Central America’s most diverse country captivates travelers with its extraordinary landscapes and a civilization-spanning culture that reaches back centuries. Colonial Influences The Spanish left behind plenty of footprints from their colonial conquest of Guatemala, the most visible being the frequently stunning architecture.
With one foot in the Central American jungles and the other in the Caribbean Sea, pint-sized Belize is packed with islands, adventure and culture. Action & Adventure Whether you're scuba diving the Blue Hole, ziplining through the jungle canopy, rappelling down waterfalls or crawling through ancient cave systems, Belize is a genuine adventure.
From clear turquoise seas to the coffee farms and cloud forests of Chiriquí, Panama can be as chilled out or as thrilling as you wish. The Great Outdoors In Panama, nature is all about discovery. Explore the ruins of Spanish forts on the Caribbean coast or boat deep into indigenous territories in a dugout canoe.
White beaches fringed by the world's second largest barrier reef, jungle-covered mountains cut by raftable white-water rivers and home to an astounding number of bird species, exquisite Mayan ruins, colonial, cobblestone villages, fresh seafood grilled on the beach…Yes, all this is found in Honduras, a country often hurried through or avoided entirely due to its dangerous ima.
The Highlands – El Altiplano – stretch from Antigua to the Mexican border, and is Guatemala's most breath-taking region by some degree. Mayan identity is stronger here than anywhere in the country and over a dozen distinct groups dwell within the region, each with its own language and clothing.
Península de Nicoya
Maybe you’ve come to the Península de Nicoya to sample the sapphire waters that peel left and right, curling into perfect barrels up and down the coast. Or perhaps you just want to hunker down on a pristine patch of sand and soak up some sun. By day, you might ramble down rugged roads, fording rivers and navigating ridges with massive coastal views.
Central Pacific Coast
Stretching from the rough-and-ready port of Puntarenas to the tiny town of Uvita, the central Pacific coast is home to wet and dry tropical forests, sun-drenched beaches and a healthy dose of wildlife. On shore, national parks protect endangered squirrel monkeys and scarlet macaws, while offshore waters nurture migrating whales and pods of dolphins.
Arenal & Northern Lowlands
You know about the region’s main attraction: that now-dormant volcano, surrounded by old lava fields, bubbling hot springs and a stunning lake. Venture further onto the wild rivers and into the tropical jungle of the northern lowlands and you will discover real-life Costa Rica, where agricultural commerce and ecological conservation converge as a work in green progress.
The most cosmopolitan capital in Central America, Panama City is both vibrant metropolis and gateway to tropical escapes. Many worlds coexist here. Welcoming both east and west, Panama is a regional hub of trade and immigration. The resulting cultural cocktail forges a refreshing 'anything goes' attitude, more dynamic and fluid than its neighbors.
The wildness of the Caribbean thwarted 16th-century Spaniards in their quest to settle here and isolated the region for centuries afterwards, making it distinctly different from the rest of Costa Rica. Influenced by indigenous peoples and West Indian immigrants, the Caribbean's culture has blended slowly and organically.
Southern Belize is the country's most absorbing cultural melting pot, with a strong Garifuna influence around Dangriga and Hopkins, and Belize's largest Maya population down in Toledo. Nature is rich here too, where open savanna and citrus-filled farmland give way to forested hills dotted with Maya villages, ruins and national parks primed for adventurous jungle trekking.
Arenal & Around
Whether you approach from the west or from the east, the drive into the Arenal area is spectacular. Coming from Tilarán in the west, the road hugs the northern bank of Laguna de Arenal. The lake and forest vistas are riveting. On either side lovely inns, hip coffeehouses and eccentric galleries appear like pictures in a pop-up book.