Central America & Caribbean

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Calling all beach bums and tropic adventurers! There is a place where the bluest waters roll onto crystal-white beaches and emerald forests tower between hundreds of smoking volcanos. This tropical fairytale known as Central America and The Caribbean is the watering hole for paradise hunters. Experience an explosion of color and culture at earth’s equator.

About The Region: Central America & Caribbean

The America’s middle child, Central America, is an exuberant region comprised of only seven countries while the neighboring Caribbean, also known as the Island Countries, is made up of thousands of islands, including 13 sovereign island nations and 12 dependent territories. Many flock to The Caribbean for the white-sand beaches, calm sailing conditions and mesmerizing marine life. Divers, snorkelers, and other ocean aficionados will find the second largest barrier reef right here in The Caribbean as well.

This region offers splendor to travelers wanting to relax in luxury or take on paradisiacal adventures. There’s much more to soak in besides the sand and sun in Central America and The Caribbean.

When to Go

Tranquil is a perfect word to describe this region, but the only inconvenience vacationing here is hurricanes…Central America and The Caribbean fall under major tropical cyclone zones and may be a “hit or miss” for your visit. Nonetheless, there are ideal times to swim with stingrays and sail cyan seas.

Central America and the Caribbean span the deep tropics and subtropics. Because of the tropical maritime location temperature changes throughout the region are generally small, and rainfall is by far the most important meteorological element.

Dry Season – From November to May, temperatures and tourism are high! Panama’s weeklong Jazz Festival erupts, surfers flock to the intense Pacific and Caribbean swell, and ocean lovers onlook to see whale sharks off the coast of Honduras or Belize. This time of year is festooned with activities on and off land, but at a much higher cost.

Wet Season – Also known as “green season,” is from June through November, however, depending on the country (and even different parts of the country, as is the case in Nicaragua), rainfall can vary greatly. While your planned travel and activities can be more interrupted during this time, it’s still worth visiting if you know how to prepare and pack. Travel costs are at an all-time low and festivals are still in full swing! If you want more consistent weather, head to the southern parts of the region closest to the equator. This is also the typical hurricane season and visiting should be taken with precaution.

Scroll to the bottom for more unmissable travel opportunities in Central America and The Caribbean.

Travel PrerequisiteS

The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide outlines all the requirements you must complete before traveling. The requirements vary by combatant command and country and they change continually based on current threats

Typical prerequisites for traveling to Central America include

  • Approved liberty (This process varies greatly from unit to unit, be sure to check local guidelines)
  • Completed itinerary
  • The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide may suggest completion of additional travel prerequisites that may include the following:
    • Level 1 Anti-Terrorism Awareness Training via JKO
    • SERE 100.2 via JKO
    • Travel Tracker Individual Anti-terrorism Plan (TT/IATP)
    • Country Clearance via Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System (APACS)
    • Theater Clearance via APACS
    • Special Area Clearance
    • Isolated Personnel Report training
    • SCI Brief via local command
    • Detailed Itinerary

Military Installations and Historical Sites

The only U.S. military installations in this region are located on Puerto Rico, Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Details can be found here. Knowing the location of these installations are incredibly helpful when traveling as they offer outdoor recreational services, equipment, travel guidance and discounts. Lodging on bases are usually cheaper and you can connect with fellow troops in the area!

Travel Considerations

Political and civil unrest in the 1980s kept most tourists away from Central America, but now the area is a slowly becoming hotspot for travelers, surfers, luxury travelers, and even retirees. In 2019, Central America saw 10.9 million visitors while the neighboring Caribbean saw a whopping 32 million tourists in 2019 alone!

Like many other continents in the world, there are some countries that are legitimately unsafe for travelers. It is always recommended that at the time of planning any trip, that you check the current political climate or general state of affairs in the country you are thinking of visiting.

The trick is simply knowing the do’s and don’ts both geographically and logistically. Here are some valuable safety tips for travel in Central America and The Caribbean.

  • Vaccinations are recommended and required for some parts of this region. A detailed list can be found here from the World Health Organization.
  • Check The Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs travel advisories regarding the safety of every country.
  • Tap water is not drinkable in most parts of this region besides Costa Rica. Reusable, filter water bottles are the perfect solution.
  • The elements can may considerably dangerous. Be mindful of beaches without lifeguards and volcano eruption updates. The riptides are known to be unforgiving and volcano activity is prevalent in several locations.
  • Only use licensed taxis.
  • Don’t forget sunblock!
  • Resist the urge to imitate accents while in the Caribbean, this is considered offensive and not humorous.
  • Be mindful of street food and sanitation to avoid getting the travel bug! (food poisoning)
  • Don’t assume all islands are the same. The Caribbean offers complexity and diversity at every island.
  • Don’t expect cell service everywhere, especially on the islands.
  • Don’t be in a hurry, island time is a serious way of life.
  • Practice the local language AND hangout with the locals.
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