Your happiness boost from Central & South America

Hola Hidden Gem Travelers!  How was your first week in October?  There’s so much going on in the world, and I’m happy to serve as a respite for you.  Personally, I’m enjoying the cooler temperatures and fall colors here in the northeast where the fall season is glorious.  Leaf peepers wouldn’t be disappointed if they were to arrive for a visit this weekend or so.  If you live in a state that isn’t open for travel to the northeastern states, plan to visit next fall – I have loads of recommendations for you! 

To recap from last week’s newsletter, recent research shows that just making travel plans can boost our spirits, energy, and well-being,” so I’m dedicating the month of October to boost your happiness, energy, and well-being by highlighting 21 global destinations for travel in 2021 (and beyond).  If you feel motivated to plan your next bucket list trip, then I will have succeeded! 

  • Last week’s newsletter covered North America:  Alaska, Vancouver, Hawaii & Los Cabos
  • This week we head to Central & South America!
  • For the rest of October, we will find ourselves in:

October 15th – Europe

October 22nd – Asia & Asia Pacific

October 29th – Africa

Reminder:  in the spirit of making sure that your happiness is boosted, I’m offering a chance to win a travel-themed prize for everyone who requests a free consultation and mentions ’21 in 2021’, by November 1st, 2020.  Note – the consultation doesn’t have to be for a highlighted destination or have to be for travel next year but can be anywhere that you want to travel in the future (hopefully the newsletters will inspire you to identify your next best vacation destination!). 

Without further ado, we begin our happiness boosting by highlighting four places in Central and South America, in our countdown to 21 destinations, that I know you will love based on my own experiences and those of my clients.  See if you agree with the choices!  Read on for the scoop…


Located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, I had my own trip to Costa Rica planned for earlier this year to tour the best resorts and get updated on the most bucket list-worthy experiences.   As of November 1st, Costa Rica will be open to all U.S. residents, so a perfect getaway for the holidays this year (December marks the beginning of the dry season for most of the country)!  For example, Jet Blue is running direct flights out of JFK in December, and the flight time is only 5.5 hours.

Why Costa Rica?  Families/multi-generations, couples, friends trips, and even honeymooners love exploring the enchanted rain and cloud forests complete with waterfalls, amazing marine life (manta rays and coral reefs), cool creatures (toucans, iguanas, sloths, and white-faced monkeys), adventurous activities (ziplining and volcano trekking), water sports of every kind (sea kayaking, snorkeling, diving, surfing), and exposure to native cultures and Ticos (native Costa Ricans).  Basically, you can design your own itinerary based upon your interests. 

For families with kids or multi-generational groups, we work with our partners at family-owned and operated Austin Adventures in Costa Rica. Note they have been successfully taking families on western U.S. vacations this summer, so have the safety protocols down.  Pop some popcorn and check out this entertaining You Tube geared to families

If you’d rather stay at one resort and unpack once, Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo specializes in bringing Pura Vida (the Costa Rican way of life) experience to all guests.  It offers all the watersports you love, including sea kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, diving, and a surf school — PLUS an 18-hole golf course, wellness spa, and private villas for extra privacy.  Or if volcano views are more enticing than the beach, The Springs Resort and Spa is stunning with incredible views and 30 natural mineral pools sprinkled around the resort’s 165 acres.  Of course, you’ll get Virtuoso perks at both of these resorts!


This destination is on the top of many travel bucket lists!  Ecuador is located on the Equator (makes sense) on the west coast of South America bordering Columbia to the north, Brazil to the east, and Peru to the south. The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles west of Ecuador, a two- and one-half-hour flight from Quito the capital city.  My son spent the month of January 2020 in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands as part of a school program focusing on Environmental and Marine Sciences.  Yes, it was an epic experience! 

If you don’t know much about the Galapagos Islands, the UNESCO website will give you a good sense of what this “living museum and showcase of evolution” destination offers.  The Galapagos not only has an incredible variety of marine life, but unique land animals such as the land iguana, giant tortoise, sea lions, and many species of birds like the blue-footed booby.  Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was inspired here.  Bottom line – it’s beyond amazing for nature lovers. 

The Galapagos Islands are best visited by a small boat/yacht charter or expedition ship.  Personally, I’m planning to sail on the brand-new expedition ship by Silversea – Silver Origin in 2022.  It’s a 100-passenger, all-suite, vessel built for the Galapagos Islands with advanced eco-feature designs that will preserve the fragile seafloor.  When I saw the video of this amazing ship, I was hooked!  Check it out for yourself here: I’m particularly interested in the Knowledge Lounge which has an interactive digital wall that displays photos, videos, and presentations by scientists. Native, park-certified guides lead the expeditions and bring to life this utterly amazing, precious place on our planet. 

Hidden Gem Itinerary Tip:  Pre- or post- your Galapagos Island experience, spend time in the cloud forest and Amazon rainforest in Ecuador or head to Peru for the Andes and Machu Picchu with our partners at Big Five Tours.  Together we will curate your perfect Central American vacation. 


Where can you find Malbec vineyards, epic dual-country waterfalls, magical glaciers, mouth-watering grilled meats, and tango dancing?  That would be Argentina which is a bucket list destination for couples and families as well as city and nature lovers.  It’s also fantastic for foodies and wine aficionados.  After last week’s newsletter, there was a request to include Argentina so here goes!

Our partners at Kensington Tours work closely with us to build custom Argentine itineraries for families and couples.  Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city of contrasts where you can take a tango lesson, dine at world-class restaurants, catch a polo game at an authentic ranch called an Estancia, view urban art, and experience historic sites like the Teatro Colon, a 100+year-old opera house, and the world’s most beautiful bookstore Ateneo Grand Splendid.  Have kids with you?  Our partners at Context will customize a city tour to your children’s interests!

Fly just under two hours north to Iguazu Falls to view these massive waterfalls from both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides.  Did you know that Iguazu Falls, located in a national park, is nearly twice as tall as Niagara Falls and nearly three times as wide?  For a true hidden gem experience, stay overnight on the Brazilian side at Belmond Hotel das Cataratas where you can experience a “moonbow” over the falls at night and enter the park before and after the crowds (this is the ONLY hotel that offers this exclusive perk).  Virtuoso clients enjoy VIP perks here too. 

Head west to the Mendoza region for Malbec wineries, cycling tours, and beautiful mountain landscapes.  Or fly three hours south to Bariloche for lakes and mountains that rival Switzerland including delicious chocolates!

Southernmost Patagonia in Argentina offers Los Glaciares National Park, access to Torres del Paine National Park (with epic Patagonian landscapes), a petrified forest, and the gateway to Antarctica. Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate offers glacier treks for adults and an expansive walkway with epic views for families; there is a glacier museum right in town and fun for all ages.  Ushuaia is the southernmost tip of South American, nicknamed “End of the World” and the gateway to Antarctica! 

I’m sure you’ll agree that you need at least two weeks or trips to experience all that Argentina has to offer!  Reminder – Argentina’s seasons are opposite those in the U.S., so the farther south you travel, the more seasonality you’ll experience. 


Chile is a playground for active travelers with a passion for nature!  If you’re not familiar, on the map of Latin America, it’s the long, skinny country down the west coast; it’s the longest country in the world at over 2,600 miles north to south.  In northern Chile, rise before dawn to see the Tatio Geysers when the steaming fumaroles are at their most dramatic and then marvel at the mineral-rich mud pools painted in shades of red and gold.  In southern Chile, set sail off Tierra del Fuego where ancient glaciers and jagged cliffs rise from the glassy waters.  Continue through the Strait of Magellan and visit Magdalena Island to walk through scores of penguins to a vintage lighthouse.   

Chile’s tourism website gives a thorough overview of its regions, activities —  Fun fact – did you know that Chile is the only tricontinental country in Latin America with territories in America, Antarctica, and Oceania?   Did you know that remote Easter Island is part of Chile although the flight from Santiago is over 5 hours long? 

Our partners at andBeyond offer their own eco-lodge in the spectacularly beautiful Chilean Lake District where you get access to exclusive experiences like helicopter flights over the Villarrica volcano,  floatplane fishing in the remote Andes, Atacama desert adventures, wine tours, heli-biking, and wildlife tours in Torres del Paine and Patagonia Park.  Bring your camera – your photographs will be epic!

Are you ready to learn more about any of these Central and South American destinations and brush up on your Spanish?  Send me an email or give me a call.  Now is the perfect time to begin planning for next year and beyond.  And of course, experiences make the best holiday gifts!  🎁

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  Send me any questions you have about the upcoming destinations, and I’ll be sure to answer them in the newsletter! 

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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