The Absolute Best Vacation Getaways in Central America
If you are looking for an adventurous vacation that offers comfort and luxury while also getting you off the well-trodden tourist path, Central America is growing tourist destination that offers a diversity of cultures, landscapes, and adventure options. From the indigenous Mayan Highlands of Guatemala to the second largest coral reef in the world on the shores of Honduras and Belize to the jungle adventures of Costa Rica, Central America is certainly a region worth exploring.
When most people think about a Central American vacation getaway, Costa Rica is the first country that comes to mind, and for good reason. Because of its unique geographical location, along with progressive environmental laws that protect the country’s vast natural resources, Costa Rica is widely considered one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. Despite only accounting for 0.03 percent of the total surface of the planet, this country contains upwards of 6% of the earth’s biodiversity.
From tropical jungles filled with every type of creature imaginable, to impressive volcanoes rising up from the jungle floors, to tropical beaches that you have to share with parrots and monkeys, Costa Rica offers a natural getaway unlike any other place on Earth.
There are several companies offering quality Costa Rica vacation rentals all across the country. There are hundreds of luxury villas and vacation rentals on the Pacific Coast, Caribbean Coast, and everywhere in between. Because Costa Rica has so much to offer, you can map out your trip across Costa Rica and use Luxury Retreats to book a beautiful place to stay no matter where you end up exploring.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of the famous children´s book “The Little Prince” spent extensive time living at Lake Atitlan, a stunning volcanic lake surrounded by three volcanoes (one of them active) that is located about four hours from Guatemala City. Legend has it that Saint-Exupéry was inspired by the shape of the hills and volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan to create his famous drawing of an elephant that was eaten by a boa constrictor.
The Lush Hotel, located in the town of San Marcos on the western shore of Lake Atitlan offers a perfect view of the “Cerro de Oro”, the small hill that inspired Saint-Exupéry while he was writing “The Little Prince.” This hotel is carved right of the rock hills that rise from the edge of the lake, and the different rooms all incorporate some element of eco-construction. From adobe walls to beautiful glasswork windows made from recycled wine bottles, this piece of paradise offers beautiful, lush gardens, a terrace restaurant, and rooms with spectacular views of the sunrise over the lake.
While at Lake Atitlan, you can enjoy a kayak trip around the lake, indulge yourself with exotic restaurants offering cuisines from around the world, and explore the towns scattered around the lake each offering a wealth of beautiful indigenous artwork and textiles.
Just south of Guatemala, El Salvador is a tiny country that is about the size of the state of Massachusetts. While tourists who head to the more well known tourist areas of Guatemala or Costa Rica often overlook this country, don’t let the tiny size of El Salvador fool you. From beautiful beaches offering great surfing opportunities, to volcanic mountain ranges with a rich coffee heritage, to hidden Biospheres high up in the cloud forests, El Salvador packs a little bit of everything into a tiny amount of space.
In the northernmost tip of the country, the El Pital Mountain stands tall as the highest peak of El Salvador at close to 9,000 feet. At the top of this mountain (which is a great one hour hike from the nearest bus stop), you can enjoy the verdant cloud forest with century old trees covered in orchids and epiphytes. Bird song fills the air and the 360-degree views from the top of the mountain allow you to see into three countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), while also watching the chain of volcanoes rise from the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Central America.
Clouds of El Pital is a unique eco-tourism cooperative situated on the slopes of the El Pital Mountain. They offer cozy eco-cabins with fantastic views of the local mountains, homemade fruit wines that can be enjoyed in front of the fireplace, and trekking opportunities throughout the El Trifinio Biosphere.
After enjoying the cool weather of the mountains of Guatemala and El Salvador, it would be well worth your time to take a trip to the Caribbean coast of Honduras. From the coastal city of La Ceiba, you can take a short ferry trip to any of the three well known Bay Islands, Utila, Guanaja, and Roatan. There are also several smaller keys worth exploring.
The Bay Islands are home to the second largest coral reef in the world, which extends from Belize in the North down to Honduras in the south. This coral reef is home to hundreds of species of exotic fish and other marine mammals. The white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and colorful reefs will put any Bahamas beach to shame. It is also one of the cheapest areas in the world to get your scuba diving license.
The Mayan Princess Beach and Dive Resort on the island of Roatan offers all-inclusive luxury at an affordable price. Besides the pools, beachfront access, and great restaurant, this resort also offers snorkeling and scuba diving trips so that you can enjoy the sea turtles, stingrays, and other marine species that populate the exotic reef.
Unlike other tourist destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean (think Cancun and the Bahamas), Central America is also incredibly affordable and will allow you to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings without having to deal with the crowds of tourists.
Since each country in Central America is unique and different, we reviewed the top vacation getaways in several Central American countries that are off the beaten path while still luxurious enough to remind you that you are on vacation.