Turns out there are about a million cool things to do in Nicaragua, and most of them include volcanoes ... which makes any activity even cooler — volunteers, you’re going to want to explore this hip island every weekend.
Already know you want to spend your weekends on a tropical island?
See what volunteering in Nicaragua is all about, right here.
Volunteers in Nicaragua are going to have a tough time deciding how to spend their time. You’re already living in Granada which is one of the coolest cities around, plus there are dozens of weekend getaways and vacation spots that are only a couple of hours away (we love the city of Mayasa, Nicaragua or the chance to get a chocolate massage).
One of those trips is the dreamy volcanic island of Ometepe, floating in the giant Lake Nicaragua — Here's what you need to know
Everything You Should Check Out
- Explore These Two Volcanoes
- Slackline Over Crystal Pools
- Tan On Black Sand Beaches
Everything You Should Check Out
Explore These Two Volcanoes
This lush tropical island is formed completely by two massive volcanoes. Ometepe sits on an enormous lake, giving you the chance to soak up the scenery on your ferry ride over. Be sure to peek out the windows and see the looming twin silhouettes of Maderas and Concepcion — the two volcanoes that build this island. So. Cool.
Oh and if you’re wondering, you totally can climb both of these volcanoes. If you climb Maderas, you’ll spend a good chunk of time in the lush slopes, so keep an eye out for howler monkeys and parrots (it’s a 6-8 hour hike). Concepcion is more intense and rocky at points but gets you higher up (it’s an 8-11 hour hike). Both are pretty grueling hikes but the sights from the top are unreal.
Once you get to Ometepe, you can find guides to take you on these hikes (it’s mandatory). If your hostel can’t help you, pop into another hotel to help you arrange a guide. Prices from past tourists range from around $23 to $55 dollars (most include transportation). The trail are intense and unguided hikers have gotten lost, so be sure to go with an expert.
Make sure to bring lots of water (more than you think you would need) and hikers headed to Maderas will most likely be getting muddy. Both hikes require sturdy hiking shoes!
Slackline Over Crystal Pools
After an intense hike up ancient volcanoes, you are going to want to relax. We know just the place.
Tucked away in the north-eastern part of the island is Ojo De Agua — AKA, a naturally crystal clear lagoon, nestled in the lush green forests Nicaragua is famous for. It’s a magical little place where you can soak in the natural springs or slackline across the clear water. If you’re hungry, order some drinks and food, served poolside.
Basically, this place is actual paradise. We did tell you you're going to want to visit here every weekend, right?
Cost: $3 entry fee
From Altagracia, you can take the bus to Playa Santa Domingo and tell the bus driver to stop off at the Ojo De Agua. According to this bus schedule, there’s a bus headed that way every hour or two starting at 4:30 AM and ending at 5:30 PM. A bus ride there should be between $0.50 USD and $1 USD.
Tan On Black Sand Beaches
Lake Nicaragua is so huge, it actually forms a freshwater sea, complete with black sand beaches on Ometepe island. At certain times of the year, there’s a sandy peninsula that’s exposed, letting you walk almost a whole mile down this split sea. And of course, the view can’t be beat. Punta Jesus Maria gives you the perfect view of both of the island’s volcanoes.
To get there, rent a bike! It’ll be $5-6 for the whole day, but you can easily get to Punta Jesus Maria via bike from Moyogalpa or Charco Verde. You'll find bike rentals at most hotels and hostels.
From Myogalpa: it’s about 2.5 miles away, about 0.5 miles after the airport strip.
From Charco Verde /San José it's around 3 miles. There’s a billboard along the road that lets you know that the lake is down an alley; it’s about 1 mile from the entrance.
There’s usually an entry fee of $1 to get to the sea.
Kayak The Coast Or Ride Through The Jungle
Feel free to do a little exploring while you’re here — the island is peppered with tiny fishing villages, complete with brightly colored buildings and quaint little restaurants and museums. You can kayak around the coast to get around, or hire a bike.
Kayaking tours are usually around $25, but will charge some transportation fees (usually $20); you’ll need a 4x4 to get to the really gorgeous and remote part of the island called Rio Istian. Find kayak rentals online or by heading to the coast and seeing if you can rent one there.
If you’d rather connect with nature, hike through one of the dense and lush nature reserves to hang out with the local monkeys and parrots, or go on horseback; hiring a horse for the day only costs a few dollars and you can easily arrange that through your hostel or hotel.
How To Get There From Granada (+Costs)
Since our ILP volunteers are living in Granada, we’ve figured out the best way to get there from that city (though if you’re coming from anywhere else, you just need to get yourself to Rivas.
From Granada to Rivas:
Take a Minibus:
If you go to Calle La Cazada (the main street of restaurants in Granada), you can find travel agency or two to help you hire a mini bus that will take you directly to the ferry launch. Expect to pay $25-30 and only 1-2 buses leave per day.
Take a Chicken Bus:
Head to the Granada Market Station (in front of the Shell Gas Station). Buses leave once they are full, but arrive at 6:30, 8:05, 9:30, 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 3:10, Sunday through Monday. Expect to pay around $1.50 or $2.00 (Way cheaper than a mini bus)
From Rivas To San Jorge
From Rivas, you’ll need to get yourself to the ferry launch (at the San Jorge dock). There’s a bus from Rivas to San Jorge, but it’s tricky to know when to get off (but you may be able to ask the bus driver to help you out). Expect to pay $0.65.
You can also take a taxi to San Jorge ferry launch. You’ll need to negotiate, but if you bater well, you can pay around $1.
Then Take The Ferry Over
Once you get to San Jorge launch, you’ll need to take a ferry over. You can check out the ferry schedule here.
Most ferries drop you off in Moyogalpa (the main city) but you can also take a ferry that will drop you off in San Jose.
Ferry rides are about 1 hour long, and cost $2. You can also take a Launcha boat for a bit less ($1.50); just know that they are a bumpier ride and don’t operate on Sundays.
Ready for more Nicaragua?
Find out more about the ILP program in Central America here and see more pictures of what life is like in Nicaragua by clicking that green button: