Built on a thick bed of red sand and surrounded on all sides by mountains draped with green Ocote pines, Ocotal is the last major settlement before the Honduran border at Las Manos  and the unbroken wilderness that stretches eastward to the Caribbean.
Since 2000, it has seen a lot of development: Formerly sandy streets are now paved. There are two big supermarkets, San Judas and Palí, both located just north and west of the park. The feeling of Ocotal is one of progress.
For most travelers, Ocotal may be nothing more than a place to sleep before hitting the border—but for many coffee growers and subsistence farmers, Ocotal is still “the big city” for supplies and business. And in many ways, Ocotal marvelously represents the kind of quiet, steady growth that goes unnoticed until you’ve been away for awhile and then takes you by surprise. Steadily, Ocotal is reinventing itself as a great place to do business.
Here you are indeed getting close to the frontier however, and you only have to head a mile out of town in any direction before you are back to the rutted dirt roads, soporific cow towns, and sweeping valleys that make Nicaragua at once so charming and so challenging.
At least 11 express buses leave Managua ’s Mayoreo terminal for Ocotal, stopping along the highway in Estelí  to pick up additional passengers. Sixteen buses ply the route between Somoto  and Ocotal daily, 5:45 a.m.–6:30 p.m. If you miss the expreso buses, there are countless additional, painfully slow ordinary buses from Mayoreo.