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Ometepe Island is a fantastic Nicaragua destination with kids. It’s the perfect place to slow down and explore together. Kids will be fascinated by the volcanoes and jungle, and parents will appreciate the slower pace that island life creates. If you’re visiting Ometepe with kids, you’ll want to make sure to do these things!
What To Know Before Visiting Ometepe With Kids
Ometepe was our first stop on our 3 month Nicaragua trip, and there were a few things that came as surprise to me, that I wish someone had told me sooner. Hopefully they help you plan your trip there as well:
-Plan on spending 3-4 days max on Ometepe. We spent 6 and it was just too long.
-Food options are limited. There’s a Pali grocery store in Moyagalpa, but no other grocery stores on the island
-Plan on eating out more than cooking in since there aren’t as many places to buy groceries
-When you see healthy snacks – STOCK UP! Most of the pulperias just have junk food, so anything healthier is rare.
-Transportation is slow. There are a few taxis, but they often need to be arranged the day before. Make arrangements in advance (your hotel should help with this), or just get motorcycles or 4x4s to get around (the best option).
-Plan on lots of down time. We’ve listed just about every kid friendly activity on the island – this is really all there is. Bring books and a couple of games to keep the kids entertained in the down time.
Where to Stay in Ometepe with Kids
Our biggest mistake of our trip to Ometepe Island was where we stayed. We got a place in Moyagalpa, which was great after catching the last ferry of the day, but there isn’t a lot going on in Moyagalpa, so travel times to most activities are far. Instead, we wished that we had stayed closer to the middle of the island, between the two volcanos.
After checking out other places to stay for a future trip, here’s where we recommend families to stay on Ometepe Island Nicaragua:
This was our first pick for where to stay, but I hesitated and didn’t book immediately, and the next day, they were sold out for our dates (don’t make the same mistake – book quickly). The location is perfect for getting around the island, and they have one of the best views you can find. As a plus, they’ve got the most amazing pools on the island and are incredibly affordable!
This cute little hotel is based at a farm, so the kids will love staying here. It’s close to the lake, and still has plenty of room for kids to run around and play. We especially love the cooked to order breakfast option since there aren’t tons of great places to eat in Ometepe.
Ojo de Agua
If you’re going to choose to do one thing on Ometepe with kids, it’s visiting Ojo de Agua. IN fact, we loved it SO MUCH that I know that our kids would have been happy to go there several days in a row. If you’re going to be spending more than a few days on the island, you’ll want to plan on going here a couple of times.
Ojo de Agua is a natural swimming hole that was created when the river was dammed up to creat a large pool. The sides and bottom are lined with stones and the water is remarkably clear, so bringing goggles is a great idea, so you can see everything under the water. While it’s not a hot spring, the water is comfortably refreshing and is the best thing to do on Ometepe on a hot day.
Once you get inside, head down by the pool and get a table or chairs to use for the day. We recommend getting one that’s close to the water so that the kids can easily hop in and out throughout the day. The pool is almost a figure 8, separated by a bridge near one end. The east end of the pool has swings and a rope swing and jumping platform, and the west end of the pool is quieter and more tranquil.
When kids don’t want to swim, they can jump on the trampoline or play on the small playset. Really, this is a place that the whole family can be happy for hours, so plan on spending at least 4 hours here, but you could easily spend a full day.
Ojo de Agua cost $10 to get in and they will give you a $5 credit to spend on food and drinks. It’s not a super cheap thing to do on Ometepe, but considering that it can cover the cost of your lunch, it’s much more affordable. Kids 6 and under were free.
Rent a Motocycle or 4×4 to Explore Ometepe Island
Rental cars are incredibly expensive and hard to come by on Ometepe. To get around, you’ll need to hire a car and driver or rent a motorcycle, scooter, or a 4×4 quad bike.
We looked around at several places and typical costs for rentals on Ompetepe were:
Quad Bike 4×4 $60/day or $100/2 days
Initially I was pretty nervous about getting around on a motorcycle with kids, but it ended up being an unforgettable experience. It was SO much fun!
The views from the back of a motorcycle are stunning and the freedom that it gave us to explore was priceless. The roads on Ometepe pretty well maintained, but they do get twisty and steep in places, so make sure you’re comfortable with your riding abilities before renting. The main road on the island is paved, but if you’re riding a large loop, know that the road from La Flor to Altagracia is not paved, and the road between Balgue and Santa Cruz is not paved for a majority of the way. Truthfully, we were overall very impressed with the quality of the roads, even the dirt roads. The roads were only really bad between San Ramon and Merida.
Is It Safe To Ride a Motorcycle on Ometepe Island?
Yes, we felt very safe riding motorcycles and atv’s in Ometepe. WHile slower than cars and busses, we felt like all the drivers were very curteous and gave us plenty of space when passing us. Additionally, every company that we talked to for rentals had helmets available for us to use.
In our group, we had 5 kids and 3 adults so we got 2 motorcycle and 2 ATV’s. The motorcycle had one adult and one child and each of the ATV’s had 1 adult and 2 kids.
Visit Punta Jesus Maria at Sunset
IF you want the best place to see sunset on Ometepe Island, you need to head to Punta Jesus Maria. Located about a 5 minute drive from Moyogalpa, this is such a fun place to end the day with kids. There are lots of vendors there selling crafts and food, but they start to close up shop around 5, so if you want to avoid that side of things, just go a bit before the sun sets.
Typically, there is a sand peninsula, but we went at the end of a very wet rainy season and the lake level was so high that this peninsula was under water. As you go out to the point, there are black sand beaches for the kids to play along and our kids loved swimming, playing in the sand, and fishing there (even though we didn’t catch anything).
Hike A Volcano
Ometepe Island is created by 2 large volcanoes that can be seen far into the distance – Conception and Madera. As soon as we started our Ferry ride over to Ometepe Island with the kids, all they could do was talk about climbing to the top of a volcano. After doing some research, we opted for the slightly shorter and less exposed Volcano Madera.
The entire hike is about 6 miles round trip, which doesn’t seem bad until you consider that there are no switchbacks, and the trail is essentially straight up. The trail is in good shape and there are several places to stop for snacks, water, and a rest. The first half of the trail is in great shape, and we did it without much of a challenge. Once we got a little past halfway, we got into the cloud rainforest and the trail quickly changed. While being deep into the cloud rainforest in Nicaragua was incredible, the deep and slippery mud that came along with it made the hike incredibly hard. Thankfully, our guide gave us all walking sticks and they were essential to not slipping and falling all the time.
Our kids who were 8, 10, 13, and 15 were able to do the hike without many problems, but our 5-year-old had a harder time. A lot of the sections had areas where you needed to jump across large mud puddles and his legs simply were not long enough. As you can see, the kids were covered in mud by the end.
While everyone was happy that we made it to the top and were glad that we had done it, it’s not one that I would feel the need to do twice. The could forest was so thick that we couldn’t see anything beyond what was immediately around us and the mud was really difficult. At the end, our guide told us that while the hike up Madera is shorter and less steep, because of the mud on the trail, it’s significantly harder than the hike up Conception Volcano with kids. Next time we visit, we’ll do Conception instead.
Play at the Park in Altagracia
Having a park to relax at is always such a welcome break for parents traveling with kids. LIke most Central American towns, many of the towns in Ometepe have a central square with a park there. The best park and square that we found was in Altagracia and stopped there a couple of times on our trip. There are a few little restaurants on the outside of the square where you can grab food, and the playground is fun for the kids. The central square was pretty large and had a few fun photo ops throughout, which provided some fun for our teens while the younger kids were playing.
Bike Ometepe with Kids
There are a few options for renting bikes in Ometepe and if your kids are a little bit older and in good shape, you can go out for a longer bike ride with them. The best place to ride bikes with kids is around the southern loop around Volcano Madera. It’s pretty hilly there (especailly the eastern side) but the roads are in good shape and it’s a great way to see what everyday life on the island looks like as you’ll be riding through lots of tiny little villages and farms along the way.
If you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can bike the entire figure 8 loop around the island like we did. I took my teens, ages 13 and 15 on the full 56 mile loop and we had the best time. My kids are competitive bike racers, so we did the full loop in about 7 hours, but if you want something more managable, stay near Santa Cruz and do the northern loop one day and the southern loop another day. Our 10-year-old and possibly his 8-year-old brother would have both been able to do it in 2 days.
Note: we did not find any great places to rent bikes on Ometepe. The bikes were in functioning but not good condition, but we were mostly just thankful to find something that was mechanically sound for our Ometepe bike ride.
Play on the beach in Santa Cruz
If you want a relaxing day on Ometepe, plan some time to play at the beach. We went to the beach at Santa Cruz, which is a small fishing village on the west side of Ometepe. There’s a long stretch of black sand beach there and plenty of places along the road where you can pull off and enjoy the beach. Like I mentioned earlier, the lake was exceptionally high when we visited and the beaches were almost nonexistent because of how high the water was. If the water were lower, these beaches would be stunning and have incredible views!
Kayak Rio Istian
If you want to really experience and appreciate nature on Ometepe Island, there are few better places than on a kayak in Rio Istian. This small river meanders through the cloud forest in central Ometepe and is a great place to escape the heat of the day. There are several places where you can rent kayaks, but taking a tour is worth the time and money here. The tour guides are excellent and knew the river so well – we saw countless birds, monkeys, and even a coati. If you want to see wildlife while kayaking in Ometepe, book a guided tour for this expedition.
The kayak trip down Rio Istian lasts about 3-4 hours depending on which tour you choose and is a great way to see some of Ometepe’s wildlife up close while getting some exercise. The water is crystal clear and it’s one of the best things to do in Ometepe with kids.
Explore Charco Verde Reserve
If you have kids who like to explore nature, you’ll want to head to Charco Verde reserve. This reserve is located on the eastern side of Ometepe Island and there are some great trails around the lake. The best part about Charco Verde is that you can get a close look at some of the wildlife here, including howler monkeys and birds.
If you’d like to go on a guided tour, you can arrange that at the entrace to the reserve. These usually last about 1-2 hours and give you a chance to really explore the reserve. On these tours you’ll likely see some amazing birds, monkeys, iguanas, and even a few caimans!
If you’re traveling with kids to Ometepe, Charco Verde is a great place to explore and take in the beauty of the island.
Hike to San Ramone Waterfall
San Ramone Waterfall is a great thing to do with kids on Ometepe. It’s located on the Southern part of the island on the west side. The trail to the waterfall is about 4 miles round trip and is relatively easy. The path crosses a few small streams and the terrain changes from open agricultural land to lush jungle as you get closer to the waterfall.
When you get to San Ramone, you will be amazed at how powerful the waterfall is. There’s a big pool at the bottom of the falls where you can swim and cool off after your hike. It’s a great spot to take in the beauty of Ometepe Island with kids.
NOTE: This waterfall is best from June – December during the rainy season. Other times of teh year, the waterfall is incredible small and at times it’s barely flowing. Make sure to ask at your hotel what the waterfall is like.