Central America

2009 Travel Awards


Wind-aided paddling on Belize's barrier reef.    Photo: Courtesy of Island Expeditions

Dollars and sense: Go with Pros

Next time you're planning a trip to Mexico or Canada, look to an old favorite. Last November, low-cost, low-stress Southwest Airlines announced plans to partner with Volaris and WestJet to bring service to Canada later this year and to Mexico in 2010.

Kayak Lodge to Lodge
6 DAYS, $1,590
Some 450 sun-bleached cays dot Belize's 180-mile-long barrier reef. The best way to explore them? Take this new, lodge-to-lodge sea-kayak trip with Belize City–based Island Expeditions. The six-day journey is divided between traveling with the currents over coral structures teeming with marine life and unwinding at three rustic lodges (think seaside cabanas and conch-fritter dinners). Expect to cover up to six miles of turquoise per day in IE's unique, mast-and-sail-equipped sea kayaks. "There's nothing like sailing your kayak at six knots, two feet above the reef flats," says owner Tim Boys. Trips depart weekly from November to April; islandexpeditions.com. CASH TIP: Book late—IE offers $100 discounts on unfilled trips within a month of departure.

Surf the Gulf of Chiriquí
Don't want to take out a second mortgage to reach Indonesia's Mentawais? There's a better way to plan your dream surf trip. In 2006, Panama-based Lost Coast Excursions started plying the Gulf of Chiriquí, on that country's Pacific coast, in its 100-foot motor yacht, the Explorer. What the outfitter found was a Pacific paradise with dozens of empty reef and beach breaks. The Explorer accommodates up to 16 guests in shared rooms—bring ten or so buddies and you've got a blue-water epic, complete with surf guides, for less than the cost of a week in Aspen. Start recruiting now for next spring, when southern swells wrap up the coastline. Guests take a shuttle from Panama City to Puerto Mutis, board the Explorer, and hit the water before lunch. Charters available between December and August; lostcoastexcursions.com.

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