The Most Thrilling and Beautiful Vacations to Take If You Love the Outdoors

Updated 06/21/18
Nature Vacations

Heading somewhere to reconnect with nature 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 beach somewhere remote or getting active in a national park.

So if you want to trade in the old 9-to-5 for lush greenery, fresh mountain air, breathtaking oceanfront cliffs, or subterranean cave, you're in the right place. We created a travel bucket list exclusively for nature lovers. Whether you feel like looking out at gorgeous vistas from a nature-inspired but luxe hotel or going camping in an otherworldly national park, consider this guide of nature vacation ideas your personal travel agent. Ready, set, go.

Cave Swimming in Tulum, Mexico

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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 drawn in 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: The Philippines; Belize's Great Blue Hole

A Safari in Kenya

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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. Located in the Kenyan Savanah, we recommend staying at Giraffe Manor, where you'll get to eat breakfast with giraffes before heading out on a safari. 

Similar Locales: Ranthambore, India; Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal

Rock Climbing in Yosemite, California

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If you'd prefer a more rustic, old-fashioned camping experience, head to Yosemite, where outdoor adventures are everywhere you look. 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

Exploring in the Chilean Patagonia

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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; and Mendoza, Argentina

Skiing and Kayaking in Lake Tahoe, California

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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 are 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… Go in the winter for some of the best snow in the world. Stay at The Ritz for something elegant, or any local rental house for something more private and lodge-like.


Similar Locales: Newfoundland, Canada; Crater Lake, Oregon 

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, so if that's the escape you're dreaming of, here's the vacation for you. 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; Oahu, Hawaii

Camping in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

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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 camp 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

Hiking and Swimming in Switzerland

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With fairy tales 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 in Geneva, or even when you're exploring the bustling city of Geneva, the landscape will always please someone who loves the outdoors.

Similar Locales: Upper Austria, Austria; Iceland

Exploring in Hang song Dung Cave, Vietnam

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Super remote and difficult to access, Hang Song Dung Cave in Quang Binh, Vietnam, 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 fast-flowing subterranean river in the world, and it's believed to be five 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

Strolling in Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve, England

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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. It's 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

Hiking in Mount Rinjani National Park, Indonesia

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For the ultimate 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, we suggest resting 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; Baleine Falls

Floating in the Dead Sea

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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 easier than ever before. Stay in Al-Karak, where the blend of Byzantine, Arab, and European histories mean exploring some of the most fascinating cultural sites on the planet while you're not basking in the great outdoors.

Similar Locales: Great Salt Lake, Utah; Etosha Pan, Namibia

For more outdoor adventures, check out this list of the best road trip stops in the U.S.

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