Ometepe is Nicaragua’s famous figure-8 shaped island, with twin volcanos on either side of the island. The island has a laid-back and free-spirited vibe, it reminds me of a small and less-populated Bali, and best explored on your own with a scooter.
Ometepe has the usual mix of island activities including kayak and horseback rentals, but the best way to see the island is on your own. This is not an island you visit when you’re in a rush — the island is much bigger than it seems, and getting there (from Granada, for example) on wheels, then by boat, then on wheels again to your accommodations, already takes up half your day.
Sights, attractions, accommodations and restaurants are spread out, so it’s important to pick wisely where you stay. To strategically position yourself for exploring Ometepe, skip the port town of Moyolgapa and head straight towards the centre of the figure-8 and book your accommodations in Balgue or Santo Domingo.
We spent 4 full days on this island. Here’s our round-up of the Top 10 things to do on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.
Scooter Around Ometepe
As the busses are far apart, and taxi’s are exceptionally expensive compared to the rest of Nicaragua, our preferred mode of transportation on Ometepe was by scooter. Expect to pay around $25USD for a full-day scooter rental – start your day early to make the most of it!
Climb the Volcano(s)
Travellers who are physically fit can opt to hike up either Volcano Concepcion or Volcano Maderas, the twin volcanos of Ometepe. The hike takes about 10 hours, and hiring a guide is mandatory.
Swim at Ojo de Agua
This was one of our highlights of Ometepe. Ojo de Agua (literally translated as “Eye of Water”) is a volcanic swimming hole that’s fed with water from Volcano Conception. Apparently volcanic water is rich in all sorts of minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur and sodium, which helps with relaxation and easing muscular pain. Although the spring site is natural, it’s been cleaned up and commercialized with $5USD admission and vendors selling natural coconut water…mixed with rum!
Visit Charco Verde Nature Reserve
The walk through Charco Verde nature reserve was fairly easy. Near the entrance is a butterfly botanical garden. Further in, there are three walking trails that take you around the park. The scenery and terrain is that typical brown dirt path Amazon-like you get in Central America. We saw six monkeys in the trees near the end of the trail!
Visit the Waterfall at San Ramon
The San Ramón waterfall at the Southern slope of Volcan Maderas. It’s about an hour hike through forest to get there, and the volcanic water is so pure than it’s bottled and sold as pure “Maderas Volcano Water”. Note that the road to the entrance is bumpy and unpaved, we were recommended to not go with our scooter so, unfortunately, we skipped out on the San Ramon experience.
Indulge in (Vegan) Desserts at El Pital
Also known as the “Chocolate Paradise”, El Pital in Balgue is a vegan chocolate and superfood eatery serving natural chocolate desserts and superfood smoothie bowls and shakes. The must-try dessert here is the “magic ball”, a hollow chocolate sphere, with hot chocolate which you pour on top to melt. Depending on which flavour your order, the “magic ball” is served over fresh and blended fruit, nuts, and/or granola. We paid $8USD, and it was perfect for sharing between two people.
Eat at Cafe Campestre
Also located in Balgue, Cafe Campestre is an Ometepe hotspot with tourists – we had to put our names on a waitlist for a table, which has never happened to anywhere else in Nicaragua. The restaurant serves delicious, nutritious, and high-quality “farm to table” food, we came back here twice. Be wary that service can be super slow here – we spent over an hour waiting for food.
Walk Up to Lookout Points at Zopilote
Zopilote is an ecolodge and hostel, but you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the view. Zopilote has a few lookout towers which you can climb up for free to check out the views of the island from high up. At the beginning of the path to Zopilote, there an old school bus turned into a small boutique for handicrafts. You can ask for a map there to navigate yourself to the lookout points.
Walk to Totoco Eco Lodge for the View and a Drink
Take a 45 minute uphill walk to the upscale Totoco Eco Lodge and soak in the views.
Rent a Bike, ATV, Kayak, or Horse
For an active way to explore Ometepe, rent a bike, ATV, or kayak to explore the island. Or book in for a horseback tour.