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. 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.
- 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 about 2-3 USD. There is also a tourist tax of 10 cordobas to pay on departure. (Mar 2012) There are plenty of hotels and restaurants within walking distance of ferry. Buses pick up and drop off at terminal. Taxis are also present.
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 leaves Granada around 2 pm and arrives in Altagracia ( 6 hr ride?) for less then $2 USD.
On Tuesday and Friday there is a ferry coming from San Carlos to the Island (12 hr ride) for about $2,5 USD.
Sometimes it is not a smooth crossing - the ferry gets thrown around quite a lot. If you sit indoors on the boat, be aware that water cam splash in through the windows, even when they are closed so you may get a little wet if sitting by the window!
Very slow local buses run to most villages on the island. Service is relatively frequent between Moyogalpa and Altagracia (roughly every hour), less so to Balgue and Merida (three or four per day).
You can easily flag down a bus for a ride or the occasional taxi but expect taxis to be expensive.
For travelers with a more liberal budget, renting a motorcycle can be a fun and liberating way to explore the island on your own. There are a few rental outfits in Moyagalpa, and one small operation along the road through Santo Domingo. The best motorbikes and service on the island likely come from an operation run by a guy named Robinson (8691 5044 email@example.com) He speaks perfect English and is very easy to work with. $25 for a motorbike rented out of Moyagalpa and returned to their shop by 6 PM that day. $40 for 24 hours. Also, Robinson will deliver a motorbike as far away as Little Morgan's, outside of Santa Cruz, then come and pick the bike up by 6 PM the same evening. $40 for a bike delivered to your hostel. Or, you can ask him to bring bungee cords with the bike, then tie your bags down at the end of the day and drive yourself back to Moyagalpa for the ferry the next morning. A superb way to get around on a transportationally challenged island.
Word of caution when dealing with Robinson, he has been known to refuse to give back your full deposit or charge you an exorbitant cost to fix a seemingly minute repair ($5 for a scrape on a bicycle sticker, $65 for perforated tire). There are now dozens of other motorcycle rental locations in Moyogalpa who are far more reasonable business owners.
There are plenty of bicycle rental shops on the island that rent by hour, half day or week.
The road along the isthmus and around Volcan Maderas is in very rough shape.
Options on the island include :
- Hike to the top of Volcan Concepcion (~ 8 hours return, strenuous)
- Hike to the top of Volcan Maderas to a crater lake (~ 6 hours return, less strenuous)
- Hike to a 35-m waterfall on the south side of Maderas (several hours return)
- See petroglyphs at the village of Finca El Porvenir
- Go horseback riding
- 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.
- Cafe Campestre, on the road Before Finca Magdalena. Amazing food cooked with local seasonal and (where possible) organic produce. Great place to meet people and hang out.
- Little Morgan´s, Santa Cruz (300m towards Balgue from Santa Cruz junction), ☎ 505 8611 7973, . Accommodation, bar and restaurant serving great food that gives a nice break from the typical rice and beans. Daily menu includes bacon and eggs, pancakes, cake, sandwiches etc, and then nightly dinner specials including lasagna, curry, pasta and stir-fry. Food ranges from $2-$6.
- Natural, Playa Santo Domingo, . Vegetarian restaurant serving delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Great pastas, curries, stirfries. Dine under a large rancho with a wonderful view of the Maderas volcano.
- Hostal Ibesa, (near Moyogalpa), . Owned and operated by a friendly and helpful local family, shared room $6 USD per person, 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.
- 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.
- Finca Zopilote, (2 km before Balgue.). Finca El Zopilote is currently experience a massive bed bug problem and is not recommended. * Playa Volcan, (Near Merida). cheap. Hammocks for $1.50/night, dorms for $3/night. Spanish lessons available. $1.50 up. $1.50 up.
- Hospedaje Charco Verde. $5 - 18 USD per room.
- Hospedaje Ortiz, (Altagracia). Cheapest place in town, a block or so from the central plaza. There are reports about money being stolen from guests, hence the extremely cheap rates for accommodation.
- Casa Istiam, Playa Santo Domingo. A great budget place to stay right across the road from the beach.
- Hotel Finca Santo Doming, (Playa Santo Domingo). A more expensive place right on the beach. Approx. 30 USD.
- Villa Paraiso, (Playa Santo Domingo). Reputedly the nicest place to stay and probably the most expensive. Tours can be arranged. Bicycle rental available.
- Hospedaje Central, From Procredit Bank, 1 block south, ☎ 2569-4262. Very colorful and friendly atmosphere with free parking lot, internet service, dvd movies, laundry, volunteering opportunities, a restaurant and a bar. Unfortunately the owner is wanted by INTERPOL for Fraud, Kidnapping, etc. Dormitory is basic with bunk beds, its own toilet and shower, lockers and a safe available at reception. Rooms are clean, large, with new beds, fan or AC and private bathroom. However, some travellers report that, despite Lonely Planet's endorsement, theft is a problem, especially in the dormitory rooms where random locals wander in and out through three doors. And the bar/restaurant shares a filthy bathroom with guests and plays loud music until late at night. $2.50 hammock-$3.50 dorm-$5.50 to 9.50 for room.
- Hacienda Merida, . created by a rich nicaraguan family from the city, this place is the principal influence of the Merida locals benefiting so little from tourism. there are several family owned and operated hostel and guesthouses that are not listed in your guidebooks. Feb 2012: The owner will create a slightly hostile atmosphere for some guests (i.e. those that don't share in his bullheaded views and have the audacity to engage him in discussion). Experienced some cold and surly attitudes from some employees. After talking with some Hacienda Merida volunteers, know now that the attitude of the employees likely stems from being severely overworked for very minimal pay, and being treated as servants by the boss while they are at work.. Yes, the owner is responsible for great social welfare programs on Ometepe, but be aware that, like most things, this also comes with a somewhat sinister dark side. The Hacienda also advertises kayak trips to visit 'monkey island', while warning that these monkeys are likely to be aggressive and vicious. The monkeys are so bad-tempered because they were brought by the Hacienda onto a tiny island with no escape, nothing to do and no food (they are fed by hacienda staff) - think twice about visiting.
- 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. We are 100% solar powered and have a composting toilet system. Located a 10 min walk from the trailhead to Volcano Madaras and a few minutes from the best beach on the island, we are a great choice for the adventurer wishing for a little more comfort. On the farm we raise tropical sheep, grow rice, fruits and veggies.Mid price range - We have a maximum occupancy of 10 guests, so reservations are highly recommended. Visit our website for more info
- 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.
- 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.
- Little Morgan´s, Santa Cruz (300m towards Balgue from Santa Cruz junction), ☎ 505 861107973, . Beautiful accomodation, bar and restaurant. Owned by Morgan (the fun Irish guy) and run by a lovely Australian couple. All types of accomodation catered for with hammocks, dorms and private casitas. It is set amongst tropical tress 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. A wonderful pace to stay, see www.littlemorgans.com for pictures and more information. $3-$30.
- Hospedaje San Ferndando, Communidat San Fernando, ☎ 505 25694876, . The nice hostal called Hospedaje San Fernando is found at the beach called Santo Domingo. Only 800 meters from the hotel Villa Paraiso. The place is very central to the most common activities (inside 4 kms) in Ometepe: swimming at 'Ojo de Agua', the beach with the white sand called Santo Domingo, the good old Finca Magdalena, the 'Humedal de Istian' and the forest 'Nebliselva' of the vulcano Maderas which to walk on is the major activity for visitors. The privileged position near the road between the two volcanoes allows you to get around by feed or by public transport.
- Rooms in several nice small private houses.
- Price range: 4-12 US$.
- Breakfast included.
- Internet included. Very fast for the island (~800 MBit).
- Access to the beach, Rancho, Hammocks, ...
- 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.
- 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.
- The trails are not marked so if don't know the island, it is best to hire a guide. They are usually cheap and can give you so much help. Many people have gotten lost climbing the volcanoes and the trails are small. There are no services and help is hard to come by when climbing one of the mountains, so bring what you need before hand.
- 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 Concepcion 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.