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Central America Group Travel

Volcano Boarding – What You Need to Know for a Thrilling Ride

Volcano boarding? Yes! Flying down the side of a volcano on a plywood board is, believe it or not, one of the more popular and most thrilling things to do in León, Nicaragua! And there’s a reason for that – it’s fun, fast and where else could you do it!

I joined a private tour operated by Vamos Travel and here’s my guide on what you need to know about this adrenaline filled activity!

Your Destination

Cerro Negro is an active volcano and the youngest in Central America. Standing 728 metres tall, it last erupted in 1999 and has erupted 23 times since it first appeared back in 1850. A basaltic cinder cone, Cerro Negro is made up of loose pyroclastic fragments hence its name which means Black Hill.

Cerro Negro is located about 45 minutes drive from León.

Cerro Negro, Nicaragua where volcano boarding takes place
Cerro Negro

Getting to the Top

In order to be able to slide down Cerro Negro you first have to climb up it! The hike up took upwards of an hour and wasn’t the easiest of walks. The terrain is rough and on the day I was there it was very windy, particularly at the top.

Some operators have their clients carry their boards and clothing up. The tour I took however supports local people by paying them to carry the boards. I carried up a protective suit, gloves and googles in a light weight, soft sided back pack supplied by the company.

The views of the surrounding countryside are wonderful. Be sure to stop and take them in (and to have a breather and water!).

Getting to the Bottom

Now you’re at the top, there’s only one way down! Actually, there are 2 ways, one involves walking, the other speed!

The conditions at the top of Cerro Negro were very windy so we did climb down a little lower from where we would launch ourselves. It was clear that there were well-used pathways down from this position.

Dressing for the Occasion

At this point, we put the protective suits on over our clothes – this has ties at the ankles although I also put on some longer, ankle socks to keep the gravel and dust out of the short socks I was wearing. Gloves and googles also went on. I was wearing sunglasses with googles over the top and visibility was still excellent. My bandana gave extra protection against the dust.

Volcano Boarding Equipment

You should at this point, if you haven’t already, be given a briefing on what and what not to do. Safety is paramount and although the boards aren’t complicated, it pays to listen.

The board I used was plywood, about 1.5 metres or so long with a rope handle for holding on. You sit at the end with your weight evenly distributed. Hold the rope with both hands – no selfies on the way down! To go faster, lean back. To slow down, push your heels lightly into the gravel. Don’t dig your feet into the ground as you slide down, you’re likely to go head over heels!

If you feel you’re about to fall off however, fall away from the board and let go of the rope.

Boards used for volcano boarding down Cerro Negro

Let’s Go!

We separated into 2 groups with one group going down one pathway and the other down the second pathway. We had to wait until the path was clear of the previous person before being released….safety first!

Looking down from the top I did question why I was there! Once I was ‘suited and booted’ and awaiting my turn however, I couldn’t wait and flew down far faster than I had declared I would on the journey to Cerro Negro. That said, the record is upwards of 60/70 kms and I was nowhere near that!

Once down the volcano, it’s a gentle glide to a stop at the bottom where we celebrated our achievements with a cold beer, part of our package.

My Volcano Boarding Tips

Here are my tips for making this thrilling experience even better:

  • wear covered shoes (and not your best ones!). You need them for the climb up and on the way down, the dust will get all over them. You also need to protect your heels.
  • take water – the climb isn’t the easiest, it’s hot in León and the black gravel of Cerro Negro just intensifies that heat (plus, you are on a hot volcano!). You will want to take on some fluid.
  • wear sunscreen.
  • wear a bandana around your nose and mouth. The dust gets everywhere including on your face and in your mouth!
  • wear longer socks to cover your ankles and keep the dust and gravel from irritating your feet.
  • ask if the tour company is providing any video or photos of your slide down. If not, consider using a head strap with your camera to catch some footage.

Is volcano boarding on your bucket list? Maybe you have done it already – let me know in the comments.

Don’t forget to check out my post 5 Exciting Ways to Spend Time in León, Nicaragua.

Disclaimer: Visitor information is correct at the time of writing but do check before you travel.

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