Categories
Nicaragua into Costa Rica Round the world trip

BORDER CROSSING FROM NICARAGUA TO COSTA RICA

WE LEAVE NICARAGUA FOR OUR BORDER CROSSING INTO COSTA RICA AT PEÑA BLANCAS

We had to say goodbye to the amazing Ometepe Island and Nicaragua heading for our border crossing into Costa Rica. This amazing lake-island will remain in our hearts for a while. Read a short introduction about the island here.

Lake Cocibolca is so big that it generates strong winds and the waters can be quite choppy. Our rented motorbike had to be strapped to the sides of the ferry. But who cared!? The views leaving the island where all it mattered and how much we will be missing the place!

Goodbye Ometepe Island from the ferry
Goodbye Ometepe Island from the ferry

WHERE TO GO AFTER THE BORDER CROSSING

We planned to arrive at the border with Costa Rica as early as possible in order to (either):

  1. Catch the 2:30pm direct bus to La Fortuna (volcano Arenal) OR
  2. Reach San Jose at a decent time during the day

We had not decided where to go yet. But we knew that arriving at the border late meant a difficult and complicated journey to reach La Fortuna. We read all sort of stories online and also from the amazing centrocoasting website. For those that do not know, centrocoasting is a great website which details all sort of bus routes in few central america countries.

San José on the other hand seemed better served with frequent direct buses departing from the border. 5:30pm was our deadline to catch the last bus!

OUR ADVENTURE TO LEAVE OMETEPE BEGUN

Getting Ready

We set our alarm clocks early enough in order to be ready to catch the many connections required to our border crossing to reach Costa Rica!

We stayed some 30km (or further away) from the main ferry town of Moyogalpa at an amazing organic farm which extends widely on the sides of the Maderas Volcano (finca Zopilote is the name). The farm is quite large and there are accommodations scattered all over the property. It took a good 8 minutes hike from our room to the reception, and from the reception to the main road it is another 10 minutes of steep rocky path. With our backpacks on, I am sure we need to add quite a few more minutes to this journey’s time. We also needed to collect our passports.

Why is this important you may ask…well, it is important because buses are not that frequent in this part of the island. In particular, there are only two in the morning. One at 5:15am, which meant getting ready at 4:30am and that was out of the question! And another more manageable at 7:30am. Which one you think we choose?

Surprisingly enough we were on the main road at 7:15am ready for the bus. We could have not planned it better.

We waited patiently at the road side. At first it was just Olla and I and then more people joined. After a good 45 minutes we all suspected that the 7:30am service had some issue and we were to wait for the next one scheduled for later in the morning.

The bus finally arrived

Although we had a fairly long day ahead, we thought we had plenty of time and so we were not too worry. But for our joy, around 8:10am, we were happy to see the bus coming to pick us up. What we were not so happy to see was that the bus was already full, like jam-packed full! A long “early-morning-sweaty-squeeze” was going to be required, but we had no other choice.

This bus was however not going all the way to our destination, we had to change somewhere along the way. But even with this change of bus we managed to catch the 10:30am boat to mainland!

FROM SAN JORGE TO THE BORDER AT PEÑA BLANCAS

We quickly realized that making it on time to catch the 2:30pm bus was not going to be possible. So we decided to have an early lunch at the harbor area to sort a few internet-related stuff. So far we caught two buses and a ferry, but we still had at least two more buses to reach the Costa Rica border crossing.

Local bus No.1

The first of these two was easy enough as it departs straight in front of the ferry entrance. The most annoying part was to fence off the taxi drivers that at all costs try to convince you there is no bus running on that day for whatever reason…

It was the day after Easter and it could have been that services were slower than usual due to the festive season. But we did not believe them and waited patiently. Once on-board, the cotton candy seller that joined the bus with us cheered us up as we were starting to feel tired of all the changes, buses, dropping off, jumping on, scorching sun, backpacks and all…

Regional bus No. 2

The second bus was a bit trickier. We had the option to go into Rivas town at the bus terminal, or to wait for the bus along the road, which was supposed to pass frequently. Other locals were waiting for the bus near the roundabout and we decided to join them instead of venturing into the bus terminal. The distance to the border was barely 35Km now and there is only this road that leads there.

After two buses that passed and did not pick us up as simply too full, we started to lose faith. But shortly after our lucky star smiled at us and we caught an almost empty bus and got our seats too!

We did not have any more time pressure to catch the bus to La Fortuna. It would have simply been an added stress as it was already 2:30pm at this point!

FINALLY AT THE BORDER

Our new target was trying to get the bus to San Jose at 3:30pm on the Costa Rica side of the border…this would have allowed us to arrive in the capital of Costa Rica at a decent time.

So far, each border we crossed from Mexico all the way down here in Nicaragua have been super straightforward (besides El Salvador). Little to no queue and super fast. But today, between clearing customs in Nicaragua and the super long queue at the Costa Rica side, we managed the border crossing only around 4pm.

Now we had to kill time for another 1.5 hours as the next and LAST bus to San Jose was only leaving at 5:30pm!!

Be careful here too as the service usually is on a first come first served…or first in the queue, first to board the bus…if the bus is full, you need to wait for the next one and good luck with that if there is no more buses leaving. Plan carefully 🙂

What a journey!

Good bye Nicaragua and hello Costa Rica - border crossing
Good bye Nicaragua and hello Costa Rica

A huge thank-you should go to www.centrocoasting.com as we used their great website for the super detailed info about catching buses in Central America. It is AMAZING!

Recap: Leaving Ometepe Island for the Costa Rica border

Take bus to Moyogalpa (between 20 to 40 cordoba per person, depending where you catch the bus)

Catch the ferry across the lake (50 cordoba per person)

Board a bus from San Jorge port to Rivas (10 cordoba per person)

Take a bus from Rivas to Pena Blancas (20 cordoba per person)

Clear Nicaragua immigration (3 USD per person exit fee)

Clear Costa Rica immigration (make sure you have onward travel arrangements proof as they may bother you)

Take a bus to San Jose (9 USD per person – it is cheaper to pay in colon. Avoid the 5:30pm bus! It arrives late in San Jose and the terminal is quite sketchy at that time in the evening)

Categories
Nicaragua Nicaragua - Ometepe

Nicaragua – Isla de Ometepe

Ometepe is something else.

Ometepe is a relatively small island in the middle of Nicaragua’s lake. Viewed from above it makes an 8 shape which is basically taking the contours of the two volcanoes that make up the island.

Map of Ometepe

Visiting this place has been an incredible experience. I mean, how often are you on a peaceful island in between two volcanoes, (one of which is active by the way), and surrounded by a huge lake? Not often!

We rented a motorcycle in Granada and we made our way to the Ometepe island via the well connected and safe-enough road. The road somewhat follows the lakeside which is without exaggeration huge and it creates winds that are strong and constant. The winds were perhaps the main worry I had whilst riding on the motorway, but it wasn’t too bad and we reached in 1.5 hours, volcanoes and sceneries on our left hand side 😉

On the way to Ometepe by Motorcycle

You can only reach the island with a ferry and the crossing took around 1.5 hours. If the boat is not crowded it can be a comfortable ride, but definitely choppy due to the winds.

Upon arrival we zip away with our bike and leave the main ferry town immediately. The town is nothing much than a village but it has ATMs, restaurants, hostels, petrol stations etc. We were set and took off exploring without the need to be there at all and immediately we were riding in the tranquility of farms and slow moving island life.

What impressed me the most of this place and why I am having such a nice memory of it is because of it’s tranquillity.
There are countless spots right by the lakeside and locals have set up their resorts, hotels, cabanas right there for visitors and themselves to enjoy. Grab a book, pick a hammock, forget your flip flops and take the views in.

Enjoying the breeze by the lakeside

At any time there will be some beautifully looking bird passing by and stopping at the trees near you.

If you are adventurous, you can hike the active volcano, if you just want to take a swim, you can simply jump in the lake, if you want to go for a horse-back ride you can get that sorted out, hike, cycle, run, you can do all of that here and you will surely be impressed with the amazing spots there are to discover and enjoy nature at its best.

How to get there:
Reaching the island is only possible via ferry. Motorcycles cars and trucks join the same ferry as the passengers, but there are smaller boats that take passengers only. From San Jorge the ferries are frequent and schedules should be found here.
We rode a motorcycle, hence we needed to pay for that too.
At the port we firstly asked to pay a government tax to access the harbour area, which was C31 per person. After this there is a booth to purchase the ferry tickets, which costed C50 per person. The cost for the motorcycle C74 (approximately USD6 at the time of writing this post).