View of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Conquer Your Bucket List

From Surfing in Costa Rica to Hiking Machu Picchu

Is North America boring you a little bit? Are you ready to tackle the other Americas? Well, have we got some great choices for you!

Just take a gander at Central and South America. Tropical forests! Active volcanoes! Ancient ruins! What’s not to love? Plus, thanks to its captivating culture and friendly people, this diverse region of the world makes it easy for any family orf group to jaunt off on a mind-blowing adventure that will surely check off some serious bucket list items. 

What? You don’t have a bucket list? Well start making one now, and be sure to include these essential Central and South American experiences.

Hang Ten in Costa Rica

Hundreds of beaches line both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of this tropical paradise, making Costa Rica a top surfing destination no matter which side you end up on. Heck—you could surf the Caribbean side as the sun rises, then drive across the country and crash the waves in the west as the sun sets. Head to Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula for some of the best breaks in the Pacific, suitable for all levels of surfers. At Playa Avellana, or “little Hawaii,” the waves can reach up to 18 feet—just high enough to give advanced surfers an adrenaline rush. With surf schools scattered all over and warm tropical waters, Costa Rica makes an amazing classroom to pick up this new skill.

man surfing
Pro Surfers: Head to Playa Avellana to hit waves that reach up to 18 feet.

Snap Dreamy Photos in Guatemala

Minimize this window and take a take a peeklook at the wallpaper on your computer desktop. Does it make you yawn? We’ve got the perfect solution: visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and take a pic, or two thousand, of the sparkling blue waters surrounded by flourishing, green volcanoes. For centuries, travelers have stopped in their tracks to admire this lake’s incomparable beauty. Add the colorful Mayan villages and small towns on the lake’s shore, and you have a picture-perfect backdrop for, well, pictures.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

Hike to Machu Picchu

The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, is the enigmatic symbol of the Peruvian empire. Built in the mid-15th century at 7,875ft above sea level, Incas transported huge stone slabs up the mountainside to produce building blocks that slot together so perfectly not even the thinnest knife blade fits between them. Abandoned 100 years later, and hidden from the world for centuries by encroaching jungle, many experts today believe it was a religious site. The best way to visit is via the Inca Trail, a four-day, 25-mile camping trek from the Sacred Valley through cloud forest, jungle and high-mountain passes.

Woman looking at Inca ruins on Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu: Woman gets a panoramic view of the famous Inca ruins in Peru.

Stroll through Cartagena

Cartagena, which sits on the Caribbean coast of Coloumbia, is a city with two distinct personalities. On one side, you’ll find the symbols of modern life: towering skyscrapers, bustling streets and upscale restaurants. However, steps away from this contemporary world, you’ll find Old Town still protected by its historic wall. This is where the heart and soul of the city lives, where you can wander down old cobblestone streets, pass rainbow-colored Spanish villas and devour homemade empanadas. The city’s rich Spanish history unfolds before you in Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the city’s fortress that towers over the city on a 130-foot hill.

Street in Cartagena, Colombia
Old Town Cartagena, Colombia

Cruise the Panama Canal

It doesn’t matter how old you are, —the Panama Canal is mesmerizingly cool. A cruise is the best way to experience all 48 epic miles, giving you a front-row seat to appreciate this marvel of engineering. Plus, you just might fall in love with the jungle-lined countryside as you rise and fall through the canal’s three giant locks and across massive Gatun Lake. The entire process can take up to 10 hours, and over 20 cruise lines will happily take you on this journey.