Isla de Ometepe (2 hours)

The whimsical twin peaks that join to form Isla de Ometepe are the jewel of eco-tourism in Nicaragua. Ometepe is located in the center of Lake Nicaragua and, at 276 square kilometers, is the world’s largest volcanic island located within a lake. The lavender Volcan Concepcion, Central America’s most symmetrical volcanic cone, occupies the north end of the island. The squatter, inactive, densely forested Volcan Maderas forms the opposite end and is now protected as a nature reserve. A challenging trek through its cloud forest is rewarded with a view of the misty lagoon at the summit.  

In 2008, the island was nominated as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but its history dates well back to 1500 B.C. when the first human settlers are thought to have arrived. Numerous stone statues and over 1700 pre-Columbian petroglyphs carved on boulders and scattered all over the island continue to attest to the ancient origins of its 42,000 friendly inhabitants.

Disembarking on the paradisiacal sanctuary that is Ometepe is akin to visiting a separate, peaceful world. The island draws rave reviews from visitors for its stunning landscapes, virgin forests, sandy beaches, hot springs, waterfalls, archaeological heritage, and indigenous traditions. The endless options on Ometepe range from mountain biking, fishing, and hiking the volcanoes to bird watching, soaking in mineral waters, and visiting the island’s two museums. Swimming in the freshwater sea of Lake Nicaragua at the broad beach of Santo Domingo right between the two volcanoes is but one of the dreamy, scenic experiences to be had on this magnificent tropical retreat.