Planning a Trip
By Boat -- San Jorge port just outside Rivas is the main departure point to reach the island. The car/passenger Ferry Ometepe (tel. 505/459-4284 in Moyogalpa) departs at 10:30am, 2:30pm, and 5:30pm. The fare is C40 ($2/£1) per person and C570 ($30/£15) per vehicle, and the crossing takes approximately an hour. Vehicle owners should always call well in advance to book (at least 3 days) and again the day before. Try and get to the dockside office an hour before departure to get your tickets and ensure a spot. The ferry often leaves as soon as it fills up and before the appointed hour. The ferry returns to the mainland from Moyogalpa at 6:45am, 12:30pm, and 4pm.
A handful of other boats cross to Moyogalpa, leaving at 9am, 9:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, and 4:30pm. The fare is C30 ($1.60/80p) and, as on the ferry, the passengers are a colorful mix of locals toting cattle and fruit and whatever else they can get on board. The water can be choppy; it's best to go early in the morning or late in the evening for the smoothest sailing. The smaller boats return to San Jorge from Moyogalpa at 5:30am, 6am, 6:30am, 7am, 11am, 11:30am, and 1:30pm.
You can also get to Ometepe from Granada on a 4-hour voyage that leaves twice a week. The Mozorola (tel. 505/552-8764) leaves every Wednesday and Saturday at 11am and docks at Altagracia on the island. It returns every Tuesday and Friday at 11am. The fare is C80 ($4/£2). A ferry called the EPN leaves Granada every Monday and Thursday at 3pm, stopping in Altagracia before continuing south to San Miguelito and San Carlos. It returns through Altagracia every Tuesday and Friday at 11pm. Be aware, however, that if the sea is rough, the ferry may skip its stop at Altagracia altogether.
On Foot -- The island is a hiker's paradise, with numerous trails, but beware that some of the paths can be rough going and it is very easy to get lost. You will certainly need a guide for any treks up to the volcanoes.
By Car/Taxi -- If you want to travel around the island independently, you'll have to get a 4WD. Hotel Ometepetl rents old Toyotas and Suzukis for approximately C760 ($40/£20) for 12 hours. Taxis are plentiful and drivers will swarm you as soon as you step off the boat, as will touts selling rooms and tours.
A pickup taxi from the port to Santo Domingo beach should cost approximately C342 ($18/£9). Two reliable taxi services are Marvin Arcia (tel. 505/459-4114) and Rommel Gómez (tel. 505/459-4112).
By Bus -- Old school buses lumber around the island at hourly intervals between Moyogalpa and Altagracia, and they usually travel in a counterclockwise direction. The fare for these buses is C6 (30¢/15p). All buses leave directly from Moyogalpa dock. The journey between both towns takes 1 hour and, from Altagracia to Balgue, it takes another hour. There are less frequent services to outlying towns like San Ramon and Merida. The bus service on Sunday is much reduced and even sometimes nonexistent. Be warned, these bus journeys can be slow and uncomfortable and, if you are traveling across the isthmus, it can seem to take forever.
There is an Intur (no phone) office in the plaza of Altagracia. It is open from 9am to 1pm and 3 to 5pm Monday to Friday. Most of the hotels listed below are good sources of local information, too.
There are no banks on the island, so be sure to stuff your wallet in Rivas before boarding the boat. You can cash traveler's checks at the Hotel Ometepetl in Moyogalpa (tel. 505/569-4278) for a hefty 10% commission.
Hospital Moyogalpa (tel. 505/569-4247) is 3 blocks east of the plaza. Altagracia also has a small Centro de Salud (tel. 505/552-6089) on the southeast corner of the town plaza.
For Internet access in Moyogalpa, go to Arcia Cyber Café on the main street. It is open daily from 8am to 9pm. In Altagracia, the Casa Rural, on the south side of the plaza, has Internet service, as does the craft store Tienda Fashion, 1 block south of the park. For phone service, head to ENITEL in Moyogalpa, which is 1 1/2 blocks east of the principal street or the Altagracia office, which is in front of the plaza beside Museo Ometepe.
There is a post office in Altagracia, on the corner of the plaza beside the Museo Ometepe.
Ometepe Tours, in front of the ferry dock in San Jorge (tel. 505/563-4779 in San Jorge, or 569-4242 in Moyogalpa; www.ometepetours.com.ni), run an excellent 1-day tour of the island, which leaves San Jorge at 9:30am and arrives back on the mainland by 5pm. They also arrange multiday package stays with hotels and transport included.
On the island, you'll find several options regarding tours. Bernan Gómez (tel. 505/836-8360) is a reputable guide, as is the company Exploring Ometepe (tel. 505/895-5521; email@example.com). They also organize horse riding and rent out motorbikes. Also check out Ometepe Ecotours (tel. 505/569-4244; firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you decide to trek to the volcanoes, make sure you get a reputable guide (known as a baqueano) outfitted with a radio and first aid kit. Guide quality and prices can vary, so ask around before you decide.