Isla de Ometepe's name derives from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), meaning two mountains. An island in Lake Nicaragua in the country of Nicaragua, Ometepe is one of the country's must-see destinations. These twin volcanic islands are a remote escape located in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua. There are only a few small settlements on the island, along with a number of small coffee plantations.
- Moyogalpa, harbour village and the main point of arrival of ferries. Has ATM for Visa and MasterCard (January 2013).
- Altagracia, 2nd biggest town on the eastern side of the island.
- Merida, southeastern coast of island.
- Balgue, southwestern coast of island.
- Santo Domingo, just over the the isthmus on the Maderas side, a few cheap hotels, restaurants and a black sand beach.
- Santa Cruz, about 1hr taxi ($4/person if shared and you bargain) from Moyogalpa past Santo Domingo on the Maderas side - small village popular with backpackers, with a few hostels.
- Reserva Charco Verde, a nature reserve with abundant wildlife on the southern part of the island, where you can swim, hike and kayak.
- Santo Domingo Beach, the only sand beach easily accessible on the eastern side of the island. During the rainy season, the lake rises and the beach can disappear for several months.
- San Ramon Waterfall, natural fresh waterfall inland that is easily accessible by trail via a 3 hour hike.
- El Ceibo museum, a privately owned collection of pre-columbian artifacts discovered on an old tobacco plantation on the island. The museum includes the country's largest currency collection at the time of April 2012.
You can get to the islands main port (Moyogalpa) by boat or ferry from San Jorge near Rivas for C$35-C$50, depending on the type of boat. A shared taxi to San Jorge from Rivas bus terminal should cost no more than C$20 per person, although you should agree the price first - the taxi driver will likely try to charge you more than double this. There is also a tourist tax of C$10 to pay on departure - make sure you get a receipt (December 2014 prices). There are plenty of hotels and restaurants within walking distance of ferry. Buses pick up and drop off at terminal in Moyogalpa. Taxis are also present - be prepared to bargain.
There are also a few direct "expresso" chicken buses from Managua every day to San Jorge, negating the need for a taxi from Rivas.
Every day there is also a ferry from San Jorge to San Jose del Sur, in the west of the island. They are planning to extend the transport to this port.
On Monday and Thursday, a ferry used to leave Granada around 2 pm and arrives near Altagracia (about a 6hr ride) for less than US$2. However, this boat has been indefinitely cancelled due to the low water level of Lake Nicaragua, stemming from a drought starting in 2014. The boat is still cancelled as of December 2015, with no end in sight.
On Tuesday and Friday there is a ferry from San Carlos to the Island (12 hr ride) for about US$2.50.
Sometimes it is not a smooth crossing - the ferry gets thrown around quite a lot. If you sit indoors on one of the smaller boats, be aware that water can splash in through the windows, even when they are closed, so you may get a little wet if sitting by the window!
In July and August 2015 these ferries (from Granada and San Carlos) were not running because of low water level.
Very slow local buses run to most villages on the island - except backside of Volcano Maderas. Service is inexpensive and relatively frequent between Moyogalpa (leaves from port) and Altagracia from central park (roughly every hour), less so to Balgue and Merida (take either for Santo Domingo or Santa Cruz) - there are about three or four per day to both. Only one bus from Merida on Sunday. All buses from Moyogalpa stop in Altagracia with some continuing onto to either Balgue or Merida.
You can easily flag down a bus for a ride or the occasional taxi van which can be shared
Gas is expensive on the island.
For travelers with a more liberal budget, renting a motorcycle/scooter/quad-cycle can be a fun and liberating way to explore the island on your own. Be aware there is no hospital on Ometepe Island and many hazards on the road -dogs, horses, cows, etc...There are a few rental outfits in Moyogalpa, and several rentals places along the road through Santo Domingo Santa Cruz and towards Balgue. The average price you can expect to pay for a one day rental is $25 for a scooter and $35 for a motorbike. Rent from official cooperatives to avoid insurance/police problems. Helmets required for both passengers. It is standard practice for the rental company to ask for your passport (some ask for a damage deposit) before leaving with the bike. It is advised that before agreeing to the rental you drive the motorbike around the block to check the brakes, gas gauge, lights and other mechanisms that may end up causing you grief on the road. Also ensure that the rental company provides you with an up-to-date insurance card and the bike registration that you will need to carry with you at all times and present at any transit police checkpoints. It is also a good idea to take some pictures of the bike from different angles outside the shop, so you can dispute any "damage" when you return it.
Return filled with gas. Ask for phone number of owner in case you have any problems.
Bicycles can be rented for about US$6/day with a lock/key - for longer term rental, most outfits will negotiate a favourable rate. There are plenty of bicycle rental places on the island that rent by hour(~$1), day (~$6) or week.
The majority of the roads around Volcán Concepción and the isthmus is paved, apart from the portion from La Flor to Altagracia. On Volcán Maderas from the Santa Cruz junction the road is paved until just beyond Balgué. Traveling towards Merida from the junction, it is only paved a short distance and it is advised to only traverse this route on a motorbike or 4x4 vehicle.
Some road improvements have been made on the back side of Volcano Maderas - better roads are in the dry season.
Options on the island include :
- Hike to the top of Volcán Concepción (~8 hours return, strenuous). There are three trails to the top, two that require local guides and another that is pretty straight and can easily be followed. To get to this trail take a chicken bus towards Altagracia and ask the driver to let you off at the start of the trail - there is a huge brown sign, and it is a few kilometres before Altagracia. After walking for about 45minutes-1hour you should come to a friendly old man where you sign a book and pay a US$2 or C$50 entry fee. It is 3hours+ to the top from here, almost all straight up. Coming down won't be much quicker as the trail is pretty rough and you have to watch your footing at all times.
- Hike to the top of Volcán Maderas to a crater lake (~6 hours return, less strenuous than Concepción, but not a walk in the park either)
- Hike to a 35m waterfall on the south side of Maderas (several hours return)
- Run the Ultra Fuego y Agua 25km, 50km, 100km or Survival Run Races in February every year
- See petroglyphs (ancient rock art) at the village of Finca El Porvenir or Balgue
- Go horseback riding (Be a responsible tourist. Check to see if the horses are healthy first - a lot of animals are over-worked and unwell)
- Rent a bicycle and explore the island on your own
- Rent a motorbike and explore the island on your own
- Go fishing
- Hire a kayak and explore the lake and one or two of the rivers
- Go swimming in the fresh water
- Trails are generally unmarked and the terrain is rough. Local guides are inexpensive, good.
- If off hiking on your own be aware that many trails are actually being used by locals as a means to work their bean fields,The same beans that are served in the local staple of beans and rice, These beans are of a low growing variety and are barely visibly so please stay on trails so as not to damage their crops.
- The island is very large and to go by bicycle around one volcano in one day is very challenging but possible, getting around both volcanoes by motorbike in one day is a little easier but still difficult.
- Comedor Los Cocos, Santa Cruz Beach (Main Road and Beach). Natural palm roofs - great location beach and lake front. Fresh natural fruit juices, smoothies and vegetarian options! Grilled or fried fresh lake fish - guapote / mojarra / tilapia / vegetarian tacos, fish tacos, chicken tacos, curries, spaghetti, typical food and appetizers. Homemade desserts - cakes and organic chocolate. Local Nica owners - Marlon and Manuela. edit
- El Buho (The Owl), Main Road (Madronal Ometepe Island). New restaurant at the entrance to the small rural town of Madronal, Volcano Maderas - bottom of hill on the main paved road - excellent vegetarian options such as stir-fry and crepes. Nica owners. Offer movie nights and have accommodations on a nearby farm. edit
- Comedor Gloriana, Santa Domingo Beach entrance (Santo Domingo Ometepe Island). Excellent Beach Front Comedor/Restaurant - fresh natural fruit juices, smoothies, vegetarian options, fresh grilled or fried lake fish (mojarra, guapote, tilapia) spaghetti, pork / beef / chicken - all freshly prepared for you with salad and rice - breakfast all day! Best typical economical meals - "comida corriente" in Santo Domingo area! Island owners - Giselle and Juan Carlos also offer scooter and motorcycle rentals. edit
- Comedor Maria, Santa Cruz (Left at Y junction on main road - top of the hill). Dona Pilar makes amazing economical typical plates of food! All freshly prepared for you. Fresh fruits juices, beer, rum drinks, grilled/fried fish, spaghetti, beef, chicken, pork, typical large plates of food. Wood or charcoal fired Also offers economical accommodations. Local islander - campesina ! Her son, Edison makes beautiful jewelry with amber from the island, seeds, coconuts, etc... His wife, Rosa is often at the Ojo de Agua mineral springs selling the jewelry. edit
- Hostal Ibesa, (near Moyogalpa), . Owned and operated by a friendly and helpful local family, shared room $5 USD per person (Feb 2014), your own private room $7 USD, there is also a dorm room which may be even cheaper, very clean and comfortable (prices in April 2013), laundry service. Terrible beds, horrible mattresses and pillows. edit
- Finca Magdalena, (near Balgue), . A cooperativly run organic finca. Conditions and food are fairly basic and not that good but the price and the incredible view help to compensate. A hike into the jungle nearby will allow you to witness Howler Monkeys and numerous wild birds. Dorm : 3 USD / Tent or Hammock (bring your own) : 2 USD. edit
- Finca El Zopilote, (2 km before Balgue.), ☎ +50583690644 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkout: 11:00am. dormitory ,privats cabins, hammocks, camping, restaurant with terrific organic food, pizza's nigths, incredible view from the two lookouts,free wifi 24/7,free yoga classes, free salsa classes, spanish classes avaible,volcans tours, horse renting, massage, possibility of volunteer and beutifull ambience. See www.ometepezopilote.com form more information and picture. Cabins: 14-18$ for 2person/Dorm : 6$ for person/ Hammock 3$ for person.. edit
- Playa Volcan, (Near Merida). cheap. Hammocks for $1.50/night, dorms for $3/night. Spanish lessons available. $1.50 up. edit
- Hospedaje Charco Verde. $5 - 18 USD per room. edit
- Hospedaje Ortiz, (Altagracia). One of the least expensive places in town, 3 blocks from the central park. Don Mario, the hospedaje owner and a well known business leader in Altagracia, deeply cares for his guests; he will sit you down give you honest prices and help you plan your stay on the island no matter where you want to go. Great first stop for a trip to Ometepe. single - 5$US (may 2015) edit
- Casa Istiam, Playa Santo Domingo. A great budget place to stay right across the road from the beach. edit
- Hotel Finca Santo Doming, (Playa Santo Domingo). A more expensive place right on the beach. Approx. 30 USD. edit
- Villa Paraiso, (Playa Santo Domingo). Reputedly the nicest place to stay and probably the most expensive. Tours can be arranged. Bicycle rental available. edit
- Hacienda Merida, Merida, Isla de Ometepe (South-western side of the island,), ☎ 8868-8973 or 2560-0496, . Hacienda Merida is located on the south-western side of the island at the foot of the Volcán Maderas, on the way to the San Ramon waterfall. Formerly one of the most important farms of the Somoza family, today Hacienda offers quiet and relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by a variety of wildlife and animals. The pear at the edge of the lake overlooks the lake Nicaragua with incredible sunrises and a great view of the Volcan Conception. The place is quiet strict about they noise policy and 10pm curfew, but thanks to it you can enjoy birdwatching and chill in beautiful surroundings. The hotel provides a number of clean accommodations varying from hammocks and tents to very comfortable private bath dorms and private bedrooms. Onsite restaurant serves great food including amazing home made veggie burgers and offers breakfast and dinner buffet. Tough, the hotel advocates a peaceful atmosphere, there is plenty to do. You can rent a bike cycle, kayak, arrange a tour to one of the volcanos or nearby Monkey Island and even go sailing, tubing or horse riding. If you're not up for the challenge enjoy the High-Speed internet in the restaurant area or massage by a local. Its worth noting that Hacienda Merida is partly responsible for developing and funding the Ometepe Bilingual School like also actively engaged in number of other enviornmental programs on the island such as Fundacion Ometepe. Volunteering opportunities are always available. edit
- Puesta del sol. The community association invites you to come share the rural lifestyle of 16 families in the community of la Paloma, 1,5 km away from Moyogalpa. You will be able to practise spanish and if you want to, protect environment and help them in their projects.
- Hotel Bahia, Primary a restaurant, it also has two rooms in the back after the open fire kitchen. Private with a bathroom with a shower, no sink and a toilet with cushioned seat for 7 USD.
- Finca del Sol, Santa Cruz (Ometepe), ☎ 8364 6394, . An ecological farm offering 3 private cabins, with private bath for rent. Very private, overlooking Volcano Concepcion and Lake Nicaragua. The Cabins are fully screened, with mosquito netting, purified water, TV and DVD - over 100 movies in English, Spanish and Italian to choose from. 100% solar powered and have a composting toilet system and 2 cabins have an on demand gas water heater. Located on the foot of Volcano Madaras and a few minutes walk from the village of Santa Cruz, the best beach on the island, and 10 small restaurants. An excellent choice for the adventurer wishing for a little more comfort. In our common area we offer free WIFI to our guests (daytime only) and are available to organize tours to either volcanos, horseback riding, set up massages, kayak trips and offer assistance. In our farm we raise tropical sheep, goats, grow fruits and veggies. We have a maximum occupancy of 10 guests, so reservations are highly recommended. Prices are dependent on season and number of guests. We are most suitable for couples & families looking for a quiet getaway, either to hike the volcano or just get some down time from the fast pace of the western world. Mid range:US$40 - $79, taxes included. Visit our website for more info on cabins edit
- American Cafe and Hotel, Moyogalpa (Two blocks up main street from ferry). Owners Simone and Robert have created a delightful little oasis on the main drag, several blocks up from the ferry landing. Spotless and spacious, the AC & H is a daily gathering spot for tourists and locals alike. Robert can usually be found somewhere near the front door greeting visitors while Simone commands the kitchen, where remarkable things are created. Simone's Italian, 'nuff said. The rates are incredibly affordable. The exterior of the building is kind of bland. But don't let the outside decor fool you, this is THE place to stay on ometepe for safety, guidance, and a good night's sleep. edit
- Hospedaje Soma (Hospedaje Soma), Frente Instituto R.Smith Moyogalpa (From the dock head up main street and one block in front of the catholic church turn to the left. Follow the street for about 400m and you will see Soma on the left hand side.), . checkin: 12pm; checkout: 11am. Hotel Hospedaje Soma is located in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island. With only a ten minutes walk to the dock of Moyogalpa Hospedaje Soma is a bit away from sometimes noisy ´downtown´ but still in reach of all neccesary services which provides the village. This really quiet place offers a dormitory $7 per person, private rooms $22 with shared bathrooms, $29 with private bathroom and cabins with private bathroom from $40 to $50 with AC. The rate for all private rooms includes a standard breakfast. The Hotel has a nice and cozy tropical garden with some space to hang out and chill and provides free WIFI for its clients. Soma offers a laundry service and tours and hikes can be organized from there. Please note that they only accept reservations by email hospedajesoma(at)gmail.com $7 - $50. edit
- Little Morgan´s, Santa Cruz (300m towards Balgue from Santa Cruz junction), ☎ 505 861107973, . Beautiful accommodation, bar and restaurant. Owned by Morgan (the fun Irish guy) and run by an international staff. All types of accommodation catered for with hammocks, dorms and private casitas. It is set amongst tropical trees feeling like a real paradise, and is on the lake, so is perfect for a swim and then relax by the bar or in a hammock. The bar has a pool table and is the most happening place at night. The dorms are far enough away though that you can sleep if you need to. Great food and great people. They offer everything from horseriding to remedial massage - but no internet and it is a 10minute uphill walk to town. [ $10-$30. edit
- Santa Cruz Hotel, Santa Cruz. Beautiful accommodation right at the junction in Santa Cruz. Attached restaurant and a patio with panoramic view of Volcán Concepción. Dorms US$10, privates from US$25. Unlike some other places in Santa Cruz, they have wifi.
- Xalli, Ometepe Beach Hotel, Communidat San Fernando, ☎ 505 25694876, . checkin: 1pm; checkout: 11am. The nice hotel called Xalli is found at the beach called Santo Domingo in the community of San Fernando. Only 800 meters from the hotel Villa Paraiso. The place is very central to the most common activities (inside 4 kms) in Ometepe: swimming at 'Ojo de Agua', the beach with the white sand called Santo Domingo, the good old Finca Magdalena, the 'Humedal de Istian' and the forest 'Nebliselva' of the vulcano Maderas which to walk on is the major activity for visitors. The privileged position near the road between the two volcanoes allows you to get around by feed or by public transport.
- Rooms in several nice small private houses.
- Price range: 35-75 US$.
- Breakfast included.
- Internet included. Very fast for the island (~2MBit).
- Access to the beach, Rancho, Hammocks, ...
- Kitesurfing / Kiteboarding school in Partnership with Sunkite School Nicaragua
- Hotel Sinai, San Jose Del Sur (Along the main road, near the ferry of San Jose del Sur). A nice relaxed hostel/hotel/restaurant. Not a resort type, more aimed at backpackers. Services are basic, but rooms are very clean, the food is good, prices are low and the personnel is very friendly and helpful. edit
- Yogi's Hostel, Moyogalpa (From the ferry, 3 blocks up, 2 to the right - blue building). checkin: Anytime; checkout: 11:00 am. Low key hostel, with free WiFi, hammocks, clean rooms, good staff. Great place to stay coming into or leaving the island before jumping on the long ride on the chicken bus to the other side of the island. $6 - 15. edit
- The Cornerhouse, Moyogalpa (Main Street, 200m from port), . The Cornerhouse is a conveniently located B&B, Restaurant and Coffee Shop which offers four private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, queen size beds with quality linens, wifi, and your choice of delicious breakfast from the menu in its top-rated restaurant. Being just 200m from the port, The Cornerhouse is the perfect place to begin your time on the island or re-fuel before leaving on the ferry. The friendly staff will help with island information, maps, tours, accommodation in other towns, and any other questions you may have to maximize your time on the island. edit
- Lake Cabin and Lake House in Balgue (Tony Castillo - owner), Lake Front Road behind Catholic Church (Balgue Ometepe Island), ☎ 76442952. 2 Lake Front Guest Houses with kitchens in small rural town of Balgue, Ometepe Both Lake Guest Houses are located on the unpaved lake front road behind the Catholic Church in Balgue - a short 5 minute walk to shops, comedors/restaurants, WiFi, buses and taxis. The owner is Tony Castillo from Balgue - a local guy helping to support his family. Supports local sustainable tourism. He speaks Spanish and offers hiking tours on Volcano Maderas. Advance reservations are required for either Guest House and confirmed with a Western Union wire transfer deposit. Email: email@example.com - phone 8350-2434 (English) Provide details in your email about group/which rental and dates, etc... US $35 - 65. US$35-65. edit
- Hostal Lazy Crab, Near Lake, Balgue (Balgue Ometepe Island). New Hostal Lazy Crab - 1 block from lake in small rural town of Balgue. Various options - private rooms with shared bathroom/showers plus camping, WiFi, new kitchen, the owner is Ryder from Balgue - speaks English and can arrange tours, moto rentals, etc.. Very Laid Back - unique natural construction, artistic murals Support local sustainable tourism edit
- Little Morgan´s, Santa Cruz (300m towards Balgue past Santa Cruz junction), ☎ 505 8611 7973, . The only place around with a pool table and cable TV. Beautiful surroundings with fun atmosphere at night. Beer, wine and spirits available from $2-$3. Very popular with the 'party' type of tourist. edit
- El Buho (The Owl), Main Road Madronal (Ometepe Island). New restaurant at the entrance to the small rural town of Madronal - bottom of hill on paved road - excellent vegetarian options such as stir-fry and crepes. Nica owners. Offer movie nights and have accommodations on a nearby farm. edit
- The trails are not marked and it is now illegal to climb either volcano without a guide. They are usually cheap and can give you so much help. Many people have gotten lost & sometimes died climbing either of the volcanoes and the trails are rocky paths which can be misted over. There are no emergency services/hospitals and help is hard to come by when climbing one of the volcanoes, so bring what you need before hand. Minimum: 1 liter of water for Volcano Maderas per person / 2 liters of water for Volcano Concepcion - these are very strenuous hikes!
- Thanks to the fact that it's an island which is kind of easy to check traffic of persons it is, in comparison to the rest of Nicaragua, pretty safe.
- Minor annoyance such as kids begging for money may happen, but in a day, many locals will greet you and are happy to help you.
- Some locals report that there is some danger when climbing the top of Concepción because of the activity that exist in the top. It is important to take a guide and make sure that if you notice anything suspicious, get away.
Don't leave your things unattended at any time on the beaches!
Be aware that if you are partying .....do not walk alone late late at night - "hang-out" with local who are into drugs as you will get ripped off!
The poor islanders use the wood for cooking so do not make bonfires on the beach ....adding smoke to the environment and creating health problems for islanders living on the coast.
Take your plastic bottles, trash, etc...with you off the island as in many places there is no garbage removal services.
The ferry from Moyogalpa runs to San Jorge (near Rivas) 13 times a day Monday to Saturday, first ferry is at 5:30am and last at 5:30pm. On Sundays there is a more limited schedule - 7 ferries, the first at 6am and last at 5:30pm. The crossing takes just over an hour, and note that not all boats can take cars - it is best to make a reservation in advance if you have your own vehicle bigger than a motorbike.
Largest Ferry Rey de Cocibolca departs from new San Jose del Sur (Las Brisas) port travels twice daily to San Jorge port on the mainland (including Sundays)
Ferry Granada - Ometepe Island (Puerta Gracia) - San Carlos (twice weekly). In July and August 2015 this feery was not running because of low water level. To go to San Carlos from Ometepe you can take a Costeña flight (55$) or a public bus Rivas/Managua/San Carlos (changing bus station in Managua) or a bus Granada/San Carlos (leaving on Monday and Thuersday)
NOTE: if heading to Costa Rica, ensure you are able to show proof of onward travel out of Costa Rica, especially if entering overland! Otherwise you will be forced to buy a bus ticket (open date) before being allowed to enter. This especially applies to the border Nicaragua to Costa Rica.