As Ometepe’s principle ferry port, Moyogalpa will likely be a traveller’s first experience of the island. Moyogalpa is also the largest and most populous village on Ometepe and boasts two supermarkets, multiple banks, a western union, and many options for scooter, motorbike and ATV rental.
From the port, an uphill, busy main drag leads to the Church of Santa Ana. A striking, marigold building, it is visible almost from the boat due to its size and position atop the villages crest. The festival of Santa Ana is celebrated annually between the 23rd and 26th of July, when the streets are busy with music and horseback processions. Beneath the church is the Rev. Juan Roberto Smith memorial park. Originally from the United States, Reverent Juan Roberto Smith is a local hero. During the civil war, he famously sheltered some of the local youths in the priest house to protect them from being drafted by the Somoza Regime. He also donated land for the construction of the local high school which also bears his name. The park itself is charming, with lots of shade, picnic tables, a fountain, a large playground.
Tucked away somewhat innocuously on the dock street, behind a handicraft shop, is the Museum Sala Arqueological. Two small, and somewhat disorganised, rooms of pre-Colombian pottery that describe the culture heritage of the island. The museum displays an impressive collection of ancient red and black ceramics, grinding stones for cacao and maize, large funeral urns, and beautifully intricate figurines of humans, jaguars and serpents dating back as far as 300 AD. Amongst the antiquities are artifacts from a more recent past, typewriters, pistols, sewing machines and telephones from Ometepe over the last two centuries. Entry here is $2 and although written information is sporadic, someone will be happy to give a tour.
Moyogalpa also affords many breakfast cafes and ice-cream parlours. A typical Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, frijoles, plantains and gallo pinto, is available at most kitchen-style restaurants for about $2. One of these is the Cafe Star Princess ($2-$4), a tiny kitchen that serves typical Nicaraguan food through a window to seating on an even smaller terrace. It can be found a block from the dock street, past La Curacao. For something a little more fancy, The Cornerhouse ($5-8) makes a great Nica or European-style breakfast. Here you can find a delicious coffee and an Eggs Benedict as well as lots of good lunch options. For a authentic, Italian-style percolated coffee, there is Buon Apetito ($1-$2). Located just a block up from the port, it serves a superb Cafe a la Moka. Fruit smoothies, known as batidos, and ice-cream are also very popular here and there are lots of options found on the main street. For ice-cream, the Nicaraguan brand is Eskimo, and the huge red and white logos painted on the side of tiendas will make it obvious where to find it. There is also the new, modern, (Costa Rican) Dos Pinos parlour next to the Mega Ahorro supermarket where it is possible to get a cone for $0.60 a scoop.
In the evening, grab some beers and head down to the docks for some of Nicaragua’s finest sunsets. Facing directly west, the dock is a finger pointing squarely at the sun as it sinks into the lake. The shallows around here are also a hub of activity at this time; men fish with nets and horses bathe, making it a brilliant location to relax and soak in the atmosphere.
For this writer, the thing that makes Moyogalpa the best choice for a home base on the island is the food options available here. The Restaurante Indio Viejo ($5-8) in the Hospedaje Central is a block downhill from the calle principal.This colourful corner restaurant has a friendly ambience and offers big portions of traditional Nica and Mediterranean plates at a decent price. The village also has several pizza parlours, Chido’s ($5-$10) is a relaxed, sports-bar style spot, great for a pizza and a couple of drinks. Alternatively, the more upscale Los Ranchitos ($6-$13) has loads of options for pizza, and grilled meat and seafood. As for street food, Doña Nubia ($2) is the village’s most popular. There’s only one option here, barbecued chicken, gallo pinto and plantain chips, but the food is delicious and it won’t blow the budget.
When it comes to nightlife, Moyogalpa isn’t San Juan del Sur, but there are still plenty of places to relax with a Nica Libre or two. Mar Dulce ($1.50-$2.50) is a nice open-plan bar and restaurant on the port road that offers a good selection of tasty, rummy cocktails. The Indio Viejo also has a well-stocked bar, and lively atmosphere. For a more authentic local experience head to the Velamar, a friendly, local watering hole with lots of indoor and outdoor seating and ridiculously cheap drinks. A beer here will set you back $0.50 and a generous measure of Flor de Caña 7 year old for about $1. After a couple of these you may even be persuaded to join in with the locals for some impassioned karaoke. Another great spot for a cheap Toña or Victoria is a pool hall on the main street, simply named ‘Bar’. Beers here are also less than a dollar and a game of pool costs about fifteen cents.
With it’s brilliant view of Concepción, opulent culture and history, vibrant eateries, handy amenities and close proximity to some of the island’s finest beaches, Moyogalpa will always stake a claim to Ometepe’s most attractive destination.