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

Cazzy Magennis
Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
August 11, 2022
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 ...

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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

Moyogalpa

Okay, so this is the “central hub of Ometepe”. It’s where you will get your ferry too 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.

Balgue

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.

cocktails in ometepe

Santa Cruz

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.

banana tree
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 on the slopes of the 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, beautiful 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 15 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. Concepcion volcano hike

brad at volcano

So this is on the list of the top things to do in Ometepe Nicaragua, because it is one of the best things...but I didn’t do it. Why not? I 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; Volcan Concepcion is 1,610 meters (5,282 feet) and 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 Concepcion 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. This is the smaller of the two on Isla Ometepe at a height of 1,394-meter. 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.

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

It 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” La 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!

La 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, and a restaurant and bar where you can enjoy some drinks and fresh coconuts - it has so much to offer.

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)

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.

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 too! It's like you're just being surrounded by swirling colours 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.

5. Explore Charco Verde

map of charco verde

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. (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 tranquil area, that could maybe do with a spruce up!

There is also a restaurant and gift shop with toilets on site for afterwards and there is no fee to park your moped.

Saying that, there is no cost anywhere on the island to park your moped!

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 on Nicaragua, you can't put a price on tasting delicious chocolate brownies.

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!

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!

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 Jesus Maria

sunset at ometepe

The sunsets at Punta Jesus Maria are outstanding. It’s in my top 5 sunsets in the world and it was more than I could ever 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 really 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.

If you’re staying in  Moyogalpa, which I like to call the “capital” of Ometepe, 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 Istian

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 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!

10. Head to San Ramon Waterfall (during the wet season!)

San Ramon 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.

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 Ramon can easily be reached via moped, then it’s about a 40 minute hike to the waterfall so doesn't require too much exertion.

You can find out more information about San Ramon here including a more detailed description of the hike!

11. Discover the Petroglyphs

ancient petroglyph

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

However, don't just expect to find local cuisine in Moyogalpa - oh no, 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.

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.

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 located on private property and is home to the largest private collection of pre-Columbian artefacts.

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.

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

14. Head to the archaeological sites near Altagracia

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

Both of these sites are found near Altagracia 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 islands main attractions!

Here, you'll be able to see a variety of artefacts 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 it's views!

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

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

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.
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