Nicaragua, Part Eight: Motorbikes and Volcanoes on Ometepe

We left off in Ometepe’s port city of Moyogalpa, where we were rushing back to our hotel after a virgin-wielding mob chased us down the street. Exciting times.

The next morning we woke up and enjoyed breakfast, which was included with our stay at the Cornerhouse Inn. The delicious fruit smoothies were much appreciated. They have a list of fruits and guests select any and all of them for personalized smoothies. Xavier had the eggs benedict, while I indulged an odd craving and went for the chicken salad sandwich. I mention this because… well, Nicaragua had me all messed up. I’m just grateful someone could serve me chicken salad at nine in the morning.

Breakfast smoothies on Ometepe
Breakfast smoothies on Ometepe

Then it was off to Xalli, on the Maderas side of Ometepe. Cabs from Moyogalpa to the other side of the island usually cost between $15-25, just depending on how far you’re going. We were headed to Santa Domingo, which is located just past the isthmus between the two volcanoes. It cost $15 to get there.

Xalli! I cannot say enough about Xalli. What a resort. We almost missed it on our first pass, because it’s tucked away so discreetly. But after the taxi turned around, we examined the area more carefully and there it was. Xalli.

The resort consists of just a couple of buildings tucked into a beachfront lot. The guest houses are standalone, lined up to one side of the property. All the way to the back is the restaurant/office, where the lovely owners Jonathan and Rosalyn greet you with glasses of freshly squeezed fruit juice and big smiles. Jamaica with ginger, mango… it was all so tasty. We settled down into our room, turned on the air conditioning, and got ready for our next adventure.

Renting the motorcycle had gone so well the day before that we decided to do it again. It’s the only way to explore the island in its entirety, because the one road is not paved in most places. And by not paved, I mean covered in giant rocks.

Jonathan and Xavier worked out the deal with the local rental agency (another reason Xalli is so great: the owners are incredibly helpful), and within a matter of minutes there was a shiny red bike delivered to the property. I believe it cost $35 to use the bike for the entire day, with gas included. It was difficult to leave the beautiful, comfortable room – and its air conditioning – to see what Ometepe had to offer… but I dragged myself out.

Xavier on the motorcycle in Ometepe
Xavier on the motorcycle
Julie on the motorcycle in Ometepe
Me on the motorcycle… clearly, born to ride

It was amazing. First of all, riding a dirt bike around an island is really, really, really fun. There’s no other way to put it. Everything felt a little more exciting while we zoomed around on the bike. Second of all, Ometepe is a beautiful island with one-of-a-kind views, friendly wildlife, and did I mention the volcano? Although it remained steeped by clouds, we knew it was back there.

Xavier and the volcano Maderas
Xavier and the volcano Maderas
Maderas hides behind clouds
Maderas hides behind clouds
Volcanic rock is scattered throughout the fields of Ometepe
Volcanic rock is scattered throughout the fields of Ometepe
Romantic photo in Ometepe
We had time to stop for a romantic photo… love the helmets

The views were magical. Clouds of butterflies fluttered, rippling the air with color.

Butterfly on flower in Santa Domingo, Maderas, Ometepe
Butterfly on flower

I loved the wildlife that we saw. Pigs, horses, bulls, chickens… and some let me photograph them.

Piglets in Maderas, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Piglets!
Bulls on Ometepe, Maderas, Nicaragua
Bulls and their farmer
Baby horse on Ometepe... what's wrong with this photo?
Baby horse on Ometepe… what’s wrong with this photo?
A horse looking out over Lake Nicaragua
A horse looking out over Lake Nicaragua
A wild horse sips from Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe
A wild horse sips from Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe

After a couple of hours, we had circled the Maderas side of the island. My legs ached from tensing up on the bike over miles of rocky, unpaved roads, and our stomachs were rumbling almost as loud as the motorbike. Time for a late lunch! We navigated a narrow, rocky uphill train to a little hacienda called Finca Magdalena. The view was amazing. Lush greenery, bright red flowers, and butterflies surrounded us as we feasted on sauteed chicken smothered in pico de gallo and a mountain of french fries. You could look over and see the volcano Maderas in the distance, shielded by clouds. They also had petroglyphs on the property: ancient rock carvings made by the original inhabitants of the island, thousands of years ago.

The view from our lunch spot - Finca Magdalena, Maderas, Ometepe, Nicaragua
The view from our lunch spot
Gorgeous flowers at Finca Magdalena, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Gorgeous flowers at Finca Magdalena, Ometepe, Nicaragua
Petroglyphs at Finca Magdalena, Ometepe
Petroglyphs at Finca Magdalena, Ometepe

Overall, it was an amazing day. I’d even venture to say it was one of the best days of our trip, which is a big statement considering we spent one day diving Blowing Rock! I would absolutely recommend exploring Ometepe with a motorbike. It gives you the flexibility to stop and admire the gorgeous views, take breaks as needed, and feel freedom. However, consider these caveats.

Cows and fields on Ometepe
Cows and fields on Ometepe

– Make sure you rent from a trusted source. We heard horror stories of travelers surrendering their passports as collateral for rental, only to have the agency claim damages upon return and hold the passport until the customer paid hundreds of dollars. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask the staff to help coordinate the rental. Check the motorcycle for damage and mention it to the rental agency before you take the bike anywhere.

– If you don’t have much experience with a motorbike or dirt-biking, it may be best to think about renting a four-wheel ATV instead. The main road of Ometepe is not paved. There are extremely rocky portions where riding skill is paramount. Four-wheelers are much easier to navigate. But it’s dangerous… so…

– Make sure you wear your helmet!

Demonstrating motorcycle safety on Ometepe
Demonstrating motorcycle safety on Ometepe

We were only too happy to return to Xalli, where we collapsed into the king bed and enjoyed air conditioning. The next day would be a challenge unlike I’d ever tried before. We would be climbing Maderas, the 1400-meter volcano.

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