Tiffany Rowe - If you have some vacation time saved up, now is the time to think about escaping the winter and heading to a warm, tropical location. Choose a destination with a temperate climate and you can spend your days working off any extra “Christmas cheer” weight by hiking, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving.
From destinations just a short plane ride from the U.S. mainland, to those that really take you to another part of the globe, there are plenty of beautiful, interesting, and tourist-friendly places to visit around the world if you want to escape the chill and stay active over the coming months.
If your vacation days are few and you need to travel somewhere close to the U.S., you can’t go past Hawaii as a perfect holiday destination all year round. Apart from its famous beaches and surfing breaks that will have you outdoors daily, the islands that make up Hawaii also provide many other chances to get the heart pumping.
You can hike along the smoking crevasse of a volcano; kayak in hundreds of spots, including the Na Pali Coast of Kaua’i (considered the “Everest of sea kayaking expeditions”); swim with manta rays; dive to see Lanai’s sunken temples; and go mountain biking down 6,000 vertical feet at Haleakala National Park. If you’re looking for more laid-back outdoor experiences, you can also practice yoga along the beachfront, go horseback riding, or sail around some of Hawaii’s lesser-known islands.
If you have been using your credit card to build up travel reward points all year, Australia, in the southern hemisphere, is the ideal place for active travelers. You can journey somewhere that has it all: great beaches, tropical islands, UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforests, pristine wilderness, deserts, and abundant space.
If you’re keen to spend your days swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, and walking along white, sandy beaches, then plan a stay in Queensland, on the Great Barrier Reef. There are many different islands to choose from here, with a wide range of accommodation options to fit all budgets.
If hiking is your thing, make sure you head to the southern state of Tasmania where there are trails galore to wander, and adventures around every corner. Don’t miss the grandeur of Cradle Mountain, the beaches along the Bay of Fires, or the new Three Capes Track. This track is the second stage of a fantastic bushwalking experience and one of the largest projects of its kind in the world. The walking trail has been redeveloped and now boasts 40 miles of wilderness to explore.
If you’re interested in vacationing at a location that is warm, sunny, tropical yet still quite undiscovered, plan a trip to the tiny Pacific Ocean destination, Palau. An archipelago made up of hundreds of small islands, Palau receives only 150,000 visitors per year at the moment, but the secret is likely to get out soon and tourism numbers are set to grow.
While Palau is already recognized by many as being a terrific snorkeling and scuba-diving spot with many incredible sites to choose from, the destination is also leading the way for conservation in the Micronesia region. The country is in the process of creating a nation-wide marine sanctuary out of its oceans, the first such sanctuary in the world.
Palau is the place to go to see a broad range of marine life, with the waters there teeming with sharks, dolphins, turtles, hundreds of species of fish, dugongs, and more. In addition, the Rock Islands in Palau have close to 400 different types of coral plus many recently-discovered species, all of which led to it being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Visitors can not only swim, snorkel, and dive through the tropical waters around Palau, but also choose to go sailing, kayaking, or hiking around the nation’s limestone and volcanic islands, or tropical and mangrove forests.
While most people plan a holiday in South Africa in order to spot wildlife such as lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo, there are also plenty of more active outdoor adventures that can help you burn off the good food and wine that you may indulge in during a stay in the region.
If you fly into Cape Town, don’t miss a hike up Table Mountain where you’ll be afforded breathtaking views of the city and areas surrounding it. If you love being on the water, then you should also book a kayak tour around Cape Town’s surrounding waters. While you’re paddling you’ll have the chance to spot marine creatures such as dolphins, whales, and penguins. The city is also the place to try shark cage diving, paragliding, caving, mountain biking, sand-boarding, rock climbing, kite-surfing, abseiling, and skydiving.
Another area to add to your itinerary is the Garden Route, a stretch of forested, coastal area that extends from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth. Apart from being a stunning part of the country, this driving route is also home to many outdoor adventures you can stop at and enjoy along the way. You can go surfing, canoeing, horse-riding, diving, boating, and kloofing (canyoning). In addition, you’ll also find the highest bungee jump from a bridge (the third-highest in the world) along this route, where you can jump from more than 700 feet above the ground.