Central America is a wonderful little territorial strip with lots of sunshine, great weather and a warm, fantastic local population. One can find both unique nature and culture; spend the day swinging in a hammock by the beach or explore the colonial cities and Mayan ruins. Travelling issmall and manageable, and perfect for backpacking and zigzagging up (or down), between the coastlines of the Pacific in the west and the Caribbean Sea in the east, whilst passing through the countriesof Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Central America's many options
On a trip to Central America you'll quickly discover that you're not short of options and that one of the advantages of a relatively large number of countries being packed into a small continent is the cultural diversity.
Costa Rica has over the years become the most popular destination in the region and is the easiest to travel around in. Tourism is well developed here with masses of transport options and exciting activities such as surfing, rafting, climbing, abseiling or rapelling, and cave exploration. Costa Rica though is best known for its amazing wildlife and natural beauty.
Panama is a little larger than its neighbour Costa Rica, but not so touristy. This unspoiled country has many outstanding qualities that are similar to Costa Rica - beautiful, long, sandy beaches and carefree days lying in a hammock at one of the charming backpacker hangouts. The country is best known for the enormous Panama Canal that links the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean - an engineering masterpiece that should not be missed.
Guatemala has the most extensive native culture in the region, especially the area around the city of Antigua, which has very clear heritage evident in many places. It's a great place to do some voluntary work or take a Spanish language course. One should not cheat oneself a trip to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, where archaeological studies continue. A stay on the Caribbean coast also comes highly recommended, especially when it involves staying in one of the jungle huts situated by one of the rivers of the area.
Honduras and Belize are a must see to those that love to snorkel or SCUBA dive. Just off the coast of these two countries is the Belize Barrier Reef, the worlds second largest coral reef system. The beauty below the surface is incomprehensible. Unsurprisingly these two countries also offer some incredibly beautiful beaches and exciting Mayan ruins.
Nicaragua and El Salvador are the continents least developed countries and therefore have fewer tourist areas and facilities. This doesn't make them any less appealing as a travel destination though - it is precisely their unspoilt nature that makes them charming and attractive. One can climb a volcano or canoe around a lake and have them almost completely to oneself. Large parts of the coast offer great surfing, and there are loads of beautiful colonial cities. The prices here are lower than the rest of the continent and another good reason to check them out and stay around a while.