The best Central America destinations can also double as the best Caribbean vacations since the entire eastern coast of the isthmus that is the bridge between North and South America is bordered by the Caribbean Sea. This area is, in fact, where some of the best Central America vacation spots are located. El Salvador is the only country that does not have some Caribbean coastline. You will find at least one of the top Central America trips in each of the other six countries.
Beginning in the north, the little country of Belize wedged on the Caribbean just south of Mexico is one of the emerging luxury tourism destinations. It is only about 175 miles long and about 60 miles wide, so it’s actually possible to travel throughout the country during a single vacation stay. It is one of the best Central America destinations for honeymoons, with a number of romantic all inclusive resorts, most of which lie along its coastline. This area is famed for its Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole ringed by coral reefs that provide some of the best scuba diving in the region. It is part of the Belize Barrier Reef System that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The country is also known for its Mayan archeological sites, including Alta Ha, Lamanai, and Caracol.
There are notable Mayan ruins throughout southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize, and one of the top Central America trips is quite apt to be a visit several Mayan sites in all these countries. Archeological sites in Mexico are primarily clustered in the Yucatan Peninsula around the resort cities of Cancun and Merida, with Chichen Itza as the most extensive and most visited. Next in importance is probably Tikal, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located approximately in the center of Guatemala. Honduras boasts the Mayan site of Copan. To combine visits with these ancient and fascinating sites with a stay at one of the best Central America vacation spots on the beaches makes for a perfect holiday.
One of the best Central America destinations that has emerged in the last two decades is Nicaragua, the largest of the countries in the region. Since the post-Sandinista era of the early 1990s, the country has shed its reputation as a dangerous country full of civil and military strife, and has become one of the safest countries in the region. It is known primarily for its beaches and volcanoes. Its 25 major volcanoes are strung along the Pacific Coast, forming part of the Ring of Fire, with enormous Lake Nicaragua as the centerpiece. Many of them are shaped into perfect cones. They provide magnificent views and the new sport of volcano surfing (sliding down volcano ash on a board). The country’s numerous inland lagoons, lakes, and rivers help to sport an emerging ecotourism industry.
Several of the top Central America trips will be found in Costa Rica, a country that has been democratic and peaceful; having abolished its army in 1949, it is the only Latin American country on the list of world countries that have been democracies since at least 1950. In the entire Western Hemisphere, only the United States and Canada are also on this list. Adding to its appeal for visitors is the remarkable efforts the government has taken to preserve its beautiful natural resources, which include coral reefs and beaches, volcanoes and rainforests, and a host of exotic and rare wildlife. The country contains five percent of the world’s biodiversity, and ranks first in the Americas and third in the world in EPI (Environmental Protection Index). It has set aside an astonishing 23 percent of its area as national parks and protected reserves. There are 26 national parks in the country, ranging from the Arenal and Poas Volcano National Park to the fragile Monteverde Cloud Forest. Its coastal parks include Manuel Antonio Park on the Pacific and Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean. The country has a sophisticated tourism infrastructure with a wide variety of accommodations and numerous things to do.
Finally, another of the best Central America vacation spots is Panama. Before the dictator Noriega was ousted in 1989, almost all tourism in the country was limited to the Panama Canal Zone and Panama City. Often, visitors hardly even stepped foot on land, as they passed through the country only while transiting the canal. While the greatest percentage of tourism is still centered here, more and more Panama destinations are becoming popular, including the idyllic San Blas Islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific fishing mecca of Coiba Island.