As the summer begins to wind down, some of us still can’t get enough of the heat. Central America might be toasty but it also presents some of the best places to cool and swim in the world. Toss in its culturally rich cities and Maya ruins and you have enough reasons to pack your bags and go. Just don’t forget your swimsuit as you explore these cool spots to swim in Central America!

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

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Frequently deemed one of the most beautiful spots in all of Guatemala, Semuc Champey is made up of a natural limestone bridge that rests on top of the Río Cahabón. Measuring nearly a quarter of a mile long, the pools and waterfalls are ideal for swimming. In fact, there are river swings which allow you to dive right into the water, if you don’t wimp out on the jump. In addition to swimming, there are underground caves you can explore along with several hiking trails like El Mirador, a trail that leads to a scenic lookout above the picturesque waterfalls and natural pools.

Utila, Honduras

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If you want to swim with sharks, you can in Utila, Honduras. Part of the country’s beautiful Bay Islands, the small spit of land clocks in at just 17 square miles. It not only acts as an idyllic island escape while in Honduras, but Utila is also home to loads of whale sharks. In fact, it is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks can be seen year round. Many tour companies organize excursions on Utila where you can get out in the water and dive and snorkel with the gentle giants! Utila as a whole is one of the best spots in Latin America to learn to how to dive.

Dog Island, Panama

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Names can be deceiving and Dog Island in the San Blas Islands of Panama is no different. Also referred to as Isla Perro, the island is just one of the 365 tropical isles that make up the San Blas Islands off of Panama’s northern coast. Home to some of the best beaches in Central America, the San Blas Islands are also unique in that they are occupied by the Kuna indigenous group. The Kuna maintain the culture, traditions and nature of the area. Dog Island makes for an ideal swimming spot in Panama as its water is considered some of the cleanest and clearest in the world. Appealing to snorkelers, you can swim alongside an old army shipwreck as you explore the crystalline waters.

Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize

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Also referred to as ATM, Actun Tunichil Muknal is easily one of the most unique swimming experiences in Central America. The ancient Maya cave sits near San Ignacio in Western Belize. The Mayan people used the cave as a mystical portal between the world of the living and the world of the dead. You can only enter with a licensed guide, with tours consisting of hiking, wading and swimming through the Maya sacrificial site. The cave is home to burial sites and several skeletons, most notably the Crystal Maiden.

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua

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Called the Monumento Nacional Cañon de Somoto, the Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua makes up yet another unique Central American swimming experience, carved out by the longest river in Central America, the Coco. While relatively new to tourism, several tours are offered to travelers looking to explore the canyon. Most routes offer the chance to swim and even leap off of rocks into the deep water stretches of the canyon. Located in northern Nicaragua near the Honduran border, a trip to the Somoto Canyon must be conducted with a local guide.

While hotel and resort pools are all fine and well, sometimes you just need a pinch of adventure and your natural surrounding to dip your toes in the water. From swimming with whale sharks to exploring waters of an ancient Maya site, Central America delivers with several unforgettable swimming experiences.

Do you have a favorite swimming spot in Central America? Share your unusual favorite with us in the comments below.

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About The Author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.