Vacation ideas for Central America are actually endless. If you want to know some of the best places to enjoy a quality time in, then you have come to the right page.
The meeting point of the Northern and Southern American continents; Central America is considered as a subcontinent and is the isthmus of southern North America. It is spread across around 202,000 sq mi; with the Caribbean Sea to its northeast, pacific ocean to its southwest and the Gulf of Mexico to the southern side. The region is home to seven countries and is declared as a Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot. A biodiversity hotspot is the region with large amount of natural scenery, flora and fauna, that has a threat from humans. Having said that, Central America boasts of more than 7% of the world’s biodiversity treasure. The region is a great combination of the wonders of natural, ancient and modern civilizations.
When it comes to planning a vacation to this beautiful part of the world, there are a lot of things for you to determine, in terms of sightseeing and traveling. The area is very large and hence, it is virtually impossible to cover each and every vacation destination on a single vacation. You may need to consider each and every country separately.
Best Places to Visit in Central America
Central America encompasses seven countries – Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The entire region is a tourist destination in itself, let aside the special vacation spots of each and every country of Central America.
Belize was initially know as British Honduras and it gained the independence, as late as in the year 1981. Belize is the only Central American country that has English as its official language, which makes it easy for all the non-Spanish speaking people to travel around.
Similar to the rest of the Central American regions, Belize is gifted with copious and undisturbed tropical rainforest, pristine sandy beaches, numerous historical monuments and the best of modern infrastructure! Since Belize is the nearest country to North America, most of the American airlines offer short and inexpensive round trips to this mystical place. Here are some of the best places to visit when you are in Belize.
Barton Creek Caves
Located near the town of San Ignacio of the Cayo District, Barton Creek Caves are one of the largest caves in the world. The Mayans ruled these caves and used them for their infamous ritualistic ceremonies. You can still find skeletons of the victims of those ancient sacrifices. Another attraction here is the giant cylindrical walls (stalactites and stalagmites) in these limestone caves and a variety of flora and fauna.
Belize Barrier Reef
This is world’s second largest barrier reef after the Great Barrier Reef. It is more than 300 kms long and is located around 25 miles off the northern coast of Belize. It is the best place for the snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving enthusiasts. You may also enjoy one of those cozy and cheap round trips by ferryboat, while staying in one of the nearby coastal towns.
This is one of the most famous Mayan ruins in Belize that unveils the temple pyramids including Canna, Cahal Pech, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Altun Ha, etc. El Caracol used to be a Mayan observatory where they made naked eye observations of the horizon and made their predictions.
The Republic of Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras and the water bodies of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Original name of this country was Goathemala, which means the “land of the trees”. The country is rich with tropical rain forests, interesting biodiversity and historical Mayan ruins. This region saw the peak of the Mayan civilization, arrival of the Spanish colonists, independence from the Spaniards, the Mexican Empire and the modern-day infrastructural and economical developments.
As far as your stay and traveling is concerned, Guatemala is a small country and most of its tourist destination could be visited in a single tour to the country.
The entire country beholds many ancient Mayan ruins. But the places that anyone must never miss out on the tour of Guatemala are the ruins of the El Mirador and Tikal. Both of these are the unforgettable pre-Columbian places to visit for all of you who are interested in history and the ancient heritage.
Set at the altitude of 8,371 feet; this volcano is located near the Lake Atitlan. You can enjoy hiking up the Pacaya volcano with a knowledgeable tour guide and get some memorable thrilling experience. You can easily arrange such hiking tours from the nearest cities of Panajachel or Antigua.
Apart from the historical and natural sites, you may like to enjoy a lot of other things like shopping in the colorful Chichicastenango market; visiting various cities like Flores, Panajachel, Antigua,; taking short term Spanish language lessons; or enjoying serene volcanic countryside and the beautiful beaches like Monterrico !
If you are totally into the adventure sports, water sports and other such thrilling outdoor activities, then El Salvador is the place for you. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, the country shares its borders with the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua. Here you will get to enjoy lazy days, sandy beaches and the bustling nightlife that you may enjoy after spending the entire day in sightseeing! El Salvador is popularly known as The land of Proud and Arrogant Volcanoes. It was dwelt by the Native Americans, Mayans and the Spanish conquistadors! All these inhabitants left a rich and proud heritage which is still visible while you are in El Salvador. The country is rich with historical monuments, mighty volcanoes, playful beaches and serene forests. Here are the best vacation spots in El Salvador.
El Boquerón National Park
One of the most popular vacation destinations in El Salvador, this National Park is located in the crater of the dormant San Salvador Volcano that hasn’t been active for more than 80 years now. The area has pretty cool temperature and it is enriched with nature’s realm, various natural hiking trails and diverse wildlife. All this makes this place a must visit in Central America!
Los Planes de Renderos
Los Planes is a township in San Salvador, which is popular for its views and numerous parks like the Balboa Park, Family Park and La Puerta del Diablo, which is a place made of three rocks making different halls and caves that are located in this area. The entire region is a feast for the outdoorsy people.
Explore El Salvador
In case you don’t want to visit these natural treasures, you can always have the best of time by visiting various sparkling lakes; going to Punta Rico, which is the best surfing spot in El Salvador; enjoying shopping and clubbing in the city of San Salvador. You may also like to visit numerous art museums, historical museums, art galleries, live musical plays or simply spending your holidays one of the hilltop resorts!
Honduras is one of the largest countries of Central America. It is bordered with El Salvador and Nicaragua and the water bodies of the Gulf of Honduras, Gulf of Fonseca and the Caribbean sea. This is another beach country, with most noticeable traces of the indigenous cultures including the Mayans. Rich export markets of clothing and tropical fruits, make Honduras one of the noteworthy nations on the world map. The long coastline and diverse wildlife has made Honduras to be one of the bustling tourists spots in Central America. Vacation ideas for Honduras are just endless, provided you have enough time and energy for their execution!
If you haven’t considered Honduras to be one of the lover’s nest for a romantic getaway or honeymoon vacation, then this is the right time to start doing so! You may visit the Bay Islands, Mosquito Coast, and various other islands like the Utila and Cayos Cochinos to experience the totally undisturbed paradise on earth. The region is blessed with exotic coral reefs, colorful fish and pristine beaches to accompany both of you!
Along with various beach fronts, you can always visit various Mayan ruins like the Copan and learn about the historical heritage of this rugged country. You may also like to visit the Bay Islands and the Roatan Islands to enjoy the innovative eco-tourism of Honduras. You may also take the kids to Guanaja, which is a playful Caribbean coast with rich corals and kid friendly atmosphere.
If you are planning the vacation with a group of friends, then you can rent one of the motels or hostels in the cities like La Ceiba, Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula and visit various beaches for watersports, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and even beach football! You may also consider living in the upscale areas like Puerto Cortes and Guanaja Islands!
The Republic of Nicaragua is the largest country here, which is bordered by Honduras and Costa Rica. The Pacific Ocean is situated to the western side and the Caribbean Sea is situated to the eastern side of Nicaragua. The country is divided into two cultural regions,Mesoamerican and Andean. Nicaragua was inhibited by various indigenous cultures, the most significant of them being the Aztecs and the Mayans. Later the country was ruled by the Spanish conquistadors. Nicaragua has had a troubled political past, until the revolution of 1961. The fertile west coast of Nicaragua is home to a diverse wildlife and tropical rainforest too. As a result, it is a great tourist attraction.
San Juan del Sur
If you are looking for a peaceful family holiday, this is an ideal place for you. San Juan del Sur is located on the Pacific coastline of the country. It provides good quality local infrastructure, the best beach front resorts, inexpensive hotels and plenty of watersports activities like surfing, snorkeling and fishing that offer you a guaranteed fun! The kids may also get to enjoy horseback riding along the seashore!
Trip to Granada
One of the oldest cities in Nicaragua, Granada was established in the year 1524. The best things to do in the city of Granada include shopping for Nicaraguan souvenirs and munch on the delicious Nicaraguan cuisine in various city restaurants. You may also enjoy unhurried stroll in this city which is located near Lake Nicaragua, which is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world!
Bosawas Biosphere Reserve
The Bosawas Biosphere Reserve beholds one of the largest tropical rainforest of the world, and is a UNESCO protected site in Nicaragua. The variety of flora and fauna in this reserve is a real treat for the nature lovers and the students of biodiversity. The forest has around 150,000 types of insects, 600 species of birds and numerous animals that are on the verge of extinction.
The Republic of Costa Rica is the only Latin American country which is a part of the list of world’s 22 oldest democracies. Literal meaning of the word “Costa Rica” is the “rich coast”, which is quite apt. The country is bordered by Panama to the south, Caribbean Sea to the east, Nicaragua to the north and Pacific Ocean to its west. While in Costa Rica, one can still feel the deep cultural impact of various indigenous people that once inhibited this region. The most significant of them being the Nahuatl, Chibcha and the Spanish conquistadors. Costa Rica was one of the nations to gain early freedom from the Spaniards. Tropical Mediterranean atmosphere, more than average rainfall and rich historical background of Costa Rica has made it a famous vacation destination in Central America.
Costa Rican National Parks
The diversity of flora and fauna in Costa Rica is beyond one’s imagination. To experience it in person, one has to visit various national parks like the Corcovado National Park, Tortuguero National Park and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. All these parks are home to various exotic birds, amphibians, reptiles and some of the endangered species of various living organisms.
The Arenal Volcano is a highly active volcano where one can experience at least five explosions of lava on a daily basis. It is the reason why the resorts surrounding this volcano and other nearby spots like Tabacon Hot Springs are bustling with tourists who gather for this glowing miracle, that never fails your trip.
Once you reach to Costa Rica, you will surely get to enjoy numerous water adventures. Some best things to do here include, white water river rafting, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, surfing, parasailing, and hiking up the natural trails that are located along the rives and sandy beaches of this natural paradise. You may easily find cheap beach rentals at the Jaco Beach, Guanacaste Beach, and other places like Playa Grande and Playa Hermosa.
The Republic of Panama is the last vacation spot of Central America. Located on the isthmus of the South and North American continents, Panama shares its borders with Costa Rica, Colombia, Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea. The country was explored and settled by the Spanish conquistadors way back in the wake of the 16th century. Today, according to the Global Competitiveness Index from the World Economic Forum (WEF); Panama is the 2nd most progressive nation in the entire Latin America. The country is also home to the largest rainforest in this region, outside the densely rich Amazon Basin. Panama is a great mixture of natural and man-made miracles like the Panama Canal. Because of all this, Panama is a must visit place for you as well!
Bocas del Toro
This is one of the most untouched islands of Panama which is located at the Panamanian border near Costa Rica. It is made up of around 7 islands and numerous tiny islets; that are rich with various opportunities for snorkeling, surfing and fishing and various other watersports. The friendly native of this island and the booming real estate here will definitely tempt you to stay here a bit longer!
If you want to visit the most picturesque landscapes of Panama, then do not forget to visit Chiriqui Highlands. This is one of the developed areas of Panama which is easy to reach by the Pan American Highways. Visit various Chiriqui cities like David, Volcan and Boquete to enjoy the friendly natives, local culture and cuisine here.
Panama is also popular for various of its festivals and carnivals like theBoquete Flower and Coffee Festival which is held in January; New Orleans Mardi Gras, Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Panama Carnival which is held on Ash Wednesday and not to forget, the Panamanian New Year’s Eve!
Well, these were some of my personal favorite places to visit when you go to Central America. Now that you are aware of almost all the best vacation spots here, vacation ideas would now be unending. In order to execute your Central America vacation ideas in the most appropriate way, make sure that you visit this region during the ideal traveling season and with the bookings and tickets in advance! Have a happy and safe journey!