With lush forests, glistening turquoise waters, vibrant mix of cultures, friendly colonial towns and mysterious Mayan ruins, Central America is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. There’s something there for each and every type of traveller. However, with its 7 countries, all with amazing places to see and things to do, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on the top must see places in Central America.
Bay Islands, Honduras
The dreamy Bay Islands are perched on the southern tip of the worlds second largest reef system, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This gigantic reef is home to some of the most diverse and colourful marine life in the whole of Central America, but that’s not all… With the palm tree lined beaches, glistening turquoise water and vibrant tropical vibe, these islands are paradise on earth. The more bohemian backpackers among you will love the laid-back island life and cheap accommodation on Utila, while those looking for a more comfortable family trip, will adore the more refined island of Roatán. Either way, the Bay Islands of Honduras are a must see for anyone visiting Central America.
Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador
This is 36km long road packed with gastronomic delights, adrenaline-filled outdoor activities, stunning colonial architecture and the infectious Salvadorian culture. The ‘Flower Route’ is known for it’s world-famous weekly food festival, impeccable gastronomy, and its impressive coffee plantation, which was the first in El Salvador. Whether you want a lazy weekend of gallery hopping, food sampling and shopping, or an energetic trip filled with horseback riding, waterfall chasing and mountain biking, the Ruta de las Flores is not to be missed.
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Travel up the bumpy mountain trails deep into the Guatemalan jungle, and you will find one of the most fascinating and stunning places in Central America. Semuc Champey is a collection of natural turquoise pools, sitting upon various levels of limestone steps. Snaking through the lush green jungle, this natural phenomenon looks like something out of a fairy tale! You can spend the day relaxing and splashing around in the pools, or you can go on a caving adventure to explore how the limestone bridges form. If you love the outdoors, or simply appreciate the amazing beauty of nature, then visiting the pools of Semuc Champey is a must while in Central America.
The capital of Panama is a disorganised mashup of old and new, modern and archaic, rich and poor, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Panama City is one of the most chaotically beautiful cities in Central America, and boasts a culture like no other. Towering concrete high-rises, crumbling cobblestone streets, abandoned convents and glittering chrome and glass skyscrapers all come together to make this amazing city one of the must see places in Central America. Sample the local food, stroll through the town and listen to the street musicians, dine under the stars in one of the many outdoor restaurants, and watch the local children play in the cooling bay. This is the utterly disorientating magic of Panama City.
Monteverde, Costa Rica
No list about Central America would be complete without the breathtaking Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. This mind-blowing tropical forest is home to one of the world’s most unique and diverse ecosystems in the world. With over 400 species of bird, 100 species of mammals and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles, you’ll be catching your breath every step of your journey through this cloud forest of Costa Rica. For those wanting a more unique view of this spectacular forest, you can Zipline across it, climb the ginormous trees to see over it, or hike one of the many trails through it. Monteverde is the perfect place to get back in touch with nature, and see one of the most important ecological places not just in Central America, but in the world.
Caracol Ruins, Belize
These impressive Mayan ruins can be found in the very traditional Cayo district of Belize. Nestled within the vast Chiquibul Forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, these historical structures are truly haunting. Caracol is made up of five plazas, and at its core you will find the famous “Sky Palace”. This 136 foot tall pyramid is the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize, and is a glimpse into the amazing Mayan history of Central America. Once home to over 120,000 people, the Caracol Ruins are one of the largest Mayan archeological sites in the world. So, for all you history lovers and cultural buffs, Caracol should be at the top of your Central American bucket-list.
Lake Nicaragua is the biggest lake in Central America, and is home to one of the largest populations of bull sharks in the world. What makes this gigantic, glistening body of freshwater even more interesting, is that the bull sharks there can grow up to 11 feet in length… now that’s something you don’t see every day. You can take a boat out onto the water and gaze upon the rolling hills and lush wetlands that surround the lake, or you can spend the afternoon sitting on the soft sand banks of Lake Nicaragua, watching the locals fish and play in the water. This tranquil lake is one of the countries most famous features, and definitely a must see when in Central America.