Ometepe island - a complete guide
A complete guide to one of my favorite places in Nicaragua – Ometepe island.
If you are visiting Nicaragua, you HAVE TO add a stop in Ometepe island to your Nicaragua itinerary.
In this Ometepe guide I am covering everything you need to know before your trip there. From how to get there, where to stay, what to do and where to eat & drink. Enjoy!
1. About Ometepe island
Starting this Ometepe guide with a little bit general information about this unique island.
Ometepe island is the largest volcanic island in a fresh water lake worldwide. It´s located in Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in all of Central America.
The hour glass- shaped island composes of two volcanoes. Active volcano Concepcion in the North and the extinct volcano Maderas in the South.
The name Ometepe is made up by two Nahuati (an indigenous language spoken by the Aztecs) words. Ome means two and tepetl means mountain. The island is inhabited since 2000 BC and is rich in history. Over 2000 petroglyphs (rock paintings) in 100+ different locations were found on the island.
In recent year the island has gained popularity with tourists, for a good reason. The island is home to many beautiful places that are worth a visit. From waterfalls to crystal-clear natural pools, beaches, volcano hikes and dense jungle – you can find it all there, on Ometepe island.
The volcano views of volcano Concepcion are some of the most impressive views I have ever been fortunate enough to see. You can´t leave Nicaragua without seeing them with your own eyes, so make sure you add Ometepe island to your Nicaragua itinerary.
2. How to get there
Make your way to Rivas
To get to Ometepe island, you will first need to make your way to the city of Rivas.
You can either take the local bus (chicken bus) from basically anywhere in Nicaragua or you join one of the more expensive tourist shuttles.
Continue to the ferry port in San Jorge
The ferry port is located in San Jorge, a small town only 10 minutes from Rivas.
To get here, you either negotiate a taxi/ tuk tuk driver from the bus station in Rivas or take another local bus. However I understood that the local bus to San Jorge is a bit confusing and it´s not really regulated where it leaves and how often it runs.
If you negotiate well, a taxi or tuk tuk should not cost more than 2-3 dollars. Should be worth the investment to get to the ferry port without delays.
Take the boat or ferry to Ometepe island
Ferries & boats from San Jorge to Ometepe are leaving multiple times a day. You can find the schedule HERE.
A ride costs between 1.50 to 3 USD (depending on destination and type of transport)
Most boat transfers are scheduled to the main port in Ometepe, Moyogalpa. This is also where the main town is and where you can rent scooters etc.
Some are scheduled to arrive to San Jose instead, however there isn´t much around this area, so make sure you know which destination you want to go for.
It´s also possible to bring your own vehicle on the ferry to Ometepe island. I brought my car and it cost me about 10 USD one-way. Reservations for the ones traveling in car are recommended, I did not have one and was still able to go on the next ferry, so not always necessary I guess.
Getting around the island
If you are not traveling in your own vehicle, I highly recommend renting a scooter to get around Ometepe island. It´s a common way to get around the large island and to explore the many different points of interest.
Alternatively, there are also some busses and taxis as well as tourist shuttles available to get around the island.
3. Where to stay?
Even though I personally camped during my stay on Ometepe island, I have of course done some research on accommodation options to be able to provide you with a complete Ometepe guide.
There are many options around the island, here are some of the best rated:
Budget stay, 8-15 USD per night:
El Pital Chocolate Paradise (dorms are affordable but they also have expensive private room options)
Mid-range stay, 20-40 USD per night:
There are no very luxury hotels on Ometepe (yet), but here´s some of the most expensive on the island, which are still actually not very expensive.
Luxury stay, 50-100 USD per night:
And there are many more options on Ometepe island, most of them very affordable. Do some research in advance to find your perfect place to stay.
I can also highly recommend camping, if you´re into that. My favorite place for camping on the island was Playa Peru, right next to the more popular Playa Mango. Only costs 3 USD per night and the views of volcano Concepcion are INCREDIBLE.
4. Best things to do
Ometepe island has a lot to offer and in this part of my Ometepe guide, I will share the best things to do with you.
Whether you are looking to relax at the beach, hike volcanoes or soak in go kayaking on Central America´s largest lake – you can have it all in Ometepe!
- Punta Jesus Maria. – one of the best sunset spots on the island
- Playa Mango – popular beach with incredible views of volcano Concepcion
- Playa Peru – the secret neighbor of Playa Mango and my personal favorite
- Playa Santa Cruz, long sandy beach between the Northern & Southern part of the island
- Volcano Concepcion hike – the most popular hike on the island but also the hardest and longest
- Maderas volcano hike – also a long and hard hike up the 2nd volcano of the island. Slightly less popular than the volcano Concepcion hike
- San Ramon waterfall hike – popular hike to the only waterfall on the island, relativcely short and easy
- Charco Verde Nature Reserve Loop – short & easy loop hike/ walk around the Charco Verde Nature Reserve
Other activities and places to visit:
- Swim in the crystal clear waters of Ojo de Agua (this place is pretty touristy and expensive, but it´s still worth a visit. Come early in the morning!).
- Rent a scooter and explore the island.
- Go kayaking on Lake Nicaragua or Rio Istian (you can rent kayaks at many places on the island but also take a guided tour).
- Try chocolaty food & drinks at El Pital, more details in the next chapter.
- Visit one of the locations with petroglyphs (rock carvings) – Some of them can be visited and viewed, some specific locations on the island are: Hotel Finca Povenir, Finca Magdalena, San Antonio farm.
- Bird watching. Ometepe is home to an incredible amount of bird species. One of the most common is the beautiful Blue Jay.
- visit El Ceibo museum and learn more about Ometepe´s pre-Colombian past.
- go kitesurfing at Santa Cruz beach!
You can easily spend 4-5 days on the island without getting bored, there are a ot of places to visit and things to do. I did not even do everything I wanted to in the week I was there. Just a good reason to come back to this wonderful island one day 😊
5. Where to eat and drink
Due to it´s large size and growing popularity, there are many options to eat & drink around the island.
One place that everyone told me to visit, but I skipped anyway is El Pital Chocolate Parasdise. I am not very much into chocolate but a lot of people said you can have great chocolate drinks & dishes here and even do some tours and cacao ceremonies.
If you´re into chocolate, definitely check it out. It´s definitely on the pricier side and catered to tourists.
Playa Mango is a popular restaurant and beach with great views. I have not personally eaten here, but it has great reviews and I heard many good things. It´s quite touristy and more expensive than other options on the island.
Café Campestre is one of the most popular places to eat on the island. They got a great variety and delicious food. Pricier than local comedors as well though.
Other high rated restaurants on the island:
- Mirador Los Volcanes Restaurant
- Pizzeria Mediterranea Bar & Restaurant
- El Picante Mexican Restaurant
- Comedor Relax
- Rancho Morgan
- Caballito´s Mar
And that´s it for Ometepe island! I am sure you will love this place as much as I do.
Check out more Nicaragua blog posts below to help you plan your trip: