Central America Cruise
Central America is made up of seven countries - Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Cruises to Central America often include ports of call in Mexico and South America as well.
You'll find a wealth of experiences to enjoy with a cruise to Central America, and a variety of different cruise lines offering exciting itineraries showcasing the best of this diverse region. Here at Cruise118, we have a team of expert Cruise Concierge who can help you with every aspect of planning and booking your exotic cruise holiday. Please don't hesitate to give us a call with your cruise questions.
Summary It's not another Cancún yet, but Cozumel's days as a rustic divers' hangout are history. Whether arriving by plane or at the island's gleaming ferry terminal, visitors soon realize there's nothing deserted about this island. That has its advantages. It's rare to find such stunning natural beauty, glass-clear aquamarine seas, and vast marine life combined with top-flight visitor services and accommodations, and as a result Cozumel's devotees are legion. Divers sharing stories of lionfish and sharks sit table-to-table with families tanned from a day at the beach club, while Mexican couples spin and step to salsa music in the central plaza. But the elephant in Cozumel's big and bountiful room are the throngs of cruise-ship passengers who take over the countless crafts and jewelry stores along the seaward boulevard downtown any day there are ships in port—which is to say, just about every day. But take just a few steps off the beaten path and this little island offers big rewards. Deserted, windswept beaches, wild and vibrant natural parks, and 600 miles of coral reef are still yours for the discovering. Just 19 km (12 miles) off the coast, Cozumel is 53 km (33 miles) long and 15 km (9 miles) wide, making it the country's third-largest island. Plaza Central, or just "la plaza," is the heart of San Miguel, directly across from the docks. Residents congregate here in the evening, especially on weekends, when free concerts begin at 8 pm. Heading inland (east) takes you away from the tourist zone and toward residential areas of town. Most of the island's restaurants, hotels, stores, and dive shops are concentrated downtown and along the two hotel zones that fan out along the leeward coast to the north and south of San Miguel. The most concentrated commercial district is between Calle 10 Norte and Calle 11 Sur to beyond Avenida Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. Cozumel's solitude-seeking windward side also has a few restaurants and one hotel. Unless you want to stick around your hotel or downtown San Miguel for your whole stay, you'll do well to rent a car or a scooter. Most worthwhile sites, such as the island's Mayan ruins and pristine windward beaches, are only readily accessible with wheels. Taxi fares are astronomical, and after just a few trips a rental car is clearly a better deal.
Summary Laid-back coast with sandy beaches & waterfront eateries, plus diving around offshore coral reefs.
Summary Ensenada is a port city on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. At its heart is the harbor and waterfront area with the Malecón promenade. Once a casino, the Riviera de Ensenada is now a cultural center. The nearby Museum of History and the Regional Historical Museum trace the area’s people and past. Migrating gray whales visit the waters offshore. Southwest of the city is La Bufadora blowhole.
Cabo San Lucas
Summary Cabo San Lucas, a resort city on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, is known for its beaches, water-based activities and nightlife. Playa El Médano is Cabo’s main beach, with outdoor restaurants and numerous bars. Past the marina is Land's End promontory, site of Playa del Amor (Lover's Beach) and El Arco, a natural archway in the seacliffs.
Summary Puerto Vallarta is a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in Jalisco state. It is known for its beaches, water sports and nightlife scene. Its cobblestone center is home to the ornate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church, boutique shops and a range of restaurants and bars. El Malecón is a beachside promenade with contemporary sculptures, as well as bars, lounges and nightclubs.
Huatulco (Santa María Huatulco)
Summary Acapulco is a major seaport on the scenic Pacific coast of Mexico, located on a deep semi-circular bay with sandy beaches and blue waters. It was a popular destination for many movie stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, including Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor.
Summary Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala's largest Pacific Ocean port. It is important for both cargo traffic and as a stop-off point for cruise liners
Santo Tomás de Castilla
Summary Guatemala's short Caribbean shoreline doesn't generate the buzz of those of neighboring Belize and Mexico. The coast weighs in at a scant 74 mi (123 km), and this mostly highland country wears its indigenous culture on its sleeve and has historically looked inland rather than to the sea. You'll be drawn inland, too, with a variety of shore excursions. This is the land of the Maya, after all. But there's plenty to keep you occupied here in the lowlands. Tourist brochures tout the Caribbean coast as "The Other Guatemala". The predominantly indigenous and Spanish cultures of the highlands give way to an Afro-Caribbean tradition that listens more closely to the rhythms of far-off Jamaica rather than taking its cue from Guatemala City. Think of it as mixing a little reggae with your salsa.
Summary Located in eastern Guatemala, Lívingston is a melting pot of surrounding cultures and therefore a rich town to explore. There are seven freshwater pools and waterfalls leading into the Caribbean, these are locally known as Los Siete Altares.
Summary Experience true Caribbean island bliss, during your time on the immaculate paradise of Roatan, which is the largest of the Bay Islands. This slim island is framed by glorious powdery white beaches, and rich ocean beds carpeted with diverse coral reefs - alive with fish and marine life. Curious dolphins roll through the waves just offshore, while beach dwellers soak up the sun, and enjoy coconut cocktails, beside leaning palm trees. The beaches here are nothing short of dreamy - with wooden piers teetering out over the water, and thatched roofs providing welcome shade, as you dangle your legs towards the water.
Summary The town of Trujillo is located in the western Caribbean on Honduras’ gorgeous and dramatic North Coast. Christopher Columbus landed in present-day Trujillo in 1502, during his fourth and final voyage to the New World. The Santa Bárbara Fort was constructed beginning around 1575 and provided protection for the town with its large cannons overlooking the Bay. A town plaza and park are near the fort, as is the San Juan Bautista Church. Experience the culture, the warmth, the hospitality and the seaside charm of this coastal location.
Water Caye, Isla Utila
Summary The divine tropical landscapes of Útila are recognised as some of the best in the world with diving a key attraction. The small island is centred around Útila Town with much of the rest of the island being made up of dense wilderness. The rich waters make it perfect for diving with over 80 diving sites located around the island, boasting exotic marine wildlife including the elusive whale shark.
San Juan del Sur
Summary Christopher Columbus became Costa Rica's first tourist when he landed on this stretch of coast in 1502 during his fourth and final voyage to the New World. Expecting to find vast mineral wealth, he named the region Costa Rica ("rich coast"). Imagine the Spaniards' surprise eventually to find there was none. Save for a brief skirmish some six decades ago, the country did prove itself rich in a long tradition of peace and democracy. No other country in Latin America can make that claim. Costa Rica is also abundantly rich in natural beauty, managing to pack beaches, volcanoes, rain forests, and diverse animal life into an area the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. It has successfully parlayed those qualities into its role as one the world's great ecotourism destinations. A day visit is short, but time enough for a quick sample.
Summary This town is not on the Nicoya Peninsula, but rather on Costa Rica's mainland. It is best known as a cruise-ship port and launching pad for ferries heading southeast to the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula and for cruises sailing out on the Gulf of Nicoya. Puntarenas is also a major fishing port with a lively fish market. The town’s reputation suffers from the unimpressive parts you see from your car as you roll through town on the way to the ferry dock. But the town has a lot of character off the main drag, thanks to its illustrious past as an affluent port town and principal vacation spot for San José's wealthy, who arrived by train in the last century. Once the port was moved and roads opened to other beaches, Puntarenas's economy crashed, but it's making a comeback. Sitting on a narrow spit of sand—punta de arenas literally means "point of sand"—that protrudes into the Gulf of Nicoya, the town boasts a beautifully groomed, wide Blue Flag beach with views of the Nicoya Peninsula and spectacular sunsets, along with a public swimming pool, the San Lucas Beach Club, and a marine-life museum. Ticos arrive by bus and car to enjoy the beach and stroll the Paseo de los Turistas, a beachfront promenade lined with tree-shaded concrete benches and seafood restaurants. Crowds of locals, called porteños, cruise by on bicycles, the town’s most popular form of transport.
Quepos (Puerto Quepos)
Summary Quepos allows tourists to experience a once in a lifetime nature experience in Manuel Antonio National Park without leaving any of the familiar amenities behind. The close proximity of the park, located just 4.3 miles (7 km) to the south, and a wide array of services makes Quepos the perfect place to visit for those who wish to explore this enchanting area. The amenities available include everything from banks, restaurants, hotels, gift shops, bakeries, bars, a hospital, supermarket and even a post office. The area was once dependent on banana plantations which used to line the surrounding area. After disease infiltrated the harvest, interest transferred to African Palms as the prominent crop. Now, tourism has deemed itself the major economic factor, contributing to just about everything in the area. Quepos lures in many tourists for its fantastic sport fishing. In fact, some have come solely to participate in this world class experience and have never left, but besides sport fishing, many other activities are available. Exploring this maze of wetlands by boat is amazing but not the only way to see crocodiles, monkeys, herons, raccoons and more. This small paradise has the perfect balance between nature and the comfort and facilities someone might need.
Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica
Summary Golfito, is situated along a small inlet of Golfo Dulce. This small port city is a narrow strip along Golfito Bay backed against steep green hills covered with pristine rainforest, with the Golfo Dulce seaward outside Golfito Bay. Surrounded by tropical rainforest, Golfito provides an ideal location to escape from your hectic schedule and enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica with a stunning backdrop of verdant hills and lush rainforest. Follow a trail through the densely forested Golfito National Wildlife Refuge to observe rare flora and fauna, and emerge at a scenic outlook with views of the ocean, also the city has a variety of hotels and restaurants, many of which now provide free wireless Internet service for customers. Golfito was the main port on the South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica in the days when there was little except for the huge banana plantations. To help remedy the resulting economy decrease of the region, the government established a duty-free zone, support and impulse the touristic development.
Curú Wildlife Refuge
Summary Located on the southeast tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Curu Wildlife Refuge is known for its pristine, white-sand beaches and impressive variety of species ranging from monkeys to sand crabs. In total the refuge covers 3,707 total acres and 656 feet of coastline. Travelers to the Curu Wildlife Refuge will quickly notice that they are in the minority at the site, with only a few people in the area among the abundance of animals and sea creatures. All of your senses will be captivated by this overwhelming amount of wildlife at the reserve, which offers some of the best eco-tourism in Costa Rica. Curu officially received support from the Costa Rican government to protect its wildlife in 1981 and the area officially became known as the Curu Wildlife Refuge in 1983. Today, the refuge is privately owned, extremely-well cared for and even more exclusive than many of the national parks in the country. If you're looking to participate in some of the vast eco-tourism opportunities in Costa Rica, the refuge should be a top priority because of its exclusivity and the ability of visitors to personally interact with the diverse animal population. The refuge also features 17 peaceful trails, where travellers can check out this abundant wildlife in a number of different ecosystems, including mangrove swamps and both dry and wet tropical forests.
Summary Named after its turtle-shaped volcanic rock formations, Isla Tortuga is a small island set just off the tip of Nicoya Peninsula’s southern coast. The island offers a unique combination of white pristine beaches, palm trees, red volcanic rocks, verdant jungles and sparkling crystals that line the shores. Sunlight reaches right through the crystal clear waters at Isla Tortuga, making it a sought-after destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Just east of the island is the Curu Wildlife Refuge offers some of the region’s best wildlife watching, including sightings of capuchin and howler monkeys, river otters, and deer on the ground, and a diverse ecology of underwater wildlife that can be accessed via snorkeling. Most commonly seen species are mantarays, reef sharks, octupus, stingrays, angle fish and spinner dolphins.
Summary The provincial capital of Colón, beside the canal's Atlantic entrance, is named for the Spanish-language surname of Christopher Columbus, though the Americans called it Aspinwall in the 19th century.. The city was founded in 1850 by Americans working on the Panama railroad and named Aspinwall for one of the railway engineers. Following completion in 1855, Colon gained in importance, which was furthered by the plans for an isthmian canal. During the time of the French canal attempt, a fire in 1885 burned the city nearly to the ground and left thousands of people homeless. Colon was rebuilt in the architectural style then popular in France. Buildings from that era plus the ones constructed by Americans between 1904 and 1914 are still in use today, although the majority is on the verge of collapse. In addition to its importance as a port, Colon boasts the world’s second largest duty-free zone, known as Zona Libre, which is contained in a huge fortress like, walled-off area with giant international stores. However, most of the merchandise is sold in bulk to commercial businesses throughout the country.
Summary Expect incredible morning views as you arrive into the port for Panama City. Tinged with a silver pre-dawn light, the city will metamorphosise into a golden glow as the sun rises above it. And from then on expect one stunning view after another. Very interesting in its own right, Fuerte Amador is obviously overshadowed by its proximity to Panama City. So should the Miraflores museum of the Canal, which offers a comprehensive and immersive tour of the Canal including a 3-D experience, four exhibition halls, an observation deck, and a surprisingly good restaurant not interest you then there is always the option of lovely Casco Viejo – literally the old quartier of Panama. The grand old colonial houses, cobbled streets, independent boutiques and buzzing street scene make this a must stop on your itinerary. And if you like seafood, you will not want miss the many restaurants and market stalls serving different variations of so-fresh-it’s-still-practically-swimming ceviche. Best eaten like the Panamanians do, with salty crackers and a cold beer on the beach. And if money is no object, a cup of geisha coffee – supposedly the world’s best and definitely the world’s most expensive at $7 a shot is definitely a pick me up! Cool cosmopolitan capital aside, Panama has a skyscraper filled skyline that is worthy of some of its North American counterparts. But if urban utopia is not your scene then fear not, the sandy beaches and lush rainforests are never more than a short cab ride away.
Bocas del Toro
Summary Translated as Mouths of the Bull, Bocas del Toro is both a province and an archipelago in the northwest Caribbean Sea in Panama. The archipelago contains 10 larger islands (including the main Isla Colon, where the town of Bocas del Toro is situated), 50 cays and 200 tiny islets. The region contains Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, Panama’s first national marine park that covers over 32,000 acres and protects forests, mangroves, monkeys, sloths, caiman, crocodile and 28 species of amphibians and reptiles. The park also contains Playa Larga, an important nesting site for sea turtles. With all there is to see in this region, visitors should also pause to enjoy the pristine white beaches lined with palm trees that lie all along the surrounding clear waters of the Chiriqui Lagoon
San Blas Islands
Summary The San Blas archipelago is located off the Caribbean coast, east of Colon, and is made up of 365 islands that range in size from tiny ones with a few coconut palms to islands on which hundreds of Kuna Indians live. Only about fifty are inhabited. The Kuna rule the San Blas Territory with internal autonomy, and have tightly preserved their language and cultural traditions over the centuries despite influences from European colonies. In addition to their own language, Spanish is widely spoken and many men work on the mainland, but live on the islands. Women wear costumes with unique designs based on local themes, geometric patterns, and stylised fauna and flora. The island of El Porvenir is one of the main seats of government for the Kuna Indians. Many Kunas from the other islands came to settle on El Porvenir, bringing with them their traditional arts and crafts, including the famous molas. These intricately hand-sewn designs are made by the women of the tribes as part of their blouses and dresses. With the increased tourism, molas are now a favoured souvenir and craft item for visitors.
Darién National Park
Summary "The remote Darien Jungle has one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. It is also one of the world’s top ten birding sites, with the colourful Crimson-collared Tanager, Chestnut-fronted Macaws, and Snow-bellied Hummingbirds found here. Mammals include tapirs and Black-headed Spider Monkeys. In this roadless stretch of forest, rivers provide the best access. Visitors to the Darien Jungle are rare with fewer than 1,000 tourists visiting each year. The Embera are one of several indigenous groups that live here in relative isolation offering ornate handcrafted baskets and carvings for sale in their traditional villages."
Balboa (Panama City)
Summary Belize City is more of a town than a city—few of the ramshackle buildings here are taller than a palm tree, and the official population within the city limits is barely over 50,000, though the metro population is near 90,000. Not far beyond the city center, streets give way to two-lane country roads where animals outnumber people. Any dining room downtown could leave the impression that everybody knows everybody else in this town, and certainly among the elite who can afford to dine out, that's probably true.On a map Belize City appears to be an ideal base for exploring the central part of the country—it's two hours or less by car to San Ignacio, Corozal Town, Dangriga, and even less to Altun Ha, Belmopan, and the Belize Zoo. However, many old Belize hands will advise you to get out of Belize City as quickly as you can. They point to the high crime rate and to drugs and gang activity. They also note the relative lack of attractions in Belize City. There are no good beaches in or near the city, except for one man-made beach at the Old Belize facility west of town, built to attract cruise-ship visitors. Although you can sometimes spot manatees and porpoises in the harbor, and birding around the city is surprisingly good, this is not the wild rain forest visitors come to see.All of that is true enough, and certainly any visitor to Belize City should take the usual precautions for travel in an impoverished urban area, which includes always taking a cab at night (and in rough parts of the city anytime), but Belize City does have an energy and excitement to it. There are good restaurants, including the best Chinese and Indian food in the country, a vibrant arts community, and, outside some of the rougher parts of town on the South Side, nice residential areas and a number of pleasant hotels and B&Bs. Belize City offers the most varied shopping in the country, and it’s the only place to find sizeable supermarkets, department stores, and the Belizean version of big box stores. There is always some little treasure to be discovered in a shop with mostly junk. All in all, it's far more interesting than any modern mall.Belize City also has an easygoing sociability. People meet on the street, talk, joke, laugh, and debate. Despite the Belize City streetscape's sometimes sketchy appearance, people in the shops and on the street tend to be friendly, polite, and helpful.If you haven't spent time in Belize City, you simply won't understand Belize. Belize City is the commercial, social, sports, and cultural hub of the country. It's even the political hub, despite the fact that the capital, Belmopan, is an hour west. The current prime minister, Dean Barrow, a lawyer who came to power in 2008, former prime ministers including Said Musa, many of the other ministers, and nearly all of the country's movers and shakers live in or near Belize City.One longtime Belize resident says that despite its problems she enjoys making day trips to the city and always encourages visitors to spend some time there: "Being a landlubber, I enjoy the boats, seabirds, and smell of the salt air, and of course the Swing Bridge, watching the fishermen on fishing boats sell their fish, and seeing what fish and sea creatures are for sale in the market. When I first came here I was amazed at the fish and meat stalls, at how they were out in the open, and weren't refrigerated like back home. I think it's good for tourists to see that there are other ways of living than what they are used to. Isn't that the point of traveling?"Still—and we can’t overemphasize this—you do have to be careful, as crime is not limited just to certain areas: When you’re in Belize City, bring your street smarts and exercise caution at all times.