With winter already in full swing in Canada, I’m dreaming of escaping to a tropical paradise. Central America is one of my favorite parts of the world to travel this time of year, since it’s relatively close to North America, affordable to fly and travel within, and has a lovely warm and dry climate. If you’re looking for a place to escape this winter, get inspired with these five amazing destinations in Central America.
Caye Caulker, Belize
If you want a place to chill out and relax then head to the charming island of Caye Caulker, just an hour and a half boat ride from Belize city. The motto of this island is ‘go slow’, and the locals actually enforce it.
Caye Caulker is a very small island, so once you get off the boat you can walk anywhere you need to go. The atmosphere of the island is relaxed and friendly, making it easy to meet locals and other travelers. The Lazy Lizard is one of the most popular spots in town to hang out. It offers unique seating arrangements where you can drink and eat while still being in the water.
Caye Caulker is an excellent destination for diving and snorkeling, with access to the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The most famous dive site is the Blue Hole, but there are plenty of other beautiful coral reefs around to explore such as Half Moon Caye Wall. With such a welcoming atmosphere and access to incredible marine life, Caye Caulker is one of the best tropical islands in the world.
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country full of beautiful beaches with access to the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Each beach town has its own unique atmosphere, but one that should be on your Costa Rica itinerary is Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Santa Teresa is the perfect place for surfers and yogis. The waves on Santa Teresa beach are consistent and perfect for beginners learning to surf, with lessons readily available in the area. Even if you don’t surf, Santa Teresa still has a lot to offer including yoga classes, horseback riding, and some of the prettiest sunsets in Central America. The sun sets directly over the ocean, and every night the beach has a wonderful atmosphere of locals and travelers gathered to watch it go down.
For a dive focused vacation, head to the wonderful island of Utila. This small 12-square-mile island off the coast of mainland Honduras is a diver’s paradise. Utila borders on the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, the 2nd largest reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef. It has over 100 different world-class dive sites to choose from where you can see colorful reefs, caves and wrecks, and hundreds of species of fish including whale sharks. It also happens to be one of the cheapest places in the world to get your diving certification.
Honduras is a country that’s often overlooked because of its dangerous reputation, but the bay island area, including Utila, is perfectly safe to visit. Locals will say there are two things to do in Utila: dive and party. In my experience, that’s pretty accurate, but I loved every second of my time there. The island is made up of dive shops and bars, but everyone who lives in Utila is friendly and down to earth. From beach clean-ups to all-night parties, the town has a great vibe about it.
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
If you’re looking for beach, surf, and parties, it doesn’t get better than San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. San Juan is most famous for being home to Central America’s biggest pool party, Sunday Funday. It happens every Sunday of the week, and a ticket gets you entrance into five different pool parties plus transportation between them.
Even when it’s not Sunday, San Juan Del Sur has a lot to offer visitors with so much beautiful nature around. For the best views, take a short 20-minute hike up to the Jesus Statue where you can see San Juan del Sur Bay below. Afterward, reward yourself at one of the San Juans many delicious taco shops.
There is a beach you can visit right on San Juan Del Sur Bay, but there are nicer ones not far away. Grab a shuttle to nearby Playa Hermosa, which has beautiful white sand and a shaded hammock area to relax in. San Juan del Sur is just half an hour away from the Costa Rica border, so it’s the perfect place to stop if you traveling between the two countries.
San Blas Islands, Panama
When I think about a perfect tropical paradise, the San Blas Islands are what come to mind. This stunning archipelago is located in Central America between Panama and Colombia, surrounded by the beautiful Caribbean Sea. It’s made up of approximately 365 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited by the indigenous Kuna people.
When you reach the islands, it will be just your crew and the belongings you have brought. With no cell phone reception or wifi, days are spent relaxing on the beach, drinking fresh coconuts, or snorkeling in the nearby water. If you want a complete escape from reality, the San Blas Islands are the perfect place to go.
Winter is an ideal time to visit the San Blas Islands, as this is during the dry season when the seas are calm. The best way to visit the islands is to take a tour from Panama City. This can be done as a two-day overnight trip where you sleep on the islands, or as a 4-day island-hopping adventure that ends in Colombia.