Central America is an enchanted land of mystery from its past to its present. It connects the North and South American continents and has been settled, claimed, and exploited by both as well as Europe. Today, it is comprised of seven independent countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Of the region, Belize is the youngest democracy, not declaring its independence until 1981
Each country can boast of its unique culture and sites, but in this article I wanted to focus on the region as a whole, identifying what similarities the traveler can find throughout the expanse.
First and foremost for the U.S. traveler, Central America is a just a two-hour flight from U.S. southern borders. Most major airlines fly into the capitals and major airports of each country. Once you arrive in the country of choice, you will find that other nearby countries are easily accessible by car or short flight. Highway 1, a well-maintained roadway, spans the length of Central America.
2. Rain Forests
The so-called “Earth’s Lungs” dominate the land form Belize to Panama. The amount of acreage has declined, as forest clearing for farming and settlement has and does occur. This deforestation is quite evident from the air. What do remain are dense virgin forests brimming with life. The dark rich green fauna and humid temperatures will create memories for a lifetime. Whether you are hiking, kayaking, or zip lining, the thick canopy of the rain forest all but makes it impossible to determine which country one is in.
Central America is a land of unspoiled world-class beaches. Warm tropical currents make it the ideal place to swim, surf, or just stroll along the sand. Each county is bordered by either the Pacific or Caribbean Sea, with Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama sandwiched in between the two bodies of water. At its narrowest point the 51-mile Panama Canal connects the ocean to the sea.
4. Mayan Ruins
History plays a large role in the region. Dating back to as early as 2600 BC, Mayan ruins can be found throughout the area. Although the majority of the unearthed cities are found in the north, there is evidence that trade occurred as far south as Panama. Top choices are Tikal in Guatemala and Altun Ha in Belize.
Central America is inexpensive. It is possible to spend money in the all-inclusive resorts of Costa Rica or Panama. (Although even here, the value is much greater than if you were to purchase the same in another exotic locale.) However, it is just as feasible to book a hotel room on the beach with ocean views and breezes for as little as $25 per night. Dining out can be equally affordable, with fresh-caught seafood and drinks for under $10 per plate.
The above short list is just a few reasons why you should visit Central America. I invite the reader and traveler to add to it or develop their own.