What to Do on Isla de Ometepe? 9 Unmissable Tips!

Isla de Ometepe is an island formed by the two volcanoes Concepción and Maderas, rising from Lake Nicaragua. Life here is simple, and everything moves at a slightly slower pace than on the mainland. This place remains wonderfully authentic, offering plenty of enjoyable activities. That’s why Isla de Ometepe is a delightful spot to spend a few days during your journey through Nicaragua! You can make your time here as active or relaxed as you like, from climbing volcanoes to lounging on the beach, or from kayaking to sampling local chocolate. Isla de Ometepe has something for everyone. Let me tell you more about what there is to do on this lovely island!

How to Get to Isla de Ometepe?

Most people travel to Isla de Ometepe from Granada or San Juan del Sur. Below, you’ll find information on how to get there from these locations.

From Granada to Isla de Ometepe

By Local Bus & Boat: In Granada, you can catch the bus to Rivas here. This is about a 1-hour ride. Upon arriving there, you can take the bus to San Jorge, but it doesn’t run very frequently. Many taxi drivers will approach you and offer to take you to San Jorge. Negotiation is necessary here, and the ride should not cost more than a few dollars. From the San Jorge port, a boat departs for Isla de Ometepe approximately every hour, taking you to the island in 1 hour.

From San Juan del Sur to Isla de Ometepe

By Local Bus & Boat: In San Juan del Sur, the bus departs here every 30 minutes to Rivas. There, you can wait for the bus to San Jorge, but it doesn’t run very frequently. It’s easier to take a taxi to the San Jorge port for a few dollars. From there, a boat departs for Isla de Ometepe every hour.

Note: There are two ports on Isla de Ometepe. Most boats go to Moyogalpa, but some boats also go to San José del Sur. So, make sure to check which port is closest to your accommodation and the departure times for each boat. It’s only a 20-minute drive between the ports.

What to Do on Isla de Ometepe?

There’s plenty to do on Isla de Ometepe for every type of traveler. Whether you want to relax or be active, the following tips will keep you entertained.

Explore Isla de Ometepe by Scooter or Bike

Taxis on Isla de Ometepe can be expensive, and buses run only a few times a day. Therefore, renting a scooter, quad, motorbike, or bicycle is the ideal way to explore the island. This gives you the freedom to go wherever you please, and with very little traffic, it’s super easy. Most of the island has paved roads, but there are some unpaved roads where you should be a bit more cautious. You can rent a scooter or motorbike starting from $20 to $25 per day, excluding gasoline, and a bicycle will cost you around $5 per day.

Tip: The police on Isla de Ometepe often try to make some extra money from travelers. So, always wear a helmet, ensure your front and rear lights are working, and carry your driver’s license to avoid any ‘fines’.

Swim at Ojo de Agua

A popular activity among locals and travelers is visiting Ojo de Agua. This is a natural spring where you can swim in refreshing spring water. Some even claim that this water has therapeutic properties due to the minerals it contains, so it’s a great idea to take a dip during your visit to Isla de Ometepe.

The area around the pool is beautifully landscaped with lush tropical plants, making it a delightful spot to relax and find some refreshment on a hot day. Since many locals like to visit here, it can get quite crowded, especially on weekends. It’s best to go early if you don’t like crowds. You’ll pay $10 to enter Ojo de Agua, and you’ll receive a $5 voucher to spend at the restaurant.

Tip: The water continues to flow outside the park into a river that intersects here. Want to avoid the crowds at Ojo de Agua? You can also find a nice spot in the river there. The nature is even more beautiful, and it won’t cost you a thing.

Playa Santo Domingo

For beach lovers, Santo Domingo Beach is a wonderful place to be. Lay your towel on the soft sand or choose a shady spot under the thatched umbrellas. Here, you can enjoy the soothing sound of the waves and the view of the lake. Taking a stroll along the beach is enjoyable, and you can discover many cozy bars and restaurants where you can have lunch or order a refreshing smoothie or cocktail.

Fun Fact: Lake Nicaragua is the only freshwater lake in the world that contains oceanic marine life, including sharks, swordfish, and tarpons. You don’t need to worry about any of these animals when swimming because they won’t harm you, and the chances of seeing them are almost nil.

Enjoy Beautiful Sunsets on Isla de Ometepe

Isla de Ometepe boasts beautiful sunsets and numerous spots to view them. The island has two sides, the Concepción side and the Maderas side, named after the two volcanoes that form the island.

On the Concepción side of the island, you’ll find Punta Jesus Maria. This unique landmass extends into the lake and offers a spectacular view of the setting sun. Walk along the sandy path leading to Punta Jesus Maria and prepare for a breathtaking sunset.

On the Maderas side of the island, Playa Mangos is the hotspot to be. This cozy beach bar is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the colorful sky as the sun slowly disappears below the horizon. With a refreshing drink in hand and your toes in the soft sand, you can end the day in style. You can take a refreshing dip here or rent a canoe to paddle on the lake. With the Concepción volcano in the background, it’s a beautiful and cozy spot to watch the sunset.

Tip: If you’re staying at the lovely Totoco Eco-Lodge, you’ll also have a fantastic sunset view over the volcano from the pool. See the photo below!

Climb One of the Volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe

Do you enjoy a physical challenge? Climbing one of the volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe is an unforgettable experience.

Concepción is the largest and most active of the two volcanoes on Isla de Ometepe, with an impressive height of 1,610 meters (5282 feet). It’s a challenging climb that requires good fitness. The terrain is steep and rocky. The hike to the top and back takes about 8 to 10 hours and can be booked here. Lunch and a guide who can tell you all about the island are included in the tour.

Maderas is the smaller and dormant volcano that is also popular to climb. With a height of 1,394 meters (4573 feet), this hike is slightly less strenuous but still a challenging adventure. The trail passes through a beautiful dense rainforest, and the ascent can be muddy and slippery during the rainy season. Once at the top, you’ll find a beautiful panoramic view and a crater lake, which you’ll undoubtedly want to take a refreshing dip in after this intense climb. On average, this hike takes about 6 to 8 hours in total.

While it’s not mandatory to hire a guide for these hikes, it’s highly recommended. They know the terrain, weather conditions, and can provide you with a lot of interesting information. In the towns of Moyogalpa and Altagracia, you’ll find various tour operators and local guides, but most accommodations can also help you find a guide.

Hike to the Waterfall of San Ramón

If climbing a volcano is a bit too much for you but you’re up for some activity, then the hike to the Waterfall of San Ramón is for you! Put on your hiking shoes and make your way through narrow paths and dense trees until you hear the soothing sound of flowing water getting closer. The hike to the waterfall takes about 1.5 hours one way, and afterward, you can take a refreshing dip in the natural pool at the foot of the waterfall. In the dry season, don’t expect extreme natural power from this waterfall, but enjoy the beautiful nature that this hike has to offer.

Tip: If you’ve arrived here on a scooter or quad, you can also ride the first mile.

Must-Do: Kayaking on the Rio Istián

The best way to experience the beautiful nature of Isla de Ometepe is by taking a kayaking tour. You’ll paddle across the lake at first and then arrive at the Rio Istián River, which flows between the two volcanoes. Once you head up the river after the open stretch on the lake, the landscape turns into a lush mangrove forest. It’s wonderfully peaceful here, and you’ll be surrounded by many animals. With a bit of luck, you’ll spot caimans, turtles, various bird species, and curious monkeys. The Rio Istián kayaking tour is, therefore, one of the most enjoyable things to do on Isla Ometepe. The guide knows the most beautiful spots and can tell you a lot about the nature.

Tip: After booking, arrange a time with the guide for the tour. Be sure to ask for a tour during sunset, as it’s extra beautiful here at that time!

Relax at El Pital Chocolate Paradise

If you come across the large sign that says ‘Chocolate Paradise’ while exploring the island, don’t drive past it; be sure to take that road. This will lead you to El Pital, a delightful chocolate factory, restaurant, and event venue all in one. Their mission is to make and share quality cocoa to create a better connection with yourself, others, and nature. You can participate in cocoa ceremonies here, order delicious items from the restaurant, and, most importantly, relax by the water.

Kitesurfing on Isla de Ometepe

Lake Nicaragua is also a perfect location for kite surfers or those who want to learn. At Playa Santa Cruz, you’ll find the Ometepe Kite Center, where you can rent equipment and book lessons. Whether it’s your first lesson or you’re an experienced water enthusiast looking to learn high jumps, the Ometepe Kite Center offers suitable lessons for every skill level.

Best Restaurants on Isla de Ometepe

Café Campestre – This is the highest-rated restaurant on the island, where you can enjoy delicious sandwiches, burgers, pastas, curries, and more throughout the day.
El Zopilote – This restaurant offers a wide variety of delicious Italian and international organic dishes, with plenty of vegetarian options. The restaurant is open every day from 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM for breakfast, from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM for lunch, and dinner is served from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM, except on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Bustavo Food Bus – Delicious Mediterranean dishes are served from an old local bus here. Opening hours can vary, so check on-site.
El Pital – A great vegan cafe for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tasty desserts.
El Picante Mexican Restaurant – This is the place to go for tasty Mexican dishes.
The Cornerhouse – Here, you can enjoy a delicious and healthy breakfast and lunch with freshly made sandwiches and homemade products.
Soda Los Antojitos – If you want an inexpensive local meal, this soda is the place to go.

Where to Stay on Isla de Ometepe?

The villages of Balgue, Santa Cruz, and Santo Domingo are all located centrally on the island and right next to each other. Here, you’ll find the most vibrant atmosphere due to the variety of great restaurants and hotels. For most travelers, this is the best place to stay on Isla de Ometepe. Moyogalpa is the village where you arrive by boat and is also the largest village on Isla de Ometepe. You’ll find many restaurants and hotels here, but it’s not the most charming or beautiful place on the island. This is mainly where local tourists stay. Below, we recommend three lovely accommodations, all located within the triangle of Balgue, Santa Cruz, and Santo Domingo.

Our Favorite Places to Stay on Isla de Ometepe

For a unique stay on Isla de Ometepe, consider Totoco Eco-lodge. This lodge is situated at a higher elevation, offering breathtaking views of the lake, volcano, and jungle. Especially during sunset, when the sky turns red and pink, the view is magical. A significant plus is the beautiful pool with the same view. Another unique option is La Bambouseraie. You’ll stay in a beautiful bungalow with plenty of privacy, and some even have views of the volcano. This is the ideal place to fully enjoy the peace and nature. La Urraca Loca Hostel is perfect for budget travelers. This hostel is also surrounded by nature and has a cozy atmosphere due to its small scale.