Getting to Know Nicaragua Part 2: Ometepe

After an incredible chill time playing at Playa Popoyo and deciding we need to buy land on the Nicaraguan coast, we took a taxi with our boy Ronald (with a majorly rolled “R”) to San Jorge to take a ferry to the island of Ometepe.

As what seems to be the case for all things in Nicaragua, it’s never totally a direct, normal path. Halfway through the ride we were pulled over by the cops who were managing a situation: a very upset girlfriend leaping and reaching for her boyfriend, who was in handcuffs. It was pretty dramatic. The cops spoke Spanish to Ronald and the next thing we knew the guy in handcuffs got in the taxi with us. Guess we had to escort him to town because the cops were on bikes.

So yeah our cab helped arrest someone and then we were on our way to take the ferry to Ometepe, which literally means two mountains in a native language. Because it’s an island made up of two volcanoes!

The ferry ride was hot and miserable. I get motion sick so I mentally prepared to have an unenjoyable hour. All I can say is you definitely want to take the big ferry. They have little boats that transport humans to Ometepe as well, but if you are prone to motion sickness stay on the big boat. Lake Nicaragua is wavy.

At last we arrived and were immediately pumped by everything we saw on the beautiful island. We stayed in El Encanto Garden Hotel—you go up a crazy rocky “road” into the jungle but when you get to the top you are #blessed with volcano views—guess we’ll trade our oceanside views for this.

The food is actually really incredible at El Encanto—people come up just for the restaurant and the views. And the guys who work here were cool too.

The next day we rented a scooter to explore and do the waterfall hike on the Maderas volcano. There is the option to do full-day hikes on either the Maderas volcano or El Concepcion, but both take at least 8 hours and are SUPER intense. Plus there’s fog at the top almost all the time so do you even get a view? (after chatting with some friends who survived the hike, general answer seems like mostly no…)

Since we only had one full day in Ometepe we decided scooting around and doing a 3 hour hike (which we crushed in 1.5 hours…. and could’ve easily done faster because I like to trail run). The hike was to a waterfall on the Maderas volcano.

The road to La Cascada (that’s waterfall in Spanish. The locals didn’t know what I meant by “Donde es el waterfall?” so don’t try that) is incredibly bumpy. Like, all rocks. I rode on the back of the scooter since I’m incapable of driving one myself (see: Bali recap) and I got cramps in my rib cage just from all the bouncing.

We took spill after hitting a rock at one point. Chris took most of the fall though so I didn’t add too much to my scooter scar collection. Everyone survived.

The hike was awesome. Slightly uphill and the last 45 minutes of it are a little tough for the average human but it’s totally do-able and a very pleasant hike. And you are rewarded by a waterfall at the end. Made me super happy 🙂

After that we enjoyed some victory tonas, obviously.

Then it was back on the bumpy road to El Ojo de Agua. This is a cool natural spring pool that locals and tons of tourists hang out at (about $5 entry). Perfect to cool off on the humid island. They also have a full service bar/restaurant by it so you could hang here all day if you wanted to.

After that we explored a tad more with the scooter to drive over to the town Balgue (still don’t know how to pronounce this) and saw a kids’ soccer game and more restaurants I wanted to try. I made us stop when I saw a kombucha sign, of course, and met this cute Scandinavian lady who lives on the island and makes homemade vegan ice cream using 5-6 different fruits from the island and homemade kombucha. The gringa (me) was happy 😋

At last we made it back to El Encanto for an awesome dinner and sunset. It was actually Valentine’s Day this day so we had a romantic volcano Vday.

In the morning I forced us to do one more activity because I like to seize the day. We rented the worst bicycles ever (think they pumped the tires once a couple years ago) and went on a short bike ride to El Petal, a “chocolate paradise”. (I saw a sign for it and decided we had to go). Turns out this is a pretty popular backpacker spot—I saw ads for it everywhere else I stayed in Nica. It’s a cool little hippie hostel/restaurant on the lake with yoga, funky dance stuff, and super vegan treats. They have SMOOTHIE BOWLS (ugh why did we already eat breakfast) and these crazy chocolate ball desserts. They are SUPER rich but it’s fun to try them and maybe share a couple if you’re in a group. But we definitely couldn’t finish it.

Alas we returned to the ferry port, arriving a bit early. KEY MOVE because we were able to snag seats on the top, open-air level. THIS WAS SUCH A BETTER EXPERIENCE. We got to sit in the sun and drink tonas with a double-volcano view. I did get motion sick only for about ten minutes, nevertheless this ferry ride was the obvious winner.

And now I’m realizing Nicaragua needs to be 3 parts because the last part of our trip was really special (it all was). Granada + The Treehouse/village visit next + and then I’ll recap on coliving and coworking in San Juan Del Sur. 🤘

Oh and here’s another pic of the Nicaraguan kitties being obsessed with Chris: