Volcan Mombacho

After spending a quarter of the year separated during 2021, we decided that we needed to hit the road and explore some places we’ve been meaning to visit, but just haven’t had the chance to, for one reason or another. Our first stop on this trip was to Volcan de Mombacho. It is a cloud forest with a mostly inert volcano. Over the last 5 years, it has become a little more active under the soil, so there are now parts on the volcano that have charred the plant life as if a wild fire had swept through. Our first night, we camped at the nature preserve and were able to take short walk and spotted a sloth right up in the trees above us, not 200 meters from where we were camping.

We arrived a little later in the afternoon, because we got lost going down the wrong road, the Google isn’t always so reliable down here. We had to backtrack about 30 minutes and ask for directions multiple times, to which we got several different answers. When we finally found the park entrance, they were almost closing. We kindly asked if we could camp, and they said yes, but because we had a roof top tent, we had to stay in the parking lot at the entrance of the park. At first we were a little irritated, but we settled in and waited for morning to drive to the top of the cloud forest to take a crater hike. We set up camp, made some new dog friends and enjoyed the break from the heat of San Juan Del Sur. As night fell, you could hear the howler monkeys in the distance, the hoot of the owls and the chirping of bats. The winds began to pick up and holy moly, those ladies knew a thing or two. During the evening the winds picked up and got so intense at the higher elevations I could envision our tent snapping in half. I had to close the side windows to the tent because the winds were blowing with such force it felt like I was repeatedly getting slapped in the face.

The next morning, we woke up early, nobody was at the guard station, so we talked to the gate security and got permission to drive our vehicle up to the top. What tripped us out was that the guard came over to the vehicle and had to make sure we had 4WD more specifically, 4L. We looked at each other wide eyed, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. He made us engage and disengage the 4WD to be sure that we actually could use it. Once he was satisfied, he radioed to the gatekeeper up top and told him we were coming. After a very steep and windy drive up, and when I say steep, it was steep enough that Kaden stood taller than the vehicle when the vehicle was on the incline. Pictures just can’t do it justice. I literally was leaning forward in the car thinking we might tip over backwards and that maybe my body weight would keep the front of the car on the ground.

Once we got to the top, it was rainy and cold. For the first time in over a year in Nicaragua, I had to put on a sweater. Not only a sweater, but a rain jacket and a beanie and pants too. We hiked the crater trail, the only trail you could hike without a guide. It was beautiful with the many colors of nature. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any wildlife that we were hoping for. I really wanted to see a sloth up close. The trail was only about a mile long, but because we were looky-loo’s and photo crazy, it took us almost 3 hours to walk the loop.

We finished our hike, drove down to the camping spot, paid for our trek up to the top and told the ladies at the guard post that we were needing to head in to Granada to get supplies. We returned a few hours later, set up camp again and settled in for the evening. The following morning, Kaden decided he wanted to go on a zipline tour. The canopy tour looked amazing and I had him talk to the ladies at the guard post and have them help him set it all up. We were advised to go to the actual canopy tour office half way up the mountain and talk to the staff up there. Ultimately we decided to hike the Puma trail first and then after the hike we would do the canopy tour. We hired a tour guide who took us out to the trail and we began our descent into the cloud forest jungle. It was surreal. The way the clouds kept everything shrouded in a blanket of mystery was utterly indescribable.

We walked for about 3 hours, there wasn’t as much nature to take photos of on this hike, but there was a lot of narrow passage ways, wet bridges to cross, obstacles to avoid and long staircases to climb. We walked through the area that is currently waking from its dormancy. Here we saw the charred remains of shrubbery and trees. Touching the ground, it wasn’t hot, but underneath it all, lies a vast crater of lava, getting ready to make its entrance into the world above. We hiked up and out and by the time we finished our trek, I was exhausted. For at least half of the time, it was like ascending and descending extension ladders and it left all of us pretty sore the next day.

If you venture out to this area, try not to miss this. There is a vast amount of knowledge shared by the local guides and honestly, just the drive (I don’t recommend walking) up to the visitors center is worth it.