Best time for a Central America overland tour


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Central America is hot and humid with coastal and mountain influences. The dry season is generally the best time to visit Central America which is Jan-Mar in most countries. Further south, Nov-April is (fairly) dry in Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, although these are the tropics, so you can expect a shower or two, especially along the Caribbean coast. Costa Rica is driest and sunniest late Dec-April, but clouds lift a little later from Belize and Panama, around Feb. Some overland tours don’t operate during the really heavy rainy seasons, but many go for the long haul all year round.

When to travel on a Central America overland tour


Costa Rica and Belize, in particular, pack out during US/European public and school vacations, in the honeypot areas.

People forget that Mexico is mammoth and so the weather is, well, complicated. November until April it is dry on the coast, but teeming with tourists. You may even get snow in the mountains between December and February. Oh, but when that sun shines, it’s cerveza time.

February until mid April is peak season for cruise ships which frequent the big ports of Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Time your day trips to avoid the cruise crowds, who all tend to go back on board when the dinner bell is rung, late afternoon.

Overland itineraries that travel during rainy seasons may get you to start your day early, as rains usually fall in the afternoon. But you can still have blissful mornings, and sultry sunsets.

In Nicaragua, the rainy season is May to October and the Caribbean gets it more than the Pacific coast. But often in the form of afternoon showers. Check out Purísima Festival beginning December, with fireworks throughout the month and into New Year.

Hurricanes do happen, but they are not the norm. Honduras and Guatemala have been hit in the past, but not seriously since 1998. They are very rare in the lower latitudes of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.

All Saints Day, 1st or 2nd November, is a wonderful event in Guatemala, and all over Central America, although it does get crazy in Mexico, with its famous Day of the Dead events. In Guatemala they celebrate with kite festivals, which are seen as ways of connecting with the diseased.

Diving is great all year round in Belize but, for migratory whale sharks, March to June is best.

And if you are seeking foodie fun in Belize, June is the month for LobsterFests around the country, although the founders on Caye Caulker have theirs in July.

When to go

Tom Smith, Central America specialist at our supplier, Intrepid Travel: “February to May is a great time to travel. It’s not too hot and the weather is dry. Ideal! July to October can be wet on the Caribbean coastline, but it’s also the time green turtles come ashore to lay eggs in Costa Rica. There’s always a good reason to visit Central America! “
“Arriving over Easter (Semana Santa) has pros and cons. The cons are that everywhere is really busy as many Central Americans have this as a vacation period; the pros are without a doubt the festivities over the Easter weekend, particularly in Antigua. The Day of Dead Festival over Halloween is also a great time to be in Mexico City.”
Scott Marquardt, tour leader with our supplier Tucan Travel: “Panama and Costa Rica in particular can get quite rainy from May to November, in fact “ticos” (Costa Ricans) call this their winter. Even so it’s still a lovely time to visit with fewer crowds. In general, November is a perfect time to visit Mexico and Central America, with the rain tailing off and still not too many tourists, although there is the odd chance of a hurricane or two coming up the Caribbean coast!”
Photo credits: [Temperature box: Jacove] [When to go - Tom: clive wren] [When to go - Scott: Serge Saint] [Helpdesk: Stefan Krasowski]
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