The climate in Mexico and Central America is influenced by the Pacific and the Atlantic oceanic basins and atmospheric conditions over continental North and South America. These factors and important ocean–atmosphere coupled processes make the region’s climate a great challenge for global and regional climate modeling. We explore the benefits that coupled regional climate models may introduce in the representation of the regional climate with a set of coupled and uncoupled simulations forced by reanalysis and global model data. Uncoupled simulations tend to stay close to the large-scale patterns of the driving fields, particularly over the ocean, while over land they are modified by the regional atmospheric model physics and the improved orography representation. The regional coupled model adds to the reanalysis forcing the air–sea interaction, which is also better resolved than in the global model. Simulated fields are modified over the ocean, improving the representation of the key regional structures such as the Intertropical Convergence Zone and the Caribbean Low Level Jet. Higher resolution leads to improvements over land and in regions of intense air–sea interaction, e.g., off the coast of California. ... mehrThe coupled downscaling improves the representation of the Mid Summer Drought and the meridional rainfall distribution in southernmost Central America. Over the regions of humid climate, the coupling corrects the wet bias of the uncoupled runs and alleviates the dry bias of the driving model, yielding a rainfall seasonal cycle similar to that in the reanalysis-driven experiments.