Colombia: A beautifully diverse country in South America. While Colombia often receives negative publicity for it’s dangerous past, I’ve found it to be one of my favorite Latin American countries so far. From the caribbean culture of Barranquilla to the city life of Medellin and various ruins, Colombia offers exciting opportunities for the adventurous person traveling Latin America.
Ecuador: A country whose claim to fame among tourists seems to be that it’s cheap. While there is an amazing amount of diversity, from cozy beach towns to volcano hot springs and of course large cities, it can be a little tough getting around comfortable and easy to fall into places you may not want to be. A great South American adventure for the more experienced traveler.
Costa Rica: One of my most frequented countries. Costa Rica provides convenient and efficient travel to Panama and Nicaragua while providing a wealth of opportunities for almost every type of traveler. With areas that are heavily visited by tourists and some that aren’t, Costa Rica makes a great first trip for those stepping into the Latin American experience.
Panama: The jury is still out on Panama. While it’s a growing economic powerhouse in Latin America, the are still a great many problems that they will have to face. I only saw a portion of the country, one of the poorest regions. While I did have a great time there, most of my fun was with other Gringos and I couldn’t really see myself settling in there for any length of time. I’m holding out on my decision until I’ve seen Panama City.
Nicaragua: In a land that seems lost in time, jewels can be found in Nicaragua. Generally friendly people and extremely low costs make Nicaragua an adventure worth taking. Pockets of civilization scatter a rural landscape and colonial architecture brings you to a world you can only read about in other parts of the world. Nicaragua is not suited for the fledgling traveler but is an exciting step once Costa Rica gets boring.
Honduras: Bizarre cultural influences from the United States, high crime rates, beautiful towns and Mayan ruins. Delicious café and culinary delights, a heavy mix of the impoverished who only indirectly get a very small piece of the tourist economy. An educated and cosmopolitan middle class who suffer the same day to day dangers as everyone else.
Puerto Rico: Far from my favorite stop in any part of Latin America. My limited experience with Puerto Rico left me feeling uninvited. Most people avoided conversations with me and all of the places I saw were falling apart. I only really recommend this Caribbean country for those Americans who want to travel someplace cheap without getting a passport.
Dominican Republic: This caribbean paradise will truly melt your worries away. From the almost modern city of Santo Domingo with it’s rich colonial structure, to the simplest lifestyles without running water in the remote regions, I found the people in the Dominican Republic to be some of the happiest and friendliest in all my travels. This was a great first stop for my Latin American adventures.