Central America

Central America
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Central America is the thin section of land that links the North American continent with the South American continent. Geographically part of North America, it is made up of seven small, mostly tropical countries that have much more in common with South America and Mexico than the more affluent north. Mexico is occasionally considered part of Central America due to the language and indigenous/Hispanic cultural heritage it shares with several of the countries in the region.

Population: 84,067,440 people
Area: 756,995 km2
Highest point: Volcán Tajumulco 4220 m
Density: 111.1 people per km2
Number of countries: 20
Most populous city: Santo Domingo
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Countries in Central America

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Anguilla is a small island nation in the Caribbean Sea, a few miles north of Saint Martin.

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Antigua and Barbuda are two Caribbean islands, (Antigua, pronounced "an-tee'-gah" and Barbuda), that form a country that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east-southeast of Puerto Rico, off the coast of South America.

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Aruba is a Caribbean island 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. The island is an autonomous dependency of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is 30 kilometers (19.6 miles) long and 9 kilometers (6 miles) across, at its widest point, with an area of approximately 70 square miles (184 square kilometers). ... (read more)

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The Bahamas (officially named The Commonwealth of The Bahamas) or The Bahama Islands, is an archipelago consisting of many islands. There are about 2,000 islands if you include the cays which are small islands that are formed on coral reefs. The word Bahamas is of Spanish descent and means 'Shallow Water'

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Barbados is an island in the Caribbean, northeast of Venezuela. The island is portrayed as the Little Britain of the Caribbean because of its long association as a British colony.

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Belize, formerly British Honduras, is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean (only the Caribbean Sea to its east), and the only one in the region with English as its official language. The country is located between Guatemala to the west and south and Mexico to the ... (read more)

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Bermuda is a self-governing British overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Caribbean, off the coast of North America east of North Carolina. It is one of the last remnants of the British colonial empire in North America.

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The British Virgin Islands are a self-governing British overseas territory, situated in the Caribbean just to the east of the US Virgin Islands. The BVIs, as they are called, are a popular travel destination for sailors, fishermen, sun worshippers, and other independent travellers, albeit not for the cost ... (read more)

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The Cayman Islands are an island group in the Caribbean Sea, ninety miles south of Cuba. The outstanding coral reefs and outstandingly clear waters have made this island group a favorite destination of divers. Great beaches and fine restaurants and resorts make it an excellent tourist destination as well.

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Costa Rica is a small country in Central America bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

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Curaçao is an island in the Caribbean, among the group known as the ABC Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. This trio is located near Venezuela, and are considered to be outside the Caribbean's so-called "hurricane zone." This means that vacations to the island are rarely disrupted by such tropical storms.

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Dominica is a Caribbean island country between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago. It is often known as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean" due to its spectacular, lush, and varied flora and fauna, which are protected by an ... (read more)

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Not to be confused with the Caribbean island country of Dominica. The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country that occupies the eastern two-thirds of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The western one-third of Hispaniola is occupied by the country of Haiti. To the north lies the North Atlantic Ocean, while ... (read more)

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El Salvador is a country in Central America and, geographically, is part of continental North America. It is bordered on the southwest by the Pacific Ocean, and lies between Guatemala and Honduras.

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Grenada is a group of three larger islands (Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique) and several tiny islands in the Caribbean, or West Indies. It lies just northeast of Trinidad and Tobago, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is famous for spices and is known as the "Spice Isle", being a ... (read more)

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Guadeloupe , known as Gwadloup in the local creole, and sometimes known as the Butterfly Island (French: I'ile Papillon) on account of the shape of two of its major islands, is a group of islands in the eastern Caribbean, and is a French overseas department. It is located southeast of Puerto Rico.

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Guatemala is a country in the Central America region of North America. It has borders to Mexico in the north/northwest, to Belize in the northeast, to Honduras in the southeast, to El Salvador in the south. It has a Pacific coastline to the southwest, and a tiny piece of Caribbean coastline to the east. ... (read more)

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Haiti (Haitian Creole: Ayiti, French: Haïti) is a Caribbean country that occupies the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola. The eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north, while the Caribbean Sea lies to the south. Haiti is a ... (read more)

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Honduras is the second biggest country in Central America. It has colonial villages (Gracias, Comayagua), ancient Maya ruins (Copán), natural parks (Moskitia), and a Pacific and Caribbean coastline and the Bay Islands, with great beaches and coral reefs where snorkeling and diving are exceptional by any ... (read more)

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Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean, located to the south of Cuba and to the west of the island of Hispaniola.

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Martinique is a Caribbean island that is an overseas department of France in the Caribbean Sea, north of St. Lucia and south of Dominica. The island is dominated by Mount Pelee, which on 8 May 1902 erupted and completely destroyed the city of Saint Pierre, killing 30,000 inhabitants. In the South of the ... (read more)

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Nicaragua is a country in Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea, in the east, and the North Pacific Ocean, in the west, and has Costa Rica to the southeast and Honduras to the northwest. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373 km2 and contains ... (read more)

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Panama is a country in Central America with coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, with Colombia (and South America) to the southeast and Costa Rica (and North America) to the northwest. It's strategically located on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South ... (read more)

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Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island that is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America. Located in the Caribbean Sea to the east of the Dominican Republic and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico lies on a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal, the Mona Passage.

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Saint Martin is an island split between the French collectivity of Saint-Martin and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten (formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, but now a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). It is one of the smallest land masses divided between two countries.

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Saint-Barthélemy is a French island located in the Caribbean among the Leeward Islands. Its land area is 21.0 km² (8.1 sq. miles). Administratively, the whole island of Saint-Barthélemy is a French Overseas Collectivity, until recently part of Guadeloupe and is part of the European Union. The island is also ... (read more)

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Saint Kitts and Nevis are a pair of tropical islands in the Caribbean, about one-third of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago.

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Saint Lucia is a British Commonwealth country that is an island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Central America. It lies between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. The twin Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton) are striking cone-shaped peaks south of Soufriere that are ... (read more)

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Saint Martin is an island split between the French collectivity of Saint-Martin and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten (formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, but now a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands). It is one of the smallest land masses divided between two countries.

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Caribbean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. It shares the southernmost Grenadines Islands with the independent island nation of Grenada.

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Trinidad and Tobago is a nation consisting primarily of two Caribbean islands just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. The country is the most industrialised and one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean. Overall, tourism is not a major industry (though the island of Tobago has proportionally more), ... (read more)

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The Turks and Caicos Islands are only 37 miles long, and all together consist of 40 islands and cays. There are two main islands, Grand Turk (Turk Island) and Providenciales (Caicos Island). These islands are on 550 miles South from Florida. Turks and Caicos is technically located in the Atlantic Ocean and ... (read more)

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The U.S. Virgin Islands constitute an unincorporated organized territory of the United States of America between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico. It was formerly known as the Danish West Indies. Together with the British Virgin Islands, to the northeast, the territory forms ... (read more)

Popular cities in Central America

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You could be looking for: San José (Costa Rica) - The capital of Costa Rica. San Jose (California) - A large city in the Silicon Valley in California. San Jose (New Mexico) - A small town in New Mexico. San José de Mayo - A department in Uruguay. San Jose (Philippines) - A town in the Philippines. San José ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Parque Nacional
  • National Museum (Museo Nacional)
  • Central Park
  • San Jose Parque Central
  • Parque Espana
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Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European city in the Americas. The old city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Interesting places:

  • Trampolin Children\'s Museum
  • National Pantheon (Pantheon Nacional)
  • Museum of the Royal Houses
  • House of Bastidas (Casa de Bastidas)
  • Santa Maria la Menor Cathedral
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You could be looking for: San José (Costa Rica) - The capital of Costa Rica. San Jose (California) - A large city in the Silicon Valley in California. San Jose (New Mexico) - A small town in New Mexico. San José de Mayo - A department in Uruguay. San Jose (Philippines) - A town in the Philippines. San José ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Parque Nacional
  • National Museum (Museo Nacional)
  • Central Park
  • San Jose Parque Central
  • Parque Espana
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Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and the oldest European city in the Americas. The old city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Interesting places:

  • Trampolin Children\'s Museum
  • National Pantheon (Pantheon Nacional)
  • Museum of the Royal Houses
  • House of Bastidas (Casa de Bastidas)
  • Santa Maria la Menor Cathedral
panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Central America

All these make this region a great yet undiscovered and affordable treasure which is worth visiting.

San Juan Cathedral (Catedral de San Juan) - San Juan

Trampolin Children\'s Museum - Santo Domingo

Central Park - Antigua Guatemala

Governors Palace - Willemstad

Panama Cathedral - Panama City

National Museum (Museo Nacional) - San Jose

Royal Plaza Mall - Oranjestad

Prince George Wharf - Nassau

Parque Central - Granada

Fort George - St. George's

Paseo Herencia Shopping Mall - Palm Beach

Manuel Antonio Beach - Manuel Antonio

Catedral Metropolitana - Guatemala City

99 Steps - St. Thomas

Royal Naval Dockyard - Sandys

Catholic Cathedral - Roseau

Cathedral of Leon - Leon

Labadee Beach - Labadee

Altos de Chavon Village - La Romana

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

About Central America

Background

Until the 1990s, the region, (apart from peaceful Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica), was subject to brutal repression (Guatemala), civil wars (El Salvador and Nicaragua), and proxy wars between opposite parties supported either by the US or the Soviet Union.

This dark political and social situation changed with the end of the Cold War and after the signing of peace agreements at the beginning of the 1990s. Now the region is living a process of change and reforms that will hopefully allow travelers to discover an interesting and relatively cheap travel destination. Generally, the people of Central America are kind and warm, and welcoming to foreigners. There is a diversity of culture from one end of Central America to the other, and indigenous culture plays an important role in the region, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The region is also a very popular destination for retiring abroad, and several governments in the region offer special long-term visas specifically for retirees.

Food

Guatemala is the country of tamales, there are regular tamales made out of corn "masa" with either meat, chicken, turkey or pork filling and tomato, and sometimes "chile". "Black tamales" are similar to the former ones but are sweet, "paches" are tamales made out of potatos, "tamales de cambray" are small sweet "masa" balls", tamales de "chipilin", and many others; rellenitos (sweet fried bean-stuffed banana bonbons) are a tasty dessert sold on streetcorners. Black beans are the main staple after corn of course. There is a variety of soups ("caldos"). Guatemalan cuisine is a mixture of Mayan and Spanish dishes.

Gallo pinto is a mixture of rice and beans with a little cilantro or onion thrown in, it is the national dish of Nicaragua and Costa Rica This mixture is called Casamiento ("marriage")in El Salvador and Guatemala. And on the north coast of Honduras, casamiento is made with coconut milk.

Pupusas and "chicharron con yuca" (pork skin & yucca) are very popular dishes originated in El Salvador.

Nacatamales, which are big tamales containing pork, potato, rice, chile, tomato, and masa is steamed in platano leaves, they originate from Nicaragua and can be bought in the colonial city of Granada.

Oven tamales, wraped with platano leaves, are very good in Costa Rica.

Grilled octopus is a very tasty dish in Panama.

The fresh fruit is delicious but avoid fruit that you don't peel before you eat because if you are not used to Central America's food standards you may become ill.

Drinks

Horchata is a drink made out of rice and it is of Spanish origin. It is drunk in most Latin American countries. A popular drink in most central american countries is "Rosa de Jamaica" (Hibiscus sabdariffa. "Tamarindo" also makes a very popular drink

Piña Colada, a drink made from pineapple juice, coconut cream, crushed ice and rum, is drunk all around the Atlantic islands.

There are two major rum producers in Guatemala, distilling some of the best rums of the region, Ron Zacapa Centenario (aged to 12 and 23 years) and Ron Botran añejo (25 years). Flor de Caña, rated one of the best rums in Latin America. It is made in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. Trips can also be made to visit the Flor de Caña factory.

Shopping

Just about every country in Central America accepts the U.S. Dollar. Other currencies are difficult to exchange. You can exchange Mexican Peso at the Belize Border or Guatemalan Border but that is about it. The U.S. Dollar is the official currency of El Salvador and Panama so there is no need to exchange money in these countries. You can buy pretty much anything or any service in U.S. dollars, but it might be sometimes cheaper to buy in the local currency. Currencies such as the Córdoba or the Lempira are usually highly inflated so only get what you need. Nearly all banks change money from U.S. Dollar to the local currency and a passport is usually required to do this. Beyond border towns, currencies are always useless when brought outside the country to change money with official money changers at borders. If bringing U.S. Cash to Central America, make sure that the bills are new, clean and not torn or it may not be exchanged. $2 bills are considered lucky so bring some for tips. Banks in Belize do not exchange the Guatemalan Quetzal; they must be changed at the border or at some travel agents and tour operators.

ATM's can be found in banks and in major towns but in the country side it is often hard to find working ATM's. Most ATM's dispence the local currency and U.S. dollars.

In Central America, you can often find cheap buys from gifts to personal necessities. Almost everything can be bargained for except for upscale department stores. Tourists will usually pay a higher price so this is where your haggling will be useful.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Central America on Wikivoyage.

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