We decided to take a cruise ship excursion while in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on our Panama Canal Cruise. We opted for the Volcano Hike and lunch tour. The tour said that you needed to be in great physical condition. I am going to admit now in the first paragraph that this hike kicked my butt. When it says great physical condition they mean it plus some!
The tour started with a 75-90 minute bus ride to the volcano area. We did stop alongside Lake Nicaragua to take some pictures. We were able to see some of the islands and volcano area in the distance. We also saw/heard parrots in the area.
The bus ride was quite an experience. Along the way we saw horses walking alongside the road, oxcarts being used for farming and transport along the road, boys riding a bike while carrying a chicken, and so much more. I am so happy we were not driving and have to say I do not think I would be comfortable even attempting to drive in this area. It felt like we were in a video game at times swerving to miss a horse, cow, chicken or person darting out on the road.
When we reached the area near the volcano we transferred from the bus onto 4-wheel drive mega trucks. I am really not sure mega trucks is what they are called but that is what they felt like. They were open aired safari like vehicles that attacked the crazy hill up the mountain. At times the guide said the road has a 45 degree angle.
Half way up the hill we stopped for a restroom break and coffee stop. I would suggest using these restrooms! They have running water and a sink. The restrooms at the top of the mountain are eco-composting outhouses. The coffee plantation offered free samples of coffee while were where there. They also sold coffee onsite. (We found the same coffee in port at the market for a bit cheaper)
Once the bathroom break was over we re-loaded into the mega trucks and continued up the mountain. You get quite an up close and personal look at the plants and flowers of the area as you head up the hill. The area is so lush and green it is amazing.
When we reached the starting point of the hike we were given a brief talk on the area and where we would be walking. The talk is held in a research biology center. The center has exhibits of snakes and butterflies that are found in the area. I am happy to say these were the only snakes we saw on the tour.
The tour starts off with a really good descent down a hill. The trail is nicely laid out. The steps were made with rocks and pieces of wood. I would suggest wearing close toed shoes that have really good treat for this excursion. The trail leads you through the dense foliage and flowers. I was surprised that we did not hear a lot of birds along the trail. We did meet a lot of mosquitoes and bugs though. I would skip any perfume or smelly products if you are going on this hike. There is no reason to attract the lovely mosquitoes. Trust me if my legs were any indication after this hike you do not need to have anything on to attract them.
We stopped and walked out on a platform with a great view over the area. We could see Lake Nicaragua and out over the rainforest. The hike also stopped in a tunnel area that was really cool. The sides of the walls are packed with lush green foliage and ferns.
One thing to know about this hike is what goes down sadly must come back up. This hike ends with an ass kicker of a climb back up the mountainside. When they say you need to be in top physical condition trust me they mean it. I will admit to having to stop a couple of times to catch my breath and slow down my heart rate. I thought the hike being a cloud forest meant it would be cool and shady. Boy was I wrong! The hike was hot and there is not much relief from the humidity. Even while under the cover of the trees it was hot and we sweated like nothing else. There were a couple of people on the tour that mentioned they were not sure if their legs were going to make it up the last little bit. It was a steep incline with lots and lots of steps. I started to count them but thought it might be better not to think about how many flights of stairs straight up a mountain I was climbing.
Towards the end of the trail we did get to see a sloth in a tree. This was one of the highlights of the day for me. It was so cool watching the sloth climb up the tree and sit and watch us.
When they hike was done they had nice cold bottles of water available for us. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drink the water or just pour it over my head. I decided to do a bit of both. It felt so good to cool off.
We loaded back into the mega trucks for the drive down the mountain. Oh my goodness the cool air felt so good. It was a pretty quick ride down the mountain and back to the bus. The bus took us into Granada for lunch at a lovely restaurant.
The bus parked near the main square of Granada and a couple of blocks from the restaurant. Please be prepared for the begging children and peddlers the moment you walk off the bus. I did not feel like we were in danger but it does tug at your heart strings when 3-5 year old children are begging for a $1.
I would suggest making sure you know where your camera, wallet and other items are located and not have them in an open area. I did not see or feel like people were being pick pocketed but like anywhere you can never be too safe.
Lunch was fantastic. The food was really good and there was a musician playing the guitar. The restaurant is open and airy. We were able to choose between water, soda and a beer with lunch. It was $2.50 for an additional beer. The restaurant offered beef, chicken, fish or a vegetarian entree. Everyone at our table was really impressed with the food and thought it tasted great. One thing to note the guacamole on the table is made with celery and not avocados. It does not taste quite like you expect it to.
After lunch we took a short drive through Granada to see the town and then headed back towards the ship. The bus ride back to the boat felt like it took forever. We were so tired and ready for a shower that it really felt like it was a couple of hours. Our guide did a fantastic job telling us about the area and Nicaragua’s history. Keep an eye out as you drive through towns and villages. You never really know what you are going to see. I was amused to see 2 boys on a bike and one of them was holding a chicken peddling down the road.