Category: Central America

San Salvador: Central America’s Murder Capital

San Salvador is one the world’s top murder cities. Why would anyone decide to travel to such a dangerous city?
San Salvador, El Salvador
The city has some beautiful places to see and is often essential when visiting El Salvador since it is an easy access point to most destinations around the country.
San Salvador, El Salvador
El Salvador is such a small country, but it is so rich culturally. Most visitors try to stay away from the dodgy capital, but there is a lot to see in and around this lively city.

San Salvador Volcano

El Boqueron, El Salvador
The National Park El Boqueron is where you will find the San Salvador volcano crater. The view is beautiful and it is just a short 15 min walk from the entrance to get to the viewpoint. If you’re looking for hiking, this is quite a short walk. It’s an easy place to visit with kids.
El Boqueron, El Salvador

La Puerta del Diablo

La Puerta del Diablo, El Salvador
Meaning the devil’s door, La Puerta del Diablo offers the best view of San Salvador.
La Puerta del Diablo, El Salvador
From the parking lot, you hike uphill for about 20 minutes to get to the top.
La Puerta del Diablo, El Salvador
From there you can enjoy a view of the San Salvador volcano, the city and even lake Ilopango far in the distance.
La Puerta del Diablo, El Salvador

Sleep

San Salvador, El Salvador
There are several hostels all around the city, but the areas of San Benito and Santa Rosa are considered the safest. I stayed three weeks at La Zona Hostel and produced a short video for them during that time. The hostel is well located in Santa Rosa and I would definitely recommend it.

Suchitoto

Suchitoto, El Salvador
Less than two hours North of San Salvador is located the charming town of Suchitoto. Perfect for a short stay or a day-trip from the capital. For my visit, I left San Salvador early in the morning with some friends and we had all day to explore Suchitoto.
Cascada los Tercios, Suchitoto
In the morning we headed to the waterfall Cascada de los Tercios which is about 2 km from the town center. Then, we had lunch by the lake and spent part of the afternoon strolling around the old city center. We left around 4pm to make sure we would be back in the city before sundown.
Suchitoto, El Salvador

Food

Juayua, El Salvador
For the best typical Salvadorian food, head on to the little pueblos. In the city, you will find every big American Fast Food chain available and more. To find cheap food in the city, you have to look around. The most typical food of El Salvador are the pupusas. This corn paste is usually mixed with cheese and beans or meat, topped with salad. All around the country you’ll find pupusas stands on the street at every few corners. Although they are a little harder to find in the city, ask locals and they will gladly tell you where to find them.
Pupusa, El Salvador

Danger & Safety

La Puerta del Diablo, El Salvador
I would never deny that San Salvador can be dangerous, but during my experience I never came close to being in danger. I did take many precautions and the only times that I went out at night I took taxis. Actually, I was using a lot of taxis or transport with friends if I was going somewhere during the day as well. I do know a lot of people who walked around without troubles, but since I was carrying my drone with me most of the time, I was being ultra careful. Still, I visited the central square and several different other locations where I filmed with my drone and never had any troubles. The parts of the city that are dangerous are specific neighbourhoods that are outside of the tourist attractions. And the danger is almost only at night.
San Salvador, El Salvador
It should also be noted that the police in El Salvador tend to be more trustworthy than in other Central American countries since they are so helpful and not really corrupted. The danger here is split between the two rival street gangs MS-13 and MARA-18. These gangs operate all over the capital and target mostly shop owners for money. Locals are very at risk, but foreigners are almost never targeted.
San Salvador, El Salvador
Many locals feel that their country is unsafe and in consequence are quite scared to explore it. As a foreigner, that means that you will always find someone to help you. I can’t even count how many times locals asked me if I needed help. Most of all they would ask me: “Why are you here?”
San Salvador, El Salvador
I found myself many times praising the beauties of the country to locals and urging them to discover more of their motherland. I have visited more than 35 countries and El Salvador is by far the most misunderstood. Not just among the travel community, but also among locals.
El Boqueron, El Salvador
I am absolutely not saying that there are no dangers and that locals are wrong to feel this way, but I am saying that there is a safe way to travel the country. I traveled in public buses – often referred to as Chicken Buses – and the bus was always full of Salvadorans. They always put as many people as possible in those buses which end up jam-packed with people. I once found myself squeezed on a small bench with a father and his two kids. While his little boy was sleeping on my lap he questioned me about why I was traveling in the country and asked me why I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared because I was surrounded by helpful locals, traveling with them on the public buses and I felt so grateful to be filming and promoting such a beautiful underrated country.
San Salvador, El Salvador

Where to Next?

El Tunco, El Salvador
El Salvador is quite a small country and within a few hours of bus you can travel all around the country. There’s so many fantastic touristic destinations to visit. The popular beach town of El Tunco is less than an hour from the capital and all the amazing pueblos along the Flower Route – La Ruta de Las Flores – are extremely worth visiting. The country has impressive nature and I fell in love with all the waterfalls!
Ataco, El Salvador

Video


This video takes you to many of the most popular tourist destinations of El Salvador. It was filmed during my three month stay around the country.

Flower Route: The Best of El Salvador

The Flower Route of El Salvador, known as La Ruta de las Flores, is one of El Salvador’s best destinations. This series of little towns – called pueblos – are located in the mountains of Ahuachapan. This region is filled with stunning nature and charming pueblos with welcoming people. The mountains are home to some of the best coffee in El Salvador and during the weekends all the towns are abundant of festivities and good food.

This guide takes you through the best activities around the Flower Route as well as the surrounding areas.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua

Juayua

Juayua, El Salvador
Juayua is famous for its weekend food festival. Every week on Saturday and Sunday, the main square is filled with different food stands.
Juayua, El Salvador
Here you’ll find the best food of El Salvador and an amazing feeling of festivities around town.
Juayua, El Salvador
Juayua was my favorite pueblo around El Salvador and it is also the town where I stayed the longest.
Juayua, El Salvador
I attended three different weekend food festivals and they were all as crowded. Salvadorans from the capital and other towns often come to Juayua on weekends to enjoy the festivities.
Juayua, El Salvador
The town is so alive during the weekend and so calm during the week. Sometimes there are parades, traditional dances and there is always good music.
Juayua, El Salvador
Aside from the food festival, Juayua is also home to one of El Salvador’s greatest waterfall. Chorros de la Calera is the perfect place to go relax and swim. You can go directly to the waterfall by walking 30 min from the town square or by taking a 2$ USD tuk tuk ride.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
If you love waterfalls and hiking, then I recommend the Seven Waterfalls Tour. This tour takes you in the jungle hiking and repelling down waterfalls and the tour ends in Chorros de la Calera, which is the last waterfall.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua
Compared to many other tours, this tour does not have a well-maintained path. I loved that our guide needed to cut through the jungle with his machete in order for us to pass through.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
Juayua and the surrounding region is also home to some of the best coffee of the country.
Coffee Farm, El Salvador
One of the reasons I stayed so long in the town was that I was making a promotional video for coffee tours.
Coffee Farm, El Salvador
I’ve also had a lot of delicious coffee and learned to drink it black without sugar & milk since this is the way to really taste all the flavors.

During your stay, I recommend staying at the hostel Anahuac, which is really nice and offers the coffee tours.
Coffee Farm, El Salvador

Conception de Ataco

Ataco, El Salvador
Considered the most beautiful pueblo of El Salvador, Ataco is definitely one of my favorite places in the country.
Ataco, El Salvador
It is well-known for its stunning murals all over town.
Ataco, El Salvador
Ataco, El Salvador
Ataco, El Salvador
This is by far the most artsy town of the country and possibly the best place to buy artisanal souvenirs.
Ataco, El Salvador
The restaurants are a little more expensive, but they’re delicious. There even is a French cuisine restaurant! Just like Juayua, Ataco is very lively during the weekend and has food stands all over the main square.
Ataco, El Salvador

Apaneca

Apaneca, El Salvador
Apaneca is a very small pueblo that is perfect for a quick stop, but that doesn’t have that much to see. Most people make a short stop between Juayua and Ataco to see the church and walk around, but I haven’t met anyone who stayed here overnight.
Apaneca, El Salvador

Laguna Verde

Laguna Verde, El Salvador
Located in the mountains of Apaneca, the green lagoon is a nice afternoon stop.
Laguna Verde, El Salvador

Cascada de Don Juan

Cascada Don Juan, Jujutla
Located in Jujutla, very close to Ataco, this beautiful waterfall is a nice stop for an afternoon swim.
Cascada Don Juan, Jujutla
It is located in a park that has beautiful vegetation and flowers. In fact, this is the only place where I’ve really seen flowers along the Flower Route.
Cascada de Don Juan, Jujutla

Santa Teresa Thermal Baths

Santa Teresa Termales, El Salvador
Located in Ahuachapan which is a big town outside of the Flower Route, the thermal baths of Santa Teresa are only 30 minutes from Ataco. You can access all the park for 8$ a day and enjoy the thermal waters.
Santa Teresa Termales, El Salvador
The spa is absolutely beautiful and it is easy to spend an entire day here. Don’t forget to do the full mud experience, my skin was softer than ever after that!
Santa Teresa Termales, El Salvador

Chalchuapa

Tazumal, El Salvador
This little pueblo turned out to be way more charming than I expected. The main reason to visit here is to see the archaeological ruins of Tazumal.
Tazumal, El Salvador
For the first time I flew my drone over the archaeological ruins and maybe that’s why this site is so special to me. I liked walking around town and visited a few other surrounding places by renting a car during my stay in town.
Tazumal, El Salvador

Atiquizaya

Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya
Very close to Chalchuapa, is the little town of Atiquizaya. My reason for going there was the Salto de Malacatiupan. This waterfall is really beautiful, especially in the morning since we get to see all the thermal water coming from the ground.
Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya

Santa Ana

Santa Ana, El Salvador
Santa Ana was the first town that I visited in El Salvador. It is very charming with a gigantic & chaotic market that is totally worth a visit. The second biggest town of El Salvador is also home to one of the most spectacular cathedrals of the country.
Santa Ana, El Salvador
The theatre is also beautiful and worth a visit. Santa Ana is the best town to stay in if you’re looking to hike the Santa Ana volcano or visit the lake Coatepeque on day-trip.
Santa Ana, El Salvador

Santa Ana Volcano

Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador
An incredible hike of two hours will take you to the top of the Santa Ana volcano where you can experience the best view of the lake Coatepeque.
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador
Every day, groups leave at 11 AM with two police officers to hike to the top.
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador
The volcano is famous for its crater lake.
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador
Inside the volcano a crater lake of a striking blue color is found, which makes the view all the more special.
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador

Lake Coatepeque

Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador
I absolutely loved the lake Coatepeque. The largest lake of El Salvador is surrounded by volcanoes views and offers the best swim of the country. I tried a jet ski for the first time and rode all around the lake. The lake also has an island in the middle with marvellous mansions.
Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador
Typically, once a year the lake turns into a turquoise color because of the concentration of algae in the water. If you get to visit the lake during that time you will be amazed. Unfortunately, the lake turned turquoise the week that I left the country and I did not have time to visit a second time.
Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador
At night, we watched the beginning of a storm where the lake changed completely and started to seem like an ocean because of the height of the waves. The rain, the thunder and the lightning strikes were a sight that I will never forget. The light would shine so bright whenever there was a lightning that we would get a glimpse of the volcano through the darkness.
Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador

Pupusas

Pupusas, El Salvador
Pupusa is the most popular food of El Savador. They are usually sold all over towns, especially around street corners at night. Pupusas are made of corn tortillas that are filled with bean paste, cheese and meet (optional). Then on top is poured salad and salsa. Usually one pupusa will cost you about 0,50$ USD. Everyone loves them and if you do too this is the way to keep your budget low in El Salvador. I am really difficult with food and I did not really like them, but it seems that I was the only person in all of El Salvador to dislike them.

Safety


Most people who don’t know El Salvador assume that it is a very dangerous country, but if you follow the simple safety rules of traveling during daytime and not walking alone late at night, you’ll be absolutely safe.
Juayua, El Salvador
The little towns of La Ruta de Las Flores are perhaps the safest places to visit in El Salvador. In this area I could even walk alone at night safely.
Apaneca, El Salvador
There are a lot of horror stories about El Salvador, but during my three month visit around the country I never had any troubles. You should not miss the chance to discover this incredible country and its kind & lovely people.
El Salvador

Video

Chasing Waterfalls in El Salvador

Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya
My absolute favorite travel activities often involve waterfalls. I love hiking to hidden waterfalls, repelling or jumping from them and even just looking at them. In El Salvador that hunger was more than satisfied and I made it my mission to fly my drone over as many as possible. I hiked deep into the jungle of the National Park El Impossible and I fell in love with the little town of Juayua for their countless waterfalls.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
If there is one thing that will motivate me to take on a long difficult hike, it’s the promise of seeing beautiful waterfalls. I’ve literally been obsessed with seeing waterfalls, swimming in them, jumping from them, and most of all flying my drone over them.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
For the most adrenaline seeking, there are actually two different hikes called the “Seven waterfalls hike” in El Salvador. One of them is located in Juayua and the other one is in the National Park El Impossible.
Cascada Don Juan, Jujutla

Tamanique

Tamanique waterfalls
If you’re traveling to El Tunco or even to the capital, you have to make the day-trip to the Tamanique waterfalls. Tamanique is a mountainous city in the department of La Libertad, but it’s also the name of the waterfalls. After a 30 minute hike from the town, you will reach an amazing canyon with waterfalls that you can swim in. Even if it was a short hike, the heat was intense enough for me to enjoy the cold water of the canyon.
Tamanique, El Salvador
Some tours may take you all the way down the big waterfall, but since it had rained and it was muddy when I did the hike, we did not make it all the way down. I flew my drone down from the top of the waterfall and tried to get as low as possible.
Tamanique waterfalls

Juayua

Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
Juayua is home to one of the two amazing “Seven Waterfalls hike” of El Salvador. This tour takes you in the jungle hiking and repelling down waterfalls. I do have to say though that I would use the term “repelling” very loosely because it was more like “we’ll tie a rope to a tree so you have something to hold while going down”… If it wasn’t raining, I probably would have been able to go down without a rope.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua
Still, I thought that the experience was amazing! Compared to many other tours, this tour does not have a well-maintained path. I loved that sometimes our only way forward was to cut through the jungle with a machete.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua
Without a guide, this hike is not possible and the waterfalls are absolutely worth the 20$.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
The tour ends in Chorros de la Calera, which is the last waterfall. This waterfall is accessible from town and is filled with people on weekends. When you get here, make sure to ask your guide to take you through the tunnels that connect the waterfalls.
Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
The small town of Juayua is located in the Ruta de las Flores and is very easy to access. Aside from having some of El Salvador’s best waterfalls and being a charming town, Juayua also has a delicious food festival every weekend. Every week on Saturday and Sunday, the main square is packed with different food stands. Here you’ll find the best food of El Salvador combined with an amazing feeling of festivities all around town.
Juayua, El Salvador
If don’t want to hike but you love waterfalls, travel to Juayua on a weekend, eat tasty food and then head on to Chorros de la Calera on a 2$ tuk-tuk ride. It is the perfect place to go relax and swim after eating too much food. You can also get to the waterfall by walking 30 min from the town square.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua

Cascada de Don Juan

Cascada Don Juan, Jujutla
Located in Jujutla, very close to Ataco, this beautiful waterfall is a nice stop for an afternoon swim.
Cascada Don Juan, Jujutla
It is located in a park that has beautiful vegetation and flowers.
Cascada de Don Juan, Jujutla
In fact, this is the only place where I’ve really seen flowers along the Flower Route.
Cascada de Don Juan, Jujutla

Malacatiupan

Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya
In the little town of Atiquizaya, between Ahuachapan and Chalchuapa you will find these amazing thermal waterfalls. The Salto de Malacatiupan is located about a 15 minute car ride from the town square.
Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya
The morning is one of the best times to visit this waterfall because we get to see all the thermal vapor coming from the ground. The water is apparently burning, so there was no swimming there. Unless you have a car, it may not be worth it to visit this one as it won’t be easy to access.
Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya
Getting ready for a morning flight!
Malacatiupan, Atiquizaya

National Park El Impossible

National Park El Impossible
From Ahuachapan, you can take a one hour bus to Tacuba in order to visit the Northern side of the National Park El Impossible. From there, I took a day tour inside the park called the “Seven Waterfalls hike”. There are two hikes called Seven waterfalls hike in El Salvador; one in Juayua and one in the National Park El Impossible.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
This one is much harder and offers more adrenaline. As you hike deep into the jungle, almost every time you get to a waterfall, there is only one way forward. You need to jump. This was my best day in El Salvador! I was hiking through amazing vegetation and getting my adrenaline pumping as I was jumping from these waterfalls. Beware that the last one is a 12 meters jump and is not for the faint of heart.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
During this hike I had two guides with me, one who was jumping and swimming with me and another one who was hiking and repelling around the waterfalls in order to carry my drone. So if you get scared you should be able to repel down most of them, but I think that it must be easier physically to just jump.
National Park El Impossible
The day started with a long car ride to the beginning of the hike. After a bumpy ride in the mountains, our driver entered a path so narrow that we had tree branches hitting the car on both sides. A little further he stopped the car and said “here we are”. The car was literally in the jungle. The hiking path was very poorly defined, but my guides lead the way.
National Park El Impossible
This activity is similar to canyoning in the sense that we swam through a canyon and jumped from many different waterfalls, but it also involves a lot of hiking. You have to keep your hiking boots all the time, even while swimming. All I could carry was my GoPro and one guide had to find a way hiking around. Some places require some very limited climbing.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
Let’s just say that you have to be sufficiently fit for this hike, because after all the fun and excitement, hiking back up is quite strenuous.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
The Seven waterfalls are absolutely beautiful because they are so deep into the jungle.
National Park El Impossible
I got to fly my drone in two different locations along the hike and I was so proud to be the first person in the world to fly a drone there.
National Park El Impossible, El Salvador

Cascada Los Tercios

Cascada Los Tercios, Suchitoto
This beautiful waterfall is located in the town of Suchitoto, North of the capital. From the center of town it is less than 2 km distance to get there.
Cascada Los Tercios, Suchitoto
Once you make it, you can hike to the bottom. There is not enough water to swim, but you can stay and hang out for a while sitting on the rocks. There are also tours that allow you to repel down the waterfall which are easy to book in San Salvador.
Cascada de los Tercios, Suchitoto

Other Waterfalls

Chorros de la Calera, Juayua
I’ve spent a lot of time in the country, but I’ve unfortunately visited only the Orient part of the country. If you’re venturing into the Occident and visiting El Cuco which is very renowned for its beaches and animal sanctuaries, then you should head on to Perkins, which is also one of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua

Safety

National Park El Impossible, El Salvador
El Salvador is a lot safer for tourists than most people think. Don’t let anyone scaring you out of discovering all the natural beauty that this country has to offer. But beware that El Salvador may make you develop a waterfall obsession.
Seven Waterfalls, Juayua

Video


During my trip in El Salvador I was lucky enough to discover absolutely stunning nature, rain forests and a ton of waterfalls. I took of the challenge to visit as many as possible and tried to fly my drone over most of them. After three months in the country, I saw about 20 waterfalls and decided to put them all together in a video called Chasing Waterfalls.

La Libertad: El Salvador’s Surfing Paradise

El Tunco, La Libertad
For surf lovers, the Pacific coast is renowned for having prime surfing locations from Canada all the way down to Chile. During my stay in El Salvador I’ve met several groups of people who traveled all along the coast of Central America in search of the best waves. Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador are the three most popular countries to practice the sport in the area. In El Salvador, the department of La Libertad is where most people come to surf. El Tunco is the most popular town of La Libertad and many people stay in this party town and travel everyday along the coast looking for the best waves.
El Sunzal, La Libertad
El Salvador is probably the most underrated country of Central America and one of the less visited countries of the region amongst travelers. Most people who actually make it to the country are heading to El Tunco. Renowned as a surf & party town, people come to surf or just for a quick stop between Nicaragua and Guatemala. During my visit, I was one of the rare people who did not come to surf and who stayed more than two days.
El Tunco, La Libertad
The beaches are absolutely beautiful, but the only way to jump in the water is to carry a surf board. The waves were quite intimating during my visit and as much as I love adrenaline, I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me to try surfing for the first time. All the beaches are composed only of volcanic rocks so it can be dangerous to walk along the shore. Along the coast, you won’t find anyone swimming. The height of the waves combined with the rocky shore make it quite dangerous. You can sit by the beach and enjoy watching surfers as the sun rises and goes down, but most afternoons the heat is so intense that there is no one out in the ocean.
El Tunco, La Libertad

Sleep

El Sunzal, La Libertad
If you’re looking for a great surfing community, cheap prices and awesome parties, El Tunco is the place for you. If you prefer more remote areas, I would recommend staying in El Sunzal at Los Almendros. While I was there I spent most of my days relaxing by the pool and watching surfers. This hostel is a little more remote from the town, but accessible by the beach. Unless you can afford air conditioning, having a pool is a must during your stay in La Libertad. The heat of the afternoon is so strong that sitting in the pool for hours or taking a nap in a shaded hammock are the best ways to pass the time.
El Tunco, La Libertad

Surfing

El Sunzal, La Libertad
I’ve debated several times taking an introduction course to surfing during my two weeks stay. Almost everyone that I met was on a surfing trip or interested in trying it for the first time. I’ve seen several first timers get injuries, mostly hitting the rocks while entering or exiting the water. The height of the waves in the region makes it a more challenging location for first timers. I’ve even met experienced surfers who sometimes had to cancel their surf days because of the unforgiveness of the waves. If you are coming for an introduction to surfing, make sure you take a good teacher because this can be a very dangerous sport.

Tamanique

Tamanique, La Libertad
This was my favorite day in La Libertad! I booked a tour that took me through the mountains of Tamanique where a short hike led me to the beautiful Tamanique waterfalls. Surrounded by a canyon, the waterfalls are stunning, but the coolest thing to do here is to enjoy the cliff diving in the canyon. After our little hike in the heat of the tropical weather, the cold water of the canyon was absolutely refreshing.
Tamanique, La Libertad

Port of La Libertad

La Libertad, La Libertad
For a quick afternoon stop, the port of La Libertad is a good place to visit. Located next to Punta Roca, one of the best waves of the region, this is the biggest town of the department. If you’re looking for the bus station or a big supermarket, you will find it in La Libertad. The port itself is recognizable by its famous market bridge where people sell seafood everyday. If you’re looking for the best fresh fish, head there between 5 am and 6 am and buy directly from the fishermen coming back to shore. Most of the seafood here stands all day in the unbearable heat only to be frozen again at night and sold again the next day. I found it hard to understand that people would buy seafood in such appalling conditions, but this is Central America. I’m also always really careful with where I buy meat and fish. On the other hand, I also know that restaurants have to provide this food and they probably buy it from the same markets. Since I’ve never had food poisoning in El Salvador and I’ve had my fair share of meat, I guess it’s okay.
La Libertad, La Libertad

Filming a Surf Competition

Punta Roca, La Libertad
During my stay, I had the opportunity to go to the female surfing competition El Salvador Impresionante and I got to film it. This was one of my most challenging drone filming experience as we were as many as five drones filming the surfers at the same time. Drone videography has definitely revolutionized how we look at surfing and it was interesting to see that many drones at an event in El Salvador.
Punta Roca, El Salvador
If you’re planning on traveling in La Libertad, I would recommend also visiting other parts of the country. As great as the beach can be, if you want to have an authentic Salvadoran trip and experience the famous local hospitality, head towards the small pueblos along the La Ruta de Las Flores where you can enjoy a more authentic experience.

Check Out My Video

Cascada El Cacao, Santa Barbara

Lake Yojoa: The Nature Destination of Honduras

After spending 6 weeks in the Bay Islands of Honduras, it was time for me to move on to another destination. I questioned traveling inland Honduras for a while because so many people had told me how dangerous it was, even Hondurans from the islands. I spent a few weeks debating the idea and then I heard that I could zipline over the tallest waterfall of Honduras if I went to lake Yojoa. That’s it, I was sold! I was also assured that this was a safe area of Honduras and in fact it was.

Lake Yojoa

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

Lake Yojoa is the largest lake in Honduras and perhaps the best nature destination of the country. If you want to go hiking in the jungle, see some of the country’s best waterfalls, swim and kayak in a lake, lake Yojoa is the place to visit. For me, the best way to explore the lake is by kayak, but given its size if you want to see all of it you will have to take a boat tour. You can also rent old school canoes for quite cheap, but trying to maneuver that seemed like a challenge to say the least, so I opted for the kayak ride. I started on the river near the hostel and eventually reached the lake. I left my kayak on the shore and went for a little swim, but it was almost sunset and it was starting to get colder. On a sunny day, the lake is much more enjoyable.

Puhlapanzak

Puhlapanzak, Honduras
This is probably the most popular activity around lake Yojoa. You can ride a few ziplines around the park and three are located in front of the waterfall, which is one of the biggest in Honduras. You can also do the waterfall tour and have a guide take you behind the waterfall where you can jump.
Puhlapanzak, Honduras
The bottom of the waterfall is locked through gates and they only way to go at the bottom and behind it is to take a guide. I didn’t want to pay for another tour so I skipped on it, but I regretted a little afterwards.
Puhlapanzak, Honduras

El Cacao

Cascada El Cacao, Santa Barbara
El Cacao is the last of a three waterfall hike. I went directly to that waterfall by car with a group of people from my hostel. Without a car or a taxi, this is not an easy place to reach as there are no buses going there. We had a refreshing swim, I climbed behind the waterfall to jump in the water and I flew my drone over the waterfall. There were local kids swimming with us and they got really excited when I flew my drone over the waterfall.
Cascada El Cacao, Santa Barbara

Finca El Paraiso

Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa
A little walk from the hostel was this nature reserve that we could visit. It’s a coffee plantation with walking and hiking trails. The property is beautiful and it’s easy to spend an afternoon walking around all the various paths. This place as well as several others in the area are renowned for bird watching as there are many species you can see.
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa
The property is very large, there are streams, some Lenca ruins and gorgeous flowers. For 50 Lempira for the entrance, it is more than worth it to go walk around for a few hours.
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa

Other Activities

Lake Yojoa is a prime location for hiking and bird watching. There are many activities that I did not have time to experience, notably touring the caves of Taulabe and hiking PANACAM mountain.
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa

Where to Stay

There aren’t that many places to stay around lake Yojoa and I would definitely recommend Hostel D&D Brewery, which is where I stayed. It is the first microbrewery in Honduras, it has a good restaurant and they even have apple cider on tap! What more do you want? The only downside is that you can’t use the kitchen for cooking so you have to buy the food, but at least it’s good. In most hostels without kitchen you can always get hot water, so I always carry noodle cups with me for emergencies.
Finca El Paraiso, Lago Yojoa

Safety

Traveling in mainland Honduras is considered quite dangerous. Though there may be some parts that are more dangerous, lake Yojoa is most certainly not one of them. On my way there I stayed one night in San Pedro Sula, which is considered one of the world’s top murder cities. And I was safe. All you need to do is follow the basic rules, travel by day, don’t go out at night and take a taxi if you have to. As for lake Yojoa, I’m sure you could walk around alone at night and be perfectly safe. But still, I wouldn’t recommend doing that.
Puhlapanzak, Honduras

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Roatan, Honduras

Scuba Diving in Roatan, Honduras

After spending three weeks in Utila, a friend convinced me that I needed to visit Roatan to experience some of the best diving of the Caribbean sea. Since I had just gotten my PADI Advance Open water certification I wanted to put it to use and explore some deep diving on the biggest of the bay islands. Roatan is a very popular destinations amongst all-inclusive resorts goers, which I usually tend to avoid during my travels, but I made an exception since I was guaranteed some amazing diving.

Roatan, Honduras
The Caribbean island of Roatan in Honduras has the second largest coral reef in the world and is renowned for its spectacular scuba diving opportunities. Being the largest of the Bay Islands, there has been many resorts development in recent years and it has become an increasingly more popular cruise ship destination. Roatan is a scuba diver paradise, but there are also many other reasons to visit the island since it offers various types of activities.
Roatan, Honduras
One day I rented a car with other people from my hostel in order to be able to explore the island in-depth. Since some of it is still undeveloped going from West End to the other side takes at least two hours by car. So we left early in the morning to have all day to drive around the island.

Monkey & Sloth Hangout

Roatan, Honduras
The idea of diving with sharks was my main reason for visiting Roatan, but the idea of being able to hold a sloth was a close second. There is a monkey and sloth sanctuary on the island and I would say it is definitely worth the 10$ USD. Especially for me since I had never seen these animals up close. They have a sloth, monkeys, and different species of birds including parrots.
Roatan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras

Iguana Station

Roatan, Honduras
Close to the Monkey and Sloth hangout, there also is an iguana station where you can feed a bunch of iguanas. This activity is also 10$ USD, but you won’t want to spend as much time here. It is still worth it if you’ve never seen so many big iguanas up close.
Roatan, Honduras

Mangrove Tour

Roatan, Honduras
A little bit further on the main road we reached Oak Ridge, which is a little town known for its house on stilts. From there, we hopped on a boat that took us on a mangrove tour. These were the most impressive mangroves that I had ever seen because the trees were literally closing up on top of us. At times I even wondered if the boat was going to go through the narrow passage, but it always passed perfectly.

Bar Hole in the Wall

Roatan, Honduras
Before our boat driver took us back to Oak Ridge, we asked to stop at the bar called Hole in the Wall. Once we arrived, we felt a really cool vibe there with good drinks and delicious food. I had a freshly squeezed lemonade, my drink of choice on a Caribbean island, and then we hopped back on the boat to continue our day.
Roatan, Honduras
The bar offered people to write whatever they wanted on the wooden planks. I choose to write the name of my blog next to this beautiful mermaid drawing that had apparently been done by another girl from Quebec.

Camp Bay

After riding on a dirt road at 20km/h for almost an hour, we finally made it to Camp Bay. This more remote part of the island is still quite undeveloped. The stretch of beach is absolutely stunning and the constant high winds make it a prime location for windsurfing. Unfortunately those winds also made it impossible for me to fly my drone and film this gorgeous location. Also, by the time we made it there it was already late afternoon. I would probably recommend trying to make it there a little earlier in order to enjoy the sun and the heat of the afternoon.

Swimming with Dolphins

Roatan, Honduras
If you want to swim with dolphins, Anthony’s keys offers a dolphin encounter. This activity is quite expensive for me, so I couldn’t really fit it in my budget. At Anthony’s Keys, the dolphins are kept inside an enclosed area in the ocean, so they are actually swimming in the waters of the ocean. Just a little bit before sunset, right after the park’s closing, I swam to the enclosed area from the shore and that’s how I got to swim with the dolphins for free. We were separated by a cage, but they got so close to us that I got pet them. I had my arm inside the cage to touch them and get pictures of them, but at some point a dolphin almost bit my arm so I realized that maybe I shouldn’t do that. I’ve also had friends go there during the day and the worst that may happen is the guards will ask you to leave. Locals have told me that the best time to go is at sunrise or sunset, when the park is closed.

West Bay

Roatan, Honduras
West Bay it the furthermost West point of the island and the place where most resorts are located. This is probably the most beautiful beach on the island, despite the fact that is also the most crowded.
Roatan, Honduras
Here you’ll find countless restaurants along the beach, stores and water sport activities. If you swim along the rock wall located at the westernmost point on the beach, you’ll have access to grade A snorkelling along this coral line. It’s definitely a must to spend an afternoon here during your stay. One evening we even participated in a crab race that ended with fire spinners. Yes, crab races is a real thing!
West Bay, Roatan

West End

Roatan, Honduras
West End is very close to West Bay and accessible by boat or taxi from there. Here there are more places to go out at night, but it also has a beautiful beach which is more like a bay. If you visit during daytime don’t forget your bathing suit because there is an abandoned boat that you can swim to in order to use its rope swing. It’s free and sometimes you and your friends may be the only ones there.
Roatan, Honduras

Scuba Diving

Roatan, Honduras
The diving in Roatan is exquisite, but it is a little more expensive than on its sister island, Utila. Some dive shops do offer 30$ USD dives, but depending where you want to dive you may have to go with other dive shops that are a little more expensive. During my stay, my friends and I did only three dives, but they were all incredible.

Mary’s Place

Roatan, Honduras
My favorite dive on the island was the world-renowned Mary’s Place. This dive site is considered one of the world’s top 100 dive sites. It is a fissure in the reef created by volcanic activity with steep walls full of corals and sponge-filled labyrinth at more than 100 feet deep. We started by swimming along the rock formation and dove down to 100 meters to enter the crack. Once you enter the crack, there is no going back. Each diver has to remain behind one another since the passage is not very large. Light penetrates through the top of the crack, but you cannot escape by swimming upwards as the walls are too narrow for that. Needless to say, this is not a dive site for claustrophobic people. One of the reasons this dive is so impressive is that it gives you this feeling of diving in a cave, but you have corals and marine life all around you. The way the light reflects on the walls is the most memorable part.
Roatan, Honduras

Prince Albert Wreck

Roatan, Honduras
There are three wrecks along the island and this is the only one that I did. It was by far the best wreck that I had ever seen (okay, I haven’t seen many), but the fact that you can enter so many different parts of the wreck made the dive so much better. It was also the longest dive that I had ever done at 59 minutes. We were seven people including the dive master, all quite experienced divers, except for me. Given that fact, our dive master gave us a lot of liberty during the dive. He showed us the accessible parts of the wreck and let us explore on our own. We would separate from the group and go explore all around (as well as inside, despite not having a wreck diving certification). Since I’m still a new diver I tend to use my tank a lot faster than more experienced divers. I was lucky enough to start my dive with 3900 PSI – usually it’s 3000 – so I was able to last longer on the dive. The deepest point we went to was 36 meters, the deepest that I’ve ever been. All of that without wearing a wet suit! Diving is so much more enjoyable in the warm waters of the Caribbean sea.

Shark Dive

Roatan, Honduras
The Shark dive was how my friend Charlene convinced me to go to Roatan. Sharks are my favorite underwater creature and there’s nothing like the feeling of swimming next to them. We had as many as 20 reef sharks around us and we were swimming with them. Many people may think this is scary, but I felt so free swimming around them and I never felt scared. I had never seen reef sharks and I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of diving with them. I couldn’t miss the opportunity and I decided to splurge on this activity. At 130$ USD, this is the most expensive dive in Roatan. If you’ve already done a shark dive in other renowned places around the world and you have a tight budget, I would not recommend Roatan’s shark dive. The island has so many other wonderful dive sites and for the same price you could easily do 3-4 dives.

Transport Around the Island

The best way to get around the island is by using the taxi collectivo. They run all along the main road of the island. The difference from a taxi collectivo and a regular taxi is that the taxi collectivo will stop and pick up other people with you. They are also way cheaper, but they look the same as regular taxi so make sure you ask and confirm the price before getting in the car. If you wish to travel all around and make it as far as Camp Bay, than your best option is to rent a car for one day.

Sleep

There are not a lot of budget accommodations around the island. There are only a few hostels, but the majority of accommodation available are the expensive resorts. I stayed at Roatan’s Backpackers Hostel, which is located in Sandy Bay. It may not be the most lively area, but it’s a good hostel and transport to other parts of the island is easy from there. You’ll also find options of apartment rental online. If you are a scuba diver traveling with other people who do not scuba dive, Roatan is the perfect island for you! Not only is it a scuba diver paradise, it also has plenty of other activities available. Not to mention, it would be easy to spend the better part of a week just hanging out by the beach.
Roatan, Honduras

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Utila, Honduras

Getting PADI Certified in Utila

Utila is renowned as one of the cheapest places of the world to get PADI certified. It’s a great stop for backpackers and way cheaper than its sister island, Roatan. Everyone in Utila is there to scuba dive or to party, but sometimes it almost feels more like a party island than a diving island.

Utila, Honduras

I love that there are no cars on the island, you can take a tuk tuk to travel around, but the best way to explore is to rent a bicycle, an atv or a scooter. There are some remote beaches beautiful to visit as well as hidden caves. Utila is a volcanic island and the dead volcano lies on pumpkin hill, the highest point of the island at 74 meters.

Utila, Honduras
SCUBA DIVING
PADI certified, Utila

Along the Gringo trail, Utila is the backpacker’s destination for everyone who wants to get PADI certified or everyone looking for great diving. The coast of Honduras is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, which makes it a prime scuba diving location for corals and marine life. Every year people visit Utila from April to June in the hopes of seeing whale sharks. I was lucky enough to have my first encounter with them while visiting the island.

whale shark, utila

I got this picture from the Whale Shark Research Center of Utila who took me on the trip. I was too busy filming and I didn’t get any good pictures.

PADI certified, Utila

Getting my PADI open water certification in Canada made it really easy to switch to diving in the warm sea. I had never experienced salt water diving before arriving in Honduras and it made such a big difference. It helps a lot with buoyancy and makes it easier to swim calmly. In warm waters people scuba dive in 3mm wet suit whereas in Canada with have a full body 7mm wet suit with boots, head cap and gloves. After a few dives in Honduras, I completely stopped wearing my wet suit and only dove with my bathing suit.

PADI certified, Utila

The water is so warm, it makes the experience completely different and way more enjoyable than what I was used to in Canada. One day they told us: “visibility is not that great today, it’s only 15 meters.” As someone who is used to sometimes 2-3 meters visibility in Canada, 15 meters seemed like a whole lot. We’ve also had as high as 30 to 40 meters visibility which makes diving so much easier. You see everyone easily even if they are far.

PADI certified, Utila
PARTYING

If you don’t dive, you can still come to Utila and enjoy the snorkelling, the beautiful beaches and the famous island parties. Almost every bar in Utila has its own shots challenge. It’s simple; you take four shots and get a free shirt. Anyway, it sounds simple for most people! I’ve even had friends collecting t-shirts from 3 to 4 different bars instead of doing laundry. Being the slow drinker that I am, taking four shots in a row seemed impossible so I chose the easiest bar to do it in. At Rehab, they served Vodka mixed with juice. We were ten people doing the challenge at the same time and I was the last one the finish and the only one to get sick after my fourth shot. I still got my t-shirt, but never again!

Utila, Honduras

The only thing I would say is to be careful with combining shots challenges and 7am dives. Whenever I’m diving in the morning, I don’t drink at night, but it seems to be a common combination on Utila. Diving is an extreme sport, even if most of the time it doesn’t seem like it. I’ve also seen a few people nose bleeding out of their mask as they got out of the water and consequently not being able to complete a second dive. Dive responsibly!

SLEEP
Utila, Honduras

Most dive shops in Utila provide free accommodation if you are doing a course or fun dives with them. Every day that I was diving, I didn’t pay for accommodation and the other days I paid 5$ USD per night, which is very reasonable. Most dives will you cost 30$ USD for one tank including equipment, dive master and boat transport, but most boat go for two dives so you pay about 60$ USD for a two-dives trip.

Utila, Honduras
RENTING AN ATV
Utila, Honduras

While on the island I would definitely recommend renting an ATV or a scooter, but the ATV is better because there are a lot of back roads that would be tricky on a scooter. My friend April and I went all around and found beautiful beaches.

Utila, Honduras

At one end of the island, we started walking towards a beautiful inhabited beach that was so beautiful, but as we got closer we noticed all the garbage along the sand. It was crazy to notice up close all the garbage that the ocean carries around, just laying everywhere around this bay.

Utila, Honduras

I was so used so well-maintained popular beaches that I had never seen a beach like that before. A few organisations in Utila clean the poluted beaches with volunteers, but unfortunately the garbage always returns.

Utila, Honduras
SUNSET
Utila, Honduras

For the sunset, the two best places on the island are Bando beach or the rooftop of an abandoned house. The rooftop is not the safest place to go, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if you’re staying in a hostel you’ll find people to take you there.

Utila, Honduras

When I went we were about 8 people and I didn’t feel like it was the safest rooftop to be hanging around. But I once saw as many as 20 people up there from the deck of my hostel so it must be more solid than it looks.

Utila, Honduras

Utila is a paradise for backpackers who scuba dive. That’s what the island is all about and that’s all people talk about. You make plenty of new friends who share the same interests, they love scuba diving, are probably backpacking all around Central America and they like to have drink. The most common question amongst traveler here is more where have you been diving than where have you been traveling. If you don’t dive yet, be prepared for a wonderful introduction into the diving community.

Utila, Honduras
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rio dulce

Rio Dulce: Guatemala’s Best Kept Secret

Rio Dulce is Guatemala’s best kept secret! The “sweet river” winds its way from the Caribbean through the southeast of the country through Lake Izabal. There are plenty of places to stay, some closer to town, but the best ones are hidden further in the jungle and accessible only via boat.
rio dulce
While here, I visited the hot waterfalls of Finca Paraiso, El Boqueron canyon, and Castillo de San Felipe. I also had a guide take me on an early morning wildlife tour of lake Izabal where I saw manatees and monkeys. If you’re looking for adventure, nature, and few tourists with a real local Guatemalan experience, this is the place to visit.
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce
When I arrived in Rio Dulce, I met up with my friend April who was coming from Belize. We stayed at the hostel Kangaroo which is only accessible by boat, but just a short 10 minutes from the main deck of Rio Dulce. While we were there, every day we would take the boat to get to town and catch a collectivo to where we were going. I would definitely recommend staying in a hostel by the water as it gives a much more authentic experience than the little chaotic town center.
rio dulce
Next to the port of Rio Dulce at 6am, locals are bathing in the river and getting ready for work.
CASTILLO DE SAN FELIPE
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce
We asked our boat driver to drop us at the island for 1 hour so we had just enough time to explore the castle, go for a swim and fly my drone over this beautiful place.
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce
Castillo de San Felipe, Rio Dulce

FINCA PARAISO

finca paraiso, rio dulce

I left early in the morning to get to Finca Paraiso, the hot waterfalls of Rio Dulce. This is probably the most popular tourist attraction around Rio Dulce. The beautiful thermal waterfalls are actually so hot you could almost cook pasta! There’s also a nice place to jump in the waterfall, but make sure you ask a local where to jump as the water is definitely not that deep. One time, I hit the bottom with my feet, so be careful!

rio dulce
rio dulce
Also don’t forget to clim behind the rocks to the other waterfalls where you’ll find the perfect spot to cover your body in mud.
finca paraiso
We saw a lot of locals cleaning clothes in the river that leads to the waterfall while kids were playing in the water. Most surrounding villages don’t have running water and people have to use the rivers as their main (and only) water source.
rio dulce
rio dulce
CANYON EL BOQUERON
canyon el boqueron, rio dulce
After splending more than five hours hanging around Finca Paraiso, we took another collectivo and we made it to the Canyon El Boqueron. There are young boys that will take you on the boat up to a dry point where the boat has to stop. They drop you and come and get you later, you just tell them how long you want to stay. Exploring the canyon includes hiking, but mostly swimming, sometimes with very low water, rocks and strong current. If you want to explore deeper in the canyon, make sure to have proper footwear and ask for more than hour. I didn’t make it as far as I wanted because of my shoes and also because we had to get back after an hour since that was what we had told them.
canyon el boqueron, rio dulce
MANATEE TOUR ON LAKE IZABAL
lake izazbal, rio dulce
We woke up at 5am to start heading towards El Estor as early as possible. The first morning collectivo started at 6am so we took a boat to Rio Dulce half an hour before. We traveled in a collectivo for more than an hour and when we arrived in El Estor our guide was waiting for us to take us on his boat for a tour of lake Izabal.
rio dulce
Lake Izabal, Guatemala
rio dulce
rio dulce
Lake Izabal, Guatemala
We were lucky enough to see a few manatees, but they didn’t come very close to our boat. After that we went cruising around mangroves. The vegetation and the birds were beautiful but the highlight is when we got off the boat to go closer to the jungle part where a few monkeys were in the trees. After that we stopped in another place to have a little swim and then we headed back to shore.
Lake Izabal, Guatemala
lake izazbal, rio dulce
lake izazbal, rio dulce
TIGER CAVE
rio dulce
After 3 days in Rio Dulce, my friend April and I decided to spend one night at Finca Tatin between Rio Dulce and Livingston. The hostel is completely into the jungle, standing by the river with hammocks everywhere and a perrot who roams around which gives a very relaxing vibe.
finca tatin
The next day, early in the morning we headed on a hike to the Tiger Cave. That was our main reason to come and stay at Finca Tatin, as the hike leading to the cave is accessible from there.
rio dulce
After a short hike through the jungle, we made it to the cave which is like a sink hole. We entered and a few meters into the cave is a big dark hole. The only way to explore further inside the cave is to jump 5 meters into the pitch black water below (our guide carried a ladder and dropped it in the cave attached to a rope in order for us to be able to exit the cave). Once inside, we walked and swam deep into the cave until we reach a hidden waterfall, which led to another cave. At this point we couldn’t go any further as the waterfall was high and there was no way to get back. It was an incredibly amazing experience. At first, the cave really didn’t seem that impressive, we were even complaining about how overrated it look. But once we jumped in the water and discovered the hidden parts, we saw all the hype behind this activity.

LIVINGSTON
livingston
After our hike we packed our things and took a boat to Livingston. We were staying there one night and planned on taking a long journey to Honduras the next day. Livingston has a strong population of Garifuna people, which makes it a very lively town. At night, we were walking along the beach to find a nice bar to have a drink, but it was still early and nobody was out. Then we walked pass this event with more than 50 Garifuna people enjoying a drink, while talking and playing chess. My friend April said: “This is the party where I want to go!” As she said it I turned around and told her: “This is a funeral…” I had just noticed the casquet inside with people gathered around. This was by far the most lively funeral I had ever seen. It looked way more like a celebration and it was beautiful to see.
WHERE TO NEXT?
I liked Livingston for a small stay, but I don’t think that there are many activities to do around. It’s a good point of access for the Honduran border or Punta Gorda in Belize.
rio dulce
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Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan: Guatemala’s Vortex

Renowned as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, lake Atitlan is Guatemala’s most popular tourist destination. Nestled between volcanoes, this is the deepest lake in Central America. This place is so charming that no matter how long you plan on staying, you can double that. Lake Atitlan is like a vortex, once you get here, you won’t be able to leave.

Lake Atitlan

There are many towns around the lake that offer completely different experiences depending what you are looking for.

SAN PEDRO
San Pedro

Most people come to lake Atitlan from Antigua in a shuttle bus that takes you to directly to San Pedro. If you survive the winding descent down the hill from Solola, then you’ve made it safely to the most popular town of the lake. San Pedro is the backpacker’s stop of lake Atitlan and the party destination of Guatemala. Despite the fact that I’m not a big partier, I happened to be at the lake with dear friends and the party just kept on going almost every day.

Atitlan

San Pedro also has a lot of charm, but it is a little bit less of a local experience than the smaller pueblitos. I’ve had the best street food of Guatemala in San Pedro and developed a very severe addiction to the tortas mixtas. All around Central America, I still haven’t found tortas as good as in San Pedro.

Lake Atitlan
SAN MARCOS
San Marcos

San Marcos is the hippie destination of the lake, often considered a “spiritual heaven”. This charming artsy village is very popular for its yoga retreats, meditation retreats and vegan restaurants. The town is quite small and is the perfect place to relax. I visited on a day-trip to go filming there, and my favorite place was the cliff jump. It’s not really a cliff jump since it is a wooden deck, but this 10 meter jump in the lake overlooking volcanoes is the most adrenaline you’ll find around San Marcos.

San Marcos
PANAJACHEL
panajachel

Panajachel is the town to go shopping. Guatemala is the textile country of Central America and Panajachel is the cheapest place that I found to buy them. The town is also an entry point for lake Atitlan so if you are scared of heights and you are dreading the steep downhill bus descent to get to San Pedro, take a bus to Panajachel and then take a boat to the town of your choice.

Panajachel

And make sure not to miss the sunset in Panajachel!

Lake Atitlan
PADDLEBOARD OR KAYAK ON THE LAKE
San Pedro

Lake Atitlan is one of my favorite lakes because it has an unbelievable view of the volcanoes. It is simply stunning, the only thing is that the lake itself is quite dirty. People have been throwing garbage for so long that it has become very poluted. Despite the fact that some people may shower in the lake, swimming in it is not the most enjoyable feeling. I fell in the water a few times while paddleboarding and I went for a swim while visiting San Marcos, but I literally felt like the water smelt like garbage. Whether you decide to swim or not, you definitely have to experience the lake’s beauty up close. That’s why I would recommend a kayak ride.

San Pedro
HIKING

The lake offers some stunning hikes. The most popular and probably the easiest one is the Indian Nose, which is renownded for its beautiful sunrise. If you are a more experienced hiker the San Pedro volcano is a good challenge. There are also multi-day hikes available and the most popular one is from Xela to Lake Atitlan in three days. I’m only speaking from what fellow travelers have told me because even though I love hiking, I actually never really hiked at the lake. I could come up with plenty of excellent excuses for not doing it, but the truth is I just wasn’t in a hiking mood. For a month. Go figure. I definetely regretted not practicing my hiking skills in lake Atitlan when I took on Acatenango in Antigua, which is one of Guatemala’s most difficult hikes.

Indian Nose
SANTA CRUZ TO JABAILITO

Take a boat to Santa Cruz and then get on a 30 minute walk in the scenic mountains of lake Atitlan to make it to Jabailito. Both towns are very authentic compared to the rest of the lake. There isn’t much to see, but it was wonderful walking around as we met a lot of kids who were really happy to see us and started walking with us. A little boy even waited for us to get on our next boat before leaving.

Jabailito
Jabailito

For an authentic Guatemalan experience make sure to put lake Atitlan on your list, but beware, the lake is like a vortex and everyone always ends up staying longer than they originally intended.

Santa Cruz
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Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey: The natural wonder of Guatemala

Nestled in the Guatemalan jungle, in the department of Alta Verapaz, Semuc Champey is an impressive natural wonder. Semuc Champey, which means “sacred water” in the Mayan Kekchi language, is a natural 300m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabon River in a series of stepped pools of turquoise water connected to one another by small waterfalls. It’s the perfect place to go hiking, swimming and jumping from pools to pools.
Semuc Champey

GETTING IN
After spending some time in Flores, my friends and I headed to Semuc Champey on an 8h bus ride. An 8h bus ride that turned into 11h. One of our sunniest days spent in a small shuttle filled with about 20 people. To get to Semuc Champey you have to go through Coban, which is the closest big city and then head for the mountains on an unstable road for about two hours. It seemed like it took forever to get there, but once we arrived we were rewarded with beautiful mountainous scenery.
Semuc Champey

WHERE TO STAY
Most people visiting Semuc Champey stay in Lanquin, which is the closest town. I opted to stay closer to the park at the hostel Utopia which is a 40 minute walk in the mountains to the entrance. From Lanquin to our hostel or the park is a 30 minute ride with everyone either standing up or sitting down the back of a pickup truck.
Semuc Champey

VISITING THE PARK
You need to get a very early start if you want to do everything during a day at the park. I personally did not book the tour because my friends and I preferred wandering around at our own pace, so unfortunately we didn’t have time to do the cave tour and see everything. I would definitely recommend the tour if you want to see everything in one day. We spent so much time swimming in the pools, taking pictures and flying my drone that when we looked at the time and it was already the end of the afternoon. The park closes at 4pm, so we headed directly up the mountain to the mirador (the lookout point) where you can catch the best view of the pools. Everyone takes their pictures from up there. We didn’t even have time to see every parts of the park that it was already time to go down and leave. For the adventure seekers, the entrance of the park has a yellow bridge over the river where people like to jump from. It’s a pretty high jump so if you decide to do it make sure you ask a local where to jump safely. Even though that’s definitely my type of activity, we didn’t have time to do it when we exited the park because we wanted to walk back to our hostel before sundown. We were told it could be dangerous to walk in that area after dark, with a big emphasis on staying on the main road. We obliged and decided to start walking back right away. I wish I would’ve stayed longer to get to film more and do the other activities but the next day it was raining so we left for the next destination. Semuc Champey is the coldest weather that I’ve experienced in Guatemala, it gets very cold at night and since there was no walls in the dorm of our hostel, it was just like sleeping outside. After two nights of freezing, I was ready to leave for Lake Atitlan.
Semuc Champey
I would recommend staying 2-3 days if the weather is beautiful. If you do stay longer, the caves are definitely a must. Every time I met people who had done it, I felt like I had missed out a little. Imagine going through the caves in complete darkness while holding a candle in your hand and walking in the water. I would’ve also been happy to hike more around the area as the mountains are absolutely stunning. At least now I have a reason to go back!

I only spent a short time in Semuc Champey, but I spent most of my day there filming our adventure.
Check out my video!

caye caulker, belize

Caye Caulker, Belize: A Backpacker’s Paradise

Caye Caulker is the backpacker’s paradise of Belize. It is a small island with a Caribbean Rasta vibe and reggae music playing everywhere. It has crystal clear water, amazing marine life and the second largest barrier reef in the world. It’s also the only country of Central America with English as official language so it makes it really easy to get around if you don’t speak much Spanish. It is arguably the most expensive country of Central America, but it’s still well worth the stop for its beauty and super chill vibe.

caye caulker, belize

I arrived in Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker) with friends that I met at my hostel in lake Bacalar (Mexico) including a girl that I knew from Montreal, without having planned on meeting up. She was traveling with her boyfriend as well as his best friend. We then met another Quebecois and we decided to head to Caye Caulker all together. That’s the beauty of traveling, meeting people in one place and traveling together to the next stop, until you part ways to other destinations. I felt very lucky to spend my first few days on the island with good friends. After five days they were all gone to the next stop, but I stayed three more days. Everyone is so social and friendly around the island that I was happy to just walk around and talk with the locals. We had some really sunny days, and while the temperature is very hot in Belize, it’s also very windy all the time which makes it easier to handle the heat.

caye caulker, belize

In Belize, everyone always says they are running on “Belize time” which means really slow. I don’t even know how many times I was told, “Slow down chica, this is Belize time!” I really can’t help that I’m a fast talker. My first day there, I was amazed by how “hippie” the island was, and I remember saying it was weird that so many people didn’t wear shoes. They just go barefoot all day, all the time. On the island it’s: “No shirt, no shoes, no problem!” So after a few days there, I decided to try it. I spent days without wearing shoes. It was quite liberating and fun to feel the sand under my feet all the time, but I still felt weird going grocery shopping barefoot. All in all, it was a great freeing experience until the sand flies got to my feet. Let’s just say I was ok putting my shoes back on when I left, and not have sand all over my bed at night.

Even if Belize is an amazing place to do not much, just enjoy the sun & the amazing lobsters, there are many really cool activities to do around. Here are my favorites:

HANG OUT AT THE SPLIT

the split, caye caulker

The island of Caye Caulker is actually separated in two. There was a hurricane in 1980 and it caused it to split in the middle. At that separation, there is a bar named “The Split” where everyone hangs out all the time. From there you can swim to the other side or take a kayak to get there. Caye Caulker barely has any beaches, it is mostly wooden decks were people sit and go for swims. In the end, almost everyone just hangs out at The Split and go from swimming to laying on the deck and eating.


the split, caye caulker, belize

KAYAK, CANOE & STAND UP PADDLE BOARD
Since I had free canoes at my hostel, my friends and I went around the island and to the other side of The Split with canoes. I love that we had the most rustic canoe I’ve ever used with paddles that are basically just a wooden stick. It’s so much fun to go around the island, the water is so crystal clear in some places that we saw dozens of sea stars up close during our ride. I also rented a double kayak with a friend for 20 BLZ an hour and you can rent a paddle board for the same price.

 

SNORKELING
snorkeling in caye caulker, belize

That’s  most definitely a must while in Caye Caulker! Most companies charge about 120 BLZ for a full day of snorkel including lunch and it is very much worth the price! You swim with nurse sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, eels and many more fish as well as corals. Most companies also take you near the barrier reef.  Just that experience was probably better than any of my previous scuba diving experience because I had never even seen more than one small fish while diving. And then, all of a sudden, I was swimming with more nurse sharks than I could count, right next to me. I even got to feed some tarpons and pelicans with small fishes in my hands!

sea turtle in caye caulker, belize

 

stingray and nurse sharks in caye caulker, belize

SCUBA DIVING

great blue hole, belize

I had planned to go scuba diving in Belize and I was super excited about it. Most people in Belize dive The Great Blue Hole because it’s on everyone’s bucket list and even though I would have loved to do it, my lack of experience combined with the price of 250 US dollars convinced me otherwise. You really need an advance level to go diving the Blue Hole, but since it is Belize, most companies will take you with an open-water certification. For all these reasons, I decided to dive Esmeralda, which is right next to the second largest barrier reef in the world (after The Great Barrier Reef of Australia). I planned my dive a few days after getting to the island and I had to wait more than five days for the next dive to Esmeralda. On my eight day on the island, when I was finally scheduled to do it, it was cancelled because of the strong winds. There was a storm coming in and I didn’t want to wait there another five days, so I packed my things that same day and headed to the Guatemalan jungle instead.

caye caulker, belize

FOOD
Belize is really expensive compared to the rest of Central America, so you have to be careful with how much you spend on food if you are on a  tight budget. The good thing is that pizza and pasta will most likely cost you the same as a lobster with two side dishes, dessert and free rum punch. So EAT LOBSTER! I have seriously had more lobster than anything else here. I would take a big lobster and share the meal with a friend, which was almost the cheapest thing to eat.

grilled lobsters in caye caulker

SAFETY
Caye Caulker is super safe, but Belize city is not. I traveled through Belize city during the day to get to the island and back and it was fine, but I also made sure my bus was taking me directly to the ferry. Everyone says it is super dangerous so just stay away as much possible and if you have to go, traveling during daylight is the safest.

caye caulker, belize

WHAT ELSE TO SEE IN BELIZE
Belize is such a beautiful country and I would’ve loved to see more of it. Most of all, I would say San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, San Ignacio (where you can go cave tubing & see beautiful ruins) and of course seeing the Blue Hole! You can go diving, snorkeling or take a plane over it, you can even go skydiving and land in the Blue Hole next to a boat, but that is if you have 15k to spare! I really wish I would’ve seen it, but it was just too expensive for my backpacking budget.

caye caulker, belize

VIDEO

Check out my Belize video of my day snorkeling with nurse sharks, sea turtles, stingrays & more!