Ometepe was hands down the highlight of my time backpacking in Nicaragua. Surrounded by Lake Nicaragua and home to two incredible volcanoes, there are so many awesome things for nature lovers to do on Ometepe.
From kayaking to see wildlife to stunning waterfall hikes, this place is a true tropical paradise.
If you’re wondering what to do in Ometepe when you visit, this Ometepe guide will help you plan a perfect trip to this magical island. I’ve rounded up the best things to do in Ometepe, along with information on getting there, getting around, and the best places to stay.
What to do on Ometepe Island Nicaragua
1. San Ramón waterfall, Ometepe
San Ramon Waterfall is a gorgeous 64m waterfall on the slopes of Volcán Maderas. The access point to the waterfall is at the biological station, just past Merida. You’ll have to hike to reach the waterfall, at least partway.
It’s a 3km hike in total, but it is possible to drive up the first 2km of the road. I don’t recommend this in a standard car.
We attempted to drive up in our rental car, but the road was so bad it caused our car tires to deflate. So we decided to park it at the bottom of the road and hike up to the waterfall instead, which took about two hours.
I’m also a slow hiker, and it was sweltering out. Hiking back down was much faster; it took us about an hour. Take lots of water and a good pair of hiking boots.
Many people rent motorbikes and take those up to the falls, but I’d only advise doing this if you are very comfortable on a bike. The road is notorious for causing accidents!
I met two people in Ometepe who had an accident on that road. In fact, on our hike, we ran into a guy who had just fallen off his bike and dislocated his shoulder (thankfully, someone with an ATV was there to bring him to the hospital).
Even if you drive up, the last km of the hike must be done on foot, which takes about 40 minutes.
The waterfall is worth visiting though, even if you have to hike in the heat. There is a small pool at the bottom where you can cool off and stand under its majesty.
The falls weren’t that busy while we were there either, which was nice. San Ramon waterfall is definitely one of the best things to do on Ometepe!
2. Kayak Ometepe
Another great thing to do on Ometepe is rent a kayak on the island’s north side and visit Monkey Island. There are places to rent kayaks on the same road that goes to San Ramon waterfall.
We arranged for a guided kayak tour. On the tour, we saw many colorful birds and monkeys species which reminded me of the nature and wildlife around Mexico.
You can’t actually visit Monkey Island because the monkeys are aggressive and might bite you, but it’s fun to watch them from the kayak and take photos. This was one of my favorite Ometepe Island activities that we did.
During the wet season, you can also kayak on the Istián River on the Maderas side of Ometepe.
We were there in the dry season (February), so I didn’t bother, but I’ve been told it’s a perfect place for bird watching and to see caimans. The wet season runs from May to October.
3. Swim in Oja De Agua or Nicaragua Lake
Ojo De Agua (eye of the water) is a swimming hole fed by an underground river that originates at Volcano Maderas.
Ometepe is a hot place, so the water is lovely to cool off in, but honestly, it felt like a tourist trap. We visited in the late afternoon, and the place was packed with screaming children.
If you are going to visit Ojo de Agua, I advise going early in the morning or late in the afternoon when there are fewer people around.
That said, there is a restaurant that sells food and drinks, including rum coconuts, my favorite Central American cocktail. If you’re looking for a place to relax for the day, it’s a good option here. There also is a Tarzan swing you can use here.
Ojo de Agua is situated in the middle of the island, on the road between the two volcanoes about 2km from Santa Domingo.
Personally, I would go swimming in the lake instead! The largest lake in Central America surrounds Ometepe, and the water is clean and gorgeous to swim in. Playa Santa Domingo is a popular place to jump off into the lake.
4. Hike the Volcan Conception or Maderas
There are two dormant volcanoes on Ometepe – Volcan Maderas and Volcan Concepcion- the longer and more popular hike.
It is possible to hike on your own, but tourists have died trying to do this, so I strongly recommend getting a guide if you plan to hike either one.
Volcan Conception is an 8-9 hour day, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views from the top over Lake Nicaragua.
Volcan Maderas is a smaller hike, which should take about 3-4 hours. I just couldn’t face another volcano hike after Acatenango, especially in the heat of Ometepe.
If you’re looking for adrenaline while on Ometepe, check out Chico Largo Adventure. You’ll have to hike up a steep hill to the platforms, but from there, you can zip down 2km of lines.
I’d already got my fix while ziplining through Mexico, but I’ve heard great things about this place if you want to try it while in Nicaragua!
6. Watch the Sunset At Punta Jesus Maria
Punta Jesus Maria is the best place to watch the sunset in Ometepe. You’ll get an incredible show of colors as the sun casts its glow over the two volcanic peaks. There are a couple of stalls nearby that sell beer if you want to enjoy one while watching the sun go down.
If you’re scooting around Ometepe, time your itinerary to end at Punta Jesus Maria for an unforgettable sunset to end a day of exploring.
7. Charco Verde Ometepe
Charco Verde is a nature reserve in Ometepe with gorgeous clusters of beaches along the lake. It’s located on the Southern side of the Volcan Conception.
Charco Verde is a beautiful place for nature lovers to come and relax, with options for swimming, wildlife spotting, and hiking. You may see monkeys, horses, dogs, and more. You can also visit a butterfly garden, which is part of your entrance fee.
8. Coffee and Chocolate Tours
If you are interested in coffee, visit Finca Magdelena. It’s a cooperative of over 24 families who run an organic farm up the slopes of Volcano Maderas. They produce organic coffee as well as other local produce.
At Finca Magdelena, you can take a tour of the coffee plantation to learn how coffee is made. It’s also possible to see stone carvings and petroglyphs from Nicaragua’s pre-Colombian past here.
I had already done coffee tours in Manuel Antonio and Boquete Panama, so I skipped this, but I’ve heard positive reviews from other travelers who noted this as one of the best things to do in Ometepe.
If I’ve learned anything in Central America, it’s that where there is coffee, there is chocolate.
If you’re looking for a chocolate experience on Ometepe,El Pital Chocolate Paradise is the place to go on Ometepe. I didn’t get a chance to visit, but have heard fantastic things about their chocolate. It’s also a hostel you can stay in!
How to get to Ometepe
Ometepe is an island, so you have to either take the ferry there from the mainland or fly. Since flying is a more expensive, most people opt for the ferry.
If you are taking a boat/ferry, you will have to first get to San Jorge port.
Managua to Ometepe
Coming from Managua, take a bus from Managua Huembes terminal to Rivas. From there, you can get a taxi to San Jorge Port. You can also book a tourist shuttle from Managua to San Jorge Port, which should take about two hours.
Granada to Ometepe
We drove from Granada to Ometepe, which took about two and a half hours. If you don’t have a car, you can get a public bus or tourist shuttle to Rivas/San Jorge.
If you’re short on time, you can also join a day tour from Granada to Ometepe.
San Juan Del Sur to Ometepe
After leaving Ometepe, we drove to San Juan Del Sur, which was just a quick half-hour drive. If you don’t have a car, it will be easy to find a public bus there. San Juan is the perfect destination to visit before or after Ometepe on your Nicaragua itinerary.
Ferry to Ometepe
There are both small ‘lancha’ boats and ferries that depart from San Jorge port to Ometepe. The lancha boats, which only take foot passengers, leave almost every hour until sunset.
Since we had a car with us, we had to get the larger ferry which doesn’t depart as regularly. You can see the schedule here.
The ferry to Ometepe leaves from San Jorge port and takes about an hour to Moyogalpa port. I found the boat ride very rocky, so I would bring motion sickness tablets if you are prone to getting seasick.
It’s a nice view as you approach Ometepe, as you can see the two volcanoes in the distance. We also timed it with the sunset, which was lovely.
Getting Around Ometepe
Ometepe is a large island with limited transportation options, so I recommend renting a vehicle. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do most of the fun things on Ometepe unless you join a guided tour.
We already had a rental car because we were road-tripping Nicaragua. You have to be careful driving around because many animals are on the road. Pigs, cows, horses – you name it.
All of the animals on the island are one of my favorite parts of Ometepe; it’s like one giant farm here.
Most backpackers show up as foot passengers on the boat and then rent motorbikes or scooters to explore. The cheapest place to rent them is in Moyogalpa, where the ferry drops you off on Ometepe.
The roads can be pretty treacherous in Ometepe, so rent a motorbike only if you are comfortable on one. You can also rent ATV’s on Ometepe, which will be sure to give you access to any place on the island. As always, protect yourself with travel insurance.
Where to stay in Ometepe
Many places to stay in Ometepe are in Moyogolpa, where the ferry drops you off.
This is the central hub of Ometepe, where you’ll find most restaurants and shops. However, it isn’t the nicest place on the island.
I would recommend renting a scooter or car and going somewhere on the island where you’ll be closer to nature. Balgue and Santa Cruz are two nice areas to stay in.
Where to stay: I highly recommend Little Morgan’s for a hostel in Ometepe. We wanted to stay here, but at the time, they weren’t taking reservations, and we were arriving late at night, so we booked at El Zopilote across the road instead. This was a huge mistake.
To start, you have to hike up a steep rocky path with all your bags for about 10 minutes before you reach reception. This is very confusing in the dark, and they don’t have clearly marked signs.
It has a hippy vibe which I’m down with, but no one was particularly friendly there. They made us pay on arrival and then brought us to our ‘room’, which was literally just six beds in the middle of the jungle (no walls) – and someone was sleeping in my friend’s bed! I’m all for rustic, but this was a bit much.
At this point, we decided to bail and asked for a refund for just the second night since it was already late. They refused and said it was impossible! Don’t stay at this place; the staff is so rude.
We then left and went down to Little Morgan’s. Not only did they have space, but the guy gave it to us for free that night after we told him about the mishap.
Long story short, stay at Little Morgan’s. All of the staff are super friendly, and there are so many cute animals there.
Although it has a reputation for being a party place, it was actually quite chill while I was there on the weekend. Apparently, this is because everyone goes to San Juan Del Sur to party for Sunday Funday, and the party at Ometepe is during the weekdays.
Some other Ometepe hostels I’ve heard great things about are El Pital Chocolate Paradise which looks like it has amazing sunsets, and Hostel Life is Good, which is just a 15-minute walk from Moyogalpa.
If you prefer a bit more luxury, here are some great Ometepe hotels:
Xalli Beach Hotel – A nice hostel located right on the beach near Santa Cruz. It’s got a 9.2 with over 100 reviews!
Selvista Guesthouses – this place looks so dreamy! They are beautifully designed guest houses set in the midst of nature.
Casa Del Bosque – a beautiful bread and breakfast on a farm. This looks like the perfect place to stay if you want to relax! It’s got great reviews.
Ometepe was my favorite part of Nicaragua. I highly recommend making room to visit Ometepe Island on your Nicaragua itinerary, especially if you love nature and wildlife.
Bio: Lora of Take Me to Puerto Vallarta
Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country and pet as many dogs as possible. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled solo to 70+ countries and six continents. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home, where she runs the website Take Me To Puerto Vallarta. You can find her on Instagram at Explore with Lora.
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