Overshadowed by political tensions and civil conflicts, Central America hides some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
The very first time I visited Central America was while traveling by land from Texas to Panama back in 2018. I spent almost 3 months covering thousands of kilometers and basically rushing from hotspot to hotspot. Still, in this very short time, I felt in love with Central America’s cultural diversity and untouched nature. Since then, I’ve returned to this part of the world three more times with the idea of exploring deeper its biodiversity and discover unknown getaways.
Although I consider Central America rather to be one of the best spots to explore volcanoes, travelers visiting the region will encounter virgin tropical rainforests almost everywhere they go – perfect conditions to find pristine waterfalls.
In the past years I’ve visited the classic touristic waterfalls like Semuc Champey in Guatemala, but also discovered by accident astonishing hidden locations such as the Seven Waterfalls of Juayúa in El Salvador.
These are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Central America:
Chorros de la Calera – The seven waterfalls of Juayúa – El Salvador
I arrived to El Salvador following a group of surfers along the Pacific coast of Central America. After settling for a couple of days in the coastal town of El Tunco, I realized surf is definitely not my sport and had to find something else to do.
This is when I heard about Juayúa, a charming Spanish colonial little town in the northwest of the country – a place mostly known for their weekend food festival, beautiful cobblestone streets and calm.
To my surprise, I also found out Juayúa hides El Salvador’s biggest secret, Chorros de Calera or the “Seven Waterfalls”. They are part of a 4-5 hour trek which starts straight from the town square and takes travelers along coffee plantations, rolling hills surrounded by tropical forest and waterfalls in which the only way to pass through is rappelling down. It was definitely an adventure I enjoyed more than surfing.
Big Rock Waterfall – Belize
Mostly known for its phenomenal marine life, Belize hides a couple of inland spots that would make travelers spend less time on the islands. The Big Rock Falls at the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is one of them.
Surrounded by an scenery of giant boulders, tropical forest and underground natural pools, this 50 meter waterfall is one of the most magnificent natural destinations in Belize.
Unlike most of the other waterfalls in the list, Big Rock Falls in Belize is isolated and unspoiled. Due to its complex access, there is also a big chance you will be the only traveler enjoying its beauty.
Pulhapanzak Waterfall – Honduras
The massive size and beauty of Pulhapanzak leaves anyone speechless. It is in my opinion one of the most beautiful waterfalls in not just Central America, but also worldwide.
However, what makes Pulhapanzak different than any other massive waterfall, is the fact that you can go under the waterfall and explore behind it.
The force of the water coming from the top is so strong, that most of the time it is very difficult to breath and even see where you are going. Pulhapanzak is adventure at its best – all surrounded by the untouched beauty of the Honduran tropical forest.
Llanos de Cortez – Costa Rica
Considered one of the most beautiful natural spots in Costa Rica, the majestic waterfall of Llanos de Cortez is located near the town of Bagaces.
This is also one of the most touristic places in Central America, so expect to see flocks of tourists enjoying the views of this fall. Still, surrounded by a natural scenery full of mango trees, palms, cloud forests and wildlife, a trip to Llanos de Cortez is always worth it.
Semuc Champey – Guatemala
Located somewhere among the dense tropical forests of Guatemala, arriving at Semuc Champey feels like a conquistador expedition 500 years ago. And while the road to Semuc Champey makes the whole journey already exciting, the top views of the waterfalls and natural pools will make you believe, you just arrived in paradise.
The scenery is simply outstanding. Crystal clear natural pools ranging from different tones of turquoise and greens, stepping up one next to each other and forming a natural staircase of pristine waterfalls, mystical ponds, caves and rivers.
I think Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful natural destinations in world and definitely the most beautiful waterfall in Central America.
Rio Celeste Waterfall – Costa Rica
Known for its vivid turquoise colors, Rio Celeste waterfall is probably the most popular and photogenic waterfall in Central America.
And while a local legend states that this particular color appeared when God dipped his brush in the river as he was painting the sky, the true reason of it is as interesting as the myth itself. Due to its volcanic surroundings, minerals such as silicon and aluminum remained all over the water ponds and generate this beautiful tone.
Tours to Rio Celeste are offered almost everywhere in the country and visiting this natural beauty during your trip to Costa Rica is basically a must.
Los Amates Waterfall – Guatemala
Located in an area surrounded by giant basalt rock formations, the Amates Waterfall in Guatemala does not look on a first sight like the place you will encounter in Central America. Unlike many other waterfalls in the list, it is one of the longest waterfalls in the region and has anything between 5 – 15 different drops of water depending in which season you visit.
The scenery is majestic itself, as the whole area is completely untouched and undeveloped for tourism. Expect to wander around freely through hiking paths along rivers and forests, or even camp next to the waterfall – something locals love to do in order to enjoy its gorgeous views and refreshing waters early in the morning.
Reaching Los Amates waterfall is not very easy to do independently, but private tours can plan a full day itinerary for you, taking care of the full organization and leaving you to simply enjoy the view.
Read more: Hiking the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala