Masaya Volcano 15 minutes of red hot fame

Nicaragua is known for volcanoes. There are 19 throughout this small Central American country. Each volcano has a specialty in regard to adventure travel. The specialty for visiting the Masaya Volcano is staring down into the crater and seeing molten lava. You cannot loiter long though as fifteen minutes is your limit.

Masaya Volcano
Getting my 15 minutes with the Masaya Volcano

Related: Four Nicaragua Adventures

Masaya Volcano is the closest to Managua

The Masaya Volcano is the most accessible volcano in the country due to its proximity to Managua and Granada. The town of Masaya is located almost halfway between Managua and Granada. It is easy to secure tours from either Managua or Granada. Since not many people stay long in Managua, Granada is probably a better hub to visit the active volcano.

Related: Hiking Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe

Tours leave at night

The best time to visit the Masaya Volcano is at night in order to easier see the lava. During the day, the volcano can be seen for miles around thanks to the smoking miasma billowing out of the blown out crater. I could even see this phenomenon from the top Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Island.

Hostal El Momento
Hostal El Momento

I stayed at Hostel El Momento. They offered a tour for $25.00. The tours left every day at around 4 p.m. I paid them and secured my spot. There are numerous tour agencies in town. If there are not enough people in the hostel going on the tour, they just outsource to another agency.

Masaya Volcano National Park
Hiking into Masaya National Park while our tour guide checks in

Picked up at the hotel

I was picked up at the hostel in a mini van. There was a couple from Amsterdam and a family from Wyoming already in the van. The van had air-conditioning, which is key even at night in Nicaragua.

Masaya Volcano National Park entrance
Masaya Volcano park entrance

Hike and Visitor Center

It takes about 45 minutes to get there. The driver and guides need to check in with the park. There was a long line to do this, so we were able to hike into the park along the ride while they waited in line. It was sunset, so we were able to get some nice pictures of the lowlands below the volcano.

Masaya Volcano lowlands
Masaya Volcano lowlands

We then had about 45 minutes to spend in the Visitor’s Center once it got dark while we were waiting for our time on the crater. The Visitor’s Center had a lot of information on the Masaya Volcano, creatures that lived inside the park, Nicaragua, and other volcanoes in the country.

Once we were done in the Visitor’s Center, it was our turn for 15 minutes of volcanic fame. We got back into our van, and they drove us to the top of the volcano.

Masaya Volcano Visitor's Center
Masaya Volcano Visitor’s Center

Masaya Volcano lava

At the rim of the volcano were barriers like one would see at Grand Canyon or Zion. We lined up along the railings and peered down into the volcano to see the red glow of the lava. I felt like I was in a Lord of the Rings movie. There were a couple of vantage points to see the molten lava.

Fifteen minutes was plenty of time. It was really amazing to see the molten lava, but after staring at it for ten minutes, I was ready for a tona. We got back into van and drove back in Granada knowing that our 15 minutes of fame on top of the Masaya Volcano was well spent.

Please note

The author visited Masaya Volcano in March of 2018 before the political crisis. I would not recommend visiting Nicaragua at this time. Please check the U.S. State Department for current travel information or your country’s travel warnings for more information.

Unlocking adventure at Mombacho Volcano

Mombacho Volcano looms ominously over the city of Granada. It is a favorite photo op especially with Granada’s beautiful church in the forefront. However, not many travelers make the trek to the tropical forest and trails that cover the dormant volcano.

Mombacho Volcano Granada
Mombacho Volcano looms over the city of Granada

Related: Hostal El Momento in Granada

It is extremely easy to travel in Nicaragua if you stay along the main tourist trail. Once you step off, it can get a little more difficult, especially if you do not speak Spanish. Mombacho Volcano is only less than 20 kilometers from Granada; however, not a lot of people go there. It can be a little bit of a challenge to travel there.

Mombacho Volcano Nicaragua
Mombacho Volcano from near my hostel

How to get to Mombacho Volcano

Take a taxi

The first step is getting there. Granada is the most likely stepping off point, since it is so close. There are basically three ways to get there. You can take a tour, take a taxi, or take a chicken bus. Taking a taxi would be the easiest. Just stop any taxi in Granada and ask to go to Mombacho. It should not cost more than $4.00 to $7.00 depending on your taxi and negotiating skills. If they want more, I would recommend trying another taxi.

Mombacho Volcano
Mombacho Volcano coming into view from the window of a tuk-tuk

Take a tour

You can set up a tour in Granada to visit Mombacho Volcano. There are both day tours and overnight tours. A day tour should cost anywhere from $25.00  to $40.00 depending on what is included. If you do an overnight tour, it should cost around $75.00 to $80.00.  I tried to set up an overnight tour, but the company I inquired with was not running it for that day, so I went with option number three.

Mombacho Volcano hiking
Hiking the tropical forest on top of Mombacho Volcano

Go your own way

Option number three is to go there yourself. If you are renting a car you can drive there, but if you are backpacking, you can take the bus. Go to the main bus terminal for Rivas and jump a bus going to Rivas. Let them know you are going to Mombacho. It cost around one dollar to get to the road to Mombacho. It then cost me $4.00 for a tuk-tuk to my hostel. You can also hike up, but it is uphill and about 2-3 kilometers depending on where you are staying.

Where to stay

If you plan on staying the night near Mombacho, there are several options. If you leave early in the morning, you can do Mombacho in one day and return to Granada, but I recommend staying in the area at least one night.

Auberge la Granadilla
For a real authentic Nicaragua experience, stay a day or two at Auberge la Granadilla

Alburgue la Granadilla

This hostel is basically a room with a family that lives near the volcano. They charge $20.00 a night. They serve three meals a day that are fresh and tasty. The only issue is no one in the family speaks English, but as far as a cultural experience, it does not get any more authentic than this. Despite the language barrier, I did not have much trouble communicating, and they helped arrange a ride to the gate of Mombacho Volcano for $1.00.

Mombacho Volcano Hostel

There is a hostel at the top of the volcano. For travelers the price is $50.00 with meals included or $30.00 without meals. It is a little pricy, but it is worth it to stay on top of the Volcano and have easy access to the trails.

Mombacho Volcano road
The top of the road that leads to the trails, visitor center, and hostel on top of Mombacho Volcano

Eco-Lodges

There are a few higher priced lodges within a short distance of the reserve. El Respiro Eco Lodge and Mombacho Lodge cost around $80.00 to $100.00. With the lodges there are obviously more amenities and comfort.

Getting up Mombacho Volcano

Once you have made it to Mombacho Volcano, the next task is getting up to the top. The park entrance is down below, but to get to the trails, you have to get to the top. You can either hike or pay for transport. The price for transport is included if you stay at the hostel. If not, it costs $10.00.

Mombacho Volcano road
The cobblestone road makes the hike look cute, but it is a son of a bitch

I highly recommend paying for the ride because it is an exhausting hike straight up the volcano. The incline is insane. It takes over an hour and you will arrive tired and sweating. Save your energy for the trails at the top.

Mombacho Volcano
More incline up the Mombacho Volcano

Hiking Mombacho Volcano

There are several trails at the top. Some require guides and some do not. I hiked the crater trail that did not require a guide. The Puma Trail is the main long trail and this cost $22.00 for an English speaking guide or $17.00 if you can speak Spanish. It also costs $6.00 to enter the trails.

The prices for Mombacho Volcano are  not that high, but they add up. I ended up not doing the Puma Trail. I enjoyed my time at Mombacho, but I would like to come back and do the Puma Trail and stay at the hostel in the park. If you stay at the hostel, you can also do a night hike, which does cost another $10-$15.

Mombacho Volcano Crater Trail
Outstanding view from Mombacho Volcano Crater Trail

The Crater Trail is less than a mile and goes through sections of the forest and then out into some fabulous overlooks of Granada and the surrounding area. You can even see the smoking Masaya Volcano.

Granada church
Many people photograph Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Granada with Mombacho Volcano in the backdrop, but not many capture the church from Mombacho Volcano

Recommend coming to Mombacho

The Mombacho Volcano is a bit off the tourist trail, but it is worth making the effort. If you stay on the Granada, Leon, Ometepe Island, San Juan Del Sur tourist trail, you will not see a whole lot of wildlife and nature. At Mombacho Volcano you have the opportunity to see wildlife and there are 278 species of birds seen throughout the year.

Mombacho Volcano
I recommend squeezing a day or two into your schedule for a trip to Mombacho Volcano

Another perk for coming to Mombacho is the climate is a little cooler than the rest of the area. Mombacho Volcano is a tropical forest and due to its elevation makes for a more pleasant environment.

Mombacho Volcano howler monkeys
Howler monkeys seen walking up to Mombacho Volcano

The adventure is up to you

As you can see, there are many options on how to tackle a Momacho Volcano adventure. Depending on your budget, time frame, and fitness level, you can experience a lot here; on the other hand, you can have a cool experience in just a day. Mombacho Volcano is worth getting off the tourist trail for a day or two.

Check out this website for more information on visiting Mombacho.

Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast on Ometepe Island

My Lonely Planet Guide informed me that there were only four rooms at the Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast. Furthermore, the rooms were not reservable. They were first come first serve. I wanted to stay here, so I hoped one room was free when I emerged from the ferry.

Ometepe Island
Stay at the Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast when at Ometepe Island in Nicaragua

Arrival in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island

The location was easy to find on a corner of the main street in Moyogalpa, Nicaragua on Ometepe Island. I stopped in to reserve a room.  They had a vacancy. I deposited my backpacks in the room upstairs, and then I sat down and ordered a fresh fruit smoothie and enjoyed lunch.

Cornerhouse Ometepe
No surprise to find Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast on a corner

Lunch and secured Concepción Volcano guide

The girl that took my room reservation was also my waitress. She was really friendly, which comes as no surprise since just about every person from Nicaragua I had met so far was friendly and helpful. Moyogalpa and Ometepe Island is a small village on a small island, so the friendliness was even amped up more here.

Concepción Volcano
My guide Roger patiently waiting for me as we near the summit of Concepción Volcano

I asked about the possibility of securing a guide for a hike up Concepción Volcano. She called someone and in a few minutes the owner of a tour company was trying to sell me a tour. No need for the salesmanship, I am buying. I paid $25.00 for the guide and the entrance to the park, and we agreed upon an early departure the next morning.

Related: A grueling hike up Concepción Volcano

Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast closes early

The only negative thing I would say about this location is the early closure. After I checked in, I went upstairs and rested for awhile. Then I read the literature in the room, and saw they have an option to pack a lunch if you are going on a trek. They offer free breakfast, but if you do not have time for breakfast, they offer a complimentary packed lunch. I went downstairs to inquire about this option, but it was closed up for the day.

Cornerhouse Moyogalpa
Great hangout spot upstairs at Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast

They did not open until 7 a.m. the next morning, so this was too late for me to order the lunch. I went across the street for breakfast and then stopped at a grocery store to buy snacks for my hike. If you are going on a trek the next day, make plans to order the packed lunch in advance.

The room

All four rooms were upstair above the restaurant and cafe. The room was clean, comfortable, and Spartan. There was a bed and a fan with a bathroom. Standard fare for the adventure traveler.

Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast
Spartan but comfortable accommodations at Cornerhouse B&B

Places to sit and hang out including a hammock and some chairs overlooking the street lined the hallway in front of the rooms. The chairs above the street were a personal favorite for me. I enjoyed watching island life go by as I chilled from above.

The food

It turned out I did not have to worry much about a place to stay here. Both nights I was the only occupant in the four rooms. In contrast, the cafe is a hot spot and at times, nearly filled up. The coffee was decent, but it was the best coffee I experienced in Nicaragua. This was not saying much as the rest of the coffee I had was pretty mediocre.

Cornerhouse cafe Ometepe
Where the breakfast takes place – See the only good cup of coffee I enjoyed in Nicaragua and empty smoothie glass at bottom right

I had three meals here, and they were all tasty. Lonely Planet gives kudos to this place as both a place to stay and a place to eat. Perhaps that was why the cafe received good traffic during their open hours. I enjoyed a steak and chicken sandwich and an omelet for lunch.

Cornerhouse cafe nicaragua
My delicious chicken sandwich lunch to go from Cornerhouse after being in my backpack for several hours on a hot Nicaraguan bus

Lunch to go

Remember I said that I did not get my first complimentary breakfast because I had to leave for my volcano hike? When I had breakfast my last day and was checking out they asked if I wanted a lunch to go since I did not get one on the first day. I thought that was a very nice and fair way to compensate for the missed meal. I took them up on that offer and ate my lunch at Laguna de Apoyo later in the day.

Check out this website for more information.

I highly recommend Cornerhouse Bed & Breakfast as a place to stay and eat while in Moyogalpa.

 

Hostal El Momento like crashing with a friend

The best part about Hostal El Momento in Granada, Nicaragua is location, location, location. The hostel is literally around the corner from one of the most beautiful churches in the Western Hemisphere. Exit and in two blocks travelers find themselves in the main square.

Hostal El Momento Granada
The view around the corner from Hostal El Momento

Arrival to Hostal El Momento

I arrived from Managua and departed my bus next to Parque Central in Granada. After a two or three block walk, I arrived at Hostal El Momento. Upon check-in, I was first asked for my name. After that I was addressed by my name the rest of my stay. When I met a new staff member, they would likewise ask for my name and then also call me by it. This resulted in a more personal friendly vibe to my experience. I felt like I was crashing at my friend’s place instead of a place of business.

Hostal El Momento
Hostal El Momento

A brief tour of the property followed. They made sure to let me know what areas were smoking and which were not. They also requested no backpacks on the bed. A metal backpack holder stood outside the room. This specification was to thwart the spread of bedbugs as the pesky critters sometimes hitchhike from hostel to hostel via backpacks. Humans are not the only ones with a bucket list to backpack Nicaragua.

Courtyard Hostal El Momento
Comfortable courtyard at Hostal El Momento

Comfortable courtyard

The best part about the hostel besides the location was the open courtyard. There was a middle area filled with plants and trees. Around the perimeter of the courtyard were hammocks, couches, tables, and chairs. Granada is really hot, but the courtyard was nice and breezy. The courtyard was open aired, but along the sides where the chairs were was an overhang. This protects from the sun and other elements.

Hostal El Momento courtyard
The lush Hostal El Momento courtyard

The courtyard area was where breakfast was served and everyone hung out at. During the day it was mostly empty, but at morning and night, it was a hot spot. Hostal El Momento has a full service bar at the corner of the area at the front. This is also where breakfast is ordered. Breakfast is complimentary for those staying here. Of course there was Wi-Fi in the courtyard and the connection was strong.

Hostal El Momento Granada Nicaragua
Chilling in the Hostal El Momento Courtyard

One perk about traveling and staying at hostels is meeting people from around the world. I met and spoke with people from France, Germany, Switzerland, Nicaragua, and even Chicago. The courtyard is a perfect place to meet up and converse with people from around the globe and talk about your travels.

Masaya Volcano tours and other options

All tours can be booked through the hostel. If they do not run the tour, they can book you through a different agency. They offer Masaya Volcano night tours almost every night. I signed up and was picked up from the front of the hostel. There was no one else from this hostel that night, but a family from the U.S. and a couple from the Netherlands were also on the tour.

Masaya Volcano
Masaya Volcano tour booked through Hostal El Momento

The Masaya Volcano drives visitors right up to the rim of the volcano at night for views of the lava. You only get 5-10 minutes up there, but it is plenty. The tour also includes some time walking near the entrance and a walk through the visitors center.

Laguna De Apoyo
Have Hostal El Momento book your day trip or onward trip to places like Laguna De Apoyo

Hostal El Momento can also book or assist booking tours to Laguna De Apoyo, Mombacho Volcano, Las Isletas kayaking, and city tours of Granada. Most hostels in Nicaragua double as a travel agent and Hostal El Momento is no different. They can also help arrange shuttles or provide onward travel information to San Juan Del Sur, Ometepe Island, Managua, Mombacho Volcano, and elsewhere.

Hostal El Momento cons

I definitely would recommend Hostal El Momento. The staff was friendly and helpful, the location was great, and the courtyard was a great place to hang out and meet other travelers. The only knock against the place was the room was pretty stuffy. I had a little problem sleeping one of the nights. If you can manage, try and get a lower bunk bed. They also offer several private rooms. The private rooms do not have air-conditioning; however, Mombacho has the best ventilation according to their website.

Hostal Encuentros Pool
Hotel Encuentros Pool for $5.00 and a view of Mombacho Volcano too

There is no pool at Hostal El Momento. Walking through town I saw several signs at other places offering use of their pool for a fee of $5.00 – $6.00 day pass. I took advantage of this at Hotel Encuentros. I also saw a similar sign in front of the Chocolate Mansion. If swimming is important to you then you can always sign up for the nearby Isletas Kayaking trip or do a day trip to Laguna De Apoyo.

Nearby places to eat

The Garden cafe is the best place for lunch or dinner. It is a little more expensive than most Nicaragua food, but it was delicious and fresh. It is just around the corner near the main square. There are tons of options close by. The main drag near the church has one bar/restaurant after another and Parque Central has

For more information on Hostal El Momento, check out their website.

 

Managua Backpackers hostel perfect for entering and leaving Nicaragua

On a recent trip to Nicaragua, I booked two nights to start my adventure at Managua Backpackers. It is located relatively close to the airport, so it is the perfect place to begin or end your trip.

Managua Backpackers
Entrance to Managua Backpackers

Managua Backpackers features

Airport shuttle

The first stressful connection in travel after clearing customs and immigration is from the airport to your hotel/hostel. Managua Backpackers makes this ordeal easy. They provide 24/7 shuttle service to the airport for $15.00 for solo travelers and $10.00 per person for groups of two or more. It is necessary to book this service in advance.

Related: Tips for clearing customs and immigration

I arrived at midnight. It took a little over an hour to get my bags and clear customs and immigration. Once I stepped out into the warm Nicaraguan night, a young man greeted me with a sign with my name on it. In twenty minutes, I was at the hostel and checked in. It was super easy.

Old Managua Cathedral
Old Managua Cathedral

Managua not much of a tourist destination

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and home to the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport. Most visitors arrive and depart the country from here. Other than that, there is not much reason to stick around the capital. Many secure an immediate shuttle to Granada, León, or San Juan Del Sur. If you decide to stay a night or two in Managua, Managua Backpackers is recommended.

Trees of life
Don’t miss the trees of life when in Managua

Great place to get travel information

Since most people who stay here are either leaving or entering the country, it is a great place to get travel information from other travelers. The first question I asked other people staying here was where are you from and the second question was are you leaving Nicaragua or entering? If they replied in the former, I then asked about their trip. The staff is also helpful in providing onward travel information.

Managua Backpackers pool
Managua Backpackers outdoor pool

Outdoor pool

The number one amenity at Managua Backpackers was their nice outdoor pool. I walked down to the lakefront in Managua and checked out the Malecón and the Old Managua Cathedral. It was 90 degrees and humid, so I was drenched in sweat after a few hours in the hot afternoon weather. I took a cab back and immediately headed for the pool.

Managua Backpackers hotel
Beautiful outdoor pool at Managua Backpackers

The pool area is also a great spot to hang out. They have several hammocks and chairs surrounding the pool. The front desk offers $1.00 Tona (the local beer) as well as water and other drinks.

Managua hostel
Chilling by the pool in the evening

Good Wi-Fi connection and shared computers

If you do need to work or just want to stay connected, the Wi-Fi was solid. I wrote my first blog post for this website in a chair poolside. They also have shared computers as well.

Free pancakes

Managua Backpackers offers free pancakes in the kitchen area by the pool. The first morning I woke up at 9 a.m., which is the time they stop serving. I was crushed. Fortunately, it was actually earlier as my phone clock had not adjusted to local time as I still had it set on airplane mode.

I was delighted to find coffee and pancakes still being served when I finally walked out to daylight to hang out by the pool. Free pancakes cannot be beat for a great start to the morning.

Managua Backpackers
Common area at Managua Backpackers

Well ventilated rooms

There is no air-conditioning in the dorm rooms, but there are fans and the rooms are well ventilated. The first night was kind of breezy, so it felt cool. The second night was more stuffy at first until it cooled off a little later. It is best to grab a lower bed if you can manage. Private rooms do come with air-conditioning, so if coolness is a concern, then book a private room.

Granada
Easy access to Granada at Managua Backpackers

Easy access to bus station to Granada

The bus station to Granada is about a quarter of a mile walk. I got halfway there and a bus came around the corner with the bus concierge dude yelling Granada, Granada, Granada, so I did not even have to walk that far. The hostel also offers shuttles to other bus stations.

Masaya Volcano
Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano Tours

Managua Backpackers offers tours of Masaya Volcano. I emailed them in advance to inquire about it, but they never replied. Once I got there, I decided to do this tour in Granada. I am sure I could have booked this when I got to the hostel, but I decided to do this tour later.

TV room

Inside the hostel is a TV room that offers cable TV and free access to Netflix. There is a couple of couches and chairs, so it is another area of the hostel which is great to socialize with other travelers.

Lockers and storage

Be sure to bring your own lock, especially if you are staying in the dorm rooms. They have locker rooms for storage of valuable items you do not want to leave in the common areas. They also can store backpacks for a longer period if you are taking a tour outside the city and do not want to bring all your luggage.

Great location

The hostel is located in a generally safe area of Managua called the Colonial Los Robles with several restaurants and bars nearby. There is also the Metrocenter Shopping Mall within a five minute walk. I had no problem finding a bank in the Metrocenter Area. They even have a McDonalds close by if you want familiar food at the start or end of your trip.

Enjoyed my stay

Managua Backpackers checks all the boxes for amenities that make life easier for travelers. I enjoyed my stay and would not hesitate to stay again the next time I enter or leave Nicaragua. Check their website for more information.

Disclaimer

The author paid for his stay at Managua Backpackers.