Visiting Ometepe Island

We have had a wild last couple of weeks, first with almost no internet (and a couple of amazing new friends, so the computer was the last thought) in Las Peñitas, and then 30 hours of travel up to Mexico… so our posts are a bit behind schedule!
We have plenty more coming your way, but here’s one that I’ve been wanting to post for awhile, about travel to Ometepe Island!

At the beginning of October we headed to Ometepe Island, a place we highly recommend to all.

Situated in Lago Cocibolca (the indigenous name), otherwise known as the great Lake Nicaragua, lives the isolated island made up of 2 volcanoes. The active Concepcíon and the extinct Maderas are joined by a thin stretch of land.

You may only be a 1 hour ferry ride away from the mainland, but Ometepe Island feels disconnected from the world, in the most beautiful way.

We only spent 6 days on the island, but could have spent much more time here. October is the rainy season, and we experienced it at its fullest, having to miss out on a lot of the wonderful sites we had heard of —  a perfect excuse to go back!

Map of Nicaragua

Planning your Trip

There are plenty of helpful travel sites that can give you an idea of where to go, where to stay, and what to do on the island, but a lot of the advice is different from blog to blog and can be a bit overwhelming.

Having read the blogs, done some research, and been to the island, the best advice we can give is to not overwhelm yourself with reading. Just get to the island, stay for 2 nights in Moyogalpa, and plan the rest of your island adventure from there.

Traveling to Ometepe Island

03_03_IsladeOmetepeYou can fly or you can take a ferry.

Flights are $50USDpp one way
Ferry is $1.85USDpp (50C) one way

The ferry goes from San Jorge port in Rivas (and if the lake is high enough, they operate a ferry out of Granada. They closed it in 2018, so maybe 2019 rainy season).

The ferry operates pretty much every hour, but they sometimes skip a departure time in order to fill up the boat more, so make sure you have a lot of time for travel in your day.

You can find the Ometepe Island Ferry Timetable here. Keep in mind there are 2 ports on the island – Moyogalpa and San Jose del Sur. We recommend going to Moyogalpa.

If you do decide to fly, here’s the Ometepe Flight Schedule. They only fly Thursday – Sunday.

We arrived in Rivas at the mercado bus station. I imagine there are busses out to San Jorge, but we decided to take a taxi, which cost $10USD.

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IMG_5272There are many little restaurants on the outside of the port gates, with owners ready to help you with their bags, taking you to sit down for lunch! If you have time, the views are nice, and the lunch was cheap ($3USD for a plate of rice, beans, salad, plantains and choice of chicken or pork). BUT – they don’t serve beer. So if you want beer, you need to head through the port gates pictured above.

It’ll cost you $1USD to get through the port (for use of it, of course), and then you pay for your ferry ticket once you’re on board the ferry and half way across the lake.

Travel Tip: The verb “to buy” is “comprar” in Spanish. The verb “to change” is “cambiar.”  They are similar sounding in English, but very different en Español. Learning a new language is hard.

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Walk down the path to your ferry, pick a seat, and you’re on your way! They even sell snacks on board, in case your $3 lunch doesn’t fill you up!

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We were lucky, but we’ve heard that the journey can be a bit rough, so make sure you’ve got your anti-nausea medication ready just in case!

Docking in Moyogalpa

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Welcomed by the bright colours and cloudy skies, Moyogalpa’s ferry terminal/dock is in the exact same location as the chicken bus station.

There are tuk tuks available to drive you to your hotel, but town itself is pretty small, so if you have little luggage, you can wander your way to your accommodation.

We booked our place on booking.com, and unfortunately the man tried to tell us our room was double the price, that the website got it wrong. But we were in luck with it being quiet season, we walked down the road and got a wonderful room at Hospedaje Central for $11USD for a private room with a bathroom. There is no shortage of accommodation in Moyogalpa, which seems crazy because the town is so small. But you have many options, they are not luxury, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re best to stay on the mainland.

What to Do, Where to Stay?

As previously mentioned, there are a lot of blogs with different opinions, and an infinite amount of things to do! If you have time, dedicate it to the island, you won’t regret it. Ask your accommodation hosts for ideas, but don’t be afraid to get out and venture on your own!

Definitely take the chicken bus – it is so cheap and pretty easy travel. It’s basically just a school bus, and it stops multiple times, but on the island, what does time matter anyways? Just sit back, relax, enjoy the views, and buy the cheap tasty treats from the vendors!!

We only stayed in Altagracia, and climbed Volcan Concepcion, before we were rained off the island – but we did do some biking, and have heard wonderful things about other places, so some of our mini-recommendations are below:

  • El Ojo de Agua (The Eye of Water) – we didn’t have a chance to visit due to the rain, but all of the photos we’ve seen and stories we’ve heard say it is worth the visit! $3USD to enter, and you can spend the day there. You can bike here from Santa Cruz or Altagracia, but if you’re coming the Altagracia way, just be prepared for a big long downhill on the way there (and an even bigger uphill on the way home).
  • Santa Cruz –  we rode our bikes here for an afternoon and were trying to make our way to Playa Santo Domingo but the sun started going down and we weren’t sure if it was a good idea or not to be on bicycles in the middle of a Nicaraguan island in the dark! There are plenty of restaurants and hotels in this area, and they are not luxury but they are really boutiquey. Most have a lake view, and would be a close distance to the beach. We will definitely stay in this area when we go back.
  • El Zopilote – Organic Farm Retreat – another place we wish we had the time to go to. They have a yoga studio, they’re in the jungle surrounded by animals, and we’ve heard the staff are incredible! Without a doubt, we will be staying here next time!
  • San Ramon Waterfall –  you need to have a scooter or motorbike to get out here, but we’ve been told it is worth the drive! A $3 USD entry fee allows you into the park, and you will have a little hike to go before experiencing the beauty.
  • Volcano Climbing – we climbed Concepcíon, which is a story of it’s own. We’ve heard Maderas is a bit easier – but still very difficult! If you love hiking, these are still more than a regular hike in North America or Europe. Just be prepared for rain, slippery ground, and a few spots where you actually have to rock climb up. The ascents are hard, the descents are harder. It’s more of a mental game on the day (can take up to 12 hours to the top and back of Concepcíon, we did it in 9.5) – and the 2 days after it is all pain. But worth the challenge, if you like things like that.
  • Queso! – Fresh cheese available at the markets and in the little tiendas. Fry it up for a lasting treat. They have it all around Nicaragua but it was extra delicious on an island.
  •  Altagracia –  although there is not much to do or see, just being in the small town with pigs running around the streets and loose cows everywhere, is an experience in its own. You can visit for the day, or spend a night or two in the area. There are a lot of low-cost accommodation spots and the people are absolutely wonderful. I felt absolutely safe going for morning runs into town and back out to our hotel, about a 2.5km stretch, and going into town on my own to get food/drinks etc if it was ever needed.
  • Anywhere on the island!!!!! The tranquility and simplicity of Ometepe Island are what makes it so magical. It is not completely untouched, but there’s a special energy about the space. However — if your accommodation is located near a main highway, be prepared for chicken bus beeps starting at 5:30am! Ah, the serenity.

 

Even with horns beeping, we absolutely recommend checking out this island,
and we truly cannot wait to get back out there!!!
We are not sponsored by anyone we linked to,
we just wanted to share the best advice we could find,
to help you have the best experience out there!

 

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