The imposing Mombacho Volcano watches over the colonial city of Granada and entices you to visit. Tours can be arranged from Granada but its proximity makes for a short and exciting public bus ride. From the park entrance, most people choose to take a group van to the top, but my friend and I (and a new friend Jorge, a marathon runner from Mexico City) decided to earn our view and hike the gruelingly steep 7km to the summit. Having only seen the shadow of the volcano from a distance, it is shocking how green and lush it is up close.
At the top, which can get chilly because you are literally in the clouds, you can select from three different levels of trails. We opted for the El Puma Trail, which is the longest, and circles the cloud forest around the crater rims. Our bilingual guide pointed out a variety of plants; my favorite being the "monkey tail" with fuzzy curly cues on its tips. You emerge from the lush jungle at various lookout points, like the one pictured, where you can view breathtaking panoramas of what you just traversed, and the landscape below, including landmarks like Laguna de Apoyo and Las Isletas of Lake Nicaragua.