The best hikes near Boaco, Nicaragua, are all half-day to full-day events, and three of the four are definitely challenging trips. They’re also incredibly rewarding.
Around the turn of the 20th century, a farmer from the mountain town of Cebadilla was surprised to see the Virgin Mary appear before him amongst the rocks where he was tending his cattle. The site has been treasured by locals ever since. La Cebadilla is no easier to get to than it ever was. This is an out-of-the-way corner of the region. At one time a small chapel was erected in honor of the Virgin, and there was a small well where it was said the water was blessed. Today, the chapel has mostly fallen to bits.
The day hike starts 1.6 kilometers east of Empalme de Boaco, where on the south side of the highway there’s a dirt road leading south to the community of Asedades and a steel sign with a picture of the Virgin Mary and the words La Cebadilla. The road leads south one kilometer to Asedades, a community of adobe houses, flower gardens, and rocky fields. It’s imperative that you find a guide in Asedades to take you up the mountain to La Cebadilla. There are many small footpaths that lead up the hill, but they intertwine and none is more obvious than the others.
The walk up the hill takes 3-4 hours. Take water and food (and make sure you have something to share with your guide). The walk back to Asedades can take 2-3 hours. Your guide will recommend that you stay at the top of the hill through midday and do your walking in the cool of the afternoon.
At La Cebadilla, you may or may not have visions of the Virgin Mary, but you will certainly have a fantastic view of the valley below and the hills of Boaco to the east, sometimes all the way to Lake Nicaragua.
In the early 1900s, Nicaraguans from Granada transferred their homes and possessions to Camoapa to try growing coffee on the area’s hillsides. They chose the slopes of one mountain in particular because of its rich soils and named the peak Mombacho, in memory of their Granada homeland. Camoapa’s Mombacho is a forested mountain with a rocky protuberance jutting out of the top. It is lined with several coffee plantations and a handful of radio towers and makes a pleasant day hike from Camoapa. Long ago, Mombacho was the site of a moonshine distillery, the products of which were sold under the name Mombachito.
Hiking the hill is significantly easier than hiking Cuisaltepe and offers a beautiful view of Camoapa’s open ranges. From Camoapa, the road to Mombacho can be accessed by the Salida de Sangre de Cristo (Sangre de Cristo is the name of a church found along the first part of that road). From Claro in the center of Camoapa, walk six blocks west, crossing over a small bridge and arriving at the public school. Turn right at the school and head north until you see the Iglesia de Sangre de Cristo. Continue on that road until you reach Mombacho. The hike from town takes 3-4 hours. There’s a dirt road that leads up Mombacho from Camoapa to the radio towers. In Nahuatl, mombacho means “steep,” so be prepared.
Peña la Jarquína
At the entrance to Camoapa on the southeast side of the highway (to your right as you head toward Camoapa) is a broad, rocky cliff face at whose base is a hardwood forest. This is Peña la Jarquína, named after a prominent local family. It’s an easy 90-minute hike from the entrance to Camoapa, around the backside of the hill to the top. Skilled climbers might find it makes a suitable technical ascent. The rock is solid and has plenty of cracks, and is almost assuredly unclimbed.
Unless you breezed by it on the midnight bus to El Rama, Cuisaltepe inevitably caught your eye: a massive, rocky promontory that juts out of the hillside between San Lorenzo and the entrance to Camoapa. Approaching it from the west, its silhouette resembles the tip of an upturned thumb, pointing in the direction of the highway. In Nahuatl, Cuisaltepe means “place of the grinding stone”; it was a good source of the volcanic rock the indigenous peoples used for making long, round stone implements with which to grind corn into dough. Cuisaltepe was the home of the last cacique of the region, Taisigüe.
Hiking Cuisaltepe is no casual endeavor. More than 300 meters high, much of the south side of the rock is a series of vertical crevasses and overhangs and much of the rest of it is prohibitively steep. However, there is one summit approach—from the north side of the rock—that you can reach from Camoapa. Hike with caution. The climb takes six hours round-trip, but adjust that estimate according to your own hiking ability. Wear good shoes, as much of the route is loose, slippery gravel.
Your point of entrance is the road to Camoapa. Any bus traveling between Managua or Boaco and the east will take you there, leaving you at Empalme de Camoapa (also called San Francisco) along the highway. A better option is to take a direct bus to Camoapa: 10 leave daily from Managua (5 on Sun.). From the highway, the road that leads to Camoapa climbs 25 kilometers. Get off the bus before you reach Camoapa at Km 99, where a small turnoff to the west leads to the community of Barrio Cebollín with a little red bus stop at the entrance.
Access to the summit is neither obvious nor easy, and involves climbing partway up, crossing the small forest in a notch in the hillside, and then climbing the ridge to the summit. You can find guides in Barrio Cebollín in the first house on the left after you pass the school (the house nearest to the utility pole). Euclídes and brothers know the mountain well and climb it periodically.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.