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Trip Report A week spent in Ometepe and San Juan del Sur

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In July, spent 8 days in Nicaragua; 4 on the jungle island of Ometepe and 4 in the beach town of San Juan del Sur (SJDS). Traveled with sister and her husband. Purpose of trip was to visit my niece who is doing a 2-year volunteer stint on the island.

It was not easy to get to Ometepe, but it was worth the effort. We flew out of Boston thru Miami to Managua. From there it was a long ride to the port in Rivas, an hour ferry ride to the Island and another hour to get to lodging. Most difficult part of planning the trip was figuring out how to get from point A to point B. After some research we opted to hire a private driver, main reason being that we read there was the potential for police roadblocks along the way.

We stayed at Toteco EcoLodge ( It was fabulous; views were great, food was excellent, and service was fine. I've stayed at ecolodges in both Costa Rica and Belize, but this place was the most eco friendly. The main difference was no flushing toilets—they had compost toilets that were a pretty unique design and they worked out fine for the squeamish among us..

Prices were pretty reasonable. I think the cabin was $95/night; bfast was $7, lunch $4 and dinner $16ish. They have a dormitory section where the beds are $10/night. Totoco is a ways out of town and requires a 4 wheel drive on a rough dirt road to get to, so taxis to and from are pricy. The Lodge offers day-trips, but we were not keen on driving up and down the mountain-side. We did a coffee plantation tour, rented a taxi one day to tour the island and mostly hung out doing nothing but admiring the views. Most everyone at the Lodge climbed the Maderas volcano. Brother-in-law climbed the Conception volcano with a guide. He claimed it wasn't as bad as described and came back less mud clad than the Maderas climbers.

After 2 taxis and a ferry ride, we were in SJDL for the beach part of our vacation. We rented a really cool home thru VRBO, Casa la Serena. One of the requirements to rent the house was that we hire a 4 wheel drive vehicle so that we could come and go. We rented thru Dollar Rental at the Pelican Resort. We quickly learned that we were no longer in Ometepe when we stopped at the Pelican for lunch. Lunch was in the $20 range compared to $4 at the Lodge. Views were gorgeous, tho.

The house was 30-minutes out of the center of town and on another rough and tumble road. It was pretty much off-the-grid. Seems like we were without electricity more than we had it, despite a back-up generator. It wasn't only the house that lost electricity, but all of SJDL. We were out for dinner one night and electricity in the whole city went out for the entire time we were there.

The house, in a “gated community”, came with its own round the clock, 24-hour guard. Still not sure if that made me feel more safe or not. From the house, we had a 5 minute drive to beautiful beaches with few people on them.

Overall, I think what we saw of Nicaragua was quite beautiful and easily matches Costa Rica scenery. However, they are not prepared for tourism. SJDS seemed to be a back-packer, surfer, hostel kind of town. Very few people spoke English. The tours we took were in Spanish; there were no English-speaking guides. If planning a trip there, it would be wise to polish up on your Spanish.

And, while I had no qualms about eating the food or drinking the filtered water at Toteco, SJDS was a different story. The food there did not agree with my digestive system.

I'd be happy to answer any questions, you may have.

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