Central America is quickly becoming a popular place to travel, the 7 countries that make up this area offer diverse landscapes and unimaginable adventures. There is so much to do in this part of the world it is hard to know what the best places to visit in Central America are. I spent nearly 3 months travelling around and I have chosen specific locations and experiences that are my favorite based on my personal experiences as well as what I have heard from other travelers. Here is what I think are the best places to visit in Central America and why.
Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala
The Acatanango Volcano is a dormant volcano near the town of Antigua in Guatemala. Hiking this volcano is a once and a lifetime experience as from the top you get views of an active volcano named Fuego (Spanish for fire.) And by active, I mean lava spewing out of this volcano every 30 minutes or so. Typically this experience is done on a tour, a one day hike to the top of Acatenango, one night camping and enjoying the views, and then one day hiking back down. I never knew in my life I would witness a real volcano erupting before my eyes, but here I did – and it was incredible.
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Semuc Champey is an easy favorite for my list of the best places to visit in Guatemala. It truly has something for everyone. Semuc Champey is a national park which boasts some amazing turquoise waterfalls and pools. Looking for some sun and relaxing time? Then relax by the natural swimming pools. Looking for adventure? Hire a local guide and jump off bridges and explore the caves. Looking for some sightseeing? Hike up to the viewpoint and view the amazing falls from above. Not to mention, Semuc Chapey is close to a small town in Guatemala called Lanquin, which boasts its very own charm.
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San Juan del Sur
It is a well-known tourist destination in Nicaragua – and for good reason. San Juan del Sur first claimed its name to fame as a surfer spot as it has some of the best waves in Central America. Now, this town is popular for all kinds of toursits as it has world famous sunsets, the best “pool crawl” in all of Central America, as well as various beaches to explore. Beautiful meals and accommodation come at budget prices and the friendly locals make this place feel like it could become your new home.
Entering Nicaragua I had no idea that there was a huge lake with an island right in the middle – an island made of two volcanoes! Ometepe is definitely a unique destination unlike anywhere else in the world. Various towns all around the island offer different activities and vibes. Some of the best sunsets I have ever seen were on Ometepe! There is also an amazing waterfall to check out, natural springs, kayaking, and more.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Another town recommendation, but this time in the amazing country of Costa Rica. Many budget travelers skip over Costa Rica due to its high price tag, but that would be a shame as Puerto Viejo is a gorgeous beachside town. Bike riding around all the different beaches made for an amazing way to spend a day. Not to mention the town is next door to the Cahuita National Park, which is where I saw sloths, howler monkeys, snakes, coatis, and more all within a couple of hours! Puerto Viejo is for sure one of my favorite places to visit in Central America.
Juayua, El Salvador
A very small town in the “Ruta de las Flores” region of El Salvador. El Salvador has a reputation for being dangerous, but this is definitely not true! This small town is so quaint, beautiful, and authentic. Don’t expect to see many (if any) other tourists walking around town and expect locals to only speak Spanish. Juayua has a famous food market every single weekend which is consists of blocks and blocks of incredible (and cheap) food for sale. Besides stuffing your face, some gorgeous waterfalls are only a twenty minute walk from the town center. This is the most “off the beaten path” choice on my list of the best places to visit in Central America.
Of course one of the best places to visit in Central America has to be one of the many Mayan Ruin sites. Tikal is surely underrated as it is often overshadowed by the nearby Chichen Itza. However, Tikal showcases many more ruins than Chichen Itza in a more authentic environment – we saw all sorts of animals around in the jungle which still remains around the various ruins in Tikal. One can even climb the tallest temple to watch sunrise. Tikal is easily accessed with a cheap tour from the nearby town of Flores making it a fun and cheap day trip.
Hopefully my list of the best places to visit in Central America is helpful in planning your trip! If you have any comments or questions drop us a line in the comments section. For more information on places we went in Central America click here for a list of all of our blog posts.