Heading on a natural vacation is the best remedy when you're craving an escape from the daily grind. As much as we love exploring a new metropolis and indulging in all that an urban adventure has to offer, sometimes we just need to unplug and relax, whether that means sleeping on a beautiful remote beach or getting active in a national park.
If you want to trade in the old nine-to-five for lush greenery, fresh mountain air, breathtaking oceanfront cliffs, or a subterranean cave, you're in the right place. Check out these exotic nature vacations.
1. Cave Swimming in Tulum, Mexico
With deep, moody green waters and bright sunlight peeking through the weeping treetops, the swimming caves in Tulum, Mexico, will make you feel like you're entering a portal into another realm. Whether you trek into the tropical wooded areas or stay by the coast, Tulum is one of the most idyllic beachside destinations. It's also attracted design aficionados from around the world. If you love the laid-back glamping feel, check out Nomade's well-designed cabanas and beach tents.
Similar Locales: Palawan, The Philippines; Belize's Great Blue Hole
2. Heading on Safari in Kenya
To get up close and personal with the animal kingdom, watch the gorgeous pink sunrises during early morning excursions, and visit magical landscapes, head to the Massai. We recommend staying at Giraffe Manor, which is located in the Kenyan Savanah. You'll get to eat breakfast with giraffes before heading out on a safari.
Similar Locales: Ranthambore, India; Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal
3. Rock Climbing in Yosemite, California
If you'd prefer a more rustic, old-fashioned camping experience, head to Yosemite, where outdoor adventures are everywhere you look. There are over 750 trails to hike, and you can go birdwatching, horseback riding, or take part in water activities. Raft along the Merced River, or go fishing and swimming in the summer. While you're here, hike Half Dome and go to Glacier Park to see the falls. It's an awesome place to rock climb, too.
Similar Locales: Joshua Tree, California; the Grand Canyon in Arizona
4. Exploring in the Chilean Patagonia
While you're in Chilean Patagonia, stay at Awasi. Situated on a private nature reserve overlooking Torres del Paine National Park, it's the perfect retreat after a day of exploring this magical, otherworldly destination. There's also a private reserve with foxes, sheep, and pumas. Cozy up by the fireplace indoors, or head out for an afternoon excursion.
Similar Locales: Moraine Lake, Canada; Mendoza, Argentina
5. Skiing and Kayaking in Lake Tahoe, California
If you love mountain towns and freshwater lakes with endless outdoor activities to indulge in, definitely consider vacationing in Lake Tahoe. The water is crystal-clear, the mountain air is crisp, and there is truly an endless array of outdoor adventures to pursue when you're not exploring the shores of the lake. Hiking, rock climbing, scrambling, kayaking, jetskiing—you name it, Lake Tahoe's got it. Stay at The Ritz for something elegant, or any local rental house for something more private and lodge-like.
Similar Locales: Newfoundland and Labrador lakes, Canada; Crater Lake, Oregon
6. Ziplining in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, so if that's the escape you're dreaming of, go snorkeling and surfing on the coast, and then head inland to the Volcán National Park for hiking, hot springs, and ziplining adventures. It's super remote, and lush greenery abounds. Stay at Nayara Resort after a day of hiking to relax in treetop hammocks.
Similar Locales: Puerto Maldonado, Peru; Oahu, Hawaii
7. Backcountry Camping in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Ethereal and enchanting, the White Sands National Monument is an aesthetic treat. It's located in New Mexico, but it's only a few hours away from the art hub of Marfa, Texas. Here, you should lodge at the Thunderbird, which has a relaxed and revamped retro motel vibe. Whether you decide to make use of the primitive camping sites in the national park or start in Marfa and make a road trip out of it, this should definitely be on any nature lover's bucket list.
Similar Locales: Zhangye-Danxia National Geopark in China; Antelope Canyon, Arizona
8. Hiking in Switzerland
With fairy tale views in every direction you look and outdoor adventures all year round, Lungren, Switzerland, will take your breath away. It's also the ideal destination for anyone who wants to explore the great outdoors during the day, but then indulge in a luxury vacation when it's time to unwind and rest up. Whether you're skiing in the Alps, enjoying the quiet life amongst the alpine wildflowers, or exploring the bustling city of Geneva, the landscape will always please anyone who loves the outdoors.
Similar Locales: Austrian Alps; Blue Lagoon, Iceland
9. Exploring in Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Super remote and difficult to access, Hang Son Doong Cave in Vietnam's Quang Binh Province is the destination of an explorer's dreams.
To enter the cave, you'll need to purchase a permit and sign up for a guided tour.
Stay at the Sun Spa Resort in Mi Canh afterward. It has the fastest-flowing subterranean river in the world, and it's believed to be 5 million years old. It wasn't discovered until a local stumbled upon it in 1991, and it became more popular for international travelers in 2009 when a British research institution sent a group to go explore the region.
Similar Locales Around the World: Punkva, Czech Republic; the Blue Grotto in Italy
10. Strolling in Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve, England
Rumored to host the most captivating landscapes in the world, Southern England's national nature reserve is a sight to see and a place to explore. Hike to Old Harry Rocks at the end of the continent to see the collection of chalk formations off the Jurassic Coast (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site). Local legends say this is where the devil used to sleep, while other folklore says the name comes from an old pirate who hid here. It's quite a trek to get here, but you can stay in Southhampton (1.5 hours away) at the elegant Lime Wood or a short hike away at The Pig on the Beach.
Similar Locales: Western Australia; Easter Island
11. Hiking in Mount Rinjani National Park, Indonesia
For the ultimate exotic vacation, head to Indonesia, where you can explore the ancient temples in Java, look out onto the hypnotizing rice paddies in Bali, and hike to stunning waterfalls on an active volcano in Mount Rinjani National Park on the island of Lombok. While you're on the island, rest at the Lombok Lodge, which is about an hour drive from the national park. While you're not hiking and exploring, go swimming in the Indian Ocean.
Similar Locales: Iguazu Falls, Brazil; Baleine Falls, St. Vincent and The Grenadines
12. Floating in the Dead Sea
Bordering Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan, the Dead Sea is one of the most breathtaking locales in the world. Known for its super-salty, rejuvenating water, you will float like on a cloud. Stay in Al-Karak, where the blend of Byzantine, Arab, and European histories offers some of the most fascinating cultural sites on the planet.
Similar Locales: Great Salt Lake, Utah; Etosha Pan, Namibia