If there's one word which sums up why Central America is such an amazing travel destination, it'd have to be "diversity." Not only is the seven-country region home to an incredible level of biodiversity, it also possesses a variety of unique landscapes ranging from palm-studded desert isles to volcanic moonscapes and dense, unexplored jungles.
While the sheer variety of Central America's people, landscapes, cuisine, and wildlife is enough to warrant the region a place on every traveler's bucket list, we've gone through the tips from thousands of travelers at minube to find out just what makes Central America so special. From diving in the world's second largest coral reef to speeding down the slopes of an active volcano, here are 15 reasons why Central America should be your next destination!
1.) The Caribbean beaches are stunning
White sands, crystalline waters, and endless sun...what's not to love?! If you're looking for Caribbean luxury without Caribbean prices, try the Honduran Bay Islands of Guanaja, Roatan, or Cayos Cochinos, a car-free group of islands famous among eco-tourists. There's a hammock with your name on it!
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2.) ...and the Pacific beaches aren't bad either!
Longtime secret of the surfing community, Central America's Pacific beaches are steadily growing in popularity. Between the majestic sunsets and sleepy seaside towns, it's no wonder why! If you're looking to experience the Central American Pacific in all its rugged glory, try the towns of Tamarindo, Potrero, or Samara on the coast of Costa Rica.
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3.) Oh...and there are hundreds of desert islands
In fact, Panama's San Blas Islands alone boast over 365 white sand islands, islets, and cays; a sunny drop of paradise for every day of the year! And if you need a break from sunbathing and snorkeling, you can always hang out with the indigenous Kuna tribes that populate many of the islands.
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4.) Central America has 7% of the world's biodiversity
For only making up 0.1% of the Earth's surface, Central America is home to 7% of the world's biodiversity, so it's no surprise that the region's countries have been pioneers in ecotourism. In fact, Costa Rica is often considered the most biodiverse country on Earth! If you time your visit right, you can even catch the unforgettable spectacle of sea turtles hatching.
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5.) ...and cultural diversity to match!
Did you know that Central America is home to over 25 indigenous groups? While many are known for their hospitality and colorful crafts, the Garifuna people who inhabit the coast of Honduras and other countries are famous for their contagious rhythms and vibrant dances. Visiting a Garifuna community is a truly unforgettable experience!
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6.) Waterfalls and natural pools...everywhere
Everyone who visits agrees: Mother Nature has really outdone herself! While the whole region is full of hidden tropical waterfalls and gentle streams, the unique limestone pools of Semuc Champey in Guatemala definitely take the cake. Come on...you know you'd like to go for a swim!
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7.) Two words: Volcano Boarding
Sure, you've been snowboarding and skateboarding, but have you tried volcano boarding? On an active volcano, no less!? Yup, if you're craving an adrenaline rush, head over to Cerro Negro, one of Nicaragua's most beautiful (and active) volcanoes and the volcano boarding capital of the world.
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8.) The cities are amazing...
Yep, Central America also has its share of bustling cosmopolitan hubs! Panama City, for example, offers anything a modern traveler could desire, from chic clubs and shopping to trendy restaurants and even a thriving craft beer scene!
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9.) But don't forget the enchanting colonial towns...
There is perhaps nowhere on Earth with such a high concentration of evocative colonial towns as Central America. Try Antigua Guatemala, León and Granada in Nicaragua, or Suchitoto, El Salvador, a town famous locally for its historic church and cobblestone streets lined with cafes and galleries.
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10.) ...or the awesome Mayan Ruins!
Mayan ruins are an essential part of Central America, and while names like Tikal, Copán, or Joya del Cerén may ring a bell, the region has dozens of lesser-known but equally stunning sites like the ruins of Xunantunich in Belize, pictured above. Visit the ceremonial centers of this powerful civilization and contemplate what life was like before the conquistadors.
Click here for more photos of Mayan ruins in Central America
With such fresh seafood and the abundance of citrus trees, it's hard to go wrong with ceviche in Central America. This classic dish of fresh fish, lemon or lime juice, onions, and cilantro is popular throughout the region, so whether you get it with black clams in Nicaragua and El Salvador or with sea bass in Nicaragua and Panama, the final result is always the same: happy tastebuds.
12.) It has the world's 2nd largest coral reef
Second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Belize Barrier Reef stretches 190 miles from Cancún to Honduras and is known worldwide for its epic scuba diving scene, though there are plenty of smaller sites hidden among the islands. Oh, and it's also home to what Jacques Cousteau considered one of the world's best dive spots: Belize's Great Blue Hole.
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13.) It's coffee heaven. Seriously.
If you need to get your caffeine fix, look no further. Coffee growing is a time-honored tradition here, so as they say in El Salvador, "drink up and smile." El Salvador and Costa Rica are especially famous for their robust, balanced brews and visits to coffee plantations (finished up with a freshly-brewed cup of joe) are a favorite among visitors.
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14.) The churches are like nothing you've ever seen
Jaguars, quetzals, and corn harvesting are definitely not your average church decor! Local indigenous traditions have fused with Catholic symbolism to create a one of a kind aesthetic that like nothing found anywhere else on Earth. Don't believe us? Just check out the Church of San Andrés Xecul in Guatemala, pictured above.
Click here for more photos of the Church of San Andres Xecul
15.) It's where the good life is a way of life
Of all the wonders of Central America, this is the reason why you'll come back again and again. The pace of life is different here, and it's one of the greatest gifts that this region has to offer. Disconnect, kick back, and get back in touch with what really matters.