Mombacho Volcano is one of the most well-known of all Nicaragua’s volcanoes. Its lush slopes are a haven of seemingly unlimited flora and the fauna is wild and exotic. Its fertile volcanic soil is perfect for growing world-class coffee and tobacco, of which sampling is a must. Mombacho in Nicaragua towers over Central America’s oldest city, Granada, with panoramic views across Laguna Apoyo and beyond. A Mombacho hike in this beautiful cloud forest is an immersive experience. Whether you choose to solo hike or take a guided Mombacho tour, the exploring of craters and fumaroles; enjoying nature and natural wonders; surely cannot be missed. In fact, a trip to Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is the perfect way to explore this little corner of Nicaragua.
In this travel blog, we’ll talk about how to visit Mombacho Volcano and explore the different Mombacho hike options. We’ll also look at visiting independently or taking a Mombacho tour; where to stay and how to get there. Plus, Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve offers other fun activities like the Mombacho Canopy and Zipline. Cafe las Flores Nicaragua and the Mombacho Lodge are also located there, so we’ll have a look at those places too.
For more epic hikes around Granada, Nicaragua, check out our Masaya Volcano and Montibelli hiking guides. Also, check out The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.
Table of Contents
About Mombacho Volcano
Mombacho Volcano in Nicaragua is one of the most accessible volcanoes in the country. As well as farms littering its slopes, making the most of the fertile volcanic soils, there is a 4WD drive road that takes you, conveniently, all the way to the summit. The only other volcanoes in Nicaragua that we experienced something similar were Cosiguina and Masaya. But, there’s still a short but steep climb to reach its crater. With Volcan Mombacho, you’re dropped right on the top.
Combining ease of access with three excellent trails, all of differing lengths and difficulty, it’s easy to see why hiking at Mombacho is such a popular activity.
Hiking Trails on Mombacho Volcano
There are three hiking trails to conquer at Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve. But, only the Crater trail can be hiked independently. Tigrillo and Puma trails require a certified guide which can be organised independently upon arrival, or as part of a Mombacho tour.
SENDERO EL CRATER (Crater Trail)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 1.5km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Certified Guide: Optional
- Guide Cost: $8USD/group (Spanish speaking) // $12USD/group (English speaking)
- Group Size: 1-10 persons
SENDERO EL TIGRILLO (Tigrillo Trail)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 2.5km
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Certified Guide: Obligatory
- Guide Cost: $12USD/group (Spanish speaking) // $17USD/group (English speaking)
- Group Size: 1-7 persons
THE SENDERO EL PUMA (Puma Trail)
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 4km
- Time: 4 hours
- Difficulty: Hard
- Certified Guide: Obligatory
- Guide Cost: $17USD/group (Spanish speaking) // $22USD/group (English speaking)
- Group Size: 1-7 persons
Getting to the Top of Mombacho Volcano
All of the Mombacho hikes begin from the summit of the volcano. So, before embarking on your trail of choice, it’s worth considering your route to the top. Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve offers a truck shuttle service from the entrance up the steep 5km road to the summit. The truck makes the journey from the entrance to Mombacho Volcano summit four times a day at 08:30, 10:00, 13:00 and 14:30. It also returns at 11:30, 13:30 and 16:00. Knowing the truck times means you can easily work out how long to spend at Mombacho Volcano.
If you are wanting to save pennies, or just love to trek wherever possible, then you can, of course, walk to the summit. You’ll pass by Cafe las Flores Nicaragua midway up, so you can always call in for a coffee to help fuel you to the top. More on Cafe las Flores Nicaragua below.
Mombacho Hike: Puma Trail (inc. Crater Trail) Preview
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 6.14km
- Time: 3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 392m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve
- Map: Wikiloc
The Volcan Mombacho Hike
Dan and I obviously chose to hike the Puma trail. This also conveniently adds on the Crater trail, with the out and back to the fumaroles. The crater trail alone didn’t feel quite long enough to satisfy our Nicaragua volcano hiking needs.
The Hike Up Mombacho Volcano
Dan and I caught the truck up at 8:30. Amazingly, we were the only two people ready to hike at this time. The only other group to use the truck at this time was a group of influencers filming promotional material at El Crater. Honestly, we didn’t see anyone walking up. Given the recommendation to begin the Puma Trail early on, we knew it wouldn’t be likely we’d see anyone else that day on that specific trail.
Reaching the Summit of Mombacho Volcano Hike
From the summit of Mombacho Volcano, we met our guide. Here, we were given a brief introduction to the Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve. In the small museum, we were shown examples of the type of fauna we might see on our hike. There’s also a sign-in station to record your presence on the trail.
The Puma Trail
We embarked on the Puma trail first, deciding to finish with the Crater trail. As amazing as the hike was, we would recommend beginning with the Crater trail before it gets too busy, which it will. Countless Mombacho tours show up just for the crater trail, so it becomes rather crowded.
The trail begins on a similar cobbled stone road to that of the road to the summit. After passing a couple of communication stations, the road emerges from the forest canopy sheltering it. Here, you’ll be faced with the mesmerising view of the ‘dead forest’. This petrified stretch of rainforest is desolate and lifeless. Gone are the luscious green shades of a cloud forest. Instead, you’ll see barren trunks of chalk white, with spindly branches coiled together.
Taking a short trail to the right, you’ll see why it’s like this. Through the tree graveyard, you’ll come to a sharp drop. This is the edge of one of Mombacho Volcano’s four craters. The gas in the air is strong and its damage to the crater walls and surrounding area is apparent. The juxtaposition between dead forest and, well, alive forest is incredibly defined by an almost straight line down the middle.
Into the Cloud Forest
From here, the Puma trail enters the famed Mombacho cloud forest in Nicaragua. The parched landscape turns into a lush forest. The canopy is a shelter from the sun and a magnet for moisture. The trail is dark and mysterious, with mist rolling in and out.
What makes the Puma trail so difficult is not its length. Instead, it’s the constantly undulating path that grips the volcano slopes, at a steady 45° angle too. The trail is slippery, especially the wooden staircase sections.
Miradors on the Mombacho Hike
Along the Puma trail, you’ll pass a handful of purpose-built lookouts. All of them offer a slightly different perspective of Mombacho Volcano, with one particular fantastic Mirador to its highest peak. This peak is, however, inaccessible to visitors. The trail is far too gnarly and in fact, begins from a completely different location. So, hoping the cloud doesn’t interfere with the views too much, this will be your closest look at this magnificent volcano.
Joining the Crater Trail
The Puma trail eventually joins up to the outer edge of the Crater trail. Along the Crater trail, you’ll see many more people. Again, try to take this Mombacho hike in the opposite direction to avoid the crowds. The path can then be followed to a stunning lookout over Laguna de Apoyo and Nicaragua. You’ll be able to see Granada clearly below and even Masaya Volcano, smoking away in the distance. The vegetation here is low and the volcanic landscape has a completely different feel. It’s more open and exposed. You might even be able to hear the Howler Monkeys in the distance. From this lookout, it’s just a short walk to the fumarole.
Fumaroles on Mombacho Volcano
There are around 25 fumaroles in total on Mombacho, although they are not all accessible. But, there is a wooden platform built to stretch out to one of them. At the end of this platform, you’ll find a deep hole, shrouded in vegetation. Out blows hot steam which quickly condenses onto surrounding leaves as it mixes with the cooler air at the top of Mombacho in Nicaragua. It’s a small and simple reminder that Mombacho is still an active volcano. Although its last eruption was long ago in 1570. Subsequent activity has only been in the shape of steam vents and hot springs.
The Mombacho Volcano Tunnel
Upon leaving the fumarole, you’ll rejoin the Crater trail and see your first view of the main crater. You’ll find it’s overgrown and rich in vegetation. So much so, you can hardly work out that what you’re looking at, is in fact, the Mombacho Volcano crater.
Continuing the trail brings you to what Dan and I think is the star attraction of the El Crater Trail. The Mombacho Volcano Tunnel. A natural tunnel carved deep between the rock face. It makes for an enchanting walk, with the enclosed moss-covered walls and misty air quite magical.
From here, it’s a short distance back to the trailhead, passing one last view of the evergreen crater. Thankfully, this one gives a much better perspective of the crater, so, we were quite content with our time spent atop Mombacho Volcano by the end.
Heading Back Down Mombacho Volcano
At the trailhead, there’s a bus shelter with restrooms located next door. Here, you’ll probably find a few other visitors waiting patiently for the returning truck. As previously mentioned, the truck runs to a timetable. So, it’s very easy to structure your walk and know how long you can stay on the trails, based on these times.
Having said that, Dan and I were a little early for the 13:00, so, our guide arranged for us to hop in 4×4 which took us midway down to Cafe las Flores Nicaragua, Mombacho Volcano’s famed coffee finca. Here, we hopped off and waited for the truck, this time with a hot and unbelievably good coffee in hand.
Of course, there’s always the option to walk back down too. A much easier prospect than the walk up.
Summary of the Mombacho Hike
Any Mombacho hike makes a visit to this beautiful cloud forest in Nicaragua worthwhile. But, we have to say the combined Puma and Crater trails are an absolute must. The trails make for the perfect winning formula for experiencing all aspects of a Mombacho Volcano day trip. There are many spectacular views to enjoy along the way. The dead forest is an intriguing abandoned wasteland, a reminder of the power of volcanoes. The cloud forest is eerily enchanting and a real thrill to hike through. And, the Mombacho tunnel, possibly the trails crowning glory, is a majestic feat of nature that will leave your jaw on the floor.
Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve
Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve, also known as the Mombacho Cloud Forest Reserve, is a splendid example of dwarf and cloud forest, just outside of Granada, Nicaragua. The reserve is home to a vast ecosystem of numerous mammals, birds and reptiles. Also, you’ll discover an abundant array of flora, including many kinds of orchids.
There are a few other things you can do in the nature reserve. Let’s take a look:
Canopy Tours on Mombacho Volcano
For a birdseye view of Mombacho Volcano, it’s possible to zipline through this wonderful cloud forest. Miravalle Canopy offer 2km of breathtaking Mombacho canopy highlights. If you prefer an alternative experience to hiking, then a Mombacho Canopy tour is not to be missed.
If you want to enjoy the delights of the Mombacho cloud forest at night, then there’s an opportunity to do so. Just book into the Mombacho Lodge. Here, there are four individual cabins with private bathrooms, with one main building that houses a very good restaurant. Included in the price is a guided nocturnal hike. A chance to observe animals in Mombacho you otherwise wouldn’t see. Prices start from $55USD/night. Check out their website for more information.
Cafe Las Flores Nicaragua
Cafe las Flores in Nicaragua is a well-known international coffee brand. The finca sits on the slopes of Mombacho Volcano and is easily the perfect start or finish to any Mombacho hike. The onsite restaurant at Hacienda el Progreso is, indeed, the perfect location to sample their world-class coffee. They also offer Mombacho coffee tours. See their website for more details.
If you want to grab a bite to eat as part of your trip to Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve, then both the Mombacho Lodge and Cafe las Flores Nicaragua cater for the hungry hiker.
How to Get to Mombacho Volcano
The easiest way to get to Mombacho Volcano is by staying in nearby Granada. From Granada or Managua, however, you can take a chicken bus towards Rivas, and just ask the driver to stop at Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve.
You can also take a taxi from Granada to the nature reserve. It’s much quicker than the bus and should cost no more than $4USD.
Arriving at the Mombacho Volcano National Park
Due to Mombacho’s close proximity to Granada, it’s easy to arrive at whatever time of day suits you best. For us, it’s always first thing in the morning. At the entrance, you’ll find a ticket office, large car park and restrooms. If you caught the bus, it’s a short 1.5km walk from the roadside to the entrance.
Entry Fees For Mombacho Volcano
There is an entrance fee for Mombacho Volcano. This is $7USD/person. In addition, you can arrange and pay for a tour guide for whichever Mombacho trail you want to tackle. You can also pay for the transport to the summit and back. The price for the truck is $22USD/person and actually includes the entrance fee in this.
Alternatively, you can set off on the 5km walk to the top, or, if you have your own 4WD, you can get yourself to the car park at the summit. This will cost you $25USD/vehicle, plus $1USD/passenger.
Taking a Mombacho Tour
Dan and I hiked A LOT during our three weeks in Nicaragua. Often, some of these hikes required guides and a great deal of planning. Choosing a Nicaragua Volcano Tour proved important logistically and in terms of safety, too. Although easy to make your own way to Mombacho Volcano, Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels is a great Mombacho tour agency option, and can take care of everything for you, should you wish. Importantly, all their tours include round-trip transportation from Granada to Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve, the entrance fee, a certified guide, and a cup of coffee. The tours are half-day and start at 8am or 12:30pm.
Their prices are as follows for hiking Mombacho Volcano:
- Crater Trail: $45USD/person for a group of two. $35USD/person for a group of 3-4. $30USD/person for a group of 5-7.
- Tigrillo Trail: $50USD/person for a group of two. $35USD/person for a group of 3-4. $30USD/person for a group of 5-7.
- Puma Trail: $55USD/person for a group of two. $45USD for a group of 3-4. $40USD/person for a group of 5-7.
- Mombacho Zipline Canopy Tour: $35USD/person for a group of two. $30USD for a group of 3-4. $28USD for a group of 5-7.
If you are interested in booking a Mombacho tour with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels in Nicaragua, you can find their office base in Leon. You can also contact the team as follows: Office No. +505 2311 0748 or via Whatsapp on +505 8993 3714 or for emergencies use +505 8851 2059. Check out their website too for more information on the tours they offer. You can also contact them on Facebook or Instagram.
If you’re on a strict backpacking in Nicaragua budget, then, admittedly, your cheapest option for experiencing Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve is to get there by chicken bus, pay the $7USD entrance fee, walk the steep 5km road to the summit, and then take on the unguided Crater trail. It does work out considerably cheaper than a Mombacho tour.
However, the Puma trail offers so much more. Considerably so. With the trail delving deeper into the cloud forest and offering unique views and perspectives of the volcano and surrounding reserve, we really do recommend finding the extra cash to take on this Mombacho hike. Zero regrets.
Where to Stay in Granada
Being such a popular city to stay in for any traveller making their way through Nicaragua, Granada is not short of places to stay. Hers’s our top picks for a budget, mid-range and luxury options:
- Casa Lucys Guesthouse: This more budget-friendly accommodation is a real gem in Granada. The fantastic breakfast can be enjoyed on the terrace and, importantly, there are options to stay in a private room with a bathroom or a mixed dormitory.
- El Arca de Noe: This small family-run hotel proved the perfect base for Dan and I during our stay in Granada. This house-turned hotel gives a real insight into traditional homes in Granada, with the inner courtyard a peaceful place to enjoy the wonderful breakfast included, and for us, get a bit of work done. There’s a kitchen to use if you want to cook, and, in addition, tours can be arranged from the front desk. The owner, Carlos, runs a daily 30-minute driving tour of the city sites. It’s free of charge and a great way to enjoy an overview of one of Nicaragua’s prettiest cities.
- Hotel Plaza Colon – Granada: This Rainforest Alliance Certified™ hotel and subsequently all amenities are biodegradable products. Rooms come with A/C, private bathroom and bathrobes. The inner courtyard pool is a haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Is Mombacho Volcano Safe?
Yes. Although, there’s differing information online as to whether Mombacho Volcano is extinct or active. I’m not sure how this is possible, but still, there you go. That being said, the last recorded eruption was in 1570 and the abundance of plant and animal life suggests there’s been very little in the way of major activity ever since.
In terms of Mombacho hikes, care does need to be taken. That’s why you can only hike one out of the three trails independently. As mentioned, the trails are steep, slippery and constantly undulating as a result of the moist conditions. There can also be sharp drops that are hidden within the thick vegetation all around.
Five Hiking Essentials for Mombacho Volcano
- 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 2.5L 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. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Granada is the oldest city in Central America and subsequently one of its most visited.
- The Isletas of Granada are thought to have been formed by a huge eruption at Mombacho Volcano thousands of years ago.
- Mombacho Volcano is a 1,345 metre high stratovolcano.
- As well as cloud forest, Mombacho is also home to dwarf forest. Yeah, I’ve never heard of that either, but essentially it’s a forest of miniature trees inhabited by small fauna. That’s nice, eh.
- Mombacho Volcano remains covered in clouds almost all year round. Therefore, this helps keep the forests green and lush, even in the dry season.
- The volcano has four incredible craters.
- Miraflores Nicaragua: for more cloud forest in Nicaragua, you should consider a trip to Mirafor Nature Reserve. Located close to the city of Esteli, it would also be great to combine a visit with the similarly impressive Somoto Canyon.
- Mombacho cigars: for some cultural experiences in Granada, you can’t go too wrong with a visit to the Mombacho Cigar Factory. Housed in a beautiful mansion, these 100% handmade cigars are a Nicaraguan treasure, with the tobacco grown in the uber fertile volcanic soil of Mombacho.
- Hiking in Granada: for more epic Granada hiking, be sure to visit Masaya Volcano and Montibelli.
Firstly, have you hiked the Puma trail? And secondly, did you see the Howler Monkeys? Let us know in the comments below.