Last time Ondra told us about his travels around the magical Guatemala and Costa Rica. Now he’s ready to guide us through more paradise-like places in the Caribbean region! Excited? I am! Let’s start!
It’s (still) summer, so let’s start with islands and beaches! Hi, Ondra, nice to see you again! I have prepared some more questions for you:) Why don’t we start this time with islands? What is your favorite Caribbean island and why?
I would say there are two types of Caribbean islands. The touristy ones and the ones for backpackers. The choice which ones to visit mostly depends on your budget and your style of traveling. I would suggest to go to Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Bahamas or to one of beach resorts in Cuba in case you are a well-off person preferring comfortable hotels, beaches and parties. If you are a young person with limited budget wishing to see the “real” Caribic I would suggest Caye Caulker island in Belize, Roatan island in Honduras or Bocas del Toro in Panama.
Bocas del Toro
I really loved the quiet island of Bocas del Toro. You can hire a bike for 5 dollars and make a 20 km ride across the island meeting only monkeys and parrots in the trees above you. The road ends on the other side of the island. There are some very nice beaches and restaurant offering amazing meals from seafood.
If you’re into snorkeling then Lighthouse Reef in Belize is a great place for that. It is the second biggest coral reef in the world after the Great Coral Reef in Australia. I guess everyone has already seen photos of the famous Great Blue Hole – well, it’s here, on this reef!
Caye Caulker island, also in Belize, is another good place to buy snorkeling tours. I strongly suggest to take a snorkeling tour with sharks and stingrays. Don’t worry, these are the friendly ones that don’t eat people ;) Caye Caulker island itself is also worth exploring. It has friendly laid back atmosphere, colorful houses and reggae style people. Bob Marley music can be heard everywhere.
Whoa, Blue Eye, sharks, and awesome beaches! I think I know where I want to go next:) And are there on the islands some sights that remind you of the glorious pirate past of the Caribbean? Would be cool to combine snorkeling and pirate sightseeing!
This is actually very good question! One hears about the pirate past quite often here on the islands. Many colonial towns at that time had suffered from pirate plundering. Even Panama City at the Pacific coast was destroyed by pirates! They had to found a new city next to the demolished one after the attack.
Almost everybody knows the famous Captain Morgan rum. This guy was one of the most dangerous pirates ever! His ships have destroyed and plundered many Spanish colonial cities. As you can imagine, most of the colonies were founded at the coast. This was a big advantage for the trade but at the same time a big disadvantage, as they were very vulnerable to pirates. But inland colonies were far from safe either. Once, for example, the famous Captain Morgan, going along a big river, managed to find and plunder Granada on the shores of Nicaragua lake.
Castel Izabal is another example of pirates’ ruthlessness. It has been built on the shores lake Izabal deep in the mainland Guatemala as a protection against pirates coming by the river. And it was destroyed later… by pirates. What irony!
You’ve mentioned Panama, so have you seen the Canal and is it worth seeing?
You cannot miss the Canal while in Panama City, as it is very close to the center of this very rich city full of skyscrapers. There is an old historical tourist train that makes tours along the canal, and it’s the best way to see the whole length of it. The only problem awaits you when you reach the end of the canal at Colon train station! Colon is the opposite of Panama City – a very dirty and dangerous place full of poverty, so clear out of there as soon as possible!
The most spectacular place on the canal is Gatun locks. I met a a young German couple in Panama and together we rented an old taxi to take us there for 60 dollars from Panama City. The view of the ships passing the locks is impressive and worth the price!
Island and inland Caribbean is so big and diverse, that I imagine that the culture and traditions also differ greatly depending on the region. Did you manage to witness some of them?
Festivals are very popular in Central America. I did not plan to attend any of them on purpose, but have stumbled into three festivals just by chance. See how difficult it is to avoid them? It seems that festivals are an integral part of people’s lives here, much more than what in Europe, for example.
Festivals can happen during the day and then continue for most of the night. Sometimes people wear costumes, sometimes not, but there’s always a lot of music!
Whether you like to spend your holiday in the comforts of a 5-star hotel or prefer to explore tranquil and solitary places, the Caribbean is a region that has it all and even more! You know where to head for your next vacation, right? :)Written by Kate
Photo credit: Ondra