Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala

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Uncharted and authentic—that's the best way to describe a visit to the Central American country of Guatemala. Mexico's neighbor to the south is blissfully devoid of overdevelopment, even as the port of Santo Tomás de Castilla—established in the 1960s and only recently open to cruise ships—expands. The former Belgian colony (Belgium occupied Guatemala from the 1840s to 1854) now welcomes visitors seeking soft adventure. Activities include hikes to waterfalls, explorations of the surrounding rain forest, tropical bird–watching and treks around ancient Maya cities, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is also a smattering of colonial buildings, including a 16th-century Spanish fort, Castillo de San Felipe. Plus, look for excellent authentic shopping: Handicrafts are made by locals and—the best part—prices are negotiable. Nearby Puerto Barrios offers a lively mix of restaurants, bars and nightlife.

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