We won't exaggerate if we say it was one of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) sunsets in our life.
Getting to Punta Jesus Maria is easy and cheap if you live in San Jose - just take one of the rickshaws from a street. As a bonus, on the way to the Punta, you will cross an airstrip of the local "airport," which normally serves as a playing field for the local kids and youngsters.
Just remember to leave San Jose before 5 pm - the sun goes down very quickly.
There are several ways to get to Ometepe. One is a direct ferry between Granada and Altagracia. It runs twice a week and takes 6 hours to reach the island. Unfortunately, due to the low water level of Lake Nicaragua, the ferry gets frequently canceled.
The better idea is to take a bus from Granada to San Jorge, where the big ferry terminal operates every day, and from where the vessels leave to San Jose del Sur (a small town in the western part of Ometepe Island).
To do so, you might:
1) take a public bus to Rivas ( a small town about 6 kilometers from the ferry terminal) (the buses run frequently) and then take a taxi (also possibly a shared taxi) to the ferry terminal in San Jorge;
2) take a public bus directly to San Jorge (not so frequent);
3) take a shuttle bus (read: a tourist bus) directly to San Jorge (it is more expensive, but it picks you up from your hotel). We chose the third option, and it had its cons (we write about them here: How to plan a trip to Nicaragua, day 6). You will get the tickets in all tourist offices in Granada.
As our time on Ometepe was very limited, we decided to stay close to the ferry terminal, which meant San Jose del Sur.
San Jose is the biggest settlement on the island, full of hotels, hostels, and restaurants. Which is very helpful if you come without any booking (like we did). On the other hand, the town is loud and deprived of any charm.
If you come for longer, we would recommend Santo Domingo. That part of Ometepe is, in our opinion, the most beautiful and will provide you with access to both: a lovely beach (Playa de Santo Domingo) and Ojo de Agua (the cool water swimming pools). The hotels and restaurants in Santo Domingo were not as frequent as in San Jose, but they looked very nice.
Public buses are running between the main towns on the island (in San Jose, you will find the bus stop right next to the exit from the ferry), but not that often. You might need to take a taxi.
Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America. Some call it the biggest sewage in Central America, but if it's any true - it concerns the beaches near the bigger towns, like Granada.
In Ometepe avoid the area near San Jose del Sur, where most of the hotels are located and where the ferries run.
We found the perfect beach near Santo Domingo. Cool, wavy waters with picturesque surroundings, plus peace and quiet (not many tourists choose the place) - it is a perfect chill out destination. If you're lucky (or come here for longer than a couple of hours), you might spot a herd of horses galloping along the shore (there's a horse stud nearby so you might join the galloping if you know how to ride a horse).
One scary piece of information: Lake Nicaragua is home to the bull sharks.
They were thought to be the fresh water species, trapped in the lake (that used to be a bay) after a gap connecting it to the Pacific Ocean had closed. Right now the new theory says they are the regular sharks entering the lake through the San Juan River. Whatever the explanation might be, their presence in the lake is a fact.
Good news: I tried to find any reliable information about the shark attacks in Lake Nicaragua, and I failed. They seem to avoid contacts with humans...
Located within walking distance from the Santo Domingo beach, Ojo de Agua is a place you want to visit on a hot, sunny day (which basically means any day in Ometepe).
The natural pools, filled with volcanic water coming from the Concepcion Volcano are supposed to be rich in mineral components with healing and rejuvenating qualities. We don't know about the healing, but we swear that soaking in pleasantly cool water with a coconut drink made us feel ten years younger.
To enter this time machine spa, you have to pay a small fee. There are some cabins to be rented on the site if you want to enjoy it for longer (with breakfast and free access to the pools included in the price). Ojo de Agua also has its own restaurant, and the handicraft stands as well as showers, changing rooms and the toilets.
Oh, and no sharks here.
Kayaking on Lake Nicaragua is the kind of experience you will never forget. There are several options to choose from. You might limit your trip exclusively to the lake shore, or you might join it with the exploration of the Istian River.
The Istian River, as the name might suggest, runs across the isthmus between the island of the Maderas Volcano and the island of the Concepcion Volcano. The river is a sanctuary for countless species of birds, so the best time for a visit is early morning.
Hard to believe, but the figures were the key factor that persuaded Chris to put Ometepe in our itinerary. He's a major freak when it comes to the ancient anthropomorphic statues (if you're one as well, check our article "What to see and do in Nicaragua." We write about the museum in Juigalpa where you will find more of them).
The statues are located in front of the Catholic church in Altagracia. And the church is located just across the street from the public bus stop, so they are very easy to find.
You will find more statues (plus some petroglyphs) in the Altagracia Museum.
Other petroglyphs are scattered around the island, some still resting in their original locations (check Hotel Finca Porvenir or Finca Magdalena, both on the slopes of the volcano Maderas).
Both of them, Concepcion and Maderas, can be reached.
It takes about 10 hours to get to the peak of Concepcion and 8 hours - to the peak of Maderas.
The Concepcion volcano is still active (you should be aware of it), but gets you a chance to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view. Of course, if you're lucky and there are no clouds (which means hardly ever).
The Maderas, on the other hand, is an extinct volcano but provides no view at all from its peak. Instead, you can swim in the crater lake, surrounded by the cloud forest.
The choice is yours.
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