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Ometepe is definitely a ‘must include’ island on any trip to Nicaragua. If not, you are surely missing out on some precious natural beauty. The island is located in Lake Nicaragua and can be reached by a shady ferry ride that will be transporting tourists and locals (by shady I mean a thin layer of water flows around the bottom deck as the ferry rocks among the waves).
Twin volcanoes iconisize and formed the island; the largest, Concepcion, and the smaller crater-lake volcano, Maderas. Concepcion is considered an active volcano while Maderas is thought to be either extinct or dormant. The entire island is home to about 30,000 people.
I would probably list La Brisa Finca Natural as the number one thing to do or see if La Brisa had not been sold by the owner, Nacho. I heard that El Zopilote purchased the property from Nacho because Zopilote had become so popular. Sarah and I actually intended to stay at El Zopilote based off the reviews but we arrived with no place to stay. Slightly desperate for a place to camp with access to food, we hiked up the trail to La Brisa.
What we found was an amazing eco camp site that required you to have an open mind and get a little in-tune with nature. La Brisa only allowed internet access for a few hours a day, had natural compost toilets, two enclosed sleeping quarters (anyone could also camp openly off the path), natural spring water shower and drinking water supply (no one reported feeling ill), and a genius for a cook.
El Zopilote looked pretty awesome from what we saw while trying to reserve a spot, also the food menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner made my mouth water.
Sarah and I toyed with the idea of hiking either Concepcion or Maderas and the reasons we had for not hiking them were as follows: fellow travelers said the hikes were indeed difficult coupled with danger due to rain over the last few days and a perpetually overhanging cloud that obstructed any sort of view once at the top.
Ultimately, we decided against the potential of getting hurt with little prospect of immediate medical treatment in a developing country and went with relaxing at the nearby beach. Playa Santo Domingo proved to be a great place to relax and we were even joined by many travelers from La Brisa. We played in the not so warm but not so cold water of Lake Nicaragua and enjoyed a fantastic meal at a restaurant right off the beach.
Overall, Ometepe proved to be a relaxing highlight of the entire trip. The feeling of relaxing under the stars next to an adorable travel mate in a meshed tent is rather indescribable. The memories still sneak a smile on my face and warm my thoughts.
Summary of Things To Do on Ometepe:
1. Reserva Charco Verde: nature reserve with abundant wildlife on the southern part of the island, where you can swim, hike and kayak.
2. San Ramon Waterfall: natural freshwater inland (hike time – 3 hours).
3. Volcano Concepcion Hike: about 8 hours, return strenuous.
4. Volcano Maderas Hike: features a crater lake; about 6 hours return, less strenuous than Concepcion, but not easy either.
5. Petrogyphs (ancient rock art): found at the village of Finca El Porvenir or Balgue
6. Recommended Budget Accommodation: El Zopilote for a unique experience.
Arriving at Ometepe can be done via a ferry from Granada or by a taxi from San Jorge to the port (travel first to Rivas which is a larger town closer to San Jorge). The drawback of traveling from Granada to Ometepe is that the ferry ride is many hours long as you can see from the map and it is much further away than the port of San Jorge to Ometepe.
If possible, try arranging a taxi ride in San Jorge for a pickup once you arrive in Moyogalpa, Ometepe. This will save you the hassle of dealing with the taxi drivers fighting for your business. If you do not pre-arrange a taxi it will not be an issue as you will have many taxi ride options waiting for you.