Image credit: UnSplash
Guest blog by Hollie Jones
It feels like the world is finally catching up to the fact that Central America is a fantastic place for adventure travel. This thin strip of land that connects North and South America has exotic locations and life-changing experiences in abundance.
Concerns over crime held the region back for a few decades, but the consensus has changed, and Central America is now a popular destination for first-time backpackers, sustainable travellers and seasoned adventurers who missed it the first time around.
So what are the factors that make Central America such a great place to adventure travel? Let’s take a closer look.
If your previous backpacking adventures included exploring the archaeological and historical sights of Europe and Asia, then the culture and history that runs through Central America will be perfect for you. The region has a thriving, enticing culture steeped in history to explore. Long before the European conquest, ancient societies such as the Mayans built grand cities that still stand today and make breathtaking bucket list essentials for even seasoned travellers.
It can take days to explore these ancient cities. Tikal in Guatemala and Xunantunich in Belize are two of the most popular cultural destinations in the region that will give you new insight into history many of us recognise, but few fully understand.
If adventure travelling for you involves learning more about the world and the people who have inhabited it, it’s essential to step foot in these landmarks of central America.
Got the itch to travel but don’t really have the budget for it? We’ve all been there, but don’t shelve your plans just yet. Central American is the ideal place to travel on a budget. The region has heavily embraced tourism in the last few years, meaning there are financial options for travellers. Prices can vary from country to country, but in general, this stunning trip won’t break the bank.
The region offers something for everyone to enjoy, but especially adventure travellers. The variety of locations means there are a number of cheaper spots to rest you head for the night, or if you’re more included, you can enjoy a snooze on the beach.
Immersing yourself in culture is a key way to save money in Central America. Shopping in the local markets, eating at roadside eateries and travelling by bus allow you to enjoy the taste, stories and sights of the region while keeping within budget.
There are opportunities to treat yourself to a bit of luxury between treks though. As the most expensive country in the region, Costa Rica has a fantastic selection of hotels and experiences, that you can splash the cash on for a bit of luxury downtime.
Travelling exposes us to things we’ve never seen before and could never think to experience back home. These ideas are encapsulated in Central America, with many natural wonders and sustainable ways to interact with them.
The landscape of Central America alone has enormous variety, from hidden cities in the luscious jungle to exotic beaches reading into the horizon. Volcanoes, mountains and lakes build a landscape home to a number of exotic species, with Central America widely known for its biodiversity. If you’re looking to adventure with a purpose, the travel organisation BioSphere is one of many that offers conservation trips focused on the local wildlife.
Central America is also home to hundreds of national parks, protected areas set up to preserve the native wildlife. Spend your travels enjoying tapirs, jaguars and many more creatures in their natural habitats.
The beautiful landscape of Central America is one of it’s most attractive elements to adventure travellers, which raises the issue of trying to travel sustainably. Thankfully the region is home to many countries pioneering in ecotourism.
Travelling sustainably is a very realistic option in Central America. There is an abundance of public transport options, which are actually cheaper than flying from country to country. Travel and experience companies in the region have embraced the idea of eco-tourism, with lots of volunteer and animal preservation travel options available.
Environmental awareness is growing in a region that has seen a devastating amount of its natural forest lost to farmland in the last few decades. Costa Rica has pledged to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021. While Guatemala and Belize’s attitudes towards single-use plastic, the former focusing on recycling plastic and the latter banning all import of single-use plastic in 2019, have made them popular with the sustainable travelling community.
In or outside of the backpacker bubble, there are lots of ways to explore these natural wonders without leaving a negative mark.
Central America is one of the best regions in the world for travelling by sea. Surfing and diving are incredibly popular tourism options in the country and give you a unique opportunity to explore an important biosphere for the region.
From Costa Rica to El Salvador there are un-crowded beaches to find waves perfect for both beginners and seasoned surfers. White-water rafting tours allow you to see the exceptional sights of the region via its rivers and coastlines, such as this trip from Another World Adventures. Diving is where the region thrives though. For some diving enthusiasts, Central America is an essential pilgrimage. Blue Hole in Belize is the stand out attraction, featuring wildlife and an enormous drop off in a stunningly clear environment. Central America is one of the cheaper places to get certified in some stunning locals surrounded by wildlife.
Central America has a potential and history about it that makes the region appealing to adventure travellers. From pushing apart a brush to find an ancient city to pioneering eco-friendly travel options there is a type of adventure for every traveller here.
While Central America has seen decreases in crime in the last few decades and a conscious attempt to embrace travellers, it is still worth noting that the area can be potential dangerous for potential travellers. With this in mind, we recommend checking travel advice from the foreign office for each country you are looking to visit, whether travelling as a group or independently.
Hollie Jones is a freelance blogger