Me and a friend are wanting to go from Panama City to Chiquimula Guatemala where we know some friends. We haven't really decided on how lengthy we want to stay. We for sure want to go to San Jose, San Salvador, Belize City, and Antigua. To get the full effect of the central america experience how long would you suggest staying at each locale?
Another thing. How can I manage to get from El Salvador to Belize by bus? ticabus doesn't run through way. Could I catch a ride on Guatemala City perhaps?
there will be buses that are not Tica buses in all the cities you go to, unless you get wayy off the beaten track. i can just about guarantee it.
as far as length of stay in each place goes, anywhere from 2 days to a week should do it. i think in 3 or 4 days you start to get the feel for a place...if you get to know locals you might want to stay longer. i have known people to stay weeks or even months in one place, although usually they end up finding work in a bar or hostel or something to cut the cost. many hotel/hostels will give you a discount for staying a certain length of time, like more than 5 days.
Though you will no doubt have to pass through them, I would actually suggest skipping the larger cities. I haven't been to them all, but Panama City and San Jose aren't really much to write home about. Panama City has a certain Miami vibe, but my guess is you didn't fly all the way down to Panama to hang out in Miami. San Jose doesn't have much to offer.
Instead, spend only a day in the larger cities, and figure out some smaller place to go. For Costa Rica, I liked Manuel Antonio (near Quepos), and getting up into the mountains to see Arenal volcano is worth it. I've heard that Corcovado is supposed to be very nice, and there is parties up the Pacific coast at places like Tamarindo. I was in Montezuma, but didn't enough the hippy vibe so much.
In Panama, I can't really offer much advice. Other than Panama City, I really only saw Contadora (Pearl Islands), which have a nice beach and some opportunities to see some small deserted islands - a good place to go and relax beach wise, but very little else going on.