A small international airport is set to open on Ometepe in 2013 with initial flights originating in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and Costa Rica. Until then, daily ferry service remains the main way to reach the island. The Rey de Cocibolca is a community-owned 1,300-passenger boat that departs daily from San Jorge on the mainland and travels to San Jose del Sur on Ometepe. It’s larger than other ferries on the lake and therefore more stable over the often-choppy waters, making the hourlong crossing much more pleasant ($2.50 per person).
Where to eat
A growing number of chefs are taking advantage of the permaculture boom on Ometepe, putting fresh ingredients to delicious use. Café Campestre, opened four years ago in the village of Balgue by chef Ben Slow, is a rustic chic café staffed by locals including a pair of talented sisters, Helen and Cineida, who cook and serve from a tight menu of international dishes. Look forward to homemade pasta, chicken Thai curry, fresh-baked bread and more (from $4 for entrees; ometepe.moonfruit.com). Most ingredients come from Slow’s 30-acre organic farm on the island or from other local growers.
Cornerhouse Café in Moyogalpa serves breakfast and lunch including the best eggs Benedict in Nicaragua, a wonderful sliced steak salad and homemade bread, all made with local and organic ingredients (from $4.50 for entrees; www.thecorner houseometepe.com). Dinner service may be added in 2013.
There’s no shortage of good coffee on Ometepe either. Finca Magdalena (www.fincamagdalena.com), a 100-year-old home on a large coffee farm near Balgue, has been turned into a homey hotel and restaurant, where the cool breeze and sweeping island views make the coffee, grown feet from where you’re drinking it, taste even better.
Where to Stay
The Cornerhouse, in the island’s main port town of Moyogalpa in the shadow of Concepción Volcano, has four simple, chic rooms located above its excellent café of the same name (from $30 double occupancy; www.thecornerhouseometepe.com).
In the hills above Balgue lies Totoco Eco-Lodge with eight stylish, stand alone thatch-roof cabins with hammocks on the porches, pristine composting toilets and solar power (from $110 double occupancy; http://totoco.com.ni). Totoco is also the spot for the best volcano views on the island with the flanks of Maderas Volcano behind the property and Concepción Volcano’s perfect cone in front of it. There’s also a pool and a breezy bar and restaurant.
Attractions and activities are spread around Ometepe Island, which is 20 miles long and 5 to 10 miles wide. Public bus service is limited and unpredictable and many visitors who don’t want to bring a rental car to the island via ferry opt to rent a motorcycle from one of many vendors on the island. Before finalizing your rental, take the motorcycle for a quick ride around the block to check the brakes and other mechanics. Get the phone number of the rental shop in case you run into problems. And take pictures of any existing damage on the bike before departing so you can’t be charged later for damage you did not cause. Many of the main roads on Ometepe have been recently upgraded with interlocking paving stones and this roadwork is slowly progressing around the island.