Bursting with more varied landscapes and cultural diversity than any similar-sized place on the planet, Central America is a diminutive region that packs a power punch. Caribbean waters and glittering sands line the eastern coast while the lush jungle canopies and cloud forest of the central areas lead to an utterly divine Pacific shoreline.
From the sugar-sand beaches and crystalline sea of Belize to the volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán of Guatemala, Central America has everything the intrepid traveller desires. Home to a generous and welcoming people, Central America is an unfinished discovery and an unbeatable destination that is settling into the kind of social and economic reforms that can only increase its global appeal.
Composed of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, this region of small, tropical countries has more in common with South America than its Northern cousin. Including sections of southern Mexico due to language and a pervasive Mayan/Spanish cultural heritage, Central America is an adventure playground packed with an array of colourful options.
As travellers head in from the Caribbean coastal villages and thriving reef beds, the opportunities branch out spectacularly from coffee-producing mountain town swathed in clouds, dense jungle hiding Mayan temples from easy sights and 16th-century colonial towns set in the shadow of furiously active volcanoes.
Nature and Wildlife
Naturalists will enjoy the innumerable national parks, Parque Nacional, of Central America which protects every kind of plant and animal species: crocodiles, green turtles, whale sharks, scarlet macaws, toucans, frigate birds, jaguars and howler monkeys. Costa Rica is home to an outstanding collection of national parks, most notably Corcovado, deemed Costa’ Rica’s last great wilderness.
Costa Rica and Guatemala are home to a string of active volcanoes, almost all of which continuously belch smoke and flame. Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán is ringed by three such incredible volcanic formations, while the Arenal and Rincon de la Vieja volcanoes of Costa Rica offer diverse adventures: Rincon offers treks and horseback-rides around its volcanic mud pots, waterfalls and thermal pools, while angry Arenal is best seen against the night sky for its brilliant fireworks show. These incredible sites are an awe-inspiring reminder of the powerful forces of nature, and a truly Central American specialty.
Sights and Surf
Other must-see destinations are the colonial towns of Antigua and Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, made up of quaint and traditional buildings set against the brilliant backdrop of volcanic mountains, and Casco Viejo within Panama City which provides access to the marvellous canal. The Mayan ruins in Belize and Guatemala are beyond compare, while the surf spots of Costa Rica draw surfing enthusiasts the world around.