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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

How to get to Ometepe, Nicaragua by bus and ferry

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Ometepe is an island on Lago Cocibolca created by two volcanoes. Due to this, getting to Ometepe is going to either involve a flight or a boat. At the time of writing this article (June '23) La Costena Airline has discontinued the flight due to low demand, so short of chartering a plane, bus and boat is the only way to get there.


Depending if you are tackling the Gringo trail heading north or South, or if you’ve made the extra effort to head over to the Corn Islands there are a number of different places you could be coming from. I will try and cover the most popular in this post. There are tourist shuttles that can get you across the country, but they are considerably more expensive.


The boats to Ometepe leave from a small town called San Jorge, close to Rivas, so wherever you are in the country the first step will be to get to Rivas bus station (Terminal de buses de Rivas).

Concepcion Volcano reflecting in Charco Verde lake
Concepcion Volcano at Charco Verde

**This blog was written based on our experience travelling to Ometepe in June 2023, therefore the prices and schedules were correct as of that time.**

 

Table of Contents


 

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How to get to Ometepe from Granada


Granada to Rivas

A popular route for those not venturing over to the Corn Islands is from Granada to Ometepe, via Rivas. There is sometimes a ferry between Granada and Ometepe but it’s currently suspended due to low water levels in the lake. The ferry used to run once a week, on a Monday, in the evening at 5 pm to San Jose. When it did run it wasn’t the best option, as San Jose is not the best base for a backpacker. Therefore getting from Granada to Ometepe is best to go via Rivas.


The direct buses between Granada and Rivas leave roughly every 1.5 hours from 5:50 am. The buses depart from Nueva Terminal de buses a Rivas. The chicken bus takes around 2 hours and the cost is C$70. Upon arriving in Rivas follow steps from Rivas to San Jorge onwards.


Alternative: If you arrive at the bus station in Granada and there are no buses for over an hour you can choose to take the bus to Nanadaime which costs C$20 (30 minutes) and then take the more frequent chicken bus from Nanadaime to Granada, which costs C$50-100 and takes around 1.5 hours. If you tell the Ayudente (attendant) on the Nanadaime bus that you want to go to Rivas they will tell you where to get off for the next bus. As above, after arriving in Rivas follow steps from Rivas to San Jorge onwards.


How to get to Ometepe from The Corn Islands


This journey is a long one, you can attempt it without a break but we chose to stay in Managua for a night at Ecotel, which cost $18 for a private double with air-con, including breakfast.


The Corn Island ferry only runs back to the mainland on Thursdays & Sundays. An alternative is to take a flight with La Costena which runs daily but does cost much more.


Step 1: Little Corn to Big Corn panga

If you are staying on Big Corn, jump to the next step.

If you are on Little Corn you will have an early start. The morning Panga leaves at 6:30 am daily. The panga takes 30-45 minutes depending on sea conditions and costs $10/C$360.


Step 2: Big Corn to Bluefields ferry

The ferry from Big Corn to Bluefields runs every Thursday and Sunday at 9 am. When you get off the panga the ferry will be already there. Go to register (someone comes round for payment during the crossing) and grab a seat near the air-con as it can get a little warm on the crossing. Once you have a seat you can leave the boat to grab breakfast etc, as you will have an hour or so.

The crossing takes 6-6.5 hours depending on sea conditions and costs C$255.


Step 3: Bluefields to Managua

Here’s when decision time comes in. Those wanting to save every penny will hang around in Bluefields for the 9 pm or 11 pm bus to save a night’s accommodation. We opted to get a taxi straight to the bus station for C$30pp and get the 4:15 pm bus to Managua. The bus from Bluefields to Managua costs C$320 and takes 6 hours including a dinner stop.


Whether you opt to take the night bus and then sleep in the bus station for an hour or two, or get a budget hotel, the bus arrives in Managua at the Costa Caribe bus station on the east of the city so will involve getting a taxi. The bus from Managua to Rivas leaves from Terminal de Autobuses, Mercado Roberto Huembes, and the Ecotel is relatively close. The taxi should cost C$100-120 per person.


From here follow steps from Managua to Rivas onwards.


How to get to Ometepe from Leon


This is not a route you will likely take as you will be missing Granada and the Corn Islands, however, if you are in a rush it is an easy trip to follow.


Leon to Managua

The buses leave from the Terminal de buses in Leon which is in the east of the city. It is possible to walk from the centre but it’s quite a walk with backpacks on and a taxi will only cost roughly C$50 per person.


The buses from the Terminal de buses in Leon leave regularly, the journey takes 2 hours and costs C$78 including a large backpack.


From here follow the steps from Managua to Rivas onwards.


Managua to Rivas

The buses from Managua to Rivas leave every 20/30 minutes from the Terminal de Autobuses, Mercado Roberto Huembes. The Terminal de Autobuses, Mercado Roberto Huembes in Managua is one of those bus stations which are like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. Becca hates it but I find there is a certain charm in the dirty and loud chaos of it. Be warned, there will be lots of people shouting at you, take a little time to negotiate the price, don’t just jump on the bus as the first price we were quoted was C$150 but ended up paying $85. The bus from Managua to Rivas takes about 2.5 hours.


Tip - Sometimes on the approach to Rivas, at a place called La Rotunda, men will get on the bus and say that this is the stop for those going to Ometepe. Whilst it is possible to negotiate a fair price for a taxi or collectivo from here to San Jorge, often travellers are forced to pay extremely inflated prices. We would advise staying on the bus until you reach Rivas bus terminal and getting a taxi from there. Again, unfortunately, you will have to negotiate but the prices seem to be lower than getting off at La Rotunda.

From here follow the steps from Rivas to San Jorge onwards.


How to get to Ometepe from San Juan del Sur


This is a well-trodden route which we have a dedicated post to the reverse journey. In San Juan del Sur, head to the bus stop outside Mercado Municipal San Juan del Sur (this will be the place you were dropped off when you arrived). The buses leave from here every 40 minutes so if there is not one waiting ask a local to make sure you are in the right spot.


The journey from San Juan del Sur takes 45 minutes and should cost C$25 but we were overcharged at C$50 due to having bags! There are many scams with the buses in southern Nicaragua, they should not charge for bags but there is only so much protesting you can do!


From here follow the steps from Rivas to San Jorge onwards.


Rivas to San Jorge


From the terminal de buses in Rivas, take a shared taxi, which will cost C$40-50 per person, depending on your bartering skills. The drive takes around 15 minutes.


At the ferry port in San Jorge


Don’t make the same mistake we did! We saw the timetable stating that a ferry or lancha leaves roughly every 30 minutes and decided to grab some lunch before getting our ticket. We had some lovely pasta at El Navegante, overlooking the impressive sight of the twin volcanoes on Ometepe, only to find when we walked to the ticket stand that we didn’t have enough time to get the 2:30 pm ferry, the 3:30 pm lancha was broken, so we had an hour and a half wait for the 4:00 pm ferry!


Note: As a foreigner you will need to pay $1/C$36 port tax upon entering the port.


Ferry to Ometepe


Ometepe sits on Lake Cocibolca (also known as Lake Nicaragua/Granada) and is the largest freshwater lake in Central America. Due to this, at certain times of the year, it can get a little choppy. Our crossing to Ometepe was super smooth, depending on what time of year you visit Nicaragua the weather can vary. November to February, on average, is the windiest so can cause choppy crossings. If the lake looks a little rough and you are known to get motion sickness it’s a good idea to take the ferry over a lancha.

If you do get motion sickness and you haven’t left home yet, Becca swears by these anti-sickness bands. She isn’t sure if it’s simply a placebo but she says they definitely make a difference!


The ferry cost C$50.

Lancha C$35/45 depending on the company (see table below for times and company).



Ometepe bus Schedule


Unfortunately, the bus schedule on Ometepe is infrequent at best and the bus is pretty much non-existent on Sundays! Once you are at your place of residence it's probably a good idea to hire a scooter or ATV but 2 people, 2 backpacks, 2 daysacks on 1 scooter doesn't work by anyone's calculations.... well, maybe it does in Vietnam, but I'm not skilled enough at riding a bike to work that. Due to this, I'd advise taking the bus or a shuttle to where you are staying then rent some wheels from there!


A bus around the island costs C$40.

Moyogalpa

San Jose

Altagracia

S. Domingo

Balgue

Merida

San Ramon

NA

NA

4:30

5:00

5:30

NA

NA

NA

NA

7:30

8:00

NA

9:00

NA

8:20

8:55

9:30

10:00

10:30

NA

NA

9:30

10:00

10:30

11:00

NA

15:30

16:00

10:15

10:45

11:30

12:00

12:30

NA

NA

NA

NA

13:30

14:00

14:30

NA

NA

NA

NA

14:00

14:30

NA

15:30

16:00

14:40

15:00

116:00

16:30

NA

17:30

NA

15:45

16:05

16:30

17:00

17:30

NA

NA

16:40

17:00

17:30

18:00

NA

19:00

NA

San Ramon

Merida

Balgue

S. Domingo

Altagracia

San Jose

Moyogalpa

NA

NA

NA

4:45

5:15

5:40

6:00

NA

4:00

NA

5:00

5:30

5:55

6:20

NA

NA

5:30

5:55

6:15

6:40

7:00

5:15

5:45

NA

6:15

6:45

NA

NA

NA

NA

8:00

8:30

9:00

NA

NA

NA

8:30

NA

9:15

10:30

11:00

11:30

9:45

10:15

NA

11:15

11:45

NA

NA

NA

NA

13:30

14:00

14:30

15:00

15:30

NA

NA

14:00

14:30

15:00

NA

NA

15:00

15:30

NA

16:30

17:00

17:30

18:00

NA

NA

16:30

17:00

17:30

NA

NA

The above schedule was correct as of June 2023 and taken from Ometepenicaragua.com but if you are already on the island it's good to check with your hostel, a local or a bus driver to be 100% sure. You will notice in the schedule above that not all buses go to all stops, so at certain times of day, it may be more convenient to change in San Domingo or Altagracia.


As always we'd love to hear in the comments how you get on or whether any of the schedules detailed here need updating.


Happy travels!

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Feb 03

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