Last Updated on January 25, 2024

Nicaragua takes sandboarding to the next level: on the black slopes of the Cerro Negro volcano near Leon you can experience the thrills of “surfing” on an active volcano, a sport officially known as volcano boarding.

This extreme boardsport is similar to sandboarding but practiced on dunes made of hardened lava and volcanic ashes.

There are currently only a handful of locations where volcano surfing can be practiced, and Cerro Negro in Nicaragua takes the spot as n°1 volcano boarding destination in the world.

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

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.

Once on top, take a deep breath, make your way to the rim of the crater and assume a surfing stance: volcano boarding on Cerro Negro can reach 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.

There are plenty of companies to choose from if you are planning to go volcano surfing down Cerro Negro, depending on your budget and whether you prefer a public tour (i.e. through a hostel with other people) or a private tour.

Most 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 Managua

From Granada

Your volcano boarding tour will likely include the following:

A volcano board is essentially a piece of equipment similar to a snowboard with an extra layer of laminated material at the bottom, which reduces friction with the rocky terrain to ensure a smoother slide.

Compared to soft sand or snow, volcanic ashes and hardened lava pose a higher risk of injury which is why it’s important to cover as much as possible, and especially to protect your eyes from dust and debris while gliding at high speed.

What to wear and what to bring

It is recommended to bring the following with you when you go volcano boarding: 

You may want to wear old clothes and shoes that you don’t mind ruining when you go ashboarding.

You will spend quite a bit of time hiking which so a good pair of trekking shoes can be handy, as well as a hat and strong sun screen for protection from UV rays.

The sliding itself will not last long, but that’s where you risk getting hurt – make sure you are covered by proper insurance to avoid any surprises.

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 prior to your trip.

Volcano boarding accidents at Cerro Negro

There are multiple testimonials of people that required medical care after volcano surfing in Nicaragua.

These including a story from a volcano boarder who reportedly had their faces ripped off, and several reports of people getting bruises and injuries due to falling off their boards at Cerro Negro.

Again, sandboarding insurance is a must if you are planning to go volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

Volcano Boarding Worldwide Map


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Volcano boarding

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