How can we most enjoyably spend 1.5 months this summer [in spanish]?
June 4, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Please help me decide whether to spend the summer in south america or in central america.

My new wife and I have about 1.5 months to do with as we please this summer, and we'd like to go away.

The main aim would be to hang out and not to *omgseeeverythingrightnow*, but we'd most likely want to:
-take an intensive spanish course
-maybe hang out on a beach for a few weeks
-scuba dive, if it's possible and not too expensive
-take short [less than 200km] bike trips to neighbouring towns.

The south american plan would either be to [fly into peru, take a spanish course in bolivia, hang out in ecuador, fly out of Lima] or to [fly straight into ecuador and just stay there]

The central american plan would be to maybe fly into costa rica or cancun [cheapest points of entry to the region for us right now], and then take a bus to one or two 'base camps' from which we could accomplish similar amounts of nothing.

We have both been to [different countries in] south america before, and love the friendliness, the food, and the inexpensiveness of our experiences. Neither of us have been to central america, but just sort of assume that it will be pleasant in similar ways.

The only way for this to be a long trip will be for it to be a cheap trip, so we won't be staying in hotels or renting helicopters, but it would be really cool if we could go diving at least a couple of times somewhere amazing because it's just so fun.

Is there anywhere great to dive near ecuador that isn't the super-expensive galapagos islands? If we fly in to cancun or costa rica, where should we try to find a place to stay?

What am I forgetting?
posted by Acari to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is good skiing in Chile and Argentina.
posted by caddis at 8:18 AM on June 4, 2009

Best answer: I have never been to South America; I have been to Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.

Very good diving in Roatan, Honduras. Also Utila, but I've never been there. It is far more expensive there than the mainland (the mainland is cheap, I paid $4 for a hostel dorm bed in Copan Ruinas), but should be true for many Caribbean communities. It is developing quickly, but the more backpackery part of the island still has a great vibe.

There is also diving in Bocas del Toro, Panama, but I dunno how it's supposed to be. Maybe also diving in the San Blas Islands, Panama? Here I am just giving you some things to Google, I don't know about them.

Tons of Spanish schools in Antigua, Guatemala. Not near the beach, but the highlands might be vastly superior because they will be cooler. The problem with Central America in the summer: THE HEAT!

In general, my understanding is that Central America is cheaper than South America, though, of course, it depends where you are. Sounds like you could have a nice little trip Guatemala and Honduras, but I'm sure there are any number of nice little trips that would meet your criteria.

Your plan sounds WONDERFUL. It is so amazing that you are able to have these experiences with your new wife. Congratulations, and live it up!
posted by teragram at 8:32 AM on June 4, 2009

posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:45 AM on June 4, 2009

The problem with Ecuador in the summer is the Humboldt current which sweeps up the coast with cold waters - to do any kind of decent diving off the coast you've got to go farther out in deeper waters, where the water is the coldest, so if you do that, be prepared to be wetsuit diving and have experience with deep water diving. That said, I have found that Ecuadorian Spanish is the easiest to understand out of the many countries I visit in Central and South America and there are plenty of Spanish schools there. Coastal Ecuadorian Spanish is a little "lazier" than in the highlands. The coast is known for its surfing though, not for its diving. I just got back from the Galapagos two weeks ago (my 13th trip) and have found over the years, that starting in May, the waters get cool / coldish enough to really need wetsuits for any time in the water.

I have heard much about Holbox, a little island off Cancun. I spent a week in Isla Mujeres nearby but really wished I had gone to Holbox instead. It was getting more built up and from word of mouth, Holbox is a lot less expensive and low-key. I would guess there must be access to good diving in that area.
posted by HeyAllie at 8:54 AM on June 4, 2009

Consider Bonaire, which is just off the coast of Venezuela.
posted by kristymcj at 7:43 PM on June 4, 2009

1.5 months isn't really enough time to do Peru>Bolivia>Ecuador>Peru, unless you plan to fly everywhere. Bolivia+Peru should be about right. Say Lima > Cuzco > Machu Picchu > Copacabana > La Paz > Potosi > Sucre > La Paz > Lima?
posted by signal at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: As a belated update: we ended up staying in central america, with the bulk of our time spent in Honduras and Guatemala. Diving in Utila, swimming with a whale shark, spanish lessons in a town on the shore of lake Atitlan, various madventures in Belize, and a dive in a cenote [so good!] was the basic itinerary, and delicious food was found most of the time. So much time spent on buses. I have a new disrespect for conventional map projections that insinuate that central america is tiny. We had an awesome time and slept in many hilarious lodgings.

No biking whatsoever was accomplished due entirely to THE HEAT!

Note: spanish lessons at the *end* of your trip really make you realize [some of the] dumb mistakes you've been making all along. Highly recommended for maximum feelings of embarrassment.

Thanks everybody. I best answered the one that was closest to the actual result, but HeyAllie's answer actually tipped the scales away from Ecuador.
posted by Acari at 7:28 AM on November 30, 2009

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