In the Great Lake of Nicaragua, also known as Cocibolca, there is an infinite island – due to its shape and its history. It is a special island. It does not have fine white beaches like flour or coconut trees… but I promise you it will surprise you at every step. At the end of your trip, you will be as in love as I am or as Mark Twain at the time. Without further delay, here I tell you what to see in Ometepe… don’t miss it!
Volcanoes in Ometepe
The name Ometepe comes from the Nahuatl and means “two hills” and this is because the island is made up of two large perfectly conical volcanoes that are united at their base by a narrow and short isthmus. Hence, it seems, from the sky, the symbol of infinity (or an inverted 8).
This island has thousands of years of history and has attracted different tribes for its nature and biodiversity. Today it is a cultural melting pot that combines pre-Columbian and colonial legacies and that is opening up to tourism. There you will find, in addition to beaches, waterfalls, natural pools, rain forests, lagoons and volcanoes, a large number of archaeological relics.
So, if you are traveling to Nicaragua and want to know what to see and do in Ometepe, this is your guide! If you want to know my experience on the island contact Serenea B and Breakfast.
▶TRAVEL GUIDE: WHAT TO SEE IN OMETEPE
Take note because here I tell you everything you need to know to visit this wonderful Nicaraguan island.
🛥 How to get to Ometepe Nicaragua
First I will put a small map of the island for you to locate. As you will see, it is made up of two round islands joined by a “short tongue of land”. One of those circles belongs to the part of the island where the Concepción volcano is, the other circle belongs to the part of the island where the Maderas volcano is.
The two most important cities on the island, Moyogalpa and Altagracia, are located in the area of the Concepción volcano.
There is only one road that runs along the periphery or contour of the entire island. The road located in the area of the Concepción volcano is paved (seen in yellow), that of the other part of the island is NOT, and the buses practically do not cover the area. The maximum they enter is until Balgüe and there they turn to return to Altagracia and then to Moyogalpa.
Ometepe Island has a small airport in the city of Moyogalpa, which receives very few national flights – and international flights, they say. One of the airlines that operates to Ometepe is La Costeña and for example a flight from Managua to Ometepe takes 20 minutes but it only flies on Thursdays and Sundays.
But do not spread panic! You can also fly to the country’s capital airport: Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, located in Managua (140km), and from there look for the best combination of land and water to get to Ometepe. I detail everything below:
♣ How to get from the Managua airport to Ometepe
Managua airport is just under 140km from Ometepe Island. But as you can imagine, being an island you will have to reach the port from where the ferries to it leave first. The usual port to go to Ometepe is in the city of Rivas and is called “Puerto de San Jorge”. You can reach it using different means that I detail below.
– Taxi: You can take a taxi from the Airport to the lake port of the city of Rivas (from where the ferry to Ometepe departs) which is about 110km (expect to pay about US $ 80) and there are companies like servitaxi that you can hire for the journey.
You can also take a taxi from the airport to the bus terminal in Managua called “Mercado Huembes” (10 km from the airport, which takes about 20 minutes and private taxi companies will charge you around € 12 to take you or you can negotiate a better price. with the taxi drivers who are in the terminal) and from there take a bus to the city of Rivas.
When you get to the terminal, take a taxi or “taxi-colectivo” (they are taxis that gather between 3 and 4 passengers for a fixed cost per person) to the port that is a few meters away – but I recommend doing it by taxi because the area is a little “dodgy” -. This last option will cost you approximately € 14 or € 15.
📍Tip 1: Agree in advance a rate with the driver and if you are several people make sure that the rate you agree is for the TOTAL of passengers and not for each one of you. It has to be very clear how much money you will pay in total (including suitcases! Yes, because later they can tell you that there was an “extra fee per suitcase. Taxi drivers are very smart!). A good parameter could be between € 4.25 and $ 5.15 per 10km journey. If you ask him to take you to a bus terminal and upon arrival he asks you what your final destination is and you say, for example, “Rivas” possibly the taxi driver will tell you that the bus has just left and that he takes you “cheap” ” Tell him no. That’s one of his many traps for getting passengers. There are always buses that bring you closer to your final destination.
📍 Tip 2: In Nicaragua they have launched a taxi service exclusively for women (they are pink taxis). The taxi company is called Comfort Pink and has mixed reviews: some say it is expensive and late and others say the service is exceptional.
– Car rental: Inside the airport you have different car rental agencies. You can check the list with its links here and remember that to the price of the car you have to add the compulsory insurance and some extra payments for airport pick-up or leave the car in a different office than the car pick-up.
So easily a car that costs 10us $ a day the rent with all the extras can reach 85us $ / day. Check these extra costs well before making the reservation (or your travel budget if you make the reservation online). By the way, you can take the car to the island on the ferry and it costs € 21 each way.
– Shuttles: There are different companies that offer services by car, vans or minivans from the Managua airport to different parts of the country. You can hire their services at the same airport and the options are: “Private Shuttle” in which you travel alone or with your companions at the time you say and costs approximately 80us $ (1 or 2 passengers), 100us $ (3 or 4 passengers), etc.
The other option is to take the “normal Shuttle” services that leave at the times stipulated by the company and are cheaper, for example 1 person $ 40 or $ 45 depending on the company.
– Public transport: Obviously it is the cheapest and slowest option. You must take a bus that takes you from the airport to the “Mercado Roberto Huembes” terminal (about 10km). Look just outside the airport for the bus stop that runs the “Tipitapa” route and for 12 córdobas (€ 0.35) it takes you in about 35 or 40 minutes to the Huembes Market.
Once in Mercado Huembes you must take the bus that takes you directly to Rivas (they leave every hour). In total, it will take between 3.5h and 4.5h depending on traffic and how long you have to wait for the bus in Mercado Huembes. The total approximate price will be € 3 or € 4.
** Instead of Uber in Nicaragua there is the “ Aventón ” app
♣ How to get from Ometepe airport to Moyogalpa
Ometepe airport is located in La Paloma, about 2km from Moyogalpa, one of the main cities on the island.
– In taxi. Like all airports, the Ometepe airport has taxis outside the terminal. It is only 2 kilometers to the main city of Moyogalpa and 23km to the city of Altagracia (the 2nd largest city on the island). Remember to AGREE a price with the taxi driver.
– By public transport it is the cheapest option and a bus line passes through the airport that stops first in Moyogalpa and continues to Altagracia. Depending on the line, some end their route there and others continue to Balgüe.
What is marked in red is the path that the bus makes and in yellow the paved part is visible.
Ometepe Island has 3 main lake ports, all located in the part of the island where the Concepción volcano is located.
The vast majority of ferries that depart from Rivas (Puerto de San Jorge) go to the port located in the city of Moyogalpa (the journey is about 17km). But there are also ferries that will leave you at the port of San José del Sur (the journey by water is about 24km from Rivas and this port is located about 15 minutes by bus from Moyogalpa).
In either case, the cost is 50 cordobas (€ 1.40) and it takes between an hour and an hour and a quarter to make the journey. If you are traveling Nicaragua by car and want to take it to the island, you can do it and the cost is around € 21. These are the schedules:
♣ For more information on ferry schedules click here.
You could also get to Ometepe Island from the city of Granada (but it only has service two days a week). The ferry takes 4 hours and reaches the city of Altagracia. The ticket price is around € 4 in 2nd class and about € 8 in first class.
** If you want to travel from Altagracia to Granada, there are ferries at midnight. To get to the port there are collective taxis that collect passengers throughout the city of Altagracia (around 10:30 p.m.) and drop you off directly at the port.
♣ For more information on ferry schedules click here.
📍Another option would be to take a small wooden boat from Rivas to Ometepe, but I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. Despite being a lake, keep in mind that the Spanish settlers called it “freshwater sea” because it has currents and waves. If you already notice the movement on the ferry, in a small boat you can get dizzy.
Ometepe does not have a central bus terminal, but there are some stops along the route that the buses make from Moyogalpa to Altagracia and some buses continue to Balgüe (this city at the end of the isthmus that connects the island where the Concepción volcano with the part of the island where the Maderas volcano is).
What is marked in red is the path that the bus makes and in yellow the paved part.
♣ The bus schedules can be found here or also at the bottom of the schedule chart that you will find here.
☑️ How to get to Ometepe from other cities?
To get to Ometepe you must take a ferry either from the Puerto San Jorge near the city of Rivas or from the city of Granada. Most travelers travel to Ometepe from Rivas since the frequency of boats is much higher and the journey is much shorter.
* From Rivas to Ometepe: From the city of Rivas you should take a taxi (about 80 córdobas or € 2.25) or a “collective taxi” (20 córdobas per person or € 0.60) to the port and from there take any of the ferries. Remember that some will leave you in Moyogalpa and others in San José del Sur.
* From San Juan del Sur to Ometepe : You must take a bus that will take you from San Juan del Sur to Rivas (about 40 cordobas / € 1.20) and once there take a “collective taxi” (they are taxis that join 3 and 4 passengers for a fixed cost per person) to the Port of San Jorge which is the place from where the ferries to Ometepe depart.
* From Managua to Ometepe: From the Mercado Huembes terminal in Managua there are direct buses to the city of Rivas and they leave every hour. From the Rivas terminal itself, take a “collective taxi” (they are taxis that gather between 3 and 4 passengers for a fixed cost per person) to the Port of San Jorge, which is the place from where the ferries depart.
* From Granada to Ometepe: Direct ferries to Ometepe leave from the colonial city of Granada, leaving you in 4 hours in the city of Altagracia (€ 4 in 2nd class and € 8 in 1st class). They do the tour only twice a week, but if you get caught just the day you want to travel, then you save traveling by land to Rivas to take the ferry that takes you in 1 hour. To find out about the ferry schedules from Granada to Altagraciaclick here.
On the other hand, if the days and times of the ferries from Granada to Ometepe do not suit you, you can take a bus to Rivas and from there a collective taxi to the port and from there you cross by ferry to the island.
* From León to Ometepe: You must take an express bus to Managua (1 hour and 20 approx.) That will drop you off at the terminal known as “La UCA” and from there you have to take a taxi or a local bus to the Mercado Huembes terminal from where the buses to Rivas leave (130km in just over 2 hours). Once in Rivas take a taxi-bus to the port and there the ferry to the island.
* From San Carlos (Río San Juan) to Ometepe: a ferry departs every Tuesday and Friday at 2pm and arrives at the port of Altagracia at approximately 12 midnight.
* From Tamarindo (Costa Rica) to Ometepe (Nicaragua) : You must take a bus to the Liberia terminal. Once there, you combine it with a bus that takes you to the Peñas Blancas border (1.5h for 1560 colones or € 2.30). Once at the border, you carry out the migratory procedures – leaving Costa Rica and entering Nicaragua – and as soon as you leave the migration building you will see a lot of buses. Most go to Rivas. Once there take a taxi-bus to the port and there the ferry to the island.
👣 How to get around Ometepe
Ometepe is a relatively large island. Its extension is 276 km2 – with a population of almost 40,000 people – and it is the largest volcanic island in the interior of a freshwater lake.
Depending on which area of the island you are staying, you can move in one way or another. For example: if you stay in Moyogalpa or Altagracia, you can explore the cities on foot and then use the bus to get to most of the island’s attractions – with some exceptions – (see the bus schedules here ).
If you stay in the part of the island where the Maderas volcano is, then your mobility will be reduced because the “paved” road is the one located on the circumference of the part of the island where the Concepción volcano is.
Buses run this area all day – albeit with low frequency – that go from Moyogalpa to Altagracia and some return there to Moyogalpa and others continue to Balgüe, just crossing the Isthmus, which is a small town on the island’s part of the volcano. Woods.
So if you stay in Balgüe you will have some buses to move, but beyond this town you will have to have a car, motorcycle or hire a private transport service of some kind – such as a taxi.
My advice is to rent a motorbike –ideally NOT a scooter, but a high motorbike- and tour the island at your own pace (motorcycle rental 290 cordobas per day approximately –about € 8 / day). If you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle – or you don’t have a license – then you can hitchhike or hire a taxi, although on the island they are quite expensive.
The road through the Maderas volcano area is really bad. If you rent a motorcycle, keep in mind that there are not many gas stations on the island, but you will always find a “grocery store” or stores where they will sell you fuel – although a little more expensive than at the gas station.
Gasoline is around 29 cordobas (€ 0.80) per liter at a gas station, but in grocery stores they can –and usually- charge about 40 cordobas (€ 1.12) per liter.
If you are an athlete, another option is to tour the island on a bicycle – they rent you from various establishments – but remember that there are roads in very poor condition.
🗺 What to do and what to see in Ometepe Nicaragua
Ometepe Island is full of interesting places to visit and activities to do. If you are going for a short time, organize your stay well so that you can see as much as possible – remember that some roads are terrible and it will take you some time to make some journeys.
I describe everything that this destination offers here, in this guide on what to see in Ometepe, so you can choose what to do during your stay:
OyMoyogalpa: It is the main city of the island and its name in the Náhualt language means “place of mosquitoes”. Moyogalpa is usually the entrance door since most of the ferries dock here and it is the reason why it has many services: hotels, restaurants, bars, health center, bicycle or motorcycle rental stores, mini-supermarkets, etc.
The city does not have great points of interest but is used as a base to tour the rest of the island. Tip: it is in this city where the cheapest motorbike rentals on the whole island (about € 6.50 or € 7) are available, and elsewhere they can charge you between € 8 and € 10.
⌦ Pre-Columbian Museums “El Ceibo”: The museum has two independent buildings, one on Nicaraguan numismatics and the other on pre-Columbian archeology of the ideal area that explains through 1500 pieces of ceramic, jade and gold the island’s past. You can get from Moyogalpa by bus –about 10 minutes-. Price for foreigners: $ 6us (€ 5).
GraciaAltagracia: It is the second most important city on the island after Moyogalpa and it is also in the part of the island where the Concepción volcano is located. In its original name it means the “house of the herons” and there is the port of Gracia, which is where the ferries from the colonial city of Granada arrive.
From Moyogalpa buses leave that take you to Altagracia on the south road that is the paved one – you will see on the map that “it seems shorter” to go on the north road… but the road is so bad that it will take longer! And also the buses don’t go there! The city also has all the basic services such as hotels, bars, restaurants, pharmacies and shops.
It also has a central park – where the bus will drop you off -, in front of which is the San Diego de Alcalá church and some pre-Columbian sculptures from the 9th century. One of the main attractions of this city is the Ometepe Museum located a few meters from the park.
RamCascada de San Ramón: This waterfall located on one of the slopes of the extinct Maderas volcano has a jump of about 50 meters and depending on the time of year you go it will have a greater or lesser flow (from February to April there is very little water and vegetation is scarce).
The origin of the waterfall is the lagoon in the crater of this volcano! To access you have to get to the Biological Station, where you pay the entrance (87 cordobas – € 2.50) and start the 3-kilometer ascent to the waterfall. At first it seems like a simple task, but the last kilometer and little is done very uphill and complicated.
It took me an hour and a half to do it! Worth it? YES resounding. Wear your swimsuit, because you can soak at the base of the waterfall -be careful because sometimes a stone falls due to the force of the jump! -. For me, this is one of the essentials to see on Ometepe.
⌦Ascent to the Maderas volcano: This inactive volcano is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and has an elevation of 1,394 meters above sea level. In its crater it has a lake of about 400m by 150m approximately. The same path that is used to go to the waterfall can be used to reach the top of the Maderas as it is one of the main access routes to the summit. Get ready for a difficult climb… and bring plenty of water, some snacks and don’t forget the guide!
Laguna in the carter of the maderas volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua via Shutterstock
⌦Ascent to the Concepción volcano: Since I am talking about volcanoes and ascents, I tell you that if you are in excellent physical condition, you have to try to top the Concepción volcano. It is an active volcano and it rises to 1610 msnsm with a very marked inclination.
I repeat, it is not easy to conquer the top, but if your body is in shape… go for it! The views from the top are fabulous – or so they say, because I am unable to climb it – and it is essential to hire the services of a guide. Bring appropriate shoes, water and snacks.
HarCharco Verde: Located about 12km from Moyogalpa, this beautiful nature reserve has several trails to enjoy all its attractions: viewpoints (such as the Mirador del Diablo), butterfly farm, mangroves, the lagoon, Bancon beach… and you can even stroll by the lake or by the lagoon by kayak.
Upon arrival you will find an information center where you pay the entrance fee (145 cordobas / € 4) and where they will explain the routes you can take.
Ojo de Agua: This is a natural pool of crystalline water very popular with locals and tourists. Surrounded by forest, this pool is fed by the waters emanating from the volcanic soils and the waters of the Buen Suceso River, so it is at a temperature of around 25ºC.
It is located on private property about 4km from Santo Domingo Beach (20 minutes on foot) and is accessed via a dirt road. The entrance costs $ 3 or € 2.50 and has showers and changing rooms as well as a restaurant.
UntaPunta Jesús María: What is this place about? It is a very green area with a beach on the shores of the lake that has as a characteristic a narrow tongue of land that enters Lake Cocibolca – in the dry season it can extend up to 1 kilometer inland – but in the rainy season it may even disappear due to complete with the rising of the lake.
From the end of that language you can see the volcanoes that dominate the island and the site is charming. You can spend an afternoon there for a picnic and there is also a restaurant where you can drink and eat something at a good price. If you go by bus, it leaves you on the main street and from there you must walk about 10 minutes on the dirt road to the entrance. Access costs 29 cordobas (€ 0.80).
SantoPlaya Santo Domingo: On the Ometepe isthmus is what many call “the best beach on the island” surrounded by vegetation and many local fauna such as magpies, squirrels and hummingbirds, among others.
You can spend a morning taking a bath in one of the beach bars or practicing some aquatic activity such as kitesurfing, windsurfing or already a walk to the Cabuya forest to the south.
⌦ Peña Inculta Trail: At the height of Santo Domingo Beach, but on the other side of the road, this trail begins, which crosses a primary forest and is approximately 1.5km long. There you can get in touch with the local flora and fauna, especially with different monkey families such as the howlers. Access costs 58 cordobas / € 1.50.
GüBlagües: It is a small town located between the northeast slope of the Maderas volcano and the shore of the large Cocibolca lake. It is the enclave chosen by backpackers for its quite hippie atmosphere.
In Balgües is the Finca Magdalena, a cooperative that produces organic coffee that has a backpacker hostel, located on the slopes of the Maderas volcano, from where there is also a route to ascend to the top.
Throughout the area there are scattered enough petroglyphs from the pre-Columbian era since the indigenous people considered the Maderas volcano a sacred place.
SantaPlaya Santa Cruz: It is a beautiful beach although it is very windy at some times of the year. It is located on the Ometepe isthmus and very close to the Santo Domingo beach and the Petroglyphs trail. From it you get beautiful views of the volcanoes and it is ideal for windsurfing.
Tro Petroglyphs: If there is a place in all of Nicaragua to observe petroglyphs in their original location, that is Ometepe.
The highest concentration is on the slopes of the Maderas volcano, but you can see them better on some of the farms in the area, such as Finca Magdalena or Finca El Porvenir (where there are also many tropical trees such as avocado or mango). The entrance to see the petroglyphs is 29 cordobas (€ 0.80).
📍 Other sites and activities of interest in Ometepe
There are some visits that, if you have extra time on Ometepe, I recommend you!
* Mérida: It is a picturesque town full of palm trees and mango trees from where the Istián River is accessed. Those who come here do so for a kayak tour or bird watching routes. From this town there is also a route that goes to the Maderas volcano.
* Finca Magdalena: Close to Balgües is this picturesque hacienda built in the late nineteenth century. It is said that before the Sandinista revolution, this farm belonged to the dictator Somoza, but today, the Finca Magdalena is controlled by a cooperative of 24 families that grow organic coffee and other agricultural products and offer cheap bedrooms in their rooms that are basic and simple. Also, on the farm you can see many petroglyphs in their original place.
* Estates: The island is home to many farms, estates and cooperatives where you can stay, but it is best to take a tour of them to see all kinds of plantations, from plantains to coffee plantations. Some of them even allow you to carry out livestock activities and they will show you the petroglyphs in the area. Some farms – in addition to those already mentioned – are: Samaria, Tierra Blanca or San Juan de la Isla.
♣ For more information you can visit the Official Tourism Portal of Nicaragua.
🏨 Hotels in Ometepe
Throughout the island of Ometepe there is a relatively good hotel infrastructure and offers a large number of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets: from very cheap hostels with shared rooms to high-end hotels with all the luxuries.
One of the hotels I would like to recommend is “Hotel Casa Istiam”. It is a hotel located right on the isthmus that connects the two parts of the island, and just because it is at the crossroads, it has quite a few buses.
It has single, double and also 6-bed rooms with a bathroom inside the room. It is well known in the area for its restaurant, where you can taste the best of local gastronomy. Right next to it there is a store where they rent motorcycles (290 cordobas all day).
Another alternative to hotels is to try to get something through couchsurfing or rent a room or an entire apartment through AirBnb (€ 35 discount on your first reservation if you use this link !).
✏️ Other useful tips and info about Ometepe
– For more information about San Juan del Sur you can check the official website of Tourism of Nicaragua: Visit Nicaragua.
– Ometepe Island offers a wide range of services. From supermarkets, small stores, travel agencies for excursions, ATMs (in Moyogalpa and ALtagracia), bars, cafes and restaurants to hotels for all budgets. It is a fairly cheap island, although some things are more expensive than on the mainland, such as taxis. Speaking of taxi drivers… ALWAYS remember to agree on a price before boarding.
📍 In many stores and hotels they refill your water bottle for very little money! This way you save a few coins and help the environment!
– The climate in Ometepe: The climate in Ometepe is tropical, and it has two seasons: dry and humid but the annual average temperature is 27ºC (in summer the average is 35ºC and in winter 25ºC). The rainiest months are from June to October and the dry months are from November to May, with March being the driest of all. Below I leave you the table of temperatures and rainfall by months of:
Climate table of the web « Where and When «
– The minimum stay time is 3 days to visit at least several of its attractions. Even so, if you stay longer you will have the opportunity to enjoy this area much more
– Tourist emergency telephone number: 101
📍 Some prices on Ometepe
Ferry : 50 córdobas each way
Bus : from 10 to 45 córdobas depending on the route
Coffee : between 10 and 20 córdobas depending on where you take it
Sandwich : 50 córdobas
Food : between 75 and 180 córdobas
Use the toilets : 5 córdobas
Refill water bottle : from 5 cordobas per 1/2 liter
Motorcycle rental : between 250 and 300 cordobas on the day
1 liter gasoline : between 29 cordobas -gas station- and 40 cordobas in pulpería
Orange juice: 29 cordobas
600ml bottle of water: 25 cordobas
Accommodation: € 7 / night (average price per person in a bedroom. There are also cheaper ones and, of course, there are also more expensive ones)