TRAVEL SERIES: Central America Part 1

On three separate cruises, my husband and I have had the opportunity to visit beautiful locations in Central America.  On one cruise our ports of call included Isla Roatán, Honduras and Ciudad de Belice, Belice.  On a second cruise, our ports of call were Colón, Panamá and Limón, Costa Rica and on the third cruise, we crossed the Panamá Canal and docked at Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

Isla Roatán is one of the three Bay Islands of Honduras located in the Caribbean Sea.  We have visited this exotic island several times.  It is a tropical island so you get some brief downpours but you are still able to enjoy the beauty of the island.  Our tour through the island revealed lush tropical plants and a jungle area very popular for ziplining through the canopy.  The beaches are exquisite next to the blue turquoise waters and if you like to snorkel, you will be able to see the second largest coral reef in the world.

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We had the opportunity to visit with the native population of the Garifuna or better known as Garinagu.  The Garinagu are descendants of the Arawak natives, Carib natives, and black slaves.  The Garinagu have managed to maintain their culture in this day and time.  Our tour took us to a small village where we experienced how the Garinagu live and eat. Some of us were daring enough to sample the food. We were treated to native music and dances.  Our tour guide informed us that Isla Roatán is quickly becoming a favorite retirement community for Americans.  Sounds tempting!

Our next stop was Belice or Belize in English.  Though Belize is part of Central America, it is different from the other Central American countries.  Belize was a British colony formerly known as British Honduras and gained its independence in 1981.  The Maya inhabited Belize around 1500 B.C. and their descendants continue to live in the country.  However, Belize has evolved into a modern country that retains its British roots.  English is the official language of Belize and the majority of the people are bilingual in English and Spanish as well as some native languages.  How can this country manage to have bilingual speakers and we struggle so much in the United States to offer dual language programs?

Ruins of the Chichen Itza in Mexico

We had the opportunity to visit Maya ruins that were similar to those in México.  There were several families living around the ruins and we had a chance to speak to them.  They seemed to be indifferent to the ruins.  I guess they become accustomed to them as we take for granted some things in our cities. They were making chocolate by hand from the cacao trees that grow in the area.  The chocolate was very tasty and we brought some home along with an authentic “molinillo” to make the chocolate.  The chocolate was not refined as you would buy in the states.  Belize is believed to have some of the best chocolate in the world.  We also visited with the Garinagu natives in this area.  They basically live the same as their cousins in Isla Roatán.

The guide informed us about the Belize Barrier Reef which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is made of seven protected areas and including the “Blue Hole.”  The “Blue Hole” has as interesting background.  Click on the link for more information especially if you like to snorkel or scuba dive.

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