So you are trying to choose the best place for that winter get-away? It's not an easy choice, but let's look at some pros and cons.
Belize is a classic winter escape destination and with some of the most luxurious eco-resorts and excellent services in Central America, it has a lot of appeal. Its small size also means that an amazing variation of environments can be accessed relatively easily. Lush rainforests, the second longest barrier reefs, countless Maya ruins and mysterious limestone caves - Belize certainly has a lot to offer. The winter months, from November to April are considered dry season, though in the topics one should always be prepared for a bit of rain - especially along the Caribbean coast.
Top lodges fill up quickly here, even though many charge Christmas Rates.
Tip: If you can get away just before Christmas or after New Year you'll avoid the crowds and pay less too.
Costa Rica is also a great winter get-away destination. Its topography and culture is very varied, from lowland tropical forest to volcanoes and cloud forests, to dry tropical forest and perfect surfing beaches or lush, wet tropical forest on in the south pacific region. Costa Rica has long been an eco-travel hot spot, thanks to its high biodiversity and numerous protected areas. Countless hotels and lodges in all classes provide accommodation and activities for every age and taste. However - it can get pretty busy here during holiday times and some places seem to have lost that tico charm. Bur lovely lodges with rustic jungle charm luckily still exist.
Tip: If you are looking for a beach vacation, Costa Rica has plenty of gorgeous ones for surfers. However, what makes a beach perfect for surfers can make it dangerous for swimmers - many beaches in Costa Rica have strong undercurrents and are not safe for swimming. There are a few places though that are perfect, hidden gems…
Panama occupies a unique position in Central America. Being located on the Isthmus that forms the land bridge between Central and South America, it enjoys the highest levels of biodiversity in the region. Its excellent infrastructure means that most places can be reached quite easily. One of the best birding hotspots in Central America for example, is located within an easy diving distance from Panama City. Panama also has several archipelagos that offer countless tropical island escapes, remote and far away from civilization in the San Blas islands, or in the Caribbean bustle of Bocas del Toro. Lowland rainforest, highland cloudforests, and a rich cultural diversity means Panama has a thousand faces to discover. Here too, the winter months from November/December to March/April are high and dry season. Though in the tropics dry is a relative term. Rainy season is usually more pronounced on the Caribbean side.
Tip: The San Blas Islands are located in Kuna territory, and under autonomous indigenous administration. This is where you can meet the Kuna on their own territory. Special rules apply.
If you were hoping to go on a Galapagos Cruise this Christmas, you are too late. The best cruise companies are booked 2 years in advance for their Christmas and New Years departures. Outside the holiday weeks you might stand a chance if you get in line now. There are other alternatives though - like, how about a Galapagos walking tour on Isabela? Walking the Galapagos gives you a completely different perspective. Although ideal as an add on to a cruise for those who want to get a real in depth feel for the islands, this tour can also be booked by itself.
Ecuador is quite magical at Christmas and thus it can quite get busy at this time. Although Ecuador is located on the Equator and temperatures don't vary much throughout the year, it is a country of microclimates. The coastal areas are influenced by ocean currents and tend to be hot and rainy between January and April. Between May and December temperatures are a few degrees cooler and it hardly ever rains. In the highlands the dry season runs from June to September and around Christmas. However, even the wet season isn't necessarily all that wet. The central valley has a very pleasant spring like climate all year round while the eastern slopes of the Andes are wet almost all year round with July and August usually being the wettest months. September to December are considered to be somewhat dryer - so be prepared for all weathers, especially if you want to move around the country.
Peru is perhaps not the most ideal destination for a Christmas vacation. It's rainy season in the Amazon, which means that many areas become inundated and hard to traverse. If you are travelling in Peru during the winter months the best places to go are northern coastal regions with its archaeological treasures, and the southern highlands, Puno, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. Its rainy season here too, and some places may become muddy, but the evenings and nights are warmer than during the dry season and you may also have rare pleasure to experience the arid mountains bursting into flower after the rains. For jungle excursions and mountain hiking treks the best time to travel in Peru is from April to October/November. The shoulder seasons April/May and October/November are great for those who are not bound to a rigid school schedule - fewer crowds and less dust.
In the long thin country you can encounter just about any climatic condition at any time of the year, depending on where you go. The further south you go the more distinctly you will feel the warmth of the spring/summer months from September to May. In fact, if you are heading for Patagonia these will probably be the only months during which you'll want to go. The Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate and thus stay pleasant throughout the year, although temperatures will be lower and there will be more rain from about June to August. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, it almost never rains. But if it does the results can be spectacular as the desert bursts into flower. The so called Bolivian Winter between February and April brings the most rain. During this time it can be difficult to pass certain roads. Temperatures vary according to altitude. In the highlands it can get distinctly nippy all year round, especially after the sun goes down. Chile is a great place to visit at Christmas and throughout the Chilean summer months (Sept - May).
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