For an epic Costa Rican jungle tour, of Veragua Rainforest Park or Poas Volcano National Park, true geological wonders. From Poas National Park you can hike the pathed trails past mountains and through the tranquil forest, though the star attraction here is, of course, the volcano. This active volcano, which last erupted in February 2019, is a must-see. There are some short hikes around the top of the volcano, but you need to plan out your visit ahead of time since clouds move in as early as 9 a.m., and there are no "do-overs" for these timed visits.
To thrill your adventure traveling soul, head to the gorgous Veragua Rainforest Park. As you take a jungle tour through the trees like Tarzan, you'll get a fly-by view of the rainforest canopy and the native animals that inhabit it. Then, let your heart rate subside and find your breath afterward by visiting the butterfly garden.
The jewel in Honduras' cultural crown is undoubtedly the ruins at Copán, the remains of a once-flourishing Mayan civilization and one of the most important Mayan sites in all of Central America to visit when taking an adventure vacation.
You can imagine yourself as an ancient traveler in Honduras, traversing rivers and dense vegetation before stumbling across the well-preserved ancient city of Copán. Here, you can descend into the archaeological tunnels where there are tombs belonging to Mayan nobility. It's a truly unique perspective into the importance placed on the afterlife by the Mayan culture. The tunnels were dug over many years in order to preserve the buildings above ground, and there are two currently open to the public — the Rosa Lila and Los Jaguares tunnels — where you can indulge in an Indiana Jones fantasy.
While the nightlife of Rio de Janeiro can undoubtedly be wild in its own way, there are many opportunities to see other varieties of wildlife beyond the throbbing clatter of salsa beats when taking a trip to Brazil.
Ilha Grande is a laid-back island with a checkered past, located just off the coast of Rio. This fascinating island has no real roads or motor vehicles, making it a perfect jungle tour and hiking getaway, though it's highly advisable to engage with a guide as the jungle is relatively untamed.
The island is swathed in forest and teeming with wildlife, with its prime viewing point, the craggy Pico do Papagaio, daring those below to venture up. It's a tough eight-hour slog through the dense jungle, but the views from above are spectacular. On your way, you'll encounter colorful toucans and Capuchin monkeys will serenade you. Ilha Grande is crisscrossed by streams and rivers, many of them terminating in waterfalls, of which the most stunning is Feiticeira: a crystalline pool resting invitingly at its foot.
Beyond the pristine beaches of the Mexican Caribbean, there are several well-preserved but rather unknown Mayan ruins dotted throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, like Calakmul.
Calakmul is a bit off the beaten path and remote. The ruins are located within a massive protected Calakmul Biosphere, meaning hundreds of square miles of untamed jungle — expect to find wild animals from turkeys and monkeys to tapirs and even jaguars at every turn. You can camp here, though it comes with a warning: The jungle is very loud at night as the howler monkeys put on a show.
In Mexico, I got to visit the Mayan ruins at Ek' Balam, an archaeological site that is now overgrown with lush vegetation. It's a relatively untouched jungle, and it's just what I was looking for. Here, you can actually climb to the top of the pyramid, which makes Ek' Balam so special. And what a climb it is! The sky-high stairs are challenging and not for the fainthearted. At the top, you're rewarded with sweeping views of the abundant forest.
As I carefully made my way up, I was passed by a local mother who was carrying her young baby in her arms. We walked together for a stretch, and she told me that her journey to the top was as much for herself as for her baby. It was an important part of her heritage, and she wanted to experience this bonding moment with her child — an important reminder to all visitors, myself included, that these sites are more than tourist attractions and should be respected as such.
If you're adventure traveling through the jungles off the coast of the Riviera Maya, you have to seek out a cenote — a freshwater sinkhole. I joined a guided tour to Cenote Sac Actun, but I couldn't help but feel I was being watched on the walk there. Then, the guide announced that it was a special day because we were being tracked by a jaguar. "He has no ill intentions," the guide promised, leading the group further into the cave. I never caught a glimpse of our stalker, but I did hear something shuffle in the underbrush. Apparently, this is a good omen — I'll take it!
Once there, I marveled at the sparkling water, which shined with the reflections of tiny, silver fish. The water is so clear you can't actually tell how deep it is. I soon got used to the chilly temperature, enjoying the pleasant respite from the sweltering hot day. The light streamed in from the ceiling above, casting the cave in a sheet of azure and turquoise shades, and in that moment I knew that my perspective on tropical vacations was forever changed.