Volcano Boarding Leon, Nicaragua; My experience!

UPDATE OCTOBER 2021: Travelling overland through Central America is a great way to spend a couple of months, and during my journey there as I tried to visit every country in North America, Nicaragua became my favourite country in the region, partly thanks to Volcano Boarding Leon, where you ‘surf’ down the side of a volcano! Dangerous? Yes. Chance of injury? You bet. Worth it? Absolutely! Volcano boarding Nicaragua has become a rite of passage for adventure travellers in the region. 

Volcano Boarding Leon
Volcano Boarding Leon

7 Things to know before you go Volcano Boarding in Leon:

1) How Do you Organise the Volcano Boarding Leon Day Trip?

There are no ways to travel independently to do the volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

You have to book a tour. The easiest way is to book directly through one of the many hostels downtown, or book it online in 2 seconds using this link, they run the tours every day but better to make sure you have your spot booked in advance. 

2) How Much Does it Cost to go Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua?

The Volcano Boarding Nicaragua day trips cost about $45 (35GBP). You can book your tour with GetYourGuide here

3) Is it safe to go Volcano boarding in Leon, Nicaragua?

It’s as safe as you want it to be. You can surf down on your feet, you can sit your bum on the board and whizz down quickly, or you can use your feet to keep your speed slow. If you sit on the board, lift your feet, you can literally go 40kmh+ and lots of people (mainly guys) get some nasty injuries this way. I cracked the bone in my thumb trying to show off. 

4) How hard is the volcano hike to get to the Volcano boarding starting point?

It’s 30-90 minutes depending on your fitness, it’s steep and you’ll be out of breath but it’s manageable for pretty much everyone regardless of fitness or age. My 70yo mum, for example, could do it if she took her time. 

5) I don’t know how to surf, can I still go Volcano Boarding in Leon?

Yes, don’t worry! I also don’t know how to surf. 90%+ of people who go volcano boarding in Leon do so on their ass, and slide down. So you don’t need ANY technical skills at all, don’t worry!

6) What should I wear when I go Volcano boarding in Nicaragua?

As long as you have closed-toe shoes, you’ll be fine. A pair of sneakers and then whatever else you’re wearing is no problem because the tour operators provide boilersuits/jumpsuits and goggles to protect you from the volcanic stones as you whizz down the volcano at the speed of light!

7) What’s the Volcano Boarding surfboard like?

It’s a piece of rounded wood. Nothing too specialist. It has a rope at the front so you can pull back on it, lean back and lift your legs (for more speed!). The underside of the sled is metal to remove any potential friction and allow more speed again. 

Volcano Boarding Leon
Volcano Boarding Leon
Volcano Boarding Leon Nicaragua

Where Do you Go Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua exactly? Leon.

One of the main stops during your time in Nicaragua is the gorgeous little town of Leon. Well worth a couple of nights, not least because it’s home to the Volcano Boarding. 25km North-East of Leon (about an hour’s drive) is Cerro Negro (Black Hill). It’s an active Volcano just over 100 years since the last eruption! The thing that makes it so special, is that it’s coated in fine volcanic dust, so fine that you can ‘surf’ down it as if it was a sand dune. And so Volcano Boarding Leon was born and was quickly added to the bucket list items in Nicaragua. 

Volcano Boarding Leon
Volcano Boarding Leon; The hike up the volcano

Volcano Boarding in Leon; My Experience and breaking my thumb!

I booked the tour to go volcano boarding in Leon the day before. The next morning the trip starts around eight AM, the bus picks you up from your hostel and drives you to the office. At this point you have to decide whether you want to ‘surf’ down the volcano, kinda like snowboarding (in which case they give you a wooden board more similar to a surfboard) or sit on a larger board and whizz down the volcano on your bum.

NOTE: I know that surfing sounds so much cooler but please, please listen to me here – if you want to go fast, DON’T CHOOSE TO SURF. The volcanic rock isn’t so conducive to surfing so you can’t get much speed going, whereas on your bum, you can race down the thing at 70km per hour – really. It’s insane.

Volcano Boarding Nicaragua
Volcano Boarding Nicaragua; At the bottom of Cerro Negro, ready to climb
Volcano Boarding Leon Nicaragua
Volcano Boarding Leon Nicaragua; The volcano you will ‘surf’ down

Hiking the Volcano

So after you’ve chosen your bum board, you drive on a very bumpy, unpaved road for around an hour. You reach Cerro Negro volcano and look up, it’s 728 m (2300ft) tall, but you start halfway up where the car park is. So off you go, and hike up the volcano for about forty minutes, carrying your board – this is actually quite tough. It can be quite windy and the board acts like a wind-sail, so you get blown about quite a lot. Expect to sweat, and be out of breath. The scenery is absolutely beautiful though, so it’s a really nice hike.

Once you’re at the top, you see the route you’re going to whizz down, and it’s quite a scary realisation at that point. It’s steep, really steep. I was actually scared. But being a wanna-be alpha male I naturally volunteered to go first, and off I went.

Volcano Boarding Nicaragua
Volcano Boarding Nicaragua; Hiking Cerro Negro
Volcano Boarding Leon
Volcano Boarding Leon; At the top ready to go!

The Crash

I can’t really stress just how quickly you actually go. You’re free to use your feet as a brake, but again my ego didn’t let me do that. The gradient is about 40 degrees, so as soon as your start you pick up serious speed. The descent only takes a minute or so, and you go progressively faster and faster (unless you use your feet for breaks to control the speed). The volcanic rocks start to fly around you, they’re quite sharp so your sneakers get wrecked, and without the boilersuit so would your clothes (and skin!).

I picked up more and more speed until I was legitimately going around 70km per hour with nothing separating me from the ground until I hit a bump, flew in the air a little, and got scared. I tried to use my feet as a break, but I was going to fast so it flipped me over, driving my hand into the volcanic rock and my thumb got twisted. I ended up face-planting all the way to the bottom of the volcano. Epic, epic crash, and loads of fun. Until that night the swelling didn’t go down on my hand. X-ray time. Hairline fracture. Ouch. It took a couple of weeks before I could use my left hand properly again! Anyway, what an experience! 

Once you’re down, you don’t get the chance to go back up (the hike is too far). If you want to go fast, you only have one shot at it, so get going!

Volcano boarding Nicaragua
Volcano boarding Leon; The aftermath of my face planting into the volcanic ash

Should YOU go volcano boarding in Leon, Nicaragua?

How many times do you get the chance to go volcano boarding? Never? It’s bucket list stuff! And how many times will you be back in Nicaragua? Maybe never too! This is a true bucket list item, so absolutely you should go Volcano Boarding Leon. Even if you’re a little scared, take it slow, use your feet as breaks the whole way, you don’t have to be a lunatic and risk injury. I hope this helps you make your decision. Happy travels!

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