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Top Trip Memories
  • Visiting North America’s first colonial city, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where a number of “firsts” can still be toured.
  • Going snorkeling or SCUBA diving in Belize, Central America.
  • Climbing the Mayan pyramids in Tikal, Guatemala.
  • Riding a small boat on the Panama Canal after visiting an indigenous tribe in the rainforest.
  • Walking around Old Havana, Cuba, to see Hemingway haunts and 1950s-era American cars, still running. 
  • Beachcombing on some of the world’s finest sands throughout the Caribbean.
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Tour Tips
  • The Caribbean is much more than beautiful beaches. Each island has its own culture and languages include English, Spanish, French and Dutch.
  • Outside of Costa Rica and perhaps Belize and Panama, Central America is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are rich in history, culture, and natural beauty as well.
  • With some 7,000 islands in the Caribbean (many of them small) and nearly 30 island nations, it's best to pick cruises -- preferably small ship -- that visit a few at a time, or take a tour of one or two islands to get to know them in depth.
  • The biggest islands in the Caribbean -- and among the most popular -- are Hispaniola (shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. 
  • The Dominican Republic is best known for its beaches, but it also contains the Caribbean's highest mountain (Pico Duarte), which you can climb on a guided tour; is a top windsurfing destination; and offers hiking and mountain biking adventures. 
  • U.S. citizens can travel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands without carrying passports (though it's always wise to get one). 
  • Bermuda is often thought of as a Caribbean Island, but actually it's hundreds of miles north in the Atlantic Ocean, and can be quite chilly in winter. 
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Central America & the Caribbean Travel Reviews & Ratings
4.7 out of 5

100%

recommend

6,568 Reviews

Excellent 4,787 Great 1,663 Average 9 Disappointing 1 Terrible 3

Rating Details

Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7
Tour Reviews

Fantastic trip! This is such a great value and wonderful experience.

Guatemala with Tikal, Atitlán and Antigua

5.0 August 2017 Caravan Tours Recommend: Yes We just spent 10 days exploring Guatemala with Caravan tours. The hotels were amazing, the food was delicious, our driver was fantastic and our guide was so knowledgeable and kind. We had two families and 6 kids from the ages of 18-10 and we all learned so much. The guide was wonderful and really had great knowledge of the country. I came back with such a great appreciation for the Mayan culture and people. Thank you, Caravan for a wonderful adventure. Read more

An excellent introduction to Costa Rica

Natural Highlights of Costa Rica

4.0 August 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes This trip packs a lot into 8 days without ever feeling rushed.

We achieved our aim of seeing sloths (2- and 3-toed) and also saw many other
amazing animals and birds.
Seeing a sloth climbing down from high up in a tree to avoid the worst of a
squally shower and, as she got closer, realising that she had a baby clinging
to her was fabulous.

The Cloud Forest in Monteverde also stood out; for me it was the epitome of
what a 'jungle' should look and feel like (very green and wet!)


Our guide, Johnny, was friendly and knowledgeable about seemingly all aspects
of Costa Rica and its wildlife. Special mention must also go to our driver
Dennis who negotiated some narrow windy roads extremely safely.


Be prepared for rain in the cloud forest despite what the weather may be
doing in Monteverde itself!

For any photographers, a 400mm lens (or equivalent) really helps get photos
of sloths, monkeys etc high up in the trees.


The only disappointment for me was that the hotels in La Fortuna and
Monteverde (Magic Mountain(!) and Poco A Poco) were more mainstream and
modern than I was expecting. The trip notes (which I know have since been
updated to list these) promised small eco lodges which these two were not.


Read more

A truly fantastic experience in Costa Rica

Discover Costa Rica

5.0 August 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes Discover Costa Rica is a fantastic holiday that is suitable for all ages. The
itinerary is expertly put together, meaning you really get a sense of the
whole country and the various different ecosystems. 6 lots of 2 night stays
with the bookends in San Jose and a comfortable mini-bus for the entire trip
(with wifi) take you from the Caribbean ocean and sea turtles in Tortugero,
to the volcano and hot springs of Arenal, to the cloud forrests of Monteverde
and Savegres, and the nature reserves of Manuel Antonio and Esquinas. Each of
these locations present their own individual highlights and the travel in
between is well planned and not overly long (4 hours on average on a travel
day).
Seeing a three toed sloth on the edge of the road at extremely close quarters
as she tried to cross the road has to be the highlight of the trip. Such
amazing creatures!


Antonio was our group leader and great from the beginning to the end.
Knowledgeable, always willing to go the extra mile, he really made our trip
special.


No real need to bring much cash. Good to change a couple of hundred pounds
into Colons in San Jose to get the best FX but otherwise you can pay with
mastercard throughout the entire trip.
Bring suncream and plenty of insect repellent.
Waterproofs are essential too - good walking shoes and comfy sandals
important too - flip flops for the beach.


Small group of 16 maximum means you meet some fantastic people who become
real friends over the two weeks.


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Tropical Delights

Discover Costa Rica

5.0 August 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes This was a fantastic trip and a great way to discover the delights of Costa
Rica. From the lush tropical rainforests of the Caribbean coast to the misty
cloud forests to the fascinating pacific coast. A truly memorable trip
Probably our zip lining experience in the cloud forest, which was just
fantastic and something I will never forget, but we also loved the volcanic
hot springs, and of course seeing sloths, monkeys, toucans, crocodiles,
scarlet macaws, etc, etc...


Fantastic. Knowledgeable on the flora and fauna and on Costa Rica generally
and managed the tour to perfection.


The optional activities (zip lining and volcanic hot springs) are really
worth doing and I would highly recommend them.

Make sure you buy your souvenirs before you get to the airport, as the prices
at the airport are more than double the price outside.


My only criticism of Costa Rica is that the airport needs serious investment
to cope with the number of passengers. There was only one stand that could
take an aircraft of our size, and we had to circle for ages waiting for the
berth to become free. When we got in the terminal the queues were horrendous
and then the air conditioning failed. We queued for over an hour in stifling
conditions, which wasn't fun.


Read more

Discover Costa Rica

Discover Costa Rica

5.0 August 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes This was our first Exodus trip and it won't be our last! It was a well paced
holiday, moving on after two days in one place, but we managed to see a range
of different environments in this amazing country. There was such a number
and variety of animals and birds wherever we went! It must have one of the
richest natural habitats in the world. The scenery was stunning too - from
beautiful river systems to volcanoes and cloud forests and tropical rain
forests. What an experience!
It's difficult to pinpoint any single moment, but waking up to the sound of
howler monkeys in the trees above our chalet on the first morning was
something that will live with us for a long time!


We chose this trip as the guide was a bird expert. Giullamo did not
disappoint. He was professional throughout, making sure we all got the most
out of the holiday. His knowledge of birds and animals was encyclopedic and
he had an instinct for spotting the wildlife before any of us were aware of
it. He took the trouble to explain about the different environments we
visited and his pride in his country shone through. The research he had done
before the trip paid dividends, down to booking good restaurants; in one case
reserving seats to watch a sunset before we sat down to eat. We all agreed we
could not have had a better guide.


We went to Costa Rica in the "dry" season, but the rain forests lived up to
their name on a couple of occassions. Our waterproof ponchos proved
invaluable to cover ourselves & our backpacks until the rain eased off.
Having a pair of binoculars each was a good thing too.


I could not fault the holiday itself - hence the 5 stars. However, we went
for the flight inclusive option, assuming Exodus had found the best way to
reach Costa Rica. The journey turned out to be a nightmare in both directions
- flying from Heathrow to Toronto, Canada, then connecting to another Air
Canada flight to San Jose - the latter being a 5 hour flight with no
entertainment or food provided. Similarly, the return journey was with Delta
via Houston and again the first leg was without food or entertainment. We
discovered afterwards there was a direct flight from Gatwick with BA. I feel
Exodus should have informed us before we made the final booking/payment.


Read more
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Central America & the Caribbean Trips & Tour Advice

Central America and the Caribbean are mainland North America’s closest overseas  tropical destinations. Those in the eastern and southern regions of the U.S. are especially close, but it’s northeasterners, in particular, who welcome warm-weather vacations in wintertime.

So with the Caribbean, in particular, the first image that comes to mind is a tropical beach, perhaps with you sitting on it downing a rum punch. But there’s much more to explore in this region.

Experience History and Much More

Start with centuries of history --  from the Mayan temples of Guatemala to the Spanish colonial ruins of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic (the “New World’s” first city, dating from Columbus’ second voyage), to the imposing fortresses facing the sea in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the old city of Havana, Cuba.  

You can tour historic pirate havens in Jamaica and elsewhere, learn about traditional rum making, and hear the horrific stories of the slave trade that brought thousands of Africans here in chains to work the sugar cane fields.

And while there are plenty of ways to get your exercise along the beaches -- windsurfing and kite-surfing in the Dominican Republic among them -- you can also hikeclimb mountainsride mountain bikes, photograph tropical birds, go scuba diving or snorkeling among tropical reefs, take a whale-watching trip, go zip-lining through the tree-tops of a lush forest, tour old rum distilleries, discover distinctive architecture, or just enjoy the views on a sightseeing trip among islands and nations of Spanish, French, British, Dutch, and African cultural heritages.

Central America

While the southern side of Central America borders the Pacific Ocean, the northern side lies along the Caribbean, and generally tends to be somewhat more tropical, with warmer waters. The region has seen its share of civil strife in the past half century, and some high-crime areas  remain, but there are islands of stability.

The two most prominent Central American countries for visitors are Costa Rica and Panama, with Belize coming up fast. Costa Rica packs a wallop for its small size, with both Caribbean and Pacific coastal areas, rainforests and desert-like regions, volcanoes and wildlife. Costa Rica may be best known for its rainforest birding expeditions and its seven active volcanoes, including Irazu and Arenal -- which has erupted several times this century. But the country itself is stable and peaceful.

Panama, of course, is home to the Panama Canal, currently being widened to accommodate larger ships. A tour to Panama might include a day trip on the canal in a small ship (“Panama Canal” big-ship cruises usually don’t go all the way through the canal itself). Beyond the canal are rainforests occupied by indigenous tribes, jungle lodges for wildlife viewing and trekking, and the modern capital of Panama City.

Beyond Costa Rica and Panama

Belize, which shares part of the world’s second-longest tropical coral reef, is made for snorkeling and scuba diving, and also boasts Mayan ruins, while Guatemala is best known for Tikal, a pre-Columbian Mayan temple and World Heritage Site, as well as its volcanoes and natural beauty.

Honduras includes the island of Roatan, which has become a major Caribbean cruise ship stop, while Nicaragua -- the largest country in Central America -- is packed with impressive volcanoes and rainforests, but is sparsely visited. Tiny El Salvador also has volcanoes, lakes, forests, and a great Pacific surfing coast, but has been plagued by high crime and gang violence. Still, many adventurous travelers experience safe trips there and love it.

With an area this size, a tour, individual travel planner, or small-ship cruise makes a lot of sense in deciding where to go and what to see and do. Stride can help narrow the field for you and get you started on your adventures in the Caribbean and Central America. 

Related Guides

Countries:

BelizeCosta RicaCubaGuatemalaPanamaDominican RepublicHondurasNicaraguaEl-salvador 

Attractions:          

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica; Roatan, Honduras; Panama City, Panama; Granada, Nicaragua; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Many More.

Top Activities:    

 Scuba diving & SnorkelingSailing CruisesYoga, Meditation & WellnessKayaking & Canoeing & Nature Sightseeing.

 

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