Mexico and Central America

Travel Guide
Playa La Audiencia which includes landscape views, tropical scenes and a sandy beach
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

Palacio de Bellas Artes showing heritage architecture, a garden and night scenes
Mexico City
Known for Historical, Museums and Cathedrals
Experience the infectious energy, superb culinary scene, intriguing museums and top-rate cultural and historic sights of Mexico’s sprawling, cosmopolitan capital.

Reasons to visit

  • Zócalo
  • Alameda Central
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Gobierno showing heritage architecture, a square or plaza and an administrative building
Guadalajara
Known for Shopping, Cathedrals and Museums
Intriguing architecture, mariachi music and mouthwatering food will have you falling in love with one of Mexico’s largest cities.

Reasons to visit

  • Guadalajara Cathedral
  • Plaza de Armas
  • Degollado Theater
Zocalo Square showing night scenes
Puebla
Known for Historical, Cathedrals and Churches
One of the oldest cities in Mexico fascinates visitors with its Spanish colonial buildings, creative cuisines and artistic output.

Reasons to visit

  • Puebla Cathedral
  • Zocalo Square
  • Africam Safari
Paseo de Montejo featuring night scenes and a monument
Mérida
Known for Historical, Ruins and Museums

Reasons to visit

  • Anthropology and History Museum
  • Casa Montes Molina Museum
  • Great Museum of the Maya World
San Jose showing general coastal views
San Jose
Known for Shopping, Museums and Volcano
Immerse yourself in Spanish language, culture and food and European architecture in this inviting Central American capital city.

Reasons to visit

  • Central Park
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Cancun showing a beach, tropical scenes and landscape views
Cancun
Known for Dining, Beach view and Sea
Explore ancient Mayan pyramids, the world's second-longest coral reef, endless beaches and even longer nights in this party-friendly city on the Yucatan peninsula.