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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

6,638 Reviews

  • Excellent 4,871
  • Great 1,690
  • Average 61
  • Disappointing 10
  • Terrible 6

Rating Details

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

Tour Reviews

the trip was epic, beautiful views , wonderful sailing , amazing food , the energy was beyond wonderful, it was very interactive and honestly so amazing

Sailing the British Virgin Islands – Tortola to Tortola

5.0
October 2017
G Adventures
Recommend: Yes
the trip was epic, beautiful views , wonderful sailing , amazing food , the energy was beyond wonderful, it was very interactive and honestly so amazing. I look forward to going to sail in Croatia with Toni again, I went into the trip expecting it to be like my greece sailing trip and it was nothing like that at all i love that we moored in the harbours, I had no idea really that was even a thing , I loved how patient our skipper was teaching us all how to sail and that he encouraged us to name the dingy, I feel like I'm gushing but Im not it was the best holiday I have ever been on. If I had to give any additional advice I would say that it would be nice if the boat had better quality snorkel gear, Im not a weak swimmer but my gear made it bit challenging.
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Hasta La Victoria Siempre

Cuba: La Isla Grande

5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Cuba has been on my "must visit" list for ages. It did not disappoint. I knew the best way to experience this intriguing country was by escorted group tour. I arranged my own flights and joined the ,sold out tour, group in Havana. I have travelled a lot in my time, so along with the trip notes & guide books, I knew not to have great expectations - other than to see, learn and enjoy a new experience. One of the first things our guide said to us was "expect the unexpected, have an open mind" and quite frankly that is how one should travel anyway. I therefore have no complaints.
Cuba is beautiful, lots of history and yet stuck in a time-warp. the people friendly and welcoming. We had a good mix of accommodation, 2 hotel changes - our arrival hotel (for which we didn't know about until landing & as I was not on group flight, this info was not v well conveyed at the office in airport, so I insisted on going to original hotel, which thankfully was around the corner from right one, but late at night was not fun walking round) All rooms were clean, had a/c, v comfy beds. One hotel some had scolding showers, us others cold, but there was water so i could shower & wash my hair so no complaints from me. It was lovely to stay with locals for 3 nights in casa particulares. We returned to one hotel after the one in Sierra Maestra double booked, so we had another long travel day the next day consequently. Melia Santiago de Cuba (Spanish chain) was the plushest hotel, Food is usually bland - surprising given the amount of onion & garlic at markets, but I was never hungry, lots of fresh fruit, amazing seafood, Baracoa had the best flavours, and Casa Paladares the best food. In a nation where ration books still exist, one shouldn't complain about the food served! Service is slow, - no problem of an evening, but frustrating at breakfast time.
The first 3 days of travelling are tough, especially following a 10hr flight. yes there are breaks etc, but it is still tough & folks got the lurgy. Our guide played some great films about Cuban history.
We stopped off at some lovely places for lunch, twice at v picturesque quiet beach locations.
I booked an extra night in Havana so that I could have more time to explore this beautiful city. I would recommend doing this.
I just wish I had been there longer, so am looking forward to returning.
I loved every aspect of this trip. There is lot to see, learn and take in.
We did not do the Vinales trip - I'd already decided not to do this, simply due to the long travelling time (really did not want to spend any more time on a bus at the end of a trip), By not doing this trip, we all then had a great day in Havana, sight seeing in 1950s cars, coco-taxis, the Rum factory, lunch, a visit to a Cigar factory (that alas we didn't see as an American group did a back-hander and "stole" the tour guide much to everyone's annoyance) so we went to the Chocolate museum instead, plus an evening at Buena Vista Social Club. we all felt that this was an excellent way to end our group trip.
Using the local horse & carts, and bici-taxis; therefore we got to see more of town-life and the looks on the locals was priceless, they simply had not seen this before. It was wonderful, plus putting money directly into the local economy.
Go to Casa de la Trovas, watch, dance, enjoy, have a salsa lesson.

Our Group Leader was Laz. He is a great tour leader, Speaks excellent English, v approachable, got on well with all in the group, has a fab sense of humour (which went down well with us Brits (& Aussies too) extremely knowledgeable, willing to talk about his country. Full of suggestions / recommendations, eg instead of a walking tour, to use the horse & cart or bici-taxis, Always our decision, never pressured into doing anything. He was on back-to-back tours, so hopefully he'll get a deserved break v soon!
Junior, our driver, was excellent too. Although spoke little English, he was attentive, polite and friendly. Drove very carefully and kept a clean bus.

Have an open mind and you wont be disappointed.
Take cash (sterling or euros) - I used my debit card once at ATM in Havana, but learnt I was charged £6 in total for doing so (my fault for being lazy & not going to a cadeca!). The exchange rate will be the same wherever you are as it is state-operated. Cuba is not cheap (but I wouldn't say that expensive). local drinks are always the cheapest.
I was expecting long queues at customs / immigration on arrival. I had photocopies of all my docs, and did not need to show these to anyone to get passport stamped. I wasn't asked any questions at all.
The airport cadeca is outside & there were long queues. I know that the rest of the group were limited to changing only £200. However this amount lasted a while.
To add to the list of items to take with you - a toilet roll. Hotels will provide toilet paper, but public loos wont have. Due to the sewage systems all items are placed into the bins, Often there are no doors, or very short doors covering the essentials! Dont' be alarmed!!!
Ladies I would suggest taking nappy bags for your sanitary items.

Have a fantastic trip!!

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A fantastic whistle-stop tour

A Taste of Cuba

5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
A great week - lots of different aspects of Cuba, really enjoyable, very informative and a lot of fun. There is a lot of travel involved however it gave us all a good insight into some of the life in a different and fascinating country. Very hospitable hosts in the Casals Particulares.
The final Salsa class with our Cuban dance partners; realising how hard most Cubans have to work in order to make ends meet; appreciating just how widespread the ability to perform music to a high standard is amongst the Cubans;

Lenay was a fabulous guide. Kind, helpful, very informative, assertive when needed, always smiley cheerful and positive, realistic about what we should expect, and she made it a great week for us all. She was very concerned that we were happy with the accommodation wherever we were, and that we let her know if anything wasn't as it might be. I don't think we could have had a better guide. A big thank you to Lenay for a great week, and for all her hard work.

Expect some long journeys; don't expect European luxuries or standards of accommodation everywhere; take time to learn some Spanish as the hosts in the cases particulares are extremely kind, and friendly; take things as you find them and with a sense of humour; understand that we are very wealthy/privileged in comparison to most Cubans; enjoy it all!

I would love to return.

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This trip was everything I hoped it would be and more

Costa Rica Quest

5.0
April 2017
G Adventures
Recommend: Yes
This trip was everything I hoped it would be and more. Costa Rica is a gorgeous country and I'm so grateful that I got to experience the pura vida lifestyle, even if it was only for 9 too short days. Ronny, our CEO, got to know each of us individually and made recommendations based on our interests. He was a pleasure to have as part of our group and added so much value to our experience. Ronny was fun and truly ensured that we had the best experience imaginable. He was helpful and accommodating whenever we needed him and was always looking out for our safety. The optional activities that were recommended were all well worth the money and the customer service was excellent. Our drivers and transportation were excellent as well and all of the accommodations were clean and comfortable. I have been home for less than 48 hours and have already recommended this trip to family and friends.
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5.0
April 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
I have been to many amazing destinations but this trip really was fantastic. The variety of marine life and the way we were able to interact with the marine mammals was so rewarding. Our two naturists were extremely knowledgeable about the sea, wind and animals, this enabled us to see not only the wildlife expected at this time of year but also two blue whales. Highlights of this trip was seeing grey whales, blue whales, fin whales, minke whales, humpback whales, sea lions, whale sharks, mobula rays, too many birds to mention and lots and lots of cactuses. We snorkelled with whale sharks and sea lions, went rock pooling, beach combing, kayaking and drank lots of cocktails.
So difficult to say, both snorkelling with the whales sharks and with the sea lions was amazing but seeing the blue whales was too (and the humpback whales). Lela explained that we would have a better experience with the grey whales at Porto Chale instead of Magdelena bay as there were quite a lot of boats in the bay. This was the right decision as were were the only boats and were surrounded by 40-50 whales.

Lela is just a lovely, knowledgeable, caring, compassionate person who did everything possible to educate the group and make sure each and everyone of us had a great trip.

My only advice would be to make sure you don't take the flight (which in this case was the group flight) which has a 6 hour 40 minute layover in Mexico City. Two flights to San Jose Cabo departed before ours and we would have had more than enough time to catch either of them.

If you love marine life, birds, beautiful scenery and great cocktails then you will love this trip.

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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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