My friends and I decided that the best way to see the entirety of Isla Ometepe was to rent an ATV and a moto from Moyogalpa. We found a place right across from the gas station and next door to The Cornerhouse bed and breakfast (great place to eat by the way!) with motos out front, with a yellow sign saying Bar and Restaurante Bahia. We got a deal for a quad and a moto for US$60 for the whole day. After about an hour and a half of cruising the island, the quad broke down. We sat on the side of the road for another hour and a half waiting for a mechanic to come and save us, he got it started, but we had to take it back since we weren't going to be able to start it on our own (basically, when I had to stop, I had to keep it idling so it wouldn't shut off again) When we got back to the shop, I put gas in it and said that we wanted our money back. After arguing with them for an hour, and them threatening to call the police on us, we agreed to get US$40 refund (we just wanted to be done with the whole ordeal) After waiting for our money for another half hour, they tried to give us $30 dollars, saying that we used the bikes for 4 hours. After explaining to them that they had just agreed to 40, they again threatened to call the police and started cursing at me. At this point I got angry and they got angrier, pulling a chair out from under my friend, threw it at her and said some unsavory things. We ended up only getting US$20 refund. I recommend this place if you want to be ripped off and abused, if not, there are some perfectly good places right around the corner.
After paid 10 cd. for port fee ..show the receipt to police or guard who take care of opening and closing the gate.If we pay .. he open the gate .. and close immediatly.(See from the picture)
From the second picture you'll see both volcanoes, Concepción and Maderas, even obstructed by the fence but kinda "can't wait" to get the picture.You''ll get better picture on the boat.It's very wavy.. but still you can get good pictures.
It's only a lake...but the wave is like the sea.If anybody has sea sickness,..take pill at least 30 minutes before get on the boat.I didn't have any pill so I got sick the whole route.Sleepless make you more seasick, ..so if no pill ..try to sleep well before crusing.
Normally there will be a bus waiting for passenger at Moyogalpa whenever the boat or ferry arrive.So if you don't want to stay in Moyogalpa,don't waste time...,just follow the local .Almost all of them will take the bus .The bus parking not far from the pier.Driver will honk when they are ready to leave.Tell them where you will go.That bus may not reach your final destination but most bus will go to Altagracia.I suggest to take that bus and try to catch another bus from Altagracia or what ever you can find,because there are not much frequent bus on the islands.If you miss a bus ,you have to wait for another hour or more. On this islands ,we have to plan the time of travelling well,especially on weekend which there are much less frequent bus.
The bus fee from Moyogalpa to Altagracia is 16 cd. per person.
On a hike back from Finca Magdalena I was offered a lift from a friendly American mother and son couple, Kate and David. Being quite exhausted from a long hike in the heat I excepted. They were looking for accommodation for a night. I told them about the beautiful Finca El Porvenir where I was staying so they came with me to have a look. They loved the place and were happy to stay. We had a lovely evening together. The next morning they were leaving for Granada (same as me) and they offered I could join them. I was more than happy with the transportation as I wanted to arrive in Granada as soon as possible, to be able to arrive in Leon in time.
We left Finca El Porvenir early in the morning and stopped for breakfast at Hotel Villa Paraiso in Playa Santo Domingo. Just a short ride from there is Ojo de Agua, two crystal-clear water pools surrounded by tropical forest. After having a refreshing dip we headed to Moyogalpa to catch the 11am ferry to San Jorge. It took one hour and it was 50 cordobas (December 2010). In Rivas we made a short break at Tip-Top (a fastfood chain of restaurants in Nicaragua, predominantly selling chicken). Ladies needed the toilet and David bought himself a quick lunch which he ate then in the car.
We arrived in Granada at 1:30pm. They brought me to Hospedaje Café Ruíz where I just changed my luggage. And at 2pm I was already on the bus to Managua with the connection to Leon.
While I was having coffee in the bar next to the ferry terminal a guy came to me asking if I needed a taxi from San José del Sur to my accommodation. He wanted 20 US $ which I found too expensive. I intended to wait for the bus instead. Later on he came back telling me there was a small group of people (a family of four) that was going to do a day tour on the island. I could join them to Finca El Porvenir where I was staying and we agreed on the price of 10 US $. A visit of El Porvenir and the petroglyphes was on their itinerery anyway, they just did it at the beginning instead of at the end of their tour.
To get from San José del Sur to Finca El Porvenir it was a pleasant one hour ride. On the way the driver explained things about the island and he told us some interesting stories. And it was very convenient to have a transportation right to the place where I was staying. Actually, I was quite lucky :)
There is a good bus connection between Granada and Rivas. Chicken buses leave from a block south of the market, across from the Shell station. I left my hotel at 5:30 in the morning with the intention to catch the earliest bus to Rivas. The first one only left at 6:30am so I had enough time to wander around the market which was becoming lively with people bringing large heaps of fruits and vegetables for sale.
The bus was rather full when we left. With many stops on the way, after 1,5 hours we finally arrived to the bus terminal in Rivas. It's a rather bustling terminal and it took a while until I found a taxi to San Jorge. The taxi driver dropped me off at the ferry terminal from where the ferries leave to Isla de Ometepe. There are two ports to land on Isla de Ometepe, Moyagalpa and San José del Sur. I took a 9:30am ferry to San José del Sur. The ticket was 50 córdobas (December 2010) and I bought it on board. The journey took one hour.
From Granada ,take the bus from bus station opposite to shell station near mercado to Rivas.Bus to Rivas cost 24 c.d per person,take 1 and half hour to get there.Try to take the very first bus at around 5.45 in order to catch the first big ferry at 7.45. (in my case I don't like small boat (lancha)because I have sea sick easily) When arriving at Rivas ,take taxi to San Jorge port.The price for shared taxi used to be some thing like 20 c.d per person but that day it's hard to find any taxi who accept this price ,even when I do the trick of walking away to find some other taxi,no body called me back ,everybody asked for at least 30 c.d per person.The last moment before I accept 30 c.d price,there's one taxi calling us with price of 20 but I have to sit tight with another 3 passengers!! so totally 5 passengers plus 1 driver!! We were in taxi about 6 minutes.At San Jorge port we paid 10 c.d each for port fee.We bought ferry ticket from a small booth ,ferry cost 60 c.d (lancha will be cheaper,I think it's about half price).There will be the boat depart from San Jorge to Moyogalpa around every hour on week day ,if weekend there are much less frequent. The big ferry will depart at 7.45,10.30,14.30 and 17.40.It took 1 hour on the ferry to get to Moyogalpa.
The Ferry runs twice a week. We took the 2 PM ferry on thursday for 90 Cordobas (about $4.50 each). Comfortable air conditioned seating area on the upper deck with great view coming into the island. cheap eats from the downstairs galley. Arrived just after sunset September 9th. We took one of only two available taxis, a seven passenger Toyota minivan with eleven passengers inside and I found out there were 3 more people on the roof/luggage rack after the van broke down just short of Altagracia. We all walked the remaining distance in the dark. A good bonding experience with our fellow shipmates/taxi mates. The ferry makes several other stops beyond Altagracia and returns to Granada in the wee hours.
July 2009 only the southern road between Moyogalpa and Altagracia was paved, all other roads on Isla de Ometepe were rough dirt roads.
Between Moyogalpa and Altagracia the buses run every hour and the ride takes one hour (along the southern paved road). To other destinations buses are less frequent. There are more buses to Merida and Balgüe from Altagracia than from Moyogalpa, so if there are no direct bus you can go off in Las Esquinas and wait for a connection there.
The day I had been checking out El Porvenir and was going back to Playa Venecia I started to walk along the road. Shortly after Santa Cruz a minibus passed me and this might have been a public transportation, but I don’t know. Anyway I walk for almost 1.5 hours until another bus came.
Playa Venecia - Altagracia was 10 cordobas.
Altagracia - El Porvenir was 10 cordobas.
El Porvenir - Moyogalpa was 20 cordobas (1 dollar).
There are a few direct buses every day departing from Merida going to Moyogalpa. I took the bus passing El Porvenir just after 9am. A woman waiting for the same bus as I told me that the lancha/ferry in Moyogalpa usually waited if the bus was late. From El Porvenir to Moyogalpa it took 2 hours and it was 20 cordobas (July 2009). In Moyogalpa the bus stopped just by the ferry terminal.
The lancha (small boat) left on time 11.30 for San Jorge on the mainland. The boat journey took 1 hour and the ticket was 30 cordobas (1.50 dollars). From San Jorge I shared taxi with two other persons and we paid 20 cordobas each to go to the bus terminal in Rivas. The taxi would have been 20 cordobas each even if we had been two passengers.
In Rivas I waited more than half an hour for the bus to Granada. The terminal is busy and you will find lots of food, snacks and drinks to buy and people to watch while you are waiting. The bus to Granada was one of those repainted old American school buses, so common in Nicaragua. To Granada it took 1.5 hours and the ticket was 24 cordobas. In Granada the bus stopped one block south of Mercado Muncipal.
Twice a week there is a ferry going to Granada from Altagracia. It takes 4 hours.
Buses leave San Juan del Sur about every half an hour for Rivas. The bus ride takes 45 minutes and cost 15 cordobas (July 2009). At the bus station in Rivas I asked for a bus to San Jorge, from where the ferries leave for Isla de Ometepe, and was told that there are minibuses passing on the street. Before I had time to cross the street a taxi driver told me he could take me to the port for 40 cordobas.
I took the taxi from Rivas to San Jorge and as I went into the car a friend of the taxi driver also went into the car. As the taxi left the station two men shouted ”take care”. Soon after the friend of the taxi driver took out a big tool. Having read in the newspaper only the previous day about fake taxi drivers robbing their customers in another Nicaraguan city I felt that this might be very bad, so when the car turned in a direction I thought was wrong I said that this is not good. The taxi driver assured me it was the right way and soon after his friend left. Arriving at the port of San Jorge I told the taxi drivers what I had read about taxis in Nicaragua and he just laughed and said that this is not Managua.
From San Jorge to Isla de Ometepe there are several boats per day. The ferry (bigger boat) only leaves twice a day, but the lancha (smaller boat) leaves more often. At the port I paid the admission of 10 cordobas (July 2009) and then sat down in the waiting hall for a while. The lancha was a little late arriving from Isla de Ometepe so we didn’t depart on time. When it was time to board the boat everyone tried to get on at once so for some time it was a bit chaotic. But soon everyone had taken a seat and we left. The tickets were sold on board and it was 30 cordobas. The boat ride took one hour. It was a bit wavy but not rough.
The boat stops in Moyogalpa, a small town on the western side of Isla de Ometepe. Here I arranged for a hike to Volcán Concepión and went to the supermarket to buy water and snacks. Then I bought an ice cream at Eskimos and sat down at the pavement waiting for the next bus. While I was waiting a pickup from Hotel Finca Playa Venecia (where I was going) stopped and said I could go with them, they were only picking up a couple of tourists arriving with the next lancha, which were arriving soon.
Renting a 4x4 is a nice way to get around the island but don't do it if you don't have really good Spanish. The reason is that you will need to make reservations to get your rental car on the ferry. This process is not easy even for Nicaraguans. There are no car rentals on the island but there are plenty of mini bus services available. The car rental arrangements can be made in Granada or Managua. The roads are fine. Once on the island, a dirt bike or ATV would be awesome; unfortunatley no one rents them on the island. Since most people seem to be afraid to drive in Nicaragua, they relay on taxi, shuttles and tour companies. There are plenty of ways to get to the port of San Jorge from Granada and Managua. I would suggest using a tour company that has a shuttle service like Grayline Tours. Once you get on the island there are plenty of taxis waiting. If you scheduled a hotel reservation, be sure to also schedule a pick up at the port when you arrive. This is normally free.
There are various daily ferries from San Jorge to Moyogalpa, also are small boats (less comfortables than the ferry). The trip takes one hour and you can choose where do you want to go. The best place for me is in the upper deck, taking sun with a strong breeze and enjoying the beautiful views, but if you want there are two decks with air conditioning. You can paid inside the ferry, the cost is 60 cordobas (aprox $ 3.5).
When you are in San Carlos: after you took the boat from Altagracia, you can take a direct boat that will take you to the other side of the border with the southern neighbours, Costa Rica. The main border crossing between the two countries is in the west, at the road south from Rivas, but if you want to have a much more quiet and special crossing, you should really take this option.
Three times daily (at 10:30, 13:00 and 16:00) you can catch a boat that departs from a small dock in the middle of a normal street in San Carlos. When you leave the main harbour, turn left and after 200 metres the entrance is at your left. Over here you'll find the immigration who will ask you to pay an exit fee of about 2 dollars, and then you can immediately get into the boat that is 5 metres further, after registering and paying the 5 dollars for the trip.
The boat is very uncomfortable and my behind was killing after the trip that took about an hour. But the trip takes you through another great landscape with small villages every now and then in between beautiful, green forests.
When you arrive in Costa Rica, in a village called Los Chiles, you have to get your entrance stamp and then you're in...
One of the most spectacular regions in Nicaragua definitely is the southeast of the country. The only problem is that this area is very difficult to reach. You can get there by bus from Granada, but then it will take you a full day. Another great way to reach this part of the country is by boat. This boat departs a few times a week from Granada, but it also stops in Altagracia on Isla de Ometepe.
Every week on Mondays and Thursday, around 18:00 h, the cargoboat arrives in the harbour of Altagracia. At the ticketoffice you can buy a -very cheap- ticket for this boat, and 10 hours later you'll arrive in the city San Carlos, at the other side of the Lago de Nicaragua. A ticket for this trip (in First Class) costs 4 dollars. For this money you can a seat on a wooden bench with a thin pillow on it, instead of the solid wooden bench that you can get for only 2,50 dollars in Second Class.
Because the boat travels only in the dark you hardly see anything of the environment, but the trip still is something special. Inside the boat you can try to have a sleep or watch one of the stupid movies they play. But outside on the deck you can enjoy the silence at night, the fresh breeze and the pleasing sound of the water beneath you.
The other way, from San Carlos to Altagracia, the boats depart on Tuesdays and Fridays. Boats from Altagracia to Granada depart on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and boats from Granada to Altagracia leave the harbour on Mondays and Thursday around 14:00.