Features // Central America & the Caribbean

Discover Mayan ruins at Lago de Petexbatún
Discover Mayan ruins at Lago de Petexbatún

If you like your Mayan ruins a little less grandiose than Tikal but all to yourself, then try those in and around Lago de Petexbatún, a spectacular expanse of water ringed by dense forest to the south of Sayaxché. The region is home to several ruins, including Dos Pilas, Ceibal and Yaxchilán, though the most…

Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Ever since Aldous Huxley passed this way in the 1930s, writers have lauded the natural beauty of Lago Atitlán. Ringed by three volcanoes, the lake is also surrounded by a series of Maya villages, each with its own appeal and some still quite traditional, despite the influx of visitors. A week spent circumnavigating Atitlán is…

All aboard the chicken buses, Guatemala
All aboard the chicken buses, Guatemala

Camionetas (“chicken buses”) start their lives as North American school buses, Bluebirds built to ferry under-eights from casa to classroom. Once they move down to these parts, they’re decked out with gaudy “go faster” stripes and windshield stickers bearing religious mantras (“Jesús es el Señor”). Comfort, however, is not customizable: bench seat legroom is so limited that gringo knees…

Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent
Interactive Map: 20 best places to pitch your tent

Picking the best place to pitch up for the night is an art that requires precision. Rocky terrain makes for an uncomfortable sleep; hard ground means battling with those tent pegs; and soft spots mean you might fly away. Put all these concerns aside for a moment though, and imagine waking up in the shadow…

Meet the people of Cuba
Meet the people of Cuba

With his sticking-out ears and Groucho Marx moustache, Lucio Parada Camenate makes an unlikely revolutionary hero, but as the face of Fruit Passion, his mugshot appears on juice cartons across the world, wherever Fair Trade products are marketed – much to the evident amusement of his colleagues, who tease him mercilessly for being famoso. Lucio…

Land of the midnight son, Cuba
Land of the midnight son, Cuba

It’s a sweltering Saturday night in Santiago de Cuba, and the entire barrio seems to be packed into La Casa de las Tradiciones. A mist of rum, beer and sweat fills the air of the much-loved club, while dozens of pairs of feet pound the flexing plywood floors. The wail of a trumpet rides above…

Your top packing tips
Your top packing tips

Packing: we all know the usual suspects – the sun cream, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and first aid kits – that are essential to a successful trip and a recent survey by Columbus Direct found that Brits cannot leave home without their smartphone, book or ebook reader, or sunglasses. But when we asked you what one…

Trekking in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Trekking in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

The road to Corcovado National Park was once paved with gold – lots of gold – and although most of it was carried off by the Diqui Indians, miners still pan here illegally. These days, though, it’s just an unpaved track that fords half a dozen rivers during the bone-rattling two-hour ride from the nearest…

Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

It’s a clear, moonless night when we assemble for our pilgrimage to the beach. I can’t understand how we are going to see anything in the blackness, but the guide’s eyes seem to penetrate even the darkest shadows. We begin walking, our vision adjusting slowly. We’ve come to Tortuguero National Park, in northeast Costa Rica,…

Taste Havana’s battered city glamour, Cuba
Taste Havana’s battered city glamour, Cuba

First-time visitors to Havana can feel they are in a dream, coasting through a fantastic cityscape of colonial fortifications, Art Deco towers and Fifties hotels, uncluttered by advertising but punctuated by the bold colours and lines of painted propaganda. Part of their character comes from their decay, from the peeling layers of lemon-yellow and sea-green paint, chipped tiles and…

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