Caribbean beaches? Check. Dense, lush jungles? Uh-huh. Volcanic peaks? Yes again. With so much to offer, Central America can seem intimidating to the uninitiated. But those familiar with one or more of the region’s seven countries know otherwise (quick refresher: Central America encompasses Panama, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala). From sophisticated metropolises like Panama City to the scuba diving hotspots of Belize, you’ll find a speed that suits you in Central America.
When to go
Central America has different climates—from tropical to mountainous—and its annual temperatures vary.
April brings lows in the mid-60s°F and highs of 80°F, as well as the performance-heavy International Festival of the Arts in Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose.
In July, head two hours north of Panama City to the town of Portobelo for the Festival de Pollera Conga, which celebrates Panama’s African heritage. Temps this time of year range from the mid-70s°F to the high-80s°F.
Belize cools down in Autumn, but just a bit, with lows in the mid-70s°F and highs in the mid-80s°F. Join the street parties in Belize City and celebrate the country’s independence from Spain on September 21.
Panama City goes big for carnival, with parades and parties on the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The weather generally cooperates, too, with temps ranging from the mid-70s°F to the high-80s°F.
Panama City boasts a subway line, a bus system and above-ground trains. Many of the other big cities in Central America rely on buses only.
- Keep an eye on travel advisories for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Though largely safe, these countries have pockets of gang and drug activity as well as political and civil unrest.
- Central America is a treasure trove of Spanish Colonial cities, including Casco Viejo in Panama City, Antigua in Guatemala and Granada in Nicaragua.
- Central America is a large producer and exporter of coffee, and many of the region’s coffee plantations are open for tours.
Delve into local history at the nearby Pueblo Antiguo, or browse the stores at Plaza Real Cariari during your stay on the north side of downtown San Jose.