“This island means more to me than you’ll ever understand” declared the man standing next to me, the twin volcanic peaks of Ometepe looming ahead of us. He was thin, wore thick glasses, a tan windbreaker and had a plastic butterfly net in his hand. A child’s toy. Every so often he would awkwardly twirl it through the air and look inside expectantly.
He was probably making shit up but I believed him.
The longer I spent on the island, the more it made sense. Ometepe is paradise and was the highlight of my 10-week backpacking trip through Central America. The first morning I opened the door of our cob cabin and actually gasped out loud. Everything sparkled from the overnight thunderstorm, a misty volcano peaked through the trees and a howler monkey was eating breakfast right above me.
The euphoria stayed with me until we stepped off the boat back in mainland Nicaragua and while the island landscapes are partly responsible, the real reason Ometepe felt like paradise was because of our stay at Finca Mystica. We made so many accommodation mistakes in Central America but in Ometepe, we nailed it. Nailed it!
It took nearly an hour on muddy unpaved roads before we reached Merida, the village closest to Finca Mystica. I don’t want to spoil it and give everything away (surprises are important!) but the couple who own it, Ryan and Angela, are amazing people and this farm is the place to be. It had a great vibe, the food was delicious, the tiny beach across from the property was always empty, and the grounds were gorgeous. Our two-day stay stretched to four days and then finally five. We even ran into some friends we had met in both Honduras and El Salvador.
It was the perfect place to get away from everything, especially technology. I realize now that my happiness on Ometepe was the result of living completely in the moment. I was so genuinely excited for each day and to experience the beauty surrounding me. The only electronic I used on Ometepe was my camera.
One day we went on a hike to a waterfall (San Ramon) not far from the farm. It was insanely muddy, slippery and steep but we managed to make it to the top with only a bruised knee and had the pool completely to ourselves for about 20 minutes. Rainy season is the best!
On another day we rented bikes to see more of the island. The locals we met were so friendly and we were amazed at how undeveloped and natural this side of the island was. No big flashy hotel chains, no 7-11s on every corner, just farms, modest hotels, and wildlife.
The road was horrible and muddy but we made it all the way to Santa Domingo beach. We would have kept going but we were lucky and got to witness a quintessential rainy season torrential downpour. Thunder, lightening, the works. It was spectacular. We ducked into a tiny shop for a bit before I finally sucked it up and accepted that I had to ride back. It was a struggle but I did it, all while fantasizing about our cozy cob cabin and the brownies and smoothies I would later devour.
Paradise has different meanings for different people. Some people define it as a place that’s always warm and tropical or a place with stunning mountain scenery.
Regardless of biome or country, paradise to me is always a natural place, untouched by the hands of mass development. It is quiet and peaceful, with animals in their natural habitats. There are no traffic jams and it is always colorful.
Ometepe was all of those things and more.
Have you ever been to Ometepe? What kind of experience did you have? Would you ever consider visiting a place like Ometepe? I’de love to know your thoughts!