Discover the Best of Central America - Enveloping Rainforests Teeming with Wildlife, Cloud-Shrouded Volcanoes, Charming Colonial Towns, Mysterious Mayan Ruins, & Mile Upon Glorious Mile of White-Sand Beaches
A skinny belt of countries and islands connecting two much larger continents, Central America doesn't look like much on the map. But looks have never been more deceiving: enveloping rainforests teeming with all manner of wildlife; cloud-shrouded volcanoes; charming colonial towns; mysterious Mayan ruins; and mile upon glorious mile of white-sand beaches await travellers curious enough to come looking for them. And as much fun as they are to explore by day, these lands truly come alive at night – often to the beat of salsa, calypso or reggae. These places may be unfamiliar, but now’s the best time to get introduced.
Panama. The 80km (50 mi) Panama Canal, transporting 12,000 ships a year between the two great oceans, is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest engineering feats. While the canal put the country on the map, there is another Panama few know about: sandy-beached islands on both coasts, steamy jungle rainforest cut by pristine waterfalls, and cool, misty mountain valleys spread with coffee plantations and framed by volcanoes. The narrowest point of a land bridge between North and South America, Panama shares the biodiversity of both, making for world-class birding and wildlife viewing. Steep, rugged mountains mean the white water is wild. And when you come up for air, Panama City may surprise you. Both the canal and a thriving international banking industry brought prosperity, and the formerly US-controlled Canal Zone can feel more like Miami than Central America.
Nicaragua. Ask not "Why?" Ask "Why haven't I been yet?" It's a pity peace and democracy don't make headlines like revolution and war, because the world overwhelmingly remembers Nicaragua for the last time it was in the news, which was decidedly the latter. But no news is good news, and that was 15 years of no news ago. Why Nicaragua? Consider its neighbour, Costa Rica. No one is asking "Why Costa Rica?" Yet they share much the same geography. Only Nicaragua is cheaper. And bigger. And safer (according to a recent UN survey). It boasts an enormous freshwater lake, with twin volcanoes piercing its centre, and one of Central America's least-spoiled colonial cities, Granada, on its shore. And very few tourists. And... wait, what was the question again?
Mexico. Ancient and brand-new, all at once. Beyond the stereotypes of mariachi bands and tacos, Mexico is a cultural giant of the Americas. A massive and diverse country, its history stretches across thousands of years from the ancient Olmec, Maya, and Aztec, though the arrival of Cortés and three centuries of harsh Spanish rule. For all its familiarity, Mexico is capable of surprising at every turn; to make the mistake of reducing it to a beach resort is like confusing the USA with Las Vegas. Certainly, beaches and beach life rank high as reasons to visit. Add to the mix ancient sites and vibrant indigenous culture, the cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of one of the world's largest city and a cuisine successfully exported around the world, and you've got yourself una buena vacacion.
Guatemala. Land of the Maya. Smoking volcanoes spin by as a sea of Mayan weaving lurches from one side of the chicken bus to the other. With the Mayan majority on constant display, dramatic geography, and prices any frugal traveller could love, for some, Guatemala is the quintessential Central American experience. Incredible Antigua, one of its mandatory stops, was once the capital of an enormous swath of the Americas. Frozen in time for centuries thanks to repeated earthquakes, today it has been impeccably restored in all its rubble and glory... not to mention it's the best traveller's hub from here to Cusco. From crater lakes to the ruins of Tikal, it's a miracle Guatemala is still off the radar for so many. Let's hope it stays that way.
Costa Rica. An eco-tourist's dream, Costa Rica has become synonymous with all an unspoiled tropical paradise can be. Rarely does reality measure up to hype, but Costa Rica certainly comes close. The country's quiet history as a backwater free of colonial excesses has today become a boon, and Costa Rica has cashed in on its purity. And not without merit: blessed with beaches and biodiversity, this is a verdant land of misty volcanoes, roaring rivers, and lush jungles teeming with exotic fauna. Throw in the friendly, educated Ticos (as Costa Ricans are known) and you can see why down here they call it Pura Vida – "pure life." When is the best time to travel to Costa Rica? Costa Rica's climate is defined by the rainy and dry seasons. The best time to visit is Costa Rica's dry season which is December to April, March and April are the hottest months. The rainy season is May to November, the wettest months are September and October. In recorded history a hurricane has never made landfall in Costa Rica.
Belize is small in size, big on beauty. Belize is an anomaly. Peaceful, democratic, English-speaking, it seems in many ways not to belong in Central America at all. And indeed, to an extent, it is more a Caribbean nation than a Latin one, looking out from the coast rather than inland for its trade and alliances. On the other hand, it has plenty of distinctively Central American features as well. Above all, it offers a blend of cultures and races that includes Maya, Mestizo, African, European, and Asian. On a Belize adventure, you'll discover remarkable marine life, profuse jungle vegetation, ancient Mayan ruins, and above all, friendly and easy-going people.
If you’re after a small ship cruise or an expedition ship cruise to Central America Wild Earth Travel can help you find a trip of a lifetime. We are ready to guide you through our range of different options with impartial advice so you can experience the very best of this unique destination. Our team are all passionate expedition & small cruise ship travellers and our knowledge and stories come from our own personal experiences.