Ometepe Island’s Two Volcanos

Ometepe Island was my second stop on my 10-day trip in Nicaragua. Situated in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, this island is just about a 1 hour drive and short ferry ride from Granada. There was so much that I wanted to explore on this island (link to more about this adventure below), but mostly I wanted to tackle a hike up one of the island’s two volcanos; Maderas and Concepcion.

Image of me on the hike up Volcano Maderas looking at Volcano Concepcion in Nicaragua.

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These two volcanoes really make up the island and are connected by an isthmus. Volcano Concepcion is a higher elevation (approx. 5300 ft) and active whereas Volcano Maderas is slightly lower elevation (approx. 4600 ft) and extinct. However, because you can climb down into Volcano Maderas, the net elevation climb is about the same between the two.

How To Choose Which Volcano To Hike

When choosing which volcano to ascend, there are different factors to consider, including:

  • Amount of shade
  • Transportation to/ from the trailhead
  • Swimming
  • Views
  • Wildlife
  • Trail Conditions

Let’s be honest, both volcanoes are going to offer killer views and both are reasonably challenging hikes. What is unique about Volcano Maderas is that it’s far more shaded and, because you’re in the clouds for a good portion of the hike, it’s fairly cool. It’s important to note that this also means that it rains frequently on the trail making it quite muddy.

Image of the lake at the top of Volcano Maderas on a misty day on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.

Volcano Maderas has a crater lagoon at the top that you can climb down into and, weather permitting, actually swim in. On the day that I hiked, as you can see in the photo above, it was incredibly muddy and cloudy. Somewhat making up for the cloudy conditions, all along the trail you can watch Howler and Capuchin monkeys swinging in the trees. 

Transportation to and from the trailhead is a big thing to consider when choosing which volcano to climb. If you choose to hike a volcano on the other end of the island, it can take close to an hour to get there! The trail for Volcano Maderas left from the back of the property of La Via Verde Organic Farm and B&B, where I was staying, so transportation was not an issue. 

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Hiring a Guide

One of the reasons I stayed at La Via Verde is that the owners, Darrin and Eileen, were incredibly proactive and helpful in arranging my activities and hiring my private guide for the hike.

My guide for the day was Dimas, who was thirty years old and lived his entire life on Ometepe Island. He hiked up one of the two volcanos every day of the week during busy season and at least four days per week the remainder of the year. For a 7-9 hour, muddy, steep hike he would make just $25.  I was so thankful to have a him as my private guide. It’s clear that the man knows what he’s doing. If we ran into a big group, he knew a way to walk around them (assuming my lungs and legs could keep up).

The Hike Up Volcano Maderas

I definitely underestimated how steep and rocky this hike would be. Dimas immediately noticed that I didn’t bring hiking poles. He searched along the trail for a walking stick for me to use and chopped one down to size. It was very helpful, but it was fairly heavy so if you can bring hiking poles I recommend it. Your knees will thank you.

The hike is steep and I don’t say that lightly. There are portions of the trail where I had to climb up rocks with my hands and feet. The majority of it was more like bouldering than hiking.

Image of my guide on the hike up Volcano Maderas in Nicaragua chopping a walking stick for me.

Because the hike is so steep and about 4 hours to the top, stop often to drink water and replenish some of the calories that you’re burning. At the advice of the B&B owner, I had arranged for a packed lunch to be delivered the night before and it was a lifesaver. Also, along the trail you can find fresh passionfruit to snack on!

Once at the top, you descend down into the crater lagoon. This is where we stopped and ate our lunch and just relaxed for a bit. It was nice to sit down and recharge before heading back down.

An Unexpected Detour

Image of my guide's friend harvesting beans on Volcano Maderas in Nicaragua.On the return hike, Dimas asked if I wanted to stop at a lookout point. Now, in full transparency, he could’ve asked me to stop for just about any reason and I would’ve taken him up on it, but of course I wanted to see the lookout.

So, he took me on a detour to his friend’s bean farm which was on the side of the volcano. They were harvesting the beans by chopping pieces of the bean plant and placing them onto a plastic tarp which they then beat with a stick. This caused the beans to fall off of the stems and onto the tarp. These three men did this all day long for what I can imagine is many weeks of the year.

It just so happened that the view from their bean farm is amazing. You have a clear view of Volcano Concepcion and Lake Nicaragua. It was the perfect place to recharge.

Image of Volcano Concepcion from Volcano Maderas on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.

Monkeys and the Long Hike Back

As we headed back into the forest to hike down the rest of the way, we were surrounded by monkeys. Dimas knew how to call them. I could’ve watched them for hours, swinging and howling through the trees right above my head.

It was around this point that the seven hours of high impact was taking its toll on my knees. Not ideal because we were 1-2 hours away from La Via Verde still. Dimas took my hand and helped me down the entire rest of the way, while playing disco and Justin Bieber on his phone. My role was to try and explain the lyrics but let’s be honest, there’s no explanation for Funky Town or any Justin Bieber lyrics so we mostly just sang as best we could.

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Life On Ometepe

Obviously, we had a long day together so had a lot of time to talk. Dimas shared with me that each night he gets home in time to wash the mud out of his clothes and shoes, eat dinner with his girlfriend and daughter and go to bed so he can get up and hike again the next day.

We talked about his upcoming birthday and what he typically does to celebrate. He explained to me that for him, having a meal with meat is really special so that is typically what they do for a birthday. It was humbling to think that something I take for granted was such a special treat for him. 

Tips For the Volcano Maderas Hike

  • Bring 3 Liters of water and a packed lunch.
  • Bring trekking poles if you have them, if not grab a walking stick on the way up. It’ll save your knees.
  • Wear hiking boots and clothes that can get dirty. The trail is naturally very muddy and in the clouds with plenty of boulders to navigate.
  • Expect to get wet, so pack your daypack accordingly.
  • Hire a guide. The trail is not obvious, so it’s well worth the $25 to hire an individual guide (or less if you join a group). Also, my guide was able to point out poisonous plants, call the monkeys and show me unique views of the island!
  • Take the time to enjoy the monkeys and the views!

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Pin image of view of Volcano Concepcion from Volcano Maderas in Nicaragua.

24 Comments

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks, Alyssa! I truly fell in love with Nicaragua 🙂

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks so much, Alissa! Nicaragua has a ton to offer! Loved every minute of it.

  1. Whoa! What an amazing trip! I didn’t realize how beautiful Nicaragua was.

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Seriously! I’ve travelled a lot and it’s up high on my list of favorites 🙂

  2. What a beautiful place to visit! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  3. Brittany Slaughter Reply

    This hike looks absolutely incredible! Thanks for sharing your experience and such great tips!!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Brittany! Such an amazing experience!

  4. This reminds me of a similar hike we did in Baru volcano in Panama, only your sounds a bit more lively with the monkeys involved!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Ha ha I’ll have to check out the hike in Panama! Always looking for the next Trail to wander!

  5. What an incredible experience! I love hiking and think it’s a great way to explore a new place. And how much better can a hike get than with a fabulous guide and a magical place home to monkeys.

  6. I have never been to Nicaragua, although I’ve always wanted to! It’s not even that far from Texas, lol. I will def keep this volcano hike in mind when I finally get to Nicaragua – it really does look epic!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      I hope you make it someday! After traveling to Asia and Africa last year, it was such a relief to have a short trip and almost no time change ?

  7. This looks like such a beautiful hike!! I have never seen monkeys in the wild before, only at the zoo. I don’t know if I’d love that or if I’d be scared!! Haha. Great post!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks! Ha ha luckily they were up high in the trees so we could watch from a safe distance!

  8. It’s unbelievable how much beauty exists in Nicaragua.. this was utterly gorgeous. Can’t wait to go someday

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thanks! I just fell in love with Nicaragua- so diverse and beautiful!

  9. This sounds like such an incredible adventure. As a keen hiker, I loved reading about this and what a bonus getting to watch monkeys play along the way. The views too are just stunning as seen in your photos. Great post!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thank you!! If you’re a keen hiker, you’d love this experience as it’s just very unique. And really any trail with monkeys is alright in my book 🙂

  10. Sound like quite an experience and what a beautiful view! BUT you had me completely hooked when mentioning the fresh passionfruits along the trail!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      It was a great hike! And yes!! The passionfruit was such a tasty and wonderful surprise 🙂

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