Cuba, a large Caribbean island nation under communist rule, is known for its white-sand beaches, rolling mountains, cigars and rum. Its colorful capital, Havana, features well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture within its 16th-century core, Old Havana, loomed over by the pre-revolutionary Capitolio. Salsa emanates from the city’s dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana. The nation of Cuba comprises the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos.
Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The man-made Panama Canal cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rain forest of Natural Metropolitan Park. It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. Though its capital, San Jose, is home to cultural institutions like the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes and immense biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, rich with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds. The metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San José, is a pioneer of ecotourism, Costa Rica draws many tourists to its extensive national parks and protected areas.
Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is distinguished by its steep volcanoes, vast rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. The capital, Guatemala City, is home to the stately National Palace of Culture, institutions such as the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the lively Zona Viva nightlife area. Antigua, west of the capital, contains cobblestone streets and preserved Spanish colonial buildings. With an estimated population of around 15.8 million, it is the most populous state in Central America.