Travel insights from Taylor Coulson, contributing editor of The Compass

5 Ways to Cruise Around Central America

Get a lay of the land or take it by sea with these five adventures around Central America’s cruise hot spots.

1. Explore a place made for eco-adventures

Embark inland to the heart of Costa Rica and explore a place bursting with eco-adventures galore: San Jose. Take in its urban scenery and plush rainforests first because you can’t miss the Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens Private Tour from ShoreTrips. You’ll trek along twisted trails and pass coffee plantations, flower and strawberry farms on the way to Poas Volcano – one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. Its summit is home to two picturesque lakes, Laguna Caliente and Lake Botos. A local naturalist tour guide then leads adventurers through the rainforest, observatory, hummingbird gallery and the butterfly garden before taking in a stunning waterfall amidst another part of the cloud forest jungle. Before you go, here are five things to know before traveling to Costa Rica.

2. Take a shortcut

Sail from the east to west coast with Norwegian Cruise Line and take an epic shortcut through the Panama Canal. Passengers can get a glimpse of Central America with the 20-Day Panama Canal from Orlando cruise that jaunts through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala before visiting Mexico, California and Washington. This itinerary goes beyond the basics with additional excursions like a gondola ride through a rainforest canopy in Puntarenas, a stop in a port town along the Port of Nicoya in Costa Rica or a search for glistening emeralds in Cartagena’s Old Town, another charming port town in Colombia. Use the Hop On, Hop Off bus pass in Antigua to see what Guatemala is all about.

3. Stay in the city

Pass through the Panama Canal with Royal Caribbean International and stay in Panama City for its colonial architecture and natural wonders. Panama’s charming metropolis is the perfect port of call for animal aficionados and nature enthusiasts. The Metro Park is a jungle oasis filled with hiking trails and wildlife in the middle of the city that’s considered the “lungs of Panama City.” Pro tip: Trek along the Titi Monkey Trail to spot titi monkeys, sloths, iguanas and more. Cruisers looking for chic bars and shopping in specialty stores should visit historical Casco Viejo.

4. Uncover the unexpected

Book Intrepid Travel’s Best of El Salvador trip and uncover El Salvador’s unexpected tranquility. Popular cruise lines with itineraries here are Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. Cruise-goers that crave peace, a little adventure and a taste of local cuisine won’t be disappointed after arriving in the Port of Acajutla. A highlight of this trip is the Ruta de las Flores, a renowned scenic route that winds around wildflowers in the countryside and colonial villages. Then visitors can tour Maya villages that were once buried under volcanic ash before heading to El Tunco. It’s a surf hub perfect for a little R&R in a hammock or yoga on the beach.

5. Choose your adventures

Navigate along a 200-mile-long coastline and you’ll see how easy it is to pick and choose your own adventures in Belize. Belize City is a bustling port city that features unforgettable excursions unlike anywhere else. Divers love to call it home and cruisers can too after hopping off a cruise from Royal Caribbean International or Celebrity Cruises. Sea lovers can snorkel with resident sea creatures and colorful coral in the Belize Barrier Reef or Shark Ray Alley or visit the Great Blue Hole. Switch things up by zip-lining atop rainforests you plan to hike beneath for your next excursion. Adventure never ends here whether it’s underwater or above the trees.

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