7 Vacations that will Appeal to Teens

Traveling with children presents challenges, no matter what stage of the game you’re at. Traveling with little ones means preparing for anything by packing nearly everything you own; traveling with teens means trying to find cool experiences and activities that will give them the right balance of independence and convince them to put their phones down. Oh, yeah and that aren’t totally lame.

7. Hotel Del Coronado- San Diego, California

This beachfront resort near San Diego has something for everyone in your family, including your teen. Teens can take advantage of surfing and paddleboard lessons, or rent a bike and explore the area. Every weekend in the summer, there is a teen pool party at one of the pools, open to teens 13 to 17 years old (sorry, no parents allowed!), complete with games, a DJ and snacks. There are also teen Dive-in movies, so they can watch some of their PG-13 faves under the stars or while floating on a pool noodle.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

6. Lapa Rios Eco Lodge- Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica

If your teen loves to give Mother Earth a hug, taking a vacation at an eco-lodge surrounded by flora, fauna and lots of wildlife may be just the ticket. Lapa Rios is located right in the midst of the rainforest on their 930 acre reserve. Daily activities include guided nature hikes, and ecological educational experiences. Nearby, visitors can arrange for boat tours in the mangroves, dolphin and whale watching, surfing or kayaking.

Photo by: Lapa Rios
Photo by: Lapa Rios

5. Lake George- Glens Falls, New York

Does your teen prefer shopping, the beach or screaming on a roller coaster? Why not do all three? Scenic Lake George, located in the Adirondacks, is jam-packed with action and activity. It’s the kind of town where a stroll down main street means running into something else to do. There are loads of cool restaurants, mini-golf, haunted house attractions and much more. Hit the Six Flags Amusement Park for the day- and don’t forget your bathing suit for the waterpark. Unwind for the day on Lake George’s Million Dollar Public Beach, which provides some million dollar views of the surrounding mountains. There is also great shopping in Lake George for your teen who covets name brands, with an extensive network of outlets.

Lake George, NY

4. Hawks Cay Resort- Duck Key, Florida

Located in Duck Key, about mid-way down the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay is a sprawling resort on a key unto itself, with plenty to keep your teen entertained. At the center of the resort is a man-made lagoon, with plenty of water activities like snorkeling, paddle boarding, windsurfing and kayaking. A highlight for sporty teens is the Indies club that has basketball courts, putting greens, volleyball court and a full-size soccer and football field. There is a “Teens Night Out.” from 9 pm to 11 pm nightly, where teens can hang out and play in the games room.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. Royal Caribbean, Oasis of the Seas- Bahamas Islands, Caribbean

Cruises are a good choice for teens because of the wide variety of activities that are going on at any given moment. And if choice of activity is key to a teen’s enjoyment of their vacation, than Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas fleet is “the” spot. There is a skating rink, zip lining, rock climbing, surf simulator, arcade, mini golf, 3D movie lounge, teen lounge and disco. And that’s not including all the things they can do once in port! Try cruising more low key, but still vibrant excursions like the Bahamas. This way the trip doesn’t require as much planning as further international expeditions, but still involves some great cultural indulgences and adventurous ports for the kids and adults to explore.

Ozphotoguy / Shutterstock.com
Ozphotoguy / Shutterstock.com

2. Jay Peak- Jay, Vermont

Jay Peak’s village at the base of their mountain is an excellent spot for teens. The village is fairly self-contained. Being able to have this kind of pedestrian atmosphere is great for parents (they can know where their kids are) and teens can enjoy some of that independence that they crave while in a controlled environment. In the winter, there is skiing, obviously, along with a host of other winter outdoor activities. Available year-round is the indoor waterpark, the Pump House, which offers a number of different raft water slides, a surfing simulator, and a slide with a huge vertical drop. There is nothing lazy about their lazy river. Attached to the waterpark is an arcade. Onsite in the village is the Ice Haus, where there is skating available year-round, complete with skate rentals, if you forgot yours at home.

Photo by: Hanumanix via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Hanumanix via Wikimedia Commons

1. Beaches Resorts- Providenciales, Turks and Caicos & Negril and Ocho Rios, Jamaica

All-inclusive resorts are often a good choice of teens, and the Beaches family of resorts are particularly good. They have games rooms with a good selection of games and organized activities. There are arcades, music and a great tagline: “Teens do whatever they want; your parents paid the bill, so from here on out, everything’s included”.

Photo by: Britt Reints via Flickr
Photo by: Britt Reints via Flickr

The 15 Best Volcanoes Hikes in the World

What does it take to climb a volcano? In some cases it takes permits purchased months in advance, technical climbing skills and a paid guide. In other cases one can simply drive right into the volcano, or spend an hour hiking up a moderate hill to reach the top. How about the best volcanoes to hike, how do you determine that? We looked at hundreds of volcanoes and determined the 15 best hikes to take based on a number of factors including ease of access, views from the top, lava activity and the reward factor. From around the world, here are our top 15 choices for the best volcano hikes in the world.

15. Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

This long but challenging hike takes trekkers through scenic landscapes including snow, ice and ash from the most recent eruptions. The trek starts at sea level and goes all the way to the top through a crevasse riddled glacier and finally to the summit where you can view an enormous crater that was left by past eruptions. Glacier equipment such as crampons are required as you literally will be climbing on ice. If you happen to reach the top on a clear day, expect unbelievable views of half the entire island including glaciers, more volcanoes and the Vestmannaeyjar islands. April to September is the time to go and if you are feeling extra adventurous it is possible to ski back down. The climb can take eight to 10 hours and although challenging, you will certainly feel on top of the world on this glacier volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

14. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes from about 1968 to 2010 and since then has slowed down but this volcano still is known to spit out ash and sometimes even lava. It is classic in shape, being tall and symmetrical and there is no worry about being cold up here. Climbing to the summit of this volcano is actually both illegal and very dangerous, but luckily there are a few worthwhile hikes that are totally legal and still get you up on the mountain. The main trial inside the park is about 5 km in length and takes you through the rain forest with several opportunities to view the peak. Expect lots of wildlife including toucans and monkeys along with explosions from the peak. Expect to hike over old lava flows and hit many viewing areas where you can actually hear the volcano breathing, which is really quite impressive.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

13. Mount Fuji, Japan

It is the highest volcano and highest peak in Japan where tourists and locals’ alike swarm to climb this volcano, known as one of the three Holy Mountains. More than 200,000 people a year to be exact. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707 and spread ash as far as what is now Tokyo forming a new crater on the east flank. July to September is the official climbing season where trails and mountain facilities are open. The most popular way to climb this volcano is to climb halfway up to one of the huts, take a break and set off again in the night, reaching the summit for sunrise. Worshipping the sun from the top of Japan’s highest peak creates something of a spiritual experience, no matter if you are religious or not. Avoiding the crowds is not possible on this mountain and some trekkers believe that climbing amongst so many like minded people just adds to the overall experience.

Mount Fuji 1

12. Mount Etna, Sicily

The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna soars into the sky often surrounded by mist and steam. Mount Etna is special in that it has this unique relationship with the people that live as the foot of it. They believe that Etna gives them fertile ground by spitting out lava and respect must be granted as it can also take away life. This volcano can be climbed year round and does not require any sort of permit or guide, but it is recommended to be informed about the activity status as it sometimes shuts down to hikers. It has recently come to the attention of many trekkers that the actual summit is unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a guide, but that fact is up for debate. Plan on seeing solidified rivers of lava, views of the sea and the mainland, provided the top isn’t covered in clouds.

Mount Etna

11. Pacaya, Guatemala

You aren’t allowed quite to the top of this volcano but it should be on your list of things to climb for a number of reasons. First up, this trek can be done in half a day, which makes it perfect for someone on a time crunch. Secondly, not only are you climbing on an active volcano but you can actually see a second active volcano nearby and a third that is now a crater lake. The trek begins through lush green foliage and views are of surrounding fields and hills. The trail eventually turns into lava rock and dust, becoming really slippery. This is when it pays to have a walking stick. At the “top” the lava is literally running underneath you and it becomes clear as to why you need shoes with really good soles, they will literally melt. Marshmallows and hot dogs are routinely busted out and cooked over the lava.

Pacaya Volcano

10. Mount Vesuvius, Italy

This volcano is known worldwide as being responsible for covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., which in turn preserved it until the re-discovery of it in the 1700’s. Since that time this volcano has blew its top more than 30 times throughout history and most recently in 1944. The climb to the summit is the easiest climb on this list and only takes about 30 minutes. It is best done in hiking shoes or running shoes and there is no need to carry any gear with you. What awaits visitors at the top is a stunning panorama of the city, islands and part of the Apennine Mountains. Admission to the volcano actually includes a guided tour of the crater at the top which many climbers are unaware of. You won’t find any spewing lava here but steam is often seen coming out of the crater. On a sunny day expect to see views out to the bay of Naples. If you are wanting to climb a famous volcano and don’t want to worry about tackling snow, steep ridges or carrying gear; this is the one for you.

Mount Vesuvius

9. Pinatubo, Philippines

This active volcano is actually located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and last erupted in 1991, producing one of the most violent eruptions of the 20th century. As of now the volcano is quite quiet and it is the perfect time to summit and enjoy the blue green crater lake that didn’t exist 30 years ago. January is the best time to go as temperatures are at the coolest and the lake color at its finest. The one day trek is actually quite easy as a 4X4 will take you part of the way. The trek is done within a few hours at a moderate incline. If one desires it is actually possible to pitch a tent at the summit and spend the night, an outhouse is even provided at the top. Hikers will make their way up the path, passing sandy cliffs along the way as well as small tribes of indigenous people.

Pinatubo, Philliphines

8. Kilauea, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of the most easily accessible. In the 20th century alone this volcano has erupted on 45 separate occasions with the most recent eruption beginning in 1983. To date this eruption continues and has spewed over 32 billion cubic yards of lava, forever changing the landscape. You can actually drive into this volcano, but hiking throughout is most recommended as it’s one of the only places on earth you can literally walk through an active volcano. Walking around Crater Rim Drive is one of the most popular activities as you can witness lava oozing out of it, witness steam vents and walk across the land that is only a few days old. There are numerous hiking trails throughout and although one can’t plan a visit around when and where to see the lava, helpful guides at the visitors center will point you in the right direction.

Mount Kilauea

7. Mount Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Hiking up this volcano is only permitted with a guide and there is a strict limit on how many people are allowed to visit the crater each day, thus make sure to book your trip in advance. The trip to the top isn’t for the faint of heart and will take anywhere from two to four hours to reach the summit. The most popular time to reach the top is at nighttime and thus more tours leave around 4 pm. A gentle incline awaits hikers at first, taking you through lush vegetation. It quickly becomes steeper and one should expect to walk through volcanic sand that is strewn with black rocks. There are actually three craters at the top that billow out steam and smoke, making strange gurgling sounds. The light show at the top is what everyone waits for though as the craters explode with red fiery sparks, shooting high into the air.

Mount Stromboli

6. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 100 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, making it a popular place for adrenaline junkies and hikers alike. Although Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of the active volcanoes in Indonesia, it is the most visited and is quite easily accessible. The volcano has a constant stream of white smoke coming out of it, reminding visitors that it could explode at any time. Getting to the summit is easy without a guide and is best done in time to see the sunrise, meaning a 3 am wake up call is necessary. The well-defined path up should only take you an hour or so. An interesting fact about this volcano is that the Tengger people believe that in order to appease the Gods here they must offer food and money to them by throwing it into the crater of the volcano during the annual Kasada festival.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It is the second highest peak in Ecuador, lovely looking with its white snow and cone shape. This trek is not for inexperienced hikers though as it is more of a mountain climb than just a hike up the side. In the 18th and 19th century this volcano had a violent spell but now it is mostly just a plume of steam that comes out the top and melts its glacier surroundings. To get here most climbers take a 4X4 up to the border of the national park. They then climb with their guide up to a mountain hut and spend the night, summiting the next morning. It is currently illegal to climb to the summit without a guide and recent signs of eruption have limited the climbing that is allowed. If you have the chance though, summiting the world’s third highest active volcano is certainly something to put on the bucket list.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

4. Mont Pelee, Martinique

In 1902 this dramatic volcano erupted and destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre killing about 30,000 people. Luckily since then you can climb this volcano without worries and without tourists at every bend in the trail. Being an integral part of France, visitors climbing here face no red tape or fees but will need some French to get by as English is not widely spoken. Because of the immense vegetation on the island there are three established routes that trekkers can take. The most popular of these is the Aileron Route as it is a well-constructed and wonderfully varied trail. Climbing before dawn is recommended as the clouds roll in day after day just after dawn and prohibit hikers from the magical views that await. Gorgeous lush green vegetation, flowering plants and jagged peaks surprise visitors along the way of this volcano that really looks nothing like the grey, lava strewn volcanoes you are used to.

Mount Pelee, France

3. Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is full of volcanoes, both dormant and active and it can be hard to choose which one to climb but we highly suggest heading to Telica. The majority of the way up tends to be flat, through farm lands and over dirt roads. It is only the last hour or two where you finally start to hike to the top. The best season for climbing this mountain is up for debate as the dry season tends to be hot whereas the rainy season can make the lava harder to witness. Camping at the top of Telica is one of the most popular trips to do as seeing the lava at night is something special and the sunrise in the morning is truly spectacular. The lava is below the crater rim at a depth of about 120 meters and visitors should expect to have to lie down on their stomachs to look into the crater.

Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

2. Mount Aso, Japan

It is Japan’s largest active volcano and climbing it is certainly an adventure that should be on the top of your bucket list. There are three trails you can use to get up to the summit, with one of them not actually leading up to the volcano (hint: do not take the left trail). The hike itself can take anywhere from an hour or three depending on which trail and how many stops you take along the way. There are actually five separate volcanic peaks here and Mt. Nakadake is the most active spewing a constant stream of sulfuric gas from its peak. If you are feeling really lazy and still want to get to the top of the volcano, there is a choice of two cable cars that will get you there.

Mount Aso, Japan

1. Mount St Helens, United States

It is mandatory to have a permit to hike this active volcano, no matter what time of year and there are only a number of permits that are handed out each year if you want to make it to the top of the crater. Although it is not a technical climb it is strenuous and presents hazards such as ice, loose boulders and fast-changing weather. The scene at the top is what people climb for an it has been described as ‘surreal, unbelievable and awe-inspiring’. A huge crater with a dome that grows in size each year and has a horseshoe glacier around it, not to mention incredible views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, as well as the blue green hills that surround them are all sights to take in from the top. This is truly one of the best volcano hikes in the world and must be at the top of your list to climb.

Mount St Helens, US

10 Things to See and Do in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is just recently becoming one of the hottest new destinations for tourists in Central America. It has been kept under the radar in the past, shadowed by the more developed country of Costa Rica. Fortunately for visitors looking to give Nicaragua a chance, it will not disappoint in terms of things to see and do. From the amazing Caribbean waters of the Corn Islands to the nesting sea turtles to the lush jungles and towering volcanoes; there is no shortage of incredible natural wonders to explore. Whether you are looking for an adrenaline packed vacation or something a little more relaxing, here are 10 incredible things to see and do in Nicaragua.

10. Explore Granada

Many travelers love to use this colonial city as their home base when exploring the country. The city is breathtaking with pastel colored buildings, historic churches and cobblestone streets. Its interesting history and the fact that it is relatively safe draws a lot of tourists here. There are multiple forms of transportation to get around town, including horse drawn carriages, but luckily most attractions here can be reached by foot. Mombacho Volcano is located just outside of town and offers activities such as canopy tours, hikes and a few hot springs. Other visitors here like to take a boat out to the Granada Islets, horseback ride around the farms at the base of the volcano or visit one of the cigar lounges. Making this city your home base ensures there is enough to do within footing, yet still gives you access to many day trips, it’s the perfect combination for your trip.

Granada, Nicaragua

9. Visit the Turtles

There are several beaches in this country where the sea turtles arrive to lay their eggs, sometimes in droves of hundreds. It occurs several times throughout the year and Nicaragua is one of the few places in the world where visitors can witness this amazing event. On the pacific side, the two beaches to see this incredible event are La Flor and Chacocente. They are both dedicated wildlife refuges and under constant supervision. These beaches can be reached by both public transportation or guided tour. On the Caribbean side there is no particular beach to seek out as the turtles here live and feed all year round and therefore can be seen along the entire coast. If you choose to visit the turtles in nesting season or hatching season please respect them by keeping your distance and following all guidelines and rules set out by the guides.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

8. Go Volcano Boarding

Volcano boarding is a fairly new sport for the adrenaline seeking junkies that visit this country. Cerro Negro, the small active volcano is the perfect spot to try this sport. Many tour operators out of Leon offer this thrilling experience where you strap a board or sled onto your back and head up the volcano. Hiking to the top takes less than an hour and then the fun begins. The companies provide protective gear such as knee and elbow pads, as well as goggles and jumpsuits. With the choice of boarding down like a snowboard or sitting and sledding down, visitors will fly down the black rocks and try this once in a lifetime opportunity. It is up to you how fast you want to go but we suggest giving it your all as you only get one shot at it.  Nowhere else in the world can you experience the thrill of sliding down an active volcano.

Volcano Boarding, Nicaragua

7. Experience Miraflor National Park

This unique national reserve features three different climates and a variety of flora and fauna spread throughout. One of the most impressive features of this reserve is the variety of orchids; there are over 200 species throughout the park. These orchids not only grow in their typical flowering plants, but also on the ground and between the rocks. Nine communities are housed on the reserve and offer visitors a unique way to stay. Farmers open their doors to tourists and invite you to stay with a family, learning about life in the Miraflor National Park and the landscape that surrounds them. Wander through cloud forests, rivers and waterfalls during your excursion to this incredible diverse park. Whether you go for just a day or stay a few with a local family, the park will not disappoint.

MiraFlora National Park

6. Explore Leon

Leon is a colonial city full of breathtaking churches, incredible art collections, happening nightlife and colorful colonial architecture. A lot of visitors come here just to experience Volcano boarding, but end up loving the actual city itself. Walking is the transit of choice to get around town and plan on stopping in to check out one of the 13 churches. Leon is not as well preserved as Granada and tends to be less touristy, perhaps even more authentic with bullet holes still present in many of the buildings. There are a ton of volunteer opportunities in this city as well as many non-profit organizations that lead tours and treks to the nearby natural wonders; giving back to the community.

City of Leon, Nicaragua

5. Visit the Granada Islets

Located in Lake Nicaragua are 365 islands scattered off the coast of Granada, the result of Mombacho Volcano blowing its lid years ago. The islands are covered in lush green vegetation and many are occupied by private individuals with vacation homes. Taking a boat tour around the islands is perhaps the best way to explore them and many tours are available from Granada. The bird population here includes cormorants, herons, parrots, hawks and vultures. The monkey island is one of the most popular islands here as the boat can pull up close enough for visitors to reach out and feed them. The monkeys happen to be gentle and love to interact with people. Most of the guides are well informed and will talk to you about the history of the islands, the different architecture and the lake itself.

Photo by: Mukul
Photo by: Mukul

4. Surf in San Juan del Sur

Surfers from all over the world are learning about this incredible surfing location yet it still remains largely less crowded than its neighbor Costa Rica. With over 300 days of offshore winds, there are plenty of swells year round for both beginners and experts. The beach town of San Juan del Sur is the perfect place to call home while you explore the surrounding beaches as it is loaded with restaurants, accommodations and other travelers. One of the most popular beaches for surfing is Playa Maderas, it features a consistent sand bottom beach break and is only 15 minutes from the town. Surf camps are plentiful on this beach and beginners will have no problem finding someone to give them lessons. If you are looking to head out on a boat and find the ultimate wave, join a group going to Colorado where the river mouth beach break provides some of the most incredible barreling rights.

San Juan del Sur

3. Hike a Volcano

This country is often referred to as the country of Lakes and Volcanoes and it would be a shame to visit here without summiting on one of the many volcanoes. There is an impressive line of volcanoes that run north to south and offer everything from crater lakes on top of the volcano, active lava and bellowing smoke that pours out. San Cristóbal Volcano is the highest most active volcano in the country and exhibits some of the characteristics we most associate with volcanoes, cone-shape, smoking and a gigantic stature that towers over the landscape. It is one of the hardest but most rewarding climbs in the country. For something a little easier, head to Masaya Volcano, the most accessible one in the country. Here visitors can drive up to the smoking Santiago Crater where white gas pours out of the top. A national park has been erected around this volcano and visitors can hike to numerous summits and even visit a bat cave.

Masaya Volcano

2. Escape to the Corn Islands

If you are looking for a laid back island complete with palm trees, soft silky white sand and stunningly clear water teeming with marine life; the Corn Islands is where you will want to head. Big Corn and Little Corn are named respectively for their size and for those looking for the ultimate peace and quiet, Little Corn is perfect. With no cars allowed on the island, a handful of restaurants, accommodations and two dive shops; this is the perfect home base for snorkelers and scuba divers. Big Corn on the other hand offers a plentiful variety of restaurants, accommodations, nightlife and more amenities. A short plane ride from the capital city of Managua or a ferry from Blue Corn will get you out to these incredible islands in no time. Eat, relax, swim and dive – these are the four major ways to pass the time here.

Little Corn Island

1. Visit Ometepe Island

This island in Lake Nicaragua never fails to impress visitors with its towering volcanoes that rise dramatically out of the lake. This island has been largely untouched by tourism, offering pristine wildlife, wide beaches, clean waters, a handful of archeological sites and may just be a traveler’s paradise. It is often thought of as the “oasis of peace” and is considered one of the great rock areas of the world due to the number of petroglyphs and stone carvings that have been carved into its boulders. Visitors here can wander the many beaches, stay in adorable B&B’s, climb one of its two volcanoes, bike around the island, take a dip in the natural springs and much more. Visiting Ometepe should be on the top of your list for an unforgettable destination in this wonderful country.

Ometepe Island

Top 10 Destinations for Family Adventure Travel this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to travel, take vacation and explore new parts of the world. Traveling as a family, most people tend to stick to familiar destinations, campgrounds and all-inclusive cruises or resorts where everything is taken care of. But if you are a family that is looking for a little more flexibility, more adventure, plenty of thrills and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we highly suggest checking out these top 10 destinations for family adventure travel.

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you are looking to stick within North America this summer but are still looking for an outdoor adventure for the whole family, Glacier National Park in Montana should be at the top of your list. There are lodges and campgrounds throughout the park with plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, horseback riding and swimming. This national park features a dozen glacier peaks that are separated by clear mountain streams, pristine lakes and plenty of waterfalls to discover. Kids and adults alike will love looking out for the abundance of wildlife including deer, moose and mountain goats.  If you are looking for a more guided and organized adventure there are plenty of tour guides that offer family specific trips throughout the park, complete with adults-only meals, luxury lodge accommodations and enough activities to keep the kids busy all day long. Get into the heart of the mountains and feel like you are worlds away from home.

Grinnell Glacier - Glacier National Park

9.  Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are best explored when kids are a little older and can appreciate what they truly have to offer. The best way to discover the islands is a family geared cruise that ensures the whole family will be involved in the fun. These family cruises are often small and intimate, which paves the way for the exceptional customer service that extends to the kids. While snorkeling with the turtles, swimming with the sea lions and watching the penguins swim by are always a hit amongst the whole family, these cruises offer so much more. Connecting with nature at a young age is important to teaching children about the planet and the guides aboard these ships know how to connect with them. Where else in the world can your 10 year old learn to anchor a boat, sleep in a treehouse and swim alongside a curious sea lion all in one day?

Galapagos Islands

8. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Sand, sand and more sand is what you will find at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and we promise that the kids will absolutely love it here! This giant sandbox provides plenty of opportunity to bring out the kid in anyone as you slide down the hills on either a sled or sand board. This activity is actually legal in the park and sleds and boards can be rented at one of a few retailers in the San Luis Valley. The best time to visit this park is at the beginning of the summer before the dunes become scorching hot. This time of year is also when Medano Creek is flowing and families should bring inflatable tubes to float down it. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, four wheeling and fun ranger-led programs are all activities that families can look forward to here. Whether you travel here just for a day or spend a week camping; families won’t run out of fun and exciting things to do.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

7. New Mexico

If your family is looking for adventure, real cowboys and Indians and exceptional food, New Mexico may just be the perfect vacation destination. Although this destination is widely known for its art galleries, boutique shops and spirituality; there is plenty more to discover if you dig a little deeper. With ranch resorts surrounding the area, families can choose adventures such as horseback riding, watching the Rodeo, fly fishing, rock climbing and white water rafting. One especially unique adventure here is the opportunity to hike and camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge area with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Each member of the family is coupled with its own llama, which carries the gear and creates a great distraction for the little ones who often tire easily of hiking. This camping experience is complete with campfires, gourmet meals and a never ending variety of activities for the kids.

Pecos National Historic Park Santa Fe New Mexico

6. Costa Rica

If you are looking for a thrilling summer vacation that really get’s the whole family’s hearts pumping, Costa Rica is the perfect country to do so. One of the safest, if not the safest country in Central America, traveling here is easy and inexpensive. Trek through an impressive cloud forest, zip line over lush green mountains, hike a volcano and learn to surf in the warm waters. Kids will delight in listening to the howler monkeys in the trees, relaxing in the many hot springs and splashing in the waves. Eco-tourism has taken a big step in this country and there are endless choices for accommodations, whether you want a luxurious treehouse or a laid back hotel. With two major airports to fly into, English speaking guides and a plethora of adventure; Costa Rica is a perfect summer vacation.

Max Herman / Shutterstock.com
Max Herman / Shutterstock.com

5. Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Wildlife, mountain treks, sparkling blue lakes and hot springs are what await families in the Canadian Rockies. If your family loves to hike, mountain bike and swim; there is no better place in Canada to visit for a summer full of adventure and thrills. Many choose to make Banff their home base as it is full of kid-friendly restaurants, hotels that feature pools and waterslides and easy access to the surrounding mountains and lakes. The other option for adventure travel here is a custom designed organized tour, designed with families in mind. There are some exceptional tour operators in this area and from canoeing to white water rafting to cliff jumping to exploring the towns; these trips are perfect for families who want adventure but prefer someone else does the planning.

Canadian Rockies Alberta

4. Grand Canyon and Surrounding Area, Arizona

It would be a mistake to think that kids will be bored exploring the Grand Canyon but it would also be a mistake to assume they will want to spend a week doing so. Therefore to make the most of this adventurous vacation, we suggest splitting your time between the Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas of Page and Sedona. Hiking below the rim in the canyon is highly recommended for avid outdoor enthusiasts and the ranger led hikes are a hit with families as the ranger points out things like fossils in the rock layers, lizards basking in the sun, and desert wildflowers and wildlife. The surrounding areas of Page and Sedona offer outdoor adventures such as exploring Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. Combine that with the smooth water float trip you can take and the kids will have the best outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

Horseshoe Bend

3. Big Island, Hawaii

Animal adventures, outdoor thrills and the chance to sneak in some education is what await families on the Big Island of Hawaii. Start off with a heart-pounding helicopter ride over the island, introducing you to the hidden waterfalls, lava lakes and fiery fresh lava flows. Next up head to one of the many beaches were you can build towering black sand castles, take a family surf lesson and try your hand at stand up paddle boarding. Depending on the swimming levels of the kids, scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular among these warm waters that teem with colorful tropical fish. For an even bigger adventure make sure to try the manta ray night dive. Climb a volcano, zip line through the jungle and pitch your tent in one of the many campgrounds and discover the ultimate summer playground.

Big Island, Hawaii

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Say goodbye to overcrowded family cruises and experience the unforgettable landscape of Alaska from your own personal floating base. Tour companies are now offering intimate, family orientated cruises through Glacier Bay; set at your own personal pace. An on-board naturalist is there to teach the entire family about tide pools, the underwater songs of the whales and local botany. Kids will love kayaking to hidden inlets, walking out onto frozen glaciers and hiking through majestic old-growth forests and coming face to face with incredible wildlife such as bears, bald eagles and humpback whales. The best part for parents may just be when the kids conk out and they are privy to the on-board hot tub or an after dark paddle through the sea. Instead of watching the glaciers pass by from a typical ship, why not get adventurous and explore them with a family orientated boat trip.

Glacier Bay, Alaska

1. Zambia Safari, Africa

This is the best adventurous family vacation to take if your family includes active teenagers. Not necessarily recommended for younger children, Zambia Safaris promise high thrills, excellent wildlife spotting and a chance to hike in the national parks; keeping in mind the minimum age to hike through these parks is 12. Visit the unforgettable Victoria Falls, raft in the class 5 rapids of the Zambezi River and come face to face with big game such as hippos and lions. Walking safaris are an amazing way to discover creatures you could never see from a car such as the dung beetle, and still offer luxury accommodations in the heart of the parks. Expect to kayak the lakes, swim in a natural infinity pool, visit a local school and have an experience of a lifetime. Teens love this adventurous vacation as guides do an incredible job of making them feel independent and many companies even offer teen only dinners, hikes and more.

Zambia Safari, Africa

The 8 Best Places in the World to Swim with Sharks

“Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating.“ – Voltaire Cousteau, How to Swim With Sharks, A Primer.
See that quote there? Ignore it, because it was written by some dude back in the late 1700’s who may or may not have been an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau, the person responsible for the very idea of swimming with sharks the way we do today. The fact of the matter is that YOU want to swim with sharks, let some other weirdo tell you about how they communed with dolphins and wept about how special it was, you want to cement yourself at the top of the food chain in both land and sea. MapQuest Travel is going to help you realize that goal, with this handy guide.

8. Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

The Tiger Shark is known to be a solitary hunter that generally pursues its prey at night. This shark is also known as the “Sea Tiger” due to its distinctive striped features and aggressiveness, noted for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks (from lobsters to surfboards). The Tiger Shark can easily reach a length of 16 feet and is common around the Pacific islands, but less so in recent years due to the fact that they are considered to be a near-threatened species because some cultures prize their fins as a magical cure-all. The best people to help you swim with Tiger Sharks are the folks at Hawaii Shark Encounters. Owned and operated by Stefanie Brendl, who started the company with her late partner and Shark Week personality Jimmy Hall, Hawaii Shark Encounters offers full service eco-tourist packages that allow you to get up close and personal with these predators from the safety of a shark cage.  Find out more at http://hawaiisharkencounters.com.

Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

7. Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

Shaped like your most intuitive workshop implement, the Hammerhead Shark is one of the most distinctive sharks under the sea. Scientists have been arguing amongst themselves for years about the evolutionary function of their noggins, some argue that it is to improve either sensory input, maneuvering, prey manipulation or all three. The Hammerhead usually likes to swim in schools by day, then switches to solo-hunter mode at night. These unique predators can be found along almost every warm coast of the planet, from Costa Rica to Africa. There are only 11 species of Hammerhead shark, of those only 3 are considered to be ‘bitey’ to humans, none fatal, as of 2013 there have been 33 recorded attacks, none of them fatal. In Hawaiian culture, the Hammerhead is a sign of fortune, and to be passed by one is a sign that the gods are watching over your loved ones, and the ocean is clean. If you find yourself in the clean waters of Costa Rica, spend some time with a reputable dive operator, requesting a dive in an area frequented by Hammerheads. Rich coast diving is a well-reviewed outfitter, you would be served well to check them out: http://richcoastdiving.com/.

Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

6. Bull Sharks -Fiji

Of all the sharks, the Bull Shark is the most dangerous to people, and the one that’s most likely to nibble your pink hand/foot bits that dangle off the end of a surfboard. A story about the series of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore back in 1916 was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s Jaws story (they only missed Snooki by a hundred years or so). Generally it is the Bull Shark one sees when you think of anything shark-like, and it gets its name from its stubby appearance and aggressive nature. The Bull Shark is one of the few species of saltwater shark that actually tolerates fresh water, and they have been known to swim up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. Bull Sharks are found in any warm ocean water coastal areas, in rivers, lakes and large rivers that are open to the ocean. Some of the best Bull Shark diving in the world is found in Fiji, and a great number of diving professionals name the Fiji Shark Dive as the best shark dive in the world. The Fiji Shark Dive is hosted by the Beqa Adventure Divers, which attracts some of the world’s best underwater professional cameramen and photographers.

Bull Sharks -Fiji

5. Whale Sharks -Honduras

The Whale Shark is the largest species of fish in existence, and is a non-aggressive filter feeder. These aquatic gentle giants have a mouth that is about 4.5 feet wide, with a wide flat head and two small eyes at the front. Bearing distinctive yellow spots and stripes, the Whale Shark’s skin can be almost four inches thick, serving as natural armor against many predators.  Even though the Whale Shark is huge, they pose little danger to humans, they are known to be very docile and sometimes give “rides” to divers (they let you grab their dorsal fins and they pull you along). Like most sharks, Whale Sharks are found in most warm coastal regions, one of the most popular regions you can find them is the Bay Islands in Honduras. The Deep Blue Utila resort, in conjunction with the Utila Whale Shark Research Project offer up a unique PADI certified diving package, as well as paradise on a private beach.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

4. Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

One of most common sharks in the Indo-Pacific, the Whitetip Reef Shark is easily spotted by its grey skin, slender shape, pronounced gills, and irregular swim pattern (its distinctive and hard to miss). These string beans of the shark family grow to be about 8 feet long but only weigh about 44 lbs. Whitetip Reef Sharks like to hang out in coral reefs, reef edges, sandy flats and shallow lagoons (they are relatively short water swimmers). Only found in the Indo-Pacific region, the Whitetip Reef Shark’s best habitat for the discerning diver is the Great Barrier Reef (one of the seven wonders of the natural world) in Australia. The very best reef shark-diving experience is from aboard a dive boat, in a live-aboard 4 Day Coral Sea Trip spanning two reef systems. Learn how you can book your Whitetip Reef Shark experience on the Spirit of Freedom by visiting the Diving Cairns website.

Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

3. Lemon Shark -Moorea

The Lemon Shark is the most studied shark in history, unlike most of their shark kin, the Lemon Shark handles captivity better than any other observable species. They get their name from their distinctive light colored yellowish skin, and they grow to be about 11 feet long, usually weighing around 420 lbs. The lemon Shark has electro-receptors which help them track prey, it’s a sort of radar that senses the electric impulses emitted by all living things. In addition to this tingly sense, the have a secondary olfactory sense aided by magnetic sensors in their nose offsetting their poor vision. Lemon Sharks are social hunters that roam in schools, migrating thousands of miles through the ocean to reach mating locations (like shark nightclubs with half price drinks on Wednesdays). They love the tropical and subtropical waters along the coast of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans opting for shallow water, hardly going deeper than 80 meters.  Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, is known as the Lemon Shark Diving capital of the world, and TopDive’s Moorea Shark Experience allows you to have a safe excursion into this apex-predator’s habitat.

Lemon Shark -Moorea

2. The Basking Shark -Scotland

The Cetorhinus maximus, also known as the Basking Shark, can’t help but eat with its mouth open, no matter what his mom says. Not a lot is known about this giant fish, second in size only to its cousin the Whale Shark, it grows over 35 feet long and has an enormous mouth over 3 feet wide. The mouth is not to be feared however, the teeth on this giant fish are tiny, and the wide open mouth is only menacing to the plankton and other small floating sea creatures it hoovers up as it swims along. Basking sharks like to swim in water that swings from warm to cool, and like staying close to the surface where their food lives. These big mouthed superfish patrol the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can sometimes be spotted off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When it comes to swimming with these living fossils, Oban Scotland seems to be the place to be, and there is an extensive dive program that caters to those that want to swim with Basking Sharks specifically. Feel free to check out their tour schedule at http://baskingsharkscotland.co.uk/.

Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear
Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear

1. The Great White Shark –San Francisco

This is it, the moment you have all been waiting for, I can feel the anticipation as you have plowed through this exhaustive shark list and muttered to yourselves “jeez, get with the Jaws already!!” This Boogyman of the Sea, popularized by Peter Benchley and Spielberg movies, is hands down, the deadliest predator on the planet, and we as a species are fortunate that we don’t share the same habitat. Seriously, why would you swim with these guys, what would your mother think? Well, actually, Great White Shark attacks are very rare, even when humans and Great Whites swim together. Generally these toothy fish just aren’t that into you, for example, in the Mediterranean Sea (where their concentrations are great), there are only 31 confirmed attacks against people in the last 200 years! Now, if you still want to swim with these guys, contact the good people at Great White Adventures who host dives in San Francisco and Guadalupe Mexico, tell them Mike sent you, they will ask what the hell you are talking about, just wink and say “gotcha”.

Great White Shark Cage Dive

The World’s 12 Most Beautiful Rainforests

Rainforests have been called our planet’s lungs. Although the official definition of rainforest is still debated, most of us will agree that these fragile and endangered ecosystems are treasure troves of natural diversity and beauty. Rainforests are home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural panoramas and some of its strangest creatures. You don’t need to be a biologist or a botanist to appreciate the rainforests though, and some of us might be surprised to learn that rainforest ecosystems are closer than we think—some of them might even be in our own backyards. From the tropical rainforests of the Southern hemisphere to the temperate rainforests along continental coasts in the Northern hemisphere, and everything in between, here are 12 beautiful rainforests that prove just how stunning planet Earth really is. Even if you don’t consider yourself an eco-tourist now, this might just convince you to add some of these destinations to your bucket list.

12. Yanoda (China)

Endless luck / Shutterstock

The Yanoda Rainforest is located in Hainan island province, near the city of Sanya on the south coast of the island. Sanya is a well-known tourist destination as the southern-most city on the island. Part of the area’s popularity is thanks to the stunning sights of the Yanoda Rainforest, which is a popular tourist attraction itself. Of 123 square kilometers, 45 square kilometers have been set aside as the Yanoda Rainforest Cultural Tourism Zone, which has been rated by the Chinese government as an AAAAA scenic site, the highest possible rank. The government plans to invest almost 4 billion renminbi; to date, around 2 billion RMB has been invested in the development of the Rainforest Valley and the Dreamworld Valley, which allow visitors to travel 18 kilometers into the park on ring roads. Stairs, suspension bridges, and plank roads lead adventurers to giant boulders, a variety of flora and fauna, and waterfalls.

A shuttle runs between Yanoda and Sanya and visitors can purchase tickets for various activities within the park or choose from packages that include lunch and a variety of activities. Admission prices begin at 170 yuan.

11. Sinharaja (Sri Lanka)

David Cayless / Getty Images

Sinharaja is a large park in Sri Lanka. It was saved from most logging activities due to its inaccessibility and in 1978, UNESCO created it as a World Biodiversity Reserve and later designated it a World Heritage Site. Today, the hilly virgin rainforest is a treasure trove of native Sri Lankan flora and fauna, some of them endemic to the island.

Sinharaja is only 13 miles east-to-west, and less than 5 miles from north to south. Nonetheless, it represents some of the best-preserved lowland tropical rainforests on the island. Although wildlife isn’t as easy to see as at parks like Yala, there are some 15 Sri Lankan leopards living in the park, along with stripe-necked mongoose, golden palm civets, purple-faced langur monkeys, green pit vipers, and a multitude of birds and other creatures. Keep an eye out for the whistling lizard, which is best known for its alarm call. The forest itself is dense with flora typical of a humid, tropical forest. Trees are packed around 45 to 55 individuals per hectare and the average height tends to be around 40 meters, with some specimens reaching up to 50 meters!

10. Hawaii (United States)

Howard Kingsnorth / Getty Images

Most of us think of tropical rainforests as some kind of other world, places that exist in lands “far, far away.” They’re certainly not American, at least. But contrary to popular belief, there’s at least one place in the U.S. that you can find a tropical rainforest: the state of Hawaii. Tropical rainforests extend over each of the Hawaiian islands, encompassing some 2,600 square miles. Since the islands have been isolated by the Pacific Ocean for millions of years, the plant and animal species that inhabit these forests are unique; you won’t find creatures like this anywhere else under the sun!

The Hawaiian rainforests contain coastal mesic forests, mixed mesic forests, and “wet” forests. All of these subtypes have a typical rainforest structure and include both native species like koa and naturalized Polynesian plant species, such as kukui and milo. From 4,100 feet, forests receive 118 inches of rain or more each year. Many native species of birds and animals live here, but the forests are threatened by non-native species such as feral pigs. Travelers should consider a visit to these forests—before they disappear forever.

9. Daintree Rainforest (Australia)

John Crux Photography / Getty Images

Along the northeast coast of Australia, on the banks of the Daintree River, lies a dense rainforest. The forest, known as the Daintree Rainforest, is one of the most complex ecosystems in Australia and indeed, anywhere on Earth. Despite covering less than 1 percent of the Australian landmass, the forest contains 3 percent of frog, reptile, and marsupial species, 7 percent of bird species, and 90 percent of bat and butterfly species in Australia. It is also home to many primitive and ancient species, estimated to date back some 110 million years. The Idiot Fruit (idiospermum australiense) is one of these primitive species, one of the most ancient and rare flowering plants on earth.

The landscape offers nature-lovers deep gorges, swift-flowing streams and waterfalls, dense forest, and soaring peaks in ancient mountain ranges. The forest’s position along the coast allows for the tropical rainforest to be captured in the same image with white sand beaches and coastal reefs, an extremely rare combination difficult to replicate anywhere else on the planet. Art lovers will appreciate the Daintree Forest as much as scientific minds!

8. Appalachian Rainforest (United States)

Mark Baldwin / Shutterstock

While there may not be many “tropical” rainforests that are close at hand for most North Americans, there are rainforests on the North American continent. In fact, most people probably don’t realize that much of the Appalachian mountain range in the eastern U.S. is designated as a temperate rainforest biome. The area has a cool and mild climate and receives over 60 inches of rainfall per year. The forest is home to more than 30 species of salamanders. Mammals include squirrels, black bears, and white-tailed deer. Fir, spruce, beech, and birch trees are common.

Humans have inhabited the forest for around 10,000 years. The Cherokee Nation was forced to relocate to Oklahoma between 1838 and 1839. The Appalachian Trail, which spans more than 2,000 miles, was completed in 1937. Hikers can follow the route from Georgia to Maine. There are also several parks, including the Nantahala National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Cherokee National Forest, in the area. The Cherokee National Forest reports millions of visitors each year.

7. Harapan (Indonesia)

Fedvisual / Shutterstock

On the island of Sumatra, in the South Pacific, a 98,555-hectare swath of land makes up the Harapan rainforest in Jambi province. The forest is about 20 percent of the island’s remaining forestation, despite having been selectively logged since the 1970s. It is also extremely biodiverse, sheltering some 300 different species of birds, the endangered Sumatran tiger, and the Sumatran rhinoceros. Since the forest is vulnerable to logging, the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has been campaigning to plant 1 million new trees in the area. The forest is currently managed by the society, along with Burung Indonesia and Birdlife International, under a 95-year license. A proposed highway through the forest is a current threat.

The Harapan Rainforest has a program that allows eco-tourists to travel through the area on a number of different adventures. For those interested in hiking, there are 4 different treks that can be undertaken, each offering a different level of challenge. Other popular guided tours include the river safari and the night safari. For those adventurous enough, camping overnight is an option, and for anyone who wants to leave a (green) mark on the forest, tree-planting is encouraged.

6. North Western Ghats (India)

Instants / Getty Images

The Western Ghat Mountains in India are home to not 1, not 2, but 4 distinct tropical rainforest ecoregions. The North Western Ghats rainforest is in southwestern India, in the northern portion of the Ghats range. The forest extends from Gujarat in the southeast to Karnataka, where the Joga Falls, the second-highest of India’s waterfalls, is a major tourist attraction. The forest covers nearly 19,000 square miles and extends to 1,000 meters up into the mountains.

The World Wildlife Fund designated 13 protected areas within the forest. Together, these areas cover about 5 percent of the forest area. Of these, Anshi National Park, in Karnataka, is one of the best to visit. The park is open between 6 am and 6 pm and offers camping, boating, rafting, canoeing, and trekking. One of the most popular attractions is the spectacular Dudhsagar waterfall, which can be reached on a 20-kilometer trek. Black panthers, Asian elephants, and tigers are known to live in the park but are rarely seen. Many species of birds and reptiles also inhabit the park. Peak tourist season is between October and May, which are considered the best months to visit, although the climate is humid year-round.

5. Vancouver Island (Canada)

swissmediavision / Getty Images

The word “rainforest” tends to evoke images of tropical regions and deep, dense jungles. In reality, there are many different types of rainforests scattered around the world, including the temperate rainforests of coastal British Columbia, Canada, which covers Vancouver Island. Part of the larger Pacific Coast temperate rainforest, the island’s rainforest flora tends to mirror that of the mainland, including the famous “big” trees of BC: western hemlock, yellow cedar, Douglas-fir, and western white pine. Some of the tallest Douglas fir specimens ever recorded were found on Vancouver Island. To the south and the east of the island, vegetation is more varied, including madrone, Oregon-grape, and red cedar. Maple and red alder trees can also be found.

The animals that inhabit this forest include black bears, cougars, Roosevelt elk, Vancouver Island marmot, and Vancouver Island wolf. The southern portion of the island is heavily populated and numerous opportunities for recreation are available. Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes on the island, as it is also home to a number of peaks, including the Golden Hinde. Lakes and rivers are plentiful, as are fjords along the western coast.

4. Primorsky Krai (Siberia, Russia)

Alexandr Sherstobitov / Getty Images

Most of us think of Siberia as an empty tundra with fields of snow stretching across vast expanses. In truth, Siberia is such a huge swath of land, accounting for as much as 10 percent of Earth’s landmass, that it inevitably has many different types of biomes and ecosystems. From the tundra in the north to steppes and plains, the Siberian landscape is rich and varied.

Perhaps the most “shocking” biome is a rainforest in Primorsky Krai, a region in southeast Siberia that borders on the Pacific Ocean and China. Primorsky Krai is almost 80 percent forested and most of that forest is a temperate rainforest. The forest is unlike any other on Earth in that it remains mostly intact, although it is threatened by illegal logging and poaching. It is one of the last refuges for the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard, among other endangered species. The area is temperate, with the average temperature hovering around 1 degree Celsius in the north and 5 degrees in the south. Precipitation is estimated between 600 and 850 millimeters each year.

3. Monteverde (Costa Rica)

Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

A peculiar and specialized type of rainforest is known as a “cloud forest.” These forests typically appear at higher elevations, usually in mountainous regions. Like their tropical counterparts, they experience high rainfall amounts, which make them wet, but they’re often a little bit cooler. The forests develop in the saddle area of mountainous ranges, where clouds will gather, shrouding the forest in almost omnipresent fog. The fog condenses around tree leaves, which then drips down to the forest floor.

Cloud forests are important and delicate ecosystems that support a smorgasbord of life. Monteverde in Costa Rica is one such cloud forest. Perhaps the most famous of the few cloud forests around the globe, Monteverde was only “discovered” in the 1950s by some American Quakers who moved to the area. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was founded in 1972. Around 70,000 tourists visit the reserve each year, traversing well-maintained trails and discovering the area’s wealth of flora and fauna, including over 500 species of orchids and 161 species of reptiles and amphibians. The area includes a mix of North and South American species.

2. Amazon Rainforest (South America)

Dominic Cram / Getty Images

Also known as the Amazon jungle and Amazonia, this tropical rainforest covers most of the Amazon River basin in South America. The forest stretches some 2.1 million square miles, through 9 of 14 South American states. Brazil contains up to 60 percent of the forest, the most of any nation. Representing over half of the world’s remaining rainforests, the Amazon is easily the best-known rainforest on Earth. It is also the largest, with an estimated 390 billion trees encompassed in its borders.

The Amazon has unparalleled biodiversity: of every 10 species known to us, at least 1 of them lives in the Amazon. Flora are also diverse; the forest has up to 16,000 different species of trees. An examination of 62 acres in Ecuador was found to have 1,100 different types of trees! This dense forest also has a considerable impact on Earth’s climate. Deforestation has become a major concern in light of this. Despite this, the Amazon has remained largely impenetrable and many Native tribes still live deep in the forest. It was discovered that much of the lush vegetation found in the forest is the result of careful human management to create richer soils over 11,000 years.

1. Tongass National Forest (United States)

Carlos Rojas / Getty Images

The largest national forest in the U.S., Tongass consists of 17 million acres of temperate rainforest in the southeast of Alaska. While Alaska might be one of the last places we’d expect to find a rainforest, Tongass is part of the larger Pacific temperate rainforest, which the rainforests on the Canadian West coast mentioned earlier also belong to. Tongass is remote and relatively undisturbed, so it serves as an important refuge for many endangered animal species and rare plants. Much of the old-growth forest is now protected from logging and will never be harvested. The 75,000 people who inhabit the forest are Alaskan Native peoples who depend on the land for their livelihood.

Tongass is Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, although much of the area includes wetlands, snow, ice, and rock. Close to 1 million people visit the forest every year. Approximately 150 cabins are available for rent and there are several areas that are designated bear-viewing areas. There are also 15 campgrounds scattered through the forest, many with backdrops against the magnificent Alaskan wilderness and glaciers. Kayaking and canoeing through fjords is a popular activity.

9 Countries With The Highest Air Travel Fees

One of the most consistent differences between countries throughout the world is the discrepancy in the fees and taxes paid by air travelers upon arrival or departure (and sometimes both). Every nation has a different set of rules and regulations pertaining to air transit, which creates a vast landscape of costs for travelers depending on origin and destination. Many people book flights and wonder what are all the extra taxes and fees we see listed. Sometimes these taxes and fees are worked in to the initial price showing on a booking site but sometimes taxes and fees are added in after, often leaving travelers scratching their heads at the final price. This list examines the 9 countries with consistently high expenses so you can be aware of what taxes and fees go into the final cost you pay to fly.

9. Mexico – $25 USD

The numerous beaches, resorts, temples and ruins throughout Mexico make it an incredibly popular tourist destination not just for North Americans, but travelers from across the world.  Busy airports in Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara, Monterrey and Tijuana service millions of visitors a year, all of whom pay a tax upon arrival. All non-Mexican nationals must pay a $25 fee except those who have a permanent resident status, or are just on a connecting flight.

Though it isn’t an extremely high fee, it is one that often irritates confused tourists who are unaware of the charge when arriving; however, it is hard to blame the Mexican government for the charge, as it provides a steady income from the more than 20-million international visitors per year, a number which looks set to continue to climb as the tourism industry recovers from the slump seen during recent global economic troubles.

Mexico city

8. Costa Rica – $28 USD

Much like Mexico, Costa Rica is another country that is renowned for its beautiful beaches and resorts. The capital, San Jose, is home to the second busiest airport in Central America, Juan Santamaria International Airport, which sees nearly 4-million passengers per year. Though Costa Rica has a number of great destinations, the country is not among the most visited in the Americas. Air travelers to Costa Rica are greeted with a $28 fee upon their arrival to the country.

Much like Mexico, the fee charged isn’t an exorbitant price, but can be enough to frustrate visitors to the country who have already paid a great deal of money for a trip. Though Costa Rica may not be a top destination in the Americas, the economy is still heavily reliant on the tourism industry. Given that, it is unsurprising that the government would tax air travelers as a source of income.

Juan Santamaria memorial park Alajuela, Costa Rica

7. Samoa – $30 USD

The small island of Samoa is a country that relies more on agriculture than it does on tourism as a source of income for the economy. That doesn’t stop the country from levying a $30 fee on all travelers departing from the capital, Apia. Apia of course, is the home of Faleolo International Airport, the only international airport in the country.

Until more modern times, the airport could not accommodate jets larger than a Boeing 737. Faleolo was initially built as a military base in 1942, and has only recently started to become more open to international travel. The tourism industry is an area that is being seen as an area of opportunity for expansion in Samoa. Travelers can hope the $30 fee is being budgeted back into the future plans for development of the tourist sector, as the small nation looks to attract visitors.

Apia Samoa

6. Honduras – $37 USD

Unlike a number of other countries in Central and South America, Honduras is more known for its exporting of coffee and bananas instead of tourism like nearby Mexico and Costa Rica. That isn’t to say there are no spots that appeal to tourists, as the country is home to ancient Mayan ruins and coral reef near Bay Island. Those who do choose to visit Honduras are required to pay a $37.50 fee for air travel.

Travelers should find some solace in the fact that the somewhat stiff fee is also applied to native Hondurans as well, although at a slightly cheaper $34 instead. The fee is perhaps in place due to the amount of air travel in Honduras relative to its neighbors, as the country is home to 4 of the top 15 busiest airports in Central America.

West End Beach, Roatan, Honduras

5. Austria – €35

A number of European countries have begun introducing taxes on air travel, and in 2010 Austria initiated a departure tax. For travelers moving within Europe, the tax is a minor fee. Those individuals who need to fly outside of Europe on the other hand, are paying nearly $45 USD for departure taxes.

The tourism industry is a major part of the Austrian economy and accounts for close to 10% of the countries gross domestic product, and saw some 24-million visitors in 2013. Though the departure tax benefits the government by providing millions of dollars, there are a number of critics in the country (specifically the airline business) who fear the tax will push potential tourists to land in neighboring areas before taking an alternative means of transportation into the country, thus averting the hefty departure tax.

Vienna Austria Night Aerial

4. Germany – €42.18

The inspiration for Austria to go forward with its departure tax was the creation of a similar tax created in Germany that begun in January of 2011. Just like the model featured in Austria, the German departure tax setup charges travelers heading between European countries the least amount of money, with a slight increase for parts of Africa and the Middle East, and up to nearly $53 USD for any other country.

In 2012, Germany ranked as the 7th most popular tourist destination in the world (5th most popular in Europe) and saw slightly over 30-million visitors to the country. Just as in Austria, critics of the German departure tax cite it as an instance of a heavy-handed government money-generating ploy. Though the tourism sector doesn’t seem to be suffering yet, the opposition believes it will only hurt the country in the long term.

Berline Germany, Spree River

3. Australia – $55 AUD

Unlike a number of other countries on this list, the Australian version of a departure tax is included into a traveler’s ticket price. That is about the only positive (if that can be considered positive) about the Australian Passenger Movement Charge. The fee hits visitors to the country with a charge equivalent to about $45.25 USD when leaving.

Few countries have a fee higher than what travelers pay in Australia, and tourism is a relatively important business in the Australian economy. Sydney and Melbourne are popular destinations, as well as Queensland, the Gold Coast and of course, the largest reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef and the most common idea associated with the Australia: the outback. Because of the unique places of interest to visit, it is unlikely the $55 Passenger Movement Charge will be deterring potential tourists any time soon.

Circular Quay Sydney Australia

2. Fiji – $198.93 FJD

Fiji is one of the only countries with an outright cost higher than Australia; Fiji instituted a 33% hike in its departure tax in 2013, which saw the fee rise to just over $100 USD in 2014. Like many other countries with departure taxes, the Fiji government cites obligations to cleanliness of the natural environment as the reason for the increase in cost to travelers.

Fiji is not a particularly common tourist destination. The country is home to a number of natural resources and is considered to be a developed economy in relation to its neighbors in the Pacific island area. Though the island may be small, and the fees may be high, Nadi International Airport saw more than 2-million visitors pass through its doors. While tourism is not yet a main industry, Fiji is another country that has identified this as an area of potential economic growth.

Don Mammoser / Shutterstock.com
Don Mammoser / Shutterstock.com

1. United States/United Kingdom – varying

While the departure taxes in the United States and United Kingdom are not as high as the rest of the countries on this list, air travelers in these countries pay a number of taxes on seemingly every aspect of flight. Fees paid for baggage at an airport in the United States can cost a traveler $100 on a budget airline. In the United Kingdom, the Air Passenger duty can cost travelers flying outside of Europe well over $200.

Both countries rank within the top 10 most visited in the world (United States, 1st, United Kingdom, 8th). It is unlikely to see any changes to these fees as tourism to these two global destinations are always going to remain steady, regardless of fees put on travelers, as more than 90-million people combined visited the two countries in 2013.

 

skyearth / Shutterstock.com
skyearth / Shutterstock.com

13 Places to See While Single

Travelling single for the first time can be downright scary but if you have courage to take the plunge it’s something you won’t regret. To travel single is to indulge one’s self. Whether you want to party hard in a hot sunny destination where the drinks keep flowing and the bars never close, or whether you want to find inner peace in a tranquil setting where reading a book on the beach all day is encouraged; there is a place for every single traveler in this world. From the beaches of Costa Rica to the mountains of New Zealand, these destinations are full of adventure, relaxation and friendly locals and fellow travelers that will make you feel at home. When you need some time alone; pack your bags, hop on a plane and explore the twelve best places to travel when single.

13. Cali, Colombia

As Colombia’s third largest city; Cali parties more than any other city in this country. Known as The Salsa capital of the World, you can dance from dusk until dawn; no questions asked. If you are looking to relax after a big night of salsa dancing, why not head to the Cali Zoo. The focus here is on Colombian wildlife and education. Stroll through the lush city park and and grab a bite of the seafood chowder or lobster that is always offered. Boasting some of the most beautiful women in the world, professional salsa dancers at every turn and a warm sultry temperature all year long; this city is a must visit when single.

Cali Colombia

12. Iceland

With a country built on tourism and not the most romantic place you think of when you think vacation, Iceland is the perfect destination for the single traveler. Most locals speak impeccable English and English signs and menus are offered throughout the country putting single travelers at ease. Home of the excursion day trips, Iceland offers a chance to meet fellow travelers while whale watching, hiking or relaxing in the hot springs. Catch the northern lights from September to April or choose to travel from mid-May to August where midnight sun keeps it light 24/7. Don’t be fooled by the serenity of this country, the locals also know how to throw a party and keep it going all night long; especially during the summer months.

Reykjavik Iceland

11. Australia

Home to thousands of solo travelers a year, you certainly won’t stick out here if you are alone. Besides the irresistible accents and the sense of welcoming from the locals; you will find a never ending supply of hostels that are begging to be stayed in. From snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to climbing The Blue Mountains in Sydney to exploring the Outback; Australia is a perfect place to check off some of those things on your bucket list. Make new friends, fall in love with the countryside and explore some fantastic beaches. From Sydney to Perth; Australia as a whole is considered incredibly safe for international travelers.

Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com
Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com

10. Panama

With solo travel being a norm and English widely spoken throughout the city, Panama City has much to see and do. With its lively and diverse culture coupled with the famous Panama Canal and being one of the friendliest Central American destinations, this country can’t be missed. For the single adventure traveler this country is packed with zip lining, white water rafting and surfing opportunities. For a more laid back vacation one must not miss travelling to the San Blas Islands where tourism has not yet taken over. The native Kuna’s control this land and you will find untouched nature and beauty. Sail the islands, sleep in eco-friendly accommodations and embrace your soul here. Make sure to give yourself time to really enjoy all this country has to offer.

San Blas Islands, Panama

9. Maui, Hawaii

Pristine white sand beaches, friendly local people and a currency that won’t have you scratching your head in confusion, Maui is the perfect Hawaiian Island to visit as a single traveler. If adults-only resorts are something that you’re looking for, Lahaina in West Maui has no shortage of them. Five star hotels line the ocean with private beach access, pools and spas. If a condo rental is more your style there are plenty to rent steps from the ocean. Renting a car from the airport is faster than claiming your luggage and driving the Island is just one way to see the beauty. Stand up paddle board with the sea turtles, kayak with the whales and attend a beach/ohana party.

Maui, Hawaii

8. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Although not the safest of cities on our list; Rio deserves to be one of the top twelve places to see when single. Where else boasts gorgeous mountains, pristine beaches and a party like Carnaval? Besides having one of the best hotel bars in the world (check out the Fasano Hotel), Rio is known for its beaches. Take a walk around and mingle with the locals on the beach and we promise you an invite to a party. Make sure to hook up with some fellow travelers and explore the beautiful downtown area lined with churches and museums. If you are going to visit during the biggest carnival in the world, be sure to book early and prepare yourself for a lot of dancing and little sleep.

Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com
Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com

7. New York City

It is hard to feel alone when you are immersed in a city that’s home to more than 18 million people. This concrete jungle is packed with so much to do you won’t have time to even remember that you’re travelling single. Now is the time to spoil your single self and dine out at a world renowned restaurant (If you feel overwhelmed by dining single, make reservations at non-peak times) or catch that Broadway Show you have always wanted to see. Climb up The Empire State Building, take a boat to see The Statue of Liberty or stroll through Central Park. There isn’t a better place in the world to check out the nightlife than in the “city that never sleeps”.

Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com

6. Costa Rica

For the backpacker adventurer Costa Rica is a must visit when solo. With two major airports to fly into and endless stretches of beach and jungle; there is something for everyone. Relatively safe and reasonably priced makes Costa Rica desirable to travelers. While there why not join a surf camp and learn to surf while meeting fellow travelers. Take a ride into the rainforest where you can discover sloths, monkeys and a variety of lizards, snakes and frogs. Immerse yourself in the culture and eat locally or try your hand at the nightlife that often lasts until dawn. Whatever it is you do here, we promise you will enjoy it. The locals are friendly, the beer is cheap and the weather is warm, what else does a single traveler need?

Pura Vida Costa Rica

5. Bali, Indonesia

Yoga on the beach. Lodging on the beach. Temples and Ruins. Beautiful beaches and clear water. Must we say more? Packed with spiritual seekers, backpackers and international travelers; Bali is the perfect get away for the single soul seeking traveler. The Balinese people are known to be friendly, welcoming and make you feel right at home. Rent a motorbike, take a stroll through town or raft down the Ayung River for a little adventure. If you are looking to explore a less remote place, hop on a plane to a smaller island; we suggest Lombok. Filled with local markets, celebrations and temples like none other; Bali is the perfect place to relax, unwind and really find your inner zen.

Bali, Indonesia

4. Miami, Florida

For the single traveler who is ready to party, look no further than Miami. With beautiful weather, beautiful beaches and beautiful people; Miami is a hot destination for single travelers. Head to South Beach where you will find no shortage of velvet rope lined nightclubs with the hippest DJ’s. Bask in the sun on Miami Beach where countless events and activities run year round. Be prepared to open your wallet in this town; this is not for the backpacker. Hotels will be a major expense but if you want the royal treatment, book yourself into one that offers a spa and bask in the glory. Make sure to dine out at one of Miami’s waterfront restaurants and enjoy a sunset view.

Miami club

3.  New Zealand

With a landscape of rolling hills to jagged mountaintops, New Zealand is not only beautiful but one of the safest countries to visit. Friendly, open-minded locals make this destination a favorite for single travelers. Meet fellow adventures while you are bungee jumping or jet boating the rivers. Find friends in The Lord of The Rings tour; where you can tour actual filming locations. Relax in thermal hot springs after a day of wine touring or take in a Rugby game with the famous Maori players. With New Zealand being one of the best hiking (or “tramping” as the locals call it) destinations in the world, don’t miss out on partaking in one of the nine epic hikes through the countryside. “Wow” just won’t sum up this vacation destination.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand

2. Ireland

A country filled with friendly people, beautiful historic bed and breakfasts and a whole lot of pubs; Ireland rounds off our top twelve destinations to travel to when single. Locals are more than happy to share directions, stories and a pint of Guinness with any traveler that crosses their path. Countless castles, shamrock tours and a pub at every corner means lots of fellow solo travelers to meet. Take a trip to Dingle beach and meet the local dolphin or join one of many guided tours around Ireland. If you don’t mind driving on the left hand side of the road, rent a car and explore the monuments of prehistoric Ireland at Bru na Boinne or the Titanic Museum at Cobh. Ireland will make any solo traveler feel welcome, as that is the way of the Irish.

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

1. Ibiza, Spain

Though recent tourism efforts are trying to steer this city towards a more family friendly vibe, Ibiza is still one of the most notorious party destinations on the planet making it ideal for the single traveler. It’s filled with colorful clubs that run till the sun comes up, booming house and trance music and people who want nothing more than to party all night long surrounded by beautiful people. Big name DJ’s are always coming through hosting mega parties that’ll keep you dancing all night long. This little island’s nightlife is centered on 2 areas: Ibiza Town on the southern shore and Sant Antoni to the west. No matter which spot you choose as your base you’re guaranteed an outrageous and unforgettable vacation.

Beach party Ibiza, Spain

World’s 10 Most Dangerous Dive Spots

Scuba diving is a popular recreational activity among adventure seekers world-wide. The isolation, serenity and calm of the dark quiet waters offers an unusual escape from the world above.  Many recreational divers are quite content to remain at shallow levels exploring reefs and other interesting sea life. Some dive enthusiasts will attest to the desire to dive deeper to chart new unexplored places underwater and see things that have never been seen before. It’s this very desire that drives divers to take on some terrifying and dangerous challenges like the ones featured here.

10. Jacob’s Well, Wimberley Texas

On the surface, Jacob’s Well located southwest of Austin Texas just looks like your average back country swimming hole. Below the surface there’s an entirely different story. A deep network of at least 4 main chambers offers some of the most dangerous cave diving in the world. Diving to the first and second chambers isn’t usually a problem, except for a few tight passageways. It’s the loose gravel and small space of the network’s third chamber that has caused many problems. Once gravel and silt are stirred up it’s almost impossible for divers to know which way to go causing them to panic and use up their air tanks faster. At least 8 people have sadly lost their lives in these chambers.

diving, texas

9. Coco’s Island, Costa Rica

One of the main reasons this Costa Rican diving destination is so dangerous is its remote location. The Island which is entirely designated as a National Park lies 340 miles off the Pacific coast of the country and takes over 35 hours by boat to get to. The other reason for its dangerous reputation is the high number of sharks in the waters around the island. The many species of sharks including hammerhead and white tip reef sharks as well as giant manta rays, dolphins and sea turtles are a main attraction for divers from all over the world.

Coco's island costa rica

8. Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef Belize

The Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef off the coast of Belize offers beautiful clear waters, marine wildlife and some of the deepest diving around. With a depth of 407ft, divers who visit this site push to challenge themselves and go deeper, trying to see things previously unexplored. This is where the danger sets in. The walls of the hole are sheer until a depth of 110ft after which, divers will encounter jagged stalactite formations on the hole’s limestone walls. In 2012, the Blue Hole in Belize was named #1 on Discovery Channel’s “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth”.

Blue Hole, Belize

7. Cenote Esqueleto, Tulum Mexico

Cenote Esqueleto or more commonly known as “Temple of Doom” is another popular and dangerous cave diving site. This one lies just beyond the famous Tulum Ruins in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. This site features numerous caverns and tight passageways which can all spell danger even for experienced divers. There’s no ladder down into the cave network so the only way down is to just jump right in. Once below it’s easy to get disorientated, lost and run out of air down here, as was the case for a father and son dive team in 1996.

Temple of Doom

6. Devil’s Caves, Ginnie Springs Florida

Ginnie Springs is a popular cave diving destination about 35 miles northwest of Gainsville Florida. The temperatures in these crystal clear waters are a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round removing the need for a thick wetsuit. Little Devil, Devil’s Eye and Devil’s Ear are the most notable and dangerous sites in the springs. Beware, this serene looking spring has a very deceptive and strong flowing current, making for some dangerous diving. Especially at the vortex opening to the Devil’s Ear where divers gear is often shifted around.

cave diving

5. German U Boat, New Jersey

60 miles off the coast of New Jersey lies a remarkable World War II relic, a German U boat that was first discovered in 1991 by an American diver who had learned about the vessel’s possible location. The remains of U-869 were discovered at a depth of 240ft (73m) which is a dangerous depth for any diver. 3 Divers involved in the discovery of the boat actually died while exploring the area soon after it was found. The deep depths coupled with cold water temperatures and strong currents all make this an extremely dangerous dive spot.

diving with wreck

4. The Shaft Sinkhole, Mount Gambier Australia

Mount Gambier in South Australia is home to some of the best (and most dangerous) cave diving around. The area is full of freshwater lakes, caves, caverns and sinkholes that tempt brave adventure divers from around the world. The Shaft is a notorious sinkhole dive spot aptly named as the entrance is a tiny manhole that leads to a 25ft decent to the water. Beneath this long, dark entrance lies a huge network of clear water passageways. Unfortunately, there have been many fatalities in this dive site due to its depth and complexity.

cave diving australia

3. Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole, Weeki Wachee Florida

Another dangerous dive spot in the Sunshine State is Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole. Located in the remote western area of Weeki Wachee, this site is reportedly 1035ft (315m) in depth, making it dangerous for even the most skilled divers. The deeper scuba divers go, the more they start to experience Nitrogen Narcosis which causes them to experience a sense of euphoria and disorientation which can cause divers to lose track of their tank levels or become lost. Such has been the case at this Florida dive spot where several divers have lost their lives pushing the limits.

cave diving florida

2. Samaesan Hole, Samae San Islands Thailand

Samaesan Hole in the Gulf of Thailand is a popular deep diving spot. It’s also a very dangerous one for a few different reasons; first of all, the depth. At 280ft (85m) this should only be attempted by deep dive professionals with all the right equipment. Another danger is the strong currents of this dive area. One diver recounts a time where he surfaced from his dive miles away from the hole and had to be rescued by a passing deep sea trawler. The last and maybe most dangerous aspect of Samaesan Hole are the unexploded bombs littering the sea bed all around this area as the site is a former military explosives dumping ground.

Cave diving thailand

1. Blue Hole, Dahab Red Sea

The notoriety of this dive site amongst the diving community gives it the top spot the list. It’s also earned the title of “World’s Most Dangerous Dive Site” because of the high number of fatalities that have occurred here, giving it the ominous nickname “Divers Cemetery”. The Blue Hole itself is a submarine sinkhole approximately 463ft (130m) deep. The draw of this treacherous dive site is reaching “The Arch” which divers can swim through to open water. The issue here is The Arch is 184ft (56m) down, which is well beyond the PADI maximum recreational dive limit of 131ft (40m). At these depths many divers become confused causing them to miss the opening and swim down even further beyond safe limits.  An estimated 150 people have died while diving The Blue Hole in the last 10 years.

Blue Hole, Red Sea

Top 10 Travel Destinations on the Rise for 2014!

The travellers have spoken. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, enlightenment, history, food, or just a chance of pace, there’s a place for everyone among these destinations on the rise. According to TripAdvisor, these are the 10 places you need to visit in 2014:

10. Fortaleza, Brazil

Jericoacoara Beach is an isolated coastal utopia, but it’s only one of dozens of five-star beaches. The endless sand is perfect for the tranquility of sunbathing or the thrill-seeking of dune buggy rides. Sports enthusiasts will understand the national zeal for soccer when they catch a game at the Arena Castelao. And when the sun sets, the sensuous hum of Brazilian nightlife pulsates, whether your taste is for a bumping dance club or a hole-in-the-wall beer pub.

Fortaleza, Brazil

9. Corralejo, Spain

Avoid the hubbub of Madrid and venture instead to this restorative holiday island. Pristine beaches, romantic catamaran cruises, and the rush of kite-surfing complement the sparkling water. If by some miracle you tire of the beach, go with EEE Bikers to see the volcano from a mountain bike, or take off your shoes to amble through the Corralejo dunes.

Corralejo, Spain

8. Hanoi, Vietnam

You’ll find it hard to believe how affordable an excursion to the Vietnamese capital is. Experience the charm of a walk through the Old Quarter. Learn from an array of diverse museums: fine arts, ethnology, women’s history. Water-gaze at the Lake of the Restored Sword, take a moment to reflect in Hang Boc temple, or meander back through time at Ho Chi Minh’s residence.

Hanoi, Vietnam

7. Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo has much to offer in its prestigious Asian cuisine, unique parks, and young energy. First, see everything at once from the Mt. Okura observatory. Then hit the Olympic-famous slopes of the Sapporo International Ski Place. Stroll though the Sapporo Artpark, where avant-garde aesthetics are blended into the purity of nature, or opt for the flowery fields of Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park. Great for families and foodies alike.

Sapporo, Japan

6. Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

The Great Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef is one of the most iconic diving locales ever. Post-dive, spend the latter parts of your day from a golf cart, exploring the jungle ruins of the Marco Gonzalez Maya site, perusing the largest collection of Belizean art at The Gallery of San Pedro, Ltd., and getting high on the Toucan Jumper Bungee Trampoline while the sun sets behind the palm trees.

Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

5. Cusco, Peru

No place in the world boasts a more impressive set of ancient Incan ruins than Macchu Piccu, and with its peak in the clouds, the mountain is unparalleled in grandeur. Scenic railroads like the environmentally-geared Vistadome or PeruRail’s more traditional Hiram Bingham train are the perfect way to take in the countryside. Then spend an evening in Cusco’s heart, the Plaza de Arms – shopping, restaurants, and people-watching abound.

Cusco, Peru

4. Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem holds appeal for Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, as well as anyone with a proclivity for the historic. Put a prayer in the Wailing Wall, take in the view from the Mount of Olives, and wander through the Garden of Gethsemane. Biblical history isn’t all Jerusalem holds though: the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is the world’s leading Holocaust museum, and the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens provide a lush contract to an otherwise beige city.

Jerusalem, Israel

3. Kathmandu, Nepal

Many sites in Kathmandu are attractions for the spiritually inquisitive – between the crisp mountain air, the architectural intricacies of the temples, and the mystic Buddhist history, Kathmandu is a mecca for anyone seeking peace and Zen. The Himalayas don’t only offer enlightenment though – hiking, camping, and even paragliding are for folks of any spiritual walk.

Kathmandu, Nepal

2. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

Boasting the country’s most active volcano, beautiful waterfalls, and natural hot springs, La Fortuna de San Carlos is next to Eden. With lodging prices through the floor and the accessibility of exotic flora and fauna, this city isn’t to be missed. The best way to experience the canopy of the rainforest is by horseback tour –the sketchier your guide, the better. Sometimes the horses aren’t as tame as you’d think.

La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

1. Havana, Cuba

Smoke the most famous cigars of all time. Feel the sensuality of the Rumba loosen your hips. Tour the gritty historicity of a legendary revolution and the literary haunts of Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene. Local music, adamant baseball, gourmet chocolate, legendary sport-fishing…with the shadow of the Castro family paled, Cuba looks more appealing, and the tropical climate sure doesn’t hurt the draw.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com