Hiking Volcan El Hoyo is a highly underrated experience in Nicaragua. Also known as El Hoyo Volcano and Cerro El Hoyo, the summit of this volcano is an excellent place to watch sunrise and sunset. That’s why El Hoyo is one of the best Nicaragua camping spots. But, also at its summit, are two mindblowing natural attractions to explore. Better yet, El Hoyo is just a stone’s throw away from Leon. So, after you’ve camped at El Hoyo, it’s just a short drive back to civilisation. Of course, you should treat yourself to one of the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua after roughing it with basic camping at El Hoyo!
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about hiking and camping at Volcan El Hoyo in Nicaragua. We’ll provide a trail description and cover all the details about El Hoyo camping. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll discuss tour options and how to visit independently. To finish things off, we’ll go through the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua, so you can spoil yourself after a night of camping at El Hoyo.
We hope you find this guide helpful. For other amazing Nicaragua volcano hikes, check out our Cerro Negro, Momotombo, Telica and Cosiguina guides. Also, check out The 16 Best Hikes in Nicaragua and Hiking Ometepe: 4 Excellent Trails Not To Miss.
Volcan El Hoyo Nicaragua: Location and History
Located in northwest Nicaragua, Volcan El Hoyo is a stratovolcano positioned in the Pilas Volcano Complex Nature Reserve. This is located in the municipality of La Paz Centro, near Leon. El Hoyo is an active volcano, which forms part of the wide-reaching Marrabios (Marabios) Chain. This volcanic chain consists of a group of interlinking volcanoes. Other than El Hoyo, the main volcanoes in this chain include the San Cristobal, Las Pilas, Telica, Cerro Negro, El Chonco, Casita, Santa Clara, Rota, and Momotombo volcanoes.
El Hoyo is the most important active volcano in a local group of volcanic formations, which also include Las Pilas, Asososca Lagoon and Malpaisillo Lagoon. In fact, the most recent eruption of Volcan El Hoyo was in 1954. The earliest recorded historical eruption was in 1528.
Forming part of the Las Pilas-El Hoyo complex, the area actually consists of active and inactive volcanic elements. Near the peak of Volcan El Hoyo, there are active fumaroles, but also a couple of inactive craters. At 1,050 metres above sea level, the El Hoyo summit provides superb views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. Indeed, this makes for the ideal spot for camping in Nicaragua. Expect a wicked sunset and sunrise here.
The area is maintained by the Cooperative De Turismo Rural Comunitario Las Pilas El Hoyo R.L. In English, this translates to the Rural Community Tourism Cooperative Las Pilas El Hoyo R.L. The Nicaraguan locals do a great job of maintaining and protecting the area.
Volcan El Hoyo Hike Preview: Quick Facts
- Type: One-way (if you’re camping)
- Distance: 6.8 km
- Time: 3.75–4.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 545m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: El Hoyo Visitor Center
FYI – if you’re not keen on camping at the summit of Volcan El Hoyo, you can do an out and back hike instead. In that case, the hike is around 13km and takes around 5.5–7 hours.
Volcan El Hoyo Trail
Before starting the Volcan El Hoyo hike, take a few moments to explore the El Hoyo Visitor Centre and use the facilities. You’ll find maps, a sheltered area with tables, toilets and even some snakes on display! FYI – if you visit Cerro Negro independently, this is actually where you pay your entrance fee and rent gear. But, anyway, let’s talk about the El Hoyo hike!
From the El Hoyo Visitor Center, you’ll immediately join a dusty trail. Personally, Beck and I visited El Hoyo during the final stages of the dry season in Nicaragua. So, our surroundings were fairly arid and brown. During the wet season, expect a much more luscious and green setting.
The trail soon begins to wind through the dry forest and gradually ascend. You’ll have views of Cerro Negro to enjoy soon enough. Beck and I had visited Cerro Negro and volcano boarded in the morning. After exploring Cerro Negro, it was nice to see it from afar. We actually hiked Volcan El Hoyo as part of a two-day Cerro Negro, El Hoyo and Asososca Lagoon tour. You can read more about it below.
Anyway, after more sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, the trail joins a dry river bed. This is very common when hiking in Nicaragua. We hiked on quite a few dried river beds during our time in Nicaragua. We did so during the Telica Volcano and Montibelli Nature Reserve hikes.
Views of Momotombo and Asososca Volcanoes
After hiking through some dense pockets of dry forest, you’ll soon ascend more sharply towards the summit of Volcan El Hoyo. From these heights, you’ll have cracking views of Momotombo Volcano. Again, this was another volcano we had hiked days prior.
From the peak of El Hoyo, you can also expect fantastic views of Asososca Volcano and Lagoon. We would hike this Nicaragua volcano the next day after camping atop El Hoyo.
Volcan El Hoyo Summit Natural Attractions
Having started early afternoon, we arrived at the top of El Hoyo just in time to explore two awesome natural attractions before sunset. We quickly dumped our stuff at the campsite, situated near the summit, and went exploring. The first attraction is the massive hole located near the peak. After all, El Hoyo, in English, translates to ‘The Hole‘. It’s what Volcan El Hoyo is most known for. And, for good reason. This collapsed portion of El Hoyo is an incredible landform.
A short distance from the gaping hole is an amazing steaming fumarole. When we visited, there was so much steam rising from this fumarole, that it was hard to see past it. With the occasional gust of wind, the steam would blow right through you, providing an odd sensation. A warm but wet coating!
Sunset at El Hoyo
It’s actually next to the steaming fumarole, where we enjoyed the sunset golden hour. Although, from this position next to the fumarole, you can’t actually see the sunset. To watch the sun literally set, you can climb higher above the hole, or, head back to the hill that surrounds the campsite. From both of these positions, you can watch the sun set beyond the horizon.
But, on this occasion, Beck and I were content with our position for sunset next to the fumarole. There’s something really magical about sitting next to rumbling volcanic activity as you watch daylight disappear. Besides, it’s from this position, that you continue to have cracking views of the Momotombo and Asososca volcanoes. In fact, we enjoyed this spot so much, that we came back here for sunrise the next day. That was, of course, after camping atop El Hoyo – one of the best Nicaragua camping spots.
The Best Nicaragua Camping is at El Hoyo
When it comes to Nicaragua camping, it’s hard to beat El Hoyo. Admittedly, this campsite doesn’t have any facilities. But, this Nicaragua camping spot is so beautifully perched, that you’ll forget all about it. Besides, there’s nothing like wild camping to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature.
We all know that Nicaragua can get very hot. But, thankfully, the position of El Hoyo is somewhat exposed. So, you can expect a bit of a draft to cool you off during the night. As long as the winds aren’t so strong that they take your tent away! But, I digress. Of course, the main reason why El Hoyo is a fantastic Nicaragua camping spot is the incredible sunrise!
Sunrise Lights Up the Landscape
By camping at El Hoyo in Nicaragua, you’ll experience one of the best sunrises in Central America! Most people will simply watch sunrise from the El Hoyo campsite. But, as mentioned, we watched sunrise from a higher position, next to the steaming fumarole. This provides more far-reaching views of the sunrise spectacle. From the campsite, it’s about a 15–20 minute uphill hike to this spot.
We highly recommend the extra effort of hiking to this spot for sunrise at Volcan El Hoyo. As you can see from the photos below, we were able to capture some really cool sunrise shots with steam rolling in and out from the fumarole. We made sure to speed hike from the campsite to the sunrise spot!
What’s speed hiking? It’s useful when doing a hike for sunrise. If there’s enough light, you can speed hike to get to your intended destination in time for sunrise. This means you don’t have to set the alarm clock as early! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Finishing the Volcan El Hoyo Hike
Once you’ve packed up your gear, it’s time to leave this wonderful Nicaragua camping spot. Most people will simply retrace their steps to complete the Volcan El Hoyo hike. But, as mentioned, we camped at El Hoyo as part of a two-day tour, which continued to Asososca Volcano and Lagoon. This meant we got to explore more of El Hoyo!
Initially, the trail sharply descends the extended southern slopes of El Hoyo. But, the dusty trail gradually eases, becoming more undulating. As luck would have it, we managed to spot some white-faced monkeys. It’s rare to see monkeys at El Hoyo. So, we were stoked. Our guide, Memo, mentioned it had been around seven years since he’d seen monkeys here!
Hiking through areas of dense vegetation, we eventually arrived at the southern base of El Hoyo. From here, the trail continues to Asososca Lagoon. Find out more about the Asososca Volcano and Lagoon hike here.
Volcan El Hoyo Hiking and Camping Recap
Make sure to visit Volcan El Hoyo during your Nicaraguan travels. El Hoyo provides one of the best Nicaragua camping experiences. By camping here, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable sunset and sunrise. There are also two spectacular natural attractions at the El Hoyo summit to relish. Indeed, hiking and camping at El Hoyo are some of the best adventures you can have in Nicaragua. Of course, after camping, you’ll want to stay in one of the nice hotels in Leon Nicaragua. Find out about the best hotels in Leon below.
Getting to Volcan El Hoyo Independently
It’s possible to get to, hike and camp at Volcan El Hoyo in Nicaragua independently. You’ll just need your own camping gear! From Leon, jump on a chicken bus heading to Rota. This should take about an hour and costs approx. $1USD, each way. From Rota, you’ll walk around 4km to the El Hoyo Visitor Centre. This should take around 1.5 hours.
At the visitor centre, you’ll pay the $5USD entrance fee and $5USD camping fee ($10USD total). You don’t need to hire a local guide or organise in advance. Just rock up and you’re all set for hiking and camping at Volcan El Hoyo in Nicaragua.
Volcan El Hoyo Tours
Although it’s possible to visit independently, most people do an El Hoyo tour. If you’re not travelling with camping gear, and you’re wanting to camp at El Hoyo, a tour is really your only option; a tent and sleeping bag will be provided.
We hiked and camped at El Hoyo with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels. Like other tour companies in Leon, they offer different tours to El Hoyo. One of the most popular options is the El Hoyo camping tour. Included in the price is camping gear, roundtrip transportation from Leon to El Hoyo, entrance fees, a guide, breakfast and dinner. These are the prices for doing the El Hoyo camping tour with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels:
- $50USD/person for a group of six or more
- $55USD/person for a group of four or five
- $60USD/person for a group of three
- $65USD /person for a group of two
If you’re not sold on camping, there’s the option to just do an El Hoyo hiking day trip. Without sunset, sunrise or the awesome Nicaragua camping experience, we wouldn’t recommend this option. But, if you’re short on time, and only have a day to spare, this is your best option. Included in the price are roundtrip transportation from Leon to El Hoyo, entrance fees and a guide. These are the prices for doing the El Hoyo day hike with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels:
- $30USD/person for a group of six or more
- $35USD/person for a group of four or five
- $40USD/person for a group of three
- $45USD/person for a group of two
Personally, we didn’t choose either of these options. We chose to do the Cerro Negro, El Hoyo and Asososca two-day tour.
Cerro Negro, El Hoyo and Asososca Two-Day Tour
To make the most of your time in Nicaragua, why not combine the exploration of three volcanoes into two days? Hiking and volcano boarding Cerro Negro in the morning. Then, hiking and camping at Volcan El Hoyo. The next day, hiking Asososca Volcano and swimming at Asososca Lagoon. Yes, please!
We can highly recommend doing the Cerro Negro, El Hoyo and Asososca Lagoon two-day adventure with Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels. Our Spanish and English speaking guide, Memo, was passionate, knowledgable and funny. Roundtrip transportation from Leon, camping equipment, food and all of the entrance fees are included. The cost for the two-day tour without the Asososca Volcano hike is as follows:
- $105USD/person for a group of two
- $90USD/person for a group of three
- $80USD/person for a group of four
To include the Asososca Volcano hike, it’s $10USD extra per person.
To book this two-day tour, El Hoyo camping or hiking tour, simply contact Fun ‘N’ Sun Travels on Whatsapp (+505 8993 3714) or on their office landline (+505 2311 0748). Otherwise, you can drop into their office in Leon for more details. Feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Hotels in Leon Nicaragua
After roughing it out with basic Nicaragua camping at Volcan El Hoyo, you should pamper yourself with a nice hotel in Leon. Below, we’ll cover the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua. Specifically, we’ll discuss the two best mid-range and luxury options.
Mid-Range Hotels in Leon Nicaragua
If you’re looking for a comfortable hotel stay in Leon Nicaragua, but don’t want to break the bank, these two mid-range options should do the trick:
- Hotel Casa Blanca: after camping at El Hoyo, Beck and I decided to stay here. This hotel is located on the outskirts of town in a quiet residential area. So, you can expect a peaceful night’s sleep. Unlike most other hotels in Leon, there are shared kitchen facilities, including a fridge. So, you can cook yourself a feast! The rooms are spacious, with two fans and A/C included at an additional cost. Hotel Casa Blanca is reasonably new on the scene. But, the hosts sure know how to make you feel comfortable!
- Al Sole Guesthouse: this guesthouse is one of the most highly-rated accommodation options in town. After camping at El Hoyo, you’ll have a great night’s sleep in these clean, comfortable and spacious rooms in Leon. With a pool, shared lounge and garden, there’s ample space to relax and unwind after your camping trip.
Luxury Hotels in Leon Nicaragua
Why not go all out and splurge on one of the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua? After camping at El Hoyo, which has no facilities, we think you deserve it. These two luxury hotels in Leon Nicaragua should do nicely:
- Hotel la Perla Leon: this is hands down one of the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua. This highly-rated colonial-styled hotel has stunning interior features. But, most importantly, it has top-notch modern facilities. Go and relax in the big outdoor pool and or chill out on the lovely terrace. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll have a very comfortable stay here. Better yet, there is a brilliant restaurant on-site!
- Hotel El Convento: for a luxury stay in Leon, you should consider Hotel El Convento. Featuring an outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, gym and beautiful garden, there’s much to admire about this hotel. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and modern. After a Nicaragua camping experience atop El Hoyo, staying here will be absolute bliss. Definitely, this is one of the best hotels in Leon Nicaragua.
Five Hiking Essentials For Volcan El Hoyo
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are really comfortable and a great choice for hiking El Hoyo
This camera is lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for an overnight trip. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
A waterproof jacket is a non-negotiable, particularly if you do this trip during the wet season
The Osprey Aether AG 70L backpack has anti-gravity suspension, which makes the backpack feel super light. You can also adjust the back support so it fits perfectly
It's best to have a power bank to charge your electronics overnight. You don't want a flat battery when trying to take photos during sunrise!
Five Camping Essentials For Volcan El Hoyo
Why do you need this?
See it in action
Somoto Canyon camping can be hot business! If your sleeping bag is too much, a sleeping bag liner can be much cooler to sleep in
A headlamp is very useful around the campsite at night
The most convenient, comfortable and compact camping pillow you will ever find! This pocket size pillow is a must
Pack a sleep mask and ear plugs to help you sleep
Just incase you feel the chill, or, it doubles as fab pillow case
For a more complete hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a backpacking trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Make the extra effort for sunrise: yes, sunrise from the El Hoyo campsite is nice. But, for a better sunrise experience, hike to a higher vantage point.
- Choose the two-day tour: this will help you see as much of Nicaragua in a shorter timeframe.
- Google: we couldn’t find much online about hiking and camping at Volcan El Hoyo in Nicaragua. In fact, we mostly just found some stats and data about the volcano itself. So, bookmark this guide, and use it as a resource, for when you plan to hike and camp at El Hoyo in the future.
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