Located on Lake Nicaragua or Lake Cocibolca, the Ometepe Island is one of those places in Central America that you should not miss. From the air it looks like an eight, an eight made up of two volcanoes, the Concepción with 1,610m and the Maderas with 1,394m, both linked by a small isthmus.
All travel information
Lake Nicaragua is known worldwide for the possibility of seeing sharks in fresh water, whose presence is due to the lake’s only outlet, the San Juan river. Currently sharks have almost disappeared due to overfishing and the export of their fins to the Asian market, so friend do not have a fin soup in my presence…. Besides, it is already difficult for sharks go up the San Juan river to reach the lake, the conditions and the presence of man makes this currently unfeasible. The San Juan River was for many years the dream of many explorers who thought it was the only link between the Pacific Ocean and even recently it was able to rival the Panama Canal due to the short distance between the lake and the ocean. Peaceful. It is clear that neither was it in the end, nor did they have as much help as Panama to build a canal.
Historically, the San Juan River was a stray for English pirates whose objective would be to plunder cities such as Pomegranate, near the Masaya volcano, located northwest of the lake.
On the island of Ometepe it is possible to do many activities from bicycle, kayak or trekking. Both the Concepción and Maderas volcano are accessible, although the first of these is more difficult and is not suitable for everyone. Although the height of the two Ometepe volcanoes seems small, in both you have to cover more than 1,000m of unevenness.
Rivas to Ometepe
We start from Saint George, next to Rivas, one afternoon in August taking the ferry with our rental car to spend 3 days on the island. We went without a hotel, just guiding us with our travel guide. The first day, we arrived in the afternoon, and opted to sleep in one of the hotels in the eastern area. I have never seen such a large number of mosquitoes in my life. It was leaving the room and having to go through clouds of millions of mosquitoes, of which they do not bite by luck, being a somewhat unpleasant sensation. In fact, Bruno and Nuria had to change rooms, since in this the mosquitoes sneaked in through a hole left by one of the fans, stories not to sleep.
The next day we decided to change hotels to go to the west, where the sea is calmer and where you can find the odd hacienda paradisiaca. We arrive at Hacienda Merida, one of those cabin “hotels” where Americans stay to learn Spanish or to do humanitarian work, a truly incredible place. To get there you have to take the road that goes south, always taking the west face. The walk is long, so if you take a bus better than better. If you have a rental car, or it is a 4 × 4 or better leave it well parked, the road is a hell of holes and potholes.
Hacienda Merida is an ideal place to spend a few days enjoying the lake and its forests. On the pier of the hacienda you decide to do kayak to go to Istiam river, where it is possible to see a multitude of birds and even a crocodile. The route from Hacienda Merida is a little long, about 14km round trip, so we took it easy on the way, not knowing what the return would bring us, a strong wave and the afternoon tide, let’s not forget that this lake is almost a sea. The return seemed eternal to us and on more than one occasion we nearly overturned. I reiterate, watch out for the wind and the waves in the afternoon.
From the Hacienda you have the possibility to go south also by kayak, a short route, to see the monkey island, where there is nothing else if not monkeys, or to the north, towards the Istiam river.
The next morning with arms full of shoelaces from the previous day’s kayaking adventure, we decided to ascend with a guide to the Maderas volcano, an option that if you have a GPS and the attached track is not necessary.
Ascension to the Maderas volcano
The climb, through lush forests, allows you to enjoy the best views of the Concepción volcano and local fauna, such as the hauling monkeys present at the beginning and half of the route. On the way, on many occasions we had to use our hands, due to the amount of mud and the poor condition of the trail. Also, forgetting the Relec could make you pay dearly, since there are a multitude of insects ready to stick to your arms or legs, so don’t forget, the insects are not small here… we put Relec on the bag and still, were launched ..
At the end of the route we had our small reward, an imposing lake in the crater. Already on the descent, unfortunately, we had our first “drop”, Cris sprained himself almost at the end of the journey, as we said, the path, besides mud, slides a lot.
Once at the hacienda, at night, we enjoyed the buffet and prepared the rest of the trip, where we stayed in Granada once we left Ometepe Island, the Pearl Lagoon and Corn Island, but this is another story and it is another trip . Javier Blanquer.
When to go?
Nicaragua can be visited all year round, but depending on the area where you are, the weather can vary a lot. The rainy season is 9 months in the Caribbean, except from March to May, and the months of September and October are hurricane season. The northern zone is much more mountainous and therefore much colder. The guides tell you that the best time is from December to April, the dry season, but we were in August and it hardly rained, we had an excellent time throughout the trip.
How to get?
Since Saint George, next to Rivas, there is a ferry that allows you to cross the lake to the island of Ometepe in just an hour. This ferry allows you to also cross your rental car if you take it. If you go to Hacienda Merida you have the possibility of taking another boat from the Ometepe jetty to the hacienda jetty.
What to bring
Ometepe is an island of adventure, so take everything you need to fight mosquitoes and everything you need to make good walks.
Where to sleep on Ometepe Island?
There are many places to sleep, both in the east and in the west, but we recommend the east and specifically the Hacienda Merida, a forgotten place in the world where you can rent a hammock or a cabin in the woods. In addition, they have a great buffet at night very cheap and can be a starting point for many activities on the island.