Central America is a hiker’s paradise with hundreds of mountains and the Ring of Fire. You’ll find an incredible 110 volcanoes with 37 of them in Guatemala alone!
Central America comprises six countries; Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panamá.
It doesn’t include Mexico which surprised many people. Mexico is actually part of North America. Even in the regions in Central America without mountains, you’ll find large tracts of forests. This makes it difficult to decide which trails to hike – a good problem to have!
Because Central America isn’t a place with snow and super high mountains, many adventurers don’t see it as a destination for hiking. However, there are an overwhelming number of options in each country alone, let alone in all of Central America.
5 of the Best Trails in Central America
From Nebaj to Cuchumatanes Summit – Guatemala
If you’ve ever visited Guatemala you’ve probably seen the advertisements for Acatenango, San Pedro, and Pacaya. I’ve been to each of those places and loved them. They are awesome and I keep going back! But I have an insider’s recommendation if you are looking for something a bit more unique. A trail that almost no one knows about.
This hike over the top of the Cuchumatanes mountain range takes three days. The terrain of the area is unique in Guatemala and you’ll be able to see tiny shepherd’s towns along the way. Most of them have less than ten houses each.
Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec – El Salvador
Santa Ana is a small volcano that’s quite easy to hike. It won’t take you more than two hours to reach the top. Once you get there, you’ll peer down to see a turquoise pool inside the crater. Since this is still an active volcano the water inside of the crater is boiling. As tempting as it may look, you definitely don’t want to go for a swim here. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Coatepeque Lake, and on the other side, you’ll see Cerro Verde and Izalco Volcano.
Topping off what is already a fantastic hike is that right at its base, you’ll see a small and beautiful park. It’s an idyllic spot where you can set up your tent or rent a rustic cabin to enjoy this spectacular area a little longer.
Rincón de La Vieja Summit – Costa Rica
Rincon de La Vieja is a National Park in the northwest corner of Costa Rica. It’s a large park with tons of places to explore. Ideally, you should spend at least a couple of days exploring it thoroughly. There are seven trails, including an 8 km long one that takes you to the summit of the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano.
If you only have one day and don’t want something as intense I’d recommend hiking the trail to the waterfall (Catarata Escondida). It is only 4 kilometers long.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary – Belize
What makes this place special and unique is the fact that it is the world’s only jaguar reserve. There are many different gentle trails that take you through the reserve. Each gives you the opportunity to check out the local wildlife. The focus of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is definitely on hiking to observe wildlife rather than on the physical challenge.
You’ll be at full attention as you hear every branch snap wondering whether it’s a jaguar. Note: Laurel really enjoyed her visit her and was there observing howler monkeys as part of her primatology studies. Unfortunately, she didn’t spot a jaguar.
Besides jaguars, you’ll also find other jungle cats including; pumas, ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay and other 300 species of birds!
Volcano Concepción – Nicaragua
Nicaragua is known for having the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca. Within the lake, there’s a small island called Ometepe. It was formed by two volcanoes that emerged from the water and grew to be some of the tallest in the country.
One of those volcanoes is called Concepción. This volcano provides a fun challenge. It will take you around 10 or 11 hours to reach the summit and descend, making it a challenging yet unique and fun day trip. The best part is the amazing views that you get from the top with a unique perspective being surrounded by water.
These five trails all offer fantastic scenery and each one provides a very different experience. I guarantee you won’t get bored. If you’ve hiked in Central America I would love to hear all about it and your recommendations.
Lourdes is a soon to be lawyer from Guatemala with the mission to explore each corner of the country. Her favourite activity is hiking along with exploring mountains, forests, caves, volcanoes and all that the region has to offer. Her goal is to reach as many summits around the world as she can. You can also find her on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.