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After the Jesuits built a series of missions along the coast of Alta California, the Spaniards established a port in 1781 as a supply stop for their coastal shipping routes. With the arrival of the transcontinental railroad and the discovery of oil, people began to arrive in droves. In 1923 the much-photographed giant letters were erected on the hill, and the golden age of Hollywood was born. The scale of Los Angeles, 90 miles long by 50 miles wide, defies belief.
Located on the west coast of Baja California, Ensenada is a sportsman’s paradise with popular pursuits including surfing, sport fishing, sea kayaking, horseback riding and mountain biking. If you prefer more leisurely activities, take a scenic coastal drive to the Punta Banda Peninsula to see La Bufadora. This marine geyser that shoots from the sea toward the cliffs is one of the largest blowholes in North America. Back in town, pop into famous Hussong’s Cantina and sip a margarita in the bar where the cocktail was reputedly invented.
Twenty years ago Cabo San Lucas, at the southernmost tip of Baja, was little more than a fishing village occasionally visited by itinerant Californian surfers and sport fishermen with the means to sail in or fly down. In recent years, however, it has rapidly become the focal point of Los Cabos, the catch-all term for the beaches and resorts ringing the toe of the peninsula. Condos have sprung up, palms transplanted, water piped in and everything is kept pristine.
Acapulco, nicknamed “Pearl of the Pacific,” is Mexico’s most glamorous pacific resort. Located on a deep, semi-circular bay, Acapulco is located southwest of Mexico City. Few destinations can match its superb weather with an average of 360 days of sunshine per year and with temperatures comfortably in the 80s. Acapulco was important as a port city for Spanish galleons sailing between Spain and the Orient long before it was “discovered” as a vacation playground.
Drive into the mountains to beautiful old Antigua, once the country’s colonial capital, and discover its lovely bougainvilleadraped buildings and breathtaking views of emerald volcanoes. Travel to famed Lake Atitlan and step back in time as you encounter the indigenous people in all their finery still living along the lakeshore. Or better yet, fly to Flores and experience the magnificent and enigmatic Mayan temples and palaces of the Tikal complex, surrounded by jungle.
Explore the town of Corinto surrounded by the pristine cerulean-blue Pacific. Then visit Leon to admire the Leon Cathedral and the artistic treasure trove, Centro de Arte Fundación Ortiz Gurdián. Back in Corinto, be sure to see the Alfonso Cores-Corinto History Museum, Library & Auditorium. Stroll through the lush, tropical Parque Central admiring the handicrafts, locally grown produce and handmade clothing of the vendors lining the streets. Look for souvenirs and locally made hammocks to take home – Nicaraguan hammocks are among the best and most comfortable. Enjoy a fresh seafood meal and a locally brewed beer or cold margarita in a family run restaurant overlooking the sea in this serene island destination.
Puntarenas, which means “Sandy Point” in Spanish, is the capital and main city in the province Puntarenas, Costa Rica, at the Pacific coast. The oddly-shaped province has its largest section in the South, far from the capital. A mountainous country, Costa Rica ranges from sea level to peaks as high as 13,000 feet and a succession of white, sandy beaches follow one another along the Pacific Coast. The country was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502.
The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade
Take a scenic drive through the residential area of Manga, and admire the beautiful mansions built in Republican-style architecture at the end of the 19th century. Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a fort that was once the most important military structure built in Latin America. Enjoy a boat ride to the Islas del Rosario, 26 coral islands located off the coast of Isla Barú, and continue to the island of San Martín de Pajarales to visit the aquarium. Enjoy a spectacular dolphin and shark show and other marine attractions there. Board the beautiful Spanish Galleon, a replica of a 17th-century sailing ship, for a cruise of the inner bay of Cartagena.
Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in 1503 and named them Las Tortugas, because the only inhabitants found were turtles. By 1530, they were known as the Caymanas, meaning “crocodile” in Carib. Although Sir Francis Drake visited the islands in 1568, they did not come under British rule until 1670. The Caymanians are descendants of the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh seamen who settled the islands and later intermarried with Jamaican immigrants.
Sunny Florida skies, year-round warmth and sunshine, a buzzing nightlife and a mix of cultures define this cosmopolitan city. Celebrity-drenched South Beach attracts people-watchers and the Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Tropical style shopping experience’s are readily available from Bal Harbor to Lincoln Road and Coconut Grove. Enjoy authentic Cuban cuisine and culture along Calle Ocho or travel back in time with a visit to the historic Venetian Pool. There is something for everyone in this city dubbed the “Gateway to the America’s.”