Central America first-hand – a windjammer voyage to six countries from
Panama to Cuba: Panama City (Colón) – Cienfuegos
Colon (Panama City), Panama
Colón is the sea port city on the Caribbean Sea coast of Panama near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. The city is the capital of Panama's Colón Province. The city was founded in 1850 as one end of the Panama Railroad then under construction. For a number of years early in its history, the sizable United States emigré community called the town Aspinwall while the Hispanic community called it "Colón". The name "Colón" is in honor of Christopher Columbus.
Much of the city was burned during a Colombian civil war in 1885, and again in an accidental fire in 1915. In 1900 the population was some 3,000 people. It grew ten-fold with the building of the Panama Canal. In 1953 Colón was made a Free Trade Zone.
Bocas del Toro
Located 20 miles from the Costa Rican border. The Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama’s oldest marine park. Although Bocas is Panama’s principal tourist draw card, a fair measure of authenticity remains. Low-key development has maintained the charm of small-town Caribbean life and the absence of megahotels has preserved the archipelago’s idyllic beauty.
Bocas' laid-back Caribbean vibe is enhanced by the archipelago’s spectacular natural setting. The islands are covered in dense jungles of vine tangles and forest palms that open up to pristine beaches fringed by reeds and mangroves. Beneath the water, an extensive coral reef ecosystem supports countless species of tropical fish while simultaneously providing some seriously gnarly surf breaks. In Bocas, hiking through huge swaths of rainforest to arrive at an empty stretch of wave-pounded shore is pretty much the norm. The mainland is home to the Panamanian half of the binational Parque Internacional La Amistad. Here, primary rainforests are home to unforgettable fauna such as the elusive jaguar.
Corn Island (Islas del Maiz)
The Corn Islands, along with the eastern half of present-day Nicaragua, was a British protectorate from 1655 until 1894, a period when the region was called the Mosquito Coast. At one time, the islands were frequented by Caribbean pirates. In 1894, the Nicaraguan government claimed the area.
Under the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of 1914, the islands were leased to the United States for a period of 99 years. The terms of the lease made the Corn Islands subject to U.S. law, but they remained Nicaraguan territory. The lease notwithstanding, the United States never maintained a significant presence in the islands. Once the laws of Nicaragua became common law, all these communities, which were ruled from Bluefields until the autonomous laws were enacted in the 1980s with U.S. acquiescence and the Nicaraguan government directed the local administration of the islands. The right of the United States to use the islands remained until April 25, 1971, when the lease was officially terminated by the denunciation of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty under the presidency of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, on July 14, 1970. The United States Coast Guard however maintains a significant presence in the islands, in coordination with the Nicaraguan Navy, to combat the illegal trafficking of narcotics.
As of early 2009, local authorities estimate the population of Big Corn Island to be 6,200, and that of Little Corn Island to be 1,200. Distribution of tourists is estimated to be roughly 25% at Big Corn Island and 75% at Little Corn Island.
The islanders are English-speaking Creole people of mixed black heritage. In recent years there has been substantial internal migration by Spanish-speaking mestizo people from Pacific Nicaragua, and, increasingly, by Miskito people from the Caribbean mainland around Puerto Cabezas. English, long the island's principal language, is being supplanted by Spanish and Miskito.
Coxen Hole, Roatan, Islas de le Bahia
Coxen Hole, also called Roatan Town, is the largest city on the island of Roatán, and the capital of the Bay Islands department of Honduras, with a population of 5,070 as of census 2001.
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands, which are a part of Honduras, lying just over 30 miles from the northern coast of the Honduran mainland.
Roatan is known around the world for its scuba diving. The reef surrounding the island attracts beautiful tropical fish and snorkelers alike. Dive attractions include sea walls, shipwrecks, and night diving. Sea turtles, dolphins, and whales swim in the waters of Roatan. Roatan's West Bay Beach boat rides.
Parrots, iguana, and monkeys live in the wild on this tropical island. An iguana farm east of French Harbor provides a refuge for thousands of iguanas and is open for tourists.
Roatan has a mild climate year around with sea temperatures fine for swimming all year. The weather does not always permit swimming, however. Stormy weather brings rough and dangerous seas, but that is more like to occur during the rainy season.
Belize City, Belize
Belize City offers a host of attractions including several sanctuaries, the world class Belize Zoo, a new museum, historic government buildings, churches and the incredible Maya site at Altun Ha. The city is a great place to spend a day or two learning about Belize's history and its multi-cultural heritage while mingling with the amiable, laid back Belizeans who greet you with a smile. It's also the perfect place to plan and begin your discovery of Belize and offers all kinds of access to any destination in the country.
Belize City is located in the heart of the country. From there you will be able to make your connection to everywhere else you want to go. North you can visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, visit relaxing Placencia, the adventurous Cockscomb Basin, the only Jaguar Reserve in the world to the mysterious archaeological sites such as Caracol and Xunantunich and the interesting Mountain Pine Ridge area.
Belize City is your gateway to mystic Mayan sites, fascinating caves & rivers, unique flora & fauna and relaxing beaches. It is also filled with history. Belize City has the only manual swing bridge in the world which is still being swung daily. The oldest Anglican Cathedral Church in Central America, St. John's Cathedral, was built in 1812 from bricks brought as ballast from European sailing ships. Over the years, Government House (now the House of Culture Museum) was used as an administrative office and living quarters for the governors of Belize. This was built in early 1800 with a combination of Caribbean Vernacular and English Urban architecture.
The Lighthouse monument at Fort George Point towers over the harbor entrance. This was built from money donated to the country by Belize's greatest benefactor - Baron Bliss, the 5th baron of Portugal. At his request, he was entombed in front of the lighthouse which he designed himself prior to his death.
Lighthouse Reef, Belize
Of the three atoll reefs off the coast of Belize, Lighthouse Reef is the farthest offshore. It is far from neglected, however, since dive boats from San Pedro visit the atoll regularly and the larger live-aboard vessels are always found in the vicinity.
Within the confines of the reef, the depth is generally about 9 feet with sufficient room between the numerous patch reefs to maneuver any craft with shallow enough draft. The seabed is sandy and this, at least, allows the skipper to see the darker-colored patches of coral. As long as the sun is over the shoulder, the patch reefs are clearly seen.
Just a few miles off the Yucatan coast, Cozumel has seduced adventurers for centuries, from the Mayans to Cortez, who landed here; pirates, who found sanctuary in its hidden coves to modern-day divers and sun-worshippers, who come here for the island’s ivory sand beaches, jungle trails and botanical gardens, and colorful reefs, teeming with sea life.
Along the east coast of the island you will find beautiful
beaches with wild waves. Along the waterfront in San Miguel are lots of authentic Mexican restaurants, and the famous Carlos & Charlies, and Fat Tuesdays for mighty Margaritas. You may wish to visit the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio, a site restored by the National Institute of Antrhopology and History. The lagoon in Chankannab National Park is home to more than 60 species of tropical fish, crustaceans and corals. You can scuba dive here, or snorkel if you prefer; both are excellent here.
Cienfuegos, Cuba (return)
Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba. Near the entrance to Bahia de Cienfuegos is Castillo de Jagua, a fortress erected in the 1745 for protection against Caribbean pirates.
Cienfuegos, one of the chief seaports of Cuba, is a center of the sugar trade, as well as coffee and tobacco. While sugarcane is the chief crop, local farmers grow coffee.
There is no other place in the Caribbean which contains such a remarkable cluster of Neoclassical structures.
Attractions include parks, plazas, museums and castles used to guard against pirates. There is a dolphin and sea lion lagoon and a botanical garden.