I'll be taking a Panama Canal cruise with family with stops at:
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Huatulco, Mexico
- Puerto Chiapas, Mexico
- Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
- Fuerte Amador, Panama
- Cartagena, Colombia
The cruise line has shore excursions available at each stop, but they seem ridiculously expensive for what they are offering. I'd assume you can take a few steps away from the ship and find similar trips offered by others that are much cheaper. I speak Spanish, have spent quite a bit of time in Nicaragua, and am comfortable traveling in new places. But I'm not familiar with any of these places specifically and don't know how safe or practical it would be to find third-party "excursions".
Which of these ports would be safe places to explore on your own or go on a trip with a non-official tour operator? And where would it be better to stick with the official tour groups and guides?