Carved out from the densely forested southwest face of Maderas Volcano is the San Ramon waterfall; a sheer, 50 metre cliff over which flows a river of volcanic spring water. The waterfall is only reachable by foot via a trail beginning at the Biological Field Station near the village of San Ramon, Ometepe. From here, it is a 4 kilometre journey to the waterfall, however it is possible to travel the initial 2 kilometres by 4×4, ATV or even horseback if you don’t fancy walking the entire distance. The flow of the waterfall varies seasonally, with the torrent known to reach a width of 10m at the peak of the rainy season, whilst becoming a mere trickle in April.
Entry to the waterfall is $3, payable at the gate of the lakeside Biological Field Station. Here, the neat, sloping lawns are a pleasant foreground to a magnificent view of Maderas Volcano. At the top of the garden is a simple, shaded restaurant and the beginning of the trail.
For the first 2 kilometres, the trail is a wide, partially-paved road, cutting through open fields of cows. Tall eucalyptus trees border sections of the path and give the air a sweet, familiar scent of mint and honey, as well as some welcome shade. This section also produces some spectacular views of the lake. At the top of the road is a car park, where anyone not travelling by foot must alight. Here too is the small, concrete hydroelectricity station, which use the constant flow of the spring water to generate electricity for the biological station and surrounding farm buildings.
As the way becomes steeper, the fields also transform into loosely packed forest. The trail also narrows into a footpath and the cacophony of cicadas, urracas and howler monkeys grows. Underfoot, the path is less even here, and this is when proper footwear becomes a necessity, especially after rains. Through the trees, you will notice that the track is climbing along the bosom of a deepening, heavily forested valley.
After about a kilometer, the narrow woodland trail is suddenly opens into a cinematic and prehistoric canyon with sheer rock faces either side. Here, the climate is noticeably cooler and the dirt track is replaced with a brook, trickling under and between mossy rocks which have been shaped and smoothed by the water’s persistent flow. From here the growing sound of water on rock is a constant presence in the valley, however despite the warning, the towering San Ramon waterfall still seems to appear from nowhere. It is astounding that the jungle trees could keep such a magnificent, towering spectacle a secret until the last corner is rounded.
The waterfall is breathtaking and a welcome reward for the hike. At 52m, the San Ramon waterfall is taller than even the giant ceiba trees, and at its base the water seems to fall directly from a hidden spout in the heavens. From the forest, formations of swifts swoop at the falling water, opportunistically feeding on any temporarily airborne river animals that might be amongst amongst the spray. The falls empty into a shallow pool, which although too small for swimming, is perfect for bathing and cooling off beneath the falling stream. As the air here has been chilled by falls, the climate in the surrounding glade is much cooler than the forest, making it the perfect spot to relax and refresh.
For the hike, make sure to bring plenty of water and wear a decent pair of shoes. Sunscreen is important, especially for the first section of the journey where there isn’t always shade and it’s also a nice idea to bring a picnic along to enjoy at the falls. Remember to bring a towel as well for the waterfall. It takes 1 ½ to 2 hours to hike up to the waterfall and about an hour for downhill return journey and although hiking to the San Ramon waterfall isn’t as easy as many internet sources make out, it is well worth the effort. The fresh waters and natural beauty of the falls are the perfect destination for any jungle hike and make it one of Ometepe’s best activities.