BY: ASIA DAWN
Running abroad is a thrill. There are new landscapes, new cultures, and new takes on the act of running. I received cheers in Spanish, perplexed looks, and plenty of unwelcome air kisses throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico. Some countries are easier to run in than others (safety first!) but I got a pretty good taste of each country’s variations. After my divorce, I spent nearly 1 year backpacking the Gringo Trail and fell in love with Latin America and its extremes - desert, jungle, countryside, mountains, volcanoes, and the sea. As I dug deeper into the vast landscapes, I incorporated my love for running, hiking, and adventure. I hope my top 5 spots inspire you to get moving outdoors, wherever you may be!
1. QUILOTOA, ECUADOR
I started my journey in Ecuador, so naturally my first big hike was in the mountains! The Quilotoa Loop is a trail that weaves through remote Andean villages and finishes with a breathtaking view of the Quilotoa volcano crater lake. I did the trek with some new backpacker friends, sleeping in hostels along the way. (It’s incredibly affordable!) This 3-5 day hike could also be done as a run; just make sure you’re acclimated to the elevation and know how to read maps! All of it is done between 9,000 and 13,000 feet, and you won’t run into many people along the way. There are some questionable trail markers...but you will still probably get lost at least once.
2. TAYRONA PARK, COLOMBIA
One of the most beautiful beaches I visited was the hardest to get to because your only means of accessing it is by spending hours on foot each way. (Ok. You can also take a horse, but isn’t that cheating?) I carried in food and 5 liters of water, while trekking through deep mud, sand, and water. The ultimate reward was sleeping in a hammock above the Caribbean and catching a cotton candy pink sunrise. The wind blew so fiercely at night that my hammock never stopped rocking and I could hardly sleep, but still, it was sooo #worthit. Try to enter first thing in the morning to secure a spot in one of the limited hammocks! There’s also an option to rent a tent or bring your own.
3. PUERTO VIEJO, COSTA RICA
My favorite spot in Costa Rica, I almost want to keep it a secret. The 3 weeks I spent in Puerto Viejo where when I felt the most alive. There is something magical about the jungle backing up to the Caribbean Sea, trees filled with mama sloths and their babies, and the eerie sound of howler monkeys. I started most mornings with a run, often in the warm, pouring rain. There is a 10k stretch of road alongside the beach that is perfect for running since it’s flat and there aren’t many cars. If trail running is more your style, there are jungle pathways in between the beach and the road. Book your flight, and take your pick! You can also visit or volunteer at the Jaguar Rescue Center while you’re in the area.
4. ACATENANGO VOLCANO, GUATEMALA
Hiking this volcano was definitely a trip highlight! Imagine trekking up something where every step forward takes you two steps backwards. The terrain was certainly a challenge, but everything became worth it once Fuego, a neighboring active volcano, came into view.
Base camp has the perfect view of Fuego, so I spent the night watching the volcano erupt, completely mesmerized by the lava and the booming sound effects. The 3:30am wakeup call made the experience even more epic when we hiked to the summit at 13,000 feet for the most mystical sunrise I’ve ever seen. Be sure to stay safe and book with a reputable guide. People have died at the summit because storms can come through and drop the temperature to dangerous levels.
5. ISLA HOLBOX, MEXICO
This little island is my FAVORITE spot in all of Mexico. Cars are not allowed which makes it perfect for soaking in the outdoors, and it’s part of a nature reserve which means there is a lot of wildlife. Think pink flamingos, pelicans, dolphins, and whale sharks! There are trails alongside the shore, but you can only run so far before you need to walk through the sea on a sandbank, so bring a small daypack for your shoes and agua. Kayaking through the swampy mangroves is another way to do it. You may even see crocodiles and flamingos if you’re lucky (or unlucky)! Definitely secure your accommodation in advance. The island fills up during high season when everyone hopes to swim with the peaceful whale sharks.
My time abroad was filled with personal growth and pushing limits. It expanded my perspective on life in ways that I still cannot fully comprehend. I just know that I need to continue to trust my gut and not be afraid to live in a way that is true to my authentic self. As I search for inspiration for my next journey, please share... What’s the most unique spot you’ve explored?
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