One of the activities we were looking forward to the most during our travels through Central America was the popular Volcano Boarding down Nicaragua’s youngest and most active Volcano, Cerro Negro.
Just a one hours drive from Leon, rising out of an emerald green forest, is the small black volcano that is so loved by adventure seeking tourists.
There are two main companies that people tend to use. The first is through Bigfoot Hostel, a very popular party hostel in Leon. Whilst a lot of my friends have chosen this option I read a review on Instagram by Adventurous Kate that told of problems with them, which made me second guess going through them.
I decided to go with Quetzal Trekkers, the second most popular option, as I was inspired by their organisation. Quetzal is a non for profit, volunteer-run organisation that uses the funds raised on tours and treks to give back to the community. They donate the profits to five different projects, which you can read about here. I just loved this idea and really wanted to contribute. As I was spending the $30 (same price for both companies) regardless I would much rather put it towards helping the locals of the community. Bonus? Quetzal Trekkers are the only tour group that offers a second board down the volcano. Two for the price of one!
WHAT IS INCLUDED
With the $30 fee you get round-trip transport, an english speaking guide/volunteer, a snack, lunch, purified drinking water, entrance fees and all gear. I suggest wearing closed in walking shoes and taking a bandana or shirt to cover your face with for the descent.
MY THOUGHTS ON VOLCANO BOARDING
Upon arriving I was a bit disappointed with the size of the Volcano, it looked like a very large black hill instead. The climb, whilst very hot and awkward due to carrying the board on our backs, was not as physically hard as I was expecting and I am not the fittest person to be fair.
The hike to the top took around an hour and was made more difficult by the wind, which threatened to push us off the ridge completely as it slammed against the ‘wings’ of my board (see photo below to see why I described it like that). The view, however, was quite beautiful. As we reached the top of Cerro Negro Volcano we were greeted with panorama views of the Maribios Volcano Range and the Pacific Ocean.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a crater at the top, steaming with sulphur. It was fun to push the top layer of rocks aside and feel the intense heat coming from below the surface (I wish I took an egg and tried to cook it).
After taking a few photos of the view and getting into our gear it was time to hop on our boards and descend the volcano.
Despite all the photos in hostels in town they do not recommend standing on the board like a snowboard but rather use the board like a toboggan. We were split into two lanes and given instructions. As I had read a few reviews from people saying the boards got stuck I wasn’t expecting it to go so fast. I was mistaken. My board flew down the slope and all efforts to control it failed. The only way I could slow it down was by shoving my feet into the mounds of rocks, which resulted in the board skidding to its side and me falling off and rolling down the volcano.
The hardest part of the experience was having to climb up two metres to where my board had buried itself in the rocks. The surface of the volcano was like sinking sand and with every ten steps I only gained one. It took me what felt like forever to reach my board and hop back on.
To be honest I was pretty relieved to have reached the bottom. I had black rock all in my clothes, in my hair, under my nails and all over my face (even in my teeth). Despite being an adventurous person it was a bit too fast for my liking.
Whilst you are supposed to have the option to hike back up and ride down again (with Quetzal Trekkers) we had to return to Leon early as one of the guys on our tour had gone down so fast he fell and knocked himself unconscious. Upon waking he had no idea where he was and no re-collection of even hiking the Volcano.
Whilst my boyfriend loved Volcano Boarding and would have happily done it again (if we hadn’t needed to take that guy to the hospital) I was happy to leave. I’m glad I did it once but it was not my favourite thing and I don’t feel the need to do it again (sand-boarding though, I love! Click here to read more about that experience).
After reading many reviews and speaking to friends who have done it through a variety of organisations I have found that Volcano Boarding is hit or miss, everyone has different experiences but I think that you should always give things a go and find out for yourself what you like and don’t like.
I still highly recommend it and definitely recommend Quetzal Trekkers. If I had more time and better feet (I get blisters like no one else) I would have loved to do some of the multiple day hikes that they organise, they look incredible!
Over to you. Have you done something that you were undecided about? Let me know in the comments below!