Speeding down a black sand active volcano at 30 mph is a thrill of a lifetime!
Have you ever wanted to board down an active volcano? Chances are you've never heard that it's something you can do. After all, active volcanoes are dangerous, right?
But volcano boarding is something you can do just outside of the stunning city of León, Nicaragua; and I recommend that you do!
Basics of Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua
Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua is one of a kind!
There is no where else in the world that you can board down an active volcano! Sure you can board down sand dunes in Colorado, Peru, Chile, Australia and many other places, but no where else offers boarding an active volcano!
Cerro Negro is considered a very new volcano. In fact, it's the youngest in Central America having appeared first in April of 1850.
Cerro Negro volcano is magnificent. True to it's name "Black Hill", the volcano consists of black sand and rocks with striking white and red sand sweeping down the mountain.
You might be asking about the dangers of the volcano erupting. The last time Cerro Negro erupted was in 1999. In fact, Cerro Negro has erupted 23 times in it's short lifetime. Of course, there is always a risk but the volcano is actively monitored to avoid putting boarders in a dangerous position.
León to Cerro Negro
Just one-hour outside of León, Nicaragua lies Cerro Negro, Spanish for "Black Hill", an active volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range. It's also part of the larger Ring of Fire!
The Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range consists of several volcanos including San Cristóbal (1745 m tall), Pilas (983 m tall), Telica (1060 m tall), Cerro Negro (450 m tall), and Momotombo (1258 m tall). Many of these volcanoes make great hikes!
The tour will either pick you up at your accommodation, or you will meet at their office. From there, the group will hop into a pretty rugged, quasi-exposed jeep-type vehicle, most likely with long benches lining the sides of the vehicle.
The car ride from León to Cerro Negro is roughly an hour, and is pretty bumpy. There's a few routes the vehicle can take but you will drive through a remote part of Nicaragua through agricultural fields.
After driving out to the volcano, you'll get out of the vehicle to sign in to the park's "guestbook" and pay the entrance fee of $5, then proceed again by vehicle to the base of the volcano.
From there, you'll get your board and backpack filled with goggles and a full body jump suit, then you'll hike up to the top of the volcano.
TRAVELER'S TIP: If your tour does not give you a free tee or tank, make sure to bring something to cover your face while your sliding down the volcano! You WILL get black sand, dirt and rocks in your teeth otherwise. Not fun.
Hiking Cerro Negro Volcano
The short yet strenuous in the Nicaraguan heat one-hour hike offers spectacularly expansive views of Nicaragua, Telica and San Cristóbal volcanoes line the horizon. The big open green and yellow plains were reminiscent of what I expect an African safari to be like!
Boarding Down an Active Volcano
Once at the top of Cerro Negro you have the opportunity to really soak in the surroundings.
Then when everyone is ready, you'll change into the jumpsuit provided and then slide down the volcano! It only takes 1 to 3 minutes to slide down!
People have even clocked speeds of 95km/hr, or roughly 60 mph!!! Crazy fast! My speed wasn't clocked but if I had to guess I would have barely gone half that speed!
It's not recommended to board standing up, instead you'll sit on the board more like a sled. This way is both faster (more fun!) and less dangerous considering there are lots of rocks that might break your fall!
Don't be too afraid, you can control your speed based on how much you use your feet as breaks.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Most people instinctively put their feet down immediately to ensure they don't go too fast but it's hard to pick up speed later. My advice is to keep your feet up when you start, even if you're tempted to put them down. Wait to put your feet down and then play with the length and pressure in which you use your feet as breaks in the sand.
What to Pack & What to Wear
It's hot, and you'll have a jumpsuit provided so you don't need to cover up. However, you should wear or bring the following
- Shorts and tee-shirt or tank
- Tennis shoes or hiking shoes/boots and socks
- Bandana or tee shirt to wrap around your face - if one is not provided
- Camera - if you're worried about crashing and breaking your camera, your guide can bring it down for you
TRAVELER'S TIP: Some tours offer the option of going twice. Yes, this means you'll have to hike up the volcano twice but I think it's worth it since the first time you're apprehensive about going too fast!
So when you're in León, Nicaragua be sure to add volcano boarding down Cerro Negro on your to do list.
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