A monkey in a tree on Monkey Island. Photo © Paul Schlindwein/123rf.

The Natural Beauty of Nicaragua’s Las Isletas

The 365-island archipelago of Nicaragua formed when Volcán Mombacho erupted some 20,000 years ago, hurling its top half into the nearby lake in giant masses of rock, ash, and lava. The natural beauty of the isletas is spectacular there is plenty for history buffs to enjoy as well. The islanders themselves are interesting and friendly, maintaining a rural lifestyle unique in Nicaragua: Children paddle dugout canoes or rowboats to school from an early age, and their parents get along by fishing and farming or by taking camera-toting tourists for a ride in their boats.

Yosemite Falls tumbles to the valley floor. Photo © Ann Marie Brown.

Discover Yosemite National Park

Plunging waterfalls, stark granite, alpine lakes, pristine meadows, giant sequoia trees, and raging rivers—you’ll find them all in Yosemite National Park. At 1,169 square miles and 750,000 acres, the park is nearly the size of Rhode Island and one of the most popular national parks in the United States, visited by more than 3.5 million people each year.

View of Managua from La Loma de Tiscapa. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Planning Your Time in Managua

Managua has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs, and the city’s charm becomes apparent once you’ve spent a little time there. Managuans are full of stories (and opinions) about their history; the best way to learn is to strike up a conversation. The better you understand this city, the better you will understand Nicaragua itself.

Surfers in action at Sayulita beach. Photo © Justin Henderson.

Discover Sayulita and the Riviera Nayarit

Once upon a time, not so many people made the effort to see what lies north of Puerto Vallarta along the beautiful and verdant Nayarit Coast. This has changed of late, however, as the “Riviera Nayarit” has emerged as a major tourist destination in Mexico. Whether you are looking for a quiet respite from the crowded streets and beaches of Puerto Vallarta or a nonstop beach party with hundreds of potential new friends, there’s a place for you just a couple of hours away.

Playa Zoni in Culebra. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Discover the Islands of Vieques and Culebra

Referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra are often described as “the way Puerto Rico used to be.” There are no fast-food restaurants or high-rise hotels, no golf courses or casinos, virtually no nightlife, and few tourist sights. What they do have are stunning beaches, world-class water sports, and lots of opportunity for R&R.

Sunrise at Lake Atitlán. Photo © Al Argueta.

Discover Guatemala’s Western Highlands

Most visitors to Guatemala daydream about the Western Highlands. The region is home to quaint and colorful mountain villages, highland lakes, pine forests, and the majority of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples. From the Indian markets in Chichicastenango and the Mayan practices of the costumbristas (shamans carrying out traditional Mayan rituals) in the hills just outside of town to the all-day November 1 horse races of Todos Santos, the region is steeped in rich culture.

California Poppies. Photo © Biolifepics/Dreamstime.

When to Visit Northern California

Dense in urban culture, awash in vineyards, and with some of the most scenic landscapes in the world, Northern California is a multi-faceted gem. Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and San Francisco are among the top 10 on most travelers’ bucket lists. Best about northern California is its all-season appeal–from summer sun to winter fun, the best time to go to northern California is now.

Playa Cayzedo is filled with towering palms. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Discover Cali, Colombia

Cali’s relaxed place is evident everywhere you go in this diverse city of three million. This is not a city packed with must-see sights, yet tourists keep falling in love with the “Sultan of the Valley.” Is it that late refreshing afternoon breeze? The people? Or is it the salsa? We do know this: Discovering Cali for yourself is the best way to find out.

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. Photo © Jbatt/Dreamstime.

Where to Go in Northern California

If you can’t decide between the beach or the mountains, city nightlife or quaint historical towns, and sleeping in luxury or roughing it, then Northern California is your ultimate destination. Here you’ll find a breakdown of each distinct region in the area, highlighting their major draws and general personalities.

The canal in Dewey, Culebra. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Discover Culebra

As laid-back as Vieques is, it’s practically Las Vegas compared to Culebra. Culebra has yet to be discovered by the tourism industry, but experienced divers know it as one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean. Home to 1,568 acres of land preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge and one of the last vestiges of pre-tourism Puerto Rico, visitors are advised to embrace the island’s quirky inconveniences and sleepy pace of life to fully appreciate its many rare charms.