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Central America's Most Popular Islands

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Central America's Most Popular Islands
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These are what most people think of when they picture the islands of Central America: coconut palms, reggae beats, sandy beaches lapped by stunning Caribbean waters. All possess considerable permanent populations, and offer lodging, dining, and nightlife options for every budget.

Ambergris Caye - Belize

Ambergris Caye is the largest of Belize’s several hundred islands, and the most popular tourist destination in the country. The 36-mile island is located in Belize’s far north. Once a part of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, it’s believed the ancient Mayans dug a channel to separate Ambergris from the mainland over 1500 years ago. San Pedro Town is the largest settlement on the island, and offers everything a traveler could ask for—top-of-the-line hotels, dining, nightlife, ecotours, snorkeling, and diving in the reef right offshore—while still maintaining a distinctly Caribbean flavor.

Roatan - Honduras

Although Honduras sounds off the beaten path to many travelers, nowadays Roatan is anything but a backpacker's haunt. The largest of the Caribbean Bay Islands (along with Utila and Guanaja), Roatan boasts some of the best Scuba diving in the world, and its lodging and amenities range from budget to all-inclusive resorts. However, even the resorts are much cheaper than those on other, farther-flung Caribbean islands, which means you’ll enjoy more luxury at a much smaller price. That might be why the Bay Islands are called “the Caribbean’s best-kept secret”—even though Columbus stumbled upon them back in 1502!

Caye Caulker - Belize

Caye Caulker is the second largest island in Belize, although at five miles long, it’s much, much smaller than its sister isle, Ambergris Caye. As a result, Caulker favors a smaller frame of mind: one based on community, hospitability, and unwinding on sun-warmed docks with frosty pina coladas. You’ll rarely see a vehicle larger than a golf cart on the island’s unpaved streets, and all lodging, dining and nightlife are built on a smaller scale. The island is the ultimate destination for true relaxation. And if you’re looking to ad a bit of adrenalin into the mix, Caulker’s countless tour guides can arrange mainland jungle trips, snorkeling excursions, and Scuba diving as far as the Great Blue Hole, or as close as the barrier reef just offshore.

Utila - Honduras

Utila is the smallest of Honduras’s Bay Islands, and is one of the largest check boxes on a budget traveler’s itinerary. Accommodations remain cheap on Utila, despite the influx of dive shops and dive vacationers. Though they’re there for a reason—the diving off Utila’s shores is breathtaking, and the island is renowned as the cheapest place to attain Scuba certification in the world. But that’s not all Utila has to offer. When they’re not underwater, travelers enjoy fun and funky nightlife, swimming, sunbathing, and of course, dining on mouth-wateringly fresh seafood.

Lesser-Known Island Escapes

Uncrowded beaches, better wildlife viewing, and more local culture.

Costa Rica's Unique Island Reserves

Enough staggering beauty to make a day trip worth it.

Atolls and Archipelagos

Why visit one island when you can visit many?
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