Central America, Cuba & Caribbean

With volcanoes, beaches, temples and great architecture. Central America is filled with natural wonders and interesting cultures and home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the world. Stay in historic haciendas in Mexico, marvel at Mayan ruins in Guatemala, spot monkeys amidst misty canopies in Costa Rica or salsa to sultry beats in Cuba. It’s a haven for outdoor adventurers and those that want to immerse themselves in the local culture.

Flying into ‘Central’ America is usually quicker and cheaper via the USA – from NZ to Houston or Los Angeles and/or Miami then onto Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica etc.

Mexico is attracting a lot of interest from Kiwi travellers in 2024. Enjoy a dance at one of Mexico City’s salsa clubs, explore ancient Aztec and Mayan ruins, party in Playa del Carmen, eat your way around colourful Oaxaca, or relax in the lazy seaside port of Merida.

Getting to fascinating Cuba is a little trickier due to the ongoing travel embargo from the USA, but there are daily connections possible via Panama, Mexico City or Cancun or via Santiago and Lima or Bogota. You’ll enjoy a quirky & very unique experience in Cuba despite some recent liberalisation and cycling holidays here in particular are very popular. Just remember that you won’t be able to apply for an ‘ESTA’ for the USA if you have recently visited Cuba.

Where to start?  Learning some Spanish is a good idea before you go will be enormously helpful if you are planning to travel independently in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua or El Salvador, but if you join a small group tour then you’ll be well looked after and prior knowledge of Spanish isn’t essential.

Guatemala – do visit the colonial city of Antigua which is filled with Spanish architecture, churches, monasteries and cobbled streets. Nearby is the beautiful Lake Atitlan – 128 sq km lake in a collapsed volcano cone. The unpronounceable Chichicastenango is famous for its huge indigenous market on a Thursday and Sunday – you can buy anything from local fruits and vegetables to embroidered cloths and hand carved wooden masks.  Visit the world renowned Mayan ruins of Tikal which are in the Jungle unlike other sites such as Chichen Itza and Copan which have been cleared. See towering pyramids amongst the trees with howler monkeys, toucans and parrots all around, get there for sunrise – very dramatic, like being in an Indiana Jones movie.

Belize – The only English speaking country in Central America has the worlds 2nd largest barrier reef. Enjoy the laid back Caribbean life style on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. There are more Mayan ruins at Altun Ha and Lamanai.

Honduras – Home to coastal wetlands, lagoons and more stunning tropical scenery – thankfully protected in numerous national parks and reserves. Naturally you will find even more famous Mayan ruins at Copan.  The bay islands of Roatan and Utila offer white sandy beaches and possibly the cheapest place in the world to learn to scuba dive.

Costa Rica – The leader in nature and eco tourism in this region has lots of volunteer trips  to help protect the leatherback turtles. Visit the rainforest and possibly spot the elusive jaguars in corcovada national park.  Also home to some great white sand beaches. A destination that has a little bit of something for everybody.

There are great small group tours available encompassing as little or as much of the above as you would like or you can travel independently (you need your Spanish then!).

In general November to April are the best months to visit followed by June to September but just go when you can to this fascinating region.