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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

6,645 Reviews

Excellent 4,870 Great 1,690 Average 61 Disappointing 10 Terrible 8

Rating Details

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

Horrible disgusting company

Volcano Adventure – Antigua to San José

1.0 June 2017 G Adventures Recommend: No My tour guide organized a robbery where all my money and passport were stolen and then I was ditched for more than a month alone with nom money or documents in Honduras. G Adventures says "it's not their fault. No refund, no compensation. I wrote a bad review and was blocked. So immature. Disgusted. Read more

Truly fake. Similar to visiting ‘Paris’ in Vegas.

Costa Rica – The Sea Turtle Initiative

1.0 May 2017 Discover Corps Recommend: No Truly fake. Similar to visiting ‘Paris’ in Vegas.

It is advertised as volunteering, family friendly and building international network to help undeveloped countries and nature where scientists are involved. The reality is that it is a typical student back-pack trip. There are no activities for children under 12 to participate too either fun or educational. Young, good natured girls are not scientific personnel and the local people disliked anything American. It felt like a prison and a ‘ghetto’ where you devise a cause, do something without the community’s support that deeply affects their lives (ex-poachers) and be high-minded that you are actually helping. Social division, looking down on people and experiencing poverty is not what I wanted to participate in. I am very upset that this has happened and that no one was interested afterwards.
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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. Read more

Amazing trip,

Journey to the Sea of Cortez - Grey whale & Whale shark departure

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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First Visit to Costa Rica

Discover Costa Rica

5.0 April 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes An excellent introduction to the wildlife around Costa Rica. The focus was on birds but there were plenty of flowers, mammals and invertebrates to add interest. A little more strenuous than suggested by the rating but the guide did give the option not to go on some of the walks. The country is safe and reasonably clean (water in hotels was all potable) and the accommodation was of a good standard throughout.
Seeing rare birds in a tropical forest setting which is being safeguarded by the government of Costa Rica.

Very helpful. Excellent personal skills and good knowledge of birds and mammals. Willing to offer a few extra walks at some locations

You need to be reasonably fit. Although walks are not very long, the humidity and heat is potentially an issue for some travellers. Take US dollars with you and use as little of local currency as possible. When booking try to get a direct flight (Gatwick - San Jose) and if possible avoid transfers through USA. The transfers between locations were long (but very scenic) and many roads were not tarmac so may not suit anyone with back pain.

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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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