The best outdoor vacations are the ones that combine gorgeous destinations with a variety of fun activities, like hiking, cycling, and water sports. Fortunately, nature seekers don’t have to venture too far off the beaten path to find outdoor bliss, as many of the best outdoor destinations are located near small towns and popular cities.
Whether you want to paddle past one of the world’s largest glaciers or windsurf on the turquoise waters of Bonaire’s Lac Bay, coastal cities are often the best gateways to adventure.
Start planning your next trip into the wilderness by exploring these outdoor vacation ideas from around the world.
Swim with Stingrays in Grand Cayman
If you love to get up close with native wildlife, head to Stingray City, an area off the northern coast of Grand Cayman. After a quick boat ride, you’ll arrive at the sandbars of Stingray City, which are a frequent feeding ground for the island’s resident stingrays.
Snorkel or stand around the three-feet deep water and watch stingrays glide around the shallow surface. And don’t worry, these marine animals are friendly and used to having people nearby. Even so, guides always provide safety briefings before you jump in the water to make sure it’s a safe experience for guests and stingrays, alike.
Kayak on Mendenhall Lake, Alaska
While many of the best outdoor vacations in Alaska center around visiting the state’s unique geological features, Mendenhall Lake’s eponymous glacier remains one of the area’s most impressive natural attractions.
The glacier is bright blue, nearly thirteen miles long, and about 3,000 years old, making it one of the oldest natural wonders left on the planet.
Going kayaking in Alaska around Mendenhall Lake is a great way to experience the beauty of nature. Besides witnessing the glacier’s sparkling facade, you may also spot black bears and other wildlife at the water’s edge. Be sure to plan on having a big lunch afterward as you’ll burn plenty of calories while paddling.
Ride an ATV through Arikok National Park in Aruba
As long as you don’t mind a bit of messy hair and some dirt on your nose, you’ll love whipping through the arid hills of Arikok National Park in Aruba. Covering nearly one-fifth of the island, the park includes beaches and coastal areas, but most of it ranges from grassland to desert cliffs dotted with cacti.
As one of the best things to do in Aruba, ATV tours give you the chance to tour all regions of the park, speeding by everything from seaside bluffs to hidden cave entrances. Sure, you’ll get dirty and dusty, but you’ll also have a blast.
Windsurf in Lac Bay National Park, Bonaire
If you’re looking for a new outdoor vacation idea, why not give windsurfing a try? Bonaire may be known for its fabulous reefs and world-class scuba diving, but the southeast side of the island is also a massively popular windsurfing destination.
Lac Bay is the place where beginners tend to go because of its shallow and warm waters, which are quite pleasant when you fall from your board—which will happen often at first!
Learning the basics of windsurfing is one of the best things to do in Bonaire, and it isn’t too hard: it’s kind of like standing on a paddleboard with a sail. The wind in Lac Bay is steady but gentle, so you should be able to catch a breeze in only about an hour or so. Once you’ve mastered the sport—or at least managed to stand on the board—you can treat yourself to a frozen cocktail at one of Lac Bay’s many island beach bars.
Go Whitewater Rafting in Denali, Alaska
One of the best outdoor vacations you could take is to the great state of Alaska, home to glaciers, untouched wilderness, and Denali National Park. While the park offers no shortage of ways to fill your time, travelers with an adventurous spirit will want to book a whitewater rafting adventure on the Nenana River.
The long river has mellow Class I and II rapids, as well as more high-energy paddles through Class III and IV sections. The rivers are cold, fast, and fun, but don’t worry about safety since the guides there are quite experienced in navigating the rivers.
They’ll tell you when to paddle and when to relax and outfit you with floatation devices, helmets, and waterproof suits. You may even spot wildlife if you have a moment to take your eyes off the river.
Scuba Dive on the Meso-American Barrier Reef in Mexico
Scuba diving may seem intimidating, but after your first dive underwater, you’ll realize how magical it is to see a side of the planet most humans never get to experience.
There are few places in the world better suited to diving than the Meso-American Barrier reef, the second-longest coral reef in the world.
One of the reasons diving on the Meso-American reef is one of the best outdoor vacations in the Caribbean is because it’s suitable for all levels of scuba divers. There’s a shallow dive option for non-certified and beginner divers, meaning there’s no need to have any prior experience before jumping into the water.
Expect to see groups of angelfish, schools of striped sergeant majors, and colorful neon blue tang. It’s also not uncommon to see green and hawksbill sea turtles, giant lobsters, or even nurse sharks, which are harmless to humans.
Snorkel in Cozumel National Marine Park
If you’re not quite ready for scuba diving, then try snorkeling around the western side of the Meso-American Reef in Cozumel instead. At the southern end of Cozumel, you’ll find the protected Cozumel Marine Park, the home to many of Mexico’s most beautiful snorkeling sites, including the shallow sandbar covered in starfish called “El Cielo,” as well as the San Francisco reef, known for having some of the most colorful coral on the island.
Since you can’t snorkel from the shore in the marine park, the best way to get there is to take a catamaran snorkel tour. On the way back, enjoy a cruise along the beach-covered coastline with a cocktail in hand and the view of the sunset.
Dog Sledding in Juneau, Alaska
Dog sledding through snow-covered forests is one of the best outdoor vacation experiences you can have while in Alaska. One of the best places to partake in this exciting activity is in Juneau, where you can try your hand at authentic dog mushing.
If you think you’re in for a gentle, scenic journey, keep in mind that a group of sled dogs can move at more than ten or fifteen miles an hour, therefore get prepared for a wild ride.
The best dog sledding experiences in Juneau, though, are about more than just racing around a snowy track. At some dog sledding centers, you can learn how to put on the dog’s harnesses and gear, practice commands to send dogs on their way, and get to meet plenty of the four-legged friends that are always anxious to run and play.
River Tube through the Jungle in Dominica
Dominica is nicknamed “nature island” and for good reason. Covered in lush rainforest, volcanic peaks, hidden beaches, and even a boiling lake, Dominica is often considered one of the best outdoor vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
Everything from volcano hiking to scuba diving through shipwrecks is on the docket here, but one of the most unique things to do in the Caribbean is a jungle float.
You’ll start deep in the jungle of the Kalinago Territory, the last remaining protected area of the Kalinago people. After visiting the Kalinago Village, grab your roomy innertube, clip your helmet on, and start floating down the river as it meanders through jungle terrain and remote parts of the country. It’s mostly a leisurely ride, but there are a few mini-rapids along the way.
Explore Marlborough’s Wineries by Bike in New Zealand
If your idea of an outdoor vacation takes place on two wheels rather than two feet, plan to cycle through the countryside in New Zealand, a country with some of the most geologically unique landscapes on earth.
One of the best things to do on the South Island is to bike around Marlborough wine country, which has some of the best road bike routes in New Zealand. Cycle past rolling, vine-covered hills, where it’s easy to get distracted by snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance.
Several routes of various lengths are available, but most of them pass by famous wineries, restaurants, cafes, and plenty of places to stop and enjoy the scenery. If you go on a guided tour, you can count on a support van to help carry any bottles of wine you decide to bring home along the way.
Ride the ZipRider in Icy Strait Point, Alaska
Icy Strait Point on Chichagof Island is a large outdoor vacation hub with plenty of opportunities for nature adventures such as whale watching boat tours, guided backcountry hikes, Coastal Brown Bear photography trips, and guided group paddles along the rugged Alaskan coastline. But one of the most exciting activities to do while in Icy Strait Point is flying through the treetops while on the high-speed ZipRider, the world’s largest ZipRider.
Read: Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners
Found inside Chichagof Island Forest, which you can explore beforehand on an ATV, the zipline is located over 1,300 feet up in the air. On the drive up to the summit, you’re likely to see migrating whales, eagles, hawks, and even resident bears.
Once you reach the top, strap on your safety harness and take the plunge. Enjoy epic views of Gulf Alaska’s islands and inlets during the 5,495-foot long descent, which usually takes around 90 seconds to complete. Expect high speeds and an intense adrenaline rush as you race towards the bottom.
Search for Wildlife in the Galapagos
Around 600 miles west of Ecuador, you’ll find the Galapagos, a remote, protected archipelago where researcher Charles Darwin first built many of his groundbreaking theories on evolution.
One of the highlights of a Galapagos Islands vacation is going on a wildlife sightseeing expedition and spotting the many unique animals and endemic species of the area, such as the bright orange Galapagos land iguana or the tiny Darwin finch, which aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
Spend your days searching and photographing these special Galapagos animals—but remember not to get too close. Enlist the help of a naturalist, who can guide you across some of the same landscapes that once inspired Darwin himself.
Stand Under a Jungle Waterfall in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States, and fortunately for travelers, it’s located less than an hour away from Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan.
The highest peak in the rainforest is a staggering 3,500 feet tall, which contributes to the rainforest’s extreme weather patterns. Heavy rain paired with steep mountains tends to produce beautiful waterfalls, which there are plenty of in El Yunque.
Hike to several different waterfalls, many of which have tropical swimming holes surrounded by verdant greenery at their base. While some of the park’s more popular spots are easy to reach on foot and even have rope swings on the water, some, like Juan Diego Falls, are much more remote.
While you’re enjoying one of the best places for hiking in the Caribbean, keep an eye out for endemic species like mongoose and several different species of coqui, which are a type of tree frog. Be sure to carry natural bug spray and sunscreen to keep plants and wildlife healthy.
Read: Things to Do in Puerto Rico With Kids
As you can see, there’s a wealth of outdoor opportunities around the world waiting to be discovered. Before you start planning your next outdoor vacation, explore the exotic destinations and incredible experiences available on a luxurious Celebrity cruise. Browse itineraries on our website and book your next adventure today.