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Where to go in Central America

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Hi, This is my first time posting on this forum although I am a regular on the South America and Asia forums. We have travelled fairly extensively in South America and Asia but never in Central America and could really do with some guidance on this region. We are planning a trip of around one month in Dec/January and have just started researching potential locations.

We always travel independently and have basic Spanish language skills only. Happy to use public transport wherever possible and to rent a car and drive ourselves around. We usually stay in small B&Bs hostals etc. rather than big hotels. Our interests are varied and include historical sites, local culture, nature, cities, scuba diving etc. beaches are ok for a few days but are not the main focus. Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama are amongst our initial thoughts. I appreciate that christmas and new year are busy times but we are hoping that by staying in smaller palces this will not be too much of a problem.

Any thoughts on which country or countries would be top of your list for a first time visitor and specific unmissable places to the region would be much appreciated.

many thanks

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