Day by day itinerary
Like many southeast Florida neighbors, Fort Lauderdale has long been revitalizing. In a state where gaudy tourist zones often stand aloof from workaday downtowns, Fort Lauderdale exhibits consistency at both ends of the 2-mile Las Olas corridor. The sparkling look results from upgrades both downtown and on the beachfront. Matching the downtown's innovative arts district, cafés, and boutiques is an equally inventive beach area, with hotels, cafés, and shops facing an undeveloped shoreline, and new resort-style hotels replacing faded icons of yesteryear. Despite wariness of pretentious overdevelopment, city leaders have allowed a striking number of glittering high-rises. Nostalgic locals and frequent visitors fret over the diminishing vision of sailboats bobbing in waters near downtown; however, Fort Lauderdale remains the yachting capital of the world, and the water toys don’t seem to be going anywhere.
At the mouth of the Stann Creek River, some 60 kilometers south of Belize City, Dangriga is Southern Belize’s largest town –despite only about 10,000 inhabitants. Considered to be Belize’s cultural capital, the Garifuna influence can be felt and there even is a Garifuna museum. Dangriga not only grants access to some of the spectacular cays in the Caribbean or Mayan sites inland, but is also surrounded by several forest reserves. The most important of these is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve, the first Jaguar reserve, which permits nature walks, hikes to waterfalls and wildlife viewing. The various habitats in the reserve lead to excellent birding for species restricted to riverine areas, to savanna, pine woodland and forests.
Some 18 kilometers off the coast of Belize, South Water Caye is an inhabited island within Belize’s largest marine protected area, the South Water Caye Marine Reserve –one of seven reserves that form the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While South Water Caye has resorts and beaches, the island is also a good starting point to explore the cayes, important oceanic mangroves systems and extensive seagrass beds within the surrounding conservation zone where no commercial fishing is allowed. Birders can look for Magnificent Frigatebirds from nearby Man 'O' War Caye, as well as pelicans, ospreys, herons and other resident wading and shore birds.
Pigeon Cay, a tiny patch of land, sits on the reef that nearly encircles Roatan and Isla Barbareta, and is found less than 2 nautical miles off the southeastern shore of Barbareta. Despite the fact that the name contains a specific bird family, the White-crowned Pigeon is likely to be found on nearby and larger Barbareta and its national park. The cay, which is barely 150 meters long and less than 50 meters wide, has a pristine white sand beach on its western side, while the eastern side has more shrubs and a handful of palm trees. The waters around Pigeon Cay are a snorkeler’s paradise. The barrel sponges, colorful gorgonians, and brain coral formations, as well as the different reef fishes and a 30m visibility should guarantee an enjoyable underwater experience. The shallow water next to the cay and the areas where slopes go down into deeper waters show a stunning assortment of blue hues.
Honduras has some larger islands and many small cays. Josh’s Cay, aka Graham’s Cay, is part of the reef islets that surround Guanaja, the second largest of the Bay Islands. 2 kilometers off the coast of Guanaja, Josh’s Cay has an area of only 7 acres and Graham’s Place is the private little island’s resort. One can enjoy the picture-perfect beach to relax or take advantage of the water activities possible. The flats around Josh’s Cay are considered good fishing spots, with bonefish and barracuda quite prominent
Cartagena's magnificent city walls and fortresses, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enclose a well-restored historic center (the Cuidad Amurallada, or walled city) with plazas, churches, museums, and shops that have made it a lively coastal vacation spot for South Americans and others. New hotels and restaurants make the walled city a desirable place to stay, and the formerly down-at-the-heels Getsemaní neighborhood attracts those seeking a bohemian buzz. The historic center is a small section of Cartagena; many hotels are in the Bocagrande district, an elongated peninsula where high-rise hotels overlook a long, gray-sand beach.When it was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was the only port on the South American mainland. Gold and silver looted from indigenous peoples passed through here en route to Spain and attracted pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, who in 1586 torched 200 buildings. Cartagena's walls protected the city's riches as well as the New World's most important African slave market.
The San Blas archipelago is located off the Caribbean coast, east of Colon, and is made up of 365 islands that range in size from tiny ones with a few coconut palms to islands on which hundreds of Kuna Indians live. Only about fifty are inhabited. The Kuna rule the San Blas Territory with internal autonomy, and have tightly preserved their language and cultural traditions over the centuries despite influences from European colonies. In addition to their own language, Spanish is widely spoken and many men work on the mainland, but live on the islands. Women wear costumes with unique designs based on local themes, geometric patterns, and stylised fauna and flora. The island of El Porvenir is one of the main seats of government for the Kuna Indians. Many Kunas from the other islands came to settle on El Porvenir, bringing with them their traditional arts and crafts, including the famous molas. These intricately hand-sewn designs are made by the women of the tribes as part of their blouses and dresses. With the increased tourism, molas are now a favoured souvenir and craft item for visitors.
Expect incredible morning views as you arrive into the port for Panama City. Tinged with a silver pre-dawn light, the city will metamorphosise into a golden glow as the sun rises above it. And from then on expect one stunning view after another. Very interesting in its own right, Fuerte Amador is obviously overshadowed by its proximity to Panama City. So should the Miraflores museum of the Canal, which offers a comprehensive and immersive tour of the Canal including a 3-D experience, four exhibition halls, an observation deck, and a surprisingly good restaurant not interest you then there is always the option of lovely Casco Viejo – literally the old quartier of Panama. The grand old colonial houses, cobbled streets, independent boutiques and buzzing street scene make this a must stop on your itinerary. And if you like seafood, you will not want miss the many restaurants and market stalls serving different variations of so-fresh-it’s-still-practically-swimming ceviche. Best eaten like the Panamanians do, with salty crackers and a cold beer on the beach. And if money is no object, a cup of geisha coffee – supposedly the world’s best and definitely the world’s most expensive at $7 a shot is definitely a pick me up! Cool cosmopolitan capital aside, Panama has a skyscraper filled skyline that is worthy of some of its North American counterparts. But if urban utopia is not your scene then fear not, the sandy beaches and lush rainforests are never more than a short cab ride away.
"The remote Darien Jungle has one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. It is also one of the world’s top ten birding sites, with the colourful Crimson-collared Tanager, Chestnut-fronted Macaws, and Snow-bellied Hummingbirds found here. Mammals include tapirs and Black-headed Spider Monkeys. In this roadless stretch of forest, rivers provide the best access. Visitors to the Darien Jungle are rare with fewer than 1,000 tourists visiting each year. The Embera are one of several indigenous groups that live here in relative isolation offering ornate handcrafted baskets and carvings for sale in their traditional villages."
Quepos allows tourists to experience a once in a lifetime nature experience in Manuel Antonio National Park without leaving any of the familiar amenities behind. The close proximity of the park, located just 4.3 miles (7 km) to the south, and a wide array of services makes Quepos the perfect place to visit for those who wish to explore this enchanting area. The amenities available include everything from banks, restaurants, hotels, gift shops, bakeries, bars, a hospital, supermarket and even a post office. The area was once dependent on banana plantations which used to line the surrounding area. After disease infiltrated the harvest, interest transferred to African Palms as the prominent crop. Now, tourism has deemed itself the major economic factor, contributing to just about everything in the area. Quepos lures in many tourists for its fantastic sport fishing. In fact, some have come solely to participate in this world class experience and have never left, but besides sport fishing, many other activities are available. Exploring this maze of wetlands by boat is amazing but not the only way to see crocodiles, monkeys, herons, raccoons and more. This small paradise has the perfect balance between nature and the comfort and facilities someone might need.
This town is not on the Nicoya Peninsula, but rather on Costa Rica's mainland. It is best known as a cruise-ship port and launching pad for ferries heading southeast to the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula and for cruises sailing out on the Gulf of Nicoya. Puntarenas is also a major fishing port with a lively fish market. The town’s reputation suffers from the unimpressive parts you see from your car as you roll through town on the way to the ferry dock. But the town has a lot of character off the main drag, thanks to its illustrious past as an affluent port town and principal vacation spot for San José's wealthy, who arrived by train in the last century. Once the port was moved and roads opened to other beaches, Puntarenas's economy crashed, but it's making a comeback. Sitting on a narrow spit of sand—punta de arenas literally means "point of sand"—that protrudes into the Gulf of Nicoya, the town boasts a beautifully groomed, wide Blue Flag beach with views of the Nicoya Peninsula and spectacular sunsets, along with a public swimming pool, the San Lucas Beach Club, and a marine-life museum. Ticos arrive by bus and car to enjoy the beach and stroll the Paseo de los Turistas, a beachfront promenade lined with tree-shaded concrete benches and seafood restaurants. Crowds of locals, called porteños, cruise by on bicycles, the town’s most popular form of transport.
Silver Explorer formerly known as Prince Albert II has an ice-strengthened hull for expeditions into polar waters and the most remote destinations. Yet onboard guests are treated to an unmatched atmosphere.