If you do even the slightest bit of research about travelling in Nicaragua, within minutes volcano boarding comes up as one of the must do things while travelling in the country. Similarly to Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, while not the worlds cheapest activity it’s an activity you literally get a t-shirt for and one that cannot be missed, trust me!
Tips for a day of volcano boarding:
- Take water and energy drinks with you, they cost a lot by the time you get to the national park.
- If your like me and can’t survive without food between the times of 9:00-3:30pm, take a small packet of something to keep you going.
- Wear decent footwear, the slopes gravelly path to the top are slippery.
- Don’t be seriously hungover, I couldn’t imagine the pain of the hike in the heat with one. Plus this is a decent amount of money for an activity in central america, don’t ruin it with self-inflicted pain.
- Take money for entry to the park and let the local guys carry your board. You’re doing them a favour despite feeling lazy- they would be earning pennies elsewhere.
- Don’t take valuables up, they do advise you not to but the people who didn’t listen it was just hassle. What goes up must come down (and in this case with you on your board at easily plus 30kph).
The volcano Cerro Negro is the only place on earth you can do volcano boarding! This is based on the small sand like consistency of the steepest face of the volcano. Combine this with the small-ish hike and gradient to the top, 724m above sea level. Volcano boarding was initially developed by the same guy who also established Big Foot Hostels back in 2004. When developing the activity and finally settling on the boards used today the developer tried a snowboard, surfboard, a mattress and even a fridge in an attempt to develop volcano boarding we know today! The boards used are now almost a sledge like design, being made of metal and reinforced plywood.
While there are many companies offering tours in León I chose to go with the creator of volcano boarding.
Big Foot volcano boarding package included:
- Travel to and from the volcano
- Guide explaining about the volcano, land surrounding and the development of the sport on the way up
- All the gear needed
- A t-shirt
- A mojito, beer and pizza bite for afterwards
- A lift to and from the beach with the group after the volcano boarding
The day starts off with being handed a bag with your goggles and orange jumpsuit. You take this with you on the one hour hike, I hadn’t thought about getting to the top weirdly. I’m not going to lie, with my illnesses I was worried. I am strongly advised to avoid; morning activity, exercise in the heat, climbing and doing anything at altitude. Pretty much everything required to get to the top. But I made it, so if I can, pretty much anyone can! Their are local guys offering to carry your board. No questions asked, I’m helping the guys out paying $5 to take the board and they’re helping me to not faint! The heat of the day and the heat coming off the active volcano was pretty intense, but not too far up you’ve got a breeze to sort you out and regular breaks.
Our guide from Big Foot was great, each break telling us loads of facts. He went over the development of volcano boarding along with the history of the volcano and their eruptions. He also pointed out to us all the volcanoes sitting next to Cerro Negro and how the volcanoes have influenced the geography of the surrounding area. Normally mid-hike, feeling like crap I am not interested in the slightest. But with the views surrounding you, you actually want to know a little about what you’re looking at.
At the top, after a dozen photos have been taken, you are clad in your orange jumpsuit ready to go. A dozen photos or more are taken in the suits, along with the cliche ‘all jump after three shot’ (with a group of twenty this wasn’t really going to work, but god loves a try-er!).
I was so focused on not showing signs of my illness I hadn’t really thought about the actual volcano boarding. I then saw people before us zipping down the slope. A little like being on a ski slope, you can’t see the bottom. With my illness I weirdly get vertigo which previously I never had in my life, whether standing on a chair or being faced with a 724m decent the jitters are the same. So with my stomach flipping and my hands jittery, knowing it was all my illnesses incapability as assessing heights, I went for it.
Getting to the bottom covered in black rock, I immediately wanted to do it again. It was so much fun! With Big Foot at the end you get beer and pizza bites. There are prizes for the two fastest and their runners up, both for boys and girls. There are also consequences for the slowest, ice bucket challenge and horrendous looking chilli shots arriving back at the hostel. For the majority not doing a four shots worth of chilli rum, you’re greeted with a mojito and a chance to look over the photos. If you want to continue the fun you then get a free bus to the beach with the group you’ve so far spent your day with.
In total it is not a cheap day, but is literally the only place on earth you can do it and it is so worth it. My total costs were:
- Tour with Big Foot: $31
- Entry to the national park: $5
- Someone to carry my board:$5
Something we saw in the black sand post-volcano boarding. Look closely!