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Mexico and Central America

Wedged between two polar opposite continents, this subcontinent offers the best of both worlds: rural villages, modern cities, beach resorts and thrilling attractions.

For a relatively small subcontinent, Mexico and Central America have a surprising diversity of natural treasures. The white Caribbean beaches of the east coast contrast nicely with the volcanic sands of the west coast, with the Panama Canal conveniently connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. With its cloud forests, volcanoes, crater lakes, jungles and forested mountains, the interior of Central America puts on a show as well.

Even if you exclude Mexico, which many see as part of North America, Central America still has seven other wonderful nations to discover. As diverse and unique as each of these compact countries is, there are shared traditions in the spicy cuisine, Catholic religion, indigenous roots, Spanish language, colorful hand-woven clothing and of course the “mañana mañana” approach to life.

Before setting out, it’s handy to learn some basic Spanish first. Mexico City is great for this and so is Antigua in Guatemala, which has language schools and Western-style cafés lining its cobblestoned streets. Take a “chicken bus” to Lago de Atitlán, a massive volcanic crater lake surrounded by colorful villages.

Another good choice to ease yourself into things is Costa Rica. Traveling around this relatively peaceful, safe and modern tropical country is a breeze, even by bus. If zip lining or whitewater rafting don’t appeal, then enjoy the laid-back vibe along the Caribbean beaches of the Limón Province.

Got the hang of it? Then visit the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala. For epic self-drive tours, check out Belize’s Hummingbird Highway and El Salvador’s Ruta de Flores. Real adventurers will be drawn to the jungle-clad Miskito Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Don’t limit yourself to the mainland though. You’ve got to see the Great Blue Hole in Belize which, along with the islands of Bay Islands of Honduras and Bocas del Toro of Panama, is a scuba diver’s dream.

It’s easy to love the humble lifestyle, artistic flair and traditional customs of the spirited peoples of Mexico and Central America. This back-to-basics approach is all about “la pura vida,” living the good life.

Popular cities in Mexico and Central America

Mexico City showing modern architecture, a city and a garden
Mexico City
Known for Historical, Museum and Cathedral

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Reasons to visit

  • Alameda Central
    Alameda Central
  • Zocalo
    Zocalo
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes
    Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Gobierno showing an administrative buidling, a square or plaza and a city
Guadalajara
Known for Shopping, Cathedral and Museum

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Reasons to visit

  • Plaza de Armas
    Plaza de Armas
  • Guadalajara Cathedral
    Guadalajara Cathedral
  • Degollado Theater
    Degollado Theater
Cancun which includes a sandy beach, landscape views and general coastal views
Cancun
Known for Dining, Rocky Beaches and Sea

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Reasons to visit

  • Cancun Interactive Aquarium
    Cancun Interactive Aquarium
  • Delfines Beach
    Delfines Beach
  • Aquaworld
    Aquaworld
Malecon which includes a coastal town, markets and street scenes
Puerto Vallarta
Known for Rocky Beaches, Sea and Relaxing

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Reasons to visit

  • Malecon
    Malecon
  • Marietas Islands
    Marietas Islands
  • Bay of Banderas
    Bay of Banderas
Canon de la Huasteca showing vehicle touring
Monterrey
Known for Shopping, Business and Museum

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Reasons to visit

  • Fundidora Park
    Fundidora Park
  • Cascada Cola de Caballo
    Cascada Cola de Caballo
  • Fuente de la Vida o Neptuno
    Fuente de la Vida o Neptuno
Montejo House featuring a garden
Mérida
Known for Historical, Ruin and Museum

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Reasons to visit

  • Paseo de Montejo
    Paseo de Montejo
  • Mérida Cathedral
    Mérida Cathedral
  • Plaza Grande
    Plaza Grande