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  • Writer's pictureWouter van Straten

Do's & Dont's of Volcano Boarding

Thinking about volcano boarding in Nicaragua? Here are 5 great tips to help you plan your thrilling adventure:


1. Use León as home base

If you're considering volcano boarding in Nicaragua, León should be on your radar. From my experience, booking accommodation in this charming colonial city makes for the perfect base for your adventure.



To put things into perspective, Cerro Negro is roughly a 3-hour drive from Managua. The hike to its summit can take about an hour, with the thrilling descent lasting just around 5 minutes. As of now, there are no facilities at Cerro Negro, with the nearest ones located about a 30-minute drive away in León. Personally, opting for a long day trip from Managua sounds exhausting with little payoff.


Instead, I highly recommend spending at least one night in León (though, trust me, you'll likely want more time to explore this gem of a city in Nicaragua). I really recommend staying in Poco a Poco Hostel!


2. Choose a local tour guide

Local residents of León have capitalized on the city's close proximity to Cerro Negro, making it effortless to find tour companies offering daily volcano boarding excursions right in town. Each tour typically includes roundtrip transportation to Cerro Negro, entrance fees, a knowledgeable guide, and all necessary volcano boarding equipment.



Among the options, Volcano Day stands out as the only tour operator in León that is entirely Nicaraguan-owned. What drew me to Volcano Day was not only its commitment to showcasing authentic Nicaraguan experiences but also its dedication to empowering local youth. By focusing on the development of young locals, Volcano Day not only provides memorable adventures but also valuable professional skills, setting them on a path toward brighter futures and greater opportunities.


3. Prepare for a Hike!

The hike up Cerro Negro is an adventure in itself, typically taking around 60 minutes to conquer. But don't be fooled, it's surprisingly challenging, with steep inclines over rocky terrain. The area's notorious wind adds an extra layer of difficulty, especially when lugging a 5 lb board uphill, as it can feel like battling against sails in the breeze. And with no shade-providing trees in sight, be prepared for scorching temperatures atop Cerro Negro.



For footwear, any closed-toe shoes with sturdy soles will suffice, but I highly recommend opting for hiking boots with ankle support to tackle the rugged ascent comfortably. If the thought of carrying your board uphill for 45 minutes seems daunting, fret not! You can hire assistance on-site for a nominal fee of $5 USD.

Staying hydrated is crucial, so be sure to pack at least 1 liter of water to combat the effects of the active volcano's heat.


Here's a handy packing list I swear by for volcano boarding:

  • Hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes

  • Cash for tips or hiring assistance

  • Minimum 1 liter of water

  • Sun hat

  • Sunscreen

  • Sunglasses

  • Bandana or face covering to shield from flying debris

  • Mini first aid kit (including antiseptic and bandages)

  • GoPro for capturing those unforgettable POV moments (while tour operators usually snap plenty of photos, a GoPro is perfect for immersive videos)


4. Remember your safety training!

Volcano boarding offers an adrenaline rush in a relatively safe extreme sport arena. Nonetheless, bumps, sprains, and even fractures aren't uncommon occurrences. From my experience, the faster you zoom down the slope, the higher the risk of injury.


The key to a safe ride is heeding your guide's safety instructions (because, let's be honest, I can't recall all of them off the top of my head and sticking to a speed that feels comfortable for you.



As a general rule, leaning back and keeping your feet up will propel you faster down the volcano. The descent typically starts off slow, allowing you to ease into the ride with your feet up. But as you hit the midpoint of Cerro Negro's slope, the terrain steepens, and your board gains momentum. This is when it's crucial to apply gentle pressure with your feet to regulate your speed. In my experience, avoiding putting your feet down too late is crucial to prevent spills—most flips tend to occur when attempting to brake too late.


I also discovered that gripping the rope handle attached to the board's nose aids in controlling speed. Mentally, I made a conscious effort to keep the board's nose from pointing downward, envisioning the terrifying scenario of being catapulted down Cerro Negro.


5. Have fun!

Standing at the summit of Cerro Negro may seem daunting, but trust me, you've got this! With over 20,000 adventurers taking on this challenge each year, rest assured that every single one of us has emerged unscathed.


In fact, I found myself forgetting my initial nerves halfway down, completely captivated by the breathtaking views. So, don't let apprehension hold you back! My tips are here to assist fellow travelers who thrive on planning and preparation. But amidst all the logistics, remember to savor every moment of the exhilarating ride, which seems to pass in the blink of an eye. Just go ahead and have a great time!




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