A subcontinent of North America, Central America is comprised of seven countries that border the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The region offers an abundance of popular tourist destinations, many of which can be accessed via its 28 cruise ports. Costa Rica and Panama lead the Central American countries in the number of cruise ports with nine and eight, respectively, while Honduras ranks third with four. Here are five shore excursions that you should consider on a cruise of Central America:
Trujillo is a colonial town in Honduras that was founded in 1525 by Spanish conquistadors. Previously, Christopher Columbus visited Honduras in 1502 as part of his last voyage to the New World. It served as a strategic location for Spanish interests in the New World during the 16th century. One of the early components of its defense infrastructure, Santa Barbara Fort, remains largely intact and provides fantastic views of the Caribbean Sea. Today, the fort is within close proximity to a park, a town plaza, and the iconic Cathedral San Juan Bautista. Trujillo also holds distinction as the first mainland cruise destination in Central America.
Travelers can also go to the Bay of Trujillo to visit the Banana Coast. Its name derives from its history as the banana-export capital of the world during the early 20th century, at which time it annually shipped out more than 8 million stems of bananas at its peak. A central draw for cruise tourists is Banana Coast Landing, a 20,000-square-foot banana-themed retail destination. Other places to explore in Banana Coast include sandy beaches and coral reefs, as well as a tropical rainforest and the Guaimoreto Lagoon Wildlife Reserve.
Curú Wildlife Refuge
A nature preserve located on the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, the Curú Wildlife Refuge traces its roots to 1933, when Federico Schutt de la Croix purchased land for farming. His family later sought government assistance to transform the area into a mixed-use sustainable development project with an emphasis on agriculture production and conservation. As a result of government-initiated ecotourism efforts, it officially became Costa Rica’s first private national wildlife refuge in 1983. Today, the Curú Wildlife Refuge is still managed by the Schutt family and serves as a research site for scientists worldwide.
The Curú National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 84 hectares that interweave with another 1,000 hectares of protected forest. The entire area boasts an incredible diversity of species and an abundance of dry, moist tropical forests and marine habitats. Overall, it is home to more than 500 plant species, 232 kinds of birds, 87 types of reptiles, and 78 mammal species. These include exotic animals like the orange-fronted parakeet, long-tail manakin, boa constrictor, and ocelot. Refuge tours include horseback and hiking options.
The capital and largest city in Guatemala, Guatemala City offers popular attractions like the Guatemala City Zoo and the nearby Children’s Museum. Visitors can also explore the region’s history and indigenous cultural stages at the Museo Popol Vuh and the Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, the latter of which showcases iconic Mayan textiles. Another tourist favorite is Cervecería Centro Americana, a brewery that has been in business since 1886.
Guatemala City is also home to the ancient Mayan city of Kaminaljuyu, which is regarded as one of the Americas’ most notable archaeological sites. It was one of the most important city centers in southeastern Mesoamerica between 1000 BC and 200 AD. Abandoned for centuries, it was rediscovered in the early 20th century and placed on the World Monuments Watch in 2010. It is now an archaeological park and tourism spot protected in part by the World Monuments Fund.
Playas del Coco
The largest village in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, Playas del Coco is an ideal destination for those who enjoy participating in water sports and relaxing on the beach. The village possesses several tour and dive companies, as well as one of Costa Rica’s most well-known and busiest beaches. It is particularly regarded for its sport fishing opportunities because it offers access to two coastlines that have an abundance of marlin, mahi-mahi, yellow fin tuna, and sailfish, among other species, in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The best time to visit Playas del Coco for sport fishing is between May and September. The village, which also has several markets, restaurants, and casinos, provides access to nearby islands and national parks.
Located off of Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean, Tortuga Island is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Famous for its white sand beaches and turquoise waters that are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving, it reflects over two decades of conservation and sustainable development efforts. In addition to beach activities, visitors can hike on the island’s mountain and explore its trails, as well as take a picture with its most famous resident: a peccary, which is a wild pig species that was rejected by her family due to a bad leg and has since been adopted by the beach’s locals.