Warning signs are posted in areas where wildlife are likely to block the road. Photo © Harris Shiffman/123rf.

Driving Tips for a PCH Road Trip

Before you gas up the car and go, make sure you’re prepared for the challenges of the Pacific Coast Highway! The highway has many sharp curves, steep ledges, and high cliffs without guardrails; long, isolated stretches of blacktop; low visibility at night; wildlife encounters; and the chance for inclement weather any time of year. Slow down, stay safe, and enjoy the scenery!

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge

Howler monkeys and birdcalls will wake you bright and early in Los Guatuzos. Los Guatuzos contains dense populations of crocodiles; caimans; feral pigs; jaguars; and howler, white-faced, and spider monkeys. This is also home to a rare, ancient species of fish called the gaspar (Actractoseus tropicus), a living, armored relic of the Jurassic age. Between February and April, flocks of migratory species fly through in spectacular concentrations.

A black bear in Sequoia National Park. Photo © Nstanev/Dreamstime.

Wilderness Safety in Northern California

If you’re planning a backcountry expedition in northern California, follow all rules and guidelines for obtaining wilderness permits and for self-registration at trailheads. National and state park visitors centers can advise in more detail on any health or wilderness alerts in the area. Additionally, brush up on your wilderness safety; here’s how to prepare for temperature changes, high altitudes, and all manner of local wildlife.

Craggy rocks rise up along a smooth sandy beach as waves wash up on shore.

The Best California Beaches

From wide, golden beaches with abundant sunshine to boardwalks crowded with kids, cotton candy, and roller coasters, California has any kind of beach you could possibly want. Author Stuart Thornton shares a helpful overview of some of the state’s best options for sun, sand, and surf.

Jaguars have spots within spots, or rosettes, and are larger than leopards. Photo © brezina123.

Balam: Jaguars in Guatemala

The Maya had great respect and reverence for the jaguar, which they called balam. Jaguars were a symbol of power and strength and were believed to act as mediums for communication between the living and the dead. Scientists have been studying jaguars in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, but luckily, you don’t need to go traipsing through the jungle to see one: Guatemala City’s excellent zoo has jaguars, as does Petén’s ARCAS wildlife rescue center.

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.

Pathway through dense temperate rainforest tree ferns in New Zealand,

Unique Plants and Animals of New Zealand

Back before humans showed up in New Zealand, the islands were isolated from contact with any other landmass for millions of years. This gave the native wildlife time to develop in some unique ways. Learn about the unique New Zealand plants and animals that have managed to survive the arrival of humans and non-native species, and ongoing preservation efforts.

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.

Crystal-clear stream on Cerro Chirripó. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Hiking Chirripó National Park

Chirripó National Park protects hundreds of thousands of acres of of high-elevation terrain surrounding Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest peak. No guides are required for hiking the Termómetro trail, but they are compulsory for the Herradura trail.

Caribbean coastline at Guanica Dry Forest Reserve. Photo © Jason Ross/123rf.

Bosque Estatal de Guánica, Puerto Rico

Guánica is so completely different from the rest of Puerto Rico that you’d think you were on a whole other island. Called Bosque Estatal de Guánica, the 10,000-acre reserve contains hiking trails, caves, beaches, and the ruins of a Spanish fort, among other sights. The coast offers great snorkeling and diving.