By Maya Kachroo-Levine
Aug 18, 2021
ONE OF THE BEST GOALS you can make for upcoming travel is to come home feeling healthier than when you left. Beach vacations aren’t always conducive to staying active — it’s all too tempting to order a mai tai with lunch and then spend the rest of your day lounging poolside. That said, hiking, biking, snorkeling and boating are perfect ways to truly experience everything your preferred beach destination has to offer. Not only does staying active allow you to feel healthier on vacation, promoting less drinking in the sunshine and more exercise and sleep, it helps you further appreciate the destination.
We’ve scoured the globe and come up with some of the best active beach destinations around the world, from yoga retreats in Bali beach towns and overwater rock-climbing in Thailand, to golfing in Hawaii and jet skiing in Costa Rica. Here, nine active beach vacations for the travelers who love outdoor adventure just as much as they love life on the beach.
1. Canggu, Bali
Bali’s beach towns — from Seminyak to Jimbaran — each have their own character. Canggu is one of the more newly gentrified, and while the area is still being developed, there is already a community of expats and locals who have honed a culture of healthy eating, surfing and yoga galore. If you’re looking for a yoga retreat in an idyllic Bali beach town, look into training at The Practice Bali. Their main yoga studio is open-air with a gorgeous thatched roof — and the perfect place to strengthen, restore and savasana.
2. Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s northwestern coast boasts incredible beaches and an active culture — which isn’t surprising considering every water sport imaginable is popular in Guanacaste Province. This area is a major windsurfing destination, as well as a perfect destination for jet skiing, swimming, snorkeling, surfing and diving. No resort in the area nails the detox-retox culture, pairing an active lifestyle with a happening nightlife scene, quite like W Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal. Here, you can snorkel, kayak, bike, trail run and get in daily gym workouts, all on property.
3. Todos Santos, Mexico
About 80 kilometers north of Los Cabos, on the west coast of Baja California Sur, is the fast-growing surf town of Todos Santos. While Todos Santos has surged in popularity over the last five years, it’s retained the laid-back charm of a still-undiscovered destination. In terms of staying active, Todos Santos is the perfect place to take a week of surf lessons, whether you’re a first-timer or a sage surfer honing your technique. While Los Cabos is known for choppy waters that aren’t necessarily inviting to swimmers, Todos Santos has a number of great beaches for swimming and snorkeling (try Playa Los Cerritos and Punta Lobos, for starters). If you’re looking for a Todos Santos resort, you’ll love the boutique vibe of the hotels in this area, from the fan-favorite San Cristobal Hotel or the newly opened Paradero Todos Santos.
4. Acadia National Park, Maine, U.S.A.
If you’re looking for a domestic vacation that promises just as much time on the hiking trails as it does time on the beach, you can’t do better than a trip to Acadia National Park. The dog-friendly park is home to more than 240 kilometers of trails, some of the most anticipated hikes being Cadillac Mountain (easy), Gorham Mountain (more challenging), and even iron rung routes like the Beehive Trail. As beaches go, unwind after a strenuous morning of hiking at Seal Harbor and Echo Lake beaches.
5. Railay Beach, Thailand
Railay Beach isn’t just known for soft white sand and a laid-back Thai atmosphere; it’s also known for rock climbing. The area, just outside the city of Krabi in southern Thailand, across the bay from Phuket (which has reopened without quarantine to vaccinated visitors and allows for travel to neighboring spots) is flanked by limestone cliffs that climbers of all skill levels come to scale. While novices can try climbing on beginner courses, more experienced thrill-seekers might want to try deep water soloing — which is where you free climb on cliffs jutting out over the ocean, plunging into the water if you miss a hold. Take a boat from Krabi to spend the day in Railay Beach, where you’ll find a number of guided rock climbing excursions to choose from.
6. Lanai, Hawaii, U.S.A.
At Four Seasons Resort Lanai, you’ll find a wellness retreat set in the Hawaiian tropics. From healthy menu options to beach yoga, workout classes, and even tai chi, you can make your stay here as active as you choose. Golfers can also take to the Jack Niklaus-designed Manele Golf Course, which boasts ocean views and cliff-perched holes, and tennis players can take lessons before indulging in a sports massage. Overall, Four Seasons Lanai encourages holistic wellness — you know, reveling in relaxation time as much as active time — in a luxurious island setting.
7. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
You’ll find you’re never not moving on the Galapagos — whether you’re trying to spot native wildlife by land or by sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador has a number of islands known for their hiking trails, including San Cristobal (do the Frigate Bird Hill hike) and Isabela islands. The must-try hike on Isabela for active travelers is around Sierra Negra, an active volcano and one of the world’s largest craters. Some of the most famous dive sites among the Ecuadorian archipelago are Wolf Island (where you’ll likely spot turtles), Darwin Island, and Punta Carrion.
8. Crete, Greece
While most Greek islands are all about beach life — from swimming to boating to sunbathing to beach clubbing — Crete offers far more hiking terrain than most Aegean isles. The landscape in Crete transitions seamlessly from rocky beaches to jungle terrain, allowing for days spent hiking to far-off beaches and gorges. For those looking for hybrid swimming-hiking excursions, start with gorges like Samaria Gorge (about a six-hour hike, and the longest gorge trek in Europe) and Zakros Gorge (otherwise known as Gorge of the Dead).
9. St. Lucia, Caribbean
Home to the Piton Mountains, St. Lucia is one of the best hiking destinations in the Caribbean. The Gros Piton Nature Trail and the Petit Piton Trail are two of the best hikes for outdoorsy travelers keen on exploring the Piton Mountains. There are also water activities a-plenty at the luxury hotels of St. Lucia, including tennis, beach volleyball, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and snorkeling at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort.