Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro whilst you are in Leon feels like a right of passage. This adventurous activity and excursion from Leon provides a nice hike, followed by an adrenaline rush heightened on how fast you decide to go!
The first part of course is – where do you book it (if you book at all)? It is certainly possible to go to Cerro Negro without a tour, only paying for the transport and the entry fee into the national park area. However, we never once saw anywhere where it was possible to hire the board and the equipment necessary to perform the boarding, so going without a tour should probably be reserved for those solely wanting to hike to the top of Cerro Negro and back down again.
Where to Book Volcano Boarding?
We’ll say one thing – try to stay away from a certain hostel that puts their guests into orange jumpsuits and sends them on their way to volcano board. We heard some good reports about this company, but the majority were negative and they charge the most out of any operator that we came across. The tour with them is certainly popular, with big chicken buses taking the route up to Cerro Negro.
We decided to go with a smaller group of around 15 people, which felt a lot more personalised with our 2 guides coming along with us.
Many hostels on 2DA Av. NE in Leon will have signs up to book Volcano Boarding, and the majority price their tours at $30US. We booked with one such company and ended up being taken to a smaller tour operator a few minutes walk away called “VolcanoDay”. We feel that if you went directly to the operator you would probably pay slightly less (as the hostels booking the tour probably take a small commission).
What is Included?
Included in the tour that we went on (and the majority are very similar) are:
- 1 singlet commemorating your day (the VolcanoDay one is actually one of the better designs, we saw some shocking ones!)
- Transport to and from Cerro Negro
- All of the safety gear (overalls, gloves, goggles)
- Your volcano board (of course!)
- A beer at the end of the tour back in Leon (well deserved)
Of course there are some things that are NOT included that we recommend you bring with you. These include:
- Something to cover your head and face like a bandana – you will be washing out small volcanic rocks for days!
- Water and Snacks – for the short hike
- A bit of extra money (for any additional entrance fees such as to the national park ($5), and some for a tip if you want to tip your guide)
On the day of our boarding adventure, we made our way to the hostel office where we booked it, and were collected by our main guide Michelle. She took us to the VolcanoDay tour office, and we all were able to select our favourite singlet. Also available were some great stickers!
After everyone had arrived, we all hopped into the back of a big 4WD truck to make the approximate hour long journey to Cerro Negro. This involved going off-road making the journey a bit bumpy, but nonetheless making us feel like we were really were going on an adventure.
We soon arrived at the base of Cerro Negro, paid our entrance fees (US$5 – not included in the tour price), and made our way up with bags and boards attached with the promise of a 45 minute hike up the hill. It is good to know at this point that if you aren’t sure that you can make it up the hill with your board and gear, you can pay somebody to carry it up for you. We would recommend this is you are unfit, but if you are generally fit and capable it should be no problem at all.
We made our way up to the top and stared out over the edge, feeling the hot ground beneath us and seeing some small smoke puffs billowing up from small holes. Yes, Cerro Negro is technically still active, but hasn’t erupted in a very long time. We took in the view for a while longer (attempting to delay the inevitable really), before being called over to gear up and be ready to slide down!
Not wanting to look like I was wimping out, I decided to be the first to race down the hill and show everyone how it was done. The main advice we can give here is that:
- It is better to sit down as you can actually get some speed (standing up makes you sink as this is definitely not snow)
- Leaning left and right does help you steer a bit but we don’t recommend doing it much especially once you get up some speed
- Put your feet down to slow yourself down if you need to, but don’t just put one foot down – you will turn sideways and immediately crash!
- Leaning back (almost like luge) will make you go fast – this we do recommend. You only get one shot at it (sometimes two if you have time) so why not go as fast as possible!
I quickly shot off and tried to lean back as much as possible. Everything went great and the speed was fantastic for an adrenaline junkie like myself, although right at the end I had to stop myself from putting a foot down as it got a bit bumpy! Rach quickly followed and used similar tactics to me, and both of us remained unscathed but happy that we had conquered Cerro Negro whilst going as fast as we possibly could!
Making our way back to the bus and then back into Leon, we both felt we deserved our free drinks (yay for included drinks!) and sat alongside the fellow members of our tour group exchanging volcano boarding and traveling stories.
Like we’ve said, volcano boarding is one of those things that you just cannot miss whilst visiting Leon – whilst it is still a relatively new tourist activity it is a very popular one and an absolute rush!
Heading to Leon? We stayed at a new hostel called Poco a Poco Hostel. They were very new when we stayed but provided excellent service and were genuine, nice people. We couldn’t recommend it more!