I haven’t yet been to Nicaragua, so I asked the lovely Casey Colesworth from A Wandering Foreigner to share her love for Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. It sounds like an amazing experience, and is definitely on my list for when I do get to visit! Here is Casey’s Ultimate Travel Guide to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua:
It’s no secret I love Nicaragua. When I first visited the country, I thought I’d be there for three weeks. Since then, I’ve spent a total of three months in Nicaragua, and 10-weeks of those on Ometepe Island.
The first time I visited the island, I thought I’d be there for two days. Ten days later, I had to drag myself away only to return twice more, and live there for two months.
Obsessed might be a good way to describe my love affair.
Whether you’re visiting for two days or two months, I’ve given you here all the information you need to successfully navigate your time on the island.
The Background on Ometepe Island
Isla de Ometepe is a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua in the southern part of the country. The two volcanoes, Maderas and Concepción, form an island that looks like a figure eight or, as many on the island like to point out, the infinity symbol.
Many believe the island to be a powerful place for healing and manifesting, and I can’t say I disagree. It’s hard not to feel at peace in such a beautiful place. I don’t really have the words to describe it other than to say that it holds a special energy I haven’t found anywhere else.
Dotted with small towns on the lake shore surrounding the two volcanoes, visitors and travelers can choose where to stay on Ometepe based on how long they have and the type of experience they want.
Getting To and Around Ometepe Island
The journey to Ometepe Island is any easy one, with ferry rides leaving from San Jorge, near Rivas, to Moyogalpa starting at 7 AM until 6 PM. Trips take an hour, and the Omepete ferry leaves every hour or so.
When you arrive at the island’s biggest town, you’re swarmed by taxi drivers and hostel promoters trying to offer you the best deals. Depending on your arrival time, your luggage, you may or may not want to grab a taxi to where you’re staying.
On the other hand, if you’re up for an adventure and don’t arrive too late, try taking local transportation, the chicken bus. Chicken buses are part of the whole Latin American experience and are definitely the cheapest way to get around. Yes, they can be a little overcrowded and it takes a bit longer to get from place to place, but the music, the people watching, and the scenery make it part of the real Nicaragua tourism experience.
Things to Do on Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Although it’s an island, there’s a massive amount of activities on Ometepe. This list could go on and on but here are a few of my favorites:
Explore on a Scooter
This is the first thing you should do when you arrive in Ometepe. Renting a scooter or motorbike for the day is the easiest, fastest and most fun way to see the island, especially if you’re short on time. Start your day early and take your time motoring from town to town as you explore. Be careful, though, and always wear a safety helmet. Some of the roads are rough and people have been known to crash.
Hike to the Waterfall
If you want a hike but don’t necessarily want to climb a volcano, this is a great option. The trail starts at the base of Maderas and takes about three hours to complete. It’s a hot, sweaty, workout, but absolutely beautiful. You’ll walk through lush jungle to a cascading waterfall with a natural pool to cool off. Ask your hostel or hotel in Ometepe which is the best way to get to the trailhead.
Spend Time By the Water
Lake Nicaragua is massive and the best place to beat the heat. Be sure to dive in for a swim and spend some time on the beach to soak in the island’s magic. Some believe this is how you best experience a deeper connection to the island and its healing energy. I admit that I’m one of those people.
One of my favorite ways to spend time by the water is watching the sunset. Some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen have been on Ometepe Island.
Eat Chocolate at El Pital Chocolate Factory
Don’t skip this place. El Pital is a beach and raw, vegan chocolate factory in the town of Santa Cruz. The new chocolate factory is quickly becoming a popular place and am I excited for the owner and his staff as I watch it grow and develop.
I visited El Pital when it first opened and completely fell in love with it. I became very close with the staff who live and work there, and spent many days and nights on the beach and in their hammocks. It’s one of my favorite places on the island to spend a day. The hidden beach is surrounded by jungle with lots of hammocks and swings, and also has some of the best chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously. The chocolate is made on-site with natural sweeteners, fresh ingredients, and lots of love.
Your trip to Ometepe isn’t complete until you visit El Pital.
Hike a Volcano on Ometepe
So, I admit I never did this. I wanted to! But it just didn’t happen. I know many people that did, though, and they all came back sore, tired and happy they did it.
Both Maderas and Concepción are about the same in terms of difficulty, from what I’ve been told, so if you choose to hike, I suggest picking the volcano that’s closest to where you’re staying.
Self-Nurturing and Pampering Yourself
Nicaragua is a great place for pampering and self-nurturing because it’s such an affordable country. With an incredible backdrop and a connected, grounded community, Ometepe is one of my favorite places to disconnect, let go and be present. Massage, yoga, meditation, reiki, sound healing, and cacao ceremonies, are a few of the ways to unwind.
Where to Stay in Ometepe Nicaragua
There are many options for Ometepe hotels and hostels, but I spent most of my time near the town of Santa Cruz, a small, close-knit community with lots expats, travelers, permaculture projects, yoga, and more. Book on Hostelworld or choose one of my recommendations below.
This is the first hostel I stayed in when I visited Ometepe and every time I go back, it feels like home. For me, this is one of the best Ometepe hostels.
Zopilote is an eco-friendly, permaculture hostel on a massive property in the pulsing heart of the jungle on the side of Maderas. Accommodation options include bungalows, dorm beds, hammocks and camping for affordable prices. There’s a great restaurant with dishes highlighting ingredients from the farm, two gorgeous viewpoints for sunset viewings, and lots of guest activities. Don’t miss the pizza nights on Tuesday and Saturday.
Do you want to party? This place is for you. The hostel is located on the water and while I never stayed here, Little Morgan’s has the reputation as “the party hostel” on Ometepe. I’ve heard it gets wild so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve found it for you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is InanItah, an earth-based spiritual community hidden away in the jungle of Maderas volcano. The last time I went to Ometepe, I lived and volunteered here for two months and it changed my life. You can read all about my experience at InanItah eco-community here, but in short it’s a special spot that I recommend to anybody looking for a more unconventional, spiritual, healing experience. There’s a week minimum stay for visitors and it’s more expensive than a hostel, but includes daily yoga, meditation, three locally-grown meals a day, the best view on the island, and unforgettable memories.
Where to Eat on Ometepe Island
Located in the town of Balgüe, Café Campestre is one of my favorite restaurants on the island. Its farm-to-fork dishes include sandwiches, gyros, burgers, fresh salads and more. Be sure to get the brownie.
If you’re looking for a good, healthy breakfast or lunch in Moyogalpa, go to The Cornerhouse. It’s a solid option if you want a break from the fried Nica food and offers a variety of breakfast dishes, as well as wraps, salads, and sandwiches.
Pizzeria Mediterranea Bar Ristorante
Oddly enough, there’s a lot of pizza on Ometepe. This restaurant, located right across the road from Zopilote in Santa Cruz, has some of the best pizza and pasta on the island. I’ve been known to finish an entire pizza myself, which is embarrassing and impressive at the same time.
Pizza Night at Zopilote
As mentioned, I love Zopilote’s pizza night. On Tuesdays and Saturdays don’t miss your chance to grab a personal-sized pizza baked in their wood-fire oven with music, dancing, fire shows, vendors and good people for entertainment.
And now you have my ultimate guide to Ometepe Island. However you choose to spend your time, make sure to enjoy the moment and beauty of this powerful, magical island. It’s a one-of-a-kind place that keeps people coming back for more.
Casey left her traditional desk job as a food and hospitality publicist to travel the world and experience life in an unconventional way. Today, she works as a digital nomad, traveling slowly on a minimal budget. Through her blog, A Wandering Foreigner, she shares her travel advice, tips, and recommendations, as well as her personal learnings, struggles, inspirational findings, and overall life thoughts. Her goal is to inspire others to live their adventure and be their best, most authentic self in whatever way that takes shape. When she’s not globetrotting through different countries, she’s exploring her homebase of Denver, Colorado.
All photos are courtesy of A Wandering Foreigner.
Have you been to Ometepe Island? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.
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