Embark on a Latin American Bucket List

Magazine Features, Outdoor & Adventure

Girls still want to have fun and these tropical hot spots are the perfect place to do just that

Get the girls back together, it’s time to kick it in the Caribbean. The only bucket you’ll need is one used to chill the bubbly. Pop the champagne and celebrate with some fearless females when you complete the Latin America list. Girls still just want to have fun and everyone is welcome in the tropical hot spots featured in our Bucket List Challenge. So, pick your pronouns and pack your bags for an inclusive all-out adventure. 

Glorify your inner goddess

For 1,500 years, Isla Mujeres served as the sanctuary for Ixchel, the Maya goddess of the moon, fertility, medicine, and happiness until it was discovered by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1517. Recently the National Institute of History and Anthropology, announced a new discovery of Mayan ruins and 100 pieces of obsidian, jade, human skeletons and skulls in Mundaca Hacienda. They found evidence of five historic Mayan buildings, one speculated to be the true temple of the goddess Ixchel. Legend has it that the only inhabitants of the island were the priestess of Ixchel and her court of women. Scattered around were numerous gold, silver, and clay statues of Ixchel, and so the island got its name: Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women.

Girls still just want to have fun and everyone is welcome in Latin America’s many tropical hot spots.

Girls still just want to have fun and everyone is welcome in Latin America’s many tropical hot spots.

Plan the perfect day for a group of goddesses on a private sailing tour from Cancun. Climb aboard a French-made sailing yacht and begin your excursion, transported in high style to beautiful Isla Mujeres. For five and a half hours, sun worshippers will be pampered by staff and crew, accommodating desires for privacy and indulgence. Enjoy lavish accommodations and impeccable service on a luxury Caribbean adventure, custom curated by you.

Sail along Cancun’s stunning coastline, sinking back into the comfy deck cushions, on your way to the beautiful and secluded Isla Mujeres. Under a tropical sun, tick away the hours snorkeling with bright tropical fish darting around colorful coral reefs, glide over the waves on a kayak or paddleboard, bask in the sunshine on a pristine beach, swim in brilliantly clear blue waters, nibble on seafood caught early that very morning or just kick back with a drink! Book a whale shark diving tour in one of the few Caribbean places that reliably host these gentle swimming giants.  Or simply take the helm and try your hand at sailing the private yacht. After all, you created the perfect day. 

Dare to go bare

Leave the heels at home and bring only the bare essentials to Tulum. Start with a morning yoga class, hammock hangout, and walk around the gardens at Holistika Tulum, a whimsical jungle paradise. Grab a glorious kaftan at a local boutique that will double as luxurious loungewear and a super chic souvenir. 

Don your kaftan and kick off your shoes. Take a barefoot tour at Sfer Ik, an innovative museum that defines itself as an art gallery. Reconnect where nature, art, and ancestral wisdom coexist. This sanctuary welcomes all who wish to find peace in a space blessed with magical surroundings. In the heart of the Mayan jungle, the revolutionary project continues to redefine human evolution, guided by ancient knowledge. This Instagram-worthy space does not allow professional photography without a $150 fee, but your iPhone should be able to capture this architectural marvel. 

Conceived by Santiago Rumney Guggenheim (yes, that is Peggy Guggenheim’s grandson), the undulating ecologically inspired sanctuary designed by Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel resembles a nest in the middle of the forest. Built out of pure imagination with climbing woody bejuco tropical vines, herbs, rocks, and ceramic to foster a connection between its visitors and its natural surroundings. 

Eat like a bird at Kin Toh. Mexican gastronomy is elevated and transformed into a multi-sensorial experience in this avant-garde restaurant. In this kitchen, traditional ingredients and recipes are reinterpreted to create unique sensations in every dish. Enjoy the experience perched in the alfresco nest high above the jungle. Once you visit the Azulik Resort, you will understand why some guests need extra encouragement to leave the nest. 

Tulum is widely recognized for its wellness offerings and is the perfect place to book a women’s yoga or meditation retreat. Namaste! (azulik.com/) (sferik.art/) (holistikatulum.com/)

The Yucatan is famous for its fabulous tropical rainforests, jungles and beaches. Photo by Andreas Lehner

The Yucatan is famous for its fabulous tropical rainforests, jungles and beaches. Photo by Andreas Lehner

Take a deep dive and hit the cenotes

The discovery of golden sacrificial artifacts led to the archaeological exploration of most cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that formed when limestone bedrock collapsed, commonly used as a primary water source by the ancient Maya. When an American diplomat bought the Chichen Itza site in 1904 and began dredging the Sacred Cenote, he discovered human skeletons and sacrificial objects confirming a local legend. The Cult of the Cenote performed ceremonial rituals offering objects and human sacrifices to the rain god Chaac by casting them into the deep waters. Mayas considered cenotes to be entrances to Xibalbá: the underworld, where the deceased live, and dead Gods reign. 

Close to 8,000 cenotes have been discovered in the Mexican Caribbean. Five of them can be found in Dos Ojos Park, which is 20 minutes away from the Pueblo Mágico (Magic City) of Tulum. The most famous cenote is the Dos Ojos cenote (Two eyes cenote), so named because there are two entrances through the rocks that resemble eyes, although many believe it’s named after the large quantity of bats that live inside the cavern. If accompanied by a tour guide, it is possible to snorkel and explore the fossils on the cenote’s floor. If you prefer to dive, this cenote boasts a 60-meter distance line. Kick things up a notch and zipline over El Jaguar, an open cenote. The Mundo Maya Park boasts a three-cenote circuit: Labnahá, Rio Sagrado (Sacred River), and Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote). There are numerous activities offered at these cenotes, from ziplining to kayaking. 

(visitmexico.com/en/yucatan/chichen-itza/cenotes)

Swing like the king of the jungle

Sorry Tarzan. Jane has got this. Hang out in the rain forest with a sloth or hang ten in Jaco. Named one of the world’s most beautiful parks by Forbes, Manuel Antonio National Park is the ideal place to get your breathtaking beach and rainforest wildlife fix in one location. Capuchin, howler, and squirrel monkeys are some of the most social creatures. Book an early morning guided tour of the dense rainforest with a naturalist to avoid crowds and increase your gal group’s chances to see sloths, iguanas, agoutis, and hundreds of species of birds. Feeling brave? Witness nocturnal wildlife on a jungle night walk. Spend a day in paradise hiking lush forest trails or bask in the golden sunlight on white sand beaches while turquoise and emerald surfs dance along the shore. 

Drive about an hour to catch one of the world’s longest waves. Boca Barranca’s point break left is regarded as the world’s third best long-boarding wave, measuring over 3,117 ft (longer than 10 football fields). Simply watch the pros or sign up for one of the ultimate summer surf camps. 

(manuelantoniopark.com/)

Visit an active volcano and soak it all in

La Fortuna is home to the majestic Arenal Volcano and one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica. Arenal is an active volcano with two very different landscapes: a cover of dense, green vegetation, and another dominated by lava and sand of the last eruptions. Book a local guide to learn about the history, geology, and wildlife around the volcano. The hot 80-degree waters from the Arenal Volcano are rich in minerals associated with health, so soak in the hot springs at River Tabacon and authentically experience the extraordinary natural landscape in the rainforest. 

Local legend has it that after God was finished painting the sky, he washed his paintbrushes in the Rio Celeste, turning it into the brilliant blue that still beckons adventurers today. Located a few hours away along the famous river in Guanacaste near Tenorio Volcano, find even more natural hot springs, hiking trails, wildlife, and most notably, the magnificent Rio Celeste Waterfall. Extend your experience with a stay at one of many spas or retreats located nearby.

Visit the official website of Costa Rica with a vast offering of maps, trip ideas, accommodations and logistics at visitcostarica.com/en.

By Kathy Nolan

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