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Five outdoor activities to spice up your trip to Central America


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Home to impressive volcanoes, tropical waters, and mountainous peaks, Central America is an adventure park for thrillseekers and outdoors enthusiasts.

On my first trip to Central America, I discovered some of the most daring and breathtaking activities on offer. From swimming with whale sharks in Mexico to zip-lining in Costa Rica, these five outdoors activities are sure to spice up your trip.

1. Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico

One of the best places to experience swimming with whale sharks is in Mexico where there are large communities of the majestic creatures. The two best places in Mexico to swim with whale sharks are Cancun and Cozumel where Isla Holbox, Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres are the most popular locations. Here, many companies offer a money back guarantee.

Image credit: JimmyDominico on Pixabay

You might find yourself a little frightened at first due to the size of whale sharks (hence the name) and their surprising agility, but they are relatively harmless and feed off plankton. 

As on any trip where you interact with nature or animals, it is important to respect the whale sharks' natural environment and behave so as to make as little impact as possible. Seek out the most responsible company, looking out for warning signs such as whether they feed the sharks and whether they allow tourists to touch the sharks. According to PADI, tourists should keep a distance of nine feet away from the head and 13 feet from the tail of a whale shark.

Tourists who ignore expert recommendations not only risk impacting the shark’s normal behaviour but may cause the animals to bank or dive, ruining the experience for everyone. As long as you behave responsibly, this is a breathtaking activity worth putting on your bucket list in Central America.

2. Climbing a volcano in Guatemala

Climbing a volcano may not be at the top of everyone's bucket list but it is a must-do activity when visiting Guatemala. There are many volcanoes to choose from so your selection will depend entirely on your fitness and comfort levels.

Without a doubt, Acetenango is the hardest volcano to climb in Guatemala with a steep two-day ascent. Acetenango used to be one of the most worthwhile volcano hikes in the country, offering spectacular views of the highly active volcano Fuego. However, since Fuego’s eruption last year which killed over 100 people, some hikers have reported that the view is not the same due to ash clouds.

Image credit: Benbenjoe on Pixabay

Other popular volcanoes include Tajumulco, San Pedro and Pacaya. Tajumulco is the biggest volcano in Central America, possible to hike in one day, however, hikers should be aware that there is a risk of altitude sickness. Meanwhile, San Pedro is a difficult but relatively simple climb (the fee you pay to enter the national park includes a guide) which rewards hikers with stunning views over Lake Atitlan.

Lastly, Pacaya is one of the easier hikes. I am certainly not the fittest individual but I was able to climb Pacaya. One of three active volcanoes in Guatemala, Pacaya may reward climbers with views of sensational lava eruptions,

 though this cannot be guaranteed.

If you are eager to get down and dirty, camping on some volcanoes is possible. This way, you can witness volcanic eruptions at night which are even more impressive, and, better yet, it means that you can travel at your own pace and enjoy the views.

3. Caving in Belize

Belize is home to some incredible caves worth checking out. The most famous caves are the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (nicknamed the ATM cave), the Barton Creek Cave and the Crystal Cave.

The first two are suitable for people of varying abilities while the Crystal Cave caters to experienced cavers. Each holds their own charm and offers different experiences. The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave gives the opportunity to see history up close: skeletons of human sacrifices and fragments of pottery and tools dating back to 250 and 909 A.D. On the other hand, you can canoe or tube through the Barton Creek Cave while admiring stalagmites and stalactites. At the end of this tour, you can swim under the waterfall, offering a more relaxed caving experience than the ATM cave.

For those who want to push themselves more, the Cystal Cave is difficult from the start, requiring a hike through the tropical forest and rappel for 15 feet into the cave entrance before you can begin caving. Once inside, you will face further challenges. This is a difficult but spectacular caving opportunity which should be considered by those who are fit and experienced in caving.

4. Zip-lining in Costa Rica

The longest zip line in Latin America is at Monteverde in Costa Rica at a heart-stopping 1590 meters in length. All in all, the cost of riding the zipline includes 11 zip lines, a swinging rope bridge, the chance to rappel, two superman cables and a mega Tarzan swing (swings to a height of 148 feet).

Image credit: JanBartel on Pixabay

You can bring your GoPro but you will need to bring the mount too, as these are not provided. You will kick yourself if you are unable to film this once in a lifetime experience, trust me.

5. White water rafting in Costa Rica

There are several rivers you can choose to raft on in Costa Rica including Naranjo, Sarapiqui and Rio Balsa, with the Grade III-IV and above offering the most action and adventure.

Image credit: Rebecca Barnes

White water rafting is a chance to experience some action and adventure in a country where there are reasonably strict safety rules, decreasing the chances of something going wrong. You might fall in but that is all part of the fun and it should not be too hard to get you back in the raft again. An activity suitable for those travelling solo or as a group, this was one of my favourite experiences from my time travelling in Central America.

Prices will change depending on whether you opt for a full or half day and it is worth checking to see if meals are included in your trip. Overall, this is a great activity no matter how experienced you are, offering excitement and fun in a truly beautiful landscape. 

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