Vegas Alta and Baja are on the north coast of Puerto Rico. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Things to Do in Vega Alta and Vega Baja

The highlight of the Vegas is definitely Punta Cerro Gordo, a gorgeous piece of coastline that boasts one of the island’s best publicly maintained beaches and a great camping area, but remember to take time away from the surf and sand to explore the history, culture, and beautiful sights of the area. Expert author Suzanne Van Atten talks festivals, cultural hotspots and exploring the outdoors in Vega Alta and Vega Baja.

A boy studies a preserved specimen in the San Ramón Museum.

San Ramón and the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden

San Ramón is a gateway to Costa Rica’s northern lowlands via a mountain road that crests the cordillera, then begins a long sinuous descent to La Tigra. This agricultural and university town is known for its Saturday feria del agricultor (farmers market). A mere nine miles north is the Nectandra Cloud Forest Garden, where superb hiking trails and truly wonderful places to stay.

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.

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.

Triceratops reproduction at Gondava. Photo © Petruss (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Villa de Leyva’s Dinosaur Museums

During the Cretaceous period (66-145 million years ago), the area around Villa de Leyva was submerged in an inland sea. Today there are a handful of paleontological sites worth visiting, where you can view fossils of parts of massive dinosaurs to small ammonites, of which there are thousands–excavations still continue. If you have kids, don’t miss the informative park geared towards them.

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.

Flowers on display in the Chichicastenango market. Photo © Al Argueta.

Exploring Chichicastenango in Guatemala’s Western Highlands

Chichicastenango (Chichi, for short) will provide you with an opportunity to take in a unique highland market experience. Today, Chichi is still very much a K’iche’ town with strong adherence to the old ways, and there are plenty of sights to take in outside the bustling market. Learn about this Mayan village’s history, its sights, and how to handle yourself in the marketplace.

A painted lion statue in the Plaza de Leon. Photo © Micah Craig, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Ponce’s Plaza de las Delicias

Ponce’s Plaza de las Delicias is a bustling Spanish colonial plaza surrounded by many lovely 19th-century buildings. Filled with vendors of all kinds by day and music every evening, here’s what to see and do in this beautiful gathering spot.