Cerro Negro is a volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribos mountain range that is 15 km from the city of Leon, Nicaragua. The youngest volcano in Central America, it first appeared in April 1850 and is called the “ Black Hill” because of its black cinder cone shape. The volcano has erupted about 24 times with ash coming out of the top and lava from the cracks in the base. Cerro Negro was formed by the movement Cosos plate under the Caribbean plate. The Cerro Negro volcano is the largest and most recent of a group of four young cinder cone volcanoes in the Maribios chain. As of 2010, it has erupted 24 times beginning in April 1850 to its most recent in August 1999 where 60 homes were damaged. The young volcano still has activity but has been relatively quiet except for occasional venting of gases.
Today, the volcano is noted by its long and steep slopes that are covered with a thick coat of black sand and rocks. Visitors can hike to its rim to see a smoking crater on one side and view of the volcanic chain on the other.
As one of Nicaragua’s most striking and interesting volcanoes, the attraction for many adventure tourists is to explore and make the manageable climb to its summit but the fun doesn’t stop there. The descent from the top of Cerro Negro volcano allows tourists the option of sand boarding down its steepest slope. Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding and if you are interested there are tour operators available to provide you with helmets, gloves, elbow and knee pads, boots and boards. Compared to other manageable climbs of volcanoes such as the Volcán Masaya or the Volcán Mombacho near Granada, the climb at Cerro Negro is not too difficult but does get steeper near the end and those who are not interested in sandboarding down the mountain, will most likely want to skip the hike. Climbers are rewarded with an amazing 360-degree view of the Maribios Volcanic mountain chain, the city of León, and as far west as the Pacific Ocean.
Once the summit has been reached, a popular way to descend is by running (the more dangerous version) or sandboarding down the steep western side. Many types of equipment are used including flattened cardboard boxes but I chose to try and sandboard with a board provided by outfitters. I thought it was fun but not quite the same experience as snowboarding. For one thing, the volcanic sand is coarse and not like snow so it is difficult to get moving fast. When you fall the hillside hurts and again is not like snow. It definitely is a once in a lifetime experience but not something I would need to do again in my lifetime.