Highlights of North America

You could spend all of your life traveling through North America and you would still probably never be able to see it all. The three massive countries that make up most of North America - Canada, the US, and Mexico - can each keep you busy for years on their own.

In the far north is Canada with its maple leaf and frozen tundra. Canada stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific with beautiful mountains, empty plains and splendors galore in between.

In the middle is the United States. It is a country that offers an abundance of geographic diversity. You can spend your time wandering the streets of its famous cities, driving through the emptiness of the Great Plains, scaling mountains in the west, and visiting small town Americana.

In the south is Mexico, the poorest of the three but no less an equal when it comes to travel opportunities. Like its neighbors to the north, Mexico is geographically spectacular and rich in culture. It might be a little more difficult to navigate than the United States and Canada, but the rewards are great if you make the effort.

With a continent this big and with the options so many, where does one possibly start research?

North American Pillars

Trying to narrow down a top list of must-sees in North America can be a challenging endeavor, so what we did was split it up into four categories - Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Here are some top highlights of each for an independent traveler:

Canada
  • Road trips: There may not be a better place for a road trip than Canada, with its top notch roads and highways and the massive expanse of land compared to population, it's a great place to get in your car and hit the road. Drive from St. Johns Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia and wander off the main highway through the countryside for starters.
  • Take the train: If you want to be able to see the spectacular scenery of Canada as you meander across the country, consider buying a train pass and going slow throughout the country.
  • Big, vibrant cities: Check out Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City, and Montreal for some world class cities that all differ wildly and offer something for everyone. The big city feel is just different in Canada - check it out!
  • Gros Morne National Park: An outdoor lover’s geological wet dream, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland is filled with freshwater fjords, bogs, craggy shorelines, and moose.

The United States
  • The cities: New York, LA, San Fran, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami, Seattle, Chicago - the list goes on and on and on. If you come to the US and are a fan of big, metropolitan cities, there are lots to choose from, from east to west and north to south, check out one or visit them all - you could keep yourself occupied for quite a while in the variety of options.
  • Road trips: Like Canada, the US is just set up for road trips. The highway system is great, the smaller roads also top notch, and there is a myriad of possibilities for road trippers. Check out the American Southwest or the Pacific Coast Highway for starters.
  • National Parks: The National Park system in the US is second to none in the world - from a world wonder like the Grand Canyon to Utah's beauties to the Rockies in Colorado to coral reefs in the Florida Keys, the United States' 59 national parks can keep nature lovers occupied for years.
  • Food: While other regions like Southeast Asia get hyped for their foodie possibilities (and rightfully so), there may not be a region in the world that has more varied cuisine than the US. The large immigrant population that makes up this country gives travelers nearly every cuisine possibility they desire.
  • While the big cities are obvious highlights, the smaller towns and cities are nothing to scoff at as well.

Mexico
  • Mexico City: One of the world's biggest cities, Mexico City might surprise you. It has the most museums in the entire world, a street food culture that is second to none, and all the amenities that a huge, world class city has.
  • Learn Spanish: One reason indie travelers explore the world is to learn, and if you're looking to learn Spanish, Mexico is a great place to do it.
  • Overland travel: The bus network is vast in Mexico, making it cheap and easy to explore this massive country.
  • Affordability: Canada, the US, and the Caribbean aren't very budget friendly, but cross the borders into Mexico, with their vast bus network, wide variety of hostels, and great and affordable street food and markets, and you can really make your money last here.

The Caribbean
  • Puerto Rico: One of our top destinations of 2013, Puerto Rico is the antithesis of what people assume the Caribbean is - large, mega-resorts cordoned off from the rest of the island. Puerto Rico doesn't really do all inclusives, and they encourage travelers to get their own wheels and explore the entirety of the island on their own - indie style!
  • Tobago: Toboga, of Trinidad and Tobago, is a small island with fewer tourists than other Caribbean islands, leaving plenty of peace and quiet along with empty beaches to explore.
  • St. John: Looking for some outdoor adventures along with your beach time? Then head to St. John, where over 60% of the island is a protected National Park.
  • Looking to get off the beaten path in the Caribbean? Then head to Saba, a little known island off St. Maarten, for a premier diving and eco-tourism experience.

Transportation

You can begin by searching for the best airfare to various North American cities to help determine where you want to fly or if you want to fly at all.

If you're looking to add any North American destinations to your trip, check out BootsnAll's multi-stop flight booking tool - Indie..

Transportation varies wildly in each country, so be sure to check out each individual country's travel guide for more in depth information.

Where to stay

It always is wise to do a bit of research ahead of time to find a place that is right for you and your wallet. If you are looking for some lower budget options, consider staying at a hostel in North America. Many of the ones you find in the region are splendid.


Photo credits: Tobias Alt, Luca Galuzzi