It’s Earth Day, a day to celebrate the natural world and its beauty. And while the whole world is a worthwhile playground for those with the travel bug, these particular destinations will satisfy the desire to get back to nature—on Earth Day or any day.
Thrill seekers can have their pick of whitewater rafting, zip-lining and surfing experiences, but Priscilla Jimenez, one of our Costa Rica Trusted Travel Experts likes to highlight the often overlooked San Vito de Java region, in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, which is home to three of the country’s highlights: La Amistad International Park, one of the country’s prime hiking and birding destinations (start your hike at either the Pittier or Alta Mira ranger station); the Wilson Botanical Gardens, with its thousand-plus plant species, part of the Talamanca-Amistad Biosphere Reserve (join a guided walk or use one of the self-guided trail booklets); and finally, Golfo Dulce, a superb place for ocean kayaking, fishing, and spotting dolphins and humpback whales.
Find out more in Priscilla’s Insider’s Guide to Costa Rica’s natural wonders.
Pierre Gédéon, our Trusted Travel Expert for Nicaragua, says the place to experience untouched nature at its best is the Rio Indio Lodge, close to Rio Maíz National Park and the Costa Rican border—at the spot where the San Juan River spills into the Caribbean. Amid your fishing, birding, and hiking, make time for a visit to sleepy San Juan de Nicaragua, founded by the Spanish in 1539. For more of an adrenaline rush, sandboard down the still-active Cerro Negro Volcano or kayak through the islands formed by an ancient eruption of the Mombacho volcano.
Find out more in Pierre’s Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua
Our Trusted Travel Expert for small-ship expedition cruises, Ashton Palmer, spent nearly a decade as an expedition leader, guide, naturalist, conservationist, Zodiac driver, bird-watcher, and photographer in the last great wild places: the Arctic, Antarctica, the Amazon, and the South Pacific. The prime time and spot to see polar bears, he says, is mid- to late June on Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago, home to about 3,000 of them in the wild.
Find out more in Ashton’s Insider’s Guide to the Arctic by Land and Sea
It’s just about winter in Patagonia now, but come October, it’ll be the ideal shoulder season, with fewer tourists and more opportunity to spot elusive wildlife. Tom Damon, our Trusted Travel Expert for Patagonia, says the country is a hiker’s dream, in part because of the low elevations compared to the Andes farther north in Peru. If you only have time for one hike in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, don’t miss the flower-filled route following the Electrico River to its junction with the Blanco. After a gradual uphill hike, have lunch close to where climbers stage their big wall climbs up Fitz Roy. The gem of this day is not descending to town as others do but, rather, venturing up a zigzag trail (1,300 feet higher in elevation) to top out at Laguna de los Tres. It’s a completely still lake that reflects the light and vertical rock of Fitz Roy’s east face, the spire of Poincenot Needle, and the unusually blue Piedras Blancas Glacier.
Read more of Tom’s Insider’s Guide to Patagonia
A safari reminds us of the world we need to be protecting—and the animals we share it with. On this sprawling continent, you have many options for a memorable safari: elephants in Zambia, gorillas in Uganda, the great wildebeest and zebra migration in Kenya and Tanzania, lions in South Africa, big cats in Botswana, even an Africa cruise to many of these locations. The options are unlimited. Find the right one for you by exploring our Insider’s Guides to a range of African destinations.
Read more of our Insider’s Guides to Africa
New Zealand is a year-round adventure mecca, but each season has its advantages. Jean-Michel Jefferson, our Trusted Travel Expert for New Zealand, picks February as the best summer month, with the most reliable dry and warm weather. Temperatures begin dropping slightly in March, which is nice for hikers and cyclists. April and May bring beautiful autumn colors and cooler weather. August is the top month for skiing: New Zealand has some of the finest heli-skiing in the world, and combining this with a tropical island can be fun. To get off the beaten path, don’t miss the South Island’s east coast which has long been overlooked in favor of the enormously popular west coast (which is also beautiful; see Fiordland, pictured). But now the east coast is on the map, led by places like the lovely historic coastal town of Oamaru. Want to see some real New Zealand? This is it. From Oamaru, a drive through the wide-open landscapes of Central Otago is inspiring and well off the normal tourist tracks, and both areas now also have excellent places to stay.
Read more of Jean-Michel’s Insider’s Guide to Active New Zealand
British Columbia, Canada
Summer is prime time in British Columbia for kayaking, hiking, fishing, and river rafting, not to mention bear- and whale-watching. Marc Telio, our Trusted Travel Expert for the region, recommends exploring the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which comprises three southern sections of Vancouver Island’s coastline. This area is wild and dramatic, backed by the Vancouver Island Ranges and facing the Pacific Ocean. It has everything from lush rainforest to pristine beaches, with endless hiking trails and excursions for whale watching, bear watching, bird watching, and kayaking. You can also learn about the culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, who have occupied this area for centuries. The park is a lovely full-day drive from Vancouver, a half-day trip from Victoria, or a brief flight from either.
Read Marc’s Insider’s Guide to British Columbia
What are your favorite destinations for experiencing nature?