Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Central America Travel guide, Traveling through central America
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Surrounded by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the slender land bridge of Central America runs from Mexico to South America and is made up of seven countries — Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Political and civil unrest in the 1980s kept most tourists away for a long time, but now the area is a hotspot for travelers, surfers, luxury travelers, and even retirees.
Because traveling Central America is a safe, beautiful, filled with history, and affordable.
People have realized that it’s not the place the media makes it out to be and I’m glad the collective consciousness is shifting.
The region’s rainforests are filled with unexplored Mayan ruins and wildlife, its beaches are great for surfing, its reefs great for diving, there’s a huge variety of flora and fauna here, and the cheap accommodation, food, and transport throughout the region make it a budget traveler’s dream.
I began my nomadic life traveling around Central America.
And, whenever I backpack Central America, I fall in love even more with the friendliness of the people, the tasty food, the weather, history, and beauty.
This travel guide to Central America will give you all the tips you need to have a memorable trip to this part of the world!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Central America
1. Explore volcanoes
This region is rich in volcanoes. Pacaya (Guatemala) is still active and frequently erupts ash clouds; Poás (Costa Rica) is famous for its enormous mile-long crater and crater lake; Arenal (Costa Rica) has hiking trails, geothermal springs, and a gorgeous lake; and you can sand-board down the side of Masaya in Nicaragua.
2. See Mayan ruins
The region has many ruin sites but the most impressive are Tikal in Guatemala, Copán in Honduras, and San Andrés in El Salvador. The intricate wall carvings, imposing pyramids, and crumbling columns make for amazing photographs and should not be missed. Prices will vary but expect to spend around 20 USD for admission.
3. Caye Caulker, Belize
This little island is quite popular with backpackers. It is less expensive than some of the larger islands in the country and has a relaxed atmosphere to it. July is a great time to go because of their lobster festival. Make sure you also eat at Wish Willy’s for amazing seafood and chicken.
4. Visit the Panama Canal
First opened in 1914, the Panama Canal is 50 miles long and uses three sets of locks — Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks on the Pacific side and Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side.
5- Much of the region is covered in vast, humid, and stunning rainforests. A popular way to see these is to take a canopy tour, where you’ll be suspended on a zip-line and glide over the tops of the trees. The rainforests are filled with diverse wildlife, including howler monkeys, jaguars, lizards and tropical birds.
Other Things to See and Do in Central America
1. Head to Antigua, Guatemala
Considered one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of the Spanish America’s, Antigua (in Guatemala) is a major travel hot spot for backpackers. There are tons of pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, plenty of hostels, and even Spanish schools if you want a reason to stay longer!
2. Go diving (or learn)
The shores around Central America are home to many coral reefs. As such, diving is hugely popular. The colors and variety of fish will amaze you, as will the clear visibility. Diving here is cheaper than in the Caribbean and most parts of Mexico. Popular dive countries include Panama, Honduras, and Belize. Expect to pay 50-100 USD for a two-tank dive, or a few hundred dollars for your certification course.
3. Tour coffee plantations
The entire region is known for its coffee, particularly Costa Rica and Panama. Tour the plantations, and see how the beans are grown, picked, and ground. You can also pick up fresh coffee at heavily discounted prices. I’ve found the best coffee to be from Monteverde, Costa Rica….and I don’t even like coffee! But I drank this — it tasted like chocolate!
4. Visit Chichicastenango
Most people who come to Guatemala visit Chichicastenango, the largest native market in Central America. Most stalls carry handicrafts, blankets, pottery, and souvenirs, and these markets are often also the best places to find local food for very little money.
5. Tour the museums
Most cities in the region are filled with museums, particularly those paying homage to the Mayan civilization. The Gold Museum in San José, Costa Rica is fascinating. For Mayan artifacts, head to the Copán Village Archaeology Museum (7 USD admission).