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Overview to Central America and Caribbean: Travel Guide and Tourist Information

A Beach in the Caribbean

It would be understandable if sun, sand and sea were the first things to spring to a traveler's mind when the Caribbean was mentioned. But it doesn't take long to realize that the region clearly has far more to offer than just lazy, rum-soaked days on the beach, with each island possessing its own very distinct identity.

And if diving's what you're looking for, then you're definitely in the right place! Choosing one destination out of the Bahamas, Barbados and Virgin Islands can be a task in itself, given the top diving sites that abound on their fantastic coral reefs.

With life barely rising above a saunter, meanwhile, the tiny islands of Trinidad and Tobago are quite possibly the most laidback place in the world.

However, the Caribbean has its fair share of lively towns and cities to go with its long lengths of white sands and seas stuffed with shimmering fish. The Dominican Republic, for example, is home to Santo Domingo, a vibrant city that offers travelers the chance to enjoy urban life, Caribbean-style.

For a totally unique travel experience, there can be nowhere better to visit than Cuba. The island's biggest draw is undoubtedly the faded glory of its capital, Havana, with its crumbling palaces and classic cars. But Havana is no sterile musuem piece: the city is also an incredibly sensual place of music, dance, rum and the curling smoke of a thousand cigars.

Away from Havana, though, the glorious beaches and mangrove swamps of Varadero mix with the attractive colonial town of Trinidad and the soaring peaks of the Sierra Maestra, in what is possibly the most complete Caribbean package.

Mainland Central America offers both more of the same... and something totally different again. The Caribbean coastline of Mexico has plenty of lively resorts (in the form of the infamous Cancun, especially) and gorgeous beaches, while inland, bustling, culture-filled cities like the capital, Mexico City, lie in store.

But Mexico also contains some of the world’s most remarkable manmade structures. On the Yucatan Peninsular, Chichen Itza may be the most famous, but El Tajin, Yaxchilan, Tula, the vast pyramid of Cholula and, gazing out across the Gulf of Mexico, the atmospheric site of Tulum, are no less impressive.

Moving on through Central America, Costa Rica is one of the ecotourism capitals of the world. And travelers from all over the world come to the country, both for the range of volunteer schemes and the chance to enjoy the staggering scenery.

Guatemala, meanwhile, offers more ruins - in the unmistakable form of Tikal - but it too is defined first and foremost by its natural beauty, whether it's the jungles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the mangrove swamps of Monterrico or the volcanic lake of Lago de Atitlan. And it's breathtaking landscapes such as these that are, ultimately, the region’s defining feature.