Central America, the stretch of land between Mexico and South America, has a long and troubled history of war, crime, corruption and dictatorship. These are the nations of Central America.
The largest Central American nation in terms of population, Guatemala is a place of great beauty...and great corruption and crime. The stunningly beautiful lakes and volcanoes of Guatemala have been the scene of massacres and repression for centuries. Dictators like Rafael Carrera and Jose Efrain Rios Montt ruled the land with an iron fist. Guatemala also has the most significant native population of all of Central America. Its biggest problems today are poverty and drug trafficking.
Once part of Guatemala, Belize was occupied for a while by the British and was known as British Honduras. Belize is a small, laid-back nation where the vibe is more Caribbean than Central American. It is a popular tourist destination, featuring Mayan ruins, nice beaches and world-class SCUBA diving.
The smallest of the Central American nations, El Salvador's many problems make it seem larger. Wracked by a civil war in the 1980's, the nation has yet to recover. The rampant corruption in the nation means that a high percentage of the young labor force tries to emigrate to the United States or other nations. El Salvador has much going for it, including friendly people, nice beaches, and stable government since the early 1990's.
Honduras is an unlucky nation. It is a center of dangerous gang and drug activity, the political situation is occasionally unstable and to top it off it regularly gets socked by monster hurricanes and natural disasters. Cursed with arguably the worst crime rate in Central America, Honduras is a nation that constantly seems to be looking for answers. It is home to the best Mayan ruins in Central America outside of Guatemala and the diving is superb, so perhaps the tourism industry will help this nation pull itself up.
Costa Rica has had by far the most peaceful history of the nations of Central America. In a region known for wars, Costa Rica has no army. In a region known for corruption, the president of Costa Rica is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Costa Rica encourages foreign investment and it is an island of relative prosperity in Central America.
Nicaragua, with its lakes, rainforests and beaches, is packed with natural beauty and wonder. Like many of its neighbors, Nicaragua has been traditionally plagued by strife and corruption, but you'd never know it from the friendly, laid-back people.
Once part of Colombia, Panama always has been and always will be defined by the famous canal that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Panama itself is a land of great natural beauty and is a growing visitor destination.