To coincide with the release of the new Central America travel guide, the experts at Lonely Planet have provided us with Central America’s Top 5 experiences!
Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala
Possibly the single most beautiful destination in Guatemala, Lage de Atitlán elicits poetic outbursts from even the most seasoned traveler. Of volcanic origin, the alternately placid and turbulent lake is ringed by volcanoes and villages such as Santiago Atitlán, with its thriving indigenous culture, and San Marcos La Laguna, a haven for those wishing to plug into the lake’s cosmic energy. Activities such as kayaking around Santa Cruz La Laguna and hiking the glorious lakeshore trails make it worthwhile to stay a bit longer.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Take a plunge into warm waters from island docks, discover the rush of kite surfing or explore the big blue of Belize’s barrier reef. Relaxed Caye Caulker seduces everyone from backpackers to families with its paradisiacal airs, refreshing lack of cars and heaping plates of coconut-fused kebabs and grilled lobster. Its northern stretches now feature a hot new beach club, Koko King, which drops some wildly exuberant full-moon parties each month. Other than that, this cay is far more chilled out than its busier, fancier neighbor, Ambergris.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
No wonder this Caribbean island chain is Panama’s number-one vacation spot. ‘It’s all good,’ say the relaxed locals. Pedal to the beach on a cruiser bike, hum to improvised calypso on Isla Bastimentos and laze over dinner in a thatched hut on the waterfront. Accommodation options include cheap digs, stunning jungle lodges and luxury resorts on outer islands. Surfers hit the breaks, but there’s also snorkeling among dazzling corals and oversized starfish, or volunteering opportunities to help nesting sea turtles.
Bay Islands, Honduras
Imagine living the Caribbean dream – swimming in balmy, turquoise waters off a white-sand beach, then sipping a sundowner – but on a backpacking budget. Well, Honduras’ Bay Islands offer that opportunity. Blessed with a fascinating British and buccaneering heritage, today these islands are renowned for their fabled coral reefs and terrific scuba diving. Search for the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, off the island of Utila, or explore shipwrecks in Roatán. Then feast on surf-fresh seafood and investigate the islands’ surprisingly lively bar scenes.
There may be hundreds of Maya sites dotted around Central America, but few can rival the beauty of Copán. Its location in an idyllic river valley, home to scarlet macaws and other birdlife and surrounded by pine forested hills, is simply sublime. The site itself is also very special, with a towering hieroglyphic stairway and a great plaza dotted with imposing, fabulously carved stelae (standing stone monuments) and altars. When you’ve had your fill of exploring Maya temples, you’ll find the charming little neighboring town of Copán Ruinas a delightful base.
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