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Twin Peaks of Ometepe and Granada in a Day!

Coast of Riches: A Journey Through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama Day 2: A road trip to Ometepe the volcano islands and then to Granada for dinner, before heading back to San Juan del Sur.

Day’s Itinerary

It was strange to wake up with the sun shining in through the large balcony windows and realize that it was only 7:30 a.m. With the timezone difference it gets dark here at 6:30 p.m. I went outside on the terrace to see the view from the balcony of our room at the Pelican Eyes.

San Juan del Sur

We got ready and set out to explore the small town center of San Juan del Sur. Passing by a local bakery, we popped in to get breakfast. We picked out some raisin Danishes and typical Nica pastries that weren’t covered in ants.

Sipping on our refreshing mango drink, we walked toward the beach passing a countless number of colorful hostels, laundromats, tour offices, and restaurants.

Small church in the center of San Juan del Sur.
Small church in the center of San Juan del Sur.

Children splashed and played in the the shallow water of the dark sanded beach that stretched all the way down the bay. Along the beach road are neatly lined up beach view restaurants serving drinks and touristy food. The statue Christ of the Mercy sits high on the mountain watching over the bay.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy the beach at San Juan del Sur.
Locals and tourists alike enjoy the beach at San Juan del Sur.
Standing at 26 m high, this is the largest statue of Christ in Central America.
Standing at 26 m high, this is the largest statue of Christ in Central America.

We walked back to the hotel and spoke to Meylin at reception who kindly helped us organize for a driver from Avis to come pick up the car from the hotel and drive it back to Managua the next day. The driver service saving us half a day of driving only cost US$40!

Then we were off on our road trip driving to San Jorge through Rivas which was only about 30 minutes away. San Jose is a small port town where the ferries leave to Ometepe. After avoiding a travel company who tried to sell us tickets, we drove in and caught the last ferry JUST as the ferry leaving. We literally drove up, was waved on and had to ask at least three times to make sure we were on the right boat. There were no other cars on the ferry and the last ferry was suppose to have left 20 minutes ago. What great luck!

The ferry (~US$15 for two passengers and a car) was an hour ride. We sat on the top deck getting some sun with some German and American tourists on our way to the island.

Our little Toyota Yaris looked lonely by itself.
Our little Toyota Yaris looked lonely by itself on the way to Ometepe.
Approaching the twin peaks of Ometepe.
Approaching the twin peaks of Ometepe.

Ometepe

The magnificent twin volcano peaks rose out of Lake Nicaragua, intently surveying our vessel as we drew near. Clink clank off the boarding plank and onto the road! We drove across plains, livestock, and even right over an airstrip towards the stretch of land connecting the two volcanos.

Tip Top is everywhere... even in the small town of Moyogalpa, Ometepe.
Tip Top is everywhere… even in the small town of Moyogalpa, Ometepe.
A beautiful scenic drive...
A beautiful scenic drive…
First time driving ACROSS an airstrip!
First time driving ACROSS an airstrip!

We stopped at Hotel Villa Paraiso to have lunch and briefly enjoy the beach, Playa Santo Domingo. We sat with a view of the beach and lake, drinking Victoria beer while dining on an amazing meal of Nicaraguan style roasted chicken, Yukka, fried cheese, rice and beans.

View of the beach from Hotel Villa Paraiso.
View of the beach from Hotel Villa Paraiso.
Volcano Maderas seen from Playa Santo Domingo.
Volcano Maderas seen from Playa Santo Domingo. Also note the Country Shirt of Nicaragua!
Yukka, fried cheese, rice and beans really hit the spot.
Yukka, fried cheese, rice and beans really hit the spot.
A beautiful White-throated Magpie-Jay joins us for lunch!
A beautiful White-throated Magpie-Jay joins us for lunch!

We didn’t have much time knowing that the next ferry back to the mainland was 2:30 p.m. which we needed to catch in order to do some touring in Granada and Masaya. We had about 40 minutes to get back.

Driving quickly along the coastal road, we arrived right on time and the boat was still there, but were a bit discouraged to find that there were no cars or passengers. We asked the guys lounging around who confirmed that the ferry didn’t leave until 4 p.m. though several people were sure that there was a ferry leaving at 2:30 p.m.

This basically meant that our schedule was screwed.

So we took advantage of the extra time and explored a nearby beach, Punto Santa Maria de Jesus. This volcanic beach extended into the water and gradually became deeper, so “walking on water” pictures followed naturally.

Beach-combing Bill they call him.
Beach-combing Bill they call him.
Walking on Nicaragua lake.
Walking on Nicaragua lake.
The sand in these areas went from volcanic mud to a shell and pebble mix.
The sand in this area went from volcanic mud to a shell and pebble mix.

Then we took a swim and had a makeshift mud bath using the volcanic sand which had the texture of mud. The locals swimming besides us couldn’t stop staring.

Not wanting to miss the last ferry out, we drove over with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, we found out that the boat had reservations for the cars and we didn’t have one. After some back and forth, we managed to secure a ticket and boarded! I even had time to run to the nearby store to pick up a couple of cold Tona beers, another Nicaraguan original. While the other tourists were spending a week on the island, we visited Ometepe in less than 4 hours, which was 2 more than originally planned!

Beers and reminiscing made the ride back seem a lot shorter than going there. Arriving in San Jorge, we stopped on the beach to see the fishermen and families enjoying the sunset.

Quite a view from the beach of San Jorge!
Quite a view from the beach of San Jorge!
I spotted this knight and dragon statue very similar to one I saw in Stockholm!
I spotted this knight and dragon statue very similar to one I saw in Stockholm!

Granada

We took a fairly straightforward drive to Granada and arrived at night. After questioning several people we found the main cathedral, Cathedral de Granada. We went in for a brief tour. It was very quiet and the Jesus depictions were very gory.

Cathedral Granada dominated the square.
Cathedral Granada dominated the square.
Inside the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral.

From there we walked down and explored Calle La Calzada, a bustling street with hawkers, restaurants, bars and street performers. We had dinner at Comidas Tipicas y Mas. Several street vendors approached us while we ate trying to sell jewelry, cashews and one guy who seemed to be offering girls?

I tried the yukka with pork rinds and meat with a ginger mashed fruit cocktail.
I tried the yukka with pork rinds and meat with a ginger mashed fruit cocktail.

We walked down through Plaza de la Independencia and the park which seemed a bit seedy at night.

Colonial buildings in Plaza de la Independencia.
Colonial buildings in Plaza de la Independencia.

As we still had to drive back to San Juan del Sur, we decided to save the nightlife tour until we got back. Unfortunately after an hour and a half of driving and seeing the limited crowds out downtown, we decided to call it a night.

We had an early day tomorrow heading for the border and into Costa Rica!

David De Clercq

About David De Clercq

Founder and writer at World-Adventurer.com, David is on a mission to travel to every country in the world and has less than 10 countries left! He loves new adventures, unique cultures, historic landmarks, and luxurious hotels. Follow along as David shares a journey of a lifetime!