Diverse and lively cultures dance on this land-bridge between North and South America.
A skinny bridge dividing oceans and connecting far larger Americas, beach-lined and volcano-dotted Central America is the "new" great destination for activities and fun in Latin America. Many trips start with Costa Rica's upscale eco-lodges or Guatemala's Mayan ruins (despite the hype, Tikal still feels lost in the jungle) and highlands towns with moonshine-drinking saints. The Caribbean side of the region boasts white-sand shores and the English-speaking cultures of Belize, the Bay Islands (Honduras) and the Corn Islands (Nicaragua) - great places for cheap dives with sharks and stingrays. The best surfing is over on the rougher Pacific side - particularly Costa Rica's Peninsula de Nicoya, the "surf villages" in El Salvador's La Libertad, and the breaks near Leon, Nicaragua. Colonial towns like Grenada (Nicaragua) or Antigua (Guatemala) make great kick-back spots with hacienda-style B&Bs, traditional handicrafts, and local coffee brews to sip. Meanwhile, national parks and the untamed jungle - most notably the Darien Gap (Panama)_and the Mosquito Coast (Honduras) - make for untamed adventures. Buses zip from country to country, but if you hope to make any sense of the region, slow down. It's the Central American way.