Go Where Latin America’s Happiest People Live

Latin America’s 33 countries are rich in both history and culture, but they’re also home to some of the happiest people in the world. 

According to the seventh World Happiness Report– which measures happiness in 156 countries– Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, and Guatemala are the ranked highest among Latin America. 

Thinking about planning a trip to Latin America? Consider visiting one of these vibrant cities.

San Jose, Costa Rica 

Located on the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica is a small country in between Nicaragua and Panama that is known for its lush green rainforests and exotic wildlife. While its residents – referred to as Ticos – are among the happiest in the world, they’re also the most long-lived

Its capital San Jose is the largest city in the country and it offers everything from fine dining to outdoor adventures.

Where to Stay:

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Soak up the views of the majestic Arenal Volcano while melting away stress at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa just miles away from the San Jose airport. 

Website: www.tabacon.com

KC Hotel San Jose 

Be near the heart of the city while staying on budget at the KC Hotel in San Jose. 

Website: kchotelsanjose.com/en

 

Where to Eat:

Hotel Grano de Oro 

Started in 1991 by a Canadian couple who frequented Costa Rica, this charming boutique-style hotel offers an elegant fine dining experience near plenty of sight-seeing.  

Website: www.hotelgranodeoro.com

La Criollita

If you’re looking to try traditional foods, you won’t want to miss La Criollita. As a go-to for both tourists and residents, it serves many local specialties including Gallo Pinto, Costa Rica’s national dish made of hearty rice and beans. 

Trip Advisor reviews.  

What to Do:

Hike

The best way to discover Costa Rica is on foot. The Catarata Del Toro hiking trail is a self-guided journey to a stunning waterfall inside an extinct volcanic crater– you won’t want to miss these sights! 

Website: www.catarata-del-toro.com/hiking/

Birdwatch 

Costa Rica is home to over 918 species of birds, many of which do not exist anywhere else in the world. During your visit, drop by the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and explore the exotic beauty of San Jose’s nature and wildlife. 

Website: www.monteverdeinfo.com/tours/monteverde-cloud-forest-reserve

 

Mexico City, Mexico 

With its gorgeous architecture and world-renowned cuisine, it’s easy to see why Mexico City is a top destination for art-lovers, history buffs and foodies. Located in the valley of Mexico, it’s also the most populous city in all of North America. 

Where to Stay

The St. Regis Mexico City

Whether you’re traveling alone, with a loved one, or with friends, a relaxing hotel experience can help you make the most out of your travels. Mexico City’s St. Regis hotel offers 31 floors of luxurious rooms with views overlooking the historic Paseo de la Reforma.

Website: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mexxr-the-st-regis-mexico-city/

Hotel Geneve 

Also located near the Paseo de la Reforma is a European-style hotel with more than 110 years of history to its name. Referred to as a type of hotel museum, their charming rooms offer elegance at an affordable price. 

Website: www.hotelgeneve.com.mx

 

Where to Eat:

Sud 777

As one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants for four consecutive years, it’s one of the Mexico City’s most popular restaurants. Opened in 2008 by chef Edgar Núñez, Sud 777 brings together fresh local ingredients and expert cooking techniques to create unique, memorable dishes like the Res, Chocolate y Foie Local pictured below.

Website: http://sud777.com.mx/

 

Jenni’s Street Quesadilla

Mexico City’s street food scene is a walking paradise of endless local treats and delicacies. In fact, it’s quite possible to eat entire meal while on a walking tour of the city. If you find yourself near the corner of Colima and Merida in Roma Norte, keep a look out for Jenni’s Street Quesadilla stand.  

 www.theinfatuation.com/mexico-city/reviews/jennis-street-quesadilla

 

What to Do:

Visit the Home of Frida Kahlo 

In 1958, four years after the death of the iconic painter Frida Kahlo, her home was turned into a museum. Today, it remains one of the most visited museums in Mexico City and displays many of Kahlo’s famous works of art.

Website:  www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/en/the-blue-house/

 

A Walk in Chapultepec Park

Aside from being the oldest urban parks in Latin America, Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is also one of the largest. Twice the size of New York City’s Central Park, this park includes a lake, a botanical garden, several museums, a zoo and much more. 

https://www.wmf.org/project/chapultepec-park

 

Santiago, Chile 

Nestled among the Andes mountains is Santiago de Chile, also referred to as Santiago. As the political and cultural center of Chile as well as its capital city, it offers a variety of activities all within close proximity. In fact, it’s one of the few cities in the world in which it’s possible to ski and go to the beach on the same day. 

 

Where to Stay

The Singular Santiago Lastarria Hotel

Located in the artsy neighborhood of Barrio Lastarria, The Singular Santiago Lastarria Hotel offers sleek, modern accommodation near Santiago’s Cerro San Cristóbal and Parque Forestal. Enjoy the rooftop bar, head to dinner at their in-house restaurant or venture out to one of the many nearby cafes. 

Website:  www.thesingular.com

Almacruz Hotel 

Just a 10-minute walk from the Santiago Town Square is the Almacruz Hotel and Convention Center. This budget-friendly hotel includes a refreshing outdoor swimming pool and plenty of lunch and dinner options. 

Website: www.almacruz.cl/en-gb

 

Where to Eat:

 

Peumayen Ancestral Food 

For those looking to explore Chile’s indigenous roots, consider visiting Peumayen Ancestral Food. The restaurant serves a variety of fish, meat and vegetable dishes that include ingredients once used by the indigenous tribes of Chile. 

Website: www.peumayenchile.cl/

 

Puerto del Alto 

Located in the upscale area of Las Condes is Puerto del Alto Marisqueria y Cantina, a casual restaurant specializing in traditional Chilean sea food dishes. Enjoy the views on the terrace while sipping on local wine or a glass of fresh sangria. 

Website: puertodelalto.cl/

 

What to Do:

Visit La Chascona Museum House

If you’ve been moved to tears after reading poignant words from the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, you might be moved to visit his museum home known as, La Chascona Mueseum House. The home displays Neruda’s work as well as work from several other artists both Chilean and foreign. While visits do not require reservations, there is limited daily capacity. 

Website:  fundacionneruda.org/en/museums-houses/la-chascona-museum-house/

 

Tour the Cousiño Macul Vineyard

Founded over 150 years ago, the Cousiño Macul Vineyard is the only Chilean winery still owned by its original founders. Walk around the vineyard’s historic grounds while sipping on world-class wine from the Maipo Valley. 

https://www.cousinomacul.com/en/

 

Antigua, Guatemala 

Known as the best-preserved colonial city in Central America, La Antigua, or Antigua, is a vibrant town surrounded by nature, wildlife and volcanoes. As the former capital of Guatemala, the city offers plenty of shopping, dining and outdoor activities. 

 

Where to Stay

Pensativo House Hotel 

Located a short walk from historic hotspots like the Arco de Santa Catalina and the Iglesia de La Merced, is Antigua’s Pensativo House Hotel. This Spanish Colonial-style boutique hotel features stunning architecture and century-old cedar furniture as well as modern amenities like complimentary Wi–Fi and 300–thread–count Egyptian cotton sheets. 

https://www.pensativohousehotel.com/

 

Hotel Los Pasos 

Also inspired by Spanish Colonial architecture, Hotel Los Pasos is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Antigua. With its elegant décor and stone fireplaces, this quaint inn provides comfort at an affordable price. 

https://hotellospasos.negocio.site/

 

 

Where to Eat:

Sobremesa

Near the center of Antigua is Sobremesa, a fine dining restaurant and art gallery that features artwork by the restaurant’s chef and owner, Alex Ferrar. Built with the importance of family and friendship in mind, guests are invited to relax, unwind and enjoy each other’s company. 

With flavors like Jalapeño Banana and Apple Chipotle, the restaurant’s satellite exotic ice cream shop, Sobremesa Helados Exóticos, is also a neighborhood favorite. 

 www.alexferrar.com/story

 

Guatelaria 

If you’re extra hungry after a day of sight-seeing, head to Guatelaria for a mouth-watering platter of steak with local vegetables. The restaurant also makes and sells traditional Chilean candies and baked goods. 

https://www.antiguadining.com/index.php/restaurants/guatemalan/1733-guatelaria

 

 

What to Do:

The Chocolate Museum 

ChocoMuseum is a cacao and chocolate factory and museum with locations across Latin America. Its Antigua location is near popular sight-seeing locations, making it very easy to visit. 

The museum hosts chocolate-making workshops and also has its own artisanal chocolate factory in which organic Guatemalan cacao beans are used. 

Website:  www.chocomuseo.com/antigua-arco/

Tour the Ruins of Antigua 

While Antigua’s Spanish Colonial buildings and fountains are part of its charm, the city’s ancient ruins offer a glimpse at its indigenous roots. Simply download the app and head for a walk as you tune into a self-guided audio tour of the ruins.  

https://www.gpsmycity.com/tours/the-ruins-of-antigua-4154.html

 

 

Susie is a journalist, entrepreneur and traveler. Born and raised in Los Angeles, her passion for creative storytelling has fueled her professional career and she pursues stories that highlight innovative and inspiring people from diverse backgrounds and industries.

 

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @susieplascencia

 

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