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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

99%

recommend

3,335 Reviews

  • Excellent 2,449
  • Great 847
  • Average 63
  • Disappointing 10
  • Terrible 7

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.7
  • Guide
    4.7
  • Activities
    4.7
  • Lodging
    4.7
  • Transportation
    4.7
  • Meals
    4.7

Tour Reviews

Lovely island and well organised tour

Cuba: La Isla Grande

3.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
I travelled with my wife and we both reach 70 this year. Hitherto we have travelled independently through many countries around the world. We have discussed the merits of a small group tour as we get older. We decided on this trip quite late and rather than rush my preparation we decided to trial the Exodus offering.
The Exodus itinerary was well laid out but even with this mental preparation we found the amount of coach travel in the first days of the trip quite daunting. Travelling independently we would probably have taken 3 weeks on this itinerary. There was no location that we would have wanted to miss and the tour leader was excellent in outlining the history, politics, economics and geography of each place visited, Often accompanied by a rum punch! The hotels were a mixed bag - we would have been happier with more homestays at the Casa Particulares and thoroughly enjoyed the 2 we visited. Food was middling but far the best was to be found in the small "pop up" restaurants to which our tour leader introduced us.
Other members of the party were a mixed bunch and easy to get on with. Even so, where possible we tended to eat independently although the majority were happy to eat as a group. For us, the inevitable downside of group travel was the limitations imposed by timings that required 18 people to gather, travel and do things at broadly the same time. We've learned that we're not quite ready for this type of holiday. But when we are I suspect that it will be Exodus to whom we return.
I'm not sure that we were "inspired" at any stage. We did particularly enjoy discovering the political history of Cuba from a Cuban perspective. In this our tour leader was particularly effective.

Very good

Think hard about the balance between the difficulty of arranging independent travel and the inevitable constraints of collective arrangements in a small group.

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Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
A whirlwind tour of 3 amazing countries. Nicaragua is still in its infancy as far as tourism goes. Lake Nicaragua, volcanoes, wild life are all mind blowing, particularly the visit to the Masaya crater (where visits are limited to 10 minutes owing to the effects of sulphur in the air). The scenery, landscape and rain forests of Costa Rica are not to be missed, especially walking around Arenal. The Caribbean coast of Panama is superb for dolphin watching and visiting indigenous villagers on their own island.
The wildlife and walking in the Costa Roca rainforest

Alex is, quite simply, the BEST tour guide we have had the pleasure of meeting. His knowledge of flaura, fauna, wild life, geology is unsurpassed. He always went the extra mile to ensure that our holiday remains one to last in our memories for the rest of our lives.

Many people mistakenly think malaria pills are required. We (as did the most of the party) used Deet50 spray and were absolutely fine.

Many of the hotels were on the edge of towns, requiring taxis to visit the town centre. It would be better to get some (if not all) hotels to be within walking distance of amenities.

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Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

4.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
It was an amazing trip - I was attracted by the variety it offered and it didn't disappoint: wildlife/National Parks, colonial cities, Caribbean Islands, mountains and of course the Panama Canal. We got a great sense of Central America including its history which is fascinating. So many different boat rides too which were great.
It was the first time this trip had been run and they just need to sort a couple of the hotels out which they said they will do - the majority were lovely.
No one moment but 3 or 4 favourites: Granada, the slow boat trips early morning and evening in Tortuguero NP; the overnight stay in Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo (very lively coastal town, felt like being in Jamaica!); the day out on the boat from Bocas del Toro (take tour 2) - exceptionally good and very much worth the money; the Panama Canal.

Alex was absolutely excellent - the best Exodus guide I've had. He stayed with us throughout the trip and we had local guides also in Nicaragua (Elvis who was great fun and very knowledgeable and helpful) and Cesar and Philippe in Panama. Alex has this amazing telescope which allows you to take your own photos of the wild life through it - felt a bit like cheating but very good!

You go on 10 different boats over the 15 days - they were all amazing even if a couple were a bit "edgy"!
You definitely don't need anti- malarial tablets though you should take care to cover up/use insect repellent.
Although the trip is "Leisurely" be prepared for early starts (5.30 -7am) about 50% of the time.
It was hotter than the temperature chart indicated - mostly about mid 30s - though the mini-buses are all air-conditioned and almost all of the hotels were too. The internal flight to Panama City is great but watch your luggage weight. Nicaragua is quite cheap but Costa Rica is about as expensive as the UK.

About the food - a lot of rice and beans and rice and chicken as you would expect AND a lot of Italian Pizzas and Pasta almost everywhere which we did not expect!

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5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Very busy and fascinating insight into three beautiful countries, led by excellent guides and accompanied by an enthusiastic group of fellow travellers.
The experience of visiting two new countries,Nicaragua and Panama and the knowledge and communication of our excellent guides,Elvis and Alex.

Alex stayed with us throughout the trip and worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran smoothly.Could not have asked for more, first class.
In Nicaragua Elvis was the main guide and his knowledge and passion were shared at every opportunity, his zest was infectious and for me he was an outstanding guide and personality, hope to meet both again!!!!!

It is a very full and busy itinerary but worth every moment-book now!
Currency wise all three countries seem to favour US dollars.

Having already visited Costa Rica previously for the wildlife, the culture and history of Nicaragua and Panama were mesmerising,a real surprise as I thought this wasn't for me-how wrong I was!!!

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Travellers not tourist .....

Discover Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama (2017)

5.0
March 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Just back from a wonderful adventure travelling the length of Nicaragua , Costa Rica and Panama .
Rid yourselves of preconceptions about war torn Nicaragua , over populated Caribbean beaches and that Panama is only about hats and canals and you will have a great experience .Travel from Volcano to jungle and experience the wildlife, geography and culture of this little travelled path through Central America . Be prepared for early starts and busy days along with the excitement of some rustic boat rides into the interior and you will not be disappointed - ..
Looking into the lava lake at Massaya and ALL of our wildlife encounters - too many other wonderful experiences to select from ....

If the Gods are on your side then you will be accompanied by the best guide we have ever encountered - Alex- and for Nicaragua, superb local guide and side kick Elvis . Well done Exodus for engaging Alex - his encyclopaedic knowledge , sense of dedication and all round great attitude made this trip near perfect .

Reality check - this isn't a foody trip - The food wasn't bad and matched the trip note budgets but not the highlight of the trip . The good news is that the local beers were excellent and not too expensive - water was freely available as part of the tour and don't forget to take your water container .

Malaria tablets aren't required but bring your insect repellent , plenty of sun cream and a hat as the temps and the sun high
Dollars throughout were easier than credit card .
Swimming opportunities at many places - if you have two swimming costumes take them - humidity is high and they don't always dry overnight before you travel to your next venue
If you don't have a complex camera / lens for those distant shots , iPhones are excellent for quick pictures and take great pics through a spotters scope - our lovely guide Alex took time to help us get great pictures through his excellent lens and then we air dropped the pic to each of the group !

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


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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