High 5: Swimming spots in Central America

September 26, 2013

During my recent trip to Central America, I was won over by the myriad delights on offer to travellers. Bustling colonial towns cry out to be explored, mountains and volcanoes stand waiting to be climbed, and street food stalls tempt greedy travellers on every corner. However, the highlights of my visit are made up mainly of the numerous times spent on the water’s edge, be that a Caribbean beach, the muddy bank of jungle river, or a hillside infinity pool. Picking out a mere five was tricky, but here are my top spots for a swim in Central America:

Belize’s Island Paradise
As you step onto the tiny and unspoilt island of Caye Caulker, an hour or so by boat from the mainland of Belize, the pace of life slows down considerably. This laid-back and relaxed destination is a mere five miles by less than one mile, meaning that you are never more than minutes from the glittering Caribbean Sea. Water based activities abound, and it is difficult to let an hour pass without jumping into the dazzling water; very little of my time on the island was spent on dry land.

Nature’s Own Water Park
Semuc Champey in Guatemala is such a perfect swimming spot, that it is difficult to believe that it hasn’t been designed especially for water-loving tourists. The site is made up of a series of perfect pools arranged in levels, and a visit comprises a swim in each followed by a leap into the next. A couple of smooth rocks even function as excellent water slides! The pools are admittedly tricky to get to, but are certainly worth the extremely bumpy ride from the nearest town of Lanquin, and the unappealing journey means that the aquamarine waters are blissfully uncrowded.

Escape the City
Although only a short bus ride from the city of Leon, Playa Las Penitas on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast feels a million miles away from the dust of the city. The only sounds disturbing the tranquil beach are the waves pummelling the black sands, and perhaps the occasional shout of a surfer tumbling off their board. My break from the town here lasted far longer than I first intended, and spending hours leaping in the waves was a highly enjoyable pastime.

A Pool with a View
Nicaragua’s natural wonders are hard to beat, but the glorious infinity pool at Casa de Olas in San Juan del Sur certainly has a good go. The Bed & Breakfast stands atop a hill, allowing it to boast a sensational view of the bay of San Juan. Floating in the water, drink in hand, gazing down as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, it doesn’t get much more idyllic.

Lakeside Bliss
Laguna De Apoyo is certainly one of Central America’s more remarkable spots for a bathe. The lake was created over 20,000 years ago when the Apoyo Volcano collapsed in on itself, creating a 48 square kilometre crater which filled with clean, clear and mineral-rich water. A few guest houses are dotted round the sides of the lake, providing a great base to enjoy the beaches, have a refreshing swim, or take out a kayak for a paddle. Surrounded by lush hills and unmarred by buildings, the view from the Laguna is one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Matilda Long