Ometepe, Nicaragua – Traveler Dream Destination
Welcome back to our Nicaragua journey! Hopefully you checked out our Granada Nicaragua travel blog about the perfect place to start your Nicaraguan adventure. Next we will be sharing our experience in Ometepe, Nicaragua. If you’re traveling around Nicaragua, going to the island of Ometepe is a must. I would certainly call it a travelers dream destination. We only had two days there but if we can do over, we definitely would’ve added at least one more day.
We took private transport from Tribal Hotel in Granada to the ferry in San Jorge/Rivas. Arranging our the transport through our hotel we were going to be staying at La Omaja was definitely a lot less expensive. It just made sense for their driver to pick us up and drive us there then it was to arrange the driver through our Granada Hotel. It is always a great idea to compare the two prices to get the best deal.
The drive was about an hour and 15 minutes and it was a great way to see even more of Nicaragua. We arrived just in time to buy some fresh cashews (YUM!!!!!) and board the ferry. The ferry cost 70 Cordobas ($2.25 USD) and the ride took about 1.5 hours. We caught the 9:30 Rey del Cocibolca and it was lovely sitting up on the deck. Luckily is was a calm day and the view of the volcanoes was amazing.
Our Arrival in Ometepe
When we docked, our hotel had a driver pick us up. La Omaja is where we chose to stay, located in the rain forest area of the Nature Reserve Maderas Volcano. It’s located just past the town of Merida, about 30 km from the port in Moyogalpa. The last 8 km of road is not paved and is very rough in spots. We didn’t realize just how bad the road was. We had originally planned to rent motorbikes and ride all around the island. But due to the roads and our unfamiliarity with motorbikes on that kind terrain, we decided to skip it.
Then we thought we would rent a four wheeler. But after speaking to somebody that was staying at the hotel, they said they really could only go about 5 miles an hour because of the roads and it just wasn’t much fun. So we skipped that too! But that’s okay because it just gave us an excuse to do nothing but really relax for our time on Ometepe. La Omaja has seven little cottages that are clean and very basic. We did not have hot water however during our stay. But others said they did.
The views were incredible and hanging out in their infinity pool overlooking a volcano makes up for not having hot water. They have a restaurant on site that has their daily specials. (But be prepared, they are veryyyy slow!!) The staff was all super friendly and we met some incredible guests. A few of them, I believe we will know for many many years to come.
Village of Merida
We walked into the village of Merida for a snack after freshening up. I was looking for something simple like chips and salsa to snack on. We stopped at a small outdoor café called Margarita’s Bar. After talking with the young man, whose family owned the business, we found they only had actual meals. Either a chicken or beef. Well our Spanish is very limited but his English was actually pretty decent. He spoke to his aunties working in the kitchen and the next thing we knew is we had homemade chips and fresh salsa. We could see her just chopping away!
This has to be the best chips and salsa I’d ever had. Totally made from scratch. Add two sodas and an extra tip and it cost less than $5!!! The whole experience was just phenomenal. Al and I definitely stood out in the small village. There were not very many African Americans we saw during our time in Nicaragua and we saw nobody else with pink hair! Also we just try to be super friendly to everybody and everybody was super friendly right back.
We got back to the hotel and went for an hour-long horseback ride. This was Al’s 1st time on a horse. It was super fun and a beautiful ride around the lake. We got back just in time to watch a beautiful sunset. Then we each had a great massage for $25/hr. The electricity went out a couple times while I was getting my massage. I had read that this was a possibility so we brought along a headlamp. As a great tip – remember to have the headlamp/flashlight easily available so you aren’t looking for it in the dark!!
Making Good Friends
For dinner we hung out with a couple who were Americans – Chase and Emily. Chase lives in Texas and Emily lives in Chicago. They had been touring around Costa Rica before coming to Nicaragua. Which reminds me of a tip – do your research. You CAN NOT bring a rental car across the border into Nicaragua. And you CAN NOT bring in a drone. They learned the hard way.
We ended up staying up with them until 1 AM talking and drinking wine. The workers at the hotel just told us to lock up and help ourselves to anything and they would write it down in the morning. That’s awesome, have you ever heard of that? I know I always talk about it but it’s because it’s so true… The people we meet along the way is what makes our trips so spectacular. So make sure you are connecting with other travelers. You will learn a lot about areas to go next and you can make lifelong friends. Chase is an avid marathon runner and him and Al are going to train and do a marathon together. We can’t wait to hang out with them again soon.
We woke up the following day after having breakfast (which is not included in the price here) and spent some time just hanging at the pool. Al and I took a walk around the village of Merida again. It’s just a small area with a couple of hotels and restaurants. Most people have their houses attached and just come out and work when they have a customer.
Exploring the Island of Ometepe
The staff at the hotel told us about Hacienda Merida. It is a bilingual school that is free of charge for local elementary school children. They started their first kindergarten class in 2013 and have been adding classes ever since. It’s super cool that they run on solar power and have eco-designed classrooms. The walls are actually built from plastic waste. And it’s great because if people stay there or visit the restaurant like we did, the proceeds go to helping the school. So we had some fresh juice and homemade potato chips which were phenomenal. Then we continued our walk through the village having small conversations with people, seeing pigs wandering around and children playing. It really was a perfect day.
Monkey Island, Ometepe
We had planned on taking a kayak over to Monkey Island but the water was super rough. So the hotel helped arrange a private boat so that we could go over there. We really wanted to see some monkeys in the wild. And it was totally worth it. The boat driver brought some bananas for us to feed the monkeys. Of course they couldn’t catch all of them due to our bad throws and being hevy bananas, they sank into the water. At one point a monkey jumped into the boat to get the banana. It was both terrifying and exciting at the same time. When Al threw the last banana and it landed in the water, the monkey made a face that was one of great disappointment and anger LOL. I’m sure they were thinking silly tourists.
While we were waiting to get picked up we saw the most incredible sunset. We just stood on the banks of Lake Nicaragua taking it all in. We felt just so blessed. On our walk we noticed a restaurant had pizza on Saturday and Sunday night. They make it in their brick oven. We made plans that night with an awesome couple from Amsterdam to eat together. Since it was Saturday night Al, myself, Bart and Butch all walked over for some amazing pizza (we were bummed Julia and Rachelle couldn’t join us- they are another Awesome couple from SF staying at La Omaja).
Pizza Night with Friends!
It was a perfect night hanging out with friends. It’s really cool to think you’re just basically sitting in somebody’s outdoor patio enjoying a meal. But that is just the culture here. When we needed to use the restroom, it was the bathroom in their actual house. And their outdoor kitchen is where they do all their cooking and it was so beautiful. And what a great idea: Pizza night and it tasted great!! The conversation and company was perfect. It was one of those perfect travel memories that will always stay with me. We were sad that our friends Emily and Chase had already left. They would’ve loved it as well.
The next day we got up and shared a transport back to the ferry with our new
Amsterdam and SF friends. We then boarded the ferry back to San Jorge/Rivas and parted ways. We had all arranged transportation and were pleased to see 3 different drivers with signs showing our names! Our next stop is Leon!
We really loved our time on the Island of Ometepe. We do wish we had one more day there and we would’ve taken a transport into town and then rented motorbikes to explore around more. Next time, right! We are definitely glad though that we stayed on the quieter part of the Island. We got a real feel for island life and felt far removed from most tourists and tourist areas. And we can’t stress enough that a visit to Ometepe should be on every travelers list.