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The Central America Bucket List – 15 Must-See and Must-Do Things Before You Die

A “bucket list” is a collection of places to see and things to do before you die. There are so many once-in-a-lifetime activities to engage in and places to visit throughout Central America that could, literally, fill many bucket lists. Yet there are some that are truly must-see locations and unique adventures that make the Central America Bucket List one that everyone should try and check off.


central america bucket list

Kenneth Garcia

The Central America Bucket List – a blend of history, culture, nature, wildlife, and adventure

If you’ve ever wanted to explore ancient ruins, immerse yourself in a totally different culture, stand in awe of a natural piece of beauty, get up close and personal with creatures of the jungle or try something new like zip-lining or deep-sea fishing, you have already created your ownCentral American Bucket list.

The places and activities that are listed below are not in any particular order of importance or priority. All should be seen and experienced regardless and truly appreciated for the wonders that they are; they may even inspire you to create your own list as well.

Central America Bucket List

Tikal, Guatemala

Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico and Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan Civilization has long held a fascination for many people. Viewing the towering pyramids and intricate ruins can make memories that last a lifetime. Two of the best known locations that embody this vanished culture are the ruins in Tikal, Guatemala and Tulum, Mexico. Separated by only 600 kilometers, these two iconic locations symbolized the height and power of the Mayan culture.

Visiting the imposing Temple of the Jaguar in Tikal or the majestic and well preserved “City of the Sun” in Tulum, Mexico can be an awe-inspiring reminder of how important enjoying each day is and that nothing is eternal. With nearby airport access to both sites, such in the Mayan Riveria,  the Central American Bucket List items are ones that everyone should see and experience.

Central America Bucket List

Arenal Volcano

The Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Of all the volcanoes throughout Central America, none is more majestic than Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica. Still active (although quiet of late), this imposing and beautiful mountain towers over the surrounding region, including Lake Arenal, at a height of 5,437 feet and is easily accessible from nearby San Jose.

central america bucket list


Lake Nicaragua

This is the biggest lake in Central America and the 19th largest in the world. Easily reached from Managua, this fresh water wonder boasts something that most fresh-water bodies of water lack: sharks. The bull sharks of Lake Nicaragua can grow up to 11 feet in length; encountering one of these predators certainly falls under the category of “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day”.

central america bucket list


Whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica

Ranked as one of the top ten whitewater rafting locations in the world, the Pacuare River can provide the kind of adrenalin-filled adventure that should be a part of everyone’s bucket list. Combining the stunning beauty of the area with the heart-stopping class III and IV rapids, this river adventure is truly a ride for the ages.

central america bucket list

Guillén Pérez

Meet a Mayan Shaman

With all of the recent attention paid to the Mayan Calendar and the mysticism surrounding it, the opportunity to meet and interact with a genuine Mayan Shaman could be a life-changing experience. Practitioners of this ancient spiritual craft can be found in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala and are more than ready to share their wisdom and provide a unique insight in the Mayan World.

central america bucket list


Tour the Panama Canal

Since its completion in 1914, the Panama Canal has been the major waterway between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, fulfilling the dream envisioned for centuries. Modern tours through the Canal provide a special opportunity to view this engineering marvel and follow in the footsteps of explorers from the mists of history who had searched for this passage.

central america bucket list

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Archipelago

Darwin’s visit to this group of islands, part of modern-day Ecuador, and filled with a vast collection of unique and endemic species, led him to develop his theory of evolution and natural selection. Following Darwin’s path will permit visitors the chance to discover penguins, giant tortoises, and many other creatures that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

central america bucket list

Tony Mendez

Whale watching in Costa Rica

The humpback whales migrate along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica from between August and October every year. Being able to see these leviathans of the deep in their element is a magical and moving sight and should be a part of every bucket list.

central america bucket list

Stephen Johnson

Ambergris Caye – home to the second largest coral reef system in the world

The coral reef along Ambergris Caye, Belize, is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Being much more accessible than the great “Down Under” this unique and fragile ecosystem is worthy of a special place on the list.

Central America Bucket List

Peace Garden Toucan

Have a toucan on your arm – the Peace Garden at La Paz, Costa Rica

Everyone has seen these colorful, comical birds but have you ever had one on your arm? At the Peace Garden, La Paz, Costa Rica, getting up close and personal with these multi-colored creatures is easier than you might imagine and certainly something that is not an everyday occurrence.

central america bucket list

Steven Depolo

Rainforest adventures – zip-lining, hiking, waterfalls, and animals

Central America has wonderful opportunities to visit rainforests throughout the region. Zip-lining, hiking to secluded waterfalls, horseback rides through the jungle and seeing exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, and many other creatures in their natural state makes this a true bucket list item to be experienced and treasured.

central america bucket list

Johnathan Nightingale

Monteverde Cloud Forest – home of the Resplendent Quetzal

Perhaps the best know cloud forest in the world, the Monteverde Cloud Forest has a charming and rare resident–the Resplendent Quetzal. Discovering this regal bird in the stunning backdrop of a cloud forest is a special treat that should be included in any bucket list. Stand on the Continental Divide with one foot on the Caribbean side and the other on the Pacific-something that can’t be done any place else.


central america bucket list

Ari Bronstein

Deep sea fishing

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a blue marlin on the end of your line, fighting you every step of the way? Deep Sea Fishing in Costa can fulfill this “bucket list” wish; tuna, wahoo, sailfish and, or course, the mighty Marlin are all there waiting for the right angler and the right moment–a moment that can be yours.

central america bucket list

Steven Gerner

A sea turtle haven – Tortugero, Costa Rica

For the nature lover, visiting the spawning and hatching ground for sea turtles can be a special item on a bucket list. Tortugero, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is the place where green, leatherback, and the rare hawkbill turtles can be seen nesting and hatching in the cycle of life. The National Park is also home to jaguars, tapirs, macaws, and monkeys.

central america bucket list

Elena G.

The haunted island of San Lucas, Costa Rica

If paranormal investigation is part of your bucket list, the former prison island of San Lucas, Costa Rica will fulfill this desire. Long known as a haunted location, San Lucas has been featured on television and on numerous sites about ghost hunting. Bring your recorders and cameras and see if you can capture the spirits said to still remain there.

central america bucket list

Lee Shaver

The Central America Bucket List – getting there is easy

Central America is readily accessible from the U.S. and Europe. Regularly scheduled flights to and from major jumping off points such as San Jose, Costa Rica, Panama City, Panama, Managua, Nicaragua, and Guayaquil, Ecuador–to name but a few–make getting to those bucket list locations convenient and affordable.

There are many tours and travel packages that are available that can be tailored to meet every desire and wallet size. Exploring and experiencing the wonders of Central America has never been easier.

The Central America Bucket List – living there is easy as well

As you explore, check off, and add items on your particular “Central America bucket list” you may discover that the best way to do and see everything is to actually live in Central America. With so many options available–from lots, homes, apartments, condos, and even commercial properties–living in Central America can be a desirable alternative to traveling and can place you in the heart of the experiences and adventures of a lifetime.

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