For me, that I’ve spent my childhood in Buenos Aires, I can sincerely say that what attracts me the most of these lands is the kindness of the local people.
And that is exactly what will your biggest advantage be if you’re a first time traveler here. You can be heading anywhere, that a helping hand is always going to come to you when needed.
If you’ve never traveled before and this great continent is going to be your first target, these destinations in Latin America for a first time traveler can be your perfect starting point, especially if you’re going to travel as a backpacker and want the opposite to touristy destinations. Let your “inner hippie traveler mode” out and enjoy these amazing lands that are all about nature and finding yourself.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Source: Sapo Lifestyle
Beginning with an easily approachable country, Bocas del Toro is comfortable to handle by your own in terms of size, there is a decent amount of tourists, especially American expats that are looking for some paradisiac lands. The water of the beaches is incredibly transparent, the food with a high Caribbean influence (mainly seafood) and the environment is perfect for practising quite a lot nature related activities, such as snorkel, diving or surfing. Visiting Bahía de los Delfines, a famous spot known by the great quantity of these mammals you can get to see here, can be a really fun way to kick off your trip.
The backpacker tip: If you know you’re going to be on the hunt for some party, don’t hesitate to head to some hostels like Aqua Lounge or Mondo Taitu: these two organise some of the best backpackers parties in the area. For a more relaxed plan, you can go to a bar and meet some other travelers as you. Bocas del Toro is the perfect destination for not feeling alone.
Source: Viajeros Callejeros
What it’s worth the most about this coastal city is the big contrast you can feel between it and the rest of the cities in the country. Local people are Afro-Caribbean, so their lifestyle is pretty relaxed, they always show a kind smile and their laid-back way of living will make you not want to go back to a stressful metropoli anymore. The only way you can get to Livingston is by boat and from here you can pretty easily go to Honduras or Belize, due to it’s a popular backpackers stop en-route to these places.
A big plus is that the population speaks English, so the language won’t be a barrier if you are not a Spanish parlant. In Livingston you can get as much nature as you please, so be sure to visit the Siete Altares Waterfall, where you’ll be able to do some cliff jumping and spend the day there, swimming peacefully in the cascading pools.
The backpacker tip: Whether you want to immerse yourself into the local culture, taking cooking lessons can be a fun way to get to know how they live and think. Head to Rasta Mesa, a cooking school and cultural center perfect to learn about food, hair braiding, folklore and a big etcetera.
Vila do Abraão, Brazil
Source: Luis Prado
It’s located in the coast of Rio de Janeiro and this place has one of the most varied ecosystems of the world, given it’s a remnant of Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. As you can imagine, the aquatic life and activities here are pretty amazing: you can do some snorkeling, diving or explore a few of the hundreds of beaches that you can find in here.
The story behind this island is pretty interesting: until the mid 90’s, there was an unfamous jail in Vila do Abraão, which didn’t make this destination very attractive for travelers. But when it was destroyed and quite a lot of bars and restaurants started to open, much more tourism visited this island. Nowadays, you can congregate on the docks with some people (locals and other backpackers) to drink something, the perfect plan for those of you who travel alone. Hiking in groups is also a good “social” alternative if you want to get some sport done.
The backpacker tip: For leaving behind the touristy beaten-path, I suggest going to find sea turtles in Ilha Grande. The best timing to spot them is from 7 to 9 a.m. Apparently, these friendly animals are the most seeable soon in the morning. The best way to get to them is avoiding boats and going swimming quietly. If you get close to the turtles loudly or in any kind of transportation, they will get scared and go away, so if you do it right, you’ll even be able to swim by their sides, since they’re really calm and relaxed.
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
This destination is one of those places that has everything you can possibly need to feel like you’re always doing something interesting. History, amazing beaches, museums and an alive nightlife are waiting for you in Colombia. For instance, the quantity of bars and places to dance salsa, reggaeton or merengue is crazy. The Caribbean party is one of the funnest ever, you really have to try it. Colombian people are (in my opinion) some of the most friendly ever and will not hesitate to take your hand and show you how to properly dance. I recommend this plan over other ones because going out to dance can be the quickest way to meet new friends or locals who can show you the city around. The carefree environment that reigns in Cartagena is going to make you the trip much more easier. I promise you won’t want to leave.
The backpacker tip: I assume that if you’re heading to Latin America, you’ll want to catch some nature action, so go immerse the crystalline waters of Baru Island, where you can get in just one hour by boat from Cartagena. The excursions are made with quite a large number of other travelers, so you’ll be able to reach them in order to do activities like diving, grabbing some delicious cocktails or just sunbathe in its white sand. Go beach days!