If you’re backpacking Nicaragua, we’re sure you’re keen to hike. To help you plan your Nicaragua backpacking route, we’re going to tell you about all the best hikes in Nicaragua. Of course, we’ll start with some awesome Nicaragua volcano hikes. Then, to make sure you explore Nicaragua completely, we’ll talk about the best hikes on Ometepe Island. Indeed, you’ll find even more incredible Nicaraguan volcanoes to hike in Ometepe.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the finest trails this country has to offer! Beck and I actually hiked all of these trails (excluding the San Juan del Sur Cliffs). So, we’ll provide links in each section for a more detailed guide about that specific hike.

We hope this guide saves time on trip planning. For other great hikes in Central America, check our trekking guides for Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Best Hikes in Nicaragua

For the best hiking in Nicaragua, you should explore trails within the Pacific region. In fact, Nicaragua is divided into three regions. These include the Pacific Coast, North-Central Mountains and Caribbean Coast regions. Indeed, all the Nicaragua hikes covered in this guide are located in the Pacific region (except Somoto Canyon). It’s in the Pacific region, where you’ll find epic Nicaragua volcano hikes. So, to do these hikes, you’ll be spending most of your time in the Pacific region. You’ll be based in towns such as Leon, Chinandega and Granada.

Of course, there are great hikes in the North-Central Mountains region. Personally, Beck and I only had time to visit Somoto Canyon in that area. But, don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll cover some of the best mountain hikes in this region.

But, before we dive into the hikes, let’s quickly talk about the best time of year to visit Nicaragua for hiking. Usually, you’d avoid wet season at any destination for optimal hiking conditions. But, when it comes to hiking in Nicaragua, you can reconsider this typical idea.

When hiking in Nicaragua during the dry season, you’ll notice the land is, well, very dry. The brown and barren landscape is still unique and breathtaking. But, locals believe the landscape is much prettier and wondrous during the wet season. You can expect more lush and green surroundings. Plus, during the wet season, you’re unlikely to encounter days and days of continuous rain. More likely, a heavy downpour for half an hour or so. That means, even during the wet season, you’ll mostly hike in dry conditions.

Nicaragua Volcano Hikes

Many of the best hikes in Nicaragua are trails exploring volcanoes. Certainly, there’s a good reason why Nicaragua is called the land of lakes and volcanoes. In fact, there are 19 active Nicaraguan volcanoes. Many of these are positioned along a volcanic chain called the Marrabios (Marabios) Chain. The chain runs northwest to southeast, forming a line of interconnected volcanoes.

The main volcanoes in the Marrabios chain include the San Cristobal, Pilas, Telica, Cerro Negro, El Hoyo, Santa Clara, Rota and Momotombo volcanoes. Best of all, many of these active Nicaraguan volcanoes can be hiked. With that in mind, let’s look at the best Nicaragua volcano hikes, starting with Cerro Negro.

Dan walks towards Momotombo Volcano, one of the best Nicaraguan volcanoes to hike
Momotombo Volcano

1. Cerro Negro

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 3.5 km
  • Time: 2–3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 220m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Cerro Negro Car Park

Travel Made Me Do It has personally rated the difficulty of each trail in this guide

Cerro Negro is the youngest volcano in Nicaragua and is best known for volcano boarding. But, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots for your trip to Cerro Negro. This easy hike, up one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua, has breathtaking views of the Marrabios chain and surrounding landscape. In particular, you’ll have a splendid view of Volcan El Hoyo. Of course, once you’ve reached the summit, it’s time for volcano boarding. This activity is one of the best things to do in Nicaragua!

Read more: Nicaragua Volcano Boarding at Cerro Negro – The Ultimate Guide

Dan and Beck volcano boarding down Cerro Negro, one of the most active Nicaraguan volcanoes

2. San Cristobal Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 5.92km
  • Time: 4.25 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 1,037m
  • Difficulty: Very Difficult
  • Trailhead: Finca San Cristóbal de Las Rojas

The San Cristobal Nicaragua hike is challenging. But, it’s truly mesmerising. At 1,745 metres, San Cristobal is the highest volcano in Nicaragua. So, you can expect a steep climb. But, it’s not the steepness of San Cristobal which makes it hard. It’s the terrain. Nearing the summit, the trail consists exclusively of soft volcanic ash. As a result, expect one step forward and half a slide back down during the ascent. But, your efforts are duly rewarded. Watching the volcanic activity from the San Cristobal crater is an unforgettable moment. Certainly, this is one of the best Nicaraguan volcanoes to hike.

Read more: San Cristobal Volcano Hike in Nicaragua – The Ultimate Guide

Dan at the summit of San Cristobal Volcano, which is one of the best hikes in Nicaragua

3. Masaya Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 2.6 km
  • Time: 1–2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 140m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Masaya Volcano National Park Car Park

Hiking at the Masaya Volcano National Park is non-negotiable. Of course, we highly recommend you visit Masaya Volcano at night. Start with a sensational sunset hike. And then, once it’s turned dark, head down to the viewing platform to watch the Santiago crater lake. You’ll get to watch the lava stir, bubble, gurgle, spit and erupt. It’s an amazing phenomenon best enjoyed at night time.

Read more: Masaya Volcano National Park – The Ultimate Guide

Santiago crater lake at Masaya Volcano National Park

4. Telica Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 19.6km
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 740m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: La Quimera

Also known as Volcan Telica, Telica Volcano has some of the best hiking in Nicaragua. The hike commonly starts from the town of San Jacinto. But, another trail option, which offers better views throughout the hike, starts from La Quimera. Although, both trails converge near the summit, where you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring crater views. Unlike San Cristobal and Momotombo, you won’t be struggling up a volcanic ash trail to reach the peak. But, it’s one of the longest Nicaragua volcano hikes. So, your endurance will be tested in the heat.

Read more: Telica Volcano Hike – Summit One of Nicaragua’s Most Active Volcanoes

Dan and Beck at the summit of the Telica Volcano hike, which is one of the best Nicaragua volcano hikes

5. Momotombo Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 5.5 km
  • Time: 4–5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 630m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Momotombo

Also known as Volcan Momotombo, Momotombo Volcano is an adventurous volcano to hike. Momotombo is one of the most active Nicaraguan volcanoes. This means, sometimes, it’s not possible to hike to the summit. But, even so, it’s still worth hiking. Instead of hiking to the peak of the volcano, you’ll head to an epic vantage point. From here, you can admire the steaming volcano crater from afar. You’ll also have superb views of Lagoon Managua and Momotombito. Indeed, Momotombo has some of the best hiking in Nicaragua.

Read more: Momotombo Volcano Hike – The Ultimate Guide

Dan and Beck enjoy the Momotombo Volcano Hike, one of the best hikes in Nicaragua, which gives a great view of the active volcano itself

6. Volcan Cosiguina

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 17.7km
  • Time: 4-6 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 695m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Potosi

The Volcan Cosiguina trek is one of the most underrated hikes in Nicaragua. Views of the emerald-coloured crater lake from the summit are stunning. Among Laguna de Asososca in Nicaragua, Laguna de Alegria and Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador, and Laguna de Chicabal in Guatemala, it’s one of the best crater lakes in Central America. In fact, there’s a newly laid 2WD-accessible road that leads to a car park near the summit. So, this hike just became a whole lot easier! Of course, the hike from Potosi is still worth doing for those keen speed hikers.

WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? It’s hiking a trail quicker, compared with your normal walking speed. The Volcan Cosiguina trek is a decent trail for speed hiking!

Read more: Volcan Cosiguina Hike – The Ultimate Guide

Dan admires Laguna Cosiguina from the crater edge

7. Volcan El Hoyo

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 6.8 km
  • Time: 3.75–4.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 545m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: El Hoyo Visitor Center

From Volcan El Hoyo, you can enjoy a cracking sunset and sunrise. Golden hour provides even more splendid views of the Momotombo and Asososca volcanoes. That’s why you should camp at Volcan El Hoyo. In fact, visiting Volcan El Hoyo is best done as part of a two-day adventure, which also covers Cerro Negro and Laguna de Asososca. But, if you plan on just hiking to Volcan El Hoyo, there’s still much to explore. At the summit, there’s a massive hole, which is what El Hoyo is famous for. In addition, there’s an awesome steaming fumarole. Indeed, if you’re hiking in Nicaragua, include a trip to Volcan El Hoyo.

Read more: Volcan El Hoyo in Nicaragua – Epic Camping and Hiking

Volcan El Hoyo has some of the best hiking in Nicaragua, partly because of the beautiful sunrise you can experience here

8. Volcan Asososca and Laguna de Asososca

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 13.5 km
  • Time: 7–9 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 580m
  • Difficulty: Very difficult
  • Trailhead: Volcan El Hoyo

The Volcan Asososca hike is the hardest Nicaragua volcano hike. Despite what you’ve heard about the difficulty of Momotombo, Concepcion and Maderas volcanoes, Volcan Asososca is the hardest. That’s probably why not many tourists or locals do this hike. It’s very steep, slippery and sketchy. But, that’s what makes it one of the most adventurous and thrilling hikes in Nicaragua. Also, your views of Momotombo and Laguna de Asososca are unbeatable.

Read more: Laguna de Asososca – The Ultimate Guide to This Hidden Gem

Volcan Asososca is one of the least explored Nicaraguan volcanoes and it provides a great view of Momotombo Volcano and Laguna de Asososca

9. Mombacho Volcano (Puma and Crater Trail)

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.14km
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 392m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve

Compared with the other Nicaragua volcano hikes, Mombacho Volcano feels much different. Even in the dry season, the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve remains lush and green. We recommend combining the Puma and Crater trails when hiking Mombacho. Certainly, this means you’ll get to explore more of this natural reserve. There are many craters and fumaroles to check out, making this one of the most interesting Nicaraguan volcanoes to hike.

Read more: Mombacho Hike in Nicaragua – The Ultimate Guide

Views of the dead forest and cloud forest at Mombacho Volcano

Other Mainland Hikes in Nicaragua

There’s more to hiking in Nicaragua than just the volcanoes. Sure, hiking Nicaraguan volcanoes is a lot of fun! But, there are equally impressive hikes in Nicaragua that don’t involve volcanoes. Let’s look at some of these other brilliant hikes in Nicaragua. We’ll start with the majestic Somoto Canyon.

Dan overlooking Somoto Canyon
Somoto Canyon

10. Somoto Canyon

  • Type: One-Way
  • Distance: 8.5km
  • Time: 3.75 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 332m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Somoto Canyon General Entrance

The Somoto Canyon has vertical walls up to 150 metres tall. It runs 12km in length. You’ll find the emerald waters of Rio Coco twist and wind along the canyon floor. Yes, Somoto Canyon is a spectacular destination for hiking. But, it’s also great for canyoneering and swimming. In terms of hiking though, Somoto Canyon offers a unique trekking experience. There are a few trail options with varying levels of difficulty. Some of these trails climb high above the canyon to epic lookouts. And, some of them descend into the canyon, offering nothing but adventure and excitement!

Read more: Somoto Canyon – The Ultimate Guide to Hiking, Camping & Canyoneering

Somoto Canyon is magnificent and has some of the most adventurous hiking in Nicaragua

11. Montibelli Nature Reserve

The Montibelli Nature Reserve is a well-preserved area of tropical dry forest, located just outside the capital of Managua. It’s a phenomenal place to spot wildlife. In particular, Montibelli is well known for its birdwatching. But, you’ll also find great hiking trails at the private reserve. These hikes vary in difficulty. From easiest to hardest, there are the Parque del Piemonte, Casa Viejas and San Pablo hikes. Indeed, Montibelli has some of the best hiking in Nicaragua.

Read more: Montibelli Nature Reserve – Excellent Hiking in Ticuantepe, Nicaragua

Montibelli Nature Reserve has some of the least known hikes in Nicaragua. Here, you can see wildlife, such as an owl

12. San Juan del Sur Cliffs

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time: 1.5–2.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 110m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: San Juan del Sur

Also known as the Old Lighthouse Trail, this path explores the cliffs at San Juan del Sur. It offers far-reaching coastal views. Loaded with some of the best beaches in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur is a popular destination for tourists. But, many will miss out on this hike in favour of hanging out at the beach. Do yourself a favour and hike the cliffs at San Juan del Sur. We hear the sweeping coastal views are 100% worth the time and effort.

Ometepe Island Hikes in Nicaragua

Some of the best hiking in Nicaragua is on Ometepe Island. So, you should definitely visit! The island has four renowned hikes, all offering something unique. There’s a brilliant set of cascades to explore at San Ramon Waterfall. Also, there’s an underrated trail circling a lagoon at the Charco Verde Nature Reserve. Most impressive though, are two of the best Nicaragua volcano hikes. Both Concepcion and Maderas are amazing Nicaraguan volcanoes. But, let’s start with waterfall chasing at San Ramon.

Read more: Hiking Ometepe – 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss

Concepcion Volcano is seen during the Maderas Volcano hike. Indeed, Ometepe has some of the best Nicaraguan volcanoes
Concepcion Volcano, as seen during the Maderas Volcano hike

13. San Ramon Waterfall

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 9.85 km
  • Time: 2.5–4 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 515m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: San Ramon

The San Ramon Waterfall is a brilliant natural attraction in Ometepe. And, it involves some of the best hiking in Nicaragua! Whether you choose to hike the entire trail or drive halfway up the 4WD-access road, you’ll have a blast. Cascading down the southern slopes of Maderas Volcano is a beautiful 50 metre waterfall. It plunges over mossy rocks into a small natural pool. But, keep in mind that San Ramon Waterfall is best visited in the wet season.

Read more: San Ramon Waterfall Hike – The Ultimate Guide

Getting to the base of San Ramon Waterfall involves some of the best hiking in Nicaragua

14. Concepcion Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 8.65 km
  • Time: 7–9 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 1,338m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Los Ramos (NIC-64)

Concepcion Volcano is actually the second-highest of the Nicaraguan volcanoes. The trail to the summit is steep and challenging. But keep at it. On a clear day, the views across Ometepe are stunning. At least, once it’s time to descend this Nicaragua volcano hike, you’ll be down in a flash. That’s because you’ll get to enjoy a ski sesh sliding down the ashen slopes. If you love hiking Nicaraguan volcanoes, then you can’t miss this hike.

Read more: Hiking Concepcion Volcano – The Ultimate Guide

Views of Concepcion Volcano, not seen when hiking in Nicaragua, but from our accommodation in Moyogalpa

15. Maderas Volcano Hike

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 14.5 km
  • Time: 7–9 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 1,289m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Eco-Lodge El Porvenir

Maderas Volcano is another awesome volcano hike in Ometepe. Although, it’s quite different to the Concepcion Volcano hike. The Maderas Volcano route is narrow, slippery and muddy, traversing through dense cloud forest. At times, you’ll be crawling under or clambering over tree trunks on this obstacle-laden track. If you’re after one of the most adventurous hikes in Nicaragua, add Maderas Volcano to your itinerary.

Read more: Maderas Volcano Hike – The Ultimate Guide

Dan stands at the crater of Maderas Volcano

16. Charco Verde Nature Reserve

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.7km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 39m
  • Difficulty: Very easy
  • Trailhead: Charco Verde Main Entrance

This beautiful nature trail loops around a small emerald green lagoon. It’s bordered by black sand beaches with serene views across Lake Nicaragua. In fact, Charco Verde is a mystical place filled with legend and folklore. It’s also teeming with wildlife, bright flowers and remarkable trees. So, Charco Verde is definitely worth a visit. It’s actually one of the shortest and easiest hikes in Nicaragua. If you’re after something a little more leisurely in Ometepe, then Charco Verde will do nicely.

Read more: Charco Verde Ometepe – Discover Nicaragua’s Beautiful Nature Reserve

Dan hikes across the mangrove boardwalk at Charco Verde on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua

Mountain Ranges in Nicaragua

The best mountains in Nicaragua are located in the north-central part of the country. With the Pacific and Caribbean lowlands on either side, the North-Central Mountains rise high above. Despite its beauty, most tourists won’t visit this lesser known region. Personally, Beck and I only managed enough time to visit Somoto Canyon. But, there are plenty of other fantastic hikes located in this area. Let’s look at a few of the best Nicaragua mountains to hike below.

Montibelli Nature Reserve is located on Managua's Sierra

Matagalpa

Some of the best hiking in Nicaragua are found in the Northern Highlands. The town of Matagalpa is well-positioned in the North-Central Mountains. Indeed, it’s the perfect gateway for hiking trails in the surrounding mountains. Perhaps, the most popular hikes are El Calvario and La Montaña de la Paz. Both trails are easy to access from Matagalpa and offer glorious views. Definitely, Matagalpa offers some of the best hikes in Nicaragua, which differ considerably from the volcano hikes in the Pacific region.

Miraflor National Park

Located in Esteli, Miraflor National Park is a gorgeous natural reserve. Similar to Montibelli, Miraflor National Park is a well-preserved reserve that’s off the beaten track. So, don’t expect the hiking trails to be overrun with people. In fact, you might even have the trails all to yourself!

Miraflor National Park is one of 78 nature reserves that are protected in Nicaragua. This certainly helps with the preservation of the area. Although Miraflor National Park is located in a mountainous area, most of the hiking takes place in areas of dense vegetation. So, expect epic jungle trekking at Miraflor National Park, rather than mountain hikes. Better yet, Miraflor National Park isn’t too far away from Somoto Canyon. So, if you’re visiting Somoto Canyon, make sure to add Miraflor National Park to your itinerary.

Nicaragua Hiking Tours

There are many travel companies in Nicaragua offering hiking tours. By taking a Nicaragua hiking tour, they’ll take care of all the planning and logistics. So, you’ll save lots of time and effort by not having to plan all the nitty-gritty details. You’ll also be able to squeeze more into your itinerary. That’s because it’s more time-consuming getting to and from trailheads by chicken buses when hiking independently. So, you won’t get to fit in as many hikes if you’re short on time. Needless to say, you should always hike active Nicaraguan volcanoes with a guide for obvious safety reasons.

Of course, we always discuss how to hike independently in Nicaragua in all of our guides. If you’re interested in hiking in Nicaragua without a tour company, read our guides. You’ll find out which can be hiked without a guide safely.

Nicaragua Volcano Tours

By hiking Nicaraguan volcanoes with a tour company, they’ll provide guides who have the knowledge and expertise to ensure a safe and memorable hike. Of course, not all guides are equal! Many of the well-known tour companies in Leon hire international volunteers. These guides have good intentions; but, they often don’t know much about Nicaragua. We don’t mean to name and shame these companies. But, you should definitely look for a company that uses local guides and strive to give work to local communities. For that reason, we recommend Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels. Certainly, they’re a social-conscious tour company. Additionally, their tours are affordable, flexible and loads of fun!

Nicaragua Hidden Gems

Nicaragua has some of the best hiking in Central America. Of course, some hikes in Nicaragua are more well known than others. Hiking Cerro Negro, Telica, Mombacho, Masaya, Concepcion, Maderas volcanoes, and San Ramon Waterfall, are fairly touristic trails. Thankfully, we have revealed some of Nicaragua’s hidden gems. Indeed, we think the lesser known trails covered in this guide include Volcan Asososca, Volcan El Hoyo, Charco Verde Nature Reserve and the various trails at Montibelli. We hope you explore these Nicaragua hidden gems!

Nicaragua Bucket List

Included on your Nicaragua bucket list, we bet you’ve got a bunch of Nicaragua volcano hikes to do. Of course, many of you won’t have the luxury of time to hike every worthwhile Nicaraguan volcano. So, you might just want to do the best Nicaraguan volcano hikes. Or, more to the point, you might be wondering, ‘what is the best volcano to visit in Nicaragua?‘ Well, it’s hard to pick our favourite. But, Beck and I really enjoyed hiking Momotombo Volcano and Volcan El Hoyo as well as the trip to Cerro Negro. So, you should definitely add these hikes to your Nicaragua bucket list.

Five Essentials For Hiking in Nicaragua

Hiking Essential

Why do you need this?

See it in action


These hiking boots are very comfortable and a great choice for hiking in Nicaragua

This camera is lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for a backpacking trip. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos

A waterproof jacket is a must during the wet season in Nicaragua

This is an awesome backpack for hiking. It has plenty of space, so you can pack whatever you need

These hiking trousers are lightweight, so you won't get too hot hiking in them. Plus, they'll keep the insects and bugs off your legs!

You’ll also want to pack plenty of water, snacks, bug spray, trekking poles, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for most hikes in Nicaragua.

For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a broad summary of everything you’d need to pack for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.

Bonus Tips For Hiking in Nicaragua

  • Chicken buses in Nicaragua: a cheap way to get around the country. But, expect a slow and steady ride.
  • Banks in Nicaragua: there are plenty of banks and ATMs in towns in the Pacific region. You shouldn’t have any problems getting money out, especially in Leon, Granada or Managua.
  • Travel guides: we’ve done plenty of hiking in Central America. Check out our other ‘best hikes lists’ in Central America. These include – 20 Epic El Salvador Hiking Trails Not To Miss and 17 of the Best Hikes in Guatemala.

We think Nicaragua has some of the most underrated trekking in North America. But, it’s hard to beat hiking in South America. Check out our Patagonia and Peru hiking guides (coming soon).


Disclaimer: please note that some of the links are affiliate links. By using these links, we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. If you would like to support Travel Made Me Do It, use our links when booking your trip online. It really helps us continue to run the website. Thank you in advance, it’s much appreciated. Please feel free to email us if you have any questions about these companies or websites.