Ek' Balam in the Yucatan. Photo © Jose Ignacio Soto/123rf.

Maya Ruins Near Cancún and Cozumel

Besides its incredible beaches and world-class resorts, Mexico’s Caribbean coast is also home to numerous ancient Maya ruins, including some of the most important archaeological sites in the country and the continent. A visit to one or more is well worth a day off the sand, even for committed beach hounds.

Playa Gigante. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

The Beaches of Tola, Nicaragua

Ten kilometers west of Rivas is the agricultural community of Tola, gateway to the steadily improving shore road and a string of lonely, beautiful beaches that make up 30 kilometers of Pacific shoreline. The word is out and land prices are rising, but the beaches west of Tola are still far less developed than San Juan del Sur and retain some of their fishing village character.

Topography surrounding San Vito. Photo © Eric T Gunther (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Planning Your Time in South-Central Costa Rica

The south-central region is the Cinderella of Costa Rican tourism. A larger proportion of the region is protected as national park or forest reserve than in any other part of the country. Much remains inaccessible and unexplored. Herein lies the beauty: Huge regions such as Parque Nacional Chirripó and Parque Internacional La Amistad harbor incredibly diverse populations of Central American flora and fauna.

San Andrés Ruins. Photo © Raúl Arias, licensed Creative Commons usage.

The Indigenous History of Panchimalco and the San Andres Ruins

The area surrounding San Salvador is rich with history and natural beauty. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth making a short drive (or bus ride) to explore the wonderful sights of Panchimalco and San Andrés Ruins and learn more about the indigenous people of El Salvador.

Monumento al Indio. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Sights in Isabela, Puerto Rico

The area known today as Isabela was once ruled by Cacique Mabodamaca, one of the island’s most powerful Taíno chiefs. The town of Isabela features a charming little plaza anchored by a church, as are all town plazas, impressive cultural sights, ruins, and one of the most hair-raising mountain drives.

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.

Re-created Taíno bohio dwellings at Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

The Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes, Puerto Rico

In 1975, the remains of two native civilizations were discovered a couple of miles north of Ponce on what is now called the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes. Excavation of the site is still under way, but several ball fields and plazas have been unearthed, along with artifacts, tools, and remains.

Museo del Cemí is devoted to artifacts of the Taíno Indians. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Mountain Scenery and Taíno Culture in Jayuya, Puerto Rico

If you visit only one place in Puerto Rico’s Cordillera Central, go to Jayuya. Go to experience the gorgeous mountain scenery and some of the highest peaks on the island, where it’s possible to see both the Atlantic and the Caribbean, as well as vegetation thick with sierra palms, bamboo, banana trees, and brilliantly colorful impatiens. This is also the place to soak up the rich Taíno culture and explore other historic sights.

Stela 5 at Takalik Abaj. Photo © Simon Burchell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ruins of Takalik Abaj, Guatemala

The archeological site of Takalik Abaj, meaning “standing stones,” is particularly interesting because it reveals elements of Olmec influence in early Mayan culture. Learn about the ruins and how to get there in preparation for your visit, along with recommendations for where to stay to explore the surrounding landscape.