ISA Student hiking in Cusco, Peru.

Best of Latin America – Sports & Recreation

By Madeline Townsend, Program Manager and Alan Thompson, Site Specialist

It can be difficult to find a routine while abroad and maintain your lifestyle, especially while adjusting to your new surroundings. Exercise, sports, and recreation typically play an important role in campus life in the states, but it can be challenging to stay active while abroad. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to integrate your interests while exploring your new environment. Who knows, maybe you’ll even pick up a new favorite hobby from your travels!

If you can’t exactly fit a gym membership into your budget, there are still locations where you can exercise without breaking the bank. These Latin American sites provide easy access to outdoor activities, pick-up sports, or athletic facilities so that you can incorporate your active habits into your daily life abroad.  

Florianopolis

The main avenues of Florianopolis are lined with well-maintained parks, public exercise equipment, running trails, and bike lanes. This location is ideal for avid runners, surfers, swimmers, hikers, and of course any fan of the jogo bonito. Soccer inevitably comes to mind when you think of popular Brazilian sports, and for a good reason. Our students find daily pick-up games throughout the city and some have even joined local teams in the past.  

Soccer field in Brazil.
When in Brazil, seeing a local soccer game is a must.

Florianopolis is also known as a haven for surfers. With 42 beaches around the island, surfing access is abundant. First timers have the option to take lessons, while those who have experience surfing often request to live near the beach for easy access to morning surf sessions before classes.  

Praia Joaquina
Praia Joaquina is a popular place for students to take in the island’s beauty and unwind after class. Photo by ISA blogger Sara Giska.

If running, soccer, or surfing aren’t quite your thing, the dedicated on-site staff is the perfect resource for finding other activities catered to your interests. They even send students a weekly newsletter with suggestions for free yoga, meditation, dance, or capoeira classes. Floripa offers numerous activities for you to stay active and familiarize yourself with your local community in your free time.  

ISA students at Santa Catarina Island.
ISA students test their sandboarding skills during their tour of Santa Catarina Island.

Santiago

While the Dominican Republic may be best-known for baseball, the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM) campus offers plenty of opportunities to be active. During the semester, ISA students may take 1-credit electives with locals to learn the basics of baseball, Caribbean dance, karate, men’s basketball, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, tennis and volleyball. The campus is surrounded by a walking and running track ideal for squeezing in a workout before or after class and also has a new gym which can be used at an additional cost. If you’re looking to integrate yourself with local students, consider trying out for the university baseball, basketball or swimming team. Some students also opt to take Caribbean dance course, which offers the chance to learn bachata, merengue and salsa before putting your skills to test with Santiago’s exciting nightlife.

The view from atop Mount Isabel de Torres
View from atop Mount Isabel de Torres, a popular destination that offers up this stunning view of Puerto Plata. Photo by ISA student blogger Anja Goolsby.

While there are plenty of opportunities to integrate yourself in sports on campus, you could just as easily stay active by exploring the island in your free time. A couple hours north of Santiago, you may try out kitesurfing or windsurfing in Cabarete, or swim and scuba dive in Sosua. If you opt in to the excursion to Jarabacoa, be sure to take advantage of the horseback riding or if you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to try canyoning, rafting, or paragliding. If you study in Santiago during the dry season of the spring semester, add a trek to Pico Duarte (the highest point of the Caribbean) to your bucket list. It’s no secret that students choose this location for its easy access to stunning beaches and outdoor activities.

Bridge over an ocean.
A tranquil ocean view, captured by student blogger, Danya Firestone.

Cusco

Adventure seekers with a love of the outdoors tend to be attracted to our program in Cusco. At an elevation of 11,000 feet, the ancient city is a perfect home base for mountain climbers and campers. During breaks and holiday weekends, students often plan trips to explore different areas of the Andes or to nearby hiking havens.

Some of your weekends abroad will include excursions to Peru’s top destinations, but in your free time you may want to visit nearby Humantay Lake.  Although it typically takes an hour and a half hike to reach the turquoise-colored lake, students say that the view is worth it. Check out ISA student Emily Schaldach’s Behind the Scenes: Hiking Boots post to learn which footwear you should consider and get a glimpse at Peru’s awe-inspiring landscapes.

ISA student hiking in Peru.
Photo blogger Emily Schaldach stops to appreciate the beauty around her on the Santa Cruz trek in Huaraz, Peru. During spring break, she and several friends planned a week-long hiking trip through the Cordilleras range.

If you’re not into roughing it out in the wild, there are plenty of other day trips that can be planned from Cusco, like a hike of Rainbow Mountain, Tour of the Sacred Valley, or a horseback ride to Sacsayhuaman. Eight of Cusco’s classes even offer fieldtrips to places like the Sacsayhuaman archaeological park, the pueblo of Chinchero, and the Huatanay River. If you’re looking for a location surrounded by breathtaking views and challenging hikes that are sure to fulfill your sense of adventure, Cusco will be a welcome escape.  

An ISA student horseback riding at Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
Horseback riding may be an option for students looking to experience Rainbow Mountain. Photo taken by student blogger Dean Whitelaw.

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