Things to do in Central America

Central America activities


THINGS TO DO IN CENTRAL AMERICA

Ruminating the ruins

The Mayan civilisation dominated Central America and, in particular, present-day Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, peaking between 600-900AD. But boy, did they peak. The Mayan Trail, or Ruta Maya, was created as a tourist route in the 1990s, allowing archaeological stunners to be rescued from the jungles’ natural takeovers and revealed to the world. Many of the well preserved ones are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the Trail now covers over 2,400km.
Although you will never tire of these masterful pyramids, palaces and ancient principalities, there are only so many you can do, so many people do a Mayan pic 'n' mix from Mexico, Belize and Guatemala’s finest, as that works geographically, allowing you to take in different contemporary cultures en route. Or, if you are making southern Guatemala your base, don’t miss Honduras and El Salvador’s Mayan marvels next door. Always with beaches thrown in along the way, because this is Central America after all. Bursting with history, but also with life. And life’s a beach, right?

Another world of wildlife

Costa Rica has long been on the wildlife lover’s wishlist and rightly so. Touring here to fawn over fauna is a breeze and still one of the top things to do in Central America. And with turtles, quetzals, howler monkeys, sloths, caiman, otters, dolphins… you can take your pick of iconic species.
Wildlife wonders don’t stop for borders however, and Belize is bursting with beauty, with the second largest coral reef in the world. So diving and marine conservation volunteering holidays are big here, especially in Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Belizean rainforests are also home to jaguars, pumas, tapirs, crocodiles, scarlet macaws and toucans, to name but a few. Monkeys and other myriad marvels speed through the forests that line Nicaragua’s Rio San Juan river as well as the Los Guatuzos Wildlife refuge and Panama has more bird species than Costa Rica. And a lot fewer tourists than other Central American countries around to disturb them too.
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Whale of a time


Go whale watching between early Feb-end April along Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula for a veritable carnival of cetaceans that sing and dance their way along the 3000kms of coast. Which means there is lots of room for whale watching too, as you are taken out in carefully monitored numbers on board small, fiberglass panga boats for viewings.

Adventure

Costa Rica is adventure central, with a world of waterfalls, rapids, ziplines and rainforest trekking. Nicaragua’s San Juan River is superb for kayaking expeditions, stopping to camp in rainforest treehouses and passing through indigenous Rama villages en route. Sea kayaking and snorkelling are sublime in Belize, and canoeing, cycling or camping around Guatemala is the way to go.
Photo credits: [Tikal: Juan Camilo Trujillo] [Monkey: Adam Baker] [Zipline: Rick Rowland]
Written by Catherine Mack
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