In Nicaragua there is a massive lake in the middle of the country, and in that lake there is an island made from of two volcanoes – this island is called Ometepe. It truly is something which is hard to imagine, and once I saw it with my own eyes I was shocked at its beauty. The best thing about Ometepe is the unique landscape. This is why choosing where to stay in Ometepe is so important. So many people stay in the main town of Moyogalpa just for convenience, and they miss the beautiful nature, incredible sunsets, and the unique community cultures of Ometepe. This is my advice to getting the most out of a visit to this beautiful island by picking the best place to stay.
Getting Around the Island
It is important to note that although Ometepe looks small on a map, it takes hours to get around the island in a vehicle. Choosing where to stay in Ometepe is important so you don’t spend all of your time in a car.
There are five options for getting around the island:
- By Taxi – This is only for those with a high budget as taxis are overpriced on Ometepe. I wouldn’t recommend using taxis as it will be expensive. However, there are plenty of them and they are more comfortable than other modes of transportation.
- By Shuttle – There are some minivans which do certain routes around the island for about $5-$10 per person. Shuttles are a good option for once you arrive to Ometepe to get to your accommodation. There aren’t many though so I wouldn’t rely on shuttles for daily transport to tourist spots.
- By Motorbike – The cheapest and best mode of transport for exploring the island, but not great for arriving with luggage. Expect to pay between $20-$30 USD for 24 hours rental of a motorbike. Some people will try and rent you a scooter, keep in mind scooters will only get you to a select few locations of the island. This is due to bad road conditions and steep hills.
- Push Bike – Many blogs I have read said to rent a push/peddle bike to get around. Unless you are going to one specific place close to where you are staying, I don’t recommend this. The roads are rough and hills are frequent. I can’t imagine a push bike will be of much use on this massive island.
- Local Chicken Bus – Chicken buses are frequent on the island but not to all areas. The schedule seems to change depending on who you talk to and when. These buses also take forever. I would only recommend taking a chicken bus if you have time to spare and can communicate well in Spanish. Otherwise, you may end up on the wrong route and in the middle of nowhere.
My best advice would be, barter with a shuttle/mini-van driver upon arrival to get to your accommodation. Then, rent a motorbike from near your accommodation for a day to explore the island.
Which Area to Stay In
If you have been browsing on Hostelworld or Booking.com you would have noticed that accommodation options are spread out over the entire island. With so many options how do you know which area is best in terms of where to stay in Ometepe? To me, it depends on what you are looking for but basically there are two ways to go about it: either stay in the main town of Moyogalpa for convenience sake, or get out into nature and stay elsewhere.
Moyogalpa is where you will arrive by ferry (there is one other ferry port but the boats are much less frequent.) The benefit of staying here is that you will be walking distance to accommodation, restaurants and shops. The downside is that there is no real view of the volcanos. The town seems a bit rundown and every person you walk past is trying to sell you something. It is just another tourist town really and doesn’t have anything in particular to offer. Even in Moyogalpa you will need to hire transport whenever you want to go and actually visit any attractions.
I stayed in Balgue, which I think is the best choice. Balgue is a small village with only about three restaurants, two hostels, one eco-lodge, and a couple of small tiendas (tiny convenience stores.) Balgue is surrounded by nature but still accessible with a paved road and has everything you could need. In Balgue we were still able to rent a motorbike one day to explore the whole island, but on the other days we could enjoy the village and go on nature walks around the area. I have heard that the area of Merida is similar in terms of services and charm however the road to get there is very rocky and rough.
Getting Around from Balgue
Balgue is about 40 minutes driving from Moyogalpa but it is also very central in terms of exploring the island. It is 20 minutes to the natural springs “Ojo de Agua”, 30 minutes to Merida or the kayaking locations, 40 minutes to “Salto San Ramon” waterfall, and walking distance to the chocolate factory “El Pital Chocolate Paradise”. In Balgue you can rent a motorbike (or scooter or ATV) from Hospedaje Asi Es Mi Tierra. With a motorbike it is possible to get to all of the mentioned locations in one day. These seem to be the most popular attractions on Ometepe.
Café Campestre in Balgue also has great food for reasonable prices.
Where to Stay in Ometepe – Hotels and Hostels
We stayed at Totoco Eco-Lodge and I couldn’t recommend it more. It was located about one kilometer up a hill from the main road in Balgue, accessible by foot but also surrounded by nature. Totoco is very environmentally friendly and they actually have various programs to help the local communities. The best part though, the amazing view! From our balcony we watched the most incredible sunset every single night. It is more expensive than a hostel, but worth every penny and still really affordable for the value offered. We spent one entire day just enjoying our surroundings in nature and then cooling off in the infinity pool. This is where to stay in Ometepe, the best choice hands down!
I know that when I was researching my trip to the island, deciding where to stay in Ometepe was the hardest part. I really hope this post helps you and my recommendations are useful. If you have been to Ometepe before I would love to hear from you. Tell me where you stayed and what you thought below in the comments.
Where to Go Next
If you are still travelling Nicaragua after Ometepe there are some other great places to check out:
- Granada – see lava at the Masaya Volcano and explore this gorgeous colonial town
- San Juan del Sur – catch some waves and sunshine in this relaxed town
- Leon – the only place in the world where you can sandboard down an active volcano
- Monteverde – jump across the border to Costa Rica and cool down in a gorgeous cloud forest
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