What to do in Central America

Trips in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

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Central America: The Bucket List

The author rides the bow through class-4 rapids. Credit: Rios Tropicales

River Rafting in Costa Rica

I perched in the front of the bouncing rubber raft like a figurehead, clinging to the side straps for dear life, forgetting not to scream as wave after wave slapped my face and filled my mouth. Peals of pure laughter followed my shrieks of  joy while my raft mates paddled ...
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Zipolete, Mexico

Skinny-Dipping or Snorkeling in Zipolite, Mexico

I chose it because the beach was of a clothing-optional variety, and coming from a fairly purist Southern family, I’d not seen a lot of that sort of thing: strangers’ boobs set free in nature and whatnot. I couldn’t very well tell my girlfriend at the time (in the coming ...
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Copy of Just a Local Swimming Hole

Hiking to the Seven Waterfalls of Juayua, El Salvador

Honestly, I think we picked the location first for its name: Juayua. Not only was the spelling aesthetically pleasing in its arrangement of letters, but the pronunciation—Who-ah-you-ah—had sent my wife Emma and me into fits of giggles. Strange how some words just do that. Whatever the case, we were fortunate ...
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Souvenir Stand on 5th Avenida

The Shopping ’til You Drop Tour of Antigua, Guatemala

We all have our weaknesses, and one of mine is souvenirs. Admittedly, it’s not the most masculine of traits, not the one I like to write to the guys back home about, but I’ve spent many a traveling afternoon scouring markets and engaging in hard-nosed negotiations. And, I can tell ...
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Central America Facts

Main International Airports: Belize City, Belize; San Pedro and Liberia, Costa Rica; San Salvador, El Salvador;  Guatemala City, Guatemala; San Pedro, Tegucigalpa, and Roátan, Honduras; Managua, Nicaragua; Panama City, Panama

Currency: Belize: Belizean dollar (U.S. dollars widely accepted). Costa Rica: colón. El Salvador: American dollar. Guatemala: quetzal. Honduras: lempira. Nicaragua: cordóba. Panama: American dollar

Population: Belize: 321,000.  Costa Rica: 4,600,000. El Salvador: 14,000,000. Guatemala: 6,000,000. Honduras: 8,100,000. Nicaragua: 5,700,000. Panama 3,500,000.

Capitals: Belmopan, Belize. San Pedro, Costa Rica. San Salvador, El Salvador. Guatemala Cty, Guatemala. Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Managua, Nicaragua.. Panama City, Panama

Climate: Tropical. Rain and cloud forests in the interior along the Continental Divide can be much wetter and colder with elevation gain. Parts of the Pacific Coast, particularly in Costa Rica, are quite dry. The rainy season is usually (give or take) July-August-September.. On the Atlantic coast, this is also hurricane season.

Major Languages: Spanish. English is the official language in Belize. Various versions of Mayan are also spoken, particularly in  countryside.

More Facts: Visas are not required for tourists from the US, Canadian, and UK (as well as many other nations).

Medical Information: Most tourists travel to the region with no special precautions, although you should use insect repellents to try to avoid being bitten, as dengue fever and other insect-borne illnesses are sometimes present. Drink only bottled or boiled water. For current health issues in central America, see the Center for Disease Control’s Central America page.

Time Zone: Most of Central America is on Central Time (UTC – 6); Panama is on Eastern time (UTC – 5) except during Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Standard times:  See World Clock for seasonal adjustments.

Information updated February, 2013. The information provided here is for planning purposes only: Please check with the Centers for Disease Control and your health care provider for updated medical information and recommendations, and with the embassy of the country to which you are traveling for the most current visa information.