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The Ultimate Guide to Ometepe, Nicaragua (2024)

Ometepe Island Nicaragua is the quintessential destination for travelers seeking diverse experiences. From thrilling adventures to serene nature reserves, lush rainforests to abundant wildlife, and picturesque beaches to crystal-clear freshwater pools, Ometepe offers it all.

We immersed ourselves in the rich history and archaeological wonders of the island, all while experiencing the genuine hospitality unique to Ometepe. Set against the backdrop of two majestic volcanoes, Ometepe Island Nicaragua promises an unforgettable vacation.

About Ometepe Island

As Nicaragua emerges as a premier tourism destination in Central America, Ometepe Island stands out as a must-visit for travelers like us. Spanning 276 km² (106.6 sq miles) and home to approximately 30,000 residents, it reigns as the largest island in Lake Nicaragua, often referred to as a ‘freshwater sea’ due to its vast expanse.

Nestled amidst this expansive lake, the island boasts two majestic volcanoes connected by a narrow isthmus, creating a unique landscape. Volcán Concepción, an active volcano with a perfect cone shape, dominates the northern part of the island, while the extinct Volcán Maderas, characterized by its cloud forest and central lagoon, graces the southern end.

Steeped in history, Ometepe Island bears the traces of various tribes and cultures, evident in its petroglyphs, ceramics, and statues scattered across the island. This rich cultural tapestry adds to the allure and mystique of the destination, akin to a paradise straight out of a fantasy. Explore this captivating island with us for an unforgettable adventure amidst breathtaking natural beauty and cultural richness.

Top Activities on Ometepe Island

Volcano Climbing

As you first set foot on Ometepe, whether arriving by plane or ferry, your gaze inevitably turns upwards to behold the twin volcanoes. Often shrouded in mist, they present a dramatic spectacle, reminiscent of scenes from old King Kong movies. On clear days, you can even catch a glimpse of the wisps of volcanic gases drifting from Concepción’s crater.

Our journey to Ometepe began with a plane ride from the south, affording us the rare opportunity to fly around the rim of Concepción’s crater during our descent. It was a breathtaking welcome to the island.

Volcán Concepción, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

You can climb both volcanoes. Guides are available for both and highly recommended.

Climbing Maderas Volcano

Maderas stands at 1,394 meters, and while it is an easier climb than Concepción due to the established cloud forest, it is still by no means an easy feat.

Climbing Time

Expect a 6 – 8 hour round trip to the top of Maderas volcano.

Volcano Climbing Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Climbing Concepción Volcano

Concepción stands at 1610 meters high, a steep climb up mostly loose rock and scree. When we climbed, there had been severe landslides two weeks prior that had ripped down any established growth, upturning and gouging the earth from the base up to around 900 meters.

This could be a factor to be considered at any time when climbing this volcano.

Climbing Time

Expect around an 8-11 hour round trip to climb this monolith depending on your fitness levels.

Climbing Volcán Concepción, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Volcano Climbing Guides

  • Our guide cost USD $20 each for a 10.5-hour climb.
  • A car to take us to the start point of the climb and back in the evening was USD $25.
  • Most of the hotels and hostels should be able to recommend a good guide who will collect you from your accommodation.

If climbing to the top of an active or even prehistoric volcano is not on your bucket list, there are some great hikes around the base of both.

Kayaking Ometepe – The Rio Istian

Enjoy a delightful morning kayaking adventure on Lake Nicaragua, gliding towards the mouth of the Rio Istian. This river traverses the center of the isthmus, seamlessly uniting the island.

Teeming with wildlife, the Rio Istian offers an immersive experience, with the imposing presence of the volcanoes providing a breathtaking backdrop to your journey.

Ometepe Wildlife

As you peacefully drift along the river, keep an eye out for caimans basking on the riverbanks, white-faced and howler monkeys frolicking in the trees, and a variety of birds that would excite any birdwatcher. It’s a serene and leisurely way to witness the abundant wildlife that Ometepe Island has to offer.

Caiman on Ometepe Island

Kayak Tours in Ometepe Nicaragua

We took a three-hour kayak tour which included a double kayak and guide. Mornings are recommended before the wind picks up on the lake. It is also the best time for wildlife spotting.


  • Expect to pay around USD $25 each.
  • Most of the kayak companies for the Rio Istian are located off a dirt road that requires 4×4 to access. A driver to collect and return us to our hotel was an additional USD $20.

Ojo de Agua Ometepe

Immerse yourself in the refreshing crystal-clear lagoons of Ojo de Agua. Ometepe Island is also adorned with numerous stunning black sand beaches, where you can safely swim in the pristine, transparent waters of Lake Nicaragua, often referred to as the “freshwater sea.”

Ojo de Agua, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Then there is Ojo de Agua (Eye of Water), one of those little oasis’ you will remember every time you dream about an idyllic holiday.

Swimming at Ojo de Agua Ometepe

Ojo De Agua is situated on the north-eastern side of the island’s isthmus. It has two pools fed by thermal spring water from an underground well in the upper pool. The continuous stream of fresh water flowing through the pools is said to have unique qualities.

The lower pool is over 40 meters long and around 2 meters deep making this crystal clear swimming lagoon, set in lush tropical surrounds, the perfect place to laze away an afternoon.

Wooden lounge chairs and gazebos line the shore, and a small restaurant overlooks the lush green surrounds. Waiters will serve meals and drinks to you poolside. Toilets and dressing rooms are provided, making this one of those magic little places where nature blends perfectly with hospitality and service.

Ojo de Agua, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Entry to the Ojo de Agua Reserve:

USD $5, and meals and drinks are on par with the rest of the island (around USD $6 for a substantial meal and around USD $2 for a beer).

Visit Fascinating Archaeological Sites

Ometepe, with more than 1700 recorded petroglyphs is famous for its pre-Columbian history and is renown as one of the most significant rock art areas in the world.

Throughout the island, you’ll encounter ancient petroglyphs, stone statues, and idols, alongside sites adorned with ceramic urns and utensils. Legend has it that the ancient Indians regarded Ometepe as their promised land, with Volcano Maderas revered as the sacred abode of the sun and Concepción as the brother of the moon.

Dating back to 1000 BC, the petroglyphs reveal intricate carvings displaying Ometepe Nicaragua, depicting calendars and stones hinting at ancient rituals, possibly including human sacrifice.

These archaeological treasures are scattered across Ometepe and can be easily located on maps or explored further at the Archaeological Museum of La Ceiba, situated in the Charco Verde area.

Petroglyphs,Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Hike Through Nature Reserves and Rain Forests

Charco Verde is a 20-hectare ecological reserve, a tropical dry forest which is home to an abundance of wildlife. Within the reserve is the mystical pond of Charco Verde. It has a distinct emerald hue due to an abundance of algae.

Legend states this was the area used by the ancient Indians to make sacrifices to their gods. Marked walks through the reserve will bring you to a beach which offers views across Lake Nicaragua to Maderas and Isla de Quiste.

Charco Verde, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

A hike to The Cascade of San Ramon, a 50-meter waterfall on the southern slope of the Maderas is a 4 hour round trip. It offers great views of Lake Nicaragua. The trails take you through dense jungle where a wide variety of wildlife can be seen.

This is a hike best done during the rainy season, as there will be little water in the peak of the dry season.

Charco Verde, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Punta Jesus Maria

This narrow spit of sand is formed by water currents and sediment build up. At certain times of the year, the sandbank extends more than a kilometre so that you can stand with water splashing up on either side of you.

Punta Jesus Maria, Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Punta Jesus Maria, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

From here you have a panoramic view of the island and the two volcanoes. Looking towards the mainland, Volcano Mombacho can be seen. This is also a popular spot for swimming in the calm shallows or watching the sunset.

Volcán Concepción, Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Discovering the Towns of Ometepe


Venture into the bustling towns of Moyogalpa and Altagracia. Serving as the commercial hub and primary gateway to Ometepe, Moyogalpa is conveniently connected to San Jorge by ferry, just an hour’s ride away. This vibrant metropolis serves as an ideal starting point for exploring Ometepe, offering a variety of accommodations, dining establishments, bars, and essential services. There are some truly amazing places to try in Moyogalpa, with our favorite restaurant being Comedor Julia’s, with delicious and cheap eats!

Moyogalpa Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Moyogalpa Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Concepción provides a constantly changing and always dramatic backdrop to this charming village atmosphere. Moyogalpa is an especially lovely spot to stop for a coffee and watch the Ometepe, Nicaragua world go by.

Moyogalpa Ometepe Island Nicaragua


Altagracia, nestled on the northeastern side of Concepción, exudes authenticity and historical charm. This picturesque town offers a serene ambiance, showcasing some of the largest stone idols and housing an archaeological museum. Explore its quaint streets and discover cozy local eateries and bars, perfect for enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and mingling with the locals. We emphatically recommend our favorites – Cafe Campestre and El Picante Mexican Restaurant.

Altagracia,Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Altagracia,Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Rent a Scooter or Bike

One of the most captivating aspects of Ometepe is its warm-hearted people, stunning landscapes, and the peaceful way of life it offers. Here, you can truly disconnect and unwind. Explore the island’s charming villages, where you’ll stumble upon delightful beachside eateries, witness the enduring use of horses and oxen in daily activities, and encounter countless smiling faces eager to welcome you. While Ometepe may not boast luxury amenities, its richness lies in its authentic simplicity and genuine hospitality.

Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Ometepe Island Nicaragua
Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Costs on Ometepe Island

Guided tours on Ometepe Island may come at a slightly higher price compared to other parts of Nicaragua, but they remain affordable. Taxis, however, tend to be pricier due to the elevated fuel costs on the island, with most trips averaging around USD $20.

Fortunately, dining on Ometepe remains budget-friendly, mirroring the inexpensive food prices found elsewhere in Nicaragua. Enjoy a refreshing beer for about USD $1.25 and indulge in a restaurant meal for approximately $5 to $8.

How to Get Around on Ometepe Island

Navigating Ometepe Island can be a leisurely affair, given its primarily sealed main road. However, travel can be slow due to the island’s terrain. If you opt to bring your own car or rent one from the mainland, it’s advisable to choose a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle, especially if you plan to venture off the main route.

For a more nimble option, consider renting a scooter, typically available for around USD $25 to $30 for an 8-hour period. Scooters offer a convenient way to explore most areas of the island, while motorbikes and bicycles are also available for rent.

Alternatively, you can utilize the island’s bus service, which operates between Moyogalpa and Altagracia for approximately USD $2 per trip. However, be prepared for a slower journey, as the bus may take around an hour to cover what should be a half-hour trip.

How to Get To Ometepe


There are Ferries operating daily (except Sundays) from San Jorge (weather dependent) A one hour journey will cost ~ USD $3 per person and ~ USD $25 per person with a car.

There are also ferries operating between Granada (Tues/Fri) and San Carlos, Rio San Juan (Mon/Thurs) that stop at Ometepe (Altagracia) twice weekly. This is an overnight ferry ~ 11 hours San Carlos- Ometepe.

A 1st class ticket costs around $9 ($4-second class).  This gives you access to the AC cabin on the 1st class deck where you can watch TV, or hang your hammock (if you have one). There is no sleeping accommodation on the vessel.


La Costeña Airlines operate flights to Ometepe from Managua and San Carlos on Thursday and Sunday. Expect ~USD $50 for a one way ticket.

Day Trips to Ometepe Island

If you are running short on time, there is the option of day trips to Ometepe Island from Granada.

Where To Stay on Ometepe.

Ometepe has many accommodation options with a lot more high end options starting to emerge. We stayed at The Eco Lodge El Porvenir in Santa Cruz which is pretty indicative of the hotel options on the island. For USD $20/night we had a basic but comfortable double room with ensuite and a spectacular view of Volcán Concepción.

Ometepe Island Nicaragua

They had a great restaurant and bar serving excellent meals at very reasonable prices. The staff were very friendly and helpful. They arranged tours, cars, bike hire and taxis for us with absolute ease and professionalism.

Besides The Eco Lodge, another amazing hotel we stayed at was Hotel Victoria. At Hotel Victoria, guests can enjoy rooms with a charming patio offering scenic mountain views. Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV for entertainment, and select rooms even feature a refreshing pool view. Bed linen and towels are provided in every room for added comfort.

Above all, we truly enjoyed our time in Ometepe and we know that our readers will enjoy it too!

Ometepe Island Nicaragua