If your wanderlust’s been flaring up again and you’re trying to find somewhere to direct those itchy feet, why not look to the Americas? Not South, not North, but rather in the middle. Look to a land of misty jungles and sparkling beaches, of monkey-topped rainforests and three-toed sloths, of world-class surf and chilled-out backpacker towns, colonial masterworks and mysterious Mayan treasures. As if you needed any more incentive to visit Central America!
For the biodiversity
Bug-eyed lemurs and multi-coloured tree frogs (not for licking!), swinging capuchin monkeys and formidable crocs, bright basilisks and uber-cute three-toed sloths, cane toads, dolphins, pit vipers, stalking ocelots and elusive jaguars, vultures and voluptuous toucans – the list goes on! All these and more can be found lurking amidst the highlands and jungles of Central America, from the green mountains of Panama to the impenetrable wilds of Costa Rica.
For the backpacker vibes
Hitting the backpacking circuits of Central America is now something of a rite of passage for every intrepid traveler looking to check off the tropics from that bucket list. That means towns like Puerto Viejo, Santa Elena and Bocas of Costa Rica ooze a chilled-out vibe thanks to thier surfers and seaside cocktail drinkers, while the volcano-shrouded reaches of San Juan Del Sur and Managua in Nica draw in trekkers and beach bums. You’re bound to meet some likeminded folk!
For the beaches
Sandwiched between the shimmering, scintillating waters of the Caribbean Sea and the roaring rollers of the Pacific Ocean, it’s hardly surprising that coastline is one of Central America’s major draws. That’s right, from the swaying palm groves and coconut-backed beaches of Costa Rica’s Boca del Toro (not to be confused with Benicio, the actor) to the lively surf strips and party bars of Tamarindo (a favorite on our Coasting Costa itinerary), this S-shaped region is home to some of the most paradisiacal sands in the world!
For the people
The Ticos of Costa Rica are known for their perennial smiles and spirited blowouts of merengue and bolero that are fuelled by oodles of guaro sours and lime cocktails. Nica’s mestizos, meanwhile, enthral with their carnivals of marimba, their curious folklore and kaleidoscopically colourful clothing. Then there are the Panamanians; proud, culturally diverse and indelibly tranquilo (that’s chilled-out to you and me!). Yep, Central America really is a hodgepodge of fascinating human heritage!
For the volcanos
From the forever-smoking tip of Pacaya in Guatemala to the endless ranges of cinder cones and calderas that carve their way through the eastern side of Nicaragua, Central America touts some of the most breath-taking volcanic landscapes on earth (sorry Bali!). What’s more, travelers can get up-close-and-personal with the brooding mountains here too, as regular hiking excursions leave to conquer to likes of sulphur-topped Cerro Negro and Mombacho (an optional tour on our Naturally Nica itinerary!)
For the food
Travelers to Central America can look forward to a smorgasbord of tropical flavors seen nowhere else on earth. In El Salvador there are cornflour tortillas packed with loroco vine flowers and pork scratchings. In Costa Rica, gallo pinto means a hearty mashup of black beans and rice. Belize’s kitchen boasts tamales and cassava, jackfruit and thick flatbreads, while Nicaragua has a tapa of Spanish-infused seafood with hints of mango, avocado and yucca. Gotta’ stop: mouth watering.
For colonial history
Just a quick glance at the elegant church spires and Spanish-style mansions of Granada in Nicaragua, painted mustard-yellow and ensconced by winding cobblestone lanes and pueblo cottages by the bucket load, is enough to testify to Central America’s long and intimate connection with Europe. In fact, gorgeous colonial towns and ruins pepper the entire region, from the volcano-topped old town of León Viejo to the multicultural reaches of Casco Viejo in Panama City. Truly enthralling sites one and all!
For the pre-colonial history
Of course, Central America’s history goes much deeper than the 15th century and the decades when Columbus landed on these shores. This is the land of the mystical Aztec civilisation after all, and the Mayans; a place where ruined cities like Copán offer just glimpses of once glorious imperial dynasties. There are temple tops shrouded by vines and jungles to see, popping above the canopies at Tikal and El Petén, or proudly crowning the hills at Palenque. And that’s not even mentioning the pre-historic footprints at Huellas de Acahualinca in Managua!
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"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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