Florianopolis Joaquina Beach Brazil

Trade in the city for natural outdoor adventures in the Caribbean and Latin America. (Photo: Getty Images)


Outdoor Thrills Abound Less Than a 3-Hour Drive from These Caribbean and Latin American Cities

Enthralling outdoor adventures await throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Verdant jungle, towering sand dunes and extensive trails all appeal for the adrenaline-pumping ways to explore them, from horseback riding to trekking, cycling to skiing.

The best part about these natural getaways, like sandboarding in Brazil or diving in the Belize Barrier Reef, is that they’re within a two- to three-hour drive of fascinating towns and cities.

Here are seven cities close to natural experiences across the Caribbean and Latin America. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

Santiago, Chile

Valle Nevado Chile
Head to the mountains for skiing or snowboarding in Chile. (Photo: Getty Images)

The snowcapped Andes Mountains surround Chile’s capital city, ensuring nature is never out of view, or reach. About an hour and a half east of Santiago lies a skier’s dream at Valle Nevado.

The mountain’s southern orientation and high altitude contribute to Valle Nevado’s reputation as one of Chile’s premiere ski and snowboard destinations.

Whether you’re skiing or boarding on the wide-open terrain or elevating adventure further by heli-skiing, the mountain is an easy and rewarding day trip for snowy sports from June through September.

In the warmer months, cycling enthusiasts will want to venture to Farellones in the Andes, under two hours from Santiago.

Medellin, Colombia

With a nickname like the “City of Eternal Spring,” there’s never a bad time to visit Colombia’s second largest city. And with spring connotations, you’ll want to make time for a trip to Parque Arvi to view its vast bird populations.

About an hour from Medellin, the park is an ecological nature preserve and pre-Hispanic archaeological site — a natural and historical wonder in one. It’s also home to more than 70 bird species, so visitors are sure to spot many native feathered friends; popular sightings include hummingbirds, ibises and tropical kingbirds.

Blumenau, Brazil

Founded by a German chemist, Blumenau reflects its German roots with the half-timbered buildings along its main street, XV de Novembro. It’s a unique stop in Brazil, showcasing how German and Portuguese cultures have meshed to create their own way of life. It’s also a spot that gets you closer to Florianópolis.

Colloquially known as Floripa, the capital of southern Brazil’s Santa Catarina state is celebrated for its beaches. Floripa is less than three hours from Blumenau, and one of the most notable natural adventures to have there is sandboarding on the high dunes at Joaquina Beach. There’s also Lagoa da Conceição, a saltwater lagoon popular with windsurfers.

San Pedro, Belize

Coral Reef Belize
Go boating to see the coral reefs in Belize. (Photo: Getty Images)

Technically, you won’t be driving far for adventure in this northern town of Belize, but you will be boating out to the country’s most popular reef.

Reachable in about 30 minutes, Belize Barrier Reef is the world’s biggest double barrier reef and a site that attracts novice and professional divers alike.

Whether you’re committed to a one-day dive or multiday adventure to earn your diving certifications, San Pedro positions you at the heart of this world-class natural wonder.

Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza might be most famed for being the capital of Argentina’s wine country, but for adventurists, the region in southern Argentina is significant for its whitewater river rafting.

A little more than an hour west of the city, Potrerillos is a prime rafting site thanks to the Mendoza River, which carries high flows of snowmelt water in the summer months.

Whether you are a beginner or expert, Potrerillos Explore Rafting runs entertaining half-day and full-day rafting excursions (plus two-day itineraries if that’s something you’re into).

Panama City, Panama

In December 2022, Panama debuted the first phase of its new Ruta de la Caldera, a system of five trails, totaling 18.6 miles, around an extinct volcano — and it’s only a two-hour drive from Panama City.

The route offers stunning vistas of El Valle and an immersive look into the biodiversity of the region. Trekking Ruta de la Caldera allows you to experience the destination at your own pace and stop for as many photo opportunities as you like, too.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Rincon de la Vieja Costa Rica
Explore the hot springs, greenlands, and waterfalls of Rincon de la Vieja. (Photo: Getty Images)

Two hours northeast of this trendy Costa Rican surfer town, which itself is worthy of outdoor adventure, is a more landcentric offering at Rincón de la Vieja National Park.

There are a number of ways to explore Rincón de la Vieja and Santa María volcanoes, but the most popular might be by horseback, keeping your legs fresh for surfing back in Tamarindo. Expert-led tours are typically half-day and pass by dry forest, rainforest and waterfalls.