Río San Juan near El Castillo. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Río San Juan: Whose River Is It?

Nicaragua has long disputed Costa Rica’s territorial rights to free use of the Río San Juan, while Costa Rica disputes Nicaragua’s claim that the river is entirely Nicaraguan territory. Despite both countries accepting a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 2009, the conflict continues.

A barred gate covers the entrace to Capilla del Cristo chapel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Historic Churches in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Jan is the cultural center of Puerto Rico. Many of the island’s must-see sights are in Old San Juan; among them are these beautiful and beloved old churches. One is the second-oldest in the western hemisphere, another has two origin stories, both a tragic and triumphant version, and one is a truly excellent example of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture.

Ocean waves meet petrified sand dunes at Cueva del Indio, on Puerto Rico's northern shore.

Spending Time in Manatí

For years most visitors to Puerto Rico blew right past the town of Manatí on their way west from San Juan to attractions in Arecibo or the west coast. Though the town of Manatí proper isn’t much of a draw, the surrounding area is home to excellent scenic drives, beautiful treasures of nature, a quiet preserve with quite a bit of history, and plenty of outdoor activities.

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.

Guatemala's impressive Maya Biosphere Reserve. Photo © Al Argueta.

Guatemala’s Biosphere Reserves

Guatemala has more than 90 protected areas encompassing about 28 percent of the country’s total land area. Among the different types of protected areas are biosphere reserves, national parks, biotopes, natural monuments, wildlife refuges, and private nature reserves. Several of these are encompassed within larger areas, as is the case with the national parks and biotopes making up the larger Maya Biosphere Reserve.

Playa Cayzedo is filled with towering palms. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Discover Cali, Colombia

Cali’s relaxed place is evident everywhere you go in this diverse city of three million. This is not a city packed with must-see sights, yet tourists keep falling in love with the “Sultan of the Valley.” Is it that late refreshing afternoon breeze? The people? Or is it the salsa? We do know this: Discovering Cali for yourself is the best way to find out.

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.

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. Photo © Jbatt/Dreamstime.

Where to Go in Northern California

If you can’t decide between the beach or the mountains, city nightlife or quaint historical towns, and sleeping in luxury or roughing it, then Northern California is your ultimate destination. Here you’ll find a breakdown of each distinct region in the area, highlighting their major draws and general personalities.