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Old 03-18-2015, 08:14 PM   #1
Groundhog
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Travel advice - Central/Northern America and the Caribbean?

I'm headed back to American shores this May for our delayed Honeymoon. We fly in to LA, have 5 nights there (probably hire a car and drive south, maybe into Mexico), before heading down to Colombia for 3 nights to meet friends, then spending 4-5 days in El Salvador with the same friends (one is Colombian, the other El Salvadorian). That's all we have booked so far with about 3 weeks remaining, and the only real plans outside of that is around a week in Cuba and we'd like to spend some time in Yucatan, Mexico.

We're looking for probably one more location in the general region to spend 4-5 days - maybe a little longer. Lots of places sound really nice, but if you were making the decision, what would you pick?
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:23 PM   #2
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Akron.
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:24 PM   #3
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Dola- maybe the Grand Canyon?
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:27 PM   #4
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I went to the Grand Canyon back in 2013. We considered Florida because we've never been, but my wife has family in Tampa so if we went there we'd have to go see them for a couple of days which we'd rather do down the road when we do another USA-centered trip.

Ideally we'd prefer something outside the US for this last destination.
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:32 PM   #5
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:49 PM   #6
timmae
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Not in the region per se but Pacific NW into British Columbia is my number 1 destination.
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:05 PM   #7
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Costa Rica has some really nice places to visit.
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:24 PM   #8
stevew
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Akron.

Double down and hit Canton, Alliance, Louisville(oh) and New Philadelphia for the deep dirty south Ohio tour
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:41 PM   #9
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What did you do in LA last time?
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:55 PM   #10
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Wouldn't be a whole week, but what about the Galapagos?
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:06 PM   #11
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I'll be in Jamaica in a few weeks. I'll let you know how it is.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:32 PM   #12
Groundhog
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Thanks everyone!

@cartman - That was the first one I circled actually, more just because I'd heard of it, although I need to read up on what I can actually do there.

@MrBug - not a great deal - Disneyland, Venice/Santa Monica, then Farmers Market/shopping, and an awesome dinner in Korean Town. We were only there 2 full days last time around. This time around I've booked two nights accom near Venice Beach (not Hollywood, like last night.....) and we've got 3 more nights up in the air so far.

@JPhillips - that was our plan originally when we were going to fly Syd->Chile instead of LAX, but the flights to LAX were so much cheaper. We're going to do a proper South America trip in the next couple of years where we really want to see Galapagos islands as well as Peru.

@Lathum - thanks, Jamaica was another one I had circled along with Costa Rica.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:09 AM   #13
VPI97
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My wife and I love going to relax at the beaches in Playa del Carmen...while there, you could go to Xcaret for a day outing, as well.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:29 AM   #14
CU Tiger
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Jamaica should be about 20 down your list. The worst of the Caribbean, IMHO.

Unless you are looking to score weed, get pick-pocketed, robbed or plan to stay within the confines of one of the all inclusives.
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Old 03-19-2015, 09:09 AM   #15
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Well, neither Columbia or El Salvador are huge vacation spots. I've been to El Salvador, it's a wake up call to remind you how good you have it at home. Jamaica isn't great, there are many, many, smaller islands that are much better destinations, but nothing that will keep you busy for 5 days. I've heard very good things about Costa Rica. I still haven't been there, but I just flew with a guy whose had bought land down there to retire on. I haven't heard of anyone really having a bad time there.

Of the places that I've been to, Aruba is nice but very windy. With it being Dutch it's clean, safe and has a very vibrant night life. Port of Spain in Trinidad isn't worth it. You're doing the Yucatan, that would have been my first recommendation. Tons to do, great beaches and weather. Puerto Rico is good, but I'm not sure how much there is to do there. Of the Dominican Republic, I've only been to Santo Domingo. Lot's of history there if you like that. I've heard great things about Punta Cana and to a lesser degree Puerto Plata.

You could consider Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico. It's a great tourist destination and simply gorgeous. The beaches aren't quite as nice and the water is much colder though. I know there are lots of tourist opportunities too, but after a while all that stuff starts to run together.
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Old 03-19-2015, 10:02 AM   #16
cartman
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Here are some suggestions for Costa Rica:

Visit the Arenal volcano
Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
Go Zip-lining through the rain forest
Take a ATV tour through the mountains
River rafting
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Old 03-20-2015, 05:07 AM   #17
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Akron.

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Old 03-21-2015, 10:38 AM   #18
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Belize is great if you like to scuba dive.
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Old 03-21-2015, 01:19 PM   #19
Karlifornia
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Originally Posted by CU Tiger View Post
Jamaica should be about 20 down your list. The worst of the Caribbean, IMHO.

Unless you are looking to score weed, get pick-pocketed, robbed or plan to stay within the confines of one of the all inclusives.

I'm half Jamaican, so I'm certainly a bit biased, but it's really not that bad of a place. Yes, it's a third world country....the roads are awful, and everyone is poor. However, you can have an amazing time, and unless you're in the slums of Kingston, you will probably be safe. I say probably, because there are no guarantees anywhere. Even here in easy street San Jose I can find trouble if I want to.

Anyhow, if you go to Jamaica, you will not regret it. Get out of the resort, and let some locals drive you around. You will get some good food and an experience to remember.

EDIT: Oh, and Jamaican weed is awful. The stuff I smoked down there made me yearn for the bud back home.
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Old 03-24-2015, 11:09 PM   #20
Groundhog
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Thanks for all the advice folks!

I showed my wife some destinations in Costa Rica and she fell in love.

Right now itinerary looks like it's roughly going to be:

1) Los Angeles 3 nights
2) Bogota, Colombia 3 nights
3) San Salvador, El Salvador 3 nights
4) Cuba, 9 nights
5) Costa Rica, 5 nights
6) Yucatan, Mexico 5 nights
7) LA, 4 nights (but plan to hire a car and spend a few nights to the south of LA, not sure where yet)

Re: the dangers of going to places like Jamaica/El Salvador etc... I always stick by the philosophy that, while some places are obviously more dangerous than others, if you stick to touristy places and are sensible than chances are you'll either be fine, or just unlucky.

I actually think the two scariest travelling experiences for me where probably in the US, and that was because I didn't have the usual mindset I do when I travel. I'm usually cautious but I think the familiarity I have with the US and its major cities thanks to TV/films etc. caused me to sometimes go places I shouldn't have probably gone - San Fran and New Orleans in particular. Nothing actually happened, but there were a couple of "ohshitkeepwalkingignoreitanddontturnaround" moments.
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Last edited by Groundhog : 03-25-2015 at 12:26 AM.
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Old 04-21-2015, 11:43 PM   #21
Groundhog
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Thanks for all the tips folks! Bought the final flight a few days ago, so we're all sorted.

Itinerary ended up:

1. LA, 2 nights @ Venice Beach.
2. Bogota, Colombia, 6 nights
3. San Salvador, 3 nights.
4. Cuba, 9 nights. 2 in Havana, the rest will be "winging it".
5. Costa Rica, 3 nights in Arenal, 3 nights in Manuel Antonio, 1 in San Jose
6. Mexico, 1 night in Merida, 3 nights TBD, making our way down to Cancun, and then 3 nights in Cancun.
7. LA for 1 night, before the long flight home.

We've got basically two full days in LA before the trip home as we land around 11am from Mexico, and fly out 11pm the following day. Best place I could find that looked decent and wasn't crazy expensive was down in Redondo beach. Anyone got any suggestions of places to eat near there or maybe even somewhere close that would be good for shopping... assuming I have any money left by that stage.
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Old 04-22-2015, 01:30 AM   #22
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As a matter of fact, one of my hotel layovers for LAX is in Redondo Beach. I generally go down to the public pier where there is a great selection of very fresh fish and seafood. There is other food too. Not a bad place to be and fits right in with the kind of trip that you've got scheduled. The Pier is a great place to sit and watch the sun go down. You can find some nightlife there as well.

Redondo Pier | Redondo Beach, CA
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Old 04-22-2015, 02:49 AM   #23
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Thanks PM, looks like a nice place to end a trip!
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:03 AM   #24
britrock88
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Darn 5-week vacations.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:10 AM   #25
Lathum
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Originally Posted by CU Tiger View Post
Jamaica should be about 20 down your list. The worst of the Caribbean, IMHO.

Unless you are looking to score weed, get pick-pocketed, robbed or plan to stay within the confines of one of the all inclusives.

Just got back a couple weeks ago. Loved it. People were nice, felt safe, and only had someone try and sell me drugs once. Locals were a bit aggressive peddling there wares, bt no more than other islands.
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:24 AM   #26
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Cool! Merida is a pretty cool town. The beach/port close by, Progreso, sucks. It is there mainly as a place for the cruise ships to dock. If you get a chance, visit some of the Mayan ruins on your three days wander to Cancun. Chichen Itza is the most famous one, but is also the most crowded. Uxmal is another set of ruins nearby, and they are really impressive. When we went, there wasn't much of a crowd at all.

If you are looking for stuff to do in Manuel Antonio, I can recommend stuff in the area. My aunt and uncle until recently had a house about 20km south of there.
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Old 04-22-2015, 08:13 PM   #27
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Darn 5-week vacations.

When I was in the States back in 2013 it was also for a little under 5 weeks and I think I got that same reaction every time someone asked us how long we were on holidays for.

We get 4-weeks paid annual leave here (typically) which accrues, so it's not too difficult to get 5+ weeks, plus our company is very flexible around purchasing additional leave out of your salary. I've been here forever so leave is no issue for me, but my wife (same company) had to purchase a week.
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Old 04-22-2015, 08:21 PM   #28
Groundhog
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Cool! Merida is a pretty cool town. The beach/port close by, Progreso, sucks. It is there mainly as a place for the cruise ships to dock. If you get a chance, visit some of the Mayan ruins on your three days wander to Cancun. Chichen Itza is the most famous one, but is also the most crowded. Uxmal is another set of ruins nearby, and they are really impressive. When we went, there wasn't much of a crowd at all.

If you are looking for stuff to do in Manuel Antonio, I can recommend stuff in the area. My aunt and uncle until recently had a house about 20km south of there.

Ahh good to know, I was thinking about a night in Progreso, mainly because there's some very reasonably priced airbnb places there, but sounds like it might be better to get off the beaten track a little, check out some Mayan ruins, and some smaller towns.

What's driving like in the region? We're a little wary about driving, and not just because we aren't used to driving on the correct/incorrect side of the road. It sounds like it's a safe part of Mexico overall though - ie. use common sense and you'll be fine.

Definitely interested in any recommendations in and around Manuel Antonio - especially any particular sights, or good spots to see native animals. That is the one part of our trip where I really splurged on our accommodation (well, comparatively... still cheaper per night than our LA accom!), and it's about a 20 minute walk down to Playa Espadilla beach.
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Old 04-22-2015, 08:55 PM   #29
claphamsa
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im headed to coasta rica (manuel antonio) in 4 weeks... love to hear about it
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Old 04-22-2015, 09:07 PM   #30
britrock88
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When I was in the States back in 2013 it was also for a little under 5 weeks and I think I got that same reaction every time someone asked us how long we were on holidays for.

We get 4-weeks paid annual leave here (typically) which accrues, so it's not too difficult to get 5+ weeks, plus our company is very flexible around purchasing additional leave out of your salary. I've been here forever so leave is no issue for me, but my wife (same company) had to purchase a week.

I don't have room to complain. My problem is mainly that I burn a week or two over Christmas, which leaves less time for getting other places.

Enjoy the trip!
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:28 PM   #31
cartman
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re: Manuel Antonio (hope I'm not too late)

The national park itself is a great place to see a lot of the native wildlife. There are boat tours you can take through the park.

If you have a car, there are quite a few places in the nearby area to visit. If you are interested in whitewater rafting, the Savegre River offers some great river rafting (http://www.raftingsavegreriver.com/). A little bit further south is Hacienda Baru (Home English - Hacienda Baru) which offers wildlife tours and ziplining through the canopy. If you are interested in ATV tours, there is a place in Uvita (Welcome to Adventure Motorsports‚€™ Jungle ATV - Jungle ATV) that takes you on 6+ hour tours up into the rainforest. When I went, we saw several waterfalls, one of them over 100m tall.
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Old 05-06-2015, 09:30 PM   #32
Groundhog
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No not too late, we fly out next week, but don't reach Costa Rica until early June. Those jungle ATV tours look amazing! Thanks!
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