Top 5 Adventures to Have in Nicaragua

Whether it's volcano boarding, swimming in the Caribbean Sea, or exploring the lush countryside, Nicaragua has an experience for everyone.

Nicaragua is a land of opportunity for the intrepid traveler. There are vast and varied adventures one can have in this country. With its abundance of volcanoes, sunny coastlines, rich historic cities, exotic wildlife, and enchanting cloud forests there is bound to be something for everyone. Here are just a few activities to explore while you’re there. Most of these experiences you can enjoy with ease if you make National Geographic Unique Lodge Jicaro Island Lodge your choice of accommodation.

Hike Up the Mombacho Volcano

The Mombacho Volcano is one of the most famous volcanoes in Nicaragua, due to its close proximity to Granada and its exotic cloud forest, which is home to pumas, howler monkeys, and many other exotic species.

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The sulfur from the volcano has effected some areas along the hike where vegetation struggles to grow.

This two-hour hike isn’t going to be an easy one, but it is a rewarding experience and will get your heart racing. You can look forward to beautiful views of several of the four craters, spotting wildlife, and enjoying the cooler temperature. It is recommended that you book a tour guide at the welcome center to get the most out of your adventure.

Horseback Riding and Ziplining in the Cloud Forests

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These walkways line the canopy of the cloud forest so that visitors can get to each platform to zipline to the next post.

Horseback riding in the lush Nicaraguan countryside isn’t something to miss. You can book a tour through the Painted Pony and enjoy a morning or afternoon exploring the backroads right outside the city of Granada. The best part of this experience is a visit to the Apoyo Lagoon, a nature reserve that originated about 23,000 years ago. It is a welcomed respite after riding in the hot sun and worth the swim, so be sure to pack a bathing suit.

Horseback riders enjoy an afternoon ride through the Nicaraguan countryside.

Video by Jess Mandia

If horseback riding isn’t for you, but you still want to get your adrenaline pumping, ziplining opportunities are vast in the Nicaraguan cloud forests. After your hike up the Mombacho Volcano, stop at Miravalle Canopy Tour and enjoy gliding past howler monkeys and exotic flora and fauna. Most tours can be arranged directly with your accommodation, such as at Jicaro Island Lodge.

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Lake Apoyo, or Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve, formed in the caldera of an extinct volcano.

Sunbathe in the Corn Islands

Not all activities have to be adrenaline-inducing. Take a break and enjoy the sunshine on the Corn Islands. The islands are about 43 miles off the coast of Nicaragua and consist of Big Corn Island (about 3.9 square miles) and Little Corn Island (about 1.1 square miles). Sunny, with warm weather year-round, these islands make for the perfect escape. Visitors can enjoy scuba diving excursions at the Corn Island Dive Center on Big Corn Island, kayaking, snorkeling, and lazy beach days by the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Volcano Board at Cerro Negro

Volcano boarding is not for everyone, but for those who dare to try this extreme sport there’s no better place than Cerro Negro in Nicaragua. Cerro Negro is still an active volcano that last erupted in 1999 and is monitored closely by the Nicaraguan Seismic Network to detected future eruptions. When the volcano is behaving itself it is the perfect playground for adrenaline junkies.

A volcano boarder glides down Cerro Negro volcano from the summit of 2,388 feet. Video by Jess Mandia and Caity Garvey

The hike to the top of the volcano takes about an hour. Whichever tour company you book, whether through Jicaro Island Lodge or otherwise, you will need to be prepared to carry your board with you during the hike. The summit, from which you will board down, is about 2,388 feet. After a quick tutorial of what to do/not to do and how to speed up/slow down, you will don your “flight suit”, gird your loins, and descend down the volcano. The entire experience is about three to five minutes, depending on whether you stop or roll off your board. God speed!

Take in the Sights in the City of León

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Visitors can explore the domed rooftop of the Cathedral of León, a World Heritage Site and a remanent of Nicaragua's former Spanish rule.

After your adventure sand boarding down Cerro Negro, take the time to experience the beauty and culture of León, about an hour’s drive from the volcano. León was first founded in 1524 and served as the capital during Spanish rule until 1855. The city has long been established as the liberal political and intellectual hub of Nicaragua.

Once you arrive head to the main square, Central Plaza, and take in the sight of the Cathedral of León, also known as Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León. An iconic attraction, the cathedral was constructed between 1747 and the early 19th century and was declared a World Heritage site in 2011. When you visit be sure to explore the roof and take in the city sights and the elegant architecture while you walk along the domed rooftop.

Make your next stop the Ortiz-Gurdian Foundation Art Museum (Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian). This former home of Norberto Ramírez Areas, a prominent Nicaraguan lawyer and politician, has since been converted into a museum which houses famous works of art from artists such as Diego Rivera, Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse among others.

View of Lake Nicaragua from Jicaro Island Lodge in the early morning.

Video by Jess Mandia

Caity Garvey and Jess Mandia are producers with the National Geographic's digital team. You can follow them and their travels on Instagram: @caitygarvs and @jessmandia.