Although Nicaragua is not yet a tourist hot spot, there is one activity many adventurers find their way to The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes for-
A short ride from Leon lies Cerro Negro, Central America's youngest volcano. Born in 1850, the mountain of fire has erupted over 20 times and is very much still active! But standing at 2,400 feet with slopes just steeper than 45 degrees makes it an ideal location for this extreme sport.
Having begun with locals racing one another on sleds made of mattresses and sheets of tin, volcano boarding became popular with backpackers in the early 2000s. Since then, many hostels and tour companies have begun to offer day trips at reasonable prices.
Make sure you sign up with a company who also offers, as most should, protective gear (i.e. oversized jumpsuits, goggles, and gloves). Volcano boarding is not like snow boarding- despite the volcanic debris being lightweight and easy to break apart. While traveling at 30 miles per hour, the rock and ash can rip through clothes and skin, so proactive gear is a must.
The relatively easy hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour, and there is plenty to see on your way up.
Although you can't stand by them for long, you'll get to see tiny sulfur geysers starting about half way to the top. I had the unique experience of hovering over one of the larger ones that go off- watch your asses, kids.
My unique experience continued once we reached the top as this was the windiest day in the past two years- so much so that the guides shut down the mountain after the group behind us came down. There were even times in which the wind was so strong, we had to hit the deck and hang out on the ground for several minutes. I also saw a few people on there boards who were given a little push over the volcano's edge by Mother Nature before they were mentally prepared.
There are two method of heading down Cerro Negro: standing or sitting. While standing looks infinitely sexier, it can be less fun as you can not maneuver the way you can on a snow board and you move much. more. slowly. Riding it like a sled, however, can have you topping out at speeds of 50 mph! Regardless of how quickly you make your way down, one thing all riders have in common is being covered in black ash by the end.
To answer a common question: yes, some people do fall off their board, but many of them walk away with only a few scrapes here or there- most that I spoke to that day said they would do it again without hesitation.
Company: Bigfoot Hostel