My husband and I are looking to take off for about 3-6 weeks in February/March for Central America. The cheapest r/t tix going right now are into Managua out of Philly. So we're thinking of flying into Nicaragua and then heading up into Honduras. We would also like to go up to Belize as we have friends living there. I also have my heart set on the Corn Islands where I can set my ass on a beach for a week and not move. Otherwise I know virtually nothing about travel south of Mexico. We can pretty much go anywhere except Guatemala since it will require my husband to get a visa (he's from ZA).
I'm looking for ideas on itinerary and budget. I'd also love some advice about getting around. I'm assuming we'll just catch a bus to most places. What are some "must see" destinations? Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Don't plan on spending any time in Managua--it's fairly awful. I'd highly recommend the Isla Ometepe. There's a good range of accommodations, beautiful scenery, and a ton to do (hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding, lying around in a hammock, etc.). Granada (or is it Grenada?) is a lovely little town, especially during Lent, and there are some great day hikes and surrounding markets. Leon offers a similar experience but is considerably hotter.
Honduras, in my opinion, has a lot to offer. The best stuff is in the western/northwestern parts of the country. Copán, near the Guatemalan border, is a must-see. A beautiful small town with some of the best Mayan ruins south of Tikal--get Mauricio Rodriguez as a guide if you go (shameless plug: he's a friend). On the northern coast there are fantastic Caribbean beaches between Tela and La Ceiba. Just get off the bus somewhere along there, pick a small town, and find a place renting cabanas. It's a great place to lose yourself for a week. The Bahia islands offer fantastic scuba diving (you can catch the ferry there from La Ceiba). Roatan is nicer, but Utila is cheaper--I did a dive school there for about $110 (including training, equipment, and accommodation for four days). Probably the cheapest diving in the world, and well worth it--the schools are all PADI certified.
As for budget, it's up to you. You can live comfortably on a moderate budget (maybe $40-50 a day for you and your husband), with some extra cash thrown in for trips and tours and whatnot. Public buses can be hot and crowded, but they're cheap and relatively easy to ride if you have at least a little bit of Spanish; conversely, renting a car can be a real hassle. There are some nicer bus companies--like TICA Bus--that have longer, more direct (but more expensive) service between major cities. Perhaps a good choice if you're on a more constraining itinerary.
Hope this was helpful, and happy travels!
-KB from WI-
This is great advice, thanks so much! We're working on coming up with an itinerary now, something more along the lines of 3 weeks. Does anyone know the best way to get from Honduras to Belize. Is there a ferry? Thanks again for all your help!