I started my journey in Panama before heading to Costa Rica and then across Central America to end up in Playa del Carman, Mexico. For Costa Rica and rest of Central America, I used G Adventures and did the following trips:
In Panama, I used local buses to get around. Looking back, one can do the same across Central America and one really doesnt need a tour. I had pre-booked in advanced not sure the level of Spanish that might be needed while travelling and therefore went with tours.
In Panama, I spent about 3 weeks and my top experiences are as follows:
- Watching ships go by in the Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks)
- Relaxing and watching the world go by at the Lost and Found hostel near Bocas del Toro
- Relaxing and having very good coffee in Boquete
I spent 3 days in Bocas but it rained all the time. I went to the San Blas islands and enjoyed my stay there too.
For the rest of Central America (including Costa Rica), it has been quite an adventure. From beautiful beaches to the Mayan history and culture, from the devastating impact of the cocaine trade on families to the wide smiles and happiness of the locals, from the male machismo nature of the culture to the progressive ideas for conservation, from the local cuisine to the excessive love for rum, Central America is a region of contrast, a region of oddities, a region still recovering from the numerous military dictatorships, a region embracing love and happiness, a region where cultures have mixed and integrated over the years, a region unique in its own skin.
The main highlights have been
- Costa Rica: There is an amazing spread of wildlife across Costa Rica from sloths to birds to frogs to snakes etc. I would highly recommend the cloud forests of Monteverde, the Manuel Antonio National Park and Tortuguero National Park to experience what Costa Rica has to offer.
- Belize: At Ocean Academy in Belize, children at this school in Caye Caulker have subjects such as mindfulness and entrepreneurship in their curriculum. That is very progressive for a small community in Belize. In addition, I would recommend the ACT caves and the Blue Hole (I suggest taking a plane to experience the sight from above). A lot of my fellow travellers went diving there and they loved it!
- Mayan Ruins: Copan Ruins in Honduras and Tikal in Guatemala are some of the best ruins you can come across. There is so much history and culture to explore there.
- Volcanoes: The entire region has some amazing volcanoes: From Concepcion in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua to Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala, you will find loads of volcanoes (including opportunities to climb, sandboard down, do an overnight hike, roast marsh mellows etc) to suit your needs.
I enjoyed my time in Central America and I want to go back and experience the region independently and not with a tour group. Someday….