- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
In 2000, National Geographic filmed a documentary about vampire bats here—and while there are indeed many vampire bats, they are a threat only to the local chickens, which the bats like to suck dry by hanging from the chickens’ nerveless feet.
Sights and Entertainment
Altagracia’s fiestas patronales, in celebration of San Diego, are held November 12–18. In addition to the traditional festivities, the Baile de las Ramas (Dance of the Branches) is a major component of the celebration. The dancers tear off smaller branches of the guanacaste tree, and hold them to their heads while dancing to imitate the worker zompopo (leaf-cutter) ants carrying leaves off to the ant hills.
El Museo Ometepe (open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $1) has a few exhibits of the flora, fauna, and archaeology of Ometepe, including statues and ceramic pieces unearthed around the island. The church courtyard makes for a peaceful retreat with a few interesting pre-Columbian stone idols for added irony. You might get yelled at by a group of bright green parakeets that make their home in the roof of the dilapidated old church (next to the freshly painted new church). Across the street in the central park, you’ll find the artesanía cooperative, comprised of eight local artisans who take turns working in the shop. Some of the pieces are original and exhibit the pride that the islanders have for their home.
From the park, walk east down a sandy road about 30 minutes to the bay of Playa Tagüizapa, a fine sandy beach for swimming. You can pick up supplies in town for a picnic and make a lazy day of it. Located three kilometers north of the town of Altagracia, the port has boat service between Granada and San Carlos (Río San Juan). The road that leads to the port is shady and makes a nice, short walk—allow about 45 minutes each way. On the way, you’ll pass Playa Paso Real, an out-of-the-way bathing beach you’ll likely have all to yourself. If you’re heading to the port to catch the boat to Granada or San Carlos, it’s worthwhile to speak with the owner of Hotel Central. They offer pickup truck service to the port, so you don’t have to carry all your luggage that far. Be aware that when the water is too rough, the boat may not show up at Altagracia, preferring to hug the eastern shore of the lake.
Altagracia’s accommodations are all located within a block of each other, so feel free to walk around and compare before settling in. One of the cheapest and friendliest choices, Hospedaje Ortiz (a block or so from the central plaza) was recommended by several readers.
More popular, Hotel Central (two blocks south of the park, tel. 505/2552-8770) is a traveler favorite, with a nicely furnished reading room, small garden, and friendly staff (though some have complained of overpriced tours and basic services). Expect to pay $6 per person for a private bath and fan, slightly less for a shared bath, and $7 per person for a private cabin out back.
Hotel Castillo (tel. 505/8475-7455, $4 pp shared bath, $10 private bath) is similar and sports one of the nicer bars in town. Across from the park, Posada Cabrera (tel. 505/8664-2788, www.posadacabrera.com, $5 pp) has a pleasant feel, nice staff, and a green backyard. The rooms, however, are extra small, and not as private (the walls don’t go all the way up to the ceiling).
Try a homestay with a local family, courtesy of La Peñita (tel. 505/8972-6299, famrampaiza [at] yahoo [dot] es, $3.50 pp). The friendly owner has bikes to rent and will take you on a guided tour of the island. To get there, take the bus from Altagracia to El Quino (at the fork for the isthmus) and walk 300 meters north. This is about as close as you can stay to El Ojo de Agua.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition