Central America is a great place to travel through. There is a ton to see and do in the seven countries that are in limbo as to which continent they belong to. If you want to visit all seven countries, you need to do some serious planning. You need to know what areas of the country you want to visit and which coast that area is on. Many Central American countries have a Pacific and Caribbean coast. Also, you need to plan which border crossing you will utilize to make the most direct route to your next destination. Finally, you need to figure out where to fly in and out of and what modes of transport you will use in between.
When I traveled through the seven countries of Central America, my friend Jake and I flew into Panama City, Panama and made our way all the way up to Cancun stopping seemingly everywhere in between. We went from Panama and the stunning San Blas Islands to eco-friendly Costa Rica, up to developing Nicaragua, on to Honduras and the amazing Bay Islands. We then headed southwest to the tricky to get to El Salvador followed by a thorough tour of Guatemala crossing to Belize and its marvelous archipelago before heading up the Riviera Maya to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and finally the tourist trap of Cancun.
A trip of this magnitude was not without proper planning, believe me. The route and the transportation werew certainly the hardest things. We had about 6 weeks, which is never enough time to see a region this big and diverse but we made it work. We didn’t sleep much and went just about everywhere we wanted to visit.
To save time we flew from Central America’s most cosmopolitan city, Panama City up to Bocas del Toro in the San Blas Islands for a few days of relaxation. We then walked across a rickety old bridge somewhere near Peurto Viejo in Limon. After a wrong turn we met up with some friends in Limon and then headed to San Jose where we rented a car and literally drove the whole country ending up in Guanacaste. From Tamarindo we cabbed it up the Inter-American Highway to the Penas Blancas border crossing with Nicaragua. From there we took a long cab up to Managua. After enjoying Nicaragua, we headed up to the Hondurian capital of Tegucigalpa and caught a flight to La Ceiba for a connecting 2 seat puddle jumper to Roatan in the Bay Islands. After flying back to La Ceiba, we caught a flight to San Pedro Sula and then a long, long cab to Copan Ruinas in Honduras before randomly crossing into Guatemala for an hour to get to San Salvador, El Salvador.
San Salvador proved to be a great place to rest up for the awful bus rides to Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala before our flight to Flores which is the gateway to the awesome ruins of Tikal. From Tikal, we headed east crossing at Ciudad Melchor de Menchos into Belize-through the worlds smallest capital of Belmopan and on to Belize City. We then caught a boat out to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker for some much needed relaxation.
Tired of long cab rides and certainly awful busses, we found a random airport just south of Chetumal, Mexico on the Belize side of the border where we flew a plane that never should’ve been in operation and crossed the border into Mexico. We then caught a 6 hour bus up to Playa del Carmen which was amazing but I just remember they played that horrible movie that Britney Spears did like 5 years ago over and over on the bus. Finally, after nearly a week in Playa and Cozumel we spent our final night in Cancun and then headed home.
I know that sounds like a dizzying trip with a lot of moving parts and it kind of was, but it was one of the most fun trips to plan and certainly be a part of. Central America has some of the best scenery around and certainly some amazing beaches and ruins. Transport in the region is spotty at best along with the unknown road conditions. It is a place where things go wrong and delays happen. Nothing is perfect. It is not primitive like certain places in Africa or Asia but it certainly doesn’t run like clockwork-especially if you’re not flying. However, it is a really fun and interesting place to visit and if you’re there in the summer like we were; drink a ton of water and bring heavy suntan lotion because it is really, really hot