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Central & South America Insider Tips

Belize | Located in the Maya heartland, Belize features more than 900 archaeological sites. Two of our favorites are Xunantunich, meaning maiden of the rock, situated across the river from the village of San Jose Succotz. The site ccupies only 300 square meters but the periphery covers several square kilometers. And, Altun Ha, a major ceremonial and vital trade center during the Classic Period with two principal plazas. The most significant find of Altun Ha is the Jade Head, which represents the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Ahua; it is the largest object carved of jade in the Maya civilization.

Belize | Interested in learning some fun facts about Belize? Here are just a few ... The official language of Belize is English, though most Belizeans are trilingual, also speaking Spanish and Kriol. After the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Belize stands second in the world with its longest reef featuring an abundance of marine life and is well known for its incredible sinkhole scuba diving site, The Blue Hole. Belize's tropical setting is an ideal habitat for birds, and the country boasts over 300 species of native birds, plus its home to the world's loudest creature: the Black Howler Monkey. And don't be surprised to find a jaguar crossing sign on the highway!

Belize | Dotting the Caribbean Sea, there are approximately 450 cayes (islands) off the country's coast. Most of these form the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the western hemisphere at approximately 200 miles long. The reef and its islands have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Discover the famed snorkeling and dive sites like the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, with an abundance of sea life, and the 124 meter-deep Great Blue Hole.

Belize | A melting pot of cultures and native tongues, Belize is the only Central American country where English is the official language.

Colombia, Medellin | Each year in July, Medellin is host to Colombia's annual weekend salsa festival, three days of Colombiamoda fashion runway shows and La Feria de las Floras, the city's annual flower parade.

Colombia, Bogota | As one of the oldest markets in Bogota, the colorful Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao engages all five senses with flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and more.

Colombia, Cartagena | Made in several stages stretching over seven miles beginning in 1586, and built in an effort to thwart pirate attacks, it took two centuries to construct the Walls of Cartagena.

Colombia | For a taste of tradition, be sure to try sancocho, a stew made with a variety of vegetables such as corn, potatoes, and yuca, as well as fruits like banana, and o en includes  sh or poultry.

Colombia, Bogota | A perfect place to watch the sunset over the city in Bogota, be sure to take a cable car up to the lookout point at Cerro Monserrate.

Colombia | Typical Colombian fare is characterized by a combination of indigenous and European recipes. Be sure to try ajiaco, a chicken and potato soup, and bandeja paisa, made with red beans, chorizo, arepa, chicharron, meat, rice and a fried egg.

Colombia | Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Colombia's famous Coffee Triangle is located in the center of the western Colombian Andes and boasts the second largest coffee producer region in the world, after Brazil.

Costa Rica, Arenal | When visiting Costa Rica make sure to include the volcanic region of Arenal in your itinerary. The volcano naturally warms nearby hot springs and make for an unforgettable experience. Blissfully relax in the warm baths at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort - the hot springs are also included with your stay at the resort. If you are lucky, while at the hot springs at night and it starts to gently rain, you'll have the experience of feeling like you are in a movie.

Costa Rica, Arenal | We took a night excursion that included serene hot springs and dinner in La Fortuna, the town where Arenal Volcano is. There was a fantastic grotto with multiple pools to experience and it was incredible. Afterwards, we went up to the volcano to see the lava flow at night. We trusted our guide, drove through a dirt road and up to a small bridge. There was no light whatsoever, except from the few cars that were doing the same as we did. We walked up to the bridge and we got lucky - the lava was actually flowing! What an unbelievable experience. TIP: This private tour is an absolute must. Because this excursion is not publicized, ask the locals about it when you get into La Fortuna/Arenal area. ~ Caetie Shewmaker, Manager, Customer Care

Costa Rica, San Jose | In recent years, San Jose has been infused with fresh life, becoming a premier cultural and restaurant zone. A few recent favorites include Apotecario, a small brewery specializing in Belgian sours and kombucha with light pub fare; Mercado Escalante, built mostly out of recycled shipping containers, this lively market showcases stalls of wood-fired pizzas, Costa Rican tacos, farm-to-table dining and more; Silvestre sources ingredients from local farmers and artisanal fisherman and offers a range of Costa Rican favorites; and Franco, a progressive coffeehouse with varietals like Geisha and Typica or a tea called cascara served alongside fresh-baked pastries and biscuit sandwiches.

Costa Rica, Guanacaste | Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo offers a Taste the Stars evening, guests will enjoy a specially prepared menu of cocktails and culinary treats, infused with real meteorite dust, on an exclusive stargazing and dining experience. View the southern sky like never before through a powerful GPS-guided telescope, including a high-tech device that connects a camera to the telescope for a celestial souvenir from a night not to be forgotten.

Costa Rica, Guanacaste | El Mangroove, Autograph Collection is the closest beach resort to Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia (LIR), it's just 20 minutes from touchdown to sand - you'll enjoy kayaking, fishing, surfing and stand-up paddle boarding within minutes of arriving. Savor sustainable comfort food with farm- or ocean-to-table menus in two of three restaurants. Bearth Spa features unique treetop bungalow treatment sanctuaries, ideal for the ultimate rebirth of mind, body and spirit. A three-to-one staff ratio supports the utmost in personalized service.

Costa Rica | There are more than 121 volcanic formations in Costa Rica, seven of which are active. Approximately 25% of Costa Rica's environment is protected forests and reserves including 100 different preserved areas, making this country an exceptional natural destination.

Costa Rica, Arenal | Most hotels offer a day pass in Arenal to experience the hot springs, but not all of the areas are included. We recommend travelers ask ahead of time before they buy any passes to know which areas they can access.

Costa Rica | Take a break from your hotel's restaurants and go exploring for authentic Costa Rican cuisine. While there are many options to choose from, our favorite is Olla de Carne. Olla de Carne is a flavorful stew made with chucks of beef, plantains, yuccas, sweet potatoes and camotes.

Costa Rica | If you want to bring home something more authentic from Costa Rica, be sure to buy ceramic pottery in black, white or red. These are the inherited pre-Columbian colors because during the time of the ancestors, no other colors were available. ~ Andriana Ramos, Destination Specialist

Costa Rica | December through April is considered Costa Rica's dry season but it rains year round, which accounts for the lush vegetation. There are 800 miles of coastline, both on the Atlantic and Pacific shores. With a population of 4.5 million, Costa Ricans have a life expectancy of almost 77 years, one of the highest in the world.

Costa Rica, San Jose | The drive from San Jose to Arenal was a bit longer than I had imagined it would be. I would recommend staying the first night in San Jose rather than making the drive after a long flight. ~ Kathryn Holland, Destination Specialist

Costa Rica, Guanacaste | Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is a luxury property that I would recommend for many types of clients. They seem to have something for everyone. All room categories are beautiful, the grounds are very tropical and they have a good beach. TIP: The cliffside villas are extravagant and private featuring many services and amenities, but are not recommended for families with small children because of the cliffside locations. ~ Kathyrn Holland, Destination Specialist

Costa Rica, Guanacaste | When staying in Guanacaste, a trip to the beachside town of Tamarindo is a must. The town is quite charming with many restaurant and shopping options and gorgeous ocean views. I highly recommend lunch at La Palapa on the Beach. The service was friendly and personable, but the highlight was by far the amazing food. They ceviche appetizer was bright and fragrant, and they have a seafood screwer platter with giant shrimp, grilled mahi mahi and lobster tail plated beautifully with fresh vegetables that should not be missed! ~ Chenoa Hopkins, Marketing Project Manager.

Panama | Panama is the one place on Earth you can see the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean in the same day.

Panama | Ride above the forest canopy in a cable car at Gamboa and discover an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna and mammals, including howler monkeys, colorful toucans and hanging sloths.

Panama | While the Panama Canal is a must-see engineering marvel, there is so much more to see and do in Panama. From a downtown area of glittering high-rises to a beautiful rainforest, here are a few more suggestions on not-to-be missed highlights. Perfect for families is a boat ride down Gatun Lake for encounters with white-faced capuchin monkeys and howler monkeys. Visit Biomuseo, a designed centered museum which tells the story of Panama's creation. And savor Panama's growing food scene at Caliope, speakeasy-esque restaurant serving farm-to-table French cuisine or Azahar Restaurant, with its charming terrace offering up seafood and Mediterranean specialities.

Panama | Considered one of the up and coming Central America destinations for travel, Panama delights guests with ancient Spanish ruins, exuberant forests teeming with wildlife and the marvel of the man-made Panama Canal. Unique experiences include a visit to the gold alter at Iglesia San Jose, a beautiful church in Casco Viejo just outside of Panama City; its gigantic alter is carved from mahogany and overlaid with golf leaf. Or, try one of the best coffee beans in the world, Geisha coffee, produced in the mountainous Boquete region. Discover Cafe Unido in Panama City which offers entirely local coffee. And, for a truly Panamanian souvenir, head to French Park Monument and purchase a mola, a colorful geometric cloth from an indigenous Kuna woman.

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