What To Expect When Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro, Nicaragua

What To Expect When Volcano Boarding Cerro Negro, Nicaragua

Volcano boarding is one of the most fun things to do in Nicaragua.

You all know about my passion for volcanoes, of which I became fully aware of only once I traveled to Central America. Coming from Italy, I grew up with the news of volcano eruptions of Etna or Stromboli. My first time on a volcano was in Antigua Guatemala, and then in Lake Atitlan. They look so mighty, so imposing, that you can’t help but feeling attracted to them.

I have hiked many volcanoes in my life, but one thing I never thought I’d do was volcano boarding. I did it on Cerro Negro and truly enjoyed it. In this post, I explain what you should know and expect when volcano boarding Cerro Negro and share some practical tips to make the most of it.

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The incredible sight of Volcan Momotombo in Nicaragua

10 Things To Know Before Going Volcano Boarding In Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a fantastic country. It’s the kind of place you visit with close to zero expectations and end up falling in love with it, with its incredible vibe, with its welcoming people, to the point that you will want to go again and again.

To read more about my love for Nicaragua, check my post “The day I fell in love with Nicaragua.”

Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes. It isn’t by chance: there are 19 active volcanoes scattered around the country. Of these, a few surround Leon and some are close to Granada, Nicaragua tourist hot spot. And two make up Ometepe Island.

Pretty much any time you look around in Nicaragua, there is a volcano in sight. Eventually, whether you like it or not, it is inevitable to get on a volcano. I walked on the crater of volcano Masaya, not far from Granada, and explored the lava fields. I hiked Maderas, in Ometepe island. But it is volcano boarding Cerro Negro that gave me the most thrilling experience.

Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

volcano boarding

One of the many volcanoes of Nicaragua

The only place to do it is Cerro Negro

Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro Nicaragua is one of the most fun things to do in the country. 

To find out about all the other fantastic things to do in Nicaragua, read my post “The most awesome things to do in Nicaragua.”

Cerro Negro is close to Leon, the most interesting city in the country. It is the youngest and smallest volcano in the country, reaching an elevation of around 750 meters, yet among the most active ones. Its last big eruption occurred in 1999. 

This is the only place where you can go volcano boarding in Nicaragua – and to my knowledge, the only place to do volcano boarding in the world. What makes volcano boarding on Cerro Negro possible is its soil, made of tiny grains of volcanic rock

The landscape is beautiful

The landscape that surrounds Cerro Negro is lush: the vegetation at its bottom is thick, thanks to the incredibly fertile soil. The view from the top is simply splendid: it is possible to see as far as the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, sunset views from there are simply breathtaking.

You need to hike up Cerro Negro in order to go volcano boarding

Sliding down Cerro Negro implies a short but somehow tough hike to its top. The path isn’t hard in and of itself, actually. What makes the climb difficult is having to carry the wooden board all the way up, and fighting the strong wind which, although providing a good break from the almost unbearable heat of Leon, literally swipes away – especially when the wooden boards act like sails!

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Gearing up for volcano boarding – photo courtesy of Andrew White (flickr)

You will have to dress up to go volcano boarding

Once at the top, you will be handed a pair of overalls, leather gloves and goggles to wear for the descent. These are supposed to protect you against the dust and to reduce the impact if falling down. Needless to say, if you go volcano boarding, regardless of any protective gear, you are bound to get covered in dark dust at least on the face and hair. It took me a few showers to get rid of the dust and tiny dark pebbles from my hair!

Only one person at a time can slide down

People slide down one at a time. The descent is more or less fast, depending on your actual weight, on how many people have paved the track beforehand, and – obviously – on how you manage the board. I tried to catch as much speed as possible, but I was by far the lightest in my group, yet went before everyone else, with the result that I went down terribly slow, while the rest of the group went very fast.

It is a fun experience

Between the hike, the actual volcano boarding, and the gorgeous views, the experience is a lot of fun: it is worth every cent and I would totally do it again (sending someone to slide before me, so I manage to catch some speed this time).

It is not dangerous

Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro isn’t dangerous per se, though I know of a few people that fell and got injured (that’s a good enough reason not to go alone: here’s a post I wrote that explains why I don’t hike solo).

Once again, it is all a matter of choosing the right balance between fun, adrenaline, and safety: it’s up to each and one of us to decide the speed to which we are sliding down, and to break when going too fast. Some people simply choose to go too fast and then lose control of the board.

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Finally, volcano boarding! – photo courtesy of Garret Ziegler

You can’t get to Cerro Negro Nicaragua by public transportation

Cerro Negro is at about one hour drive from Leon. There is no public transportation to go all the way to the base of the volcano, and the road is quite bumpy, so the best way to get there is on a 4WD truck. The entrance fee to the protected area costs $5 USD.

There’s no place to rent the boards used for volcano boarding anywhere near Cerro Negro, so the most time and cost effective way to enjoy this experience is on a guided tour departing from Leon.

These are the best guided Cerro Negro volcano boarding experiences. They are all in the range of $35 USD.

It is not the cheapest thing to do

There are various companies that offer volcano boarding. The cost is always the same – around $35 USD. Tours generally depart from Leon at around 2:00 pm, giving the possibility of experiencing an incredible sunset from Cerro Negro.

You need to be dressed appropriately

Being appropriately dressed is of the utmost importance when hiking a volcano, and even more so when volcano boarding Cerro Negro. This is a list of essential items you need to wear and carry:

  • Wear a good pair of hiking boots, with proper ankle support. The soil is thick and sandy, and the strong wind makes it already hard enough to walk.
  • Carry a wind jacket: it does get really windy and chilly, which is a novelty in Leon.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes against the thick dust.
  • Pack a small daypack with plenty of water for the duration of the hike.
  • Carry some dollars or cordobas to pay the entrance fee to the protected area.
  • Carry a camera to take amazing sunset shots: it can be left with the guide when sliding down, and he can use it to film the experience.

Care to know what’s normally in my backpack? Head over to read “My Packing List.”

Further readings about amazing volcanoes

Make sure to read my other posts about volcanoes:

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Discover how to prepare for volcano boarding on Cerro Negro - via @clautavani