Cheap Central American vacations are among the fastest growing tourism sectors in the Western Hemisphere. Much of this is due to visitors from the United States who found that their preferred destinations in neighboring Mexico had become crowded, commercialized, and expensive. For decades, they had been visiting places such as Cancun and Guadalajara, falling in love with the area for its cheap vacations, and then building vacation and retirement homes, which over time changed these regions. So they began looking for cheap Central America travel by heading south.
The first cheap Central American vacations beckoned young people to Costa Rica in the 1980s. They came lured by the country's pioneering reputation in the new industry of eco-tourism. The country had set aside a substantial percentage of its land (about 25 percent) as protected zones and national parks, something that was revolutionary in the developing world. Today, Costa Rica retains this large area of protected areas, which protects 5 percent of the world's biodiversity, and welcomes more tourists than any other country in the region. Numerous Americans who came in the 1980s and 1990s for a vacation, returned, purchasing and building vacation homes, retirement homes, and luxury resorts. Goods and services are still relatively inexpensive here and there are a number of hostels, guest houses, and modest resorts that provide cheap Costa Rican vacations. Historically, cheap Central America travel began in Costa Rica.
But, many tourists have begun to search further afield, looking for undiscovered and more undeveloped places. Cheap trips to Belize are now at the top of the list. The country was previously avoided because of tensions between Belize and neighboring Guatemala, which still likes to claim the former British colony as its own. There are newer, more luxurious resorts and lodges, but you can still enjoy cheap trips to Belize and find plenty of very affordable accommodations throughout the country. Hostels, offering basic but clean and safe lodging, cater to backpackers at all the main tourist attractions from the beaches at Dangriga to Belize City. You can even enjoy cheap trips to Belize in some of the country's "luxury" all inclusive resorts like the Midas Resort near San Ignacio, where you can book your room with all meals included.
Cheap Honduras trips provide some of the newest experiences in the region, as this country appeared on the scene as a popular destination only recently. Even many of the most expensive resorts in this country offer what would be considered cheap if you were in Costa Rica. The Bananarama Dive Resort on Roatan Island is one a place to enjoy excellent accommodations and services at very affordable prices.
Other countries offering cheap Central America travel include Guatemala, even newer on the tourism scene. A victim of a long and bitter civil war until peace in 1996, most visitors came from across the border in Mexico only to visit the incredible Mayan ruins at Tikal. There is now an airstrip here, and a number of hotels offering basic accommodations. Even the most expensive hotels such as the Jaguar Inn and Jungle Lodge (both near Tikal National Park) have inexpensive rooms, which can accommodate as many as four to six guests. There is also a network of hostels in the country that provide accommodation for backpackers and young people on a shoestring budget.
Another way to enjoy fairly cheap Central American vacations is onboard a cruise ship. Many international cruise lines offer cruises making port stops in the region, most notably in Costa Rica and transiting the Panama Canal. However, more and more itineraries schedule port stops in the other Central American countries, offering shore excursions to visit Mayan ruins, scuba diving, and jungle adventures.