San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ometepe: One Island, Multiple Destinations

My entrance into Charco Verde Nature Reserve was uneventful, considering I was expecting angry howler monkeys to throw poop at me. They didn’t.

I had read in a Nicaragua guide book that this might happen. Instead, I was greeted by swarms of aggressively swooping blue-tailed magpies, OmetepeIsland’s official bird.

To walk along the thin slice of land between Lake Nicaragua and OmetepeIsland’s Charco Verde (Green Lagoon), is to straddle a 15-yard wide wind-swept isthmus inundated with wildlife. Not only does one run into monkeys and magpies, but all other sorts of colorful bird species nesting in fruit-ripened trees.

Here you can eat all the fruit you want, but be careful: It might not be a good idea to take any with you. According to local legend, whoever takes the fruit from Charco Verde is condemned to live beneath the lagoon.

Manuel Hamilton Silva, a local historian and director of the museum, explains that the history of the Charco Verde lagoon is also haunted by the legend of Mama Bucha, and her son Chico Largo (Spanish for Long Boy).

Legend has it that Chico Largo, a tall Ometepe-born arms dealer who practiced witchcraft and made a deal with the devil, was said to have gained possession of this corner of the volcanic island. Chico Largo reportedly approaches lost travelers in the forest and makes them a deal: wealth and prosperity in exchange for their soul.

Another version of the legend has lost hikers turned into cows if they encounter Chico Largo in the forest. This local myth came about as butchers in other parts of Nicaragua reported that they were receiving cows from Ometepe that had gold teeth, as if they were people who had cavity work done in past lives, Silva said.

The story of the Chico Largo marks the rich history of this island and its ancient traditions, which are preserved in oral traditions, petroglyphs and countless indigenous grave sites.

“People from here invented this legend. Many believe it like it’s real.We picked it up here and there,” Silva said of Chico Largo, whose legend may be based on a real man who lived here in the 19th century.

If you make it past Chico Largo and up to the peninsula, the wind becomes overwhelmingly violent and deafening. If you get there early enough, strong gusts glaze the view of the morning sun creeping up above Maderas volcano across the island.

On my way back to catch the ferry to the mainland, my taxi comes to a halt as a herd of cattle clogged traffic on the road. One of the cows came right up to my window and looked down at me.

I wondered if she had any gold teeth.

Getting There

After taking the ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa, Ometepe, take a chicken bus or a $5 taxi to Charco Verde.

Charco Verde hotel has a pleasant beach front with a decent menu, and is located right next door to the Charco Verde lagoon.

They rent kayaks and bikes. A double room goes for $20.

Another, more cozy option is Venecia Hotel, which is about 400 meters down the beach from the Charco Verde hotel. It’s smaller scale, with double rooms starting at $25. The beachfront here is more shaded.

Both are family friendly and have swing sets for the kids, and have horseback rides.

Ojo de Agua: take a Tarzan swing or just a cool dip

For people who like to cool off in the ole’ swimming hole, the Ojo de Agua is not to be missed. Located 2 kilometers inland from Playa Santo Domingo, the Ojo de Agua is a series of two pools formed by natural springs bubbling up in the middle of the shaded jungle.

The sandy bottomed pools, reinforced with concrete walls to keep them from getting too murky, are a great place for an afternoon dip or a Tarzan leap off the rope swing.

A small soda stand next to the pools sells snacks and cold drinks.

There is also a shaded area for those who want to bring a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon.

Although you can walk to the Ojo de Agua, which takes about 20 minutes from Playa Santo Domingo – the most adventurous way to get there is to go on horseback.

Horses can be rented at Villa Paríso Hotel (the island’s nicest hotel, 563-4675) for $10 per person for a two-hour tour, plus $1 to get into the Ojo de Agua park.

The guided horse tour leads you from the beach on a scenic trip along the water and then winding back inland through banana fields and forest until you get to the swimming hole.

The water feels twice as nice after getting off a horse!

Punta Jesús María: a walk on the wet & wild side

This narrow and twisty sandbar stretches out from the southwestern shore of Ometepe, with water lapping up on both sides as the thin peninsula thins into the distance.

A twenty minute cab ride from Moyogalpa, the Punta Jesús María is as picturesque as it gets on an island that brings out the weekend photographer in everyone.

As the sun goes down in the afternoon, and the fishermen come in for the day, the lake glistens with the afternoon’s last rays.

In the background, the awesome and imposing shape of Concepción Volcano looms large.

Punta Jesús María is a do-not-miss when visiting Ometepe. Though it is slightly more difficult to get to – when the main road ends, it’s still several bumpy kilometers away down a dirt road – the view and photographs are worth the trip.

The sandbar stretches out several hundred meters into the lake, getting increasingly narrower as it goes. If you run along the sandbar heading out into the lake, you sort of feel like you are walking on water.

A motorbike cab from Moyogalpa out to Punta Jesús María costs around $20 round trip, and you can do the trip in about an hour if you’re pressed for time.


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