13 Awesome Things to do on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
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Isla de Ometepe is one of Nicaragua’s most talked-about destinations. In recent times, the island has exploded with tourists and with good reason – it’s beautiful! In this blog, we share all the best things to do in Ometepe that made our trip so amazing!
As we sailed across Lake Nicaragua towards Isla de Ometepe I was in awe. Before me, was an island made of not one, but two volcanoes! Those volcanoes pierced through the surrounding clouds leaving only their bodies to see.
The surrounding landscape was painted green and exploded with thick rainforest. The calm trip across the lake had me ready to jump out of my seat and explore.
With so much excitement, I was motivated to get out and experience all of the best activities to do on Isla de Ometepe. And that’s just what we did! From the moment we arrived, we jumped on a motorbike and explored.
We tackled bumpy roads, ventured up volcanos, and enjoyed some of the most breathtaking views I’d ever seen! To say the least, Ometepe was amazing!
To inspire and help plan your upcoming trip, here are the 13 best things to do on Ometepe that every visitor should consider doing!
13 BEST Things to do in Ometepe, Nicaragua
1. Rent a motorbike or scooter to explore the island
By far the best thing I did on Ometepe was rent a motorbike. Without it, travel around the island is slow, and in some cases, almost impossible. The bus system on Ometepe is often unreliable and although possible to use, you won’t be able to do many activities in one day.
With our bike, we could simply set off first thing in the morning and explore so much of the island stopping where we wanted, when we wanted! Not to mention the sense of adventure we had was unreal!
The best thing is that the roads around Ometepe are not busy at all! The locals live by “island time” so no one is in a hurry or drives super-fast. Trust me, I was a little nervous renting a motorbike, but after 10 minutes I realized Ometepe wasn’t nearly as crazy as riding in Southeast Asia!
To rent a motorbike for the day (12 hours) we paid $25 USD and we got a really good bike in nearly new condition. Other people we met paid $20 USD, however, their bike was not as new as ours. A scooter will set you back around $20 USD per 24 hours. You can rent a bike in advance for when you arrive on the island in Moyogalpa.
Although this isn’t as cheap as you may have thought (even I thought rentals would be cheaper,) the amount of time it saves you is priceless.
All motorbikes and scooters can be rented throughout the island and prices are negotiable! A license from your home country or an international license is required to rent the bike or scooter. It is also important to make sure your bike is insured and registered. If not you can be fined by the police on the island. This is easy to check as there should be a card on or in the bike/scooter seat. Most rental places will show you this before you go, but always ask!
Deciding whether to rent a scooter or motorbike can be a hard decision. However, if you can, go with the motorbike! The reason? Well if you plan on going all around the island then it’s much easier with a motorbike. Also, if you want to visit San Ramon Waterfall (mentioned below) you’ll need a motorbike to get up the dirt road. If you’re not comfortable riding a motorbike then, of course, go with the scooter!
2. Hike Conception Volcano
There are a lot of reasons people do crazy things. For me, it’s simply the excitement and reward of doing things others don’t. It gets the blood pumping and gives you stories to tell others could only dream of.
If that sounds like you or if you’re just plain crazy, then the epic, but grueling, hike to the summit of Conception Volcano is perfect for you! Now, I must warn you, it takes a little more than simply being crazy to attempt it.
The trail itself is around 11 miles return (depending on who you ask as no one really knows exactly) and, as you may have guessed, it’s straight up the entire way. Mix that distance and climb with the Nicaraguan heat, and you’ve got yourself a challenge.
For most, it takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete and must be done on a guided tour. So, even if you’re faster, you’ll be waiting for your group unless you do a private trip.
Although hard, it’s not a technical climb like some people suggest. It’s a typical scramble to the top on a volcano. Expect to be on your hands a lot when you get close to the summit. Once you do the reach the top though, the views are spectacular and they make the climb oh so worth it!
Tours start at 7 am to get a head start on the day and you should be back down around 3 pm. Because the hike can be dangerous in bad conditions it’s best to go with a reputable company. This specific tour is with Expeditions Ometepe who is a top-rated company.
This is one hike that’ll leave you tired but also with an epic story to take home with you!
3. Swim at Ojo de Agua
Ometepe is a hot place with a tropical climate that sees a lot of humidity. So, it’s no wonder one of the most popular things to do in Ometepe is to cool off at Ojo de Agua.
Ojo de Agua is a natural spring, nestled in the most beautiful setting and surrounded by tropical plants. The water is said to have healing properties and is crystal clear. Because of its popularity, the spring can often be overcrowded. However, to avoid the crowds, simply arrive first thing in the morning like we did!
We arrived at the pools at 9 am and spent a good two hours relaxing before most people showed up, it was so peaceful!
You can hang out and get some sun or swing from the rope swings into the water. There is also a slackline on one side that proves to be really entertaining!
The entrance fee to Ojo de Agua is $3 USD or 80 Cordobas. Lockers are available onsite as well as a restaurant and snacks. This is the perfect activity in Ometepe on a hot day!
Getting there: You can easily find Oja de Agua on Google Maps. If you want to get there by bus then you’ll need to ask your hotel how as it differs depending on where you’re staying on Ometepe. The road to get to Ojo de Agua is almost all paved (except for the last bit.) However, even the unpaved portion is in good shape and a motorbike or scooter would easily be able to make the drive.
4. Go on an adventure to San Ramon Waterfall
Visiting San Ramon Waterfall is easily my favorite thing I did on Ometepe. Not only is the waterfall absolutely spectacular, but getting there really is an adventure! The waterfall itself is 213 feet (65m) high and the perfect place to cool off after a hike to the falls.
I rode my motorbike up the extremely rough dirt track to the carpark of the falls and struggled a lot! The path is not maintained at all. Most people we met walked, however riding saved us 1.5 hours of walk one way! On the way to the falls after parking our bike, we saw an entire family of monkeys before relaxing at the small pool at the bottom of the falls.
The people who own the land charge visitors 100 cordobas to enter and they also have a small fee for bringing in a bike or scooter. Despite this, it’s totally worth it!
It’s important to note that the falls is only worth visiting in the wet season as during the dry season not much water flows over the edge. Ask your hotel when you are there if it is the right time to visit.
Getting there: Getting to San Ramon waterfall is a little tricky. The waterfall is accessed through a private property that you can find on Google Maps near the town of Merida. Google Maps shows the waterfall and path to the falls. From the front gate (where you pay) you can either walk (2 hours up) or ride a motorbike to a car parking lot and walk from there (30 minutes.) If you are not comfortable riding a motorbike on rough terrain I would just park at the bottom and walk the entire way. I personally rode my motorbike but did have great difficulty. You cannot do this road on a scooter.
You can also pay to ride a horse to the top and the private property you enter to start the trail is actually a horse stable. I am not sure what they charge to take you up, but I’m sure the price is negotiable.
5. Relax at El Pital Chocolate Paradise
El Pital is a hidden gem located near Balgue on Ometepe and is a really beautiful place to visit. The restaurant/hostel is located right on the water and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy Ometepe’s beautiful views.
We actually visited here after the trek to San Ramon Waterfall to recharge with one of their famous chocolate desserts! At El Pital, you can also learn about the chocolate-making process, buy homemade chocolate treats, or just enjoy a meal and the tranquility of the place.
With comfy hammocks and some breathtaking views of the volcanos, El Pital is so much more than chocolate! Other things you can do are swim in the lake, paddle board with views of the volcano, and if you choose, stay to watch the sunset!
You can also choose to stay at the hostel if you want, and it’s actually in a great location on the island for exploring!
6. Eat fresh seafood at Restaurante Caballito’s Mar
My favorite restaurant on Ometepe is easily Restaurante Caballito’s Mar. This beautiful seafood restaurant serves fresh seafood from Lago Cocibolca with stunning views right on the water.
We stopped here for lunch two times during our stay on Ometepe for a cold beer and fresh seafood lunch. My favorite dish was the fried fish with plantains! Depending on how hungry you are you can choose the size of the fish and even share one.
The best thing about the restaurant is that after you’ve eaten you can enjoy the beach and hang out there as long as you want. Fernando, the owner, is super friendly and it was really nice to meet him!
Caballito’s Mar is in the small town of Merida. The restaurant is very remote and for some, the restaurant may be a little far from your hotel to visit at night. With that said, you can easily visit this place either before or after your visit to San Ramon Waterfall as it’s just down the road.
Meals cost around $5 to $10 USD depending on what you order – which is cheap given the freshness, service, and quality!
7. Visit Punta Jesus Maria
Punta Jesus Maria is a super famous beach area on Ometepe. The point extends out into the lake dividing the lake and gives visitors breathtaking views of the two volcanos that make up Ometepe. Punta Jesus Maria is also one of the most popular sunset locations on the island.
The point is located close to Moyogalpa so it’s very easy to access for people staying in the town. You can either get a cab here or walk from Moyogalpa as it’s only a 35-minute walk. Because Bailey and I stayed in Balgue, we never got to visit at sunset, however, during the day this place is still stunning and worth a visit (and much less crowded!)
To escape the midday heat it’s the perfect place to enjoy a swim in the lake and also relax on the volcanic sand beach. Unfortunately, visiting isn’t free but it only costs $1 USD. There are local vendors nearby selling food and drinks as well as a hotel you can stay at called the La Punta Resort.
Also, don’t be fooled by the photos you’ve previously seen. Depending on the lake levels, there can be no beach at all. In fact, this place became famous during Nicaragua’s drought a few years ago and during different times of the year, can almost be completely covered by water!
8. Kayaking on Rio Istian
Despite being a small island, Ometepe is actually home to lots of wildlife. You can see monkeys throughout the island and lots of birds. With that said, if you want to increase your chances then a kayaking tour down the Rio Istian is a must!
We did our tour with Kayak Tours El Caiman Rio Istian and it only cost us $30 USD total for a private tour that lasted for just over 2 hours. On the tour, we saw lots of wildlife that included a Caiman (a little scary to see from a kayak), Howler monkeys, and turtles.
The guides are very knowledgeable of the area which made the tour very informative. The guides do try to upsell you other tours including the ATV ride to San Ramon Waterfall. It’s annoying but if you do want to visit they did offer good prices!.
Overall a great stop, however, be sure to go in the early morning or late afternoon. During the day, this activity would be far too hot as much of the river is in the sun.
9. Visit Museum El Ceibo
On a visit to Ometepe, it’s easy to get lost in the stunning views, cheap beers, and social atmosphere. But if you get a chance, do yourself a favor and visit the El Ceibo Museum. Here you’ll learn all about Ometepe’s pre-Colombian past.
There are two museums at El Ceibo that showcase different displays. The first is all of the old pottery and the other is about the history of Nicaragua’s currency. The entrance to both with a guide is $8 USD. After the 30 minute tour, we got to try some local liquors which were interesting, to say the least.
The pottery displays were my favorite and some of the pieces dated back over 3,000 years! All of the pieces were found on the island and it’s a pretty impressive place to visit for any history buff.
This isn’t the most amazing museum in the world, however, it’s a great cause to support and one you should do if you have 30 minutes to spare on your way around the island.
10. Get lost on the back streets of Ometepe
Lots of the best things to do on Ometepe involve beautiful destinations. Funny enough though, one of my favorite things that I did was just explore the small local streets in the rural towns on our motorbike.
Ometepe is a very safe place to visit and around the island, you can visit lots of small villages. As you ride by, the locals (especially the kids) will wave to you and give you a huge smile. We got right off the main roads and made sure to stop in small villages for a meal or drink.
Many of the locals were surprised to see us and that made the experience really cool. Ometepe is home to lots of different groups of people who have all lived here for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and supporting the small villages and meeting the locals is a rewarding experience on Ometepe!
11. Watch an epic sunset
The sunsets on Ometepe are out of this world! When the colors of the sky, light up around the volcanos on the island, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. During my stay, I watched every sunset with an epic view and I highly recommend it to others!
Other places you can watch an epic sunset in Ometepe include Punta Jesus Maria and Restaurante Caballito’s Mar. But with that said, you can easily find your own spot around the island. Depending on where you’re staying, just head to the water and relax as the sky puts on an amazing show!
12. Stay at Totoco Eco Lodge
One of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed at was the Totoco Eco Lodge on Ometepe. The hotel is located high above the town of Balgue on the side of the Madera’s Volcano. From the rooms, you can stare out at the Conception Volcano and also enjoy the views from the infinity pool.
The hotel is very environmentally friendly and the waste from the hotel is all composted including toilet waste. Our shower was an outdoor shower (which we loved!) and the rooms are very rustic, but comfortable.
Totoco Eco Lodge also supports schools in the area and other community programs. Rooms here start at only $50 USD a night and include an amazing daily breakfast.
The only issue with the hotel is it’s best to hire a scooter or motorbike if you want to stay here. The driveway up to the lodge is long and many taxis won’t drive up to it. However, that’s the price you pay to stay in such a stunning, and remote, location!
13. Explore Charco Verde
Charco Verde is a protected nature reserve on Ometepe. This lake provides a protected area for wildlife and on the 35-minute walk around the lake, you’re likely to see lots including frogs, turtles, and even Howler monkeys!
It costs $5 USD to enter the reserve and you enter through the Charco Verde Hotel. The admission fee includes full access to the lake, the nearby black volcanic sand beach (a cool place to visit if you haven’t seen a pitch-black sandy beach,) and the butterfly garden.
You can get to the reserve by local bus or just ride your scooter or motorbike out there. If you haven’t done the Rio Istian kayaking trip then this is a great activity where you’ll see similar wildlife.
Overall, another quick stop and a great activity on Isla de Ometepe!
Where to Stay on Ometepe
Below are some great hotels and hostels from around Ometepe.
If you’re after a more detailed guide as to the areas to stay on Ometepe and the pros and cons of each, then check out our full blog about where to stay in Ometepe – it includes all the info you need including our opinion on the best area/town to stay in!
Hostel Life is Good
Life is Good Hostel is the perfect place to stay for those on a budget who want to be in Moyogalpa Town (the main town of Ometepe where the ferry drops you.) The hostel has amazing reviews and is famous for tasty food, craft beers, cocktails, and their social atmosphere.
You can check availability on Hostelworld
If you have the budget, then I highly recommend getting out of Moyogalpa and getting a place surrounded by nature. Selvista Guesthouse is just that, and for a very reasonable price, you can stay in a tranquil place with spectacular views. The hotel is located in Balgue which is the best area to stay in Ometepe in my opinion.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Totoco Eco Lodge
Totoco Eco Lodge is where I stayed. This beautiful lodge is located in Balgue too and also surrounded by nature. We stayed in a bungalow with the most amazing views (photo above to prove it!) We highly recommend this place!
You can check availability on Booking.com
Selvista: Jungle House Volcano
For a more personal stay, we highly recommend this amazing jungle house on Airbnb. Selvista’s is a truly beautiful private residence located in Blague. The host is a super host and the reviews are amazing.
You can check availability as well as other properties on Airbnb
Before you go…
Ahh, writing this has me missing Ometepe. To be honest, I am eager to return to Ometepe and Nicaragua in general. Isla de Ometepe will always be one of my favorite destinations in Latin America and I am sure it will be one of yours too!
Thanks so much for reading our guide to the best things to do in Ometepe. I really hope this guide has helped inspire and plan your trip there! If you did find this guide helpful, then be sure to check out all our Nicaragua Blogs or these related articles below!
July 13, 2020