, but usually you pay cash. Also try to take small bills.
AVOID traveling on Sunday. That’s a general rule for Nicaragua, but especially for Ometepe. There might be one or two buses. But no one garuntees for that because if the busdriver had a drink to much he might just not show up. Everyone will tell you to wait until monday and they are right. I got a bus at 5:30 to get a ferry at 7 from San Jose del Sur. That’s just no fun..
Be early to catch a bus. The buses are often crowded and take a while to cross the island ( at least 1 1/2h) and most of them leave Moyogalpa before noon.
Drink plenty of water. If you go on a 8h hike, ride a bike around half a day in this hot klimate you need to drink a lot!
Cool down. Chill. Relax. Don’t be in a rush or under pressure. That is not how this island works. Enjoy every second of the day. Plan around four days for the island, but you can easily stay longer.