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Evergreen rainforests, tropical wildlife, and vast stretches of white sand make a Central America cruise the perfect escape from city life.
With dense jungle, spotless beaches and colorful birds swooping into radiant blue seas, cruising Central America is a tonic for the senses; refreshing and invigorating in equal measure.
Bordered by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, you’re never more than 125 miles from the coast in this part of the world; and what a coast it is. Home to the richest ecosystems on earth, Central America is a biodiversity hotspot. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Belize Barrier Reef and Cocos Island National Park are world-class jewels in marine conservation, while the region’s rainforests are inhabited by one of the widest ranges of amphibians and birds.
Diving in Central America is second to none. Everything from sea turtles to shipwrecks linger in the region’s spotless waters. Exploring this hidden world offers many magical encounters, but you can still get close to some 40 fish species (without getting wet) at the Parque Marino de Pacifico aquarium in the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas.
Costa Rica is also a hotbed for mangrove forests, many of which lie within the Puntarenas province. Kayaking these part-submerged parklands is a sensory experience, and visitors often draw attention from the curious monkeys who make their home here. It’s a typically Central American scene, as wondrous as the ever-present birdsong serenading you through the knotted trees.
Costa Rica isn’t the only Central America cruise destination with spectacular scenery; Mexico’s Los Cabos region offers an abundance of natural treasures inviting exploration. Cruises to Los Cabos call at Cabo San Lucas, where you’ll find some of Central America’s most beautiful sand beaches, together with coastal rock formations besieged by families of sea lions. Nestled on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas has long attracted swathes of sun-seekers, but its landscape is equally captivating, a romantic compendium of hidden coves and coastlines tapering into the clearest seas. The underwater world equally delights, with the chance to dive sunken shipwrecks and swim with whale sharks; the ocean’s gentle giant.
Not every experience on a Central America cruise has its roots planted in nature; the legacies left by mankind have also imprinted on the landscape. You’ll find some of the best-preserved Mayan temples in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala, including the 900-year old city of Tikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Guatemalan jungle.
The ancient village of Joya de Cerén in El Salvador is yet another of Central America’s fascinating attractions. Similar to the fate that befell Pompeii, Joya de Cerén was engulfed by a volcanic eruption, thought to have occurred in the 6th century. Like its Italian equivalent, the village became frozen in time; its presence a permanent reminder of the events of that day.
Another Central America cruise highlight is the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal. Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, this manmade waterway is one of the greatest engineering feats in history. Cutting across the Isthmus of Panama, at a length of 82 kilometers (51 miles), it took a decade to complete and has been welcoming vessels since 1914.
A full transit of the Panama Canal on Cunard takes around eight hours, inviting you to relax on board as towering trees and forested mountains pass by. It’s a journey that Conde Nast Traveller has crowned ‘one of the seven cruising wonders of the world’ and, making the transit for yourself, it’s no secret why the experience attracts such high praise.
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