The tropics of Latin America contain some fantastic destinations for a restful, interesting, or adventurous vacation. You can enjoy attractions for culture, nature, history, or simply relax on a tropical getaway taking in some beautiful scenery. For the tropics, here we present our selection of the top 15 travel destinations in Latin America. We then provide a link to different travel bloggers who have explored the region to give you their own opinions.
The Galapagos (Ecuador)
Filled with fascinating wildlife, the Galapagos should be on the bucket list of everyone interested in nature and adventure. The Galapagos Islands themselves are an archipelago of 19 fascinating islands just off the coast of Ecuador.
Here you can find seemingly mythic wildlife, such as tortoises the size of small vehicles, almost black iguana that dive the oceans to feed on algae, blood sucking finches, blue and red footed booby birds, bright pink flamingos, and giant whale sharks patrolling the waters.
Choose some fascinating Galapagos tours from comfortable vessels, luxury cruises, or Galapagos Island hotels to base yourself for an adventure. To make the most of the experience, we recommend some high class catamarans that lead you on guided walks around the islands to see beautiful wildlife, incredible scenery and, of course, iconic wildlife.
In addition to land-living animals, enjoy snorkeling and swimming the waters to see some fantastic marine life, such as colorful fish, sharks, and different corals. Then, whether on land or sea, enjoy sea lions, turtles, penguins and other interesting birds as we visit the different areas.
Enjoy some very comfortable Galapagos cruises to see a very high amount of wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. In addition to the animals, learn about the area’s fascinating past as a haunt for pirates and whalers.
A bloggers who explored the Galapagos is Heather from Heatheronhertravels.com.
The Amazon Rainforest
The planet’s largest rainforest and container of wildlife, the Amazon covers around 40% of the South American continent. Home to amazing wildlife, visiting the Amazon from comfortable rainforest lodges or river cruises offers quite literally memories that will last a lifetime.
See troops of curious monkeys moving their way through the trees, from large howler monkeys and sakis, to the smaller and more inquisitive squirrel monkeys and capuchins. Enjoy tamandua anteaters poking their heads from tree holes, caiman lizards lazily-laying on riverway branches, toucans duelling in the tree tops, and brightly colored macaws flying overhead or gathered at clay licks.
We recommend visiting the Amazon Rainforest from either:
- Iquitos in Peru’s north to enjoy Amazon River cruises into the diverse Pacaya Samiria National Reserve or a private, custom tour of the nearby Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
- Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru to enjoy the highest level of macaw clay licks in Amazonia, which is great for deep Amazon lodges, but also the recommendation for short 2 or 3 day Amazon tours.
- Coca in Ecuador to enjoy the diverse and famous Yasuni National Park, where you can find some of the more luxurious Amazon lodges, but also fantastic river cruises. Coca is also the recommendation to combine with the Galapagos islands.
- Alta Floresta in Brazil and specifically the Cristalino Lodge to enjoy their 2 gigantic canopy towers to see incredible wildlife and a high amount of endemic species.
- Manaus in Brazil to enjoy expedition river cruises taking you deep into Amazonia and far away from the Amazon’s largest city.
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Possibly the most exciting and beautiful city in Latin America, Rio lives up to its reputation with incredible views, lively city life, and access to the highly threatened and species rich Atlantic Forest. Part of the city is then regarded as culturally important being listed as a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.
To see a photo of Rio shows why it’s worth a visit. The beautiful coastal city is back-dropped with mountains and dotted by many different small tropical islands. Walk the colorful streets to enjoy music, dancing, and of course join some incredible city festivals.
With a tropical climate, the scenery of sunny Rio creates a large amount of the city’s stunning beauty. In addition to the waving and island dotted coast, Rio is backdropped by a beautiful mountain range, which makes for incredible photos. The famous Copacabana beach then fronts the city.
While walking the streets, you will soon enjoy the famous beats of Rio with African influenced latin music heard throughout the city. Certain streets are then dominated by samba, the famous music and dance you’re sure to see in city festivities.
Some travel bloggers who explored Rio are Caz and Craig from Ytravelblog.com.
Belize offers a great place to experience ancient ruins and nature, from the ancient Maya civilizations to wildlife rich jungle. Enjoy the mysterious temples shrouded by vast tropical rainforest to emerge on the structures in real Indian Jones style.
Home to the Maya civilization for around 3000 years, Mayan temples dot the landscape and are often covered by wildlife filled jungle. Walk from the monkey filled Central America rainforest to find towering temples, which were built in honor of ancient gods.
In addition to the temples, you can enjoy fantastic scenery from coastal rainforest views, to the Maya Mountains, which themselves are dotted with fascinating Mayan ruins. The caribbean coast then provides some fantastic views and opportunities for wildlife cruises to see whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.
Enjoy snorkeling or diving the reefs to see colorful fish and marine life, walk the rainforests to see fantastic wildlife, and explore the Mayan ruins for a look back at this once great civilization.
There are some fantastic rainforest tours in Belize to combine accommodation, activities, tours and meals. Choose from different rainforest and coastal lodges as a comfortable base to enjoy delicious food and to explore what Belize has to offer. Experience a range of activities and decide on a relaxing vacation, an adventurous getaway, or immerse yourself in nature and wildlife.
For some recommended lodges in Belize, you can see our suggestions here.
A travel blogger who explored Belize is Alex from Alexinwanderland.com.
The Pantanal (Brazil)
The world’s largest contiguous freshwater wetland, the Pantanal environment is in stark contrast to the tree filled rainforest of the Amazon. Despite this, wildlife abounds with many species hard to spot in the dense rainforest seen here with relative ease. Animals have adapted to the wide open spaces in fantastic ways. This includes capybara, the world’s largest rodent, which in the rainforest occurs in small groups but are found on the Pantanal in vast herds.
The wildlife you can see here includes capybara, the world’s largest concentration of caiman crocodiles, jaguar, which grow to a larger size than their Amazon cousins, and many parrots, including the fantastic blue hyacinth macaws.
To explore the Pantanal, experience the grasslands on horseback, hiking tours, jeep safaris, and cruise the waterways on boats and photography catamarans.
The Pantanal provides a great place to see a fantastic amount and diversity of animals. Most notably, the Pantanal provides by far the highest chance of spotting wild jaguar. Exploring the area with a professional guide offers lifelong memories for anyone even the smallest bit interested in the natural world.
For some ideas on how to visit, you can have a look at our suggestions for recommended Pantanal tours.
A travel blogger who explored the Pantanal is Giles featured on Emilyluxton.co.uk.
Cusco & Machu Picchu (Peru)
The most visited tourist destination in Peru, Cusco itself is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site due to its cultural and historical significance. This was not only the origin of the tribe later to become the Inca Empire, but later became the empire’s political center. The vast empire itself covered Peru and extended into Ecuador, Colombia, and down to Argentina.
Enjoy walking the streets to see old Incan buildings and stone walls merged with Spanish colonial architecture. Explore Cusco taking in the city’s incredible history and visiting the incredible Machu Picchu or Cradle of Gold.
Machu Picchu is still the main reason why most tourists visit Peru and it does deserve the attention. To stand gazing onto this incredible monument is to travel back in time. The fantastic UNESCO listed World Heritage Site was a 15th century Inca structure built by emperor Pachacuti who lived between 1438 and 1472. This was about one hundred years before the Inca empire collapsed at the hands of the Spanish. The nearby Choquequirao, also known as the Cradle of Gold, was then built to rival Machu Picchu and provides a great alternative trek.
Cusco then provides a base to visit the nearby Manu National Park region, the largest and most pristine park in the country.
For some ideas on how to visit, you can have a look at our suggestions for recommended Inca ruins tours.
Some travel bloggers who explored Machu Picchu are Landon and Alyssa from Unevensidewalks.com.
Andean Cloud Forest
One of the world’s most diverse and threatened ecosystems, the forests of the Andes show off an incredible amount of animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth. The altitude here creates the environment for fantastic animals, including many different hummingbirds, capuchin monkeys, butterflies, weird and wonderful plants, including different orchids, and Peru’s national bird, the brightly colored cock of the rock.
One of the best places to visit cloud forest to see fascinating wildlife is the Andean slope of Peru’s Manu National Park and its surrounding region. Here you can enjoy being close to the cock of the rock display ground, where the birds perform courtship dances to attract their mates.
The Cock of the Rock LodgeCusco, Peru
Currently, TourTheTropics.com cannot help you book this experience. However, you can visit the tour operator's website for more information.
On tours of the cloud forest from the Cock of the Rock Lodge, high on a lush green slope in the Peruvian Andes, you can enjoy tours to see fascinating wildlife. Tour this mystical-looking forest to find woolly monkeys, many birds, and interesting plants. Trails from the lodge lead passed fantastic stands of bamboo, mountain streams, and through the cloud forest. There are different length trails to suit how long you choose to stay and the lodge protects a 5,060 hectare (12,500 acre) private cloud forest reserve. You can also combine the cloud forest with the lowland rainforest on the Manu Biotrip.
For some ideas on how to visit, you can have a look at our suggestions for recommended Cusco tours.
Lake Atitlan (Guatemala)
Regarded by early explorers as the most beautiful lake on Earth, Lake Atitlán attracts visitors from all over the world to see the area’s incredible scenery. This is deepest lake in Central America and the glistening water is backed by volcanoes to offer a beautiful tropical vacation.
You can explore the lake on cruises or kayaks, or enjoy walks in the surrounding forest. Here you can find some remnants of primary forest with many different walking trails. The area around the lake is home to many different birds, including many species found nowhere else. The lodges around the lake then provides fantastic meals and accommodation to relax with amazing views.
As well as the scenery, forest, and water, you can enjoy surrounding villages dotted around the lake to see locals who still dress in a traditional Mayan clothing. You can get around the lake using water taxis and one of the most popular villages is Santa Cruz La Laguna. The environment of the region provides a relaxed atmosphere and there is a good level of tourist infrastructure. Other activities include horse riding and mountain biking.
Our recommendation for lodging and tours of Lake Atitlan is the Laguna Lodge, which provides very comfortable accommodation, delicious food, an infinite pool and exceptional views over the lake and volcanoes. To add to the experience, you will also enjoy the lodge’s Hummingbird Spa.
Relax in beautiful surroundings with manicures, pedicures and a variety of different massages and treatments. Of an evening, you can relax with a drink at the Lava Bar with incredible views.
For some ideas on how to visit, you can have a look at our suggestions for recommended Guatemala tours.
A travel blogger who Visited Lake Atitlan is Miriam from Adventurousmiriam.com.
Easter Island (Chile)
One of the planet’s most culturally and historically fascinating areas, Easter island is dotted with giant stone statues called ‘Moai’ as if to symbolise the power and ability of their now silent tribes.
This UNESCO listed World Heritage Site is one of the world’s most remote islands. In addition to the fascinating Moai, enjoy small but beautiful beaches, volcanoes, lagoons, and learn about the fascinating cultural history. Aside from land-based activities, the coastal area is home to marine life you can enjoy on snorkeling or diving tours.
You can reach Easter Island from Chile, although even from here it’s a 3,700km flight to the east. You can imagine why the colonisation and civilization of Easter island was an incredible achievement and as the civilization once flourished, it makes the demise all the more mysterious.
This now mostly treeless landscape was once home to forests with the local groups perishing due to a combination of invasive species and over-exploitation of resources, as if a testament to our future if we repeat the same environmental errors.
A travel blogger who visited Easter Island is Miss Barlow from Missbarlow.com.
Iguazu Falls (Argentina & Brazil)
Brushing against the tropics, Iguazu Falls is an awe-inspiring attraction and one of the world’s few spectacular waterfalls. Located mainly in Argentina with about 20% across Brazil, this giant semicircular cascading waterfall reaches across 2,700 meters and is 80 meters high.
The waterfall is surrounded by pristine subtropical rainforest filled with different monkeys, jaguar, and caiman crocodiles. The main areas to access the falls are Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina.
Protected by both the Iguazú National Park in Argentina and the Brazilian Iguaçu National Park, both of these parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the falls themselves are regarded as one of the world’s 7 natural wonders.
You can visit different sections of the incredible falls by walking the upper and lower circuits to get some great views. In addition to these circuits, you can also take a picturesque train ride around the falls for some fantastic photographs.
A blogger who visited Iguazu is Justin from Aroundtheworldwithjustin.com.
One of the most famous ‘rainforest-meets-beach’ destinations, Costa Rica draws thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the idyllic beaches and fantastically diverse tropical forests.
The scenery and landscape of Costa Rica is remarkable. With crater lakes, waterfalls, lush rainforests, volcano backdrops, misty cloud forests, and beautiful beaches, Costa Rica makes a fantastic tropical getaway for an adventurous vacation or simply a relaxed escape from a busy life.
There are a few recommended lodges to enjoy Costa Rica’s rainforest. You can explore the marine environment to enjoy turtles, whales, and dolphins on cruises and tours in coastal waters and walk the diverse rainforests and protected areas. Wildlife you’re likely to find in the surrounding rainforests includes several different monkeys, beautiful butterflies, colorful parrots, toucans, and the iconic tree frogs.
For a comfortable stay and base to explore the country, you can enjoy some incredible coastal rainforest lodges for amazing views and guided tours into the tropical rainforest. Here you will savor delicious food, relaxing spa treatments, and explore the surroundings for its diversity of animals and plants.
This being Costa Rica, you can choose to simply relax on the beaches taking in the ocean views or opt for a more active adventure to enjoy ziplines, horse riding, rainforest hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and more.
For some ideas on how to visit, you can have a look at our suggestions for recommended Costa Rica rainforest tours.
Some travel bloggers who visited Costa Rica are Olivia and Alex from Ochristine.com.
Mexico is a fantastic destination to visit due to its diversity of attractions, both natural and cultural. Enjoy beautiful beaches, diverse tropical rainforest, fantastic festivals, colonial towns and architecture, and the ancient Maya and Aztec ruins.
Because of this incredible diversity the country contains many UNESCO World Heritage Listed Sites, such as the famous Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Making for a movie-style archeological adventure, there are many ruins dotted around the country with some hidden by tropical rainforest.
Festivities in the country are also fantastic with one of the most famous being the Dia de Muertos or the day of the dead, which lasts for a few days from October 31. Mexico City then celebrates Festival de México in mid March and there are many more throughout the year. The festivities are always great events with music, dancing, and costumes.
Mexico city and especially its historical center are worth a visit to see the colonial architecture and to enjoy fantastic restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries, and museums. Another attractive and popular destination for a colonial style city is Guanajuato in the country’s center.
You can stay at very comfortable rainforest lodges to explore the surrounding animals and plants. Enjoy the 1.9 million hectare Lacandon Jungle, which stretches from Chiapas into northern Guatemala. Animals you can find here include famous macaws, toucans, several different monkeys, tapir, and jaguar.
Some travel bloggers who visited Mexico are Nicole and Michael from Suitcasestories.com.
The Cerrado (Brazil)
The Cerrado is a mostly unheard of region despite covering around 20% of Brazil. The Cerrado is a tropical savanna area home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including tool-using capuchin monkeys, elegant maned wolves, and blue hyacinth macaws.
Enjoy touring the environment to see incredible scenery of an area that once extended over a territory half the size of the European continent. The savannah offers ravines and cliffs to create a dramatic and adventurous scenery, which is filled with the above mentioned wildlife and much more. This incredible environment contains many large mammals, such as the maned wolves mentioned above, but also jaguar, deer, and giant anteater.
In addition to the mammals, among the gnarled trees and savanna’s 10,000 or so plant species (50% are endemic), you can find an incredible diversity of bird life. This includes a number of critically endangered species, such as Spix’s macaw.
On our recommended tours, you can enjoy guaranteed viewing of giant anteaters, large flocks of hyacinth macaws, and the world’s tallest and most elegant wild canid, the endangered maned wolf.
The famous tropical getaway to relax on stereotypical island beaches among waving palm trees and glistening tropical waters, the Caribbean continues to draw thousands of visitors each year. Choose from many destinations, from the caribbean coast of Central America, the magnificent Colombian cities of Santa Marta and Cartagena, Jamaica, the Florida Keys, and the new tourism hot spot of Cuba.
For some real tropical island experience on the Caribbean, you can choose the Virgin Islands, Dominica, Aruba, Bahamas, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, St. Martin, Turks & Caicos, Curacao, and Barbados.
Each of the areas offers a little different taste of life in the Caribbean but all feature the iconic feel and tropical beaches. With a diversity of colonial pasts and nations, enjoy a diversity of cultural influences across cuisine, architecture, and people.
Covering so many different areas, you can enjoy a variety of activities, such as ziplining, exploring and walking protected areas, excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities, excellent cuisine, walking historic city streets, enjoying stories of pirates and galleons dotting the coast, or simply relaxing on the many tropical beaches with a cocktail.
Some travel bloggers who visited the Caribbean are Justin and Lauren from Justinpluslauren.com.
Angel Falls (Venezuela)
We couldn’t really complete this list without mentioning the fantasised destination of Disney’s animated movie ‘Up.’ Angel Falls is the world’s largest uninterrupted waterfall at 3,212 feet. With combining this with Iguazu mentioned before, there are few others that can compete with these in terms of grandeur.
The most famous and frequently visited tourist site in Venezuela, you can see the UNESCO World Heritage listed waterfall by taking scheduled boat tours to the falls on the Carrao River from the city of Canaima. The falls can be visited when the waters are at the best, which is from June to December. You can also enjoy the incredible view from helicopter, which provides the same jaw dropping experience as the pilot after whom the falls were named.
A travel blogger who visited Angel Falls is Kevin from Kevinstravelblog.comAbout the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Tropics and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical locations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the tropics. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.