Finding Our Way: Trip Itinerary Part 1

This past weekend, we started teaching our 7 and 8 year old nephews Spanish. They actually insisted on it, when they spotted our collection of children’s Spanish books, which included translated versions of Madeline, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), The Little Mermaid and so on. They looked up words in our pocket dictionary, giggled as they called each other various insults in Spanish, and practiced reading aloud. The amazing thing? Their supple little brains soaked up everything. The word Que is pronounced with a hard K sound, not like Cu in Queen. Two LLs make a Y sound. Me Gusta means I like. I would say it once and they would remember and move onto the next question. “Christine, how do you say butt in Spanish?”  Ask your uncle.

I bring this up, because I caught myself daydreaming about how cool it would be to really sit down and teach these boys. I could download some lessons, we could watch Finding Nemo dubbed in Spanish, and they could memorize the lyrics to Feliz Navidad. Then I remembered.  Right.  I’m leaving in a week.  Oops.  Well there’s always public schools.   Good luck boys!   (Just kidding, they will definitely get some Spanish themed Christmas gifts from Auntie this year).

So where the heck are we going? Well as I announced in last week’s post, ultimately our goal over the next 6 months is to find our way through South America.  On the way, we’re are planning to stop for a few weeks in different countries, renting apartments as we go.  Here is Part 1 of our itinerary:

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideas

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I need some sun, beach and warm weather.  We’ll be renting an apartment for a bit, while I shake off this New England chill I’ve recently acquired.

It’s a tourist town, but I’m hoping to settle in off the beaten path.  Then we’ll definitely check out the fish tacos and ceviche.  I look forward to reintroducing the dogs to the ocean.  Last time, they were very shocked to discover that gulping sea water was a bad idea.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasBelize City, Belize.

If I could find a beach hut with wifi, we’d be all set.  Belize has great snorkeling, which I haven’t done in quite a while.

Belize City is the largest in Belize with a mere 70K population.  I imagine this will be the beginning of the transition from the bustling cities of Mexico, to smaller fishing villages and less dense development.  We’ll likely take a few trips to the rainforest, cave systems and Maya ruins.

Then a nap.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasAntigua, Guatemala

The entire city of Antigua is a World Hertitage site, and I hope it lives up to what I’ve read.  We’ll be taking classes here for a few weeks and I plan to fill up my camera’s memory card.

It’s a large tourist destination (because it’s gorgeous) but we’ll be spending a little extra time here because of all the cheap language schools.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasTegucigalpa, Honduras

To be honest, we weren’t sure where to go in Honduras.  It’s one of those things where we aren’t sure what to expect.

Tegucigalpa is the educational center, with several universities, so it seemed like a good bet.

Honduras also borders the Caribbean sea, so don’t be surprised if we ditch school and head down to the beach for a few days.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasSan Salvador, El Salvador

More Spanish classes, plus a bustling city life.  San Salvador has 6 lane highways– it’s big.  Plus it’s located at the base of a volcano, how cool is that?  When you think of San Salvador, do you imagine cosmopolitans?

When the smog gets to be too much, well head to the western coast and explore the Playa Los Cobanos.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasManagua, Nicaragua

A friend of mine went to Nicaragua several years ago, and I’ve been dying to go there ever since.  He told me about this lake with two volcanoes and fresh water sharks.  At the time I google earthed it to comfirm he wasn’t making this stuff up.

During this trip, we’ll likely be stopping in Managua, then heading out for a week completely offline.  A side trip to the Spanish city of Granada is in the works too.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasSan José, Costa Rica

Everyone loves Costa Rica.  We’re starting out in San Jose, and then moving out to see a little of everything.  Hot springs, Volcanoes, Beach, Nature Reserves and so on…

Oh and the coffee.  Is that reason enough to visit a place?  I’m voting yes.  But actually, what I’d really like to do?  Learn how to surf.

Travel planning, itinerary, Central America, destinations, best travel ideasPanamá, Panama

By the time we make it here, I predict we’ll be a little tired.  It’s a huge milestone in our trip, the last destination in Central America before we make the leap to South America.  Of course we’ll enjoy the city, get settled in, but I’m sure we’ll have one thing in mind– what waits for us in South America!

Sounds a little ambitious now that I laid it all out, but the one thing I found as I researched this trip, is that Central America is not nearly as scary as everyone makes it out to be.  The next question:  How to get from Panama to South America.  Hint:  You can’t drive there.

If you were going to Central America, where would you want to visit?

27 Comments

  1. Great itinerary! Sounds like you guys are going to have a ton of fun! If you drive through Manzanillo (just a couple hours south of PV) be sure to give me a holler, we’ll show you some great little places to eat and visit that you won’t soon forget!

    Would looove to go visit Belize one of these days. Gorgeous ocean. Maybe for our anniversary if I can swing a hotel review or something. 🙂

    Stephen´s last blog post..Tips to Learning Spanish- Interview with Bob Mrotek

  2. Great itinerary…can’t wait to hear how it goes, especially as I’ll be heading to Mexico & Central America in March.

    If you have time while you’re in Guatemala – I’d strongly recommend Tikal, it’s quite incredible.

    Geoff´s last blog post..Fright Nights at Thorpe Park

  3. Sounds like a dream Christine… Looking forward to hearing all about it! If you need guest bloggers for those few days you’re on the road let me know! 🙂

  4. I’m exhausted for you…and still envious. 😉 I collect childrens’ books from other countries too. My fav to date is still Babar…no nepotism, you understand. My first book was a gift from my dad, when I was a teen: “The Little Prince”. I translated it from cover to cover. LOVED it! Belize is on my wish list. 😉 C.

  5. Hi there,

    Only just stumbled on your blog and am catching up with the back catalogue – loving it so far!

    We did a (sadly) whirlwind Mexico-Belize-Guatemala trip a couple of years ago and I am so jealous of your upcoming trip. I wouldn’t spend too long in Belize city, get out to the Cayes and breathe in that sea air!

    Can’t wait to follow your trip

    Kat

    Kat´s last blog post..Wow, Speaking of Wanderlust….

  6. Fly Girl

    That’s an exhaustive itinerary! I envy the cultural immersion that your kids will experience. I love Costa Rica and Belize but I’m with Kat, I wouldn’t focus so much on Belize City. Make sure you so as many of the Mayan ruins as you can. I’ve been thinking about visiting Antigua for a while, especially since it’s a world heritage site.

  7. Costa Rica is WONDERFUL! San José isn’t that impressive an introduction, however, so don’t spend too much time there! It’s a dirty little city like so many other dirty little cities, whereas the rest of Costa Rica is so very beautiful.

  8. Not sure on where to go in Honduras? Geez, ask the Honduran! Santa Rosa de Copa, Siguatepeque, La Ceiba, Tela, Trujillo, Valle de Angeles (tourist town/trap, little town further ahead remember!) and the Bay Islands (Islas de Bahia). You know what? You might force me to go down there and join you!

    Anthony´s last blog post..A Rundown of Aconguazutiba

  9. Oh yeah, one more thing: Maybe I’ll say this because I’ve been there a load of times, but TGU isn’t all that great IMO. So, unless you find it to be charming, I’d say go somewhere else in the country that actually is charming. Like the north coast… and there are some hot springs somewhere, just don’t know exactly where. Try to look into it if you can.

    Anthony´s last blog post..A Rundown of Aconguazutiba

  10. Christine,

    WOW! This all sounds absolutely amazing.

    Central and South America are quite high up on my list of places to go. Mexico city is somewhere I really want to experience, but I would like to spend extended lengths of time at this beach resorts (offline sounds good to me).

    Cheers,

    Chris

    Chris´s last blog post..The Importance of Being Idle

  11. Christine!

    Skip Belize City. It is a dump. What a dump! It’s pretty dodgy there too. Head out to the cayes. Can’t take the van but hmmm could go down to Placencia- that is a great great beach place…so is dangriga. Belize is the size of RI so don’t worry about distance.

    I spent 3 weeks hitchhiking (yes hitch hiking!) my way around belize. E-mail me and I’ll give you more info.

    Nomadic Matt´s last blog post..How to Travel the World, pt. 3: Coming Home

  12. Oh that sounds fabulous! I’m being bitten by the traveler’s bug, so I wanna come too! 🙂 just kidding

    So are you flying down to Mexico, renting a car and then driving? That might be a great idea and then you can drop it with an office of the same company in Panama… just a thought…

    I can’t wait to hear more about your itinerary! And particularly the South America part.

    Tina´s last blog post..Rosemary

  13. Pingback: Belize » gardening gift

  14. @Anthony: Um, yes please tell me… I need all the advice I can get!

    @NomadicMatt: Noted. Will skip.

    @Tina: We are actually driving down in our car from Vermont. Should take a few days, but not too bad. We have the dogs with us, so flying gets trickier (and more expensive).

  15. If you’re overlanding from Costa Rica to Panama, go along the top of the country and visit Bocas del Toro. It’s the Caribbean coast of Panama and incredibly laid back. Lots of fun, friendly, safe… this is THE up and coming spot and with all the construction going on, it’s not going to stay like this for long.

    I just spent 5 weeks backpacking in Panama and loved it – except for Panama City, which outside the old part of town (they were shooting Quantum of Solace under my balcony while I was there!) and the new Causeway doesn’t have that much going for it (IMHO). The rest of the country, on the other hand, is a jewel. Most people give it a miss – I have yet to understand why.

    Scribetrotter´s last blog post..Going Solo: Life on the Road

  16. DEFINITELY try surfing! It’s pretty hard but so much fun! Sounds like a great itinerary, I can’t wait to hear how it goes. 🙂

  17. Pingback: Travel blogging inspiration « Itinerant Londoner

  18. As with everyone else – skip Belize City. Belize as a country is amazing. The beaches are fantastic. Like Matt said Placencia and Dangriga are great. Placencia is up there with my favorite places in the world. My parents own a place in Hopkins which is near Dangria so I’ve been to Belize a few times (and we will be there again on our travels in late December/January). If you want more info about places to see in Belize or will be there around the same time shoot me an email.

    Elizabeth´s last blog post..Best Steak Ever: The Argentina Parrilla Experience

  19. Pingback: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama: Crossing Through to Columbia | almostfearless.com

  20. Why all the big cities? I would skip Tegucigalpa, Belize City (sounds like you are already), Managua, and San Salvador. I lived in San Salvador for 3 months. It’s ok, the beaches nearby are decent, better if you like to surf. If you are just there to speak Spanish, that’s fine, the people are super nice and will help you.

  21. I am so looking forward to reading about your trip. I’ve actually never contemplated a trip in this part of the world, and expect to learn a lot from your experience. Antigua sounds amazing. Can’t wait to see some of those photos!

    I’m actually longing for New England and will happily head up into the cold for Thanksgiving.

    Mara´s last blog post..A little love for MOAT

  22. I’m with everyone else–skip Belize City, either head for the coast or the Mountain Cayo district instead. I’d also opt for a different city in Nicaragua. Managua by far is my least favorite. Granada is nice…very pretty, right on the lake, with good variety of food…but it’s pretty touristy. I’d opt for Leon if I were doing an extended stay. Great university town. Close to the beach. Close to amazing volcanoes. Authentic feeling.

    Theresa´s last blog post..Plaza de Armas

  23. Don’t stay in Belize City. You’ll probably find yourself leaving it. Head out to the cayes and def. do the snorkeling. Maybe even sign up for a day long tour, it will be well worth it! As for Antigua – great beautiful place. Hopefully you don’t mind being surrounded by tourist the whole time. And if you have time you should try hitting up Tikal (Mayan ruins) in Northern Guatemala on your way to into Guatemala from Belize. Amazingly large ruins. Check it out!

    Christy´s last blog post..The United States of Cookies

  24. If you´re going to Costa Rica I would spend 2 or 3 days max in San José. There are such prettier places in Costa Rica, like Monteverde (near Volcán Arenal), Manuel Antonio was my favorite, Quepos, and Jaco is the big surf spot there. There´s so many gorgeous places–definitely don´t waste it all in the city! There are lots of Spanish langauge schools in Manuel Antonio. Also, a LOT of people in Costa Rica are in the hospitality industry so don´t be surprised by how many of them speak perfect English. I was there for 2 weeks last summer and never had to use my Spanish.

    I´m currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina (if you want recs for Argentina and Uruguay ask me!) and while a lot of people still speak English, the different in my Spanish is astounding after 5 months. You just have to make a point of meeting people in the countries and making friends. Almost everyone is willing to help you with your Spanish if they aren´t too busy trying to learn English from you.

    Emily´s last blog post..San Carlos de Bariloche

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