Mombacho is unavoidable; it towers over the southern horizon, lurks around every corner, creeps into your panoramic photos. In Granada , you are living in the shadow of a giant. Fortunately, this giant is gentle.
Every bit of cool, misty, cloud forest higher than 850 meters above sea level is officially protected as a nature reserve. This equals about 700 hectares of park, rising to a peak elevation of 1,345 meters, and comprising a rich, concentrated island of flora and fauna. Thanks to the Fundación Cocibolca, the reserve is accessible and makes available the best-designed and maintained hiking trails  in the nation.
Overgrown with hundreds of orchid and bromeliad species, tree ferns, and old-growth cloud and dwarf forests, Mombacho also boasts three species of monkeys, 168 observed birds (49 of which are migratory), 30 species of reptiles, 60 mammals (including at least one very secretive big cat), and 10 amphibians. The flanks of the volcano, 21 percent of which remains forested, are composed of privately owned coffee plantations and cattle ranches.
Maintaining the forest canopy is a crucial objective of Fundación Cocibolca, since this is where more than 90 percent of Mombacho’s 1,000 howler monkeys reside (the monkeys travel in 100 different troops, and venture into the actual reserve only to forage). Canopy tours  are available hear the parking lot and at Cutirre Farm.
Although the majority of Mombacho’s visitors arrive as part of a tour package, it is entirely possible to visit the reserve on your own, and it makes a perfect day trip from Managua , Granada , or Masaya . You’ll start by taking a bus (or express minivan) headed for Nandaime  or Rivas  (or, from Granada, to Carazo  as well); tell the driver to let you off at the Empalme el Guanacaste.
This is a large intersection, and the road up to the parking lot and official reserve entrance is located 1.5 kilometers toward the mountain—look for the signs. The walk to the parking lot is a solid half-hour trek, mostly uphill and in the sun. Water and snacks are available at the parking lot—be sure to drink lots before and during this first leg of your journey.
Once you arrive at the parking lot, you’ll pay the entrance fee and then board one of the foundation’s vehicles to make the half-hour, six-kilometer climb up to the Biological Station . The lumbering troop transports depart at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Thursday–Sunday, and return shortly after each climb up the hill (last bus down is 6 p.m.). In your own four-wheel drive vehicle, you’ll be asked to pay $13 in addition to your entrance fee. The park is closed Monday and open on Tuesday by reservation only.