The Only Volcano You Should Climb (and a Few Others Worth Seeing)
When planning a visit to or an excursion from your home in Central America, there are probably a lot of activities that come to mind. You could relax by the beach, visit an ancient colonial city, sail out for some great fishing or scuba diving opportunities, or a whole host of other adventures.
But for a truly one-of-a-kind experience, we recommend you give one of Central America’s many volcanoes a go. Hiking to the peak of some of these amazing natural landmarks is a great way to see the region from a whole new vantage point, get your adrenaline rushing, and build your collection of tropical expat bragging rights.
Due to its high concentration of active and dormant volcanoes, you won’t have to travel far from where you live or plan to visit in order to find a volcano to climb. Here are a few of our favorites and the features that make each of them so intriguing.
For travelers that are just starting to explore the wilder side of traveling with volcano tours, Tajumulco is a great place to start. As one of the highest mountains in Guatemala, it is a great hike. Although it is a high mountain, it is not nearly as high as many of the other volcanoes throughout Central America.
This volcano is also a great option for travelers who are wary of hiking a volcano. It has not erupted in many years, and has had the least amount of eruptions out of all of the volcanoes in Central America.
This volcano is a great place to start because it has not erupted in years, it is a lower height mountain and it is an easy hike even for beginners. The altitude adjustment is the worst part of the hike, and it will often be started overnight to ease the complications of altitude adjustment.
Hikers can even expect to take a bus up the volcano for a small part of the hike. This is a great volcano to visit for first-time volcano hikers and experienced volcano travelers alike.
If you are a traveler who wants a more unique volcanic experience, the Massaya volcano is the place to be. It is one of the only active volcanoes in Central America that is safe for visitors to view. It is not a typical volcano – it does not spew lava, but is constantly spitting out fumes from the top.
Visitors can drive to the very top of the volcano to look into the top of the volcano. The most popular place to see in is the largest of the volcanic craters. While it is a somewhat safe journey, it is still a good idea for novice volcano viewers to take someone who is more experienced. There are various tour services that help people get the most out of their Massaya experience.
One thing to note when it comes to the Massaya volcano is that it may not be what visitors have expected. When people picture a volcano, they picture a cone shaped mountain figure. The Massaya is not cone shaped, but has a flat top to it. It is more of a mound than a mountain.
Many visitors also expect to see molten lava in the volcano when they look in. Visitors who are expecting lava may be disappointed if they go during the daytime. Due to the fumes that are constantly rising from the volcano, lava can usually only be seen at night.
Arenal, Costa Rica
The national park located in Arenal has plenty to offer its visitors. With everything from ATV rides to canopy rides high above the park and tours through the relaxing hot springs, there is something for everyone. All of this is possible due to the volcano that stands above the park and is a constant reminder of why these things are there.
This volcano is an active one and was one of the only active volcanoes in Central America for many years. Due to the fact that it is an active volcano, visitors are not able to access the rim of the volcano.
While it is not possible to visit the rim of the volcano, visitors will not be disappointed with the amount of activities they can do from the base of the volcano. The park offers daily tours around the base, offers canopy rides to get a unique view of the volcano and guided tours into the geothermal springs where guests can soak after a day filled with activity.
Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
For the more adventurous volcano explorer, Cerro Negro offers the ultimate volcano experience. The lower elevation of this volcano, which stands right at 2,000 feet, makes it much easier to hike. Cerro Negro is also made up of volcanic sand on one side, making it the ideal volcano for volcano boarding.
This extreme sport is done through the use of a wooden board and can only be accomplished when on volcanic sand. Boarders start toward the top of the volcano and ride their volcano board down to the base of Cerro Negro. This can only be accomplished on volcanoes that have lower elevations, and on ones that do not have steep incline.
While this volcano may not be the most popular one in Nicaragua, it has a very different offering than the Massaya. It is a newer volcano that does not have quite the same history as the others in Central America – it’s only around 150 years old.
Although it is not as old as some of the others in the area, it is possibly one of the most active. Since it was discovered until the turn of the century, it erupted 20 times. It has not erupted since 1999 and is considered to be moderately safe.
Travelers that are looking for some of the best views from a volcano can greatly benefit from the Pacaya in Guatemala. It is an active volcano that hikers can enjoy. It is a taller volcano, at 8,000 feet. While the Pacaya is tall, it is a somewhat easy hike.
It will take most of the day to hike and hikers must be sure that the volcano is at a safe point when they are deciding to hike. Since it is active, there are many things that could compromise the safety of hikers. It last erupted 2 years ago, but there has not been much lava seen in between its eruptions. Choosing to visit this volcano may be for some of the most daring hikers, but it is sure to give some of the best views possible.
Whether you choose one of these or any number of other volcanoes to climb in Central America, make sure your adventure is one that’s well-suited for your health and fitness level. Hire a guide where recommended, and make sure to always use common sense for the sake of your safety.
Oh, and take lots of photos! Anyone can snap a great pic of a Pacific Coast sunset while vacationing in the tropics. Not everyone can say they took that photo from 8,000 feet atop an active volcano!