17 Best Things To Do On Isla de Ometepe {Nicaragua}

Cazzy Magennis
Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
February 13, 2024
If you find yourself on the beautiful island of Ometepe Nicaragua, then check out this ultimate guide on what to do, where to stay and how to get there...
Ometepe Nicaragua

Ah, Ometepe - undoubtedly one of my favourite places in all of Nicaragua! 

It's a beautiful island located within Lago Cocibolca that's made up of two prominent volcanoes; Concepcion and Maderas.

Although this charming place transmits beauty and tranquillity, you'll also find lots of fun things to do in Ometepe!

Whether you're looking to relax on a beach or hike up a volcano, this special island has something for everyone.

Let me take you through all you need to know about planning your incredible visit to Ometepe, and the best things to do there!

First up...

Note: Some posts may contain affiliate links. Read more in our Privacy Policy. Learn more about how we create and update content in our Publishing Guidelines.

How do you get to Ometepe?

Since it’s an island, you can only get there via boat or plane.

However, the main way to get there is by boat (and it's also the cheapest).

There once was a time you could get a boat from Granada, but as of writing, that’s currently not running.

So, you'll need to get a boat from Rivas. If you’ve just been to San Juan, then you can easily get a taxi or local bus to Rivas as it’s not far.

The boat from Rivas is Nicaragua's idea of a “ferry”. It’s not a ferry in the sense that I’ve been on before...actually it’s quite small.

It costs around $2-3 with the tourist tax for the ride and it takes about 2 hours.

The boat itself has lots of seats, but when it’s choppy outside, you will probably feel quite sea sick.

You can typically buy snacks on board if you wish, and the boats leave quite frequently!

The other way to reach Ometepe is by Plane as you can fly from the capital and even El Salvador. Just keep in mind that it's quite expensive, but if you’ve got the cash to splash then you can check out skyscanner for flights.

The runway is pretty short, but you literally land in front of a volcano so I imagine that landing view is fantastic.

Bradley at the beach

Getting around Isla de Ometepe

Ometepe is a small island, but you won’t want to rely on the chicken buses to get around. They are slow on the roads and it always takes twice as long to get anywhere.

Your best bet is renting a moped for the day! We rented ours for $15, although everywhere online said it would be around $25...and the tour guide at Rivas told us we were getting a good deal if we got one for $30...people lie.

Anyway, we rented from the hotel we stayed in and they bring it too you and they’re in really great condition.

Fuel isn’t expensive on the island, and again, I read in a blog post that it was...it’s ever so slightly more expensive than the main land, but it’s all super cheap anyway so won’t make a difference to you!

You could get around the island and back on a tank of fuel.

The moped gives you the freedom to create your own route and do things in your own time and I personally think it’s the best way to get around Ometepe.

I never drive a moped, but since the roads were so good and it was just one stretch, I gave it a go here and it’s actually a lot easier than I thought!

You can actually rent out big quad bike type things too, which looked awesome, but they’re more expensive.

There are tuk tuks on the island and taxis that you can use for transfers, or short distances.

If you’re staying at a hotel that isn’t in the main area near the ferry port, then you’ll often find they will have arranged a shuttle bus for you.

volcanoes in ometepe

The best areas to stay in Ometepe


Okay, so this is the “central hub of Ometepe”. It’s where you will get your ferry to and from there you can go to other areas.

Brad and I stayed here because we wanted to be close to the port and we wanted to have access to restaurants etc.

Plus, there is nothing on the island you can’t get to quickly when you have a moped, so therefore I think this is the most convenient place to stay, plus it’s close to the best sunset area in Punta Jesus Maria.


cocktails in ometepe

Balgue is a more remote area with fewer hotels and hostels and everything is located on the side of the road. It’s got some secluded and beautiful areas of beach and everything is accessible with just a few minutes drive on a moped.

Santa Cruz

banana tree

Located not far more Balque, Santa Cruz offers beautiful beaches, views and there are a few places to eat and drink. There are lots of beautiful properties in this area, but it’s a good idea to have a moped to get around.

Read Also: Where To Stay In Ometepe

Where to stay in Ometepe

There are lots of great places to stay in Ometepe so below I’m going to name my top 5 based on where we stayed and where I have seen when I researched! These are all over the island and I’ll mention the area beside the hotel.

1. Xalli Beach Hotel

This is a really nice located on the Santo Domingo beach, only 600 m from Santa Cruz. It’s very beautiful, well designed and it’s got very high ratings. If you’re looking for a little luxury, this is probably one of your best bets.

2. Selvista Guesthouses

Jungle houses in a beautiful complex, found on the slopes of Maderas Volcano on Ometepe island. If you really like beautiful views then this is the place to stay. Lovely designed rooms too. Great for couples.  Located in Balque.

3. Camping Lodge

If you like glamping, then a stay in these luxury tents is what you need. Located in Santa Cruz, it’s pretty secluded and authentic. A different experience!

4. Totoco Eco-lodge

Featuring stunning sunset views, a beautiful swimming pool, gorgeous rooms and much more. This is a property that offers it all and it’s great value too.

5. Hospedaje Siero

If you’re looking for a cheap backpacking spot, that includes a great breakfast, then this is a great spot in the main port town. You can walk from the ferry, so there's no need for taxis.

Read Also: Best Ometepe Island Hotels
horses in nature

The 17 top things to do on Ometepe

So, let’s look at some of the top things to do in Ometepe Nicaragua. Bradley and I pretty much did most of the things recommended to us, bar a few which weren’t possible due to the time of year, and we didn’t hike any more volcanoes!

1. Concepción Volcano Hike

brad at volcano

This is on our list of the top things to do in Ometepe Nicaragua, because hiking the Concepción Volcano is one of the best things...but I didn’t do it. Why not? Well, I'd hiked up enough volcanoes on this trip already!

But, that being said, if you like a challenge, then you will love this.

The highest point on the island, Volcán Concepción is situated at 1,610 meters above sea-level (5,282 feet) and is located in the far north of Ometepe.

Whilst enjoyable, It’s not for the faint hearted, or unfit.

You start in coffee fields and then hike your way up...like most hikes it starts off quite pleasant, then you hit the steep parts and all hell breaks loose and you want to cry (or is that just me?!)

It’s a tough hike but the view is worth it. It’s about 10 hours round-trip and it should cost you around $30 per person.

Don’t go with someone “super cheap” because it will probably be a scam.

If you're unsure, then take a look at this guided Concepción volcano hike which includes hotel pick-up and a professional guide! 

Here's some more information about hiking up the volcano too, so you can prepare yourself for the challenge.

2. Maderas Volcano Hike

Maderas volcano in Ometepe
Photo credit: Wikiwanito via Wikipedia

Another day, another volcano. So as you know by now, there are 2 peaks on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. The Maderas Volcano is the smaller of the two on Isla Ometepe, at a height of 1,394 meters above sea-level. 

You'll need to have a guide when you are hiking this volcano too.

It’s very slippery and sometimes the markings can be quite difficult to read so you need to be careful.

People have lost their lives!

Depending on where you book your guide, it could cost anywhere between $35-55 dollars. Try and negotiate a good deal, especially if there is a group of people.

We suggest booking this hiking tour which includes lunch as well as your own professional guide who can provide more insight into the Maderas Volcano and surroundings. This includes potentially spotting Howler Monkeys along the hike up!

There are actually a variety of trails leading up and down and if you want a change of scenery, then you can ask to head up Finca Magdalena and return down the Santa Cruz Trail.

Maderas Volcano is located in the south of Ometepe Island, and the hike will take 3-4 hours up and 3-4 hours down. You can find loads of information and tips from this couple who hiked it!

3. Visit the “Watering Hole” El Ojo De Agua

natural watering hole

Well, before I visited this place, I misunderstood that it was a “hot spring”...basically because some people have called it a hot spring. Whilst it’s not a hot spring which was disappointing, it was still very beautiful!

El Ojo de Agua is basically a watering hole which is a natural lake that’s sectioned off, so it’s turned into a natural swimming pool.

With fish swimming all around, there is also a restaurant and bar where you can enjoy some drinks and fresh coconuts.

It has so much to offer and we think it’s definitely worth the visit.

There is even a little Tarzan type swing for the brave!

They have lockers and changing rooms for your things and it costs $5 for entrance.

A great place to cool off on a hot day (which is every day in Nicaragua).

El Ojo de Agua is located on the north part of Ometepe Island, and is open from 7:30am until 5:00pm all days of the week.

natural pool

4. Visit the Butterfly Garden

butterfly garden

The butterfly garden is actually part of the Charco Verde complex which I will discuss in the next point. It’s part of your entrance ticket and it was quite a pleasant surprise too!

I’ve never really been in a butterfly garden but this was really tranquil with water fountains, turtles and lots of beautiful butterflies flying around you!

Although you can't touch them, you can take plenty of cool photographs and trust me you'll want to! It's like you're just being surrounded by swirling colors as they flutter past.

The best time to visit the butterfly garden is during the wet season as this is when you'll see the most butterflies! 

However, it's beautiful at any time of year and you'll get to see plenty of cool banana trees and monkeys too if you're lucky.

The Butterfly Garden of Charco Verde is located just a 5 minute drive from San José del Sur (in the north island), and is open from 8:00am until 4:30pm all days of the week.

5. Explore Charco Verde

map of charco verde

The whole complex of Charco Verde is basically a nature reserve type area that has a black sand beach on the lake. 

You enter via a hotel area and it's 5 dollars for entry to everything and you can walk around the lake too.

It only takes about 35 minutes to walk around the lake, but perhaps longer if you stop a lot and relax at the beach!

The best thing about the walk is the animals you encounter (although we encountered a lot of dead frogs which wasn’t so pleasant…).

Anyway, you will see howler monkeys (hear them before you see them), wild horses, dogs and many more animals. It’s a pretty tranquil area, although it could maybe do with a spruce up! (at least at the time when we visited).

There is also a restaurant and gift shop with toilets on-site for afterwards.

Those who rent a moped will be glad to know that there is no cost to park up here - which is also the same for anywhere else on the island!

6. Visit a Chocolate Factory

chocolate pieces

We drove past this place twice, and didn’t enter... and that's one of the things that I actually regret the most! 

So if you want to experience, smell, eat and make raw chocolate then a visit to the El Pital Chocolate Paradise should be on your list.

It’s considered one of the most magical places in Ometepe Island and if you're a foodie - you'll be in love.

Although it's one of the more expensive attractions in Nicaragua, you can't put a price on tasting chocolate here - nor deny the delicious chocolate brownies on offer!

Not only that, but El Pital Chocolate Paradise also offers a variety of other deserts, chocolate drinks, and smoothie bowls.

It’s definitely a great place to visit for a few hours and is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Ometepe Nicaragua!

El Pital Chocolate Paradise is located on the South Island of Ometepe, and is open all days of the week from 7:30am until 9:00pm.

7. Picnic on the Beach

black sand beach

So the “beaches” on Ometepe are lake beaches, not sea beaches but there's plenty of sand all the same!

Even better is that you’ll find plenty of choices to hit the sands and enjoy the hot sun.

As you drive along the stretch of road around the island you’ll come across beautiful stretches of golden sands at every turn. Simply pull over at any spot and you’ve got a perfect picnic area.

Playa Santa Domingo is one of the more popular areas, and there are quite a few restaurants in this area offering good food and cheap drinks.

But I say you grab a towel, have a picnic, then take a dip in the water!

We were the only ones on the beach we visited and it was a magical experience that we got to enjoy by ourselves.

8. Sunset at Punta Jesús Maria

sunset at ometepe

The sunsets at Punta Jesús Maria are outstanding. It’s in my top 5 sunsets in the world, and was more than I could ever have imagined.

When you are sightseeing through the day, make this your last stop and get there an hour before sunset.

There is a nice bar serving cheap drinks and you can walk along the sand bank and take photos.

Once that sun sets you will be greeted with bright pink, orange and yellow clouds. It’s bright, beautiful and lights up the whole sky!

It’s a great spot to have a few beers with friends and it’s also super romantic! Come on - it’s a sunset, they’re always romantic.

You can head out to the “point” and take a picture of the volcanoes. If you get the angle right, you’ll get a picture of both on each side.

Punta Jesús Maria is located just a 10 minute drive south of Moyogalpa, which I like to call the “capital” of Ometepe, 

If staying here then you can get a tuk tuk to the sunset if you’re drinking, or don’t have a moped.

Also, if you do drive yourself, you’ll drive through the airport runway which is pretty cool!

9. Kayaking Rio Istián

couple kayaking down a river

On the Maderas side of the island, Rio Istián is a river and marsh area that’s filled with wild animals and is a perfect kayaking spot.

If you want to spot animals, then you should kayak down the river with a guide!

You’ll probably hear the howler monkeys, which by the way, sound closer than they are. I had one up on a tree growling at me and I screamed like a baby, but don't fret as they are super cute too.

The price of a kayaking tour will depend on your haggling skills, the time of year, and how many people are in your group.

It can range between $15-20 for a 3 hour tour, which let’s be honest, is a great deal!

We highly recommend booking this guided day tour, which includes all transport, equipment and your own English-speaking guide.

10. Head to San Ramón Waterfall (During The Wet Season!)

San Ramón is the biggest and boldest waterfall on Ometepe and if it wasn’t the dry season, we would have visited.

The locals will tell you not to bother going in the dry season as there is no water, and what’s a waterfall without water…

However, if you're heading to Ometepe during the wet season then this is a place you just HAVE to visit.

You can find out more information about San Ramón Waterfall as well as the hike here, which includes more detailed information and what to expect!

The entrance fee is a measly $3 so you won't need to break the bank for this one, and you'll be rewarded with cascading water flowing down moss-covered rocks.

San Ramón Waterfall is located close to the Maderas Volcano, and the trailhead can easily be reached via moped. From here it’s about a 40 minute hike to the waterfall so it doesn't require too much exertion.

This organized half-day tour is another great way to visit San Ramón Waterfalls, which includes a picnic lunch as well as hotel pick-up and drop-off from anywhere on Ometepe Island!

11. Discover the Petroglyphs

ancient petroglyph

Ometepe is famous for its pre-Colombian past, which means you can discover stone carvings and petroglyphs throughout this Nicaraguan island.

For those who love history, you have a better chance of finding them at Hotel Finca Porvenir and on Finca Magdalena, which are both located on the slopes of the volcano Maderas or in the museum of La Ceiba.

These ancient stone carvings depict a variety of shapes and animals including crocodiles, frogs, and lizards. They are pretty old too - with some dating from as far back as 1000 B.C.

They are quite a sight so don't miss out on seeing them when heading to Ometepe.

Here's some more information about specific sites where you can find these awesome petroglyphs!

12. Eat delicious food at Moyogalpa

delicious food

Moyogalpa is the main “hub” of Ometepe!

It’s the port hub and is home to some fantastic restaurants, so is perfect for any foodies out there.

Whilst they do serve some great local Nicaraguan foods in Moyogalpa, it’s also reassuring to know that they have some excellent places serving delicious international cuisine.

We dined at a brilliant pizza joint which had massive pizzas, but there's plenty of other places to choose from.

One great choice for Meat Lover’s is July’s Grill and Steak House, which is open from 8:00am until 9:00pm all days of the week.

There's also a great coffee shop here so there's something to suit everyone. Even better? It’s all reasonably priced!

Although local cuisine in Nicaragua is delicious, sometimes you just crave some food from home which this quirky town is great for.

Moyogalpa is located right in the north of Ometepe Island, and the ferry from the mainland takes around an hour to arrive here (from Rivas).

13. Visit Museum El Ceibo

pre-Columbian stone figures

You'll find plenty of things to do in Ometepe, so it can be difficult to decide where to visit! 

However, one of the places you don't want to miss out on is Museum El Ceibo.

As you drive from Moyogalpa to Altagracia, you'll come across this hidden gem as there's a huge sign at the side of the road.

The museum is home to the largest private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts on the island, which displays everything from ancient masks and ceramics to petroglyphs and more.

There are two buildings at Museum El Ceibo; the pre-Columbian collection and the Numismatic Museum.

As you wander around the pre-Columbian collection, you'll get to marvel at around 3,000 pieces - some of them dating back 5,000 years! This includes pottery, funeral urns, and petroglyphs from this region.

The Numismatic Museum is interesting too, as you'll find a variety of coins and notes dating back to the formation of Nicaragua.

El Ceibo Museum is located on the north island, which is just a 10 minute drive from San José del Sur. They are open from 8:00am until 5:00pm all days of the week.

14. Head to the Archaeological Sites near Altagracia

If you're still in the mood for more ancient Nicaraguan history after visiting Museum El Ceibo, then you'll want to visit Taguizapa and San Silvestre.

Both of these sites are found near Altagracia on the north island, and they are two of the most important archaeological sites on Ometepe.

Four large stone idols were actually excavated here, and it's presumed there's many more still in the ground.

You can also continue further along, and visit the Museo de Ometepe which is one of the island's main attractions!

Here, you'll be able to see a variety of artifacts including stone sculptures, petroglyphs, and pottery.

There's even a scale model of the island's volcanoes which is pretty cool to see!

15. Relax at Playa Mangos

fresh coconut

After a long day of exploring, you're probably looking for somewhere to relax. Well I've got the perfect place for you! 

Playa Mangos is located just an 8-minute drive from Santa Cruz, and has everything you could need including a small beach area.

Although you can relax on the beach for free, if you want to use the facilities you'll need to buy something at the restaurant.

I recommend that you do, and spend a couple of hours here too if you can.

However, the highlight of this place has to be its views!

From the restaurant, you'll get breathtaking views of the Concepción Volcano so make sure you add this place to your list.

If you can time your visit to Playa Mangos with sunset - even better!

The restaurant (along with its access to the beach) is open from 9:00am until 8:00pm all days of the week.

16. Rent Your Own ATV’s And Explore Ometepe Independently 

Traveling around Nicaragua is all about having new experiences and making great memories. 

This is why this country is becoming more of a popular destination in recent years, and is slowly catching up with its neighbour of Costa Rica. 

Whilst on Ometepe Island we think that renting an ATV is a superb idea, where you can explore with complete freedom. This makes it easy to get from the north and south parts of the island too, where you would otherwise have to wait for buses (and their often unreliable schedules!). 

You’ll find various companies on the island to rent with (especially in Moyogalpa), where you can either rent just for yourself, a couple or for a larger group. 

Another good idea is renting your ATV here in advance, which includes a pretty flexible rental period. You’ll get your ticket sent straight to your mobile, so as soon as you arrive in Ometepe you can forget the queues and jump straight on your ATV!

17. Go Wildlife Exploring 

Following on from our last point, getting off the beaten path on Ometepe Island is perfect given the amount of wildlife and scenery that’s on offer. 

Seriously, you can spend a couple of days just doing this, where you can take in unreal views of areas that few other tourists visit. This includes volcanic landscapes as well as getting to hike through thick green jungle. 

You’ll also be able to see a variety of exotic animals too when heading around the island. These include Iguanas and Howler Monkeys (the latter are especially memorable at night when they start roaring), as well as a variety of rare and colorful birds. 

As with any off the beaten path exploring, it’s best for those who are already experienced (and know what to do in emergencies such as getting lost). 

If you’re still starting out, then it’s better to take a tour to see these incredible areas without worrying about the logistics. 

We highly recommend joining this nature expedition tour, where you’ll have your own knowledgeable guide take you to various secret regions (and also help you to spot various animals). Also included is your transportation during the tour.

Ometepe Travel Tips & FAQ

When is a good time to visit Ometepe?

The best time to visit Ometepe in Nicaragua is in the dry season which runs from November to April. We headed to the island in March and had a fantastic time as the weather was perfect! 

But, actually, if you visit in the wet season, or at least the shoulder season after the wet season, then you’ll have a better chance at witnessing the beautiful waterfalls on this island in particular, so it’s up to you.

How long should you spend in Ometepe?

I was warned before I visited that I would want to stay longer than initially thought. And, I can totally see the appeal.

You can visit Ometepe as a day trip from San Juan Del Sur, but I'd recommend spending at least 2-3 days relaxing on the island if you have time! 

What is a good budget for Ometepe?

Nicaragua as a whole is a cheap country, but your budget for Ometepe will depend on whether you're planning to visit as a day trip or you're going to stay there.

If you're catching the ferry there from Rivas and planning to rent a scooter, then allow a budget of around $40 for a day trip. If you're staying on the island overnight then budget an extra $10-$20 per night for accommodation.

Can you just book a tour for Ometepe?

You can certainly book a tour of Ometepe but expect to pay a lot more than if you were to do the journey yourself.

Many people choose to visit the island from Granada and in this case, this fantastic full day-trip to Ometepe is a great option! It includes round-trip transport, the ferry, and an English speaking guide. You'll also find other tours available through local operators.

Where to after Ometepe?

After visiting Ometepe, you’re in a perfect position to visit a variety of spots in Nicaragua. You can head to the beaches of San Juan Del Sur and get your surf on, or you can head to the cultural pot of Granada with its beautiful colonial architecture, great volcanoes and much more!

If you've already visited these popular destinations then why not head North to the scenic city of Leon!

There are so many fantastic places to visit in Nicaragua that it's impossible to list them all. Just make sure you allow yourself enough time to explore this beautiful part of Central America.

Check out our guide on getting around Nicaragua.

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
Tinggly badge
Other posts
Country Guides
Destination Guides

Leave a comment

Let us know what you think!