Isla de Ometepe

Isla de Ometepe

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.


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One of its volcanoes active (Concepcion) one of them dormant (Maderas) Ometepe is a sight to behold already when coming in by ferry. Inhabitants like to call the island "oasis of peace" as it has been left largely unscathed by the violent conflicts of Nicaragua's younger history and lying at one of the black volcanic beaches or listening to howler monkeys during the strenuous ascent up one of the two volcanoes you might very well feel peaceful and forget whatever may exist outside this oasis. While it is definitely not a party destination there is hardly anything else you can't do on the island and even though it is not the well kept secret it once was the tourists quickly spread out over the island once you leave the ferry leaving the island mostly to you and your plans.

Get in

You can get to the islands main port (Moyogalpa;   Moypogalpa dock), or a smaller new port at San Jose del Sur (  San Jose del Sur dock) by boat or ferry from San Jorge near Rivas for about US$2-3. There are two ferries - one that carries cars, costs C$70 (Feb 2014), is quite comfortable and leaves on a set schedule, and another ferry that is smaller, cheaper, and appears to leave when full. There is also a tourist tax of 10 cordobas to pay on departure. (Feb 2014) There are plenty of hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the ferry. Buses pick you up and drop you off at terminal. Taxis are also present.

On Monday and Thursday, a ferry leaves Granada around 2 pm and arrives to the port of Altagracia (  Puerto de Gracias) (4 hours) for C$104 (first class) second class (Nicaraguan nationals only): C$46. On Tuesday and Friday there is a ferry coming from San Carlos stopping in San Miguelito and Morrito to the Island (12 hr ride) for C$161(first class) second class (Nicaraguan nationals only) : C$63. For more see the national port administration's website. Your bags will be searched and you have to present your passport to buy a ticket, so be at the port well before departure. If you arrive from San Carlos it will be after sundown and the port is about 2 km out of town. Take a taxi or arrange transport with your hotel.

The crossing is not always smooth - the ferry can get thrown around quite a lot. If you sit indoors on the boat, be aware that water splashes in through the windows, even when they are closed so you may get a little wet if sitting by the window

A small airport (  Moyogalpa Airport) has recently been opened just outside of Moyogalpa, with flights to/from Managua and San Carlos twice a week. For more details check with the domestic airline's website.

Get around

Road network

Whichever mode of transportation you plan to use, it is helpful to understand the island's road configuration. As the island has the shape of a figure 8, so does its road network; it consists of the following main parts:

The above means that by now most of the island's hotels and hostels are near a paved road, with the exception of those on the Maderas' west side (in Mérida and San Ramon). (The south-eastern half of Maderas, between Balgues and San Ramon, has no tourist accommodations, perhaps exactly due to the difficult road access).

The unpaved roads may have very short (20-50 meters) paved sections at the steepest grades.

As of early 2016, the map at the Hacienda Merida's site is still up-to-date as to the location of paved roads.

By bus

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 passing bus for a ride; however, the infrequent schedule might make this impractical.

By taxi

Taxis meet all the ferries (in fact, the drivers want you to use their services almost immediately once you step of the boat) but apart from that, it is hard to find one. They also tend to be more expensive than on the mainland.

By motorcycle

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 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.

By bicycle

There are plenty of bicycle rental shops on the island that rent by the hour (C20), day ($5-7, as of 2016) or week. It is a good way to get to many of the beaches and places like Ojo de Agua, which are too far to walk to and impractical to reach (and get back from) by bus.

See the "Road Network" section above for the conditions of the roads. Most of the road around Volcan Maderas is in very rough shape. It's not recommended to try to cycle around it, although you could ride a motorcycle reasonably easily.

If you have your own bicycle, it is possible to bring it over on a ferry for a nominal fee (as of 2016, around 10 cordobas paid to enter the dock at San Jorge, plus 20 cordobas fee paid on the ferry). Since bicycles are commonly used as a means of transportation by the islanders (despite the awful quality of the roads in the Maderas half of the island!), small bicycle repair shops exist in several towns. Bicycle spare parts (tires, inner tubes, etc) are available in some general store in several towns as well.

On foot

While it may seem like a great idea when looking at a map and the towns on the island are definitely walkable, outside of the towns almost everything is too far to walk for all but the most dedicated. That being said, if you can cope with the heat and the distances (bring plenty of water) you can walk some places.


Views of the volcanoes as well as sunsets are worth taking a picture or three dozen.


Volcano Concepcion

Options on the island include :




Outside of Moyogalpa and Altagracia, most of the island's villages only have tiny grocery stores (more like kiosks), often selling fairly strange assortments of things (e.g. shoes and bananas). While the locals grow all kinds of produce for their own needs, only a small fraction of it is offered for sale at shops and kiosks, as most families have their own produce and don't need to buy it for cash.

Two local products that you can enjoy with your picnic lunch are plantains (platanos; bigger and tastier than regular bananas; ripe when yellow) and passion fruit (which are more commonly known in Nicaragua as calala, rather than maracuya; great by themselves, or with ice cream). Platanos are also eaten deep fried while still green. In that case their taste is similar to fries. Some other fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and oranges, are also commonly available. Tasty mangoes are grown in the island too (e.g., Mérida's main street is lined with majestic mango trees; you can see residents obtaining some fruit by hurling stones at them), but are rarely sold; the same is the case with the star fruit (carambola). Small tasty lemons and tamarind fruits can often be found scattered under the trees on your hotel or campground property.

Grocery stores usually have fairly fresh bread of several kinds (apparently shipped by truck on a ferry from the mainland daily), cookies, as well as cheese (queso or cuajada), which resembles rather oversalted feta cheese. (While there is often a fridge in the store, most shoppers would not have a fridge at home, and salt serves as a preservative). Cheese that is more akin to North American or European variants is known as "queso amarillo" (yellow cheese) and surprisingly hard to get on the island.



Note: For hotels within the urban areas of Moyogalpa and Altagracia, see the respective articles.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, January 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.