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Ecotourism in Central America: activities and destinations

Nature lovers will have the time of their lives in Central America. From hiking rugged canyons in Mexico to going on a Costa Rica canopy tour, there’s something for anyone who loves ecotourism in Central America. Check out four destinations that will leave you longing for more.

Ecotourism and Adventure Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica... No artificial ingredients!

Volcan Arenal – Photo by Arturo Sotillo via Flickr

If you are a nature lover, and wondering what to do in Costa Rica, there’s no need to worry: Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for ecotourism in Central America!

Start your trip with some hiking and great vies at Arenal Volcano National Park, then head to Monteverde to check out the misty forest at Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Next stop is Manuel Antonio National Park, where you’ll find rugged rainforest, white sandy beaches and coral reefs. Get some relax (or improve your surfing skills if you haven’t had enough) in one of the many beautiful beaches of the country, and stay in your own treehouse.

Costa Rica is also one of the favourite spots for adrenaline seekers thanks to plenty of adventure activities: from white water rafting to ziplining, from caving to waterfall rappelling, it’s guaranteed you won’t get bored in a country where the mantra is “Pura Vida” (pure life).

READ ALSO12 Luxury Treehouse Cabins To Add To Your Bucket List

Cenotes, Canyons and Wetlands in Mexico

Ikkil Cenote – Photo by Elvis Pepin via Flickr

Mexico is a huge country where mountains, sea and desert converge. It’s an incredible natural mosaic that green travellers will love.
The most famous place for ecotourism activities is certainly Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, easily accessible if you fly to Cancun. The region is famous for its cenotes, caves and underground rivers. You can’t leave the area without visiting Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where you’ll be able to swim in the cenotes, explore the jungle and its wildlife, and visit old Mayan ruins…all in one place! Then head to Isla Holbox, an ecotourism hotspot still off the beaten path.

If you like hiking and you’re more of an off the beaten path-person, then head to the Sierra Madre Mountains. Copper Canyon is remote, wild, and one of the biggest canyons of North America. You can ride a train to El Divisadero and feel like you’re starring in one of those old Western movies; from here trek or bike around the canyon, soaking up breathtaking views of the rugged desert.

READ ALSO: 11 Incredible Cenotes near Playa del Carmen You Gotta Visit

The “new Galapagos” of Panama

Isla Coiba, Panama

Isla Coiba – Photo by Scott Ableman via Flickr

The bridge between North and South America, Panama is an extremely ecologically diverse (and stunning) country, and one of the hotspots for ecotourism in Central America.
Nature lovers can’t miss a visit to Coiba Island National Park, which comprises 38 islands and was identified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2005. Isla Coiba was a penal colony until a few years ago, so the island’s natural resources have survived untouched; for this reason the park is often referred to as “the new Galapagos”. Tourists who want to visit need a permit issued by the National Authority for the Environment; a few tour operators can help arrange the trip. This is considered one of the best destinations for a wild experience in the world!

Another popular spot for ecotourism is the Barro Colorado wildlife refuge at Lake Gatun, home to an intact tropical forest. Barro Colorado hosts each year hundreds of scientists who come here to study its biodiversity and thousands of species.

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Corals and Jaguars in Belize

The Split in Caye Caulker, Belize, a view from above

Caye Caulker – Photo by DronePicr via Flickr

I can’t possibly write a post on ecotourism in Central America without mentioning Belize. With 36% of its territory enjoying protected status, Belize has been one of the first states to encourage tourism while preserving the territory. Belize can boast the planet’s second-longest barrier reef, where it’s possible to snorkel among colorful corals and tropical fish, and then relax on one of the dreamy, remote cayes blessed with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters.

When you get tired of the beach life (as if that could ever happen), head to Chan Chich Lodge, a no-hunting private reserve in the heart of La Selva Maya, which boasts the highest sighting rate in Central America for jaguars and other species of wildlife.

And when you are done with these beautiful destinations, head to Cuba for a mind-blowing two-week itinerary or to Guatemala for volcanoes, lakes, and coffee.

This post was written in collaboration with Travel Excellence.

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.