By the time we reached the end of our trip to Nicaragua my friend and I agreed the place that made our trip so special was El Zopilote hostel in Ometepe Island.
The Island of Ometepe was our favorite place in Nicaragua and the thing that made it so special was without a doubt our hostel, El Zopilote. This magical island has a way to draw you in and make you adjust to its slow peaceful pace and El Zopilote fits right into this “zen mode”.
I wasn’t sure about booking this place at first. The hostel was in the middle of a forest and I didn’t know if a city mouse like myself can live with all this nature surrounding us. In hindsight, that was the best hostel we stayed at in Nicaragua.
This permaculture farm was built by a father and son with the dream of creating a space which would be functional, productive and completely respectful of the natural environment. With this idea in mind, the facilities are eco-friendly like compost toilets (that were actually so much better than imagined) and outdoor showers.
This is the ideal place for you if you want to be completely surrounded by nature and simply relax. The hostel’s facilities and activities that will get you to connect with your surroundings and allow you to experience the island. Beneath the reception and restaurant area, you have several hammocks and the place offers free yoga classes twice a day (which we loved), workshops (like wallets making out of magazines) and tours around the farm.
Getting to El Zopilote
The farm is located in the middle of the forest so you will probably get there by taxi (costs about 1500 Cordova) or with your scooter and will have to stop at the main road by the “yellow bus” which serves as the entrance to the trail that leads to the hostel. In reality, this bus is much more than just a stopping point. It served as our resting stop everytime we would come down from the hostel or right before we hiked up.
Inside the bus, you can shop for handmade items, t-shirts, crafts, organic produce and more. Outside the bus, you will find two lovely ladies that will make you some delicious smoothies or serve you some ice cream (vegan options are available). You can also rent motorbikes right next to it or have to get your laundry washed (I used their laundry service and my clothes came out fresh and clean).
After you stopped at the bus and enjoyed a smoothie or a chat with the locals that work there, you will have to hike for about 7-10 minutes in the forest to get to the hostel. This hike is one of the reasons people are reluctant to book this place but trust me you shouldn’t let it be a factor in your decision. I’ve met several people that after coming to the hostels’ pizza night decided to leave their hostel and come to stay in El Zopilote (one couple came there for one night only!).
If you don’t want to hike with your huge backpack there’s nothing to worry. My friend and I traveled with a small carry on so we knew hiking this trail would be a nightmare. Luckily we met two young guys at the bike shop that were willing to help us out for some money. We paid them 1000 cordobas (about 3 dollars) and they carried our small carry-ons on their shoulders as if they were weightless.
When we got to the reception there was a bit of line (remember the payment is with cash only) so we sat down at the restaurant and enjoyed some natural juices. Then we were led to our private hut (murciélago hut) by the lady that works at the reception.
When she showed us the small house we were surprised to see her go up the steep ladder and open a tiny door to what supposed to be the attic. That was our room. We could barely stand at the front part of the room but only where the bed is located. It was small but the shock wore off quickly and after a few hours, we fell in love with the place and our small cabana.
The price for this private room was almost the same as 2 single beds in a dorm so it was totally worth it.
The hostel has another private cabana that is bigger (and probably costs a bit more) and two dorms. One of these dorms is farther away from the reception so you might want to book the one that is closer. There are also places to hang your hammock or camp if that’s how you travel. Wherever you choose to stay you will be surrounded by trees, flowers, and birds.
Since the hostel is not on the main road they have a great restaurant so you won’t have to go up and down the trail eveyrtime you want to grab a bite. The food at the hostel restaurant is from farm to table and is all organic and fresh. They have many vegan and gluten-free option and we tried almost every vegan dish on the menu.
This restaurant is just like anything else on the island: slow but in a good way. At first w,e were anxious to get our drinks but, after a few hours, we learn how things work in this place and we started slowing down ourselves. While we were waiting for our meals we were able to talk to other guests or simply relax. Somehow I feel the food tasted better that way.
Apart from the food offered in the restaurant, twice a week (Tuesday and Saturday) the hostel hosts pizza nights and travelers from all over the island come to eat some pizza and stay for the party afterward. My tip is to make sure you get there early (it starts at 6pm) because it gets pretty crowded and you might end up getting your pizza at 11pm if you show up late.
Another one of my favorite activities was to watch the sunset from the tower next to the reception. We would go up there everyday, climb up the ladder and just enjoy the sunset. We tried catching the sunrise once by missed it.
In the restaurant area, you will find dozens of electrical outlets so you can charge your phones and laptops (there are no outlets in the private huts). I loved that even though this was a place for us to connect with nature, you will still see people catching up with civilization through their phones without any judgment. Yes, you can choose to completely disconnect but there’s nothing wrong with using your phones once in a while.
If you want to leave the hostel and explore the island you can always hitchhike (it’s considered to be safe there but of course you would have to be careful and not go to with “suspicious looking” people).
You can hitchhike or walk to El Pital, also known as the chocolate factory, where you can enjoy their amazing chocolate-fruit smoothies and just chill on their hammocks or swings. At nights you can walk to Little Morgan’s hostel for one of their parties. The island is safe but try to avoid walking at night alone.