Isla de Ometepe is renowned for being one of the most beautiful places in Nicaragua. That’s hard to dispute but we didn’t love it like we thought we would.
With 2 volcanos, climbing them is pretty much the main attraction, but having done Pacaya in Guatemala and the volcano boarding a few days earlier we weren’t all that keen. In addition, some friends had done an 8 hour hike up Conception and not been able to see anything when they got to the top.
It also didn’t start well. There isn’t a lot of information about Ometepe accommodation online, and by all accounts backpackers tend to stay in remote places scattered around the island. But we thought why not just stay in the town where the boat gets in, where surely competition and prices are going to be lowest?
Our great idea was scuppered when we managed to get the only boat of the day which doesn’t arrive at the main town of Moyogalpa. Instead it arrived at a dock in the middle of nowhere. Having no plans of anywhere to go, we had little choice but to get a taxi to where we should have arrived in the first place. Luckily we met a couple of German girls who wanted to do the same thing.
We quickly found a fairly grotty hotel, which after checking a few others appeared to be as good as it gets in Moyogalpa, and tried to decide what to do.
With no interest in climbing a volcano, and virtually no public transport to explore the island, we were a bit stuck.
Until we realised everywhere rented out scooters. If you know us, getting around on 2 wheels is just about our favourite thing in the world to do, so it was a no brainer.
Sadly it was $20 a day when Asia is about $7 but it was still our best option.
We set out early to find our first stop – Ojos De Agua (Eye of Water), a swimming hole. It’s man made with beautifully clear water filtered from a natural source. It was quite crowded and we struggled to find somewhere to sit, but the water was lovely and refreshing.
There was a rope swing and a tightrope – we both tried the latter and failed miserably!
Afterwards we continued cruising round the island. At every turn there were epic views of the volcanos. We also stopped at a few beaches, including one where we saw a man bring his horse for a drink. We were shocked until we remembered it was a lake and not the sea!
Eventually we made it to the town of Balque on the Southwest Coast for lunch. We’d planned this in because the amazing Cafe Campestre is located here. Owned by a Brit, the restaurant grows all its own vegetables and has great fresh juices, homemade beer etc. It specialises in curries, and we both had a delicious one.
After lunch we turned around (since the road turns into a dirt track and with a small wheeled scooter it would only be a matter of time until we came off) and headed back to the Volcan Conception part of the island to stop at Charco Verde, a nature reserve.
We saw lots of different plants, butterflies, and many, many monkeys. The trail also led to the best looking beach we had seen on Ometepe.
At the end there was a short hike to a decent enough mirador.
We finally returned to the town just in time to get the bike back. It had been a good day and we were excited to get some rest and a shower. I looked in the bag for the key. And again. And again. It wasn’t there.
In a year of travelling we had never lost a room key! We figured we must have left it inside the room and asked the staff to open the door with the spare.
Except they didn’t have a spare. What they did have were several unlabelled bags of keys in no order whatsoever. It was pretty much a lesson in how not to run a hotel. The owner had hated me since we arrived and now he looked like he wanted to murder me.
Eventually, one of the daughters had the idea to remove some of the glass slats on the window, and we were inside in seconds (secure or what?). But the key wasn’t there, we had lost it.
The wife of the owner seemed sure that a key she found worked in the door (it didn’t) but we didn’t argue and just paid the 125 cordobas for a replacement.
This whole incident, along with the horrible town of Moyogalpa, made us resolved to leave the following morning. We’d seen what we wanted to see, and as we didn’t want to climb a volcano there was nothing left for us.
So we headed to San Juan Del Sur, skipped the town entirely, and stayed at the beautiful Casa Maderas at Maderas beach where we did nothing but swim and sunbathe for 2 nights. It wasn’t what we planned, but it just felt right.
We visited in March 2015.
Our ferry from San Jorge cost us C$40 (£0.95) per person and took around half an hour I believe. There are 2 types of ferries, small passenger only ones and ones that take cars too. We went on both types but if you are prone to seasickness avoid the smaller ones as they do move around a lot.
We stayed at Hotel Aly in Moyogalpa and unsurprisingly we wouldn’t really recommend it. We paid $25 per night for a very scruffy double room.
The scooter rental was also from the hotel, this we would recommend. It was cheaper than most places and we could leave a $100 cash deposit rather than our passports. Petrol was about double the price of the mainland but still only cost us C$111 (£2.68) for the day.
The island takes a surprisingly long time to ride around, due to speed humps, bad roads and cattle on the roads. But it is fun.
Our stay at Casa Maderas cost us $39 per night – it wasn’t cheap and was quite isolated, but it was worth it.
Getting to San Juan Del Sur, we ended up taking a taxi from San Jorge all the way there, for $18, as the bus(es) would have taken forever.