I have no idea how time goes by so quickly, but it sure does. One year ago today, Chris and I left my parents house in Massachusetts at 2:30 in the morning. We had no idea what would happen over the next 3 months, and we were jittery with nerves and excitement. We had a one way ticket to Guatemala City and a vague plan.
Those three months were incredible; an experience like no other. The language barriers, sickness’, fights and frustration didn’t even dent the amazing memories we made traveling through Central America.
Many people ask, “What was your favorite country” or “What was your favorite thing about Central America”. It is almost impossible to pinpoint one place or one country that stands out but I would like to share 7 of my top moments from backpacking Central America.
Adventure on the Rio Dulce
The Rio Dulce is an incredibly pristine river that winds from the Caribbean Sea west into Guatemala for 26 miles. The blue-green waters of the river carve a path through 300 foot rock walls. The day we spent kayaking on this river almost didn’t happen. We were back and forth on the idea for days, and finally decided to just do it. Boy am I glad we did!
We rented a kayak from a hotel nestled in the jungle, and explored the river at our leisure. We cooled off in the cold inlets, found hidden waterfalls where we did some cliff jumping, ate delicious homemade food from an Eco-Lodge, and played on a rope swing. The day was perfect. The Rio Dulce aka Sweet River could not have been more appropriately named.
Hike and Swim at the Turquoise Pools of Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a natural wonder hidden in the middle of the Guatemalan Jungle. A series of perfectly blue pools cascade their way above the Cahabon River. This natural monument is quite difficult to get to, how anyone found it in the first place is beyond me!
Our day exploring Semuc Champey started with a one hour ride over bumpy and winding roads in the back of a pickup truck. We hiked to the top of a limestone bridge to view the pools from above, then spent the rest of the day swimming, sliding down mini waterfalls and jumping from rocks into the turquoise waters.
Relax by the Caribbean in Ambergris Caye, Belize
Basking in the sun and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Belize is ultimate relaxation. Ambergris Caye is an excellent spot to kick back, but also a place to partake in adventures or experience the culture if that is what you want!
After a month of traveling through Guatemala, my parents and sister met us in Belize for a family vacation. We really slowed down this week; slept late, lazed by the pool, and indulged in a lot of food and a lot of booze. It was kind of like a vacation from a vacation. What made it even better was having my family visit. Being on the road for long amounts of time was tiring, and seeing my family really rejuvenated me. It was an excellent week of relaxation and fun!
Catch some Waves in El Salvador
When I think of El Salvador, I think of surfing! I am by no means a surfer; I enjoy it a lot, but I am not that good at it! Much of the Pacific Coast of El Salvador was a little too difficult for a beginner surfer like myself. However, at Playa el Cuco, the very southern most part of the Pacific Coast, the beach break and small-ish waves made it the perfect place to get better at surfing!
We parked it for a week at the relaxing La Tortuga Verde. Surfboard rentals were just $2 for the day, and every morning (and some evenings) I grabbed a surfboard and spent an hour or so riding the waves. Something about the calmness of the hotel and the easy surfing conditions made this a really enjoyable activity! Even a shark scare didn’t stop me from getting out there everyday!
Scooter Around Ometepe Island
I loved Ometepe Island in Nicaragua for many reasons: the active adventures, the people, the food, the scenery. Everything! We ended up getting stuck on the island for a few extra days because of Semana Santa, but we weren’t complaining!
My favorite days on the island were the days (three of them) we rented a scooter and explored. The one road that circles the island was extremely easy to navigate, and the only traffic was horses, cows, motorbikes and an occasional bus. It was perfect for cranking the gas on the scooter and enjoying the open road! The first day we rented a scooter, we got pulled over by the police and had the bike confiscated! Made for an interesting experience!
HikE Viento Fresco in Costa Rica
A quiet town called Tilaran, near Lake Arenal, is home to the Viento Fresco Waterfalls. Tourists do not come to this town, so it was an excellent place to experience real Costa Rican culture. Our hotel owner told us about a hike that leads to five waterfalls and highly recommended doing it. So we hopped a bus down the road and ended up spending the day hiking, swimming and jumping in these waterfalls. Each one was different from the next and it was so refreshing to cool off in a natural pool after getting sweaty from hiking.
BikE in Bocas del Toro
I truly loved everything about Bocas del Toro, Panama but my favorite thing to do was rent bikes and ride from beach to beach around the island. The beaches of Bocas are beautiful and are each so different. It is cool to experience all of the beaches of Bocas in a single day by the power of your bike!
Ending the day with delicious craft beer at Bocas Brewery is the only way to do it, in my opinion! It was one of the best days of our trip and Bocas was an excellent way to end the amazing 3+ months we just had.
So many memories and so many moments happened while backpacking through Central America. These are the top 7 experiences of traveling through Central America that I recommend to everyone!