From beaches to jungles and urban sprawl, this region has it all
Worship the sun on some of the world's best beaches or trek through dark jungles to places that time forgot; there's plenty to see and do in Central America and the Carribbean. You can laze on the beach in the beautiful Cayman Islands, trek through the jungle on an eco-tour in Costa Rica or uncover a bygone era in El Salvador with the help of our Central America and Carribbean travel guide.
Wherever you travel in Central America and the Carribbean, some knowledge of Spanish is likely to come in handy. Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua, while in Belize the official language is English. That's a situation mirrored by many of the Carribbean islands where English is the official language, although Spanish, French, Dutch, Haitian Creole and Papiamento are also widely spoken.
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Sandy shores and steamy rainforests; there's something for everyone
Bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Central America is made up of seven incredible countries that serve as a gateway between North and South America. From the ancient Mayan ruins of Guatemala to the pristine white beaches of the the US Virgin Islands, this corner of the world is a sight to behold – it's no surprise that Central America travel is growing at such a rapid rate.
Your Central America travel guide is your best friend when it comes time to make the difficult decision of choosing where to visit in this exciting region. Perhaps your itinerary will start in Belize exploring the coral reef – the second largest in the world – or visiting the mysterious Mayan ruins of Caracol and Altun Ha. From Belize you might head to Guatemala, where you'll be greeted by verdant green surrounds and friendly locals. Visit the colonial city of Antigua and make sure to check out the enormous volcano-rimmed Lake Atitlan.
Costa Rica should also feature in your travel plans – an easy task as a number of flights to Central America arrive here. Boasting densely jungled national parks and long stretches of beach, Costa Rica is a prime destination for adventure travel and water sports. Costa Rican cuisine is a standout and foodies will love browsing the vibrant local markets. Make time to see the turtles at Tortuguero National Park and, if you're daring enough, take a hike up one of Costa Rica's towering volcanic peaks.
For more excellent old-world ruins and some of the best scenic views in Central America, look to El Salvador. Check out Joya de Ceren, a Heritage Listed pre-Hispanic community buried under volcanic ash, and the Montecristo Cloud Forest, rising 7,000 feet above sea level. El Salvador's neighbour Honduras offers some of the best and most affordable scuba diving and is becoming ever more popular with budget travellers.
Discover the countries bridging North and South America
Nicaragua is Central America's largest country but, surprisingly, the least visited. This is not for lack of sights to see, however – Nicaragua is home to wonderful architecture, quaint villages, and beautiful beaches. Experience Spanish culture with a twist in colourful Puerto Rico or Cuba, where you can channel your inner Che Guevara. For unparalleled natural beauty and adventure, book a Central America tour and let your guide show you the region as the locals know it.
Panama is the last of the countries connecting the Americas, with its main attraction the Panama Canal a stunning display of manpower. Panama Viejo is all that remains of old Panama City, where you'll find colonial architecture, cosy cafes and restaurants interspersed with crumbling ruins. Don't miss beach destination Bocas del Toro, 'the mouth of the bull' – its aquamarine waters provide the ideal setting for surf lessons.
Last but not least are the stunning islands of the Caribbean, one of the world's most popular tropical playgrounds. The Caribbean is all about the enjoyment of life, from the resort-fringed beaches of the Cayman Islands to the laidback lifestyle of the Bahamas and the cricket-loving islands that make up the West Indies cricket team (including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada). The Caribbean is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, outdoor lovers and those who simply want to soak in the sun on a picturesque beach with palms swaying gently in the background.
Eat, drink, siesta, repeat
While the foundation of most Central American cuisine is rice and beans, there is a great diversity of flavours to be sampled from country to country. Treat yourself to El Salvador's pupusas (thick, stuffed corn tortillas) before feasting on a fried banana-like fruit known as plantain for dessert. Polish off a baleada (similar to a folded breakfast burrito) in Honduras, gorge yourself on sweet cassava doughnut balls called bunuelos in Nicaragua and devour an empanada (comparable to a Cornish pasty) or two in Panama. Finish off your culinary journey with a nightcap of Caribbean rum or a single origin Costa Rican coffee, sleep it off and get ready for another day of indulgence.
Celebrating Central America
At no time is Central America's colourful culture more evident than during a festival. There are fiestas across the calendar year in all seven nations, showcasing that trademark Latin American zest for life. Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, one of the most signification celebrations in the Caribbean, entices locals see how low they can go in a limbo competition as calypso music chimes around them. Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead festival, is celebrated with gusto in Guatemala, where inebriated horsemen gallop unsteadily through the hills of Todos Santos in the name of tradition. Time your holiday to coincide with a major holiday like Costa Rica's Limon Carnival to be immersed in vibrant Central American culture.
Eco chic escapes
Central America is one of the world's frontrunners in ecotourism. If your eco-conscience plays a big part in your holiday planning, there is a wide variety of things to do and places to stay for those who wear their green heart on their sleeve. Ecotourism is booming in Puerto Rico, embracing the mountainous, beach-lined setting it is blessed with. El Yunque National Forest is a standout for eco-themed activities, while sustainable luxury resorts can be found scattered around the island. Holistic experiences in Belize take advantage the ideal diving conditions off the coast, while Panama provides the perfect playground for outdoor lovers to relish the rainforest surrounds before retiring to their certified green lodgings.
Getting there and around
Book your flights to Central America and be wowed by the diversity jampacked into such a comparitively small area. Chasing the ultimate island honeymoon or a beach holiday abroad? Have a look at these Caribbean holiday packages and bundle your holiday plans together in one great value deal. We combine flights, hotels, tours and added bonuses so you can focus on making sure you have enough space on your camera to fully capture the beauty of the Caribbean.
Enjoy VIP treatment aboard a cruise to the Caribbean, taking a break from the amazing food and entertainment on board to visit sparkling port cities in Barbados, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the US Virgin Islands. Pure island indulgence doesn't even begin to cover it! While you're living it up on the mainland, consider adding a tour to your itinerary, taking in the top sights like ancient temples, growling volcanoes and cloud-covered jungle. See more of Central America by hiring a car and go from the beach-lined coast of Belize to the waterways at Panama, taking your time to discover the countless Latin American treasures along the way.