By Rachael Funk
When it comes to your bucket list, you really want to nail it. Sure, items like “go skydiving” or “ride a horse on the beach” are excellent additions, but don’t sell yourself short with a generic list! After all, if this is truly a list of experiences to enrich your life before you leave this world, why not add a few spectacular items to it that will cause disbelief (and, might we speculate, jealousy) when you actually get to do them? Seize an opportunity for creativity! For wild ideas! For fearlessness! When you hit the “Central America” section of your bucket list, here are a few out-of-the-box ways to jazz up your to-do list.
Go Volcano boarding
Definitely not your average vacation experience, volcano boarding in Leon, Nicaragua involves a 45-minute hike up an active volcano with a wooden board strapped to your back. Once you’ve clambered up the side of Cerro Negro to the drop point, you’ll hop on your board and begin the high-speed slide right back down the 41 degree slope. It’s up to you if you want to stand or sit, but one thing’s for sure: this is a bucket list item you’ll be proud to check off your list!
Rent an island on the lake
You read that right – you can rent an island on Lake Nicaragua. Central America’s largest lake, this body is fresh water is enormous and flecked with islands. Snap up one of the uninhabited islands and spend a serene few days kayaking the water, taking in the views of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, and congratulating yourself on crushing this vacation.
SCUBA dive in the Great Blue Hole
This is the top attraction in Belize for a good reason! More than 984 feet across and 407 feet deep, this underwater sinkhole was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1972 and named in 1988 by British diver and author, Ned Middleton. Plunge into the water to explore the largest sea hole in the world and see the stalactites and stalagmites which formed thousands of years ago when the Great Blue Hole was an above ground cavern. If you’re not PADI-certified, don’t worry! You can take a helicopter ride over the natural wonder and see it from the sky!
Swim with the dead in a living museum
Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave is ranked as the most sacred cave in the world. Here, you will explore the lost world of Mayan secrets as you swim, hike, and explore your way through this mysterious site. Peerless in its beauty and historical significance, the cave holds artifacts abandoned by the Maya, remains from sacrificial ceremonies, and even the complete skeleton of a young man encased in crystalline travertine deposits, which make the ancient bones sparkle. The national landmark is fragile and sensitive to wear and tear, so make sure to see it as soon as possible.
Rappel down a waterfall
What, you just wanted to sit under the falls and take mermaid pics for Instagram? You definitely can, but why not squeeze some extra adventure into your excursion? Waterfall rappelling, also called “canyoning,” is a great way to see Costa Rica’s rich natural beauty from the vantage point less-taken. You’ll need some quick-drying clothes, nonslip water shoes, and a brave heart. You’ll start at the top and rappel downward to the bottom. You won’t want to bring anything that can’t get wet, so if you don’t happen to own a GoPro, you might still be in luck – most tours include a photographer who captures your descent for you.
Meet literally hundreds of happy dogs all at once
Territorio de Zaguates (or “Land of Strays”) is a family-owned farm outside of San Jose that rescues abandoned and homeless dogs. This free range shelter sprawls over a large piece of land, which gives the dogs plenty of room to run and play. The best part? They’re all adoptable. Each dog is spayed or neutered and vaccinated before they join the group and it is free to visit the farm and “walk” (read: romp) with the dogs at scheduled times. Though currently closed to the public for improvements, the farm is expected to reopen in the fall of 2018 for walks, belly rubs, and love.