mariana mina gerais church

Visit the charming town of Mariana, Brazil on your road trip. (Photo: Getty Images)

Road Trips

Drive the GOAT (Greatest of All Travel) Road Trips in the Caribbean and Latin America

Whether you choose to road trip across the Colombian jungle, along the Costa Rican coastline or through an unparalleled rainforest in Patagonia, these five road trips across Latin America and the Caribbean will surely enchant every passenger.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Brazil’s Royal Road

A road trip on the Royal Road, knowns as La Estrada Real, takes you through Brazil’s colonial past. One of the highlights of this history-filled road trip is the Caminho Velho, or Old Road, a stretch of the Estrada Real that links the beautiful baroque town of Ouro Preto (the starting point of the Royal Road) with the towns of Mariana and Congonhas.

Dive deep into these towns with steep cobblestone pathways and ancient churches, plazas and theaters as you learn the history of Brazil’s mining and colonial era, including the history of slavery.

Serious road trippers can even get a Royal Road Passport and get a stamp at every checkpoint as you make your way through the jungle to the sea. The route that links every town on the way to the port city of Paraty is mostly dirt road, so a four-wheel drive is a must.

As you drive, enjoy each town’s gastronomical offerings, such as comida mineira (miner’s food), which is a plate of beans, corn, slow-cooked pork and cassava. Meet local artisans, visit small museums and encounter local cheesemakers at every stop.

Mexico’s Yucatán

chichen itza pyramid
Chichen Itza’s pyramids will fascinate visitors. (Photo: Getty Images)

Known for its breathtaking views of the Yucatán region, this road trip is an impetus to absorb Mayan culture through the ancient civilization’s ruins and explore natural sights and colonial towns. Start in Cancún and head over to Valladolid, an old colonial city filled with beautiful, colorful haciendas.

Famous for its incredible gourmet scene and fun mercadito (little market) in the heart of the city, Valladolid is also popular as a jumping-off point for a trip to the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, which is less than a 45-minute drive away.

From Valladolid, visit world-famous Cenote Zaci, Cenote Ik Kil and Cenote Xcanche. Said to be sacred places for the Maya, these natural deep-water pools are definite must-sees on your Mayan-inspired road trip. Conclude your road trip in Tulum’s unparalleled turquoise waters and white sand beaches.

Colombia’s Coffee Axis

coffee plantation
Colombia’s coffee plantations are worth the drive. (Photo: Getty Images)

Colombia’s bachata music and stunning coast are just two reasons the nation is beloved. Coffee is the third, making La Ruta del Café (the Coffee Route) a must-see.

Start your trip in Cali, a colonial city embraced by the lush mountains of the Cauca Valley and fall in love with its local gastronomy and neo-Gothic architecture. Then drive to Montenegro and visit the Parque del Café, a roller coaster park where you’ll find the Experiencia Cafetera, which divulges the art of coffee making, from growth to harvest.

Wind down your journey at the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal, a park dotted with natural hot springs and waterfalls. End your drive in the town of Villamaria, where you’ll want to sit back and enjoy a real-world coffee experience by tasting authentic local brews from its many little coffee shops.

Costa Rica’s Southern Coast

canopy bridge costa rica
Go off road to walk a canopy bridge. (Photo: Getty Images)

Experience Costa Rica’s pura vida magic by starting your road trip in Monteverde, world-known for its Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a natural park where the rainforest touches the clouds. Then drive three hours to Tamarindo, a magnet for water-sports enthusiasts. From surfing and stand-up paddleboarding to snorkeling, this popular town is the spot to get wet and wild.

After a beach break, head over to Santa Teresa, one of the most beautiful small fishing villages in the Nicoya Peninsula. Known as one of the most Zen towns in Costa Rica, this village offers all kinds of activities, from yoga to surfing and hiking.

Finally, take the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Manuel Antonio. This three-hour ferry trip will leave you in the heart of Manuel Antonio National Park, where the rainforest meets stunning Costa Rican beaches.

Carretera Austral: Patagonia’s Most Stunning Road Trip

twisting road through patagonia chile
Wind your way through Patagonia. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mist-shrouded mountains, zigzagging roads and breathtaking rainforest await throughout Chilean Patagonia. Known for the remarkable landscape along its route, the Carretera Austral starts in the port city of Puerto Montt, where you’ll embark on the first of four ferries that will take you through breathtaking fjords all the way to Parque Nacional Pumalín Douglas Tompkins.

Head over to Chaitén, a small town buried by a volcanic eruption and reach the town of Futaleufú. There, you can rest and enjoy the town’s most popular sport: whitewater rafting.

Find your way to Capilla de Mármol — a series of impressive rock formations in freezing turquoise water — and spend an evening in Caleta Tortel, a small village that has cypress boardwalks instead of streets. The trip ends in Villa O’Higgins, one of the farthest southern settlements in Latin America.