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Central America & the Caribbean - Best Tours & Trips 2019

1,006 trips to Central America & the Caribbean tours from 212 tour companies. 1,523 reviews. 4.7/5 avg rating.

While technically part of the North American continent, Central America and the Caribbean Sea are a region (or regions) apart from the rest. Like some major Caribbean islands -- including Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico -- Central America has mixed Spanish and native heritage, while the Caribbean islands also display African, French, Dutch, British and even Danish influences. Besides large cruise ships, a variety o ... Read More

All Central America & the Caribbean tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages.
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Travel Style Travel Style Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.

Trip Type Trip Type Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Itinerary Focus

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 0 $ 10,000+

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Trip Length

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Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

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Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Continents & Regions

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Costa Rica Adventure Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 239 / day
$ 2,150
From : $ 2,451
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges, a complex of suspended bridges and trails through a beautiful rain forest
  • Cherish the moments in river rafting
  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Hike through the trails in the Arenal Volcano National Park
Visits:
Arenal Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park, San José, Costa Rica
View Trip

Dominican Republic – Heart & Soul of the Ca ...

Discover Corps
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 312 / day
$ 2,495
From : $ 5,190
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Live surrounded by idyllic beaches, upbeat Caribbean music, and friendly local communities
  • Explore the tropical countryside by hiking to rural villages, snorkeling over the clear Caribbean Sea
  • Uncovering pristine beaches set amongst lush mountain landscapes
  • Visit an ecological park where you can explore cool swimming holes and even zip-line through the rainforest
Visits:
San Juan Islands, Santiago, Dominican Republic
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Costa Rica Eco Adventure End San Jose Summer 2019

Trafalgar
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 212 / day
$ 1,850
From : $ 2,085
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • View Arenal Volcano
  • Visit Tortuguero National Park, Sarapiquí, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Visits:
San José, Costa Rica
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Epic Central America

Intrepid Travel
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
46 days
$ 95 / day
$ 4,139
From : $ 6,149
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Minimal walking. Motor vehicles for all major parts of trip. Wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Most cruises. Very Easy
Lodging Level : You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
Highlights
  • Oh Mayan, Central America, what a land. A palace of mysterious ruins, active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles. Get a taste of seven different countries on an epic Latin adventure that takes in the sights and offers a whole heap of optional activities too.
  • Eat your way through arty Oaxaca. Mole, mezcal and chocolate for dinner? Delicioso!
  • Chichen Itza is one the New Seven Wonders of the World and it's not hard to see why – strolling around these ancient Mayan ruins feels pretty amazing.
  • There's nothing quite like staying with a local family to really experience a place. You'll be feasting at breakfast and dinner, and improving your Spanish with the locals in San Jorge La Laguna in no time.
  • There are loads of sides to Central America and you’ll get a taste of so many - slumbering on the sands of Playa del Carmen, gazing at the pyramids of Tikal or haggling in the markets of Chichicastenango.
  • Travel to El Salvador and back in time in the colonial town of Suchitoto. Then summon your best beach bum/inner surfie with the beautiful black-sand beaches and surf of El Cuco and El Tunco.
Visits:
Antigua, Caribbean, Caye Caulker, Central America, Chichen Itza, Granada, Lake Atitlan, Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe, Playa del Carmen, Salvador, San Cristobal, San Ignacio, Tikal, Copan, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras
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Viva Costa Rica (Until Nov 2019)(Twin Room,Start ...

Contiki
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 165 / day
$ 1,489
From : $ 2,085
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : N/A
Physical Level : N/A
  • N/A
  • Lodging Level : You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
    Visits:
    Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Glover's Reef & River of Caves

    7 days
    $ 257 / day
    $ 1,799
    From : $ 2,429
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Explore the underground archaeological site of the Chech’Em Ha Cave system
    • Scenic Hummingbird Highway through the Rainforest to the coastal town of Dangriga.
    • Activities include paddling, snorkeling the inner and outer walls of the reef, SUP and learning to sail a kayak
    • Experience hike a half an hour through the rain forest, and up into a multi-chambered series of caves rich with geological formations
    • Travel to Glover’s Atoll, a protected marine park and World Heritage Site, thirty-six miles off shore of mainland Belize
    Visits:
    San Ignacio, Belize
    View Trip

    Whale Encounters - Dominican Republic

    ROW Adventures
    Preferred
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    8 days
    $ 537 / day
    $ 4,295
    From : $ 5,798
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights

    Explore Silver Bank: The region of the Silver Bank was one of the shipping routes that were the lifelines of the Spanish Empire. In September 1641, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de la Pura y Limpia Concepcion set sail from Havana, Cuba, laden with treasure. A week later, she was nearly destroyed by a hurricane and began a month-long trek to Puerto Rico for repairs. But just short of the goal, the Concepcion struck a shallow reef and began to sink, losing 300 passengers and crew and a fortune in silver that inspired the reef’s name.

    Enjoy watching the Wildlife: Humpback Whales: Humpback whales are extravagant creatures, ranging from 40-50 feet in length and weighing in at 35-40 tons. They derive their name from the distinctive high humping of their back when they dive and also from the pronounced hump at the leading edge of their dorsal fin. Watch in awe as the whales put on a show, slapping their wing-like pectoral fins on the surface of the sea, lobtailing, breaching, spyhopping and peduncle throws.

    Visits:
    Dominica
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    Monkeys Jungles and Volcanoes Summer 2019

    Trafalgar
    Preferred
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    8 days
    $ 231 / day
    $ 1,850
    From : $ 2,276
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
    Highlights
    • Cruise the canals of Tortuguero National Park
    • Visit Tortuguero National Park, a wildlife centre near Sarapiquí, Arenal National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park
    Visits:
    Costa Rica
    View Trip

    The Best of Cuba

    SmarTours
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    9 days
    $ 411 / day
    $ 3,699
    From : $ 4,994
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • A true “people-to-people” experience with cultural exchanges such as visits with artists, musical performances, and local organizations
    • Riding in American Vintage Automobiles (Havana)
    • Home of Ernest Hemingway (Havana)
    • Cigar Factory (Havana)
    • Casa Fuster (Havana)
    • Bay of Pigs Museum (Giron)
    • Walking Tour of Trinidad
    • Bici-Taxi Tour of Camaguey
    • Beaches of Guardalavaca (Holguin)
    • Meeting Local Fishermen (Gibara)
    Visits:
    Camaguey, Havana, Miami, Trinidad, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago
    View Trip

    Colorful Guatemala

    Global Basecamps
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    9 days
    $ 392 / day
    $ 3,530
    From : $ 4,342
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
    Highlights
    • This adventure showcases the best the country has to offer
    • Unique cultural immersion of this beautiful country
    • Get unique access to areas rarely seen by tourists with your own private guide
    Visits:
    Guatemala
    View Trip

    Nicaragua

    7 days
    $ 228 / day
    $ 1,595
    From : $ 2,153
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Experience Kayak or take a cruise onan island
    • Explore a hidden gem of a coastal town
    • Discover Nicaragua
    Visits:
    Granada, Nicaragua
    View Trip

    Colorful Costa Rica

    SmarTours
    Premier
    Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
    9 days
    $ 211 / day
    $ 1,899
    From : $ 4,827
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Visit Tortuguero Village
    • See the Arenal Volcano
    • Explore Monteverde Cloud Forest
    • Visit to Curi-Cancha Forest Reserve
    • See the Oxcart Factory in Sarchi
    Visits:
    Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
    View Trip

    Paradise Islands

    6 days
    $ 330 / day
    $ 1,979
    From : $ 2,672
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Experience the only guided lodge to lodge paddling and snorkeling journey in Belize.
    • Visit small islands that see fewer visitors: Tobacco Caye, Southwater Caye and Billy Hawk Caye
    • Explore the uninhabited islands, coral reefs, mangroves and abundant marine life by sea kayak, kayak sail, snorkel or Stand Up Paddleboard.
    • Travel inland to the savannah of the Tropical Education Center; forest cabanas and interpretive trails 
    • Enjoy an arranged nocturnal tour of the Belize Zoo – a great introduction to local ecology and wildlife. 
    Visits:
    Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
    View Trip

    Lighthouse Reef Adventure

    9 days
    $ 244 / day
    $ 2,199
    From : $ 2,969
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Explore and stay on remote and renowned Lighthouse Reef Atoll
    • Spend four nights in a tent-walled cabana at our all-inclusive Adventure Basecamp on Half Moon Caye, a protected island managed by the Belize Audubon Society and home to 4000 red-footed boobies!
    • Snorkel ‘the Aquarium,’ as well as Jacques Cousteau’s legendary Blue Hole.
    • Stay overnight at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, with early morning bird and wildlife viewing on a boat tour of the Crooked Tree lagoon.
    • Enjoy additional service of airport pickup, accommodation and dinner with your group on your ‘day 0’ plus accommodation in Belize City at the end of your trip
    Visits:
    Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
    View Trip

    Maya Reef Explorer

    9 days
    $ 261 / day
    $ 2,349
    From : $ 3,171
    The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
    Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
    Physical Level : Full day hiking or trekking over medium to long distances. Moderate expectation of physical fitness. Strenuous
    Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
    Highlights
    • Exploration as you travel overland and by river to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai
    • Enjoy the sounds and sights of the awakening wilderness.
    • Explore Belize City, and board a chartered water taxi to Lighthouse Reef Atoll
    • Experience Snorkeling at the ‘Aquarium’ is a favorite guest activity
    Visits:
    Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
    View Trip
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    Top Central America & the Caribbean Experiences and Attractions

    Top Central America & the Caribbean Experiences

    Going snorkeling in the bright blue waters of Belize

    Walking among 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.

    Surfing Central America’s top surf spots

    view more

    Central America & the Caribbean Trip Reviews

    1,523 Central America & the Caribbean Tour Reviews - Summary 97% Recommend

    4.7 out of 5
    Excellent 1,227
    Great 233
    Average 34
    Disappointing 13
    Terrible 16
    Value
    4.7
    Guide
    4.7
    Activities
    4.7
    Lodging
    4.7
    Transportation
    4.7
    Meals
    4.7

    Tour Reviews Write a Review

    Cultural and Wildlife experiences.

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Educational. Exhilarating. Demanding. Cultural and Wildlife experiences. Friendships. Amusing.

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    Our trip through in Central America was great

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Our trip through in Central America was great, fun, interesting and allowed a lot of learning about the different countries. Tony and Louise were always kind. Both are excellent drivers! They were very competent in all the support during the trip.

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    I enjoyed it all.

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    I enjoyed it all. Central America is amazing!

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    Thoroughly enjoyed

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Thoroughly enjoyed my 11 weeks on the road through Central America and Colombia.

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    Enjoyed the culture of the old Mayan ruins

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Every country was an adventure. Enjoyed the culture of the old Mayan ruins as well as the biodiversity of Costa Rica and Colombia. Highlights were snorkeling in Caye Caulker, seeing the native frogs in Costa Rica, sleeping in hammocks and standing on the equator line in Ecuador.

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    Incredibly enjoyable trip

    5.0
    • Value 5.0
    • Guide 5.0
    • Activities 5.0
    • Lodging 5.0
    • Transportation 5.0
    • Meals 5.0

    Incredibly enjoyable trip saw amazing sites and national parks and crew were absolutely brilliant.

    Read more
    Operator Dragoman

    Central America & the Caribbean Tours and Travel Guide

    Central America & the Caribbean Attractions & Landmarks Guide

    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 Central American 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, you can also hike, climb mountains, go cycling, 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 stop for Caribbean cruises, 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 group tour, custom travel planner, or small-ship cruise makes a lot of sense in deciding where to go and what to see and do. 

    Top 5 National Parks in Central America

    1. Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

    Considered one of the worlds most biodiverse national parks, it contains 13 different ecosystems from swamps to coastal marine to rain forest and more. This is a backpacker’s favorite who are looking for off the beaten path adventures such as camping, hiking and camping 

    2. Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

    Although it is small, this national park is the most visited in the country because it contains a wealth of fauna inhabited around 180 different bird species and 100 different species of mammals. 

    3. Cerro Verde National Park, El Salvador

    This is any hiking enthusiasts dream park. With many trails that lead to different volcanoes, lakes and gardens bedecked with some of the rarest species of plants and trees. 

    4. Masaya Volcano National Park, Nicaragua

    Masaya Volcano National Park is the biggest park in Nicaragua and home to two twin volcanoes, five craters and an abundance of wildlife such as coyotes, monkeys, deers and more.

    5. Darien National Park, Panama

    Park of the UNESCO world heritage site, Darien National Park exemplifies biodiversity with a variety of habitats, indigenous communities and wildlife. It bridges two continents of the world and stands as one of the largest, untouched jungles in Central America.

    Caribbean Adventure Travel

    Adventure travel in the Caribbean is fat more than relaxing in pristine waters. The following are some activities that are the epitome of fun, active and adrenaline pumping that you cannot miss.

    1. Hiking in Central America: there are an abundance of hikes you can do that is worth the walk in this region. Whether its is mountains in Dominica or Jamaica, getting to the top reveals a spectacular view overlooking the ocean, towns and raw natural beauty of the region. 

    2. Scuba Diving: The Caribbean is probably the most sought after destination for observing a wealth of marine life. Travel to the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas to swim next to hammerhead sharks, humpback whales and more. 

    3. Sailing: A sun soaked sailing trip is the perfect escape from everyday life. Some of the best places are Grenada, Antigua, British Virgin Islands and Guadeloupe. 

    4. Surfing: Barbados, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are some of the best places to surf for any kind of experienced surfer, from baby waves to monstrous ones. 

    5. Snorkeling: perhaps the most popular, easy and mesmerizing activity, snorkeling anywhere in the Caribbean is a unique experience. Curacao, Bonaire and the Bahamas are some of the best places to immerse yourself in marine life. 

    6. Caribbean Bike Tours: these are really popular in the Caribbean. It can be for an hour or an all day adventure. Either way, bike tours are a great way to explore the island you are staying with knowledgeable guides that will let you get to know the place in a more intimate and active way.

    Top 10 Beaches in Central America

    1. Playa Gigante, Nicaragua 

    Gigante is almost every traveler’s favorite beach town in Nicaragua for a reason. It has one of the most beautiful views of the ocean in the world and also with extremely high quality surfing ground. Playa Amarillo is the best beach to visit with great surf waves that range from experienced to learners, as well as white sands and very little touristy traps since the island only consists of about 300 locals. 

    2. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

    If you’re looking for a world class surfing destination in Costa Rica, you have found it. Although it is a very small beach village, it has gained a lot of attraction over the years through tourists and booming businesses that have transformed the white sandy beach into a top-notch paradise for anybody looking to surf, hike, horseback ride and more. 

    3. Varadero beach, Cuba

    A picturesque beach straight out of a postcard. The Varadero in Cuba is a 20km spread of blonde sand that is more on the touristy side as far as beaches go. However, you can’t blame it.

    All the luxurious hotels, hammock hostels and restaurants are brimming with people that have come from all over the world to see the turiouse blue water stretch towards the horizon with white sands and plenty of water activities that keep this place fun and lively. 

    4. Bavaro Beach, Dominican Republic
    Bavaro beach is breathtaking. Many tourists go for the soft white sand, hardly any crowds around and the clear blue sea that is constantly warmed by the sun. What more could you want?

    5. Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas

    Pale pink sands are contrasted with deep, blue waters that attract travelers everywhere interested in snorkeling, diving and other water sports. It is extremely beautiful and many are blown away by the dreamy view. 

    6. Malmok Beach, Aruba

    This isolated, rocky beach has one of the most crystal clear waters in the world. There are many secluded bays and hidden gems of rocky terraces that make this the best getaway for anyone looking for a more quiet escape to snorkel, sail or simply relax. 

    7. Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

    An expansive beauty, the Seven Mile beach is known as one of the ultimate beach getaways when traveling to the Caribbean. The sparkling waters and fine, sugar sand beaches is spectacular for any sunset chaser, surfer, parasailer and a must see for any beach lover out there. 

    8. Placencia, Belize 
    This emerald beach located in the south of Belize is a tropical paradise. It is a small fishing village bordered on one side by a lagoon and the other with the Caribbean Sea. Perhaps the most popular destination in the country, Placencia stands as a mecca for water activities such as diving, snorkeling, fishing and more. 

    9. San Blas Islands, Panama

    San Blas islands are one of the most desired places to see in Panama. If this one isn’t on your bucket list, you are missing out on a destination that has a lot of things many travelers want in a beach escape: crystal waters, archipelago of beaches, forests, white sand, diverse marine life, an open indigenous culture and globetrotters from all over the world to meet. 

    10. Roatan, Honduras

    Known for their reef diving, Roatan is a good vacation site whether you are a luxurious cruise passenger to a backpacker on a budget.

    Central American Cuisine

    The cuisine in Central America is seafood rich, utilizing many spices and fresh fruit. Here are 10 Can’t Miss Caribbean dishes! 

    1. Jamaican Patties

    This golden, fluffy patty is showcased at almost any Caribbean restaurant, especially in Jamaica where it is stuffed with beef, onion, garlic and aromatic herbs. 

    2. Jerk Chicken

    This Jamaican barbeque favorite is probably the most well known dish to come out of Caribbean cuisine. Juicy, hearty and rubbed with a balance of lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, thyme, sugar and other spices, it is usually eaten with rice, plantains and vegetables. 

    3. Torta Cubanas

    The legacy of cuban sandwiches is known worldwide, and although you can get it in the states and North America, having one made in the Caribbean itself is another thing. You can’t go wrong with a torta cubana, and your first bite into the ham, grilled pineapples, polvoron, turkey, chorizo and onions will make it hard not to have one everyday. 

    4. Platanos

    Fresh, fried plantains give any dish a Caribbean spin. These sweet crispy fruits are crowd pleasers whether they are served as sides or desserts, savory or sweet.

    5. Pholourie

    These are fried dough balls packed with garlic, onion, cumin and other strong spices with chutney on the side. In Trinidad, you are bound to find some in any restaurant, local home, and in any birthday or big events!

    6. Rum Cake

    The Caribbean islands are most famous for their delicious rum cakes. If you have visited and hadn’t tried the booze filled dessert, you’re doing your trip all wrong. Infusing different flavors of coconut, pineapple, vanilla, almond, rum and more, rum cake is the go to after meal snack morning, day and night. 

    7. Anegada Lobster

    Anegada, considered the Caribbean capital for lobster, you can expect almost every restaurant to serve a huge portion of fresh lobster with lime and garlic butter. 

    8. Barbados Flying Fish 

    Flying fish is a delicacy in the Caribbean, especially in Barbados where it is their national dish. Fried and fresh, it is usually served with a side of cou-cou, okra and topped with a spicy sauce.

    9. Antiguan Breakfast 

    Antiguan breakfast is filling, savory and made up of so many things that would make your mouth water on sight: salted fish, plantains, avocado, eggs and chopped up veggies. A perfect meal to start your day right!

    10. Guyanese Pepper pot 

    Think jambalaya when you think of this Caribbean stew that mixes all great flavors of bold spices, beef, potatoes, eggplant, okra and squash. It is traditionally served with rice and is the national dish of Guyana for a reason - it is an all around favorite!

    Top Central America & the Caribbean Travel Companies

    Things to Know Before You Go

    Safety Tips in Central America 

    When people think about Central America, many associate the region with violence, drugs and gang related misconduct. While there are crimes that go on in this region, many areas are very well protected for any traveler to visit. That said, Central America guided tours to the region are a highly recommended way to travel if you’re worried about safety. Most countries, though are, in fact, very safe whether you’re traveling solo, with family, or a group of friends.

    Panama, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Nicarargua are perhaps the safest (and generally more expensive) countries to travel to. Although there are some areas here and there where it is advised to not travel to, these countries are always seeing influxes of thousands of tourists every year looking to enjoy the wealth of wildlife, culture and food that is distinct than anywhere in the world. 

    Other countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are more on the cautionary side. When traveling to these countries especially, the capital city is always a little more dangerous.

    Guatemala, for example, is safer in areas outside of cities such as Antigua and Atitlan. For transportation in Guatemala, it is advised to use only uber and not local taxis or buses. Walking alone at night is not advised, nor is showing off your phone or other valuables when you walk. 

    It is helpful to speak to locals about it. Many are very friendly and it’s always good to know which areas are unsafe and should be avoided when traveling in Central America

    What Countries are in Central America 

    Central America, sitting in between Columbia and Mexico, is an incredibly vibrant and exciting travel destination filled with biodiversity, culture and a mecca for marine life. It has a population of more than 42 million people. The following are countries classified as being a part of Central America:

    1. Guatemala

    2. Costa Rica

    3. El Salvador

    4. Belize

    5. Honduras

    6. Nicaragua 

    7. Panama

    Packing List for Central America Travel 

    Depending on what time of the year that you go, the packing list for Central America tours can differ. In general, however, these are the top 6 essentials to carry when traveling to any of the 7 countries:

    1. Swimwear: whether you are traveling to Lake Atitlan or the San Blas islands, swimming in either the pacific or caribbean waters is something to not miss out on.

    1. Secure backpack: this is helpful when walking around the towns and especially in market places where pickpocketing is expected. Make sure to always pack refillable water bottles, your phone with a downloaded offline map, sunglasses, sunscreen, wallet, bug spray and more. 

    1. Sneakers: motorbiking, hiking or exploring on foot is a must in Central America. The best places are the hidden gems tucked away by cobble pathways in small towns, views atop mountains and hilly streets that criss cross next to beaches that has the best, local restaurants and stores.

    1. Travel insurance: Other than your visa, this is the next most important thing. 

    1. Cash: All the countries have different currencies from one another and having cash ready, especially if you plan to visit marketplaces, is extremely useful. Make sure to withdraw before you leave as getting cash in Central America itself can be more expensive. 

    1. Stomach medicine: don’t underestimate the power of a bad stomach, and the likelihood at that. Anything from fresh fruits, vegetables, ice, street food and altitude sickness can ruin the itineraries in a trip, so it’s wise to pack tums, tylenol and pepto-bismol before you leave. 

    Weather in the Caribbean

    Caribbean weather is mostly hot and sunny all around. 27 degrees celsius is the average while in the southern islands, temperatures can soar to 38 degrees. The wet seasons typically experience rain in bursts no more than an hour from May to October. Cold winds from the north happen sometimes but are infrequent and rare.

    All Central America & the Caribbean tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Central America & the Caribbean trips.

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