Central America takes a chance on Community Tourism

4 March 2019

Tourism in Central America reinvents itself. The region plays for high stakes on Community Tourism, a method that takes the traveller away from the commercial circuit and introduces him into the deepest traditions and customs of the local community.

Reinvention is not something which entails a problem for Central America. Due to its natural, landscape, cultural or gastronomic variety, the region has the capacity to easily respond to new travel models, to the different perspectives of younger generations, and to new trends, such as community tourism.

This tourism model benefits both the tourist and the local community. It offers the traveller a deep, close and respectful knowledge of the cultures and local customs, away from the most commercial circuit. For the community, it works as catalyst for progress and growth, promoting the obtaining of own resources and ensuring their traditions.

That said, what is that the countries of Central America offer in this tourist modality that is becoming so popular? Below, it is offered a list of destinations that could help the hesitant traveller to settle their doubt without risk of mistake.

Panama: Circuit of coffee and Emberá Querá
Panama is one of the pioneering countries of Central America in this tourism model. Among the multitude of destinations offered, the most innovative is the Circuit of Coffee. It is a route composed by 18 farms in the province of Chiriqui. The circuit goes through the biggest attractions in the region and combines gastronomy, history, nature, culture and craft activities. The Chiriqui coffee, due to its taste, has achieved first positions in competitions of international level. The tourist will witness the process, from planting to harvesting and packaging. In addition, the same circuit offers other activities such as boat rides, exotic bird watching, hiking, etc.

On the other hand, on the banks of Gatun Lake, is located the Emberá Querá tourist community, whose habitants – no more than sixty- come from different villages. The Emberá have made of tourism not only a way to ensure the necessary resources for their vital development but the way to protect their traditions and continue living together in community. The traveller, far from undermining the Emberá routine, will become a participant in the ethnic culture, the craftsmanship that they have been developing for years, their clothes and their ancestral dances which have been handed down from generation to generation.

Nahuizalco in El Salvador
Nahuizalco is an incomparable place, with a historic tourist offer and an extraordinary living culture, which has become one of the best promoters of the Salvadoran culture by putting value in ancestral culinary techniques. It is one of the strongest and oldest indigenous groups in the country. Its night market is a unique attraction in the country. The Gastronomic Square has a constant festive atmosphere for the cultural and religious celebrations of the town, which include ancestral folk dances, such as the Dance of the Historians. Most of the population is dedicated to crafts, especially focused on furniture and home decoration items made from wicker, wood, and cotton.

Guatemala, Uaxacatun
Guatemala also does not fall short in the offer of community tourism. Many of their destinations are being directed by the communities themselves. Among them we find the “Corazón del Bosque” (Heart of the Forest) ecological park in Sololá, a place known for its tapestries which also offers different types of tours, such as the tour of medicinal plants, or the Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes in Huehuetenango, also known as the “Ante-chamber of heaven”.

Among them, Uaxacatun, which means “Eight Stones”, stands out. Its archaeological site is one of the main ones of the Maya Biosphere Reserve due to its strategic location in the heart of the Mayan World, very close to the Tikal National Park. The originality of Uxucuatun is the community approach that accompanies the visit, which makes the experience an integral and transformative one. The families that live in the village join the visit, providing historical knowledge such as the names of the buildings or the meaning of the stelae and their inscriptions.

Costa Rica, Maleku Reserve
Many consider Costa Rica as the jewel of Central America. It is a small country that has one of the highest biodiversity on the planet. However, its cultural and ethnological wealth is not well known despite its wide range, which includes plans that go from a horseback ride to the Fortuna River Waterfall, through the Arenal Volcano, to the Hanging Bridges in Bijagua.

To the north of the country, in Guatuso, is the Indigenous Reserve of Maleku, also known as Gatusos or the “Indians warriors of the cold river”. This opportunity allows the traveller to get to know, hand in hand with the habitants themselves, the way of life of these people and how they have managed to keep their traditions alive up to the present. The Maleku preserve their language and have a wide range of indigenous dances filled with exceptional sounds and rites, as well as millenary culinary traditions, such as their traditional drink: the Aiqui Líca, based on corn, water, and sugar.

Jamao al Norte, Dominican Republic
The turquoise colour of its waters has made of Jamao al Norte one of the most attractive tourist destinations of Espaillat, province in the north of the island. Its main attraction are the natural pools of crystal-clear waters surrounded by vegetation: El Cañón de Arroyo Frío, Cola de Pato, El Hongo Mágico…

It is a special destination for those who love the blend of sports and nature, the environment gives the opportunity to practice adventure sports such as kayaking. During the kayak tour the traveller will discover, from the hand of the locals, the typical Dominican country houses, you will meet children bathing in the shore, and will see many birds among the lush vegetation, being able to finish this tour tasting something of Typical Dominican food in any of the various booths located along the route.