San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Comfort, conscientiousness at Totoco

On the island of Ometepe, Volcano Concepción dominates the landscape and the rippling waters of Lake Nicaragua surround. In the evening, as darkness sets in over the shore, Ometepe begins to feel like a mystical world, alone in a vast sea. Unless of course you are sharing it with a travel companion at the Totoco Eco-Lodge villas. 

One of the most ecologically and creatively developed operations on the island, Totoco began with a dream three friends had for a sustainable village abroad. “And it’s come true in three parts, said Martijn Priester, one of the original founders and current manager. “The first is the eco-lodge, second is the organic farm and third is a foundation that gives back to the community.”

Priester is happy to give an extensive tour of the property’s gray water and composting system, as well as organic farm and fruit orchard, and to educate his guests about the resort’s mission. 

“We seek to find a sustainable relationship between man and nature,” he said. “To do so we focus on energy, water and waste.”

Totoco 2

Totoco founder Martijn Priester.

Hannah J. Ryan

Energy is generated by solar panels tucked out of sight around the property. These create 85-90 percent of the eco-lodge’s power. Composting toilets use cedar shavings, dry coffee bean castings or rice husks to save water.

The room’s shower water is heated through a length of black tubing nestled into a layer compost bed, which heats the water surprisingly well. Waste water from the cabins, showers, bathrooms and kitchen all filter through various settling tanks before passing into pools floating with plants that give the gray water a final filtration before it passes into the fields for irrigation.

Uniquely named cabins are available for rent as well as dorm beds in the main lodge. The original founders’ villa is being remodeled for families or larger group stays. All cabins face the island’s north volcano and are artfully landscaped and designed to be rustic, natural and simple. Still, modern amenities abound, such as large, comfortable beds, hammocks, dining table and screened windows.

Though the lodge brings in the means to develop all these sustainable projects, Priester would prefer to spend all his time in the orchards and gardens of the six-hectare property. In the forested part of the grounds, there are facilities for hosting six volunteers, who work to implement the agro-forestry principles of permaculture Totoco follows. Volunteers also help develop the food gardens, care for the pigs and maintain hundreds of newly planted fruit trees. 

Though Ometepe may feel like an isolated gem, change is coming to the island. An airport is being developed to cut the transportation time significantly from Managua and other large metropolises. Though the design of the landing strip strangely cuts right across the island’s main road, most residents believe the development will boost the island’s economy.

 “I’ve an open mind to what the airport can do for the area,” Priester said. “The type of tourism founded here is very ecologically progressive and the people want to keep it developing that way.” 

Going there

Depending on which port you arrive at from Rivas, a ferry ticket costs between 50 Córdobas ($2.11) and 70 cordobas ($2.96) and takes a little more than an hour to reach the island. There is an eight-hour ferry from Granada as well. Transportation on the island is pricy. A bus runs when it suits the drivers, and taxis are available to most parts of the island, costing $30.

Room rates vary from $10 dorm beds to cabins of different sizes between $60 and $95. The lodge also includes a restaurant celebrating local ingredients. The barman is especially gifted at making Nicaragua’s national drink of rum and guava called the Macuá. Visit

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