Tops and Flops of 3 months in Central America

Traveling the developing world is a roller coaster, full ups and downs. We were more up than down, but looking back we can laugh at most of our lows, and smile about all of our highs.

Tops

1.) Visiting beaches that most people don’t even know about

The Silk Cayes, Belize – Bocas Del Toro, Panama – San Blas Islands, Panama (pictured above) we are beach bums at heart and we love finding remote piece of white sand to park ourseles for the day.

2.) Rafting the Pacuare River in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Rafting Pacuare River-5

One of the top day trips we had in the 3 months in this part of the world with Adventure Life. We rafted down the class 4 rapids of the Pacuare River and loved every minute of it.

3.) Cruising the Panama Canal

Panama Canal-2

Sure it’s a bit touristy, but it was still fun to cruise the famous canal.

4.) Learning to surf in Costa Rica

We spent a few nights in the surf town of Tamarindo on Costa Rica’s famous surf strip learning to get up.

5.) Find a hot spring spa in the middle of the jungles of Honduras

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By far the best hot springs we have ever visited, they even channeled the water into all of these spa-like services. Super cool, actually… hot, some pools were so hot you could stand more than a short plunge.

My Favorite Cities:

Placencia, Belize – Why? It was the perfect blend of touristy vs. local stuff going on for my liking. Beautiful beaches, good beach bars, awesome vibe, it was the first place I think I could live!

Antigua, Guatemala – Why? It is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. Plenty to do, great bars, good interaction with locals, it just had the certain travel magic.

Lake Atitlan – Why? Great spot to just relax for a few days, explore the little villages around the lake, and just surround yourself with the beauty of the lake.

Granada, Nicaragua – Why? There was just something good about the town, we didn’t do a ton, but what we did was good. The Isleta tour, exploring the city, watching the running with the bulls and just hanging out with some other cool travelers.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama – Why? Why not go to a totally remote island off of a country most people don’t travel to. The island is beautiful and has a great feeling of not hitting the mainstream yet.

Panama City, Panama – Why? It’s clean, modern, but still, plenty to see and do. I think this will be on the short list of places we would consider living abroad. All the conveniences of home but still exotic enough to keep us interested.

Flops

1.) Getting deathly ill from something I ate in Nicaragua

Sick

Not sure where it came from but it took me out of commission for about 3 days and knocked the wind out of my sails for being the normal adventurous eater I usually am. Now you are probably thinking he probably ate some crazy street food and that’s what did him in, aren’t you? Nope, I know for a fact it wasn’t, I hadn’t eaten street food that entire week. Just further proving my theories that restaurant food is more dangerous than street food!

2.) Having the worst hotel stay we have ever, ever had. This was compounded by my sickness, but even in top shape, this would have been miserable.

3.) Getting Dive Certified in the cheapest place in the world

DCIM100GOPRO

Sounds great, doesn’t it? You know the old saying, ‘you get what you pay for’, it’s a saying because it’s usually true. It wasn’t a complete flop, but I don’t think I would recommend it to a friend.

4.) Nearly Dying multiple times, on various modes of transportation.

Nica Bus

The most dangerous part of traveling through Central America is, traveling through Central America. Specifically minibusses, and small boats. Everyone is trying to maximize their profit, putting too many people in vehicles and driving them way too fast. If I die in this part of the world it won’t be from zip lining or any other adventure sport. I will either be on the bottom of a lake somewhere or off the side of a cliff in a burning minibus.

5.) Getting Burnt Out on the Road

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We had heard others talking about travel burnout and thought, ‘how could you ever get sick of traveling’, well it’s real. We started to feel the effects at about 2 and a half months into the trip. We are happy to report we’re past it now, and back to exploring the world.

Cities I would not travel to again:

Hopkins, Belize – Why? There is just not much there, maybe it was off season and its way better then, but I would hesitate to recommend it.

Utila, Honduras – Why? It just rubbed me the wrong way with the overly busy main road where we constantly dodged ATV’s and motorcycles that had no concern for people walking what so ever, and we were actually yelled at by some drivers because they always felt they had the right of way. Other than diving there are a few OK bars, but everyone is waking up early to dive so there isn’t much of a party scene. It was just expensive to get to and just didn’t justify the time and cost to get here.

Xela, Guatemala – Why? There is not much going to inside the city limits, it’s a jumping off point for some great hikes, but that’s about it for me. Others love it but I just didn’t see the draw, the air pollution was bad enough to give me headaches nearly every day. The one redeeming thing was the street food in the corner of the central park.

Leon, Nicaragua – Why? I am glad we went volcano boarding but other than that the town didn’t have much going on except at the hostels.

Masaya, Nicaragua – Why? Again just not much going on, however, we didn’t make it out to the lake, which was our goal but missed the bus. The lake might be worth a stop but the town itself had a nice central park but not much else.

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17 thoughts on “Tops and Flops of 3 months in Central America”

  1. Love this summary – thanks for sharing! You’ve convinced me to go to Placencia and Granada (and maybe even Guatamala…). You are the first people I’ve found who weren’t wild about Samara either!

  2. Great write up. I only visited a handful of the places you mentioned last year, so this is helpful for thinking about next time. Disappointed I didn’t make it down to Placencia, I think Belize has a lot to offer. Its interesting that you didn’t particularly like Leon, I’ve heard positive things about there. Totally agree with your other top cities, Antigua, Granada, Bocas and Panama City were all cool places to visit. What was your favourite food going through Central America? Think I’d have to go Baleadas from Honduras.

  3. Great round up article, especially as you touched on a few countries I haven’t been to – Belize and Honduras! Yeah I heard Utila was pretty shocking, so I learnt to dive on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua instead. Still dirt cheap, but amazing experiences, with great instructors and some friendly hammerheads! Agree on Masaya, what a disappointment, especially if you’ve been to the markets of Guatemala already. Don’t worry you didn’t miss much at Laguna Apoyo either, not a scratch on Lake Atitlan!

  4. “The most dangerous part of travelling through Central America is travelling through Central America” haha, I hear that! Those bus and boat journeys are a nightmare.

  5. Great summary! I’ve spent the last year or so in Central America and agree with pretty much all you’ve said 🙂 … Sorry to hear about your dive experience. It’s important to do it right huh. Did you manage to fit in any diving in Belize? I did a week off Glovers Atoll. Stunning! … I actually really liked Leon – took loads of great photos there of the architecture and street art and we were lucky enough to find loads of great places to eat – both street vendors and restaurants … and I’m currently living in Panama, so totally agree with you there! 🙂

  6. Nice blog. I made a similar trip in the early ’80s through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, but I spent six months doing that. You folks are just booking along, so if it’s Tuesday it must be someplace different. I was in Nicaragua last winter, and while I didn’t keep a detailed expense account, my memory pretty much jibes with your expenditure list. I maybe spent less on food, but I had a kitchen in San Juan Del Sur for two months and bought a lot of fresh fish for cheap from the cooperative store on the beach there. They have an amazingly extensive free library in SJDS, by the way, with enough English language books to keep you busy until the new Canal is built. The library’s across the street from the Cathedral and park, on the south end of town a couple blocks from the old mercado. Bring good books to donate. Following compass directions is easy in San Juan because the sun sets over the ocean, which is west. Doh.

  7. No problem, we relay on other bloggers info so we have to share ours! When Adam was sick it was SOOO miserable! I had to sit in the hot room and do nothing as well!!!

  8. I am so anxious to get on the road ourselves, and reading about some of your favorite places is just making me more antsy! Thanks for the recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    • You will be on the road in no time! I swear it feels like just the other day we were packing up our house! We had to share the ups and the downs, because traveling isnt full of all ups!

  9. Has it already been 3 months you guys have been on the road? Wow, time flies! Congratulations and keep going, don’t worry about travel fatigue, it happens and it will happen again but it’s worth it considering what you get in return from your travels 🙂

    • At least we are on the same page about Leon! What didnt you like about Placencia? We got to Placencia right after Hopkins and it had what were looking for! Beach bars and people!!! We loved it!

    • Fun! Where are you thinking? We have gone to some cities that other bloggers raved about but didnt end up liking. So might want to see which bloggers you think you relate to the most and try a few cities they suggest and then decide if you like the same things! We are learning that now, lots of bloggers loved Xela/Leon/Samara and we didnt…

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