Must-see attractions in Central America

  • SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA-MARCH 3, 2015:  The National Theater in Costa Rica first opened to the public in 1897.  It remains a top tourist destination today.; Shutterstock ID 265490903; Your name (First / Last): Lauren Gillmore; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online-Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: 65050/ Online Design /LaurenGillmore/POI

    Teatro Nacional

    San José

    On the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura resides the Teatro Nacional, San José’s most revered building. Constructed in 1897, it features a columned…

  • Green Hummingbird on a feeder at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

    La Paz Waterfall Gardens

    Central Valley & Highlands

    This polished storybook garden complex just east of Volcán Poás offers the most easily digestible cultural experience in the Central Valley and is the…

  • Iguana in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

    Featuring lush jungle, picture-perfect beaches and craggy headlands, this tiny park (1680 acres/680 hectares) absolutely brims with wildlife (and often…

  • Sunset on beach with Ocean, Costa Rica

    Playa Negra


    At the northwestern end of Cahuita, Playa Negra is a long, black-sand beach flying the bandera azul ecológica, a flag that indicates that the beach is…

  • Costa Rica, Limon Province, Caribbean coast, Gandoca-Manzanillo national wildlife refuge, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Playa Punta Uva beach

    Punta Uva

    Southern Caribbean

    Off a dirt road marked by Punta Uva Dive Center is a quiet, idyllic cove that could double for a scene in the film The Beach. When the water is calm, it…

  • Stone water bowl at Hotel Casa Santa Domingo.

    Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo


    Founded by Dominican friars in 1542, Santo Domingo became the biggest and richest monastery in Antigua. Following three 18th-century earthquakes, the…

  • Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya

    Masaya & Los Pueblos Blancos

    Described by the Spaniards as the gates of hell, the craters that comprise Volcán Masaya National Park are the most easily accessible active volcanoes in…

  • underwater buddy team reef

    Hol Chan Marine Reserve

    Ambergris Caye

    At the southern tip of Ambergris, the 6.5-sq-mile Hol Chan Marine Reserve is probably Belize's most oft-visited diving and snorkeling site. It offers…

  • Mayan stelae of Copan's rulers - Honduras

    Copán Archaeological Site Ruins

    Copán Ruinas

    One of the most important of all Maya civilizations lived, prospered, then mysteriously crumbled around the Copán archaeological ruins, a Unesco World…

  • Reserva Natural Atitlán


    A former coffee plantation being reclaimed by natural vegetation, this reserve is 200m past the Hotel Atitlán on the northern outskirts of town. It makes…

  • Biomuseo


    Panama City

    Celebrating Panama as the land bridge that has permitted astonishing biodiversity in the region, this world-class museum is a visual feast. Exhibits tell…

  • Eagle Ray swimming in the waters of Coco Island in Costa Rica; Shutterstock ID 127196843; your: Sloane Tucker; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI

    Parque Nacional Isla del Coco

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    Around 500km southwest of the Costa Rica mainland, Isla del Coco is a natural wonder that teems with wildlife, including the largest schools of hammerhead…

  • Market


    Some villagers still walk for hours carrying their wares to reach Chichi's market, one of Guatemala's largest and a highlight of many people's trips to…

  • Visitors swimming in turquoise-coloured waters of Semuc Champey.

    Semuc Champey

    Semuc Champey & Around

    Semuc Champey is famed for its great natural limestone bridge, 300m long, on top of which is a stepped series of pools with cool, flowing river water good…

  • Cofradia San Simón

    Western Highlands

    While you're in Zunil, visit the image of San Simón, the name given here to the much-venerated Mayan deity known elsewhere as Maximón. His effigy, propped…

  • Iglesia Merced


    At the northern end of 5a Av is La Merced – a striking yellow building trimmed with white plaster filigree. Its facade is one of the most beautiful in…

  • Arco de Santa Catalina


    The Arco de Santa Catalina is Antigua's most iconic monument, and an early-morning or late-afternoon photo opportunity framing Volcán Agua through its…

  • Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua. Man in the distance sitting in a stone contemplating the peaceful stream of water flowing through the rock mountains. Beautiful dry summer natural scenery.; 
Monumento Nacional Cañon de Somoto

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    Monumento Nacional Cañon de Somoto

    Northern Highlands

    The Coco (or Wangki), Central America’s longest river, runs all the way to the Caribbean, but its first impression may be its most spectacular. Gushing…

  • View of west facing frieze of Mayan temple in Belize.


    Cayo District

    Set on a leveled hilltop, Xunantunich (shoo-nahn-too-neech) is one of Belize's most easily accessible and impressive Maya archaeological sites. Getting…

  • Jaguar.; Shutterstock ID 317025812; Your name (First / Last): Alicia Johnson; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial ; Full Product or Project name including edition: Belize

    Belize Zoo

    Belize District

    If most zoos are maximum-security wildlife prisons, then the Belize Zoo is more like a halfway house for wild animals that can't make it on the outside. A…

  • Laguna de Apoyo and Mombacho Volcano

    Reserva Natural Volcán Mombacho


    It’s been a few decades since this 1345m volcano, the defining feature of the Granada skyline, has acted up, but it is still most certainly active and…

  • 500px Photo ID: 235008919 -


    Cayo District

    Once one of the most powerful cities in the entire Maya world, Caracol now lies enshrouded by thick jungle near the Guatemalan border, a 52-mile, roughly…

  • Basílica Menor Santiago Apóstol

    Coclé Province

    Natá's principal draw is this 16th-century cathedral, thought to be the oldest church built in the Americas still in use today. Indigenous artisans did…

  • Convento y Museo San Francisco


    One of the oldest churches in Central America, Convento San Francisco boasts a robin's egg–blue birthday-cake facade and houses both an important convent…

  • Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

    Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal

    From 1968 until 2010, Volcán Arenal was an ever-active and awe-striking natural wonder, producing menacing ash columns, massive explosions and streams of…

  • Museo Arqueológico Huellas de Acahualinca


    Discovered by miners in 1874, these fossilized tracks record the passage of perhaps 10 people – men, women and children – as well as birds, raccoons, deer…

  • Costa Rica, Las Cruces, Wilson Botanical Garden, bromeliad bud, close-up

    Wilson Botanical Garden

    Southern Costa Rica & Península de Osa

    The world-class Wilson Botanical Garden is internationally known for its collection of more than 2000 native Costa Rican species. Species threatened with…

  • 500px Photo ID: 76842259 - Museo Del Jade, San Jose, Costa Rica

    Museo del Jade

    San José

    This museum houses the world’s largest collection of American jade (pronounced ‘ha-day’ in Spanish), with an ample exhibition space of five floors…

  • Museum of Belize

    Belize City

    This modern museum in the Fort George District provides an excellent overview of the story of Belize, told through exhibits housed in the country's former…

  • A Red-footed booby (Sula sula) sits on a branch in a breeding colony on Half Moon Caye off the coast of Belize. This is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.; Shutterstock ID 583848568; Your name (First / Last): Alicia Johnson; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial ; Full Product or Project name including edition: Belize

    Half Moon Caye Natural Monument


    Half Moon Caye Natural Monument is known first and foremost as providing nesting grounds for the rare red-footed booby bird, but the island's enchantments…

  • Viento Fresco

    Arenal & Around

    If you're travelling between Monteverde and Arenal, there's no good excuse for skipping this stop. Viento Fresco is a series of five cascades, including…

  • A drone shot of the National park Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
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    Punta Catedral

    Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio & Around

    Geography fun fact: this isthmus, which is the centerpiece of the park, is called a tombolo and was formed by the accumulation of sand between the…

  • Playa Dominical, Marino Ballena national park, Pacific coast, Costa Rica.

    Parque Nacional Marino Ballena

    Quepos to Uvita

    Famous for its wide, 4km-long beach, part of which is shaped like whale's tail at low tide, this small but important marine park protects coral and rock…

  • Palm tree at the Goff's Caye in Belize; Shutterstock ID 163105160; Your name (First / Last): Alicia Johnson; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial ; Full Product or Project name including edition: Belize

    Goff's Caye

    Belize City

    Some of the most spectacular snorkeling in Belize happens just a short swim off the powder-white sands of Goff's Caye, a tiny, uninhabited island just a…

  • Iguana sitting on a trunk in Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica.

    Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge

    Quepos to Uvita

    Consisting of pristine beaches, riverbanks, mangrove estuaries, wetlands, primary and secondary forests, tree plantations and pastures, this 330-hectare…

  • The sloth on the tree; Shutterstock ID 624132143; Your name (First / Last): Alicia Johnson; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial ; Full Product or Project name including edition: Panama

    Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos

    Isla Bastimentos

    Established in 1988, this 132-sq-km marine park was Panama's first. Protecting 130 islands of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, including the coral-fringed…

  • Visitors learn about the Mayas at the Museum of National Identity in Tegucigalpa on December 14, 2012. The beginning of a new Mayan era on December 21 will be marked with celebrations throughout southern Mexico and Central America. Honduras is one of five countries preparing to observe the date, which marks the end of a more than 5,000-year era, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar, which began in 3114 BC.  AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA        (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Museo para la Identidad Nacional


    If you hit only one sight in Tegus, head here. The museum is housed in the gorgeously renovated 19th-century former Palace of Ministries. It's a superb…

  • Iglesia El Rosario's interior is a colorful celebration.

    Iglesia El Rosario

    San Salvador

    Designed by sculptor Ruben Martinez and completed in 1971, Iglesia El Rosario is radically beautiful. Arguably the finest church in Central America, its…

  • Green iguana profile detail with black background. Lizard's head close-up view. Small wild animal looks like a dragon. ; Shutterstock ID 616251773; Your name (First / Last): Alicia Johnson; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial ; Full Product or Project name including edition: Be

    Green Iguana Conservation Project

    San Ignacio

    On the lush Macal Valley grounds of the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, this excellent program collects and hatches iguana eggs, raising the reptiles until they…

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