10 Unmissable Things To Do In Ometepe Island Nicaragua 2019
So you are looking for some things to do in Ometepe Island?
Isla de Ometepe was on our bucket list from the very start of our Nicaraguan adventure.
We long heard many good things about the island of Ometepe from other travellers and after two months exploring this vibrant country decided it’s time to go there.
The two volcanic peaks forming the island surely impress from afar.
The island is less touristy than other popular Nicaraguan destinations, therefore makes for a perfect weekend getaway destination.
We have also put together a list of 20 things to do in Nicaragua.
There is certainly a lot of things to do on Ometepe island.
So we decided it was best to make a list of 10 unmissable things to do in Ometepe Island.
We put this list together from our own experiences to help you with your trip there. Enjoy!
How to get to Ometepe Island
There are a few ways to get there but the fastest and most practical is to take an hour-long ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa for about 50 cordobas per person.
We stayed in Hotel Villa Paraiso in Santo Domingo for four nights but there are many other options available depending on the budget. There is an ATM literally right next to the hotel and another one 5 minutes walk in another hotel.
The hotel was recommended by a friend and didn’t disappoint. Not the cheapest but has everything you could want and great food!
To get to our hotel, we decided to take a taxi which was about US$35 from the ferry port to the location.
If you are on a tight budget, there are chicken buses that can take you to your location for cheap, but they aren’t as frequent.
Here are our top 10 unmissable things to do in Ometepe island:
1. Kayak The Beautiful Istrian River.
The Istian River lying between the two volcanoes is a perfect place to spot many birds, turtles or even caimans.
The 1.5-meter deep river becomes alive in a winter season (aka wet season) and is completely dry during the summer.
The wet season goes typically from May – October and the dry seasons from September – April.
The river is very calm and makes for an incredible morning adventure in nature.
A guided 3-4 hours kayak trip cost us $25 per person, and it was worth every penny.
We recommend taking the trip early in the morning as the river can get a bit more crowded later on during the day.
2. Explore Charco Verde.
Readily available via a walking trail, lagoon Charco Verde is a perfect spot to enjoy a sunny and hot afternoon.
Here you will find a beautiful quiet beach, several relaxing stopping points and many howler monkeys.
There are several different walks you can take depending on your mood. The easiest will take you around the lagoon, perfect relaxing walk after a busy day of hiking the day before.
3. Admire Butterflies At The Butterfly Sanctuary.
Located just past the entrance to Charco Verde, the butterfly reserve is home to many Nicaraguan butterflies.
Enjoy quiet time observing these beautiful creatures. You can ask the staff about different butterflies and learn a great deal about them.
There is a small entrance fee to enjoy the sanctuary and walk around the Charco Verde. There is no need for a guided tour, and you can simply get here on scooter or motorbike.
4. Take A Dip In Ojo de Agua.
About 2 km from Santo Domingo lies La Ojo de Agua natural springs. With a restaurant on-site and a chilling area shaded by the forest, it is a perfect spot to relax for the day.
We visited the springs after a long day of hiking, and it was so refreshing to cool off in its waters.
The entry fee is USD $5 per person.
There is also a beautiful walking trail if you are keen to explore the surroundings.
To avoid the crowds, arrive early morning or late afternoon and you will see why we added it to our 10 unmissable things to do in Ometepe island.
5. Swim Under The San Ramon Waterfall.
Located on the southern slopes of volcano Maderas, the 64-meter tall waterfall is most impressive in the winter.
It takes about 3 hrs walk round trip to the waterfall. The first 2 km trail is mostly paved, the last kilometre turns into an actual hike up through some mud and rocks.
The hike is a must regardless of your fitness level. The waterfall hike is one of the best things to do in Ometepe island in winter.
To get to the waterfall from Santo Domingo, you must first conquer 1-hour drive on an unpaved rocky road.
We got there on our scooter, so it’s doable and doesn’t require 4×4 as some people suggested.
Many blogs won’t also tell you that you need either a good pair of runners or hiking boots.
We didn’t get the memo and hiked up in flip-flops. It’s doable but takes twice as long!
There is no need to book a guided tour, and the entry fee is only USD$5 per person.
6. Hike Up The Maderas Volcano.
There are two volcanoes on Ometepe, the active Conception and dormant Maderas.
To hike either of the volcanoes, you will need a guide.
It isn’t advisable to hike up on your own as people lost their lives doing so.
The hike was on top of our ‘to do list’ within the ’10 Unmissable Things To Do In Ometepe Island Nicaragua’.
We decided on Maderas as it seemed smaller and easier to conquer. Well, let us tell you we were wrong. The hike is worth it but be prepared to be covered in mud.
Our guide hiked up the volcano over 2 thousand times and said it is a harder trail than Conception.
In fact, according to our guide, in the winter season, the trail becomes one of the hardest to conquer in Central America.
At the top, you will, however, be rewarded with the opportunity to swim in the beautiful and so refreshing crater lake.
Tip: Take a good pair of hiking shoes, long pants, a waterproof jacket, and at least 2 litres of water per person.
It takes about 6-9 hrs round trip depending on your level of fitness.
In the summer Maderas is easier to conquer. During the winter, Conception has much dryer path and ironically although higher, it’s easier to get to the top.
Guided hike with lunch and transportation to the base costs USD $45 per person.
7. Go Horseback Riding On The Beach.
When scrolling through the pictures and things to do in Ometepe island, you will come across horseback riding as at the top of the list.
Playa Santo Domingo is perfect for it and for roughly USD$10 you can watch the sunset on a horse.
There’s plenty of ‘rent a horse’ places scattered around the island. It’s an enjoyable and different experience than sipping Tona on the beach.
8. Rent Motorbike And Explore The Island.
Renting a motorbike is one of the best things to do in Ometepe island.
For about $30 per day, you can explore the island on two wheels. We rented a bike for two days to be able to see as much as possible on our own. It’s a great way to have the freedom and explore the island at your pace.
To rent the moped, you will usually be asked to provide ID in exchange for the scooter.
9. Discover The Petroglyphs.
On the slopes of volcano Maderas and scattered across the island, you will find many petroglyphs.
The oldest petroglyph on the island dates back to around 1000 B.C.
The stone carvings carry pre-Columbian past and are indeed interesting to look at.
10. Watch The Sun Setting On Santo Domingo Beach.
There’s no way you can miss a sunset on Ometepe.
Every evening the sky turns beautifully pink at sunset.
Grab a beer and go down to the beach to watch the clouds over the volcano changing colours.
Wet or dry season, you will experience a stunning sunset here.
We hope that you will enjoy the island as much as we did.
If you are coming in the wet season, the island is much quieter and less touristy. July is a perfect month to explore the 10 Unmissable Things To Do In Ometepe Island Nicaragua.
Steve and Sabina