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Central America

Seek historic haunts, modern amenities or a mix of both in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Belize

By Brent Stoller

Vacations Magazine: Central America
Norwegian Cruise Line
Find family fun. Offering something for everyone, the simply named "Costa Rica" from Adventures by Disney raises the bar for family vacations during its weeklong exploration of this Central American nation. Adrenaline junkies get their fill on ziplining and rafting excursions, while nature lovers enjoy a rainforest boat ride and more in Tortuguero National Park. Unwind at the Laguna Lodge, an eco-conscious, seaside spot with gardens full of iguanas, red-eyed tree frogs and other wildlife, and revel in the sweetness during a pineapple plantation visit. From July to September, travelers can witness the sea turtles' nesting season on evening beach walks. Pricing starts at $3,449.

Investigate innovations. A third set of locks, the jewel of the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, is open for business. Employing a design concept some attribute to Leonardo da Vinci, these concrete elevators raise ships the necessary 85 feet to enter Gatun Lake, the canal's highest point. Between October and April 2018, sail this new lane of traffic aboard Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess. Traveling round trip from Fort Lauderdale, FL, to visit the Bahamas, Colombia and more, the liner will enter the locks from Panama's Atlantic side and dock for excursions along the canal, including a tram ride over the rainforest and a wildlife boat tour. Prices start at $999.

Feed your need for speed. On Harvest Caye, the private Belizean island of Norwegian Cruise Line, the 130-foot-tall Flighthouse offers free-fall jumps of 40 and 60 feet that will have your stomach in your throat and your smile spanning ear to ear. Soar over water on the Lagoon Adventure Run zipline, then rocket Superman-style down the Double Beach Run course, reaching velocities of 40 mph. Norwegian's slate of 2017 Caribbean cruises with calls at Harvest Caye are priced from $499.

Meet the magnificent Mayans. A standard-bearer in mathematics, agriculture and the arts, the Mayan civilization also is revered for its architecture, with stunning cities of stone. Though these towns were abandoned around A.D. 900, travelers can explore their ruins on the 11-day "Kaleidoscope of Guatemala & Honduras" with Gate 1 Travel. Take in the wildlife and wonder of Tikal National Park, an archaeological gold mine of temples, palaces and pyramids. Then, discover a center for politics and religion, Copan, and its Hieroglyphic Stairway, featuring an inscription of some 1,800 glyphs. Itineraries start at $1,749 and run throughout 2017.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Winter 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 680-2858 for current rates and details.

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