After traveling around Latin America for nearly 18 months, I’ve learned a thing or two about the region. Namely that most gringos travel in packs to the exact same places all over the globe.
If you meet someone going to Colombia, there’s a strong probability they’ll end up in Medellin. Headed to Peru? You can bet Cusco and Machu Pichu are on the docket. Many don’t even leave their resort in Punta Cana when they visit the Dominican Republic. And who hasn’t checked out the crystal clear waters in Playa del Carmen?
There’s nothing wrong with these hot spots in Latin America. They’re hot for a reason. There’s tons of great things going on and a lot of fun to be had in these areas. Still, the travel junkie in me has always wanted more. The desire to get off the beaten path and truly experience a culture was always what I wanted.
So I hit the road and veered away from the herd of gringos. And I loved what I found. Here are five underrated adventures in Latin America:
The North Coast of Colombia is a bit of a tourist spot, but the majority of tourists tend to be Colombian. Most of the hustlers on the beaches don’t even speak English.
In Cartagena and Santa Marta, you can rent jet skis in the Carribean for dirt cheap. I’m talking around $15-20 USD for a thirty-minute session. If you’ve ever wanted to interact the jet ski scene from Entourage, this is the place to do it. And yeah, you’ll want to make sure you have a sexy girl on the back with you. Major key.
Most people who visit the Dominican Republic don’t even consider checking out Santiago. The second largest city in the capital has the vibe of a campo more than an urban metropolis. And there’s really not much tourism or gringos in the city. But I found a couple activities in the city that turned into great adventures.
First, the cigar factory tour at La Aurora is spectacular. The tour guide is amenable, interesting, and speaks seven languages. You don’t just walk around learning about cigar production. He takes you around smoking different cigars and getting to know the factory workers. By far the best “tour” I’d ever been on in my travels.
If nature is more your speed, right outside the city you’ll find 27 Waterfalls. Also known as Damajaqua Cascades. You’ll spend the day hiking through the jungle, climbing rock formations, sliding down nature-made rock slides, and jumping into little swimming pools filled with water from the 27 different waterfalls.
Many tourists in Colombia skip Bogota altogether. The vast majority head to Medellin. A few hit the beaches of Cartagena. Some go to Cali to learn salsa. Bogota is a big city filled with shit weather and skyrocketing crime rates. I see why many don’t spend much time here.
Still, Bogota has something no other Latin American city can compete with – amazing nightlife.
Bogota has the best nightlife in Latin America – bar none. There are bars and clubs popping off every single night of the week. From La Candelaria to Chapinero to Zona T – you can always find something going on in Bogota. You’ll find all different types of music, too. Reggaeton, salsa, hip-hop, rock and roll, and bachata.
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Many claim Nicaragua is the next Costa Rica. Let’s hope not! As of now, Nicaragua is still unspoiled. Sure, you’ll find gringos in the country. But not that many. Nicaragua is still off the beaten path. And with all the amazing things to do in the country, you’ll never be bored in Nicaragua.
There are two things that make Nicaragua absolutely amazing. First, the prices are dirt cheap. You can live good for next to nothing in the country. Next, you’ll find travel throughout Nicaragua is simple. You can get from the beaches to the mountains to lakes to the capital all within an hour or two.
One day you can head out surfing in San Juan del Sur and the next day you can party in the capital – where you’ll be the only gringo around. Just don’t forget to check out volcano boarding in Leon. That’s one adventure you’ll never forget.
No matter where you go – you really should make a concerted effort to interact with the locals. One of my favorite adventures in Latin America was working a basketball camp in Medellin, Colombia with local kids at one of the clubs. Housed in a finca that I could only conclude was paid for by drug money, I was the only gringo around.
100 or so kids. 20 other people working the camp. About 7-8 of these people spoke English. It didn’t matter – talking trash is universal. I spent my days smacking around Colombia kids in horse and dribble tag. Oh, and I ran some drills. As I’d worked many a basketball camp back in the United States, I found the similarities striking. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world – kids will be kids. People want to goof off. Jokes and competition always go hand-in-hand.
No matter where you’re traveling to, make sure you get off the beaten path. Get away from other travelers a bit. Interact with the locals. See what they have to say about their city. Ask what they would do on a visit to their country. The best activities are never found in a guide book!
Make sure to check out Nomadic Hustle to follow along with Jake’s stories and adventures.
PS: The site Latin American Cupid is a great way to meet girls all around the continent. Click here to learn more.