Where to spend Christmas in Central America

Want to escape from your traditional Christmas at home? Whether you're looking to join in local celebrations or make for a remote island, these destinations will have you covered
Mexican Nativity scene. Photo: Shutterstock
Mexican Nativity scene. Photo: Shutterstock
With Christmas drawing ever closer, many travellers are looking to book their final trip of the year. If you're looking for an adventure this December, here's where to spend the holidays in Central America

1. For family celebrations: Mexico

For a truly unforgettable Christmas head to Mexico, where the festival is celebrated from December 12th to January 6th. Hospitality is a major theme in Mexico over Christmas, as families come together on Christmas Eve to celebrate Mary and Joseph searching for accommodation and being taken in by the innkeeper, decorating their houses in a welcoming fashion to do so. 

Experience the festivities and hospitality yourself, with Insight Guides’ Mexico City to the Yucatan trip. Christmas Day is more of a communal event, often spent together in large groups. 

On December 28th, Mexicans observe the Day of the Holy Innocents, commemorating the slaughter of male babies in Bethlehem that was ordered by King Herod. However, the day is celebrated in a light-hearted manner, as locals play jokes on each other, much like April Fools’ Day in the UK.


2. For good weather: Costa Rica

The Costa Rican school year runs from February to December, so Christmas falls in the middle of a two-month break for the country's schoolchildren, and is usually accompanied by fantastic weather. Enjoy a sunny Christmas with Insight Guides’ Costa Rica: Coast to Coast trip. The centrepiece of the Costa Rican household over Christmas is not a Christmas tree, but a large nativity scene, which the whole family puts a lot of time and effort into making. Apples also come into season around Christmas, so are eaten a lot and incorporated into many dishes and salads. Costa Ricans attend traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve before eating the main Christmas meal, consisting of chicken and pork cooked wrapped in plantain leaves.  


3. For a grand show: Guatemala

A Guatemalan Christmas is similar to both Mexican and Costa Rican Christmases: the centrepiece of the household is a nativity scene (although, Guatemalans use brightly coloured sawdust in theirs) and the main celebration, together with the meal, are both on Christmas Eve. At midnight on Christmas Eve, fireworks are set off to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, before saying a prayer around the Christmas tree. Once the prayer is finished, it is tradition to begin opening presents! Insight Guides' local experts can plan, organise and book an entire Christmas trip to Guatemala for you: simply submit a trip request to get startedOr browse our pre-planned itineraries and see what takes your fancy.


4. For an extended holiday: Nicaragua

Nicaraguans celebrate Christmas from December 6th, and place great emphasis on the Virgin Mary throughout, singing songs in her honour. From the 16th December onwards, prayers are held in each home every night, followed by carol singing. Christmas dinner is massively influenced by Spanish cultural traditions and consists of a feast of stuffed chicken, fresh bread and paella. 

Uniquely, almost all Nicaraguan festivities are held on the December 24th and the 25th is just a normal day. As with Mexico, great emphasis is placed on Joseph and Mary’s difficulty in finding lodging and celebrating hospitality. 

Want to experience Christmas Nicaraguan-style? Speak to one of Insight Guides' local experts to arrange your holiday.


Calm beach scene in San Pedro, Belize. Photo: Shutterstock


5. For remote islands: Belize

While Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua all offer interesting, cultural experiences over the Christmas period, sometimes there is just no substitute for getting away from it all. Unbeknown to many, the waters off Belize’s coast are home to a number of secluded tropical islands, the most popular of which is Ambergris Caye. The islands are fairly undeveloped and the smaller spots tourist-free, which really adds to the off-the-beaten-track feel. Most are lined with stunning white-sand beaches. The warm waters here are also home to the Belize Barrier Reef – the second-largest coral reef system on the planet – which features some spectacular dive sites and the unique Blue Hole. Escape to paradise this Christmas with the help of Insight Guides' local experts: start planning your trip to Belize today.


This article was originally published on 21st November, 2016


Ready to take your Christmas trip to Central America? 

Browse suggested itineraries online or speak to a local expert to create your holiday from scratch