Surfing on active volcanoes, officially volcano boarding or ash boarding, is an extreme sport similar to sandboarding but practiced on dunes made of hardened lava and volcanic ashes. There are currently only a handful of locations worldwide where this sport can be practiced, but the most popular destination is surely the Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua.

Volcano Boarding
Cerro Negro Volcan, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Ben Turnbull

Cerro Negro – Leon, Nicaragua

The Cerro Negro (“Black Hill”) volcano is located about 20 km distance from the city of León, Nicaragua. It is part of the volcano chain named Cordillera de los Maribios. First “born” in 1850, it is both the youngest and most active volcano of Central America, around 2400 feet (728 meters) high. The latest eruption occurred in August 5, 1999 and gave birth to a slope of now hardened lava which made sandboarding on Cerro Negro possible.

Sandboarding in Cerro Negro is no easy feat. A trip to the volcano will last several hours, most of which you will spend hiking. Once at the top, you will have access to some spectacular views of other volcanoes in the central Cordillera de los Maribios. Take a deep breath, make your way to the rim of the crater and assume a surfing stance: you are about to slide down at speeds up to 70 km per hour! Remember all those hours you have spent hiking to reach the peak? It will take you about 3 to 5 minutes to slide back to the base of the mountain with your sandboard. Again, Cerro Negro is not for the faint of heart!

Volcano Boarding
Panoramic view from the top of Cerro Negro. Photo courtesy of Ben Turnbull.

Volcano Boarding Tours

There are plenty of companies to choose from, depending on your budget and whether you prefer a public tour (i.e. through a hostel with other people) or a private tour. Tours include transport from and to your accommodation with an off-road vehicle as well as a tour guide. The cost of volcano boarding in Cerro Negro varies depending on what tour you pick, with lowest prices starting at 25$ for a group tour, or 80$ for private tours. As a rule of thumb, the more people in the tour – the less you need to pay. Sandboard rental and safety gear is always included in the package, whereas the flat 5$ entrance fee to the park may not.

From Leòn

From Granada

Private tours

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Volcano Boarding Adventure Private Tour
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Extreme Adventure at Cerro Negro Leon

Volcanoboarding Equipment 

Your volcano boarding tour will likely include the following:

What to wear and what to bring

It is recommended to bring the following: 

  • Closed-toe tennis shoes (see: sandboarding footwear)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Long trousers
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Water and snacks
Volcanoboarding / Ashboarding on Cerro Negro, Leon, Nicaragua
Volcano Surfing / Volcano Boarding down Cerro Negro in Leon, Nicaragua.

Warnings and safety tips

Volcano boarding in Cerro Negro can be dangerous. There are unfortunately many reports of people having accidents and ending up at the hospital with a wristed ankle and filled with bruises. Keep in mind that the slope is very steep and slowing down is much harder than it seems. If you trip or fall during your ride will not land you on soft ground, but razor sharp rocks and volcanic debris. It is imperative that you make sure that you have a travel insurance that covers volcanoboarding.

Volcanoboarding accidents

We report a few personal experiences of volcano boarding from someone that that found dangerous andd required medical care, someone who reportedly had their faces ripped off, and several reports of people getting bruises and injuries due to falling off their boards. Again, sandboarding insurance is a must if you are planning to go volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

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