Connecting the Americas is a lush and winding landscape of tropical forests, soaring volcanoes, and immaculate, beach-studded coastlines. Whether you’ve come for relaxation, exploration, sightseeing, or thrill-seeking, Central America is a land of abundance for all the sights and senses — not to mention the heart.
From the colonial era to ancient civilisations, Guatemala’s history lives in plain sight and ebbs back to a realm of mystery and intrigue among a dense jungle landscape full of archaeological wonders. For hundreds of years, the Mayan civlisation thrived here, where they left behind impressive ancient cities and the sacred sites of a previous era such as the Tikal Ruins and Ceibal. Today, descendents of the Maya live among the people of Guatemala, where you can still see enduring traditions in the offbeat cultural villages of the Guatemala Highlands. For a smaller country, Guatemala boasts surprisingly large and diverse tracts of wilderness that cover miles of tropical jungle, mountainous terrain, volcanic peaks, rushing rivers, endless cave depths, and uninhabited ocean coastlines. When you’re not appeasing your adventurous spirit, you can go for a walk through the historic museums of Guatemala City, enjoy a quiet moment in an old-world cathedral such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, or relax with a first-rate cup of coffee in a charming Guatemalan café.
Nestled along the scenic beaches of the Caribbean coastline, the country of Belize is much too small for such a profusion of culture, history, landscape, and intoxicating pastime of adventure. If tropical climate and scenery is your forte, you really couldn’t do any better than Belize. Here, the second-largest reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef, pervades among the Caribbean coastline, where you can discover an underwater realm of colorful coral, hundreds of species of fish, sea turtles, and mesmerising seabed formations. Adventurous divers are likely to seek out underwater caves and the Great Blue Hole — a deep and ancient sinkhole that filled with water when sea levels rose long ago in the past. Belize also offers wildlife and scenic adventures inland, where jungle sanctuaries are home to everything from monkeys and iguanas to jaguars, the keel-billed toucan, and almost 600 different species of birds. Exploring the Belizean countryside will take you to ancient Mayan sites such as Caracol, where stone temples rise above the forest canopy, giving visitors a glimpse of history as well as access to panoramic jungle vistas.
Costa Rica is one of the few places in the world where you can journey from one ocean to another overland in just a couple hours time. Its name is Spanish for the ‘Rich Coast’ — a name certainly not of a trivial nature. This land of coastal wonders beckons travelers from around the world to its dazzling beaches and world-class tropical resorts. Much of the Costa Rican countryside is a protected habitat home to one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems — as many as half a million different species of insects, mammals, lizards, and birds live in a world of vibrant balance underneath the jungle canopy. For this reason, Costa Rica is one of the most popular hiking, trekking, and camping destinations in the world. It’s also a great place to visit in search of thrills — from white-water rapids at the Pacuare River, ziplining across jungle canopies and big-wave surfing at Playa Tamarindo and Witch’s Rock to shipwreck diving at the wrecks of Tortuga Islands, Costa Rica has no shortage of tempting qualities for the spirited type. When you just want to relax, no place makes it easier than Costa Rica, where the motto is pura vida, or pure life — another way of saying just slow down and enjoy the moment.