What does adventure mean to you? In a recent survey of U.S. travelers, American Express Travel found that a whopping 81% of people want to feel a sense of adventure at their next travel destination. While a sense of adventure might look slightly different for every traveler, this elusive quality might be closer than you think.
For many travelers, it looks like visiting a new destination. American Express Travel found that 69% of travelers agree they want to travel to unique destinations they haven’t been to in 2023. If you’re on the hunt for your own sense of adventure, these destinations, all just a short flight away, are worth exploring.
While Ecuador might be most famous for the ecologically rich Galapagos Islands, savvy travelers know that mainland Ecuador is a haven for natural beauty and unique travel experiences. Adventure sports enthusiasts head straight to the tiny town of Baños, wedged between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest.
Home to countless activities for adrenaline seekers, including bungee jumping, mountain biking, rafting, and ziplining, it’s impossible to get bored in Baños. A favorite activity is “canyoning,” which involves repelling down a group of waterfalls, something even beginners can enjoy.
Looking for a bit of relaxation after a day of excitement? Visit the thermal baths Baños is named for, heated by the volcano Tungurahua, one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes, which towers over the city.
Pair a trip to Baños with an excursion into the neighboring Amazon Rainforest. While there are plenty of ways to explore the Amazon, Sacha Lodge is the best place for discovering this untouched environment.
Set on a 5,000-acre private ecological reserve, Sacha Lodge offers guests the unique opportunity to walk a stunning suspension bridge over the treetops for a bird-eye view of wildlife in the jungle canopy. Its guides have years of experience and offer an unparalleled opportunity to get up close and personal with the rainforest’s most unique species.
While neighboring resort towns like Playa del Carmen and Tulum draw countless visitors to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the vibrant, historic city of Mérida is the real star of the region.
A favorite with locals and visitors, make sure to explore Mérida’s crystal-clear “cenotes,” or sinkholes. Countless cenotes dot the landscape around the city and are favorite destinations for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
For an unforgettable stay in the heart of Mérida, choose Wayam Mundo Imperial. Travelers enjoy the best of both worlds at Wayam Mundo Imperial, an oasis complete with a rooftop pool with incredible views, yet just steps away from the action of Mérida.
Adventure doesn’t stop at the hotel’s doors; it just begins. With immersive local experiences as part of the hotel’s Wayam 360 program, guests can easily add on adventures to explore the best of the Yucatan.
A unique favorite? BEE MATTERS: A Love-Swarming Experience, which transports visitors to the heart of the Yucatan to discover the Melipona stingless bee. This memorable excursion even allows guests to taste honey and paint their own beehive, all while supporting local communities.
The Island of Nevis
For an adventurous getaway to a true Caribbean paradise, consider visiting the island of Nevis. The smaller island of the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Nevis has a perfect combination of treasures on land and under the sea to draw travelers of all kinds to its sandy shores.
No matter your definition of adventure, you’ll find it in Nevis. Nevis is the place for you if you’re simply looking to escape your day-to-day and enjoy some serious rest and relaxation. Travelers appreciate how Nevis avoids the over-commercialization of some of its neighboring Caribbean islands, leaving visitors to enjoy the island’s natural beauty and quieter pace of life.
If you’re looking for the best of the island’s unending activities, start by visiting the lush, jungle-covered stratovolcano Mount Nevis, rising over 3,200 feet above the center of the island. On a guided excursion up the mountain, you’ll encounter vervet monkeys and find wild tropical fruits.
Offshore, you can find countless spots for either snorkeling or diving, including multiple reefs, volcanic vents, and even historic shipwrecks.
Sacred Valley, Peru
At the heart of the former Incan empire and home to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is one of the most picturesque spots in the Andes Mountains. The Sacred Valley is an adventurous traveler’s dream, full of fascinating ruins, world-class hiking trails, and unique accommodations.
Perched high above the Urubamba River near the Incan ruins at Ollantaytambo, a “room” at Skylodge Adventures Suites is sure to be an adventurous place to stay. Home to several glass cabins suspended off the side of the rock face overlooking the valley, guests at these unique cabins by a hike with sections of zipline or a quarter mile of via ferrata.
If this sounds a bit too adventurous, check out Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa. This eco-friendly destination is spread across a gorgeous estate along the river below. It’s a highlight of a visit to the Sacred Valley.
Of course, a visit to the Sacred Valley is only complete upon glimpsing its most famous destination, Machu Picchu. However, the adventure-seeking traveler must consider hiking the 4-day Inca Trail to get there. Looking to get off the beaten path within this much-visited region? Treks like the Ausangate Trek, Lares Trek, and Salkantay Trek are increasingly popular alternatives to the classic Inca Trail.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Located on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast, the resort town of San Juan del Sur is a beloved Central American destination for an exciting and adventurous beach getaway, thoroughly off the beaten path.
Set on a stunning horseshoe bay, San Juan del Sur is a well-known destination for surfing, and you’ll find countless surf shops offering lessons for anyone from beginners to experienced enthusiasts. After a day of surfing, drive out to Lake Nicaragua to explore Ometepe Island, a unique volcanic island where you’ll find swimming holes, hiking trails, and opportunities for wild camping.
What could be more thrilling than taking a “workation” from a beautiful beach town? For increasingly more travelers, San Juan del Sur is the perfect spot for this ultimate break from the routine.
Whether you’re planning a quick visit or an extended stay, book a room, apartment, or even an entire house at La Santa María. Offering a fitness center, a stunning infinity pool with an ocean view, a kids’ club, and even a dedicated coworking space, it’s no wonder many guests extend their vacation at La Santa María.
Find Your Adventure
Whether you’re looking to practice unique adventure sports, experience a new culture, or simply take a much-needed break from your routine, adventure is never far when traveling. Now is the time to start scheduling some adventures for an unforgettable travel experience in 2023.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.