Volcano Boarding with Sonati
When you think of Central America you can’t help but think of luscious green landscapes set to the backdrop of towering volcanoes. Old, new, inactive and active, volcanoes are all over Central America! So if you fancy yourself an adventurer the opportunity to challenge yourself presents itself nicely in some of the volcano hikes and tours around the countryside.
However, if this doesn’t sound exciting enough for you perhaps you’d be more interested in hiking up Cerro Negro, considered Central America’s most active volcano, and then boarding down the steep slope of volcanic gravel on a rickety old plank of wood?
Volcano boarding, just outside the city of Leon, is quickly becoming one of the must-do tourist attractions in Nicaragua. Pretty much unmissable along the famous Gringo trail throughout Central America, volcano boarding has something for everyone. A beautiful scenery, a nice short hike and some crazy adventure! The only difficulty, who to do the tour with?
Bigfoot vs The Rest
When you make it to Leon there’s no shortage of hostels and tour agencies offering volcano boarding or hikes. After spending a little time investigating our options we came to the conclusion that it was basically Bigfoot Hostel, and then all the others.
A lot of people that head up Cerro Negro go through the popular hostel Bigfoot, but that’s mostly because a lot of travelers end up staying there. Personally, it wasn’t for us. We didn’t stay there, so we’re not about to bad mouth it, but to us (and from what we heard) it just seemed like any other mass-Gringo populated hostel tour agency that you find along your travels. Instead we opted for a smaller organization called Sonati Tours, a local ran tour agency that put 100% of their profits into locally run environmental education projects.
Between the two organisations there wasn’t a great deal of difference in price, but funnily enough it was Bigfoot that actually charged more, even though their profits went back into their pockets, as opposed to Sonati who gave back to the community.
Both tour agencies ran similar deals, the tour price included transport and equipment. Bigfoot charged you $30 dollars a tour, and so did Sonati. However Bigfoot fails to mention the $5 entrance fee you have to pay at the parks gate, so the tour actually bumps up to $35. Within that extra $5 they offer you the obligatory Gringo singlet that ‘proves’ you completed volcano boarding at their hostel (but really you’re just a free walking advertisement for them). They also throw in a 50c beer and a watered down cocktail to sweeten the deal, but nothing that extra $5 is really paying for.
Going with Sonati costs $30 flat, and as well as getting a cheaper deal you’ll also be lucky to get a few extras. You’ll get a smaller group, which usually means your guide will let you board down the volcano a second time (we did!). You’ll also get more time to chat with your guide about your surroundings and hear interesting stories about the history of the volcano. And if that’s not enough, give your Karma a little boost by knowing your giving back to a better cause than just another hostel.
At the end of the day the decision is yours. We’re not trying to be your moral conscience, but it was an easy choice for us. While Sonati may not have the big touristy appeal that some people enjoy, we had a really good time with our smaller group and learned a lot more about the great work Sonati are doing around the community.
15 thoughts on “Choosing the Eco-Friendly Tour: Volcano Boarding with Sonati”
I’m all about going with companies that focus on helping an area. I’m going to spend the money anyways and honestly I’d be willing to even pay a bit more if I felt like it would be doing some real good. Though lucky for you guys it was cheaper 🙂 I’ve never even heard of this before but it sounds so fun!
Yep, we feel the same way! It’s always better to go with a company that will give back to the area. It’s a fun way to make a contribution instead of volunteering or donating. Definitely check out volcano boarding if you’re in Nicaragua!
I would love to try that! I’ve had a friend who did that and loved it.
It’s super fun! Don’t miss it if you’re in Nicaragua!
Sounds like an amazing adventure, and totally worth doing with Sonati rather than Bigfoot! I never like those singlets anyway!
Haha. I know! Those singlets are just extra advertising for the hostel. So silly!
I’m in, this sounds epic. I like the idea of working with Sonati better as well. Yes!
Yeah they really were a great organisation, much more informed and passionate about preserving their surroundings.
I’m going there in November and you’ve sold me on going through Sonati. Thanks!!
Awesome!! Have fun!
Sounds great! Glad you chose Sonati. And how was the volcano-boarding? Was it fun?
Perhaps a stupid question: were you all dirty after falling into the ashes? You boarded on the ashes, right? 🙂
Haha. That isn’t a stupid question! They give you big, thick jumpsuits to wear because the ash is pretty rocky and sharp. You also wear goggles for full protection!
Thanks for the info! Where did you guys stay while in León?
No worries Kendra, glad you enjoyed it. We stayed at a range of different places to get a feel. Sonati (same place as the tours) also do budget accommodation. Lazybones was nice, with a pretty sweet pool and a very relaxed night guard who doesn’t mind 4am dips. Chilli Inn was ok, but just another big hostel like Bigfoot. Let us know where you end up and what it was like please.
I really enjoyed this. Central America was my first big trip on my own and i was pretty nervous so I stuck to Bigfoot (for staying and volcano boarding), but I wish I would have known about this then! This sounds like an awesome option.