The Maderas Volcano hike is a world-class trek through an enchanting cloud forest. This challenging hike will test even the most seasoned hiker, with Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua being particularly difficult. Mud, sweat, and possibly tears, will get you to the summit and its beautiful crater lake that hides, almost perpetually, inside. Maderas Volcano National Park is a true natural wonder, and there’s really no better way to enjoy it than by hiking Maderas Volcano itself.
Also known as Volcan Maderas, the 1,394m high monolith appears somewhat dwarfed by its neighbour, Volcan Concepción. However, the Maderas Volcano hike should not be underrated. You’ll spend many hours navigating the defined yet demanding trail. Hiking Maderas Volcano has to be a real consideration as you travel through Nicaragua. And honestly, it’s one of the best Nicaragua volcanoes we’ve hiked.
For more excellent hikes on Isla Ometepe, be sure to check out our guides on Concepcion Volcano, Charco Verde National Park and San Ramon Waterfall. Whilst you’re at it, check out The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.
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Maderas Volcano National Park
National Park status was awarded to Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua. An honour it rightly deserves and, also, needs for its preservation. The magical cloud forest that encircles the mammoth cone of Maderas Volcano is one of the most important in Nicaragua. The eerie cloud forest of Maderas Volcano National Park is home to a large number of important species, many endemic to the Maderas area.
As with any protected area, the footprints left by hikers and general thrill-seekers now need to be controlled. For this reason, trails to summit Maderas Volcano must be kept to, not veered from, and respected. It’s also important to hike with a knowledgeable guide. This way, it promotes sustainable tourism and keeps this challenging and popular hike open to all.
Route Options for the Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua
There are a few different route options to choose from to summit Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua.
- Santa Cruz: Dan and I took the trailhead from the Santa Cruz area, beginning at Eco-Lodge El Porvenir. This is the most scenic route, and there is a fantastic Mirador on the slopes that provides incredible views across to Concepcion Volcano. The trail has many off-shoots. So, it’s only recommended to hike this trail to Maderas Volcano with a guide. There’s far too much risk of getting lost, which, can and does happen on Maderas Volcano. There’s a $3USD entry fee for this trail.
- Balgue: Another great route begins from Hotel Finca Magdalena. This is a popular route for backpackers staying at this fab hostel. The trail is just as difficult, but there’s only one path to follow and so less chance of veering off course and getting lost. But still, don’t rest on your laurels too much. If you’re not properly prepared, the cloud forest on Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua can be an unforgiving place. There’s also a $3USD entry fee for this trail.
- Merida: you can also start the Maderas Volcano hike from Hacienda Merida. If staying at the Hacienda, staff will prepare an early breakfast for you at 6am, result! Due to the similar trail offshoots found on the Santa Cruz route, a guide is recommended. Apparently, there’s no entry fee for this trail. Presumably, it doesn’t pass through any fincas.
Whichever trail you choose, they all converge near the summit of Maderas Volcano, from where you can either hang out at the crater Mirador, or take on the steep and challenging hike down to the crater lake.
What to Expect on the Hike
Dan and I had hiked Concepcion Volcano the day before. Given the much higher elevation of Concepcion, we went into the Maderas Volcano hike believing it to be the easier of the two. Let’s just say, we were greatly mistaken.
How Hard Can it Possibly Be?
Hiking Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua is a continuous uphill climb to the summit. I mean, it’s a volcano, so no surprises there. But, what is surprising, is that this isn’t what makes the Maderas Volcano hike so difficult. As you enter deeper into the cloud forest the higher you ascend, the trail becomes incredibly wet, muddy and slippery. Such is the life of a trail that spends most of its time in the clouds. Your footing needs to be considered. There are also many sections of low-lying tree branches and general obstacles to either crawl under or clamber over. Add these conditions to an ongoing climb, and you’ve got yourself a technically challenging and physically demanding hike on your hands.
So, in answer to the question ‘how hard can it possibly be?’
Hard. Whatever experience you bring to it.
Maderas Volcano Hike Preview
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 14.5 km
- Time: 7–9 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,289m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Eco-Lodge El Porvenir
- Map: Wikiloc
Hiking Maderas Volcano
Dan and I arrived at Eco-Lodge El Porvenir at around 7am and paid the $3USD/person entry fee. Together with our guide, Dimas, and his cousin and driver, Noe, we grabbed ourselves a coffee from the hotel. It was delicious, tasting even better for the $20C ($0.50USD) price. It was the perfect fuel to pick us up from the efforts of the day before.
As we sipped our coffee, I couldn’t help but notice Noe’s choice of footwear. Rather than a sturdy pair of appropriate hiking shoes, he was in crocs. Each to their own, I guess. But, given what was to come, perhaps Noe was onto something. It would turn out his decision wasn’t quite as green as it was cabbage looking. You’ll see.
We recommend enjoying a coffee at El Porvenir, after which, you’ll be good to go.
Firstly, you’ll join a long trail heading into the forest. The gradient is gentle and the efforts of climbing higher are minimal.
The howler monkeys are out in force at this time, and there’s a particularly impressive Ceiba tree you’ll pass by. So, there’s much to admire and enjoy from the off. Savour this time, it gets a lot harder from here.
Maderas Cloud Forest
Eventually, the trail starts to steepen, and the dry forest becomes darker and damper. Here, you’ll start to experience the amazing cloud forest of Maderas Volcano National Park. The light fades a little and the air is humid and damp. The trees are cloaked in moss and fern. It’s a magical place. The trees are unusual in shape, with many lending themselves, conveniently, as little benches. Somewhere to catch your breath, have a drink, and soak in these enchanting surroundings.
As the trail winds higher, the Maderas Volcano hike gets muddier. Our hiking shoes were becoming increasingly damp and drenched in sloppy mud. The crawling and creeping through the dense forest meant I, in particular, got mud all over. I even wondered if my already well-worn hiking boots would survive the Maderas Volcano hike. Noe, in his crocs, had no concern whatsoever. See, last laugh and all.
So, come prepared to get muddy. Very muddy.
Misty Crater Lake
With your head down, persevering through the sodden trail, you’ll soon arrive at the highest point of the volcano. Surrounded by dense cloud forest and mist, there’s not much to see at this point. But, the sentiment of it feels good. From this point, continue the trail down to the crater lake.
If going up was hard, going down is harder. A slippery, wet trail is slow going. Knowing the crater you’re entering is cloaked in mist doesn’t help with the situation. We wondered if we’d even be able to see the lake at all. Even just a smidge of water.
Arriving by the edge of the lake is a relief. Congrats, you made it. Enjoying your surroundings is a little trickier. More often than not, the mist hangs low within the Maderas Volcano crater, obscuring views of the luscious green that adorns its walls. We waited. And waited. Occasionally, the mist blew out a little, and we could just catch sight of the opposite side of the lake. But, the mist was not to be shifting on this occasion. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck.
The ascent from the crater lake takes a different trail. It’s steep. I’m talking near verticle. I’m not even sure how you’d hike down this way. But, you can. Exiting the crater basin, we were met by a large group of guys who’d hiked unguided. They’d taken the Finca Magdalena route after meeting at the hostel. One of them was hiking barefoot. A step up on Noe’s choice. Take that Noe. Sensibly though, they’d decided not to hike down to the crater lake.
From this rocky outcrop on Maderas Volcano’s edge, is supposedly the best view of the crater lake. I say supposedly because, true to form, we still had cloud. It was late morning too so we were hopeful the midday sun would soon kick in to dissipate the mist. It was not to be.
Still, you should hang out here for a while and admire your efforts. Hiking Maderas Volcano is no easy feat, and it’s nice to have a place to relax and enjoy that feeling for a while.
Once satisfied, it’s time to re-enter the cloud forest, where the trail will fork back and join with the initial route you took up. Then, the difficulty really begins.
Dan and I had both been thinking the same thing on the ascent to Maderas Volcano. If this hike is so technical on the up, what the heck is it going to be like on the down? And, if you know anything about us and have read some of our other hiking guides, you’ll know I’m notorious for a good tumble on a descent. What can I say, it’s just not my strength. Therefore, the thought of hiking back down Maderas Volcano was a teeny concern.
With that in mind, the initial stages of the descent of Maderas Volcano are slow, steady, and with very considered footing. I don’t recommend rushing this part. The undulating trail, wrapping around the upper cone of Maderas Volcano, is more mentally tiring than physically. Also by this point, you’ll have resigned yourself to the fact that being muddy is your new way of life. So, just dive into finding the safest footing, rather than being precious about keeping clean.
You’ll feel a sense of relief as the trail begins to dry out. Hiking becomes freer and you can almost just let your feet do the work as your head switches off to re-enjoy Maderas Volcano National Park again. The trail becomes lighter as you dip below the cloud clover, and views start to come into focus.
You’ll pass through a banana plantation. This is where Dimas stopped for his usual grocery supplies. Here, he gifted us a handful of bananas, which were delicious. You’ll race through the finca along a dry and dusty path. Of course, despite all my efforts to stay upright on the very tricky cloud forest terrain, here I took a tumble. It’s just not a hike if I don’t anymore.
Saving the Best ‘Til Last
Eventually, you’ll reach a small trail to the left. This leads to a picture-perfect Mirador. The best lookout of this hike, and, of any route to the summit of Maderas Volcano. At the top of this steep little hill is a bench. It’s just you, your hiking buddies and Concepcion Volcano splayed out in front, perched perfectly within Lake Nicaragua. The usual cloud cover played peek-a-boo with our views of Concepcion’s peak, but, we were more than content to sit and admire this view for some time. I’m sure you’ll do the same.
Then, it’s a case of heading back to El Porvenir. As you’ll remember from the start of the hike, the trail here is less steep, so enjoying the last of Maderas Volcano National Park is quite wonderful and dare I say, relaxed.
Don’t be fooled by Maderas being the shorter of the two volcanoes on Ometepe Island. The hike is actually harder and takes longer. Its mix of terrain adds to the difficulty, and the continuous cloud cover means, unfortunately, you may not be lucky enough to have any views of the crater or surrounding area.
That being said, for a truly adventurous hike full of challenges and a real test of your mettle, hiking Maderas Volcano is hard to beat. And, even harder to miss out on. Hiking in Ometepe is some of the best we’ve done throughout all of Nicaragua.
Getting to Maderas Volcano
It’s possible to reach the Maderas Volcano trailhead by bus. Although, relying on public transport to get you around Ometepe Island can, at times, be a little hit and miss. However, should you take the bus, you can alight at Santa Cruz and walk to El Porvenir from there. It should only take around 10-15 minutes.
But, the buses are very slow. According to the latest timetable, a bus from Moyogalpa, departing at 8.20am, will take 2 hours to arrive at Santa Cruz. That’s the earliest you can arrive by bus.
Given the length of the Maderas Volcano hike, you’ll want to be starting by 8am, latest.
So, your other options are to arrive by taxi, tuk-tuk, rental car, scooter or ATV. From Moyogalpa, hiring roundtrip transportation with a taxi will cost around $50USD. We imagine a tuk-tuk will charge slightly less. A cheaper option is to hire a scooter. Expect to pay around $20USD/day. An ATV is a solid option too. You’ll pay around $50USD/day for an ATV on Ometepe Island.
Hiking Maderas Volcano With a Guide
A guide is not compulsory for hiking Maderas Volcano, unlike neighbouring Concepcion Volcano. That being said, it’s strongly advised to hike Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua with an experienced guide. As you’ll have read in the trail description, this hike is not easy going, with frequent opportunities to get lost. Guides from other groups wasted no time in telling us about countless search missions launched for tourists who’d simply lost their way for one reason or another. Sometimes with tragic results. Don’t be that tourist.
After many hiking adventures with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels on the mainland, they helped us organise our Maderas Volcano hike. The friendly owner, Memo, put us in touch with an Ometepe Island hiking guide named Dimas. He’s an exceptional guide, who speaks English, which can be uncommon to find on Ometepe. After hiking Concepción Volcano the day before with Dimas, it was a no-brainer we’d hike with him again on Maderas.
A local guide generally costs $20USD/person to hike Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua, and it’s money well spent.
Maderas Volcano Hiking Tour
It’s possible to organise a Maderas Volcano hiking tour with a tour company based on Ometepe or the mainland. This means everything is taken care of. This includes the use of trekking poles, food, roundtrip transportation from your accommodation to the trailhead, entrance fee, and a local guide. Personally, we didn’t hike with any tour companies in Ometepe. So, we can’t recommend a tour company from there. But, we had many great hiking experiences in Nicaragua with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels. Although they’re based in Leon, they have all the connections to organise your trip to Ometepe, including the Maderas Volcano hike.
Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels offer the following prices for a Maderas Volcano hiking tour:
- $43USD/person for two people
- $40USD/person for three or for people
- $35USD/person for five to seven people
To organise your trip hiking to Maderas Volcano in Ometepe, simply contact Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels on Whatsapp (+505 8993 3714) or on their office landline (+505 2311 0748). Feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram. Otherwise, you can ask your accommodation in Ometepe to help you book a tour.
Hiking Maderas Volcano Without a Guide
Although it’s doable, it’s not advised. Admittedly, Dan and I met quite a few hikers at the top of Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua who had hiked independently. Importantly, they had ALL hiked from Finca Magdalena. As previously mentioned, this is a single-track trail with little to no offshoots, and so should minimise the risk of getting lost. However, this is also the least picturesque route, and for a hike where views at the top are not guaranteed, I’d prefer a trail that can give me some nice vistas to enjoy on the way. Do not attempt to hike from El Porvenir independently though. Our fellow hikers on this trail to hike Maderas Volcano ALL had a guide.
Volcan Maderas vs. Volcan Concepcion: Which to Hike?
So, it’s a common question asked by many, which Ometepe volcano hike do I choose? It’s a tough call, but since Dan and I hiked both, hopefully, we can shed a little light on your decision. Of course, for us, the number one option is always to hike both. And, given these hikes are very different, despite being in such close proximity to each other, it’s definitely worth it. Anyway, let’s take a look at these fantastic volcano hikes.
- Distance: At 14.5km, the Maderas Volcano hike is considerably longer than that of the 8.65km Concepcion Volcano hike.
- Time: Both hikes are said to take around 8 hours, give or take individual abilities and group size.
- Height: Concepcion is the taller volcano standing at 1,610m high. It is, in fact, Nicaragua’s second-highest volcano, after Volcan San Cristobal. Maderas Volcano comes in a little shorter at 1,394m.
- Accumulated elevation gain: Both hikes start relatively close to sea level, meaning it’s a big effort to reach their summits. The straight and steep up and down of Concepcion Volcano means 1,338m of elevation gain. Given how short the trail is in relation to the elevation gain, you can imagine how steep it is. Maderas Volcano, on the other hand, has a very similar elevation gain of 1,289m. Although the distance is much longer to even this out, don’t be fooled. Given how gentle the initial ascent is, paired with a long section of sharp undulation near the summit, the Maderas Volcano hike is also incredibly steep.
- Difficulty: If the above information doesn’t give it away, they’re both… hard.
Ultimately, Dan and I actually found the Maderas Volcano hike to be the harder of the two. Something corroborated by our guide, Dimas, when we voiced our thoughts at the bottom. The steep, muddy and slippery trail was taxing and time-consuming. The cloud forest of Maderas Volcano National Park is wonderful to hike through, but, if you’re looking for the easier hike of the two, then we think you should go with Concepcion Volcano. But hey, remember, that too is still a difficult hike.
Where to Stay on Ometepe Island
Best Moyogalpa Accommodation Options
- El Peregrino: Dan and I really enjoyed our stay here. The views of Concepcion Volcano are outstanding! It’s conveniently located near the Moyogalpa Ferry Terminal, good for an early departure or late arrival onto the island. The rooms are huge and there’s a large outdoor kitchen area with plenty of outdoor seating.
- Hotel La Estancia: this is one of the most highly-rated hotels on Ometepe Island. Included is a delicious breakfast, pool, bar and garden. Expect more great views of Concepcion Volcano from this hotel, too.
Best Merida Accommodation Options
- Hospedaje La Gloria: this lovely family-run guesthouse is an excellent option for those wanting a private room at an affordable price. There’s a really nice restaurant, bar, shared lounge and garden on-site. it’s right at the foot of the volcano, so it’s the perfect place to relax after exploring Maderas Volcano National Park.
- Xalli Beach Hotel: if you’re looking for the nicest hotel on Ometepe, this beach-front option runs close! You’re guaranteed a nice stay with the hotel’s modern facilities and excellent location.
Best Altagracia Accommodation Options
- Bananas Guest House: it’s hard to find nicer accommodation in Altagracia at such a low price. Located on the beach, this guesthouse provides spacious rooms, delicious meals on-site and fantastic views of Concepcion Volcano!
- Hotel La Omaja: this hotel offers guests an exceptional pool and terrace to enjoy with volcano views, whilst also being right on the beach. Plus, there’s an awesome restaurant on-site. So, you don’t need to worry about doing your own cooking!
Five Hiking Essentials for Maderas Volcano Ometepe
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Make sure to also pack 3L of water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a summary of everything you’d need for a backpacking trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Hiking boots, crocs or barefoot: okay guys, I know I make jokes, but seriously, don’t tackle this hike without a good pair of trainers, or hiking boots. Simple.
- Goodbye nice clothes: don’t even dream of hiking Maderas Volcano in anything other than clothes you don’t mind getting ruined.
- Hiking sustainably: The Maderas Volcano National Park is a protected area and hikers should always create as little impact as possible. I can’t count how many times, hiking through Central America, I’ve seen people nonchalantly launch plastic bottles into the forest as they hike. Take all your rubbish with you. If you can manage to hike up with it, you can certainly manage to hike down with it.
- Kayaking Ometepe: if you’re not keen on hiking Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua, then renting a kayak and paddling around the base of it is a great alternative for enjoying this exceptional volcano. Kayaking Ometepe is cheap from El Peru, Playa Los Mangos or Merida.
We love our volcano hikes, but we’re yet to tackle any in North America. Let us know you’re recommendations in the comments below.