Volcano Boarding - 2 girls holding their boards on Cerro Negro

Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

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Do you wake up in the morning and think, “What kind of wild adventure can I get into today?” Well, have you ever considered strapping on a jumpsuit and sliding down the side of an active volcano on a rickety old board? Yep, I’m talking about volcano boarding! It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush, and it’s guaranteed to make your heart race and your palms sweat.

If you’re a thrill-seeker, then volcano boarding in Nicaragua should definitely be on your bucket list. And if you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry. In this article, I’ll take you on a journey to Cerro Negro, an active volcano in Nicaragua, and cover everything you need to know. Get ready for an unforgettable ride!

What is Volcano Boarding

Basically, volcano boarding is like sand boarding’s crazy cousin. It’s an extreme sport that involves sliding down the side of an active volcano on a specially designed board, at a speed that can reach up to 80km/h. It’s the perfect adventure for adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers who want to add some serious excitement to their travel plans.

To join in on the volcano boarding fun, you first need to hike to the top of the volcano, which is no easy feat and can take a bit of time. But, the view from the summit is totally worth it! Once you’re geared up in your protective suit and helmet, it’s time to grab your board and hit the slopes.

A group of people volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

By the way, did you know that Hawaiians were volcano boarding before it was cool? Sled surfing on beds of volcanic rocks was their hobby for thousands of years! It was even a sport and religious ritual called He’e holua. But British missionaries had to ruin the fun and banned it in 1825.

But don’t worry, volcano boarding has made its comeback! Adventurer and journalist Zoltan Istvan claims to have invented the sport in 2002 while filming for National Geographic Channel in Vanuatu. He was dune sledding down the Mt. Yasur volcano when an eruption was about to start – talk about an adrenaline rush!

Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

A Little Bit of History

Cerro Negro is no ordinary volcano. It’s an active one that last erupted in 1999 and holds the title of the youngest in Central America! This mountain has erupted a whopping 23 times since the mid-1800s, and stands tall at approximately 728 meters above sea level. The cone-shaped volcano is formed by ash and black sand, which gives it its unique name “Cerro Negro” or “Black Mountain”. It’s so young and active that trees and plants can’t grow on its steep slopes.

What makes Cerro Negro truly special is that one of the volcano’s slopes is too steep to climb which makes for an exhilarating fast descent! Unlike other slopes filled with rocks, this side has only volcanic sand, providing the perfect surface for running downhill at high speeds.

But who brought the world’s attention to this sport in Nicaragua? It was the Aussie Darryn Webb who climbed the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua around 2004 and decided to try out sliding down using different types of boards, from mattresses to fridge doors, even picnic tables! Eventually, he discovered the perfect board was the same technology used to build sandboards. That’s when it started to gain popularity and Léon, where he founded his hostel – Bigfoot Hostel – quickly became the capital of volcano sledding in Nicaragua and worldwide.

How to Get to Cerro Negro

To reach the volcano, you’ll need to head to the town of Léon, which is about an hour’s drive away. Once there, you can arrange a tour or hike to the summit on your own. I recommend going with a tour, and the easiest option is to choose a hostel-organized tour like the one offered by Big Foot Hostel – the same one I went with. For around $30, you’ll get transportation, entrance fees, a guide, safety equipment, breakfast, snacks, and even a free tank t-shirt to remember your experience!

My tour was from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but there are other options available, such as combining the experience with a trek or experiencing it at sunset. The hike up to the summit takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is moderately challenging, with a steep ascent and no paved trail. Don’t worry if you don’t want to carry your board yourself; you can pay someone to do it for you. However, carrying your own board is part of the adventure! Plus, don’t be a wimp, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and soak in the incredible views of the area.

Once you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by a stunning 360-degree view of the area, unobstructed by trees. Take some time to snap pics and learn some cool history before gearing up for the main event – volcano sledding in Nicaragua.

What to Expect When Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

I have to admit, once again, I didn’t fully think this through before signing up, and once I was up there staring at the steep slope, I started to question my life choices. But rational thinking has no place in that kind of situation. So, I had no other choice than to go for it. And it was definitely worth it! The experience was truly amazing and one that I’ll never forget.

The board looks like a cross between a snowboard and a sled, and you’ll sit on it as you speed down the slope. Use your feet to steer and slow down if you’re feeling brave! The adrenaline rush is intense and only lasts a few minutes. If you go with a tour, they’ll capture epic pics and videos of you shredding the slopes like a pro.

A girl volcano boarding in Nicaragua

At the bottom, you’ll hopefully still be in one piece, albeit covered in rocks and dust, and with a huge grin on your face. You’ll feel like a total badass, trust me. Well, I did, although I could have been better at mastering my stop.

Practical Tips for Epic Success

  • Dress for success. While some might think that shorts and sneakers are just fine – yes, that’s me – most people recommend opting for long pants and closed-toe shoes – read hiking shoes – for extra protection. Nope, no flip-flops, sorry. And don’t forget to throw on a bandana to protect your face from the dust. You’ll look cool. Our tour guide provided us with one, but plan one if it’s not the case.
  • Go with a reputable company. Climbing and sliding down an active volcano is no joke. So, make sure you go with a company that knows what they’re doing and will gear you up properly. Plus, it’s always more fun to experience the rush of the volcano with a group of like-minded thrill-seekers.
  • Stand up or sit down? That is the question. While some might be tempted to show off their snowboarding skills, I recommend sticking with the classic sit-down method. Not only does it give you more control over the board, but you’ll also be less likely to eat it and face-plant those jagged rocks.
  • You don’t have to be an athlete. Don’t worry if you’re not a fitness fanatic. You can go up there at your own pace and take breaks when you need to. It’s all about having fun and experiencing the thrill of the volcano, not breaking any world records.
  • Don’t forget the essentials: water and sunscreen. You’ll also want to bring mosquito repellent if those pesky bugs love you and a hat or bandana if none is provided.
  • Check out your insurance. I’m not one to obsess over insurance details, but when it comes to volcano boarding, it might be worth checking that your coverage has got you covered. While volcano boarding may seem like the ultimate cool-kid activity, safety first.
  • Don’t think too much, because that’s when you might chicken out, especially if you’re getting up there in years and start considering the risks. So, just go with the flow and have a blast!
  • Just in case your company forgot to clue you in, read this:
    • Sit at the back of the board and distribute your weight evenly to keep your balance and avoid wiping out.
    • Hold on to the rope with both hands.
    • To speed up, lie back and tense your core muscles.
    • To slow down, sit up straight and dig your heels into the ash rock.
    • If you feel like you’re going to fall off, try to fall backwards, away from the board. It’s not the most graceful move, but it beats face-planting into the ash.
    • Get ready to be covered in ash rock! But that’s just part of the adventure.
A group of people ready to go volcano boarding in Nicaragua

Volcano Boarding Around the World

Now, Cerro Negro in Nicaragua is the hottest spot for volcano boarding, and there are very few other places in the world. For example, you can hit up Mount Yasur on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, Mount Etna in Italy, or Mount Bromo in Indonesia. Each location offers its own unique challenge.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the scene, volcano boarding is an adventure you don’t want to miss. The rush of sliding down the rocky terrain is insane, and the view from the top is nothing short of epic.

Final Thoughts on Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

So I think you’ve got it! Volcano sledding in Nicaragua is a must-do activity for every adrenaline seeker out there. Not only is it full of thrills and chills, but it’s also one of the coolest things you can do when traveling. And the best part? It won’t break the bank! It’s cheap, easy to access, and offers an incredible experience that you won’t soon forget.
I hope I’ve convinced you to add this epic activity to your travel bucket list! If you decide to give volcano boarding a go, don’t forget to let me know how it went. And above all, have a blast – that’s what it is all about!
And if you are planning to stay a bit longer in Nicaragua, be sure to check out the beach town of San Juan del Sur.

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