Higo Chumbo Cactus on Mona Island. Photo © U.S. Fish & Wildlife Southeast Region, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Mona Island’s Colorful Past

Oh, the tales it could tell if Mona Island could speak. Its past is a drama full of marauding pirates, thriving Taínos, and many a shipwreck. Today, in addition to enjoying the island’s great hiking, diving, and bird-watching, visitors can explore the faint remains of the Taíno civilization and mining operations. Petroglyphs, stone walls, cabins, and graves are enduring reminders of Mona’s colorful past.

Sunner Time by artist Nellie Mae Rowe. Photo © Nellie Mae Rowe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

African American Arts and Heritage in Atlanta

Atlanta has been called “the crown jewel in the story of black America” for good reason. The city’s distinction as a crossroads for equal opportunity dates back generations, due in no small part to the concentration of historically black colleges (the largest in the country) and long legacy of African American entrepreneurship and innovation. This unique heritage is also a major draw for tourism; no matter what the calendar says, it’s always Black History Month in Atlanta.

Iximché exhibits much more of a Mexican influence than other Maya sites in Guatemala. Photo © Michal Zak/123rf.

Iximché, Guatemala’s Most Accessible Highland Mayan Site

Iximché is the most easily accessible of Guatemala’s highland Mayan ceremonial sites. It makes an interesting stop for those with an interest in Mayan culture and history because of the differences it exhibits from the lowland Mayan sites of Petén, which date to much earlier times.

An artisan working on an oxcart wheel.

The Oxcarts of Sarchí

Sarchí is famous as the home of gaily decorated wooden carretas (oxcarts), the internationally recognized symbol of Costa Rica. The carretas, forced from the fields by the advent of tractors and trucks, are almost purely decorative now, but the craft and the art form live on here, where artisans still apply their masterly touch at two fábricas de carretas (workshops), which are open to view

Downtown Oakland skyline. Photo © Eric Broder Van Dyke/123rf.

Things to Do in Oakland

Oakland is the biggest city in the East Bay. Although its reputation hasn’t always been perfect (travelers should probably stay in the popular visitor areas), today a great deal of downtown urban renewal has made it a visitor-friendly place with plenty of attractions, accommodations, and exceptional food. For interactive fun, a truly exceptional museum, and outdoor activities, check out these locations.

The Casa Armstrong Poventud was built in Ponce in 1899. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

The History of Ponce, Puerto Rico

Ponce’s rich cultural life gave birth in the mid-1800s to a unique form of romantic classical music called danza, and from there the good times kept rolling. By the turn of the 20th century, the tides began to turn for Ponce, leading to struggles that continue to today; lately, things are looking up. Learn about Ponce’s truly colorful history and the city’s revitalization.

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.

Arecibo Observatory. Photo © Frank Van Den Eijnden/123rf.

Sights in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

There are several good reasons to visit the municipality of Arecibo. In the mountainous karst country south of town is the world-famous Observatorio de Arecibo. On the coast is Cueva del Indio, a geographic wonder that illustrates what happens when crashing waves meet massive petrified sand dunes—it’s also a natural repository for petroglyphs. And for children, there’s the Faro de Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park with its themed playgrounds and welcoming patch of beach.

A worker walks down a row in a Nicaraguan bean field.

The Economy of Nicaragua

Two successive governments have had to jump-start the Nicaraguan economy from a standstill, but despite their significant efforts, it remains the second poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Learn about the problems the country still faces, from unemployment to massive debt, and continuing efforts to relieve them.

El Fortín, a circular fortress tower, in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Heredia, Costa Rica’s City of Flowers

Heredia, seven miles north of San José and colloquially known as La Ciudad de las Flores (City of Flowers), is surrounded by coffee fields. A pleasant atmosphere pervades the grid-patterned town despite its jostling traffic, making it easy to wander. There’s something here for history buffs, coffee aficionados, nature lovers, and after all that, the nightlife is pretty good too.