Blogs from Central America Caribbean


Most tourists pass through La Ceiba quickly to get to a ferry to one of the Bay Islands or transport to Rio Cangrejal for rafting, hiking, etc. The city itself is probably not worth a visit on its own, but it's fine for a night if necessary. I spent a week here at Honduras Spanish School. The owners are very responsive and kind, and I enjoyed my stay in the middle-class community of Colonia Sauce. The historic city center consists of dilapidated colonial buildings, a defunct train line, and a fledgling mercado, a result of mass corruption and an influx of (and tax cut for) fast food chains and big box stores, which causes the periphery to resemble an American highway town (see photo). The heat is absolutely stifling during the summer, and the daily power ... read more
American Fast Food Invasion
Golf Club
La Ceiba

Two for the Road We’ve been planning for months now. It is daunting to try to anticipate our needs while on the road and in dozens of different countries. Aside from the itinerary, where we’ll stay and how to get there, we must consider medications, banking, communication and (for me) preserving our experiences. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far: Medications– like most people over the age of 60, we take maintenance medications to maintain blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other personal circumstances. Insurance restrictions limit prescriptions to three months only. We’ve discovered three options to obtain medications while on the road. My doctor wrote multiple prescriptions valid at pharmacies overseas. While we talked he said I could simply communicate with him via our medical plan’s email portal. He could FAX a prescription to any ... read more

The lady owner of our guest house in Antigua had advised against; it definitely wasn't safe to get to and cross into El Salvador by chicken buses. There again she was touting for a tourist shuttle plying the route, at some three times the price. We compromised and left, by chicken bus, at the crack of dawn: the whole journey would be completed in daylight. Hopefully. Two buses were necessary to reach Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado, the Guatemalan border town where we were duly stamped out. A 1km walk through no-man's-land saw us to El Salvadorian immigration who merely greeted us on the path, had a quick squint at our passports and bade us buenas (there was no stamp). Buses to Sonsonate, seemingly the only destination option, were right round the corner. And from there a ... read more
Sunset at Salinas Grandes, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua
Panama City skyline

I did some research comparing the larger, Miami-esque island of Roatan to the laid-back, backpacker-friendly Utila and decided to go for the smaller, quieter option. THE FERRY BARF-A-RAMA Utila is 40km from La Ceiba, and the trip took about 40 minutes on a super-fast ferry, meaning that we were moving at over 32 knots (60 km/hr or 37 mph), which is insanely fast on open Caribbean waters. The math doesn't include the no-wake zones at either end. This translated into basically being stuck on the Bayern Kurve (Pittsburgh reference) for 40 minutes. When we left the port in La Ceiba I wondered why four crewmen stood around the perimeter of the main cabin. At first the passengers were giggling and making roller coaster whoas in unison when we ramped off sizable waves at that speed. But ... read more
Rock Harbour Canal
Dock at Bando Beach

After a hearty breakfast aboard the Discovery, we all boarded small dinghies and headed to the nearby shore, docking at the Gatun Yacht Club. From there we got on a small van that drove us drove OVER the narrow lock (this road access is soon to be removed) to the Agua Clara Locks, the location of the new rolling gates on the Atlantic side. The Only other way to get to Agua Clara is via ferry or draw bridge. This over-lock opportunity will end soon but it was a great opportunity for us to get a perfect view of the operations along this very narrow access “road”. On January 19, 2015 eight mammoth gates, ranging in height from seven to nine stories were installed in the three concrete locking chambers. The locks were scheduled to open ... read more
The Third Set of Locks accomodates enormous ships
Explanation of the Rolling Gates Operation
Panama Hat Palm on the Tropical Trail

I was up by 6AM and was out and on a mission. I found Lake Gatun to be balmy, breezy and quiet except for the hum of the catamaran’s engine. No one was around. But I missed the southern cross. I later learned it is usually seen around 4AM. And sadly I couldn’t record the howler monkey’s morning calls, but the sunrise was spectacular. And the coffee and breakfast helped to ease the pain of my missed adventures. We cast off early in this sunny morning for our voyage on the open waters of Lake Gatun (and the Chagres River) crossing the division between the provinces of Colon and Panama, several times in fact. The Chagres River, marks the division between Panama and Colon provinces. It is the only river that flows into both oceans. We ... read more
Pilot Change in Gamboa
Gamboa is a busy place this morning
Gaillard Cut bisects the Continental Divide

After an early breakfast we toured the ship’s galley and said goodbye to the friendly crew and staff, then disembarked the Discovery to be rejoined with Roberto our jovial bus driver on Isla Amador. He drove us around Isla Amador passing the Smithsonian Tropical Institution on Isla Culebra where they have been measuring water accumulation in the region. From there we found the much anticipated Biomuseum designed by architect Frank Gherry whose wife, we are told, is from Panama. I am sure she had a great deal of influence on the design and installation of this amazing museum. The roof, with its many colorful tiles scattered about like piles of brightly colored leaves, makes this building stand out with a statement of its own. But under the roof it gets even better. As you get closer ... read more
View of the volcano from the Biomuseo
Giant sloth
the Great Biotic Interchange

This morning, our bus left the Holiday Inn in Clayton, and headed towards the Atlantic Ocean on Corridor Norte. While Roberto navigated our bus, Abdiel discussed Panama’s position on land preservation and environmental protection. He said that 42% of the land in Panama is protected by the government for green space allowing for water mitigation and natural flow to the canal. A portion of the same 42% of land is also used for parks where some of the protesting squatters live. He also informed us that Stanley Motta, who some may know from his calypso record label in Kingston, Jamaica, owns the Panamanian airline COPA (that some of us will use flying to Colombia). COPA makes up 14% of Panama’s GDP. Motta has become an extremely wealthy man and is very influential in Panamanian elections. Abdiel ... read more
Atlantic Bridge from the ferry
Toro Point Lighthouse in Shelter Bay
Howler monkey in San Lorenzo National Park

Wow, today could have been THREE days, we did so much. Bella Felton stayed overnight with us, so we opened up the bed and the girls had 2 pillows to separate the self-described restless kickers. They did great. Only chatted about 20 minutes, they were so tired! Up around 6:30, a meager breakfast, and off to turtles by 8. only about 7-8 of them :) AND a spotted eagle ray (with stumpy tail, evidently well known in this area), AND an eel, AND a flying gurnard (guess that's what they are that we've been callling band-tailed sea robins. Most rare. Everyone's equipment worked well. Megan's flippers were rubbing, so girls went in before the daddies and Jean. We overturned what looked like a conch shell and unearthed a nest of brittle stars!!! A new discovery - ... read more

We left the Hotel Cubita at 9AM to visit Dario Lopez the renowned mask maker at his home on the northern edge of Chitre in the district of Parita, carnival mask headquarters. Mr Lopez demonstrated the creation of traditional Panamanian folkloric festival masks using clay, paper mache and forms that could be reused up to 30 times. He doesn’t use a base color but adds up to five colors as he creates his designs. A large mask can take about two to three days to build the form, letting it air dry and finally painting. Mr Lopez has been making these devil masks since the 1960s and now his family joins him in this tradition. Dario’s granddaughter Madeline (five years old) was very proud of her grandfather, taking photos and watching over him like a little ... read more
Dario Lopez, renowned mask maker
Horse-truck gas station stop... beer and gas for the truck, what's for the horse?
View of the Panama Canal from our hotel window

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