Ometepe: A Magical Volcanic Island in Lake Nicaragua
Ometepe is alive. Birds sing and monkeys play, insects invade your personal space at every opportunity and fireflies sparkle in between lightning strikes that make the black sky glow. All of this life thrives under the watch of two imposing volcanoes; one a dormant relic and the other very much alive.
We spent a few days exploring Ometepe and it was one of the highlights of our time in Nicaragua. We saw amazing black sand beaches, spectacular volcano views and plenty of lush jungle.
A bike ride to Charco Verde
What we thought would be a relaxing bike ride through the rural streets of Ometepe became a seriously hard, uphill bike pushing challenge. After two hours of riding and walking in the midday heat we made it to Charco Verde, a little nature reserve featuring a lagoon, walking trails and what might just be Ometepe’s best beach. The beach, Playa Bancon, is a stunning black sand beach with views of Maderas volcano, and it’s also a great place for a swim in Lake Nicaragua. After soothing our legs in the warm water, we made our way back to the park entrance. Just before we arrived we saw a family of howler monkeys playing in the trees. We didn’t hear them howl, but we managed to get a good look at these shy creatures.
Walking home with the fireflies and lightening
The bike ride to Charco Verde took longer than expected, so we had to traverse the final stretch back to our hotel in the dark. We pushed our bikes along the lonely stretch of road while the rain gathered speed. A storm was brewing in the distance and every 10 seconds or so lightening would illuminate the black sky. In between lightening strikes we were mesmerised by hundreds of fireflies buzzing around the trees on the side of the road. The rain stopped and the lightening guided us home; what started off as an annoying walk in the rain turned out to be a memorable journey. When we got back to the hotel we walked down to the beach and watched the lightening strike in the distance.
Swimming at Ojo de Agua
The shimmering water of Ojo de Agua makes for a great pool party setting, and if you’re in the mood to get wild you’ll find enough other backpackers, not to mention cocktails, to have a good time. The atmosphere was pretty sedate when we were there though, the jungle surroundings and crystal clear water convinced us to stay for a few hours and really relax.
Playa Santo Domingo
We stayed at Playa Santo Domingo during our time on Ometepe. It’s a nice, and very long, stretch of volcanic black sand lined with a few hotels and restaurants. We didn’t get a lot of good weather during our stay but the lightening and brooding clouds gave it a unique charm. We stayed at Xalli Ometepe Beach Hotel, a mid-range hotel aimed at a slightly older, more coupley crowd (which pretty much describes me these days). Check out Gia’s review, which she wrote in exchange for our stay.
One of the best things about Ometepe is the fact you’re constantly confronted with amazing views, mostly thanks to the two volcanoes which dominate the landscape. It’s possible to climb them, although Concepción, the active one, is sometimes off-limits. We didn’t climb either of them, partly due to the weather, as we wouldn’t have been able to see anything at the top. Leave me a comment below if you climbed one of the volcanoes, I’d love to hear more about it.
Wildlife on Ometepe
You’ll see lots of insects around Ometepe, but I’m guessing that’s not a selling point for you. Don’t worry though; you’ll also see plenty of birds and monkeys. We saw howler monkeys at Charco Verde and white-faced capuchin monkeys near Playa Santo Domingo. I’m sure you’ll see a lot more wildlife if you do one of the longer treks.
Getting Around Ometepe
There is a bus service on Ometepe but apparently it isn’t great. Most tourists seem to get around on bicycles or in taxis, but taxis are pretty expensive unless you’re sharing. If you decide to do a bike ride be warned: Ometepe is pretty hilly and it gets hot!
Do you like the sound of Ometepe? Would you climb a volcano? Let me know!