Why you need to go: The island village of Flores attracts impatient masses who throw their bags down before heading off to tour the Mayan ruins of Tikal. But the town itself is all architectural charm, a mash-up of cobblestone streets, 16th-century cathedrals, and colorful, red-roofed homes that add up to an almost Mediterranean feel. Rent a kayak to get a water’s eye view of the village from Lake Petén Itzá (which is also swimmable), then dine on fresh seafood in one of the village’s modest comedors.
The one must-do thing: The ARCAS Wildlife Rescue Center, accessible only by boat, works to rehabilitate and release captured animals into the wild.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Why you need to go: Life’s a Beach; No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem; On Island Time… the bumper sticker tropes speak truth here. There are no cars, only bikes and golf carts; no traffic signs save one; and no bustle, only unhurried locals and visitors deciding when next to hit the white-sand beaches. A longtime fave among the backpacking set, it’s 80 percent about the water sports here, from snorkeling to fishing to windsurfing. When you’re feeling sufficiently waterlogged, hit up one of the island’s budget-friendly beach restaurants for a feast of lobster and conch.
The one must-do thing: Divers should visit Blue Hole and Turneffe, while those who eschew tank breathing can opt for a manatee tour.