Welcome to our 3 day tour of Ometepe, Nicaragua. We hope you enjoy traveling with us and are inspired to take your own trip. This trip was part of our seven month journey around the world which began in Flores, Guatemala. See a summary of the destinations we traveled to over our seven months here: link.
Dual Volcanoes, Double the Fun
Why Travel to Ometepe, Nicaragua?
Coming from Granada, we decided to make our way further south through Nicaragua in search of Ometepe. Ometepe is an incredible hourglass shaped island that attracts many types of tourists; from backpackers (hey, that’s us), to adventure seekers (check), and to those looking for tranquility (….when we are not running around, check!). The island is located in the vast Lake Nicaragua and is known for its twin volcanoes that dominate each end of the island. To the north, we have the active Volcán Concepción and to the South, we have the extinct Volcán Maderas.
With such natural beauty, we had to visit, and Ometepe did not disappoint. This is an incredibly amazing place and ended up being one of our favorite destinations in Central America that we visited. Do not miss Ometepe if you are in Nicaragua (let alone Central America!
To travel from Granada to Ometepe only took a few hours and involved a bus ride from Granada to Rivas, a short taxi from Rivas to a ferry point, and a ferry ride to the island.
The ferry ride was far from normal. (see 360 photo above). We were wedged in between cars and groups of people with nowhere to sit. Many sat in or on their cars and we had to hop over car hoods and sideview mirrors to find a place for our bags and ourselves.
How Long to Stay In Ometepe, Nicaragua?
Three nights was great for our purposes. We arrived late on the first night, settled in, and planned our next two days. The second day we hired a scooter and drove to Volcán Maderas where we hiked to the San Ramon waterfall. On the return trip, we stopped at Punta Jesus Maria beach for sunset. The final day we hiked the famed Volcán Concepción. These were long days full of well-spent energy.
It seems as there are more interesting activities (see “Other Recommendations of things To Do” below) to do in Ometepe so you could consider adding extra days if you want to take things slower or add more things to do.
Top Things To Do In Ometepe, Nicaragua
1) Hike Volcán Concepción
This was a challenging hike winding up through the jungle and then a straight uphill shot to the crater. All in, we spent about six hours on the hike including breaks and the return trip. There were many challenges on our hike, but that’s what makes it fun and exciting. Plus, the views when the clouds part are incredible.
This picture, is about half-way up the trail and you can see that path we took all the way from ground zero.
When you reach the top, it is unlikely that you will be able to see inside the crater due to the clouds and fog, so don’t get your hopes up too high. We didn’t see inside, but we did smell the sulfur emitting from the earth and in some place could even feel the heat escaping from vents in the ground. Being able to smell and feel these things, gives you a sense of the power beneath your feet. If only, those darn clouds went away!
There are multiple trails of varying difficulty that you can take to reach the top. Prior to our trip, we heard and read online some horror stories of people getting lost or encountering bad conditions. Don’t let people’s scary stories deter you from trying this hike. They may have tried something past their abilities. We’d recommend doing the hike as part of a guided tour and be willing to turn back if the conditions get bad or if you feel the difficulty is past your ability levels. Stay safe, and enjoy the challenge! We took a guided tour and loved our experience. It was tough, but far from scary. Check out more information in our detailed hiking post by clicking the following link: Volcán Concepción Hike.
2) San Ramon Waterfall
Duration: Approximately three hour return
How does a 40-meter (131 feet) waterfall on an extinct volcano sound? It sounded great to us and for only a $3 entrance fee, let’s go!
We drove our scooter to the southern part of the island to Volcán Maderas and parked our directly outside of the Estación Biológica, (Biologica Field Station) entrance located on the outskirts of the village of San Ramón. The 3.7 kilometer (2.2 mile) trail to Cascada San Ramón began for us here.
If you have a motorbike, NOT a scooter, you can drive up a 2.2 kilometer trail to a parking area and shave off about a 45-minute hike up to the waterfall. Our modest scooter barely made it past the unpaved rocky terrain before the entrance, plus we like a good challenge, so we opted to walk the full 3.7 kilometer BABY…. Ok, we would’ve preferred to have a motorbike. There’s nothing you’re missing by not walking the trail.
*TIP: The beginning of the farm-field trail offers very little shade so be sure to wear sunscreen and eye-protection.
About halfway up the trail, the path splits. The path to the right leads to the waterfall and the path to the left goes to the top of the Volcán Maderas (follow signage on the ground). From this point, it is about a 45-minute hike through a lush jungle including ample time for stopping and taking pictures. Without pictures, you can totally do it much quicker, closer to 30 minutes.
The last 10 minutes of the hike is a rockier and steeper ascent. If the sun is beating on you as strong as it was for us that day, it will feel more like 30 minutes and you’ll be teased by the sounds of the waterfall well before you see it.
Eventually, you’ll emerge out of the jungle and the waterfall will appear before your eyes..
As the heat and humidity beat us up pretty good on the way up, we couldn’t wait to get in the water. We got in the water and lightly stepped over the jagged rocks and approached the waterfall where we could then feel the cool mist skimming our face and body. It was brisk, but more than welcome. We enjoyed cooling off in the pool of water, but it wasn’t long before we were freezing our butts off.
It is 100% worthwhile to get directly beneath the thundering waterfall and take several pictures, it is truly revitalizing! For those wanting to take a backseat and just visually enjoy, there are many rocks for you to watch all of us crazies freeze our butts off. The rocks are a perfect place to enjoy a little picnic or snacks you brought for the hike.
A few helpful items to bring would be:
- A towel to dry off after taking a dip
- Sandals or water shoes to help protect your feet from the jagged rocks in the water leading up to the waterfall
- (Contrary to any rational thought in the blistering Nicaraguan sun), a light jacket, to recover from the cold waters in case cloud cover blocks the sun
3) Sunset at Punta Jesus Maria
On the western-most point of Ometepe you can find Punta Jesús María, a famous narrow strip of land perfect for viewing sunsets. Getting there from the main road was a bit bumpy, about 1.5 kilometers (almost 1 mile) of unpaved road on our 150CC scooter. We got there later than we wanted but the orange sky was glowing atop Lake Nicaragua and we were able to enjoy the sunset all for a measly price of $1/per person. What makes Punta Jesus Maria so special is that during dry season you can walk out on this strip of land and have the water splashing in on both side of you. Standing at the tip facing towards the island you get a panoramic view of both of the island’s volcanoes, Volcán Concepción and Volcán Maderas. Facing away from the island, across Lake Nicaragua, you can see mainland Nicaragua including Volcán Mombacho. Make sure to make your way off the strip before the tides come over and gets you wet.
4) Rent a Scooter and Drive Around
We’d highly recommend renting a scooter (only $20-$25/day) while you are on the island. The freedom and time saved from having your own transportation is well worth the price. You can go back and forth between the southern and northern parts of the island and visit all of the destinations you want rather than be tied to the slow public buses. One thing you should consider if you are to rent a scooter is that you will not be able to go all the way through the South part of the island without some skillful maneuvering. On our second day, we drove from the North down to the start of the San Ramon hike in the South. The drive was smooth for the first 45 minutes, but the last 30 minutes were unpaved, and had large rocks and deep mud that had to be navigated to not get wet or worse, stuck. If you are comfortable on a motor bike, you can also rent those and won’t have to worry as much about this terrain. With a scooter, you’ll have to be careful. Honestly, we had fun navigating and working our way through the rocks but this will be super frustrating if you are not up for it.
Where to Eat in Ometepe, Nicaragua
After an extreme volcano hike what better way than to eat the pain away?
Cheers, with some local beer, to our final night and a most wonderful stay on the amazing island Ometepe!
Where To Stay in Ometepe, Nicaragua
Casa de Gio is located in the town of Moyogalpa, which was a nice proximity from the ferry port (only a four minute car ride). It was a “good bang for your buck” hotel and was close to all the landmarks we wanted to see.
Other Recommendations of Things to Do
These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:
1) Relax at one of the natural spring pools. There is a place that many people like to visit after hiking all morning and early afternoon called Ojo de Agua (The Eye of the Water). There are chairs to lounge and a full restaurant with food and beverages available for purchase. Alternatively, you can bring your own food and drink. The water is fed from an underground river directly from Volcán Maderas. We did not get a chance to swim here as it was late in the evening with not enough time. However, I did take a picture to show you if you are interested.
2) We did not know but Ometepe has lots of old petroglyphs (rock carvings) you can find throughout the island. There is even a museum that has a large collection of pre-Columbian artifacts that offers guided tours.
3) Hike through Charco Verde, an ecological reserve which is home to an abundance of wildlife.
Questions for you
- Has anyone seen inside the crater of Volcán Concepción? How were the views and during which season did you go? Does leaving early in the morning help your chances?