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Central America and Mexico

Caribbean water, excellent snorkeling and scuba diving; rain forests with exotic birds, frogs, monkeys and more; incredibly well-preserved pre-Columbian ruins and towering pyramids; quaint colonial plazas and cathedrals; smoggy, congested capital cities; colorful, bustling markets where vendors in traditional, hand woven clothes hawk everything from pig’s ears to embroidered t-shirts to pirated DVDs: Mexico and Central America have it all.

Central America, the little sliver of land connecting North America to South America, is about one fourth the size of Mexico and contains seven unique nations. Within this small space, live over 40 million inhabitants, most of which are mestizo, with a mixture of Hispanic and indigenous heritages – with the exception of English-speaking, Caribbean Belize. For the average tourist, this means that most of the attractions are relatively close together making for less travel time and more time to enjoy the destination.

Although the geography of all seven nations is relatively similar, the attractions, cultures and tourism infrastructure vary wildly, so choose wisely. Costa Rica tends to be the country that most tourists prefer when planning a trip to Central America, but rising crime rates in that country and the cultural richness, and virgin beauty of countries like Guatemala and Panama or even El Salvador are making many travelers reconsider other countries as preferred destinations. The international bus system and relatively inexpensive flight packages also make it fairly easy to cruise through all seven nations in a relatively short period of time.

Mexico, while often grouped with Central America, offers a completely different travel experience. Mexico tends to be more expensive than most of Central America, with the exception of Belize. Many parts of Mexico are highly commercialized for tourism, due in a large part to the proximity to the United States. If resort tourism is your style, the Yucatán offers some of the world’s finest. If you are more interested in a cultural, less touristy trip, Mexico's Chiapas and southern mostly indigenous provinces are fascinating. The capital, Mexico City, is an incredible explosion of buildings, people, markets and cultural attractions like museums and pre-Colombian cities.

23 Sep 2009

Central America and Mexico Highlights


101934 In a highland valley some 1500 meters above sea level, the charming colonial city of Antigua lies, surrounded by three volcanoes. It’s tickled by the skirts of Volcán de Agua to the south and is ...
Antigua, Guatemala

The Corn Islands

101814These two islands: Little Corn and Big Corn are lined with picturesque palm trees and surrounded by beautiful coral reefs covered by crystal-clear water. Little Corn has no electricity or phones, so ...


103616The city of Oaxaca is one of the treasures of Mexican colonial architecture. The gorgeous city center, or ZĂłcalo, is a haven of peace and tranquility. Tall trees cast shade on locals and visitors ...
Oaxaca, Mexico


102646Once home to 100,000 Maya, Tikal was one of the most important cities in the Maya empire. It was abandoned when the empire collapsed and re-discovered relatively recently. Today it is one of the most ...
Major Attraction, Ruin

Belize Marine Reserves

101953Belize’s most famous dive spot is the Blue Hole. Once an underwater cave, the Blue Hole collapsed about 10,000 years ago. It left a nearly perfect circular hole about 300 m (1000 ft) across and ...
National Park, Diving


101811Granada is a charming town with cobblestone streets and plenty of traveler-friendly spots. One of Central America’s oldest towns and Nicaragua’s first, Granada was founded on the shores of Lago ...
Granada, Nicaragua

The Ruins of Copan

101905The Ruins at Copan are believed to have been inhabited by the Maya as early as 1200 BC and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not as impressive in size as Tikal in Guatemala or pre-Columbian ...
Ruin, Major Attraction
Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Bocas del Toro

101732If you're looking for an unspoiled paradise – keep looking. The word is and has been long out on Bocas del Toro. Although you won't find McDonalds and Pizza Hut here (as of July 2008), the islands ...
Major Attraction, Island, City

Central America's National Parks

Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya

101819Founded in 1979, the Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya is Nicaragua’s oldest national park. Its 54 sq km (34 sq mi) contain the famous Masaya Volcano with the Masaya and Nidiri cones (the latter also ...
National Park

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

If Cancún is a place for the hedonist with its loud, late-night bars, American fast food, and over-developed coastline, then the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, two hours to the south, is the antidote. It ...
National Park
Tulum, Mexico

Parque Nacional Archipiéago Zapatera

Established as a National Park in 1983, the Zapatera Archipelago consists of a series of islands in Lake Nicaragua. The park gets its name from the largest island, Zapatera, which makes up over half ...
National Park

Santiago Crater

104584 From the park entrance at the side of the main road, transport (50 Cordobas/US$3 one-way) can take you up the hilly road to the edge of the active Santiago crater. It last erupted in 2000, toppling ...
Hiking, National Park

Montibelli Reserve

Montibelli is a large, private reserve whose 165.5 hectares are made up of three former coffee plantations. The owners still grow a bit of coffee – plus lemons, bananas, pineapples and pitahaya ...
National Park
Managua, Nicaragua

Belize Marine Reserves

101953Belize’s most famous dive spot is the Blue Hole. Once an underwater cave, the Blue Hole collapsed about 10,000 years ago. It left a nearly perfect circular hole about 300 m (1000 ft) across and ...
National Park, Diving

Lagunas de Montebello

107302This is a peaceful and pleasant place. The park is made up of more than 50 lakes deep in impressive forest and while many are simply smallish pools of varying colours there are some with rock ...
National Park, Adventure Tour
San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Mexico

Complejo Ecotouristico Arareko

107527This is an excellent day walk or half-day cycle from town as it takes you through unique communities and unusual scenery. The whole area is full of Tarahumara people, who live in caves or wood ...
Hiking, Eco-Tour, National Park
Creel, Mexico

Divisadero Walk

107540The famed train stops at Divisadero for 15 minutes but there is no way you can do such a fantastic view justice in a quarter of an hour so try to plan for a day trip as well. To hike right out into ...
Adventure Tour, Hiking, National Park
Creel, Mexico

Rio Dulce Tour

112358The Tour begins in Livingston at 9:30 am. This trip of the river is organized with Exotic Travel Agency. The boat costs $ 12.00 per person one way and you visit The Canyon, Tatin River, Ak'Tenamit ...
National Park
Livingston, Guatemala

Las Conchas de Chahal

136590A bit like Semuc Champey but with a fraction of the tourists, Parque Natural Las Conchas is a set of waterfalls on the RĂ­o ChiyĂş tumbling into tranquil green pools amid tropical rainforest. While ...
National Park

Ruins of the Region

The Great Pyramid

127735Covered in grass and crowned by the Catholic shrine to La Virgen de los Remedios, the Great Pyramid, built in 200 BC, initially resembles a big hill. Upon closer inspection you´ll be able to see ...
Cholula, Mexico

Teotihuacán Ruins

107393One of the country's cultural highlights, these impressive ruins can be visited easily in one day even if your base is Mexico City. Dating back to the days of the Maya, this former urban center has ...
Mexico City, Mexico

Chichen Itza trip

107040This is a must-do if you are in this area and trips are offered not only from Playa but also Ancun and Tulum. Organised tours usually put small groups into minibuses but do not befooled by the ...
Cultural Tour, Ruin, Adventure Tour
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Tulum Ruins

107068This is one of the prettiest Mayan sites you can visit, neatly cared for with trimmed grass and palms surrounding well-restored ruins. The buildings themselves may not be as impressive as somewhere ...
Ruin, Cultural Tour
Tulum, Mexico


Maya legend tells of a dwarf in the ancient city of Uxmal, who claimed to have magical powers. Uxmal’s ruler, confident that the dwarf was a fraud, made a foolish wager that if the dwarf could ...
Merida, Mexico

Ruins of Cholula

127728The ruins of Cholula, constructed between 200 BC and 800 AD, are the bread and butter of the town´s tourist industry. Once a majestic city of 400 temples and rival to the mighty Teotihuacan, the ...
Cholula, Mexico

Ruinas Veracruz

Another casualty of the 1979 bombardment, these are probably the most impressive, intact ruins in Leon. The most likely reason for this is that they have been fenced-off, preventing people from ...
Barrio Sutiava, Leon, Nicaragua

Forteleza la PĂłlvora

122933This 250-year-old fort was built by the Spanish. It was later used as a torture and interrogation center during the Somoza dictatorship. The fort was rebuilt in the 1990's, and now houses a small ...
Granada, Nicaragua


122892Although the historical ambience of this old fortress is largely ruined by the prodigious graffiti covering its walls, it's still an interesting place to visit. For one thing, it offers a beautiful ...
Masaya, Nicaragua

Ball Courts

The presence of two ball courts in the ceremonial center of Tula is the biggest ace in the hand of the “Toltecs fled to Chichen Itza and established a regime there” camp of historians. Although ...
The Archaeological Site, Tula De Allende, Mexico

Diving in Central America

Scuba Diving

110109\"A bad day diving is better than a good day at work,\" says a sticker on the dock at Anthony\'s Key Resort. But, I don\'t believe there is ever a bad day of diving on the island of Roatan.Throughout ...
Roatán, Honduras

Dolphin Dive

With over 20 unique dive sites including outstanding coral reef, caves, tunnels, overhangs and swim-throughs, scuba-diving near Little Corn Island offers something for everyone from first-timers to ...


Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities on Big Corn Island. Divers exploring the sea around Big Corn will have plenty of eye candy, especially the famous “Blowing Rock.” This ...


Many people come to Little Corn to get their Open Water certification ($305). It's hard to think of a more pleasant environment to do this. The waters around also have a spectacular array of fish ...
Diving, Diving Info., Diving School

Diving in San Juan del Sur

The surrounding beaches in the municipality of San Juan del Sur offer greet coral reefs and a variety of interesting and colorful tropical fish. From July to February, Olive Ridley turtles can be ...
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Blue Bayou

106774 This is a good spot for a half day trip to the beach and a snorkelling site. The road heads out of the main part of town for about five-to-ten minutes to a small sandy beach, which can become busy ...
Diving, Beach, Adventure Tour
Utila, Honduras

Snorkel Cozumel - far reefs

107039There are several stalls at the ferry dock who offer this trip, which usually heads to two sites, but bargain hard and you should be able to get an affordable price or an extra site. It takes around ...
Diving, Boating
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Snorkel Cozumel - close reefs

107036Making a trip out to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen is worthwhile to head out to some good snorkeling sites, although it can cost a bit when you add on the ferry ride so make the most of it and stay ...
Boating, Diving
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Belize Marine Reserves

101953Belize’s most famous dive spot is the Blue Hole. Once an underwater cave, the Blue Hole collapsed about 10,000 years ago. It left a nearly perfect circular hole about 300 m (1000 ft) across and ...
National Park, Diving

Caye Caulker Reserve

106907This is a cheaper option if you cannot afford to splash out on the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Most trips come with an in-sea guide and visit three sites, but you get what you pay for and because the ...
Caye Caulker, Belize

Hol Chan Marine Park

106903This trip offers some of the best and most varied snorkelling on the entire East coast of Central America. Most tours, which include an in-sea guide, covering three sites-the Coral Gardens off Caye ...
Caye Caulker, Belize
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