Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat June 06 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | June 6, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    León, Nicaragua: A City That Grows on You

    León, Nicaragua: A City That Grows on You

    Hiking up Cerro Negro Volcano with our makeshift boards as our adrenaline kicks in! (All photos by Shannon Wolf)

    It’s 8 a.m. and I am trudging up Nicaragua’s youngest and most active volcano, struggling to carry a makeshift board up and over gritty, ashy black rocks and boulders for 45 minutes as my adrenaline kicks in with each step. Once atop, I am in line with the clouds and my heart is racing as I sit on my board, teetering over the edge looking down. My friend and I laugh nervously, wish each other luck and then… within seconds I am flying full speed down el Volcán Cerro Negro on my makeshift board and screaming with excitement the whole way down.

    I make it to the bottom without a scratch (even after flipping off my board once) and pull a “Rocky Balboa” throwing both fists in the air in triumph now covered in soot with pieces of rocks in my shoes, and a smile plastered across my face. It is now 10 a.m. and I’m at the base of the volcano drinking a beer. Hey — it’s 5:00 somewhere!

    The thing about León is this: Your initial reaction will be like everyone else’s when they get there: “It’s nothing special.” But, the longer you’re here, the harder it will be to leave. The city grows on you and like many of us, you will plan to stay for two days and end up here for two weeks (or longer). It’s a college city with great people, incredibly safe, and you’re minutes from some of the best beaches, incredible iced coffee, cheesecake and, of course, volcano boarding!

    Best/Cheapest Accommodation: Latina Hostel ($6 a night)

    From the outside, Latina Hostel doesn’t look like much and is easily overlooked but it is the perfect balance of everything you need and want in accommodation.


    • Basic but comfortable bunkbeds
    • Good working Wi-Fi
    • Lockers
    • Cozy courtyard with hammocks and seating galore
    • Working kitchen (not the best but its better than nothing)
    • FREE breakfast — toast, jam, bananas, and GOOD coffee
    • Outdoor bar with decent priced drinks
    • Friendly and knowledgeable staff
    • 3 bathrooms (very clean!)
    • Laundry service
    • Everything is within walking distance

    Party Hostel: Bigfoot Hostel

    If you’re looking to party hard, this is the one for you but beware of the dreaded “woo girls” and “ya dudes” that take over on weekends. If you want the party but a chance to soak up the sun, go to their beach hostel instead.

    Cheapest Food:

    • Shop at La Unión Supermarket (1ra Calle)
    • Eat Breakfast at El Desayunazo (3a Calle NE)
    • Shop at León’s gigantic market (located next to the cathedral)

    Best Bars/Clubs:

    • Disco Bohemios — Come here to get your Salsa on! Your typical Latin disco!
    • Don Señor — disco upstairs, relaxed bar downstairs
    • La Olla Quemada — live music on Wednesdays, independent films on Sundays, and Latin dance nights weekdays and weekends!

    Exploring the streets of Leon with an iced coffee from Pan y Paz

    MUST DO’S:

    • Volcano Boarding — Go with quetzaltrekkers (They are a non-profit group and ALL proceeds go toward helping street kids, plus you get to board down the volcano twice!)

    • Eat at Pan y Paz — A French cafe/bakery with THE BEST cheesecake and iced coffee you will have on your trip

    Jess and I getting our cheesecake fix at Pan y Paz!

    • Enjoy Rooftop Views — From the roof of León’s Cathedral, for the cost of $2 you can see some stunning views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes

    • Go to Via Via and order the Macho Breakfast just because of what’s included: “A cup of black coffee, a cigarette, and a shot of Ron Plata” (cost 35V)

    • Enjoy the perfect mix of relaxation and party on the two best beaches on the pacific coast of León

    • Go to the clubs and learn to Salsa with locals!

    • Take a sidetrip to Esteli: If you are up for adventure, go on a guided tour of Somoto Canyon or partake in a homestay located at the top of a hill in the gorgeous Miraflor Natural Reserve where you can spend the day hiking and watching breathtaking sunsets. 

    Sunset hike overlooking the gorgeous Miraflor Natural Reserve 

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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