Well, if it’s summer time then obviously it’s time for some serious global slacking off. This summer I’ve decided to take my slacking off on the road to Central America. My summer work is done and now it’s time maximize the month remaining before another season of college football kicks off in late August.
As some of you may know, in addition to my annual January round-the-world trips, a few years ago I started a mid-year edition to combat the unappealing symptoms of passport-underuse and satisfy my summer longings for tropical islands, exotic foods and living out of a tiny suitcase for extended periods of time. Typically, for my summer trips, I choose a particular region of the world to explore more in-depth. My first summer trip took me through Central & Eastern Europe, the second around Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific and the most recent was a fun-filled summer in the Balkans.Read More
Arrayed in an arc roughly 30 miles off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the Bay Islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja are known for spectacular diving, white powdery sand and turquoise waters. The islands have a colorful history of pirate raids and remained in British hands for more than 200 years before being ceded to Honduras in 1859. Surrounding these picture-perfect islands is a magnificent reef second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. For experienced divers the islands’ draw is obvious, but for non-divers like me it’s also one of the world’s least expensive places to get certified.
A visit to the Bay Islands has been on my List for years and on this trip through Central America, it was tops on my priority list. The original plan called for 3 nights on Roatán and 2 on Utila (4 hours away by boat). But after researching the many things to do on Roatán, I decided to devote the entire 5 nights there not wanting to lose an entire day commuting between the two.Read More
I was sad to leave Roatan but I still have so much left to see in the next few weeks so it was time to move on! I landed in San Salvador a little after 6pm after a lovely first flight on Taca airlines, El Salvador’s national carrier. To get from Roatan to Guatemala, a change of planes in San Salvador was necessary so I’d decided to spend one night there and try to see a little of the city.
Ironically, Central America’s smallest nation is also home to its largest economy. But densely-populated El Salvador is also the least visited country in the region. Its war-torn history is partly to blame but the country has also been plagued by natural disasters like Hurricane Stan in 2005 which was immediately followed by the eruption of Volcán Santa Ana. Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida also hit the country hard in 2009. With two volcanic ridges spanning east to west, daily life in the country known as the “Land of Volcanoes” is anything but boring.Read More
One of Central America’s most physically diverse countries, Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras and has both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The country is home to 37 volcanoes, including the highest in Central America – Tajumulco at 4,200 meters. Nearly a mile up in Guatemala’s Central Highlands, silvery Lake Atitlan is a natural work of art framed by three massive conical volcanoes. Lined with small Mayan villages, the sparkling lake is one of country’s three major tourist attractions (the others being Tikal and Antigua).
Scientists debate the precise nature of Lake Atitlan’s creation but it was likely the result of a significant volcanic eruption violent enough to create a huge cavity 1,000ft deep and 11 miles in diameter. Today, volcanoes Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro circle the lake’s more than 95 square miles of surface area. While Toliman and San Pedro are inactive, Atitlan is still marginally active – though its last violent eruption dates back to 1853.
Atitlan means literally “at the water” and the lake has long been considered one of the world’s most beautiful, compared frequently with the likes of Italy’s Lake Como and Slovenia’s Lake Bled. Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, once called it, “…Como with the additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes.”Read More
I got off to a rough start in Nicaragua. Still reveling in the zen from my weekend at Laguna Lodge in Guatemala, I landed back to reality in Managua. First stop, immigration. I was “welcomed” to Nicaragua by a gruff immigration officer who charged me a 2nd time for my CA-4 visa that I’d paid for in El Salvador and is allegedly supposed to cover Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Guatemala accepted it, Nicaragua wanted more money. Fine. It was only $10 and certainly not worth seeing the inside of a Nicaraguan prison for.
Next up, La Costena Airlines, the Nicaraguan national carrier. There are only two flights a day to Big Corn Island, the first is at 7am and the second at 2:00pm. Since I landed at 9am, I had a lot of time to kill before my connection. Luckily, the Managua International Airport terminal is clean, modern and has free wifi. So I camped out in the airport lobby for a few hours before going over to the domestic terminal (which is the opposite of the international terminal) to check in. After waiting in a very long line, I was told I needed to go to the La Costena office next door to pick up my ticket. Not sure why someone couldn’t have told me that before I spent 30 minutes in line, but OK. (Of course, the agent said I could come right back to the front of the line but I hate doing that because everyone in the line then gives you the evil eye.)Read More
After four nights of roughing it in the beautifully remote San Blas islands, Shannon and I couldn’t have been happier to return to the comforts of the plush Sheraton Panama City Panama. They were kind enough to once again upgrade me to a lovely suite with a bathroom bigger than every bathroom in San Blas combined and after marathon showers we were both starting to feel human again.
I had to spend most of that afternoon catching up on work emails and dialing in to a conference call while Shannon checked out our options for touring Panama City the next day. Since we’d focused most of our planning efforts on the logistical challenges of San Blas, we’d hardly given any thought to what we wanted to do once back in Panama City. We obviously wanted to check out the canal but other than that, we were out of ideas.Read More