Merida and San Ramon
Merida, the biggest settlement on the southern side of volcano Maderas, is a calm, rural community where most people subside on fishing and farming on small family lots. The village is spread out and backed by the densely forested volcano Maderas, whose upper part is often shrouded in fog. The eastern and southern slopes of the volcano are more humid than the other sides and show a transition from moist lowland forest to cloud forest. It is the most biologically diverse area of that size in Nicaragua with several endemic plants and a rich wildlife.
Hotels in Merida range from rustic beachside dorms and cabinas to beach resorts and hillside eco-hotels. One of the oldest tourist establishments is Hacienda Merida, which was the most important farm of the Somoza clan before the revolution, and was later converted into a hotel.
One of the favorite activities in Merida is a kayak trip to the Rio Istián,
a fascinating aquatic habitat on the isthmus of Ometepe. Another popular day trip is the hike from the Biological Station
to the San Ramon waterfall in the forest of volcano Maderas. Tours to the waterfall
are also offered on horseback from Merida.
To climb up to the Maderas volcano and its crater lagoon it takes around 8 hours from Merida. Along the trail you have some great viewpoints across the island and Lake Nicaragua.
You can also rent bicycles to drive to the beach of Santo Domingo and further to the Ojo de Agua. Or take the other direction along the shore to San Ramon. Various sites with petroglyphs are found in the area. In Tichana, 2 km after San Ramon are carved stones half submerged in the lake, a bit farther, in Corazal you find ancient cave paintings. In Merida you can visit the petroglyph site of Hamilton Silva Monge, a specialist of the history and archeology of Ometepe.
Merida is reached on a 10 km road from Playa Santa Domingo. The formerly bone-racking trip has greatly improved: half of it is
paved and the rest is on a smooth gravel road that goes until Tichana. From San Ramon to Balgue it's a 14 km ride with bicycle
or on a motorcycle. Parts of this track are steep and very rocky.
The bus doesn't go farther than San Ramon and there is usually only one bus per day, on Sunday there is no service at all. Leaving Merida the bus departs at 8:30 am and from Moyogalpa at 14:40 pm. The ride takes 3 hours and the buses are usually very crowded.