Its hard to summarize a 4-month trip through 8 countries
to give an overall perspective of Central America and the Yucatan peninsula. For example, we stayed only 2 days in Honduras… and we did see Central America at its hottest time. However, some places do stick out in our minds for better or for worse. Here is an insight into our favourites.
Costa Rica always had a little more than just chicken, rice and beans on the menu… and their salads varied greatly. It was also one of those countries that seemed to have a restaurant whenever we were hungry.
Nicaragua, although the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere, always managed to serve tasty food and generous portions for cyclists appetites.
Guatemala wins this award hands down. The beef was as tough as doornails, which is a pity as chicken, beans and rice (with or without egg) tend to be quite bland and repetitive, to say the least.
Antigua, Guatemala: Colourful colonial houses, churches and plazas in a unique setting, with views of volcanoes on all sides, make this cobblestone town a real treasure.
Granada, Nicaragua: On the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada has its fair share of colonial buildings, nicely restored and painted, making it a real trap for ex-pats.
Izamal, Mexico: The theme is yellow and we mean yellow! This unusual mix of Spanish churches and Mayan ruins is a pleasant surprise in the Yucatan Peninsula.
We were very disappointed with the level of rubbish in northern Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and the Caribbean coast of Mexico. The town that sticks out in our minds as the worst by far is Jocoro, El Salvador.
San Blas Islands, Panama: Who hasn’t dreamt of a little island of
white-sand beaches and a couple of coconut palms for shade? San Blas on the Caribbean is your dream come true.
Pacific Coast, Panama: For a change from the white sand, Panama’s Pacific coast offers a variety of black and golden-sand beaches with the most amazing sunsets and great camping opportunities.
Costa Maya, Mexico: (almost!) Beautiful white sand and fabulous snorkelling in turquoise Caribbean water makes the Costa Maya a treat… as long as you stay on a maintained beach, where the plastic rubbish is removed on a daily basis.
Every town in Guatemala seems to have a colourful, happening market… but we do have 2 favorites. Chichicastenango: On Thursdays and Sundays this town fills with locals from the surrounding hills selling handicrafts and basically anything you can think of! What makes it are the colourful costumes and the friendly smiles of the various indigenous Mayas.
Santiago de Atitlan: On the shores of Lake Atitlan, getting to Santiago by boat is half the fun. Streets are crammed with stalls and shoppers and pushing with the colourful locals is the only way to go.
Tikal, Guatemala: Huge Mayan pyramids towering over the jungle canopy with howler monkeys and a concert of birds make Tikal one of those places you’ll never forget.
Chichen Itza, Mexico: The astronomical knowledge that went into the construction of these buildings, coupled with its artistic stone carvings justify Chichen Itza’s claim to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Tulum, Mexico: Perched atop a cliff on the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is a must see for anyone wanting a very pleasant, light version of Mayan ruins.
Ometepe, Nicaragua: This dumbbell shaped island on Lake Nicaragua composing of 2 volcanoes is a perfect place to climb a mountain or jump in a lake!
Semuc Champey, Guatemala: A series of terraced pools, Semuc Champey is natural water works at its best.
Caye Caulker, Belize: If you’re looking for an island where you can walk the main street barefoot and enjoy snorkelling in the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef, Caye Caulker is the place for you.
Coban – Chisec, Guatemala: 70km Cardamom, coffee, corn and pine plantations form the backdrop for traditional Mayan houses on this mostly downhill stretch, with panoramic views on every corner.
Sian Kaan Reserve, Mexico: 120km From Felipe Carillo Puerto to Punta Allen we enjoyed a very quiet trail through the jungle with butterflies and birds adding to the authenticity of this Reserve. Then with spectacular views of the Caribbean, the leg to Tulum rounded off the experience nicely.
Fortuna Arenal, Costa Rica: 50km This road of 35 shades of green leads past a rumbling volcano, towering over a long lake and dozens of coatis ambushing cars and cyclists for their daily rations.
Throughout Central America we found drivers to be very respectful and patient. Howerver, the connection from Puerto Limon to San Jose (Route 32) in Costa Rica is a little too narrow to cater for the heavy container traffic. Add a few potholes and fast moving cars to this and you have a recipe for disaster for poor touring cyclists.