In a land most well known for its lakes and volcanoes, the Volcan Cosiguina hike in Nicaragua is the perfect mix of both. Beginning in the small town of Potosi in Chinandega, this moderate volcano trail encompasses hiking to the caldera of Volcan Cosiguina, and, marvelling at its beautiful crater lake hidden within. So, two birds, one stone.
Also known as Cosigüina Volcano (Cosiguina Volcano) and Volcán Cosiguina, this peak, located on the northernmost tip of Nicaragua, provides extensive views across the Gulf of Fonseca. From here, you can peer into neighbouring Central America. Hola to Honduras and El Salvador.
In this guide, we’ll cover the trail description for hiking Volcan Cosiguina and provide a GPS map. We’ll discuss options for hiking Volcan Cosiguina independently, or whether you should take a guide. We’ll also talk you through how to get to Potosi in Chinandega and provide accommodation options.
We hope you find this guide to hiking Cosiguina Volcano useful. For other fantastic Nicaragua volcano hikes, with added camping options, check out our Volcan El Hoyo and Telica Volcano guides. In addition, check out The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.
The last eruption of Volcan Cosiguina was in 1859. So, this means you’ll find the Volcan Cosiguina hike in Chinandega to be rich in vegetation and animal life. But, there’s still volcanic activity, and occasionally bubbles can be seen in Laguna Cosigüina Nicaragua. That being said, the 1859 eruption was not the biggest recorded. That honour goes to the famous Cosigüina eruption in 1835. Here, the eruption was so powerful that ash was recorded to have been found as far north as Mexico, as far south as Costa Rica, and even Colombia. This was actually Nicaragua’s largest recorded eruption and some analysts even believe it caused a momentary decrease in the earth’s temperature.
Still, there’s little indication of any of that today. The hike to summit Volcan Cosiguina is hot and humid. To distract from these struggles, it’s luckily very picturesque and not all that difficult to hike. At 872m above sea level, it is nowhere near the tallest of Nicaragua’s volcanoes. And, at almost 9km from the trailhead to the crater, the incline feels more than manageable. The trail through forest and farmland is easy terrain compared to that of neighbouring volcanoes such as Momotombo and San Cristobal.
Volcan Cosiguina Preview and Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 17.7km
- Time: 4-6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 695m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Potosi Chinandega
Volcan Cosiguina Trail Description
At the trailhead in Potosi Chinandega, we met our guide for the hike at around 6am. He was possibly the fittest 60 year old we’ve ever come across. With his experience and love of hiking Volcan Cosiguina, we set out. Not even our enthusiasm at scaling another volcano could match his.
The trail begins along a wide, sandy road. You’ll pass by a few farms and outstretched grazing land on either side. There’s minimal incline but the walk is hard due to the nature of the soft sand underfoot. Try as we might to utilise the flattish trail, speed hiking was hard.
WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? It’s taking your hiking game to the next level. Find out more about speed hiking here.
It’s important to note that it is possible to take a 4×4 for this section of the trail to Volcan Cosiguina in Chinandega. So, this will save you around 2km of hiking each way.
Into the Forest
As the sand track nears its end, the trail heads up into a dry forest. Here, our excellent guide with his wealth of local knowledge came into his own. We were shown all manner of edible foods to be found in the forest, as well as different trees and their individual purpose and importance. Truth be told, Dan and I often like to hike alone. But, there’s something special about learning from a local as you travel.
The trail can be exposed in parts, and boy was it hot! Luckily there are some excellent trees to take shelter under. This weird and wonderful example, pictured below, we particularly enjoyed. We’ve never seen anything like it.
A Short Bit of Road
Also, reaching this tree signals the end of the forest section, for now. After enjoying this phenomenal natural formation, the trail enters a short road hike. This is a newly laid road that leads to a car park at the top. It’s also 2WD accessible. It’s just a short distance to the crater from here.
The ability to drive opens up many options for scaling Volcan Cosiguina. It’s perfect for a short hike, camping or choosing to hike around the Volcan Cosiguina crater rim. More on all that below.
As you near the end of the road and reach the car park, the trail veers to the right and enters a narrow path that leads to the Volcan Cosiguina summit. This section of the trail is the steepest. But, it’s also the most beautiful part of the forest. Gone is the arid and brownish tinged landscape. Instead, you’ll enter some patches of lush vegetation with a slightly more tropical feel. The trail is more sheltered and so you’ll find it to be a great rest bite from the searing sun.
Passing the Campsite
Eventually, as you wind up, you’ll pass through the campsite for Volcan Cosiguina. It’s a smallish site that is sheltered and quiet. We saw no one here. The only evidence of recent campers was a passing couple descending in the morning. What a fantastic adventure they’ve been on, being the only two people sleeping on the side of Volcan Cosiguina. The campsite is basic. But, amazingly there is a toilet, though don’t expect the self-flushing kind.
Entering the Crater
From the Volcan Cosiguina campsite, it’s little more than a few hundred metres to the crater. Here, the tree cover opens to the majestic amphitheatre of the Volcan Cosiguina caldera. Glistening like an emerald below is Laguna Cosiguina. The gnarly crater edges, packed densely with plant life, make the journey to the lake seemingly impossible. Still, out of intrigue, we did ask whether it was possible to climb down. Of course, the answer was yes, though not for the faint-hearted. The trek down follows no particular trail and the use of ropes is necessary. Getting back out is a real effort and so it’s little wonder this is not an advertised expedition for the everyday tourist.
It reminded us of the difficult trek to the inner crater of San Salvador Volcano. Dan and I marvelled at the efforts of those who had attempted it, including our Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels Nicaragua guide, Memo.
From the first lookout, it’s nice to rest on the wooden viewing platform and soak in your surroundings. The crater lake is truly wonderful. Caused by a buildup of rainwater, the crater lake has no natural water source that runs into it.
From here, the trail continues along a narrow path to the right, teetering on the crater’s edge. It heads towards the tallest point of the volcano, and an excellent vantage point over the whole laguna.
En route, you’ll pass a few more lookout points before reaching the best spot. It’s positioned shortly before a small communications tower and close to a modest military base. From here, the whole crater can be observed in one drool-worthy glance. The sunlight on the brilliant green Laguna Cosiguina makes the colour pop perfectly. You could easily spend hours shooting the perfect image here.
After a quick rest and getting snap-happy with the camera, it’s a case of retracing your steps and heading back to the trailhead in Potosi Chinandega. The return hike offers great vantage points of the landscape around Volcan Cosiguina as you dip in and out of the tree cover. The views extend right out to the Pacific Ocean.
Volcan Cosiguina Recap
If you love volcanoes, hiking and Nicaragua in general, then the Volcan Cosiguina hike in Chinandega is one not to miss out on. With the option to hike the full distance; drive and take the short hike to the summit; camp; or even explore the entire crater rim, there really is something to enjoy for every level of hiker and every type of adventurer.
Alternative Volcan Cosiguina Hiking Options
Should you not feel up to the challenge of an 18km trek, then fear not, there are a couple of alternatives. This will ensure you don’t miss out on the summit of Volcan Cosiguina Chinandega or admiring the laguna within.
It’s now possible to drive the majority of the way up Volcan Cosiguina in Nicaragua. There is a large car park less than a kilometer from the summit, which makes the final ascent much simpler. Even with this trail being the steepest part of the larger hike. A great way to view the crater and enjoy a short hike if that suits you better.
It is also possible to choose to hike around the crater, rather than take the hike from town up the flanks of the volcano. This hike involves driving to the above-mentioned car park, taking the same trail to the summit, and then continuing to hike around the entire crater. The crater rim walk is around 1.5km in total.
FYI there is a fairly sketchy part of the trail on the crater rim walk. So, your guide may well decide to split the walk into two separate out and back sections. It is NOT recommended to hike the crater rim independently and certainly not solo.
As mentioned previously, it is possible to camp on Volcan Cosiguina in Nicaragua. In fact, by all accounts, it’s a fantastic experience. It’s advised to begin the hike later in the day if camping. So, perfect if you are making you’re own way to Potosi Chinandega and are undertaking the long bus journey.
How to Get To Volcan Cosiguina and Hike Independently
The town of Potosi is located 1.5 hours north of Chinandega and 2.5 hours from Leon. Unless staying in Potosi, these will be the towns you’ll most likely stay in for access to the volcano.
The most convenient way to get to Potosi Chinandega is to drive or take a tour. But, it is possible to make your own way there.
From Leon, take the bus to Chinandega El Bisne bus station. Here, you will need to change to El Mercadito bus station and take the bus to Potosi. If you don’t want to walk the 2km between the stations, it’s possible to jump in a tuk-tuk.
Bear in mind, taking the bus can take as long as 6 hours. So, you may want to consider doing the hike and camping overnight, or book accommodation in Potosi Chinandega.
Potosi is even the gateway to Nicaragua from El Salvador. So, if you’ve arrived by ferry from La Union, El Salvador, you could easily make the Volcan Cosiguina hike your first port of call, on your no doubt epic trip through Nicaragua.
GPS and Guide Option
To hike Cosiguina Volcano Chinandega independently, it’s always a good idea to have access to a GPS map. The Maps.Me app also shows the trail, which is helpful. We noticed that some of the trees were sprayed with blue waymarkers. Another helpful addition to conquering Volcan Cosiguina solo.
If you make your own way to Potosi Chinandega, make use of a local guide. This can be arranged in town. More on that below. The general price is $30USD for a group of two to three, increasing to $40USD for a group of four people plus.
Volcan Cosiguina Nicaragua Tour
Dan and I chose to hike Volcan Cosiguina in Nicaragua with a volcano hiking tour. This meant we didn’t need to worry about getting ourselves to Potosi, or the trailhead. The local guide was arranged for us and the volcano fee was covered. Although nowadays, this is less of a thing. Instead, Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels Nicaragua choose to donate 10% of the tour cost to a rubbish project in the Cosiguina community. Pretty neat we think!
The Cosiguina Volcano hiking tour offered by Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels costs $75USD/person, with a minimum of two people required. For three the price drops to $60USD/person, for four people, $50USD/person and for five people, $45USD/person. Lunch and snacks are included. For safety and client comfort, Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels Nicaragua will bring an additional guide for all group sizes over nine people. Actually, this is true for all of their tours.
Other Options with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels Nicaragua
Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels Nicaragua also offer a camping trip to Volcan Cosiguina Chinandega. The price is the same as the day hike, with an extra $10USD/person added on. This covers dinner instead of lunch, plus breakfast. There is a 15 person max for the camping tour. The tour includes some time exploring the local community and relaxing on one of Nicaragua’s beautiful beaches.
They also offer the crater rim walk, but only for those who choose to drive up. They do not offer the full hike from Potosi, plus the crater rim walk. The price for this option is $50USD/person.
To book any of these tours, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+505 8993 3714) or on their office landline (+505 2311 0748). Otherwise, you can visit their office in Leon to find out more information. Feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Accommodation in Potosi Chinandega
If you’re wanting to stay in Potosi Chinandega, then we highly recommend Hostel y Restaurante Brisas del Golfo. The hostel contains a number of outdoor-facing rooms and has a fantastic restaurant selling home-cooked meals. The cost to stay here per night is $20USD without A/C or $30USD with A/C.
Hostel y Restaurante Brisas del Golfo can also help arrange a local guide for the Volcan Cosiguina hike.
After we had finished the Volcan Cosiguina hike in Chinandega, Dan and I, along with Memo and our local guide enjoyed a fantastic meal of local fish and the typical rice, beans and plantain. We literally can’t get enough of this tipico Nica food. We love it. And the meal here was quite honestly one of the best dishes we’ve eaten throughout all of Central America. I think Dan’s ‘Tom and Jerry’ number on the fish indicated just how good it was.
As a small local business, it’s best to get in touch directly. The lovely hotel owner, Mrs. Rosa Alpina, can be contacted by phone or Whatsapp. Her details are +505 8465 8859 or +505 8774 4356.
Five Hiking Essentials for Cosiguina Volcano
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are super comfortable and breathable, making them a great choice for hiking in Nicaragua
This camera is super lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for hiking. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes great photos and 4K videos
The GoPro HERO 9 was great for the Volcan Cosiguina hike. The wide angle option was great for capturing the entire lagoon
The trail to Volcan Cosiguina from Potosi Chinandega is pretty dusty. This neck gaiter works a treat at keeping those pesky particles out of airways
Strange as it may seem, I literally don't hike anywhere without my wind jacket. You just never know and it's saved me countless times
Make sure to also pack 3L of water, 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.
Bonus Tips and Practical Information
- Extreme heat: Dan and I found the Volcan Cosiguina Chinandega hike to be one of, if not, the hottest hikes we did throughout Nicaragua. And we hiked a lot. So, it’s advisable to carry three litres of water and take regular breaks under tree cover.
- Stuffy tent life: camping in Nicaragua, particularly in the dry season, is hot business. Be prepared to feel the heat. I doubt you’ll be cocooned up in a sleeping bag.
- It’s a bug’s life: in addition to the sweltering heat when camping, Nicaragua is also rife with bugs at night. If you think the bug spray is important for day hikes, just wait until nighttime.
- Emerald lagoon: if possible, try to visit Cosiguina Volcano on a clear day, the lagoon looks incredible.
- Potosi accommodation: you won’t find the hostel details on any popular hotel sites online. So, make sure to use the numbers provided.
Have you day hiked or camped at Volcan Cosiguina Chinandega? Have you walked the crater rim? If so, let us know in the comments below.
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