Isla de Ometepe

Isla de Ometepe Travel Blog

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Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Island
Monday, November 03
So the same older man who spoke a few words of English when he picked us up in Managua at the airport was waiting for us when we got back to the Hotel Dario so we packed up our stuff and piled into his less than stellar car.  The roads in Nicaragua are actually surprisingly good and the ride was only about ninety minutes through lots of cane fields and rolling green hills with occasional glimpses of the volcanoes on Ometepe Island along the way.  A quick left at Rivas and we were on to San Jorge which is a kind of sleepy little port town where you catch the ferry over to Ometepe Island.
The Nicaraguan Flag

We arrived a bit early for the ferry and stopped to have a quick lunch at a little restaurant right by the ferry run by an Italian guy who visited Nicaragua a few years back and fell in love with it and moved here.  He now imports Italian pasta and has a little backpacker’s restaurant and guesthouse and was a nice enough guy.  We sat and had lunch and a few beers before the ferry arrived, then grabbed our stuff and shuffled down the wharf to get on the somewhat rickety looking old ferry to Ometepe Island. The ferry is about $3 and takes about 45 minutes.  Rather than sitting in the air-conditioned “salon” we opted for the roof with killer views of the Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes misted in clouds.  We fired up some of our Mombacho Cigars from Granada and enjoyed the open air and relatively calm waters.
The Ferry Captain needs a nap
  As you can see from the photo, the captain was a very hard working Nicaraguan gentleman who immediately covered his face with his hat and headed off to nap-land while his subordinates worked.  It’s good to be the king…

Because of all the rains in October, the lake is really high and getting off the ferry was a bit of a challenge involving trying to avoid grabbing the grease covered cable that was conveniently placed right at hand level as you walked down the gang plank (both Cathy and I neglected to understand the guy telling people in Spanish not to grab it…) and then sort of jumping from tire to tire to get to the dock.  There were plenty of taxi guys waiting to drive people to their accommodations and Cindy managed to pick one of them, Hurley Gomez who was a funny, large, talkative guy.  We were a little worried when he had to go get several of the locals to push-start his gaudily decorated mini-van that had seen much better days, but it started without much problem and we bounced off down the road.
The nicer rooms at Villa Paraiso on Ometepe Island
  It ends up that the road gets bad very quickly and you really need four-wheel drive but Hurley was a seasoned pro gleefully bouncing down the dirt roads telling us about live on Ometepe and all of the activities we could do here.  It took us almost an hour to get to Villa Paraiso which was supposed to be one of the nicer places on the island.

Ometepe Island literally means “two hills” in Nahuatal which is the local language of the original inhabitants who migrated there from somewhere in Mexico based on a vision that one of them had about an island with two volcanoes on it surrounded by a fresh water lake.  The Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes rise from the lake taking over most of the island and provide lots of opportunities for hiking and adventuring.
Our patio at Villa Paraiso
  The fresh water beaches are also supposed to be very nice; however since October was so flooded, the lake is eight feet high and there is not much sand or beach to be seen at the moment.

Villa Paraiso is supposedly one of the original, nicer hotels on the island run by I think an Austrian family.  We ended up in one of the casitas in the back with two rooms sharing a wall and a balcony with two hammocks.  The rooms were not particularly nice, in fact for the money ($65) really pretty disappointing.  Cindy inquired about the nicer casitas with a view of the water and AC but they were only available for one night and the staff (rumored to be friendly from the Lonely Planet review but not found so…) wasn’t particularly helpful.  We walked around the property a bit and down to the “beach” which was completely washed away before settling in at the Ranchero (covered patio) where we ordered some appetizers and a bottle of Flor de Cana Rum to enjoy the sunset.
Blue tailed Magpie on Ometepe Island
  We ended up hanging out and having cocktails and eventually dinner trying to decide what to do.  The theme of the evening was “No” at Villa Paraiso - no orange juice, no diet coke, no pretty much anything we asked for (not counting the rum...).  Once again, kind of dissapointing.

Originally we were to spend two nights on Ometepe but, considering the lack of beach and our discussion with a young couple who had just got back from the long day hike up Maderas Volcano who were not impressed and said it was difficult, long and unimpressive, we decided that we would do a day hike in the afternoon tomorrow and then head off to San Juan del Sur a day early.

After dinner, we retired to our bug infested patio to enjoy the remainder of the Flor de Cana with some of our fine, Nicaraguan cigars, eventually turning off the lights to keep the bugs at bay.
Concepcion Volcano from Lake Nicaragua
  I don’t know what I managed to say that was so hysterical but I managed to get Cathy to lose it three times, laughing so hard that, in her words, she “snotted” herself.  Rum can do awesome things to my comedic delivery apparently ;-)

Meanwhile, Cathy was starting to feel like she was getting a cold so tried some of the wonder medicine Tabcin that Guy had suggested and said it was horrific tasting and didn’t seem to do much.  Luckily there was still rum…We headed off to bed with plans to hike to the San Ramon Waterfall  tomorrow and then catch the last ferry back to San Jorge and cab over to San Juan del Sur.

Tuesday, November 04 - Ometepe
So after a crappy night’s sleep in our overpriced, underwhelming room, we woke for breakfast and decided to go out for a swim.
Robb keeping a watch out for the Freshwater Shark
  This was the first real test of our Aquapac which is a sort of waterproof bag with a lens that we can use Cindy’s point and shoot Nikon in up to fifteen feet deep.  Cathy, Robb and I all decided to swim out and risk the Nicaraguan Freshwater Shark’s rumored predilection for human flesh and swam out in the murky but warm and clean water and flopped around for a bit.  The Aquapac seemed to work very well, no leaks, no issues but unfortunately we didn’t see any sharks so I just snapped a few quick test pictures, not so easy to do when you are getting slapped around in the waves.  As you can see from Robb’s picture, he was diligently watching for any signs of getting devoured by the rumored monsters…

After swimming, we packed our stuff up and checked out before heading out with a really nice man to drive to the other side of the island and do the hike up to the San Ramon Waterfall.
San Ramon Waterfall on Ometepe Island
We drove for an hour or so again on bumpy, mostly dirt roads, eventually making it to the base of the Maderas Volcano.  The hike up was maybe 90 minutes but was scorching hot and only partially shaded.  A large landslide had ripped through the jungle from the base of the 100 meter waterfall down towards the lake front.  By the time we made it up to the view of the waterfall I was drenched and overheated.  Luckily, Robb and I scrambled down to a little icy pool flowing from the impressive waterfall above and sat under the flowing water cooling off.  Very relaxing.  The hike back down was much easier than coming but it was getting close to the time we thought we needed to head back for the two hour drive back to the port.  Our driver guy insisted on us stopping at a little local place around the corner for our “delicious” lunch which was some white bread ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit and beer.
Robb and Larry cooling off in the San Ramon Waterfall after the hike

He assured us it wouldn’t be a problem to make it to the ferry in time so we all wolfed down our lunch and beers and then bounced our way across the island back towards the port.  In addition to being Election Day in America, this is election weekend in Nicaragua and there were parades of pickup trucks loaded down with way to many celebrating voters all over the place.  Our driver skillfully navigated around the hordes of partying voters and got us to the port in plenty of time to catch the last ferry.  Once again, we parked ourselves on the top, open deck and enjoyed another Nicaraguan Robusto for the ride back to San Jorge.  We tried to call and email the hotel in San Juan del Sur to make sure it would be cool to show up a day early (let alone figure out how to get from San Jorge to San Juan del Sur) but hadn’t heard back yet.  My cell rang and Cindy answered it and lo and behold, it wasn’t the hotel in San Juan, it was my old buddy Billy “Joe Bob” Hubbard calling to catch up and tell me about his twentieth anniversary trip to Thailand with his wife and three sons.  Technology is pretty awesome.

The ferry ride at sunset was pretty and calm and we disembarked in San Jorge wondering how we were going to make it to San Juan del Sur

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Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Isla…
Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Isl…
The Nicaraguan Flag
The Nicaraguan Flag
The Ferry Captain needs a nap
The Ferry Captain needs a nap
The nicer rooms at Villa Paraiso o…
The nicer rooms at Villa Paraiso …
Our patio at Villa Paraiso
Our patio at Villa Paraiso
Blue tailed Magpie on Ometepe Isla…
Blue tailed Magpie on Ometepe Isl…
Concepcion Volcano from Lake Nicar…
Concepcion Volcano from Lake Nica…
Robb keeping a watch out for the F…
Robb keeping a watch out for the …
San Ramon Waterfall on Ometepe Isl…
San Ramon Waterfall on Ometepe Is…
Robb and Larry cooling off in the …
Robb and Larry cooling off in the…
Isla de Ometepe Hotels & Accommodations review
Villa Paraiso
Villa Paraiso is supposedly one of the original, nicer hotels on Ometepe Island run by I think an Austrian family. We ended up in one of the casitas … read entire review
Isla de Ometepe
photo by: Clarafina