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.

Red-eyed tree frog at Parque Reptilandia. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Things to Do in and Around Dominical

Dominical is a tiny laid-back resort favored by surfers, backpackers, and the college-age crowd. The beach is beautiful albeit pebbly, and the warm waters attract whales and dolphins close to shore. If you overdose on the sun, sand, and surf, head into the lush mountains inland of Dominicalito or head east on a paved road that leads to San Isidro, winding up through the valley of the Río Barú into the Fila Costanera mountains, where you may find yourself amid swirling clouds.

Volcán Maderas is a pleasant volcano to climb. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Nicaragua’s Volcanic Landscape

Nicaragua’s nickname, “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” evokes its primary geographical features: two great lakes and a chain of impressive and active volcanoes; these water and volcanic resources have had an enormous effect on its human history. The country has about 40 volcanoes, a half dozen of which are usually active at any time. Running parallel to the Pacific shore, Nicaragua’s volcanoes are a part of the Ring of Fire that encompasses most of the western coast of the Americas, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Japan, and Indonesia.

The carved and painted front of San Andrés Xecul's Technicolor church.

The Many Sights Near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

The towns and villages surrounding Quetzaltenango make for some interesting day trips. Found nearby are the Santa María and Santiaguito Volcanoes, hot springs, Indian markets, colorful churches, and an exquisite crater lake.

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.

Punta Piñuela in Ballena Marine National Park. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Costa Rica’s Ballena Marine National Park

Parque Nacional Marino Ballena protects the shoreline of Bahía de Coronado and the waters surrounding Isla Ballena. Wildlife and bird watching are rich here, but perhaps the most pleasant draw are the places to stay near the park, with beautiful bungalows and rustic cabins surrounded by acres of forest trails. After a day spent snorkeling, watching dolphins frolic, and exploring the park, you’ll be treated to incredible meals.

Restroom sign in Nicaragua. Photo © Tara Joyce, licensed Creative Commons usage.

A Guide to Nicaragua’s Restrooms

Make your day-to-day a lot easier in Nicaragua–and anywhere else for that matter–by having a good grasp on the absolute basic of all basics: toilet and shower facilities. Expert author Elizabeth Perkins presents this handy guide on the full range of potential bathroom situations, from mastering the manual flush to avoiding cold showers, to keep your day from going down the drain.

Los Amigos Youth Hostel in Flores. Photo © John Barrie, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Tips on Staying in Guatemala on a Budget

Guatemala is a major stop along the Central American backpacking circuit, so it’s no surprise that there are a plethora of low-budget hotels to choose from, and most national parks allow camping. Expert author Al Argueta gives an overview on what sorts of rooms you’ll find and to look for to ensure your stay is comfortable.

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 small red eyed frog sits perched on a broad leaf.

Protecting Costa Rica’s Land

While much of Costa Rica has been stripped of its forests, the country has managed to protect a larger proportion of its land than any other country in the world. Today, one-third of land is legally set aside as national parks and forest reserves, “buffer zones,” wildlife refuges, and indigenous reserves. Throughout the country, representative sections of all the major habitats and ecosystems are protected.