1) La Antigua Guatemala: Well, of course...
2) Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico: Hippest place in the western hemisphere.
3) San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: It is not unheard of for people to prefer this down-to-earth yet lively mountain town over La Antigua.
4) Panama City: A larger version of downtown Miami tacked on to a smaller version of Old Havana...with more than a hint of Vegas. What more could you want?
5) Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico: Somewhat over-tailored to affluent hippies (i.e. employees of New York magazines), you can't take away from it the best beach for thousands of miles.
6) Campeche, Campeche, Mexico: An under-visited fortified Spanish burgh staring into the beautiful Gulf sunset. A little low on evening activity, but plenty of Mayan interest points beyond the city limits.
7) Granada, Nicaragua: Emerging from neglect, this is Nicaragua's colonial showpiece, with its lovely Calzada leading to the shore of Lake Nicaragua.
8) Lake Atitlán, Guatemala: Panajachel is the Bohemian go-to destination on this most beautiful of lakes, but there are numerous other characterful villages along its shores.
9) Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico: The most elegant of Central America's big cities.
10) San Ignacio (Cayo), Belize: Grubby in itself, but an undoubted hub for perhaps the most rewarding eco-tourism opportunities in the region.
11) Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala: Guatemala's Garifuna enclave, and gateway to the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal, perhaps the most stunning landscapes the country has to offer.
12) San José, Costa Rica: The most approachable of Central America's capital cities with a central core that can easily be explored on foot. The dining scene is not so bad either.
13) Placencia, Belize: Relentlessly gentrified over the past couple of decades, yet the veneer of first world sophistication is refreshingly thin in places. Best beach in Belize.
14) Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico: Access point to one of the greatest of all Mayan sites, plus the waterfalls of Agua Azul and Misol Há.
15) Flores, Petén, Guatemala: Set on an island close to the shore of Lake Petén Itza, this is not just the kick-off point for Tikal, but also a delightful mini-destination in itself with an appealing, almost Mediterranean vibe.
16) Caye Caulker, Belize: An almost unavoidable backpacker destination right on the reef, offering some of the best and cheapest snorkelling and diving opportunities in CA.
17) Cahuita, Costa Rica: Laid-back and at least partially English-speaking, this Caribbean outpost features a protected beach lined by almond trees densely inhabited by capuchin monkeys.
18) Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico: The original state capital, and where one boards the boat to explore the majestic Sumidero canyon.
19) Cobán, Guatemala: A centre for coffee and more recently, stronger stimulants, the city offers a pleasant stop-off before the approach to Lanquin and Semuc Champey.
20) Quetzaltenango, Guatemala: 'Xela', the country's calmer second city; neo-classical architecture and a lively cultural scene.
Plus five other significant spots in the region which I have yet to visit, yet which I suspect might well have made it into the top 25...
- Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
- Leon, Nicaragua,
- Bocas del Toro, Panama
- Boquete, Panama
- The Bay Islands, Honduras