Dense cloud forests. Steep, muddy trails. Refreshing crater lakes.
If you’re considering doing the Maderas Volcano hike, you’re in for a full-day hiking adventure.
After hours debating which of the two Ometepe Volcanoes to hike, I opted for Maderas Volcano: the more challenging of the two (supposedly).
Here’s everything you need to know about hiking Maderas Volcano.
Maderas Volcano Hike Summary
- Distance: 14.5 km
- Time needed: 8-9 hours
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Route type: Out and back
- Height: 1,395m
- Elevation gain: 1,289m
Maderas Volcano is one of the two volcanoes that make up Ometepe Island. It often lies in the shadow of Concepcion Volcano, the crown jewel of Ometepe.
Starting on the southeastern side of the island, the trail to the summit of Volcan Maderas meanders through a thick cloud forest.
It’s a technical hike with mixed terrain, and mud – lots of mud!
But the hard part is not reaching the summit.
From the peak, you have the option to scale down a sketchy path into the crater for a refreshing swim in the crater lake. And the final descent back to the trailhead is not to be taken lightly either.
Everything you need to know about the Volcano Maderas hike
1. Volcano Maderas is a full-day hike
It takes around 8 hours to climb Volcano Maderas. The return hike is over 14 km long, most of which is either a steep uphill or a slippery downhill.
You’ll need to walk slowly and carefully – especially on the way down.
2. The Maderas trail starts on the southeast of Ometepe
If you’re planning on hiking Volcan Maderas, I recommend staying on the southeast of the island. This is the closest access point and only requires a short drive to the trailhead.
I stayed in Santa Cruz which was a 5-minute drive from the trail. The small village of Balgue is also a popular choice with travelers.
3. There are numerous trailheads
The most popular starting points are from El Porvenir Eco Lodge in Santa Cruz, Finca Magdalena in Balgua or Hacienda Merida in Merida.
All of the above trails offer a similar route and converge near the summit.
I started from El Porvenir Eco Lodge and paid an entrance fee of 50 Cordoba to use the trail.
If you’re not sure which Maderas trailhead to take, I recommend choosing where you want to stay first and asking your accommodation which trail is closest.
4. If you’re staying in Moyogalpa, consider hiking Concepcion Volcano instead
The size of Ometepe Island is deceiving!
The ferries from the mainland stop in the port town of Moyogalpa. This is an hour’s drive from Maderas Volcano with a private taxi.
If you’re relying on public buses, it can take over 2 hours to get from Moyogalpa to Maderas Volcano. This could turn into a logistical nightmare, especially when you’re doing a hike as long and as draining as Maderas.
Concepcion Volcano is closer to Moyogalpa so if you are already on the northern part of the island, you may want to consider hiking that one instead.
5. Mud, mud, and more mud
Wondering what’s the biggest difference between Maderas Volcano and Concepcion? The trail to the top of Maderas Volcano is mostly through a cloud forest.
This means the path is extremely muddy and wet.
When I started the hike, I made an impressive attempt to dodge all the muddy parts. But it gets to a point where you can no longer avoid the muddy disaster that awaits.
Eventually, I gave in and ended up walking straight through the mud.
Our guide even wore gumboots! But I don’t recommend this. Rather opt for hiking boots or trainers. You’ll be sliding through the mud regardless.
6. Hiking poles will help (but you can go without)
On the way down, you’ll slip and slide most of the way. You’ll be clinging to branches and dodging tree roots buried in mud.
I had a few pretty hard falls but I picked myself up and kept going.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have hiking poles – but I wish I had.
Was I prepared to pay for a rental or buy a set? No! So don’t feel that they’re an absolute must-have.
But, if you’re traveling with hiking poles or you find a walking stick along the trail, take it with you.
7. You don’t hike Maderas Volcano for the view
If it’s views you’re after, hike Concepcion Volcano instead.
Because the trail to the top of Volcano Maderas is through a cloud forest, you don’t get the sprawling vistas you would expect from hiking a volcano.
There are one or two viewpoints near the peak but if there is cloud cover, you won’t see a thing.
So why hike Maderas? Well, firstly the forest is gorgeous!
When you reach the top, you might not get the views. But what’s waiting for you instead is a pretty awesome crater lake that you can swim in.
8. You need a guide to hike Maderas Volcano
I highly recommend getting a guide for the Maderas hike – it’s actually compulsory.
The trail can be hard to navigate as there are no markings. From the get-go, you’ll come across paths leading in all directions. If you take the wrong one, you could end up on a long, muddy trail to nowhere.
Tourists often get lost and local guides have spent hours searching for them.
The trail is also very quiet so don’t rely on other travelers to help you. You can easily fall or get hurt due to the challenging and muddy terrain, so rather play it safe and use a guide.
I’m not normally a fan of guided hikes and tours, but this is a requirement from the community. As tourists in their home, I encourage you to respect their request.
We paid $35 for a guide for the day which we booked through our accommodation.
9. And if you don’t get a guide?
We came across two people who attempted to hike Maderas without a guide. Both had to turn back as they had gotten lost.
I also spoke to a tourist who followed the wrong trail and ended up hiking an additional 2 hours before finding his way.
On the other hand, people have managed to successfully summit Maderas Volcano without a guide.
If you want my advice, get a guide – even if you’re on a tight budget. This is not only for safety reasons but using a guide also provides job opportunities for the locals who struggle enough as it is.
10. get an early start to avoid the heat
I hiked Volcano Maderas in March and it was hot!
Despite the hike being almost completely through a forest, it’s still extremely hot and humid.
Unfortunately, there’s no escaping the heat. But if you get on the trail early enough, you’ll have a few hours of bearable temperature.
11. It’s a cloud forest – so expect clouds
I started my hike at 5:30 am to avoid the heat. But, one thing I didn’t realize was that the clouds over Maderas Volcano only disappear after 10 am (on a good day).
So while the early morning temperature was ideal for hiking, there was still a lot of cloud cover at the viewpoint closest to the summit.
This is why I recommend starting your hike between 6:30 and 7 am. The temperature is still cool at this time and when you reach the viewpoint (which is about 3-4 hours in), the clouds should have disappeared.
But, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t hike Maderas Volcano for the view, you do it for the cloud forest, the fun trail, and the crater.
12. Pack snacks and lunch
If you’re starting early, you’ll need a breakfast snack and lunch. Make sure you stock up the day before your hike.
We bought bananas, chips, bread rolls, and peanut butter and made delicious sandwiches in the crater of Maderas Volcano.
You’ll also need 3l of water per person.
13. It’s challenging (more challenging than Concepcion)
Maderas Volcano isn’t as steep or long as Concepcion and so it should be easier, right? Wrong!
The muddy trail makes Maderas more difficult than Concepcion.
You’ll be scrambling down into the crater, climbing over trees, and strategizing your foot placement for the entire journey.
You need to manage your expectations! If you’re mentally and physically prepared for a tough hike, you’ll be ok.
But if you think it will be easy (because you’re strong, fit, and prepared), you’re in for a surprise!
14. Maderas is a non-active volcano
Maderas Volcano is not active. This could mean one of two things to you.
It’s either more appealing for risk-averse travelers. Or less appealing if you’d prefer the thrill of hiking an active volcano.
I hiked many active volcanoes throughout my trip to Central America and so I was in search of an epic trail, rather than an active volcano.
But, if you’re wanting to hike an active volcano, Concepcion is the answer.
15. Mombacha Volcano is a good alternative to Maderas Volcano
There are only a few volcanoes in Nicaragua that are covered in cloud forests. Maderas Volcano on Ometepe is one of them, and Mombacho Volcano is another.
Mombacho Volcano is on the mainland, closer to Granada.
If your travel schedule or the weather doesn’t allow you to hike Maderas Volcano, consider adding Mombacho to your Nicaragua itinerary.
Is Maderas Volcano Worth It?
Yes! Hiking Maderas Volcano is one of the best things I did on Ometepe Island. The trail is unique and challenging and ideal for adventurous travelers.
There were very few people hiking Maderas and I loved how raw and rugged the trail was.
Are you thinking about hiking Maderas Volcano? Do you have any questions about the trail or difficulty? Drop me a message in the comments section below.