Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Top places to go in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean in 2024

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  • Copan Ruinas, Honduras
  • Negril, Jamaica
  • Puerto Escondido, Mexico
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
    • Copan Ruinas, Honduras
    • Negril, Jamaica
    • Puerto Escondido, Mexico
    • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica

    Copan Ruinas


    The chocolate capital that’s home to celebrity birds, sweltering hot springs, and “The Paris of the Mayan world.”

    Copán Ruinas is the place to see flying rainbows soar over centuries-old ruins, kick back at greenery-encircled Mayan hot springs, and skip through endless yellow flower fields Sound of Music-style. Often called Copán, this is a quaint cobblestoned town with red tile roofs and yellow one-story buildings that mirror the iridescent scarlet macaw, the town’s not-so-secret mascot. The guacamaya roja (scarlet macaw) is Honduras’ national bird and a source of great pride in Copán largely due to the successful education and conservation efforts of Macaw Mountain, a bird rehabilitation and release center 10 minutes outside the town center. Every June, adequately rehabilitated macaws are released into nature during a paparazzi-filled media event with young and old in attendance.

    The ever-regal macaw isn’t Copán’s only star, though. The town’s claim to fame is the archaeological site (also called Copán Ruinas), a kilometer to the east. This 1980 UNESCO-inscribed marvel is frequently heralded as the Paris, Athens, or Rome of the Mayan world due to the artistry and sophistication of its 3,400-plus sculptures and intricate carvings spanning nearly 10 square miles. While the Chichén Itzás and Tikals of Mexico and Guatemala teem with admirers, relatively uncharted Copán presents an opportunity for leisurely, crowd-free exploration.

    Travelers in Copán Ruinas have just over 40 hotels to choose from. One standout option is Hotel Marina Copán which has a privileged central location off the main plaza, a swimming pool, a conference room, and multiple food and beverage stations. Extended-stay travelers and the budget-conscious will appreciate the kitchenettes in select rooms.

    For impeccable mountain views, hilltop Hacienda San Lucas is worth the detour out of the town center. Embrace the hotel’s less-is-more design ethos in a double or triple room, gift yourself a spa treatment, and by no means miss the foodie-favorite native dishes at the onsite restaurant, like the chicken in loroco sauce that will leave you yearning for seconds.

    Tropical Honduras is at its finest between December and April during the dry season. Though there is still potential for rain, these months have less humidity and are better suited to outdoor adventures—hopping between centuries-old ruins included. If you are unperturbed by showers, however, visit Copán in June for National Macaw Day (June 28) and to witness the fanfare around the scarlet macaw release.

    Insider Tip

    Paseo de los Girasoles is Copán’s newest day attraction. Break out your gold, mustard, and chartreuse clothing for photo opportunities at this sprawling sunflower field a 10-minute drive away from Copán’s main plaza.

    Plan Your Trip Visit Fodor's Guide to Honduras



    Get the quintessential beach vacation with flawless weather and the most classic beach on earth in Negril, Jamaica.

    Just an hour and fifteen minutes from the Montego Bay airport, Negril is possibly one of the most famous resort towns in the world. Tons of small, open-air restaurants line the sanded paveways to the notable Seven Mile Beach, the finest resorts with world-class service and amenities, and fine-dining restaurants on the Caribbean Sea. Negril is called Negril because of the theory that there were many black eels within the waters by the shore. The Spaniards called it “Anguila Negra.” With many name changes along the way, the beautiful beach area of the Westmoreland and Hanover parishes was eventually shortened to just Negril. 

    Although it is known for its laid-back vibe, Negril has many thrilling adventures to offer. One of the most popular being Rick’s Cafe, where pool and cliff jumping spots await adventurous types. Make sure to look out for trampolines floating in the ocean that you can swim out to jump on and have fun at all ages. Or take a horseback ride on the beach while watching the sunset. The activities are endless here, and it can make for a trip for both the vacationer and the adventurist. 

    There are plenty of places to stay in Negril that will match every style of vacationer. Most of the resorts here have all-inclusive packages, making a trip here a true getaway from life. If you’re looking for a boutique resort with stunning views and a relaxing spa available, resorts like Rockhouse Hotel & Spa are perfect for this. The views are unforgettable while your room is perched over short, rocky cliffs. For a more luxurious experience, try out Azul Beach Resort. This lively spot features a swim-up bar and plenty of beach access. Most Airbnb or Vrbo homes in the area include cleaners and chefs, so you can maximize that vacation feel.

    It is hot all year round in this paradise. The best time to go is December through April when the weather isn’t scorching, but it is the perfect getaway if you live in a region with real winters. It’s understandable to want to avoid the rainy season, but if you want to save money, going during that time of year should be significantly more affordable.

    Insider Tip

    Hire a driver when traveling around the country and when coming from and going to the airport. The roads can be tricky there, and they also drive on the left-hand side of the road.

    Plan Your Trip Visit Fodor's Guide to Jamaica

    Puerto Escondido


    Experience the wild beauty of Puerto Escondido’s hidden beaches, world-class surf, serene yoga, and pumping open-air parties.

    Puerto Escondido is a true gem: A unique mix of Mexican traditions, urban art, boho-style housing, and cutting-edge culture in food, fashion, and fiesta. The choice is yours: From spiritual to active, from relaxed to crazy, Puerto brings your true self alive! Enjoy a strong early morning surf, a packed Vinyasa class surrounded by palm trees (open to hotel guests and visitors alike), work out at a wooden outdoor gym like Fred Flintstone, sip a piña colada from a pineapple at sunset, and savor extravagant dishes with flavors from Peru, Persia, Mexico, and Asia.

    Fancy a good party? Dance the night away under the full moon–be it to electronic music, salsa, or reggaeton. Some corners of Puerto Escondido are part of a natural reserve where you can liberate baby turtles, watch whales and dolphins up close, swim in bioluminescent waters that sparkle like stars, or feel like a real caballero when you take a horse-riding-trip to nearby hot springs! For the ones on a work-cation, don’t fret. Even though the internet can be spotty, Puerto Escondido hosts several co-working spaces that cater to all your needs. Try out Losodeli, which has a pool and a café on-site, or Oficina del Puerto, which overlooks the surfer’s beach.

    Accommodations in Puerto range from simple guest houses to architectural masterpieces. For a luxury retreat, visit Casona Sforza, a stunning five-star hotel, spa, and restaurant surrounded by nature, featuring superior kingsize rooms with round ceilings and designs based on millenary traditions. Casa de Olas gives you the perfect mix of tropical villas, fitness classes, and proximity to the Punta surf beach. A nice mid-level option, Villa Casalet, is a family-run establishment situated a stone’s throw from all the action. 

    The dry season starts in November and ends in April. When the sunsets are colorful, the summer heat is moderate, and the surf is strong, it’s the best time to let loose in Puerto! Whale and dolphin watching kicks off in January and tails off in March. Keep in mind that Puerto attracts Mexicans and foreigners alike, so Christmas and Easter are to be avoided if you don’t care for massive crowds. Come May, it gets scorching hot, while summer is the rainy season, and you’ll be dripping in sweat and sweet raindrops.

    Insider Tip

    Buy a day pass for Hotel Villasol Beach Club to unwind next to a pristine pool and enjoy a hidden beach. Visit one of EnerJane’s sunset rooftop yoga classes with handpan music for ultimate relaxation. Save money and dance more when you enter Cactus Beach Club before midnight for free. Visit Punta Origen‘s open mic session on Thursdays for live music.

    Plan Your Trip Visit Fodor's Guide to Mexico

    Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

    Costa Rica

    A vibrant beach town secluded at the crossroads between Central American rainforest and the Caribbean Sea.

    Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica is a small but growing beach town where the jungle flourishes alongside untouched beaches, and the local Afro-Caribbean culture intersects with Indigenous communities, expats living off the land, and tourists in search of all-night parties or life-altering spiritual experiences.

    Raucous nightlife and pristine beaches are the main draws to Puerto Viejo, where live music floats out of fairy-lit beachfront bars, and reggae nights bring the locals and tourists together to dance over one too many beers. The black sand beach of Playa Negra stretches along Puerto Viejo’s main road, and south of town are some of Costa Rica’s most alluring undeveloped beaches—visitors can watch the sunrise at Playa Cocles, snorkel in the warm waters of Cahuita National Park, hike along the cliff trails overlooking Punta Uva, or wander through the wildlife refuge at Playa Manzanillo.

    Beyond the beach, the dense, sultry rainforest is abundant with tropical wildlife. Night hikes through the jungle with a guide and a flashlight are an opportunity to see nocturnal creatures such as tarantulas, owls, and eyelash pit vipers in all colors of the rainbow. Observe sloths (and their babies!) up close at the Sloth Sanctuary, where vulnerable sloths that would not survive in the wild can thrive in this refuge. 

    Outdoor activities combine nature immersion with fun, and tours for kayaking, zip-lining, white-water rafting, and waterfall hikes are easily accessible from town. 

    The cuisine in this corner of the country is unique due to its strong Afro-Caribbean influence, and while there are similarities to the traditional casado found throughout Costa Rica, here the rice is flavored with coconut, and the meats are simmered in spicy curry sauces. Try rondon, a coconut milk soup made with whatever ingredients are on hand, or pati, a spicy beef pastry.

    The popularity of Puerto Viejo has grown significantly in the past few years, and with that expansion has come the proliferation of upscale resorts, retreat centers, and boutique hotels in a town that, for a long time, had offered only modest accommodations. For a warm and inviting upscale option close to the beach at Punta Uva, the modern, tropical aesthetic at Awa Beach Hotel is a harmonious reflection of the surrounding jungle environs. Exotico Hotel in Manzanillo has a similar rustic-yet-modern rainforest vibe but at a lower cost. There are still plenty of hostels and guesthouses available at lower price points or Airbnb rentals that offer more privacy and quiet.

    With consistent sun and high temps all year round, any time is the right time to visit Puerto Viejo. The lush green rainforest environment indicates that rain is frequent here, and the highest rainfall occurs between November to January and April to August. For maximum sun and minimum rain, visit Puerto Viejo in October, which also happens to be the month when the rainy season is at its height in many other parts of Costa Rica.

    Insider Tip

    Maxi’s Restaurant is the popular, must-visit local eatery that has been around for years and is where Costa Ricans go for casual, fresh, traditional meals overlooking the beach in Playa Manzanillo.

    Plan Your Trip Visit Fodor's Guide to Costa Rica