First name is required!
Last name is required!
First name is not valid!
Last name is not valid!
This is not an email address!
Email address is required!
This email is already registered!
Password is required!
Enter a valid password!
Please enter 6 or more characters!
Please enter 16 or less characters!
Passwords are not the same!
Terms and Conditions are required!
Email or Password is wrong!
Please select the captcha checkbox!
Please select the valid captcha!

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.
View More

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. 
View More

Central America & the Caribbean Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.7 out of 5

99%

recommend

2,031 Reviews

  • Excellent 1,446
  • Great 523
  • Average 52
  • Disappointing 7
  • Terrible 3

Rating Details

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

Tour Reviews

I really enjoyed this trip to Belize

Maya Reef Explorer

4.0
December 2016
Island Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
I really enjoyed this trip to Belize - it was my first time. I loved the culture, the people are friendly, the weather was good, a little windy for a few days on the reef, but our guides were outstanding at tailoring the activities to meet the weather conditions. The food out on Lighthouse Reef was outstanding, considering the location. I would rate the food at the Lodge as good to very good.

Why did you choose to travel with Island Expeditions?:
It is a Canadian Company located in BC. I know they have been around for a long time. I also explored trip advisor to see how they rated. With all of these being considered, I chose Island Expeditions.
What was the highlight of your trip?:
One of the highlights of the trip on Lighthouse Reef was the early morning yoga with Andrea, it set the tone for the day and I felt yoga was such a positive addition to the whole experience.
Read more

Beyond expectation!

Maya Reef Explorer

4.0
December 2016
Island Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
Crooked Tree Lodge was simple, not fancy - but clean and great staff. Our food on Lighthouse Caye was beyond expectation! It was outstanding. So much variety, so fresh. IE took into consideration my daughter's dietary concerns. This was the first time I have traveled to a tropical climate and NOT had digestive issues. We loved Bol, the cook, he took such pride in his food and was great company. We also loved our yoga instructor (Christie), she was delightful! We had an 80 yr old traveling alone, and twin 5 yr olds traveling with their mother, as well as a 20 - something couple, and everything in between. I was so impressed that the guides were able to accommodate the various abilities and ages seamlessly.

Why did you choose to travel with Island Expeditions?:
Recommended by friends. My family loves being busy rather that sitting still and they wanted to learn about the culture and wildlife in another country. This was a perfect combination.
Read more

Lighthouse Reef was fabulous

Maya Reef Explorer

5.0
December 2016
Island Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
Lighthouse Reef was fabulous - away from the crowds and worry-free. From the moment we awakened, opened our tent and looked at the ocean yards in front of us the experience was unforgettable. Every good thing we had read about the trip was true, but none discussed the amazing gourmet meals prepared for us and the cultural knowledge and experiences that were shared with us by everyone at camp. I will never forget my first (planned and carefully supervised) wet exit from my kayak, kayak sailing, stand-up paddleboarding over a ray, snorkeling over a small reef to realize I was directly over a shark, and seeing photo luminescence during night snorkeling (which two guides kindly took me on despite no other guest wanting to go after our long day!).
My bird-loving hubby really enjoyed Crooked Tree as well. Surprisingly the zoo was a treat - small, intimate, and close-up to the animals.

Why did you choose to travel with Island Expeditions?:
We saw that REI, an organization we trust, worked with Island Expeditions. The itineraries looked amazing and we liked the idea of using local guides.
What was the highlight of your trip?:
Can't pick just one - Nearly getting sprayed with urine by a tapir (as the guide warned us might happen) - SUP while a ray glided beneath me - Being alone with a guide in the ocean at night, turning off the lights and basking in the soft glow of photoluminescence - Cultural night
What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
Jump in and try everything. I had never done yoga, but enjoyed it each morning on the beach and really missed it when I returned from reality. I was nervous about both night snorkeling and kayak sailing and was so glad I just went for it!
Read more

Birds Eye View Lodge: amazing location!

Maya Reef Explorer

5.0
December 2016
Island Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
Birds Eye View Lodge: amazing location, liked to stroll in crooked tree village in addition to birds' views. The bathroom was a bit small. Lighthouse camp was wonderful. People were extremely friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The weather was hot and windy - no rain. This trip is excellent for nature-loving families with independent kids. Our 7 year-old loved every minute and enjoyed the special attention from guides and others in our group.

Why did you choose to travel with Island Expeditions?:
We liked the style and value that you offer, with emphasis on the quality of guides, activities, and excellent simple food, with relatively basic travel and lodging means.
Read more

The guides were all excellent !!

Maya Reef Explorer

5.0
December 2016
Island Expeditions
Recommend: Yes
The guides were all excellent and very friendly, funny and mixed well with everyone in the group. I just wish we could have spent longer at Lighthouse Reef.

Why did you choose to travel with Island Expeditions?:
Small groups, experience and very friendly, helpful and informative on the phone.
Read more

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.

 

Rover How can we help?

×

Experts

Gavin D.
Brian Gillis
 
 

Tours & Operators on Stride Awarded and Featured by: