Travel Guide to the Ometepe Island with detailed Maps, Hotels and Tourist Information

Rio Istián

The intricate river and swamp land of the Rio Istián can be explored on a kayak trip. The languid river meanders inland on the isthmus between Ometepe's two volcanos. It's a picturesque aquatic garden with carpets of floating water plants where you see lots of birds like egrets, whistling ducks and jacanas. Big, gnarled trees root in the water, some of them heavily hung with vines and mosses.

Pictures of Rio Istián

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    The water garden of Rio Istián

    Istian Ometepe
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    River mouth of the Rio Istián with Helequeme trees rooting in the water

    Istian Ometepe
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    Kayaking on the Rio Istián

    Istian Ometepe
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    Istian Ometepe
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    Helequeme trees flower between February and March

    Istian Ometepe
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    Paddling through the floating gardens

    Istian Ometepe
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    Snowy egret

    Istian Ometepe
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    Istian Ometepe
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    View to the Maderas volcano

    Istian Ometepe
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    Istian Ometepe
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    Motor boats can take you to the mouth of the Rio Istian

    Istian Ometepe


Most kayak tours start in Merida from where you paddle 3 km across the lake until you reach the wide river mouth. Crossing the lake can be a bit tough when you have the wind against you. These winds are most heavy between October and January. Usually they are less strong in the early morning or at dawn. After an hour approximately you arrive at the estuary where you enter the still waters of the Istián. Birds of every shape and hue fly close by as you glide through the water jungle. The marshy isthmus is also home to turtles and caimans but they are very shy so that it's difficult to see them. Caimans are much smaller than crocodiles and do not attack people. Sometimes there are families of howler monkeys foraging in the trees.

A guided round trip by kayak from Merida takes around 4 hours. If you want to spare yourself the 3 km paddling across the lake you can have your kayak hauled by motor boat to the river mouth and back. A closer location for a kayak tour is the starting point of El Peru, north of the village, from where it's only 1 km to the river mouth.
In dry season (February - April) some waterways might be too shallow to pass through, and in rainy season (October) winds and rains might be too heavy for kayaking.

A land-bound tour to see a small part of the river and marsh land is the short hiking trail from Playa Santo Domingo. The trail starts at the side of hotel Casa Isthiam and leads to the upper end of the Rio Istián.