Masaya is an active volcano with constant flumes of sulfuric smoke spewing from the vents in its main crater. Lava flows have not occurred in over 200 years, although explosions are fairly frequent (the most recent, in 2001, hurled 2-foot rocks as far as the visitor center, injuring one tourist and damaging several vehicles). Masaya is the largest of the two volcanoes that lie within the park. The smaller volcano is Volcan Nindiri.
Indigenous people worshipped, feared, and respected the volcano before the arrival of Spanish conquerors. The Spanish considered the place evil, and called it "La Boca del Infierno".
Black chunks of volcanic rock strew the mountain, which is carpeted in soft green grasses.
Flora and fauna
Two of the most interesting life forms that can be seen at Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya are:
Although Nicaragua is generally hot and humid, a steady breeze blows across the mountain and it can get chilly at the top, especially in the evening. Be sure to bring a hat and/or sunblock because there is no shade or shelter near the top of the mountain.
The park entrance is at the KM23 marker on the Carretera a Masaya. It's about 15 minutes by car from Managua and frequent buses between Managua and Granada pass the entrance, however, getting up the mountain from there could be problematic for the non-hiker without a car.
If you're staying in Masaya the park is just down the Carretera and you can catch a bus there for only 8 Cordoba. Any bus going to/from Managua or Granada will take you, just let the bus driver know you want to get off at the park entrance.
I cabbed from Masaya for 150 Cordoba and he took me right up to the tourist office but I still needed to get up to the volcano which is a lengthy walk unless you manage to hitch a ride with someone.
The park entrance fee is 100 cordobas for foreign visitors and 20 cordobas for Nicaraguan citizens (cedula required for discount). Guided evening tours to the underground lava caves or bat caves are US$10 and flashlights are provided.
T-shirts and hats are sold in the visitors center. Anything else you need is best purchased in the nearby town of Masaya.
There are no food services on the mountain. A bar and restaurant is directly across the highway from the park's main gate, and a full range of food and drink is available in the town of Masaya.
Visit the town of Masaya, or go onwards to Managua or Granada.
There are some posadas in Masaya. You can also find lakeside villas at Laguna de Apoyo. Major hotels are near Managua. A variety of bed and breakfast inns is available in Granada.
Climbing near the craters is dangerous. Most public observation points have walls and signs to warn visitors.