The beautiful Charco Verde in Ometepe sits on the eastern side of this must-see island in Nicaragua. At the centre of the ecological reserve is Laguna Charco Verde. Meaning ‘green puddle’, the emerald lake is, of course, much more impressive than just a wet splash on the ground. The Charco Verde Nature Reserve sits in the shadows of the magnificent Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes. In fact, most things do sit in the shadows on Ometepe in Nicaragua, but Charco Verde manages to hold its own. A little slice of paradise within, well, paradise. A day trip to Charco Verde in Nicaragua is surely the perfect way to unwind and enjoy island life. And, if a day doesn’t feel quite long enough, there’s even the Charco Verde Hotel to really help you immerse yourself in nature.
Charco Verde in Ometepe has much to offer the avid nature lover. It’s also the perfect place to relax if you’ve been on the go a lot, which was definitely the box we ticked. From beaches to butterflies, and mangroves to monkeys, there’s so much to enjoy in this sweet corner of Ometepe.
In this guide, we’ll provide a brief introduction to Charco Verde Nature Reserve and its uber laidback trail around the lagoon. We’ll talk about other wonderful things to do in the area and discuss staying at the Charco Verde Hotel. We’ll describe how to get to Charco Verde in Nicaragua, as well as Ometepe Island itself.
We hope you find this guide to Charco Verde on Ometepe Island useful. For other fantastic hikes to enjoy on Ometepe, check out our Concepcion Volcano, Maderas Volcano and San Ramon Waterfall guides. Also, have a read of The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.
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Charco Verde Nature Reserve
Charco Verde in Ometepe is located between the burly monoliths of Concepcion and Maderas Volcanoes. It’s hardly believable that two such huge volcanoes can exist on one small island. The Charco Verde Nature Reserve offers small hiking trails through dry tropical forest, with secret lookouts, secluded beaches, kayaking, and even restaurant and accommodation at the Charco Verde Hotel.
The entrance fee for Charco Verde on Ometepe is $5USD/person, and you can spend as long as you like ambling around its quaint park. Admission also includes a quick stroll through the butterfly aviary too. And, if there’s one thing we’ve discovered from our travels through Central America, it’s that there’s an abundance of butterflies. And I’m okay with that.
A wealth of fauna can be explored in the 20-hectare Reserva Charco Verde, including many types of birds, lizards and everyone’s favourite, the Howler Monkey. The lagoon in the centre is fringed with mangroves and is a wildlife haven. It’s not possible to swim here because of the harmful algae that create the green hues on the lake. But, there are plenty of places to relax on Laguna Charco Verde’s shores and surrounding beaches.
Chico Largo: The Legend of Charco Verde
To kick things off, I’ll tell you about the legend of Charco Verde. It’s said that a local man, known as Chico Largo, practised witchcraft around the lagoon. Often changing himself into animal form to be able to hunt and eat without having to pay. One day, as Chico Largo was in the form of a deer, he was chased by hunters at the place called Mirador del Diablo. Mortally wounded, Chico Largo was not able to change back into human form. His mother, Bucha, buried him on the shores of the lagoon, from where he had practised his dark arts. When the locals found out what had happened, they decided Chico Largo should have a proper Christian burial. But, when his grave was dug up at Laguna Charco Verde, all that was found was the cloth he had been wrapped in.
It’s said that the spirit of Chico Largo resides over the magical place of Charco Verde in Ometepe. At night, he appears to persuade people to exchange their souls for wealth. When these people die, Chico Largo places their souls into the cattle that graze the island.
At the bottom of Laguna Charco Verde is the eternal city of El Encanto, populated by all those who sold their souls to Chico Largo. An alternate version is that those who dwell there were caught fruit picking and hunting in Charco Verde, and so as punishment, they were turned into cattle to reside at the bottom of the lagoon.
Whichever is correct, it needn’t be of any concern. It’s only a legend after all. So, let’s take a walk…
Charco Verde Ometepe Trail Preview
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 2.7km
- Time: 1 hour
- Accumulated elevation gain: 39m
- Difficulty: Very easy
- Trailhead: Charco Verde Main Entrance
- Map: Wikiloc
Charco Verde Trail Description
After a pleasant stroll through the butterfly aviary at Charco Verde Nature Reserve, you’ll take a trail down a long avenue of brightly coloured flowers. There’s a real country garden feel and the vibrancy of the flora is uplifting. It’s tranquil and picturesque. At the end of this trail, enter through the gate and the path can be followed in either direction around the lagoon. We chose to head right.
The trees here are tall, and the sound of the Howler Monkeys is loud. It won’t be long ’til you spot a few. So, if your camera isn’t already to hand, now would be a good time to reach for it. The path is easy to follow and the trail opens up to some wonderful viewpoints on the edge of Laguna Charco Verde. Crossing wooden bridges and delving between the mangroves, keep your eyes peeled for turtles and other exciting marine life.
The trail from the other side of the lagoon cuts through a thin patch of land that separates Charco Verde from Lake Nicaragua. From here, you’ll find the gate that gives you access to Playa Bancon.
Playa Bancon is a secluded and private beach within the Charco Verde Nature Reserve. The powder black sand is a reminder of the volcanic activity that created such a magical place. Trees line the water’s edge and provide refreshing shade in the hot Nicaragua sun. Also, the views across Lake Nicaragua to the south of the island are some of the best you’ll see of Maderas Volcano. Plus, you can enjoy views of Isla de Quiste in the foreground, a fantastic little island you can kayak to.
After tearing ourselves away from Playa Bancon, we set off in search of Mirador del Diablo. Although, hopefully, we’d go unnoticed by Chico Largo. If you’re up for it too, there’s a leafy side trail that leaves the main trail. If you use Maps.Me, you’ll see it indicate this is the trail anyway. Having personally visited Charco Verde Nature Reserve, I can assure you the main trail carries on straight around the lake.
Mirador del Diablo
Anyway, Dan and I were in search of some stellar views over Laguna Charco Verde, Lake Nicaragua and wider Ometepe Island. Unfortunately, they were not to be. Having climbed the hill at Charco Verde, the place marked as the Mirador offered us no view whatsoever. Surrounded by a thick, but leafless, dry forest, we had no rewards for our efforts. The remnants of a rickety old bench, clearly out of favour with walkers, was the only indicator this was a Mirador. Luckily, climbing this hill isn’t like climbing volcanoes in Nicaragua. So, all was forgiven.
Anyway, if you fancy taking the offshoot into the forest, just, cos, you want to follow every trail possible in Charco Verde and are not ready to go home yet, then, of course, we recommend the add-on. But, if it’s exceptional views you’re after, then you shouldn’t bother. Perhaps Chico Largo was just having a laugh at our expense.
Following the faint trail, you’ll pass evidence of the zipline, though this was not in use the day we visited. And then, soon enough, you’ll rejoin the main track. You might even spot one last group of Howler Monkeys before you pass back onto the floral garden path and back to the main entrance.
Charco Verde in Ometepe is the perfect way to while away a morning or afternoon, or both! This might be a small nature reserve, but Charco Verde certainly goes big on attractions. You’ll soon see time fade away as you immerse yourself in this truly enchanting patch of nature.
The tranquil setting of the Charco Verde trail in Nicaragua forced us to slow down. With no peak or summit to focus on, you’ll find the trail at Charco Verde is, simply, a continuous delight, with plants and animals tickling the senses every step. There’s much to take in here, and even more to enjoy.
Hotel Charco Verde
The Hotel Charco Verde couldn’t be better situated on Ometepe Island. Its beachfront location, close access to the nature reserve and spectacular views of sunrise AND sunset are simply perfect. It’s a wonderful place to stay if, you know, you just can’t tear yourself away from these serene surroundings. There’s an excellent restaurant on site. So, even if your lodgings are elsewhere, you can still enjoy a little of what Hotel Charco Verde has to offer. The Creole Fish is said to be truly fantastic, with another local legend stating that those who taste it will be sure to return to Ometepe Island. I dunno though, it sounds more like the tourism board marketing team to me. But, I’m sure it’s delicious.
The Hotel Charco Verde also offers kayak hire, and there’s a swing and slide on the beach for children to enjoy. Charco Verde Beach and Bancon Beach are private to the nature reserve and so will give you a wonderfully secluded experience.
Either way, Hotel Charco Verde on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua is an amazing place to stay for those who want to sleep within the nature reserve. The rooms have their own balcony and come with a private bathroom. It’s a tranquil place that will be sure to awaken the David Attenborough in even the most die-hard city slickers.
Things to Do in the Charco Verde Area
- Ometepe Volcano Hikes: the area around Charco Verde in Nicaragua is very beautiful, so it’s no wonder you’d want to explore a little more. If the Charco Verde trail leaves you hungry for something a little more hardcore, then there are some truly adventurous hikes to consider on Ometepe. Hiking up Concepcion and/or Maderas volcanoes should definitely be considered. Although, they are a considerable step up from the chilled out Charco Verde hike. But, look, they’re definitely worth it. Alternatively, you can go waterfall chasing to San Ramon, a beautiful single drop waterfall nestled deep on the side of Maderas.
- Kayaking Ometepe: Grabbing a boat and paddles and heading out into the refreshing waters of the lake is one of the best ways to view Charco Verde Nature Reserve and wider Ometepe Island. The waters close to the shore can be calm and quite relaxing to kayak. From here, you can explore new beaches and try your hand at spotting marine life. Although, the water can be quite murky at times due to churned up sediment from the lake base. As well as kayaking from Hotel Charco Verde, cheap kayaking tours can be arranged from El Peru, Playa Los Mangos or Merida.
- Petroglyphs Ometepe: Pre-Colombian peoples of Ometepe considered this island to be their promised land. Maderas Volcano was the sacred place of the sun, and Concepcion Volcano was the brother of the moon. Rock carvings can be found in many places all over the island, but some of the best locations are at Hotel Finca Porvenir and Finca Magdalena, both on the flanks of Maderas. We saw the Ometepe petroglyphs at Finca Porvenir when we hiked Maderas.
How to Get to Charco Verde Nature Reserve
With the most popular areas to stay on the island including Moyogalpa, Mérida and Altagracia, we’ll start from there. Obviously, one of the most popular ways to get around Ometepe Island is by renting a scooter or ATV. From Moyogalpa, the drive time to Charco Verde Nature Reserve is around 20 minutes. From Mérida, it’s 40 minutes and from Altagracia, it’s around a 20 minute drive.
For Moyogalpa and Altagracia, there is a bus that runs hourly between the two towns. Just alight midway at Charco Verde Nature Reserve. A word of warning though, try to avoid using public transport on Ometepe Island on a Sunday. Buses are sporadic or non-existant.
Of course, a taxi or a tuk-tuk is always an option, and shouldn’t cost the earth, either.
How to Get to Ometepe
Getting to Ometepe from mainland Nicaragua requires taking the, roughly, 75 minute ferry ride across Lake Nicaragua to reach the port at Moyogalpa. The cost of the ferry is $2USD (50 cordobas) and it leaves from the port of San Jorge. Most visitors will likely be travelling to Ometepe from Granada, Managua or San Juan del Sur.
- From Granada to Ometepe: the journey time is around 2.5 hours from Granada to Rivas, with the chicken bus costing about $2USD.
- Managua to Ometepe: from Mercado Roberto Huembes bus station, there are a couple of options for getting to Rivas – the regular or express bus. The regular chicken bus leaves every 30 minutes with a journey time of 2.5 hours. It costs around $2USD. The express bus is also a regular service, but is slightly quicker (2.25 hours). It costs only a bit more ($2.50USD).
- San Juan del Sur to Ometepe: Take the chicken bus to Rivas. It should cost no more than $1USD with a journey time of 45 minutes.
From Rivas, it’s a 15-minute drive to the port of San Jorge. The easiest option is to take a taxi, which should cost no more than $2-3USD. Alternatively, you can wait for a bus which will cost about $0.50USD.
Five Essentials for Charco Verde Nature Reserve
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Make sure to also pack 1L of water, sunglasses, sunscreen, swimmers and a hat.
For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Don’t rush Ometepe Island: there’s so much to enjoy on this beautiful island. Be sure to factor in enough time to explore the variety of things to do. From volcano hiking to nature trails; waterfall chasing to lake kayaking, Ometepe Island has so much.
- Be your own guide: combine a half-day at Charco Verde Nature Reserve with other activities on Ometepe and discover this island your own way. We visited the nature reserve after hiking the San Ramon Waterfall trail and it made for the perfect combo!
- Stock up at Pali: if you happen to be on a shoestring budget, and eating lunch at Hotel Charco Verde is just a step too far, then we recommend a trip to Pali. Located in Moyogalpa, it’s the largest supermarket on the island. Here you can grab a bunch of snacks for your trip to Charco Verde in Ometepe, Nicaragua.
What recommendations would you have for other travellers to Ometepe and Charco Verde National Park? Let us know in the comments below.