Central America is full of adventure, delicious food and fabulous views. But what shines the most when visiting these countries are the vibrant cultures and the people who live there. We know there are just way too many to mention and love, so here are just a few Central American cultures that you’ll totally want to experience!
Belize – An English feel and Caribbean vibe with a Latin heart
Belize is nestled on the northeastern coast of Central America, where travelers visit to experience off-the-beaten-path adventures, breathtaking beaches and a melting pot of cultures. Although the primary language is English, Belize is home to ethnic groups including Chinese, Creole, East Indian, European, Garifuna (or Garinagu), Lebanese, Mayan, Mennonite and Mestizo. Other than English, you’ll often hear the locals speaking Spanish or Belize Creole, an English-based form of creole sometimes called Kriol.
Belizean culture is a unique blend of laid-back Caribbean vibes and British formalness–after all, it wasn’t long ago when they were actually called British Honduras until rebranding in 1972. When it comes to authentic cuisine, you’ll find locals serving up as diverse of a spread as the people making it. Both new and traditional dishes often consist of seafood, rice, corn tortillas and veggies like cassava or yams. While dining around with the locals, hearing soft tunes of reggae and modern calypso, you’ll probably even overhear them talking up the latest soccer or cricket games–often varying by generation, of course. Wanna know more? Here are 5 more cool facts about Belize.
Colombia – Old town European charm with international flair
While we know Colombia only borders Central America, its culture is not one to go missed! Behind the cobblestone streets, colorful walls, delicious food and historical buildings is a diverse culture, rich with African, European and Native Indian influences. Dating back to the Pre-Columbian Era (circa 10,000 BC), when Muisca Indians settled in what’s now the capital city of Bogotá, the arts and handiwork played a big role in cultural expression through intricate pottery and gold work, which can be found on display at Bogotá’s Gold Museum of the Banco de la Republica and Cartagena’s Museum of Sinú Culture, among many other museums.
It wasn’t until the Spaniards began to settle in Colombia throughout the 1600s that the country adopted many Spanish influences, religious values and colonial-era architecture. Today, Colombia’s diverse population celebrate their unique differences by hosting many carnivals and festivals to showcase each culture’s literature, visual arts, cuisine, music and much more–elements that shine within each town and city you visit in Colombia. Wondering about the music? Heard in nearly every region of country, cumbia (koom·bee·uh) offers the perfect blend of rhythms, instruments and vocalists that represent each of the Spanish, Native Indian and African cultures.
Costa Rica – A paradise for peace, diversity and laid-back vibes
Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes, biodiversity, laid-back vibes and friendly locals help make the country irresistible to all beach lovers alike. Its vibrant mix of indigenous heritage, Spanish colonial influence and a touch of Jamaican, Chinese and other immigrant cultures lay the foundation to a country of laid-back and friendly locals who take pride in their traditions and hospitality. Although the primary language is Spanish, other common languages are English, Bribri and Mandarin Chinese.
Ever heard the saying “Pura Vida!”? Adopted as the country’s motto in the late 1950s, pura vida means pure or simple life. For decades, Costa Ricans have lived up to their motto and invite visitors from all over the world to join in on their self-proclaimed lifestyle. In many regions of the country, locals encourage visitors to explore the lush landscapes and wildlife of their beautiful country and to simply enjoy the laid-back and wholesome life. Costa Rica is even home to some of the world’s best yoga retreats. It’s also home to some of the world’s best coffee beans–the country’s top-selling product and something you should not leave the country without!
Panama – A bustling nation with an international identity
Panama’s culture is diverse and unlike most other Central American countries’. The country’s unique history and geography turned it into a melting pot of trends and cultures, with a touch of old town European and modern U.S. influences. Old town and modern? That’s right. While Spain and France played an important role in Panama’s history (dating back to the 1500s), a strong U.S. presence helped shape the country’s culture and modern advancements.
Foodies will not be disappointed in Panama. Especially in Panama City, which was dubbed a UNESCO creative gastronomic city in 2017 for its authentic dishes including sancocho, ceviche, arroz con pollo and much more! With its growing love of rooftop and patio bars, Panama’s craft beer and cocktail scene is also on the rise, making it a prime destination for those looking to get more into the social scene during their vacay. Don’t be surprised if you run into some major sports fans at local bars cheering on their favorite soccer team, baseball team or boxer–sports are kind of a big deal in Panama. If you’re looking for a destination that’s buzzing with exiting city life and has long stretches of coastal walkways, Panama is perfect for the occasion.
So, what are you waiting for? Experience these amazing, unique cultures firsthand with a beach vacay to Central America–now’s the time!