Punta Piñuela in Ballena Marine National Park. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Costa Rica’s Ballena Marine National Park

Parque Nacional Marino Ballena protects the shoreline of Bahía de Coronado and the waters surrounding Isla Ballena. Wildlife and bird watching are rich here, but perhaps the most pleasant draw are the places to stay near the park, with beautiful bungalows and rustic cabins surrounded by acres of forest trails. After a day spent snorkeling, watching dolphins frolic, and exploring the park, you’ll be treated to incredible meals.

Reserva Charco Verde. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Where to Go in Nicaragua

Unless you have a few weeks to dedicate to your travels, it’s impossible to see everything Nicaragua has to offer–even then, you’d have a tight schedule. The best way to tackle the country is to learn about each region, then plan according to your interests and favorite activities. From vibrant nightlife to exploring history to outdoor adventures, Nicaragua won’t disappoint.

Restroom sign in Nicaragua. Photo © Tara Joyce, licensed Creative Commons usage.

A Guide to Nicaragua’s Restrooms

Make your day-to-day a lot easier in Nicaragua–and anywhere else for that matter–by having a good grasp on the absolute basic of all basics: toilet and shower facilities. Expert author Elizabeth Perkins presents this handy guide on the full range of potential bathroom situations, from mastering the manual flush to avoiding cold showers, to keep your day from going down the drain.

Los Amigos Youth Hostel in Flores. Photo © John Barrie, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Tips on Staying in Guatemala on a Budget

Guatemala is a major stop along the Central American backpacking circuit, so it’s no surprise that there are a plethora of low-budget hotels to choose from, and most national parks allow camping. Expert author Al Argueta gives an overview on what sorts of rooms you’ll find and to look for to ensure your stay is comfortable.

A small red eyed frog sits perched on a broad leaf.

Protecting Costa Rica’s Land

While much of Costa Rica has been stripped of its forests, the country has managed to protect a larger proportion of its land than any other country in the world. Today, one-third of land is legally set aside as national parks and forest reserves, “buffer zones,” wildlife refuges, and indigenous reserves. Throughout the country, representative sections of all the major habitats and ecosystems are protected.

A worker walks down a row in a Nicaraguan bean field.

The Economy of Nicaragua

Two successive governments have had to jump-start the Nicaraguan economy from a standstill, but despite their significant efforts, it remains the second poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Learn about the problems the country still faces, from unemployment to massive debt, and continuing efforts to relieve them.

Aerial view of Lake Amatitlán, on the fringes of Guatemala City. Photo © Al Argueta.

Things to Do at Lake Amatitlán

Lake Amatitlán is in the process of being rescued from what would have been certain ecological death caused by wastewater from nearby industry and uncontrolled urban growth. Though it’s still not possible to swim in the lake’s waters, the area around it is home to very affordable hot springs and spas, and a park with full facilities and picnic areas offering several outdoor activities.

Blue Ctenosaur in Santa Rosa National Park. Photo © Jorasm (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

What to See in Costa Rica’s Santa Rosa National Park

Founded in 1972, Santa Rosa National Park was Costa Rica’s first national park. The park–divided into two sections; the more important and accessible Santa Rosa Sector to the south and the Murciélago Sector further north–is a mosaic of 10 distinct habitats, including mangrove swamp, savanna, and oak forest, and is filled with hiking trails to explore and wildlife to watch. There are also great opportunities for scuba diving and surfing.

Lionfish hovering over coral. Photo © Lebawit Lily Girma.

Belize’s War Against Lionfish

The Caribbean region’s coral reef has been battling an invasive, voracious, and predatory fish—destructive enough that it can devastate an entire reef system: the red lionfish (Pterois volitans). Belize is no exception. Countrywide, the war against the spread of lionfish is ongoing; here’s how Belize is fighting back.

Flowers on display in the Chichicastenango market. Photo © Al Argueta.

Exploring Chichicastenango in Guatemala’s Western Highlands

Chichicastenango (Chichi, for short) will provide you with an opportunity to take in a unique highland market experience. Today, Chichi is still very much a K’iche’ town with strong adherence to the old ways, and there are plenty of sights to take in outside the bustling market. Learn about this Mayan village’s history, its sights, and how to handle yourself in the marketplace.