This gorgeous island dominated by two volcanoes, Volcán Concepción and Volcán Maderas, is one of the most popular backpacker spots in Nicaragua. Wherever you are on the island you’re pretty much guaranteed to a spectacular view of the mountains… if the clouds ever clear.
To get here from Granada on public transport is simple and very cheap. The bus to Rivas will cost you 30C ($1) and takes 2 hours, from here it’s a 20 minute bus to the ferry terminal in San Jorge for 7C. The ferry itself cost us 69C but could cost you more or less depending on who you talk to…
The ferry arrives into Moyogalpa, and we decided to stay here to save money on the expensive island taxis. There is still a nice selection of hotels, restaurants and shops. We chose the basic Hospedaje Dona Chilo because it was the cheapest option but there are some other great choices around like the popular Landing Hotel, a stylish place with great views from the upstairs terrace.
What to see and do on Ometepe
Pick your motorbike rental carefully… we went to a cheap place on the main road (I forget the name) and their bikes were very dodgy and they kicked off when we tried to change it for another one… so we gave up the fight and chose to rent them from a friendly guy up the road from the ferry terminal for $20.
After wasting time with a broken motorbike we finally hit the road, our first stop was Punta Jesús María, a lovely little spit of sand that gives you an incredible view of Volcán Concepcións, when the clouds clear… it would be an awesome place for a picnic if you pick up some snacks from the supermarket before you leave.
We drove all the way round the the other side of island to Playa Santa Cruz before heading back a short way to the popular Playa Santa Domingo for lunch at a lovely beach-side restaurant. There are a few great places to stay around here but taxis from the ferry terminal will really rip you off.
Our third, and best, stop was the two hours we spent at Ojo de Agua. This waterhole has been man made but is naturally filled with fresh, clean water that runs down from Volcán Maderas. It’s the absolutely best place to visit at the end of a dirty and sweaty day hiking or biking around the island.
If you don’t feel like climbing a volcano you can head to Laguna Charco Verde to follow the trails that wind through the forest, there is a great lookout at the top of the hill. If you follow it further down you’ll pass a big lagoon, a great place to spot wildlife, before finally reaching another beach.
You can hike Volcán Concepción if you have a day to spare. It’s an 8 – 10 hour hike and starts from just outside the small town of Altagracia. It’s a very steep climb and hiring a guide is compulsory. I didn’t do this because my budget was too tight to pay for tour and the weather sucked, but I wish I had, you’re rewarded with amazing views on a clear day.
After a long day of exploring we sat at an amazing little pizza restaurant and watched the sunset turn the volcano pink, the skies had finally cleared. The ferry back to the mainland should cost you the same amount, and ignore the people who tell you there are no buses just to get you into their taxi. There is always a bus.
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