How To Stay Warm This Winter - Hint: Panama, Costa Rica & Uruguay are Calling!

02/15/2016

Beaches In Costa Rica and Panama

In neighboring Costa Rica and Panama, many folks opt for the heavenly beaches, but if you enjoy active vacations, even in paradise, you’ll find whitewater to raft, dive sites to explore, rainforests to hike and plenty of waves to surf. On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, some accommodations are all-inclusive, offering oceanfront infinity pools, delicious cuisine and rental recreation gear. During travel to Costa Rica and Panama you’ll see monkeys and turtles from one end of the country to the other, not to mention the driest conditions in both countries during North American’s winter.

The Contrasts of Panama

Panama has hundreds of offshore islands, great biodiversity and multiple indigenous populations. The country’s one glitzy spot, Panama City, is also the site of the fascinating monument to human achievement, the Panama Canal. The little beach towns of Panama’s Bocas de Toro region have a surfer vibe. In case not everyone in your party is a surfer, the area also offers many locations to snorkel and observe wildlife. The same is true on the Pacific side where the waves tend to be larger. Here the Azuero Peninsula is known for its folkloric traditions and handicrafts. Further west, Coiba National Park is often compared to the Galapagos for its vast array of wildlife.

Diverse Costa Rica

Beaches are just the beginning. Travel inland and you’ll discover many of the country’s prime attractions. These include the active Arenal Volcano, surrounded by a national park enjoyed by hikers and scenic mostly rain-based thermal hot springs the volcano creates. Zip lines at nearby Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are the country’s longest.

Undiscovered Uruguay

Uruguay offers its own unique pleasures for a winter get-away. The country’s tiny dimensions, mild climate and many attractions make it a perfect destination for a 7 or 10-day vacation. Safe, clean and scenic, Montevideo offers a mix of colonial elegance, striking art deco buildings and sophisticated cuisine.

Tango is as firmly rooted in Uruguayan culture as in Argentina since the same immigrant populations. Likewise the religious beliefs of the country’s African populations and traditions established during slavery resemble those of neighboring Brazil, making Uruguay a memorable place to celebrate Carnaval.

Uruguay’s beaches are legendary. There is of course flashy Punta del Este. If you wish to avoid the crowds, Uruguayan’s southern coast offers picturesque beach towns, dunes and exotic inland landscapes. Though not endowed with the same diversity of land species as larger countries, nature lovers need only look up or out to sea to observe a proliferation of tropical wildlife.

The foodie media raves about Uruguayan cuisine. The steaks from the Uruguay pampas are just as heavenly as those enjoyed in Argentina. Expect a divine grilled experience, savoring aged, grass-fed beef cuts as well as garlic sausage and grilled vegetables. What the burger is to America, the mouthwatering chivito steak sandwich is to Uruguay. Its most basic version consists of a freshly baked bun slathered with a garlicky mayonnaise, melted mozzarella, a pile of one or more thinly sliced meats, lettuce and sliced tomatoes. The country’s wine regions are located between the coast and the interior, some near the capital. The country’s signature wine is Tannat, introduced by Basque settlers. Uruguay is also known for its artisan cheese-making.

Uruguay’s interior is gaucho country, 54,000 square miles of undulating grasslands where some of the historic estancias accommodate overnight visitors on Uruguay tours. Horseback riding enthusiasts get to ride the pampas and participate in cattle round-ups astride the Uruguayan breed, the criollo.

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