There is a small sign on the side of the only main road on Ometepe island. Turn right to Charco Verde natural reserve, it says. But why would you do that when you have tho beauty of two volcanoes left and right of you?
Well, to start with these volcanoes: they are nice to look at but not easy to climb. They take 8 to 12 hours of walking on a guided roundtrip. And whether you want to do that to yourself in this humidity and heat…
But, more importantly, Charco Verde is one of those sweet beautiful little places too often overlooked by tourists. They usually go for what is in plain sight. But we took the turn to the right, and discovered a small natural reserve which was tended with much love. And which was lightyears away from the popular national parks in for instance Costa Rica.
Beyond the reception building a butterfly garden awaits you. It is kind of surreal to be surrounded by butterflies. Take your time to discover all the beautiful species. Grab your camera and hope for some killer shots.
The surrounding botanical garden is sweet as well. It obviously features many local species of plants, but also pretty giant turtles. Be sweet as well and leave them to themselves. You wouldn’t like to be picked up and dragged around as well for a photo session, would you?
But that is only the start of the natural reserve. Not that Charco Verde is THAT big: you can cover its around twenty hectares in 30-40 minutes of walking. But if you come prepared (drinks, a bit of food and sunscreen) you can easily extend that by a couple of hours.
The obvious main attraction is the mythical pond of Charco Verde, in the middle of the dry tropical forest. Its water is emerald green, mostly because of abundant algae growth. Thus: look, but preferrably don’t swim.
This pond comes with great legends from the locals. One is about Chico Largo, a demon residing at the bottom of the lake. Another story says that on the same bottom is a village called El Encanto. A subterranean town populated by people who picked fruits in Charco Verde. As a punishment they were turned into cows and pigs.
So much for local legends 🙂 Walk on though and the genuine main attraction is the Playa Bancon. It is overshadowed by old trees. The sand is almost black here, a residue from volcanic eruptions. This beach is amazingly tranquile. It also offers views of nearby Isla de Quiste, which you can reach if you rent a kayak in the nearby hotel.
After finally having lifted your ass off the beach sand, you will slowly turn back to the pond. Look up high in the trees and you might discover some howler monkeys. After you return to the entrance area, you can theoretically finish your visit with a lunch or dinner in the adjacent hotel.
About San Jose del Sur
- Charco Verde is on the eastern edge of San Jose del Sur village
- This village is serviced three times a day by a ferry from the mainland
- There is not a lot of accommodation here: book in advance
- We loved the town though because it is very Nicaraguan, very authentic, hardly catering for tourists
- For food we went to the Rancho Morgan. Located almost in the water, their dishes are basic but excellent and cheap. Service is super-friendly, and the sound of the water will bring you into the ultimate holiday vibe