From the imposing Manhattan skyline and the colonial architectural gems of Cuba to the lush rainforests of Panama, North America is a land of glorious contrasts. The biggest countries, USA and Canada, are as diverse as their landscapes.
Travellers visting North America have a huge range of destinations to choose between. Colourful Mexico effortlessly blends old and new with its Mayan ruins and thriving modern cities. In the central part of the continent, Costa Rica has evolved into a prime eco-tourism destination, while Panama has some of the region's best bird-watching and hiking opportunities.
The Caribbean islands within North America – Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago – are a travellers’ paradise. Unspoilt beaches, coral reefs and world-class resorts define these laid-back towns and the most popular of all the islands, the Bahamas, draws millions of travellers to its islands each year
North America climate
North America’s climate varies throughout the continent. The US and Canada have four distinct seasons while most of the other countries including Cuba and Mexico have two. On the other hand, the islands closer to the Caribbean Sea – Jamaica and the Bahamas – are year-round destinations.
When to fly to North America
Depending on the time of year you plan to visit North America and the purpose of your trip, the two biggest countries in the continent, America and Canada, both have diverse weather conditions. During winter the eastern part of the US gets considerably colder than the West Coast and in Canada the weather is bitterly cold throughout the country. The best time to visit both countries is late spring (April to May) and early autumn (September to early October).
Mexico and Panama have two seasons: dry and wet; the dry season lasts from mid-December until mid-April and the rainy season is from May to November. The Caribbean countries enjoy warm weather all year round with a few rainy spells in summer from May to November.
Getting around North America
Given the vastness of the continent the easiest way to get around is by plane. In the US there are several low-cost airlines while in Canada you can fly with the domestic airlines and in Mexico use the large private national and regional carriers. The smaller countries including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Panama all have good domestic flight networks.
Taxis are always a reasonable option while visiting any city, but to really experience the country and explore isolated towns and villages renting a car gives you the freedom to do so, but bear in mind that apart from the US and Canada road conditions can be poor. If you’d rather save on transport, buses are the most cost effective way to get around.
North America insider information
- Visit the captivating Grand Canyon in the US, with the Grand Canyon Skywalk you can inspect it from a glass walkway, 21 metres from the canyon’s rim.
- If you’re a lover of the great outdoors then head to Canada’s British Columbia. Its snowcapped summits, rivers and forests, and quaint villages will leave you in awe.
- Take a trip to Mexico’s Calakmul Biosphere Reserve on the Yucatán Peninsula. Inside this 1.8 million-acre lush jungle you’ll find the walled city of Calakmul with a spectacular pyramid: the tallest in the Yucatán.
- In Cuba the Valle de los Ingenios can’t be missed. Scattered throughout the valley are 12 sugar mill ruins from the 19th century and the Manaca Iznaga estate, a hacienda owned by Pedro Iznaga, a notorious slave trafficker.
- Reggae fans, or anyone visiting Jamaica, should head to the Nine Mile Museum in the village of Nine Mile, Bob Marley’s birthplace and resting place. The museum houses all sorts of paraphernalia including the inspirational Mt Zion Rock where he learned to play the guitar.
- The Hacienda Beuna Vista in Puerto Rico’s colonial city Ponce is well worth a visit. Built in 1833, it was once one of the most successful coffee, corn and citrus plantations on the island. There’s also a two-story-tall waterwheel, turned by water from the river.
- While visiting the Bahamas, take a break from the beach and walk along the trails leading to the pine trees, mangrove swamps and large caves of the Lucayan National Park.
- Watch sugar cane carefully transform into refined sugar at the Santa Rosa sugar refinery in Panama’s agricultural town, Aguadulce. The best time to go is during grinding season from the middle of January until the middle of March.
- Deep inside the rainforest in Trinidad and Tobago’s Northern Range is the Asa Wright Nature Center, a former cocoa and coffee plantation and home to a huge number of native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies, as well as more than 2,200 species of flowering plants.
- Take a scenic drive past contrasting landscapes and coffee plantations up to Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. Hike across the lava fields of the active Arenal Volcano or take a sunset boat tour around the Laguna de Arenal.