Rising out of Lake Nicaragua-- the 9th largest lake in the world-- is Isla de Ometepe. Hourglass shaped, with a volcano at either end, this island is a nature lovers paradise. Volcan Concepción on the north end of the island is active, while Volcán Maderas on the south end is dormant. Guided hiking tours can take you to the peaks of both of these volcanoes for about $25.
Getting to Ometepe is simple enough. First, catch a ride (cab, shuttle, bus) to Rivas/San Jorge. We took a 1 hr private cab from San Juan Del Sur to San Jorge for $20. Shuttles are cheaper, and busses are cheaper still. I prefer taking a private taxi when I can because I am a high-roller like that, and because I prefer not to have the armpits of perfect strangers in my face.
From San Jorge, you have the option to take either a Boat or a Ferry to the Island. I have heard that the boats really are just metal bottomed, rickety little boats. They are uncomfortable, and in choppy weather, can be rather scary. Everyone I talked to said to wait it out and catch a Ferry if you can. They are a much more comfortable ride. The slow moving Ferry costs about $3 per/person and takes an hour from San Jorge, to the Main Port town of Moyogalpa on the Island. Schedules for both ferries or boats can be found HERE.
Because we didn't get out and do much on Ometepe, however, I don't feel like I am in the right position to really offer many tips or tricks. I hardly feel like an authority on the island based on my limited experience.
Here is what I did learn:
- Each volcano is a strenuous day-long hike, and guides are mandatory. Any hotel on the island can organize a trip up for you. Expect to pay $25 p/p, plus transport. Volcan Concepción is hot and dus_ty, and Volcán Maderas is more jungly, wet, and slippery.
- The island is rural, and things are far apart from each other. Walking from point A to B means walking along a very hot, dusty, stretch of road for miles and miles. That said, the roads are rather flat, so biking is a good option.
- Scooters can be rented for $35 USD a day. Helmets are included in the rental, and wearing your helmet is required by law. There are road-stops all over the place on the island, with cops looking specifically for tourists who aren't wearing helmets. Travel with cash on hand to pay "fines" for whatever infraction the police say you have committed.
- Santo Domingo is windy as hell.
- Our hotel, Xalli Beach Resort, was superb!