The world's third largest continent is made up of more countries than you might think: 23 in fact (and that's not counting countless territories). With the United States, Canada, and Mexico being the most populous countries on the continent, North America is technically also home to Caribbean Islands, "Central" America, and Greenland. Because of this, the cultural and natural diversity within and between the countries of North America is vast, and each destination offers something of interest for practically any traveler.
Visit acclaimed national and state parks throughout the region, taste the gastronomic melting pot of cultures, swim in turquoise blue water, trek to ice caves and glaciers, or tour some of the world's best cities. While North America tours and trips will vary widely based on the region and activities you choose, any journey you choose will be eye-opening and exciting.
You can find plenty of adventure throughout the northwestern hemisphere -- North America has it all. With many mountains and rivers, rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, for instance, is a dream of many white-water enthusiasts.
North America's winter snowfall, is perfect for skiing and snowboarding as well. In the USA, skiers and snowboarders flock to the states of Utah and Colorado. In Canada, the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec are the places to head for ideal slopes: the Banff and Jasper National Parks offer high mountains, pristine glacial lakes, and pine forests for miles. For something unique, try ice-climbing in Alaska.
Short and long treks are possible all around North America, thanks to a vast number of national parks in the region -- many of which are wild and remote. Choose between mountain trails, wetlands, and more: the continent's terrain is quite diverse.
If you have months to spare and want an epic hiking adventure, you could tackle the USA's Appalachian Trail in the east, or the Pacific Crest Trail in the west. These traverse hundreds of miles, require camping in the wilderness, several weeks and a lot of preparation. If you don't mind the cold, trek the Arctic Circle in Greenland. For shorter hiking adventures, Glacier National Park (USA), Yoho National Park (Canada) and the Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl National Park (Mexico) are some options.
Culture & Food Tours
As a result of North America's indigenous origins, a 200-year transatlantic slave trade, and centuries worth of European immigration (more recently followed by Asian and Latino migration), most destinations are quite the cultural melting pot. Because of this, many places offer an array of traditional cuisines; fusions of music, song, and dance; community pockets that represent the diasporas; and tours to explore it all.
Visit museums, join food and historic walking tours, head to vineyards and distilleries off the beaten path, and take music and dance lessons while in North America. Each one represents the unique combination of cultures in that particular area -- and almost all are worthwhile if you love exploring culture while traveling.
Beach & Sea Tours
The clear, warmer waters around the Gulf and Caribbean make for perfect diving and snorkeling conditions in many North American countries. For example, you can visit Mexico's Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park to dive around the Mesoamerican Reef or head to Belize's Blue Hole.
If you are a dedicated beach-goer, the Florida keys, Virgin Islands, and most Central American and Caribbean-beaches offer postcard-worthy white sand beaches, while Hawaii and Pacific-coast destinations are ideal for surfing. Go sea kayaking and whale watching to amplify your beach and sea experience.
Planning Your Trip
North America is a large continent with plenty of tour activity options, making logistical planning a bit more complex. However, there are a few overarching points to keep in mind.
Best Time to Visit North America
Because of its reach, North America has a varying climate. In general, Canada, Greenland, and the northern and central parts of the USA have very cold winters with a lot of snowfall, and warm-to-hot summers. Destinations in Southern USA and beyond are significantly warmer, although altitude affects climate: temperatures in the mountains versus the coast will differ.
While culture and food tours are generally available year-round, any tours which involve being outdoors are based on seasonality. For skiing adventures, the winter months (December to March) are the best times to visit North America. For hiking, March to November are all great trekking months. Beware of peak hurricane season, though: it affects most Gulf, Atlantic, and Caribbean beach destinations from August until October.
What to Look for in a Tour to North America
When planning your tour, don't be afraid of the ticket price. Though tours in North America are definitely among the most expensive in the world, these tours are also known to include high-quality tour amenities, accommodation, and extras. Be sure to check for flight prices to your destination, as most tours will not include that expense.As always, check reviews and cancellation policies before booking.
Typical Tour Costs
Keep in mind that tours in many of these destinations are more expensive when compared to different regions, yet quality, value, and safety precautions are often high. Tour costs can range from $200 for day trips to $15,000 for multi-day, all-inclusive excursions. Typically, you can expect to spend $2,000-$4,000 for a week-long trip.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Plan your trip according to seasonality to help finalize what to pack. Many North American climates are quite predictable, and last-minute items can be purchased in most destinations. Double-check that your tour package includes gear rental and feel free to inquire about a packing check list, as most will recommend the essentials, like sunscreen, proper footwear, a billed hat, and versatile outdoor wear.
Other Tips for Travel in North America
- Visas: Make sure to research your nationality's requirements for the country you plan to visit, and whether a visa will be required. The United States has particularly strict rules currently, so be sure to understand the visa requirements and documentation you may need to present at the border.
- Budgeting: With the exception of Mexico and Central American countries, North America can be quite expensive to visit, although budget options for travel and accommodation are available. Planning ahead is essential to secure the best tour deals. Use hotel booking sights and flight-comparing platforms to get an idea of the price ranges for each destination and time of year.
- Transportation: There is a variety of options for transportation and housing throughout North America. Canada and the USA have decent rail networks in some areas, although costs are quite high. Long-distance buses are significantly cheaper, although the quality varies. In Mexico, long-distance buses are the best option.
- Accommodations: Everything from luxury hotels to budget, multi-bed dorms are available in North America, although options for budget travel will be greater in the cities. Accommodation in resort towns, such as in USA and Canadian skiing destinations, is quite expensive on average. In Mexico, budget accommodation is more plentiful.
Health & Safety
North America offers good healthcare -- especially in Canada and the USA, though the USA does not have universe healthcare (or affordable care, for that matter). In terms of drinking water and sanitation, be sure to check health recommendations from the CDC before traveling, as each country differs. Also remember to state up to date with routine vaccinations.
North America is general a safe pace to visit, though some might find political tension to be higher than average. Here are some points to be aware of:
- The USA has significant gun crime. Some countries have recently issued alerts to travelers from their countries -- especially black men -- to remain vigilant, especially around police. Protests around oppression and inequality in the USA occur frequently.
- Personal safety is more of an issue in major cities, whereas travelers have little to worry about when visiting the countryside and national parks (minus wild animals).
- Mexico also has a poor reputation for safety, although in reality, most tourists come away with better-than-expected impressions of safety in the country. Drug-related crime is particularly a problem in Mexico, especially in areas near the borders with other countries, or in regions known to be in the crossfires of current cartel conflicts.
- Canada is a very safe country with a low crime rate (and a small population!). Regular big-city precautions should be taken in places such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
As always, violence and theft can happen anywhere. Practice common sense, such as not carrying many valuables, dividing up your money, and not walking in areas that locals warn against, in addition to staying up to date on safety warnings and news on the region.
Wherever you decide to go, make sure that your travel insurance covers the activities you plan to participate in, and that you are physically prepared for the tours you will take.