Central America remains a hot travel destination year after year. From its laid-back surf towns of El Tunco, San Juan del Sur or Nosara to its colonial cities of Antigua, Grenada or Leon, this vibrant region is simply spectacular. But there is another side to Central America – a playful volcanic side seen by those who seek an adventure. When volcanoes spit out ash and lava, they are as unwelcoming as it gets, but when they are soundly asleep, they get to be a whole lot of fun. As you travel to Central America for the winter season this year, why not go inland for a little volcano action.
Hiking – Santa Ana, El Salvador
Santa Ana (also known as Ilamatepec) volcano is El Salvador’s highest volcano and one of its most active. In its down time, Santa Ana is also the perfect peak for a great day hike. Pack a picnic and show up at the entrance of the Park National Cerro Verde for 10am since you need a local escort to make it to the top. There is only one official tour per day and it leaves at 11pm.
After hiking for nearly two hours on a well-maintained path, turn around to admire the breathtaking scenery that unfolds around you. Notice the adjacent volcanoes and the nearby Lake Coatepeque. Once you have reached the summit, you will be rewarded by four nested calderas and volcanic craters with a shimmering aqua-blue lake. Take out your picnic and simply enjoy the moment.
Sandboarding – Leon, Nicaragua
As Central America’s youngest volcano and one of the region’s most active, Cerro Negro is also a playground for international tourists who love to sandboard down its side. After a 40-minute drive from Leon, get ready for a short but strenuous hike up hot black gravel and rock formations. Once atop, you will be delighted with a lovely panorama of rolling hills peppered with nearby volcanoes. For most, this is the precise moment when you start feeling the butterflies in your stomach; you remember that you will soon need to take a leap of faith. As you don a brightly colored jumpsuit and listen to the guide explain the rules of sandboarding, remember that this is why you travel – for the adventures you will remember. Now it’s time to push yourself down Cerro Negro’s side on a small wooden slide. Take a deep breath, and let go for the thrill of a lifetime.
Motocross Touring – Ometepe Nicaragua
Ometepe is an island like no other. Emerging from the great Lake of Nicaragua, Ometepe hosts two volcanic peaks joined by a small stretch of land. Although it is possible to hike both volcanoes on day-long strenuous hikes, if you want to experience the island as it should, hop on a motocross bike for a free-spirited adventure. When you feel the heat upon you, either take a pit stop at El Ojo del Agua, a crystal-clear pool filled from a natural underground spring or at Playa Santa Domingo, a beautiful stretch of sand overlooking the infinite views of the Lake of Nicaragua.
Central America’s volcanic scene is simply hot.