Santa Cruz and El Madroñal
- 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
Its location at the intersection of two main roads makes Rancho Santa Cruz (tel. 505/8884-9894, santacruzometepe [at] gmail [dot] com, www.santacruzometepe.com) an excellent base from which to explore in either direction, as your chances of catching a bus or taxi on this transportationally-challenged island double.
Spacious rooms go for $10–25, nice dorms with good air circulation for $5 per person. The restaurant serves granola, yogurt, and pancake breakfasts for around $2 and a selection of vegetarian options including pastas and curries for $4–6 for lunch and dinner. You can rent bikes here for $5 a day, and they can arrange horseback riding on request.
Let the lapping waves of Lake Cocibolca rock you to sleep at Little Morgan’s (tel. 505/8949-7074, $6–8 treehouse dorm beds, $30 private cabanas), named after the charismatic Irish owner’s young son. Chill to the satellite tunes, play a game of pool, or simply hang out in one of the rancho’s dreamy hammocks. From the village of Santa Cruz, a short walk down toward the water.
A 10-minute walk up the trail from the village of El Madroñal leads to La Finca Ecologica El Zopilote (tel. 505/8369-0644, www.ometepezopilote.com, $2.50–10 pp for camping, dorm beds, and private cabins), a hillside cluster of thatch huts and platforms run by a few peace-loving Italians and their pack of hound dogs. Meals are not provided, rather fix your own in the open-air communal kitchen; the compound has compost toilets, an artisan’s workshop, and a clay oven for bread and pizza.
Check out the organic products in the gift shop, from coffee to liqueur, and enjoy the permaculture plantation throughout the grounds. Tents for camping are also available.
Volunteers willing to work on the farm for at least a week get a 20 percent discount and all the fruit they can eat. Pizza nights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are a hit with expats and guests.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition