Central America, comprising Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama is a Mecca of biodiversity, both on land and on sea, home to Mayan ruins, Spanish and English influences, relevant history and miles upon miles of sundry beaches.
Perhaps what draws most visitors to the Central America area is the wildlife. While Central America makes up only .1% of the world’s landmass, the areas (southern in particular) are home to nearly 7% of the world’s biodiversity. Here you can explore the rainforests through hanging bridges or zip lines and get up close and personal with wildlife such as green tree frogs, coati, sloths and capuchin monkeys. Birdwatchers will relish the opportunity to see scarlet or green macaws, quetzals, or keel billed toucans. Time your visit right, and you may witness Green Sea Turtles nesting in places like Tortuguero National Park. Green Sea Turtles are typically spotted nesting between July to October, while leatherbacks net between March and May. Plant enthusiasts and botanists will marvel at the hundreds of plant species found in the rainforest, not to mention the numerous orchid varieties.
While in the rainforests of Central America, many get high in the tree tops by a network of connected bridges called hanging bridges. These bridges in places like Costa Rica & Nicaragua appeal to nature and thrill seekers alike. You can walk among the trees of the rainforest, or for a more exhilarating adventure, strap on a harness and soar like a bird on one of many zip lines in the area.
Explorers are also drawn to the areas volcanoes, the Central American Volcanic Arc in fact. Nearly all the countries in Central America have at least one volcano and while several are active, violent eruptions are rare. Certain areas are also known for the hot springs, thanks to the underground thermal activity of the volcano nearby.
Central America is home to some of the best beaches and underwater life in the world. With the Pacific on the west, and the Caribbean on the east, it’s conceivable to visit both side in a planned trip to Central America. The Mesoamerican reef system is the largest reef this side of the world and stretches from the Yucatan peninsula, Belize, Guatemala and the Bay islands of Honduras. The Belize barrier is the largest portion of that reef and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors to these countries can arrange dive and snorkel excursions to see nearly 1000 species of fish, coral and mollusk in the waters, not to mention manatees, whale sharks and the turtles we mentioned above.
On the west coast of Central America, is a surfer’s paradise. Nosara, Costa Rica is one of the best surfing beaches in the world and surf town dot the seaside from Guatemala to Panama. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or just want to get your feet, a surf school can provide you with a board and or lessons. Alternatively, one of the more popular trends is Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and many schools are offering paddle boards for rent as well.
One of the biggest draws in Central America is crossing the North and South America divide by traveling through the Panama Canal. Many cruises offer a Panama Canal crossing that will also stop in places such as Honduras, Guatemala and more along the way.
Mexico isn’t the only place to view Mayan ruins. The Mayan culture extended from the Yucatan peninsula into Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and a small part of El Salvador. You’re also less likely to run into as many crowds and tour buses as you would visiting the ruins in the Cancun area. Places such as Xunantunich west of Belize City or Caracol in the heart of the Chiquibul forest in Belize are run by the Belize Institute of Technology where trained guides will take you through the history and details of the ruins. Alternatively, Oceania cruises offers a cruise that highlights the Mayan mystique with stops in Belize City, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala, Roatan Honduras and more. On your own, don’t miss the Church of Santo Tomas, built by the Dominican church onto an existing Mayan alter, blending rituals of ancient Mayan traditions with the prevalent Latin America Catholicism.
When to go/Average Temps
Most of Central America falls in the tropical climate of having a wet season and dry season. While slightly varied between each country, mostly the wet season falls from June to November, and dry from December to May. Wet, or Green Season as some countries call it, can still be a wonderful time to visit. Crowds will be fewer and it will not be raining the entire time. Vegetation is lush and animals may be more active to feed on ripened fruits and berries from the trees.