15 Great Adventure Destinations for 2018
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When office talk turns to best places to travel? Decide for yourself—firsthand. Pack your bags and look beyond the usual horizons, with a trip somewhere just off the beaten path.
Explore European cities, remote towns, snow-drenched mountains and even a couple of idyllic islets similar to our own—yet with people, culture, food and weather that makes them quite different.
We scoured the earth to bring you 15 unique adventure destinations that will set your wanderlust on fire (or on ice)!
One of the oldest cities in Europe and the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is perched on seven hills overlooking the Atlantic. Wander Lisbon's narrow, cobblestone streets to explore some of its ancient monuments, like Sao Jorge Castle, a Moorish citadel. This budget-friendly city is also gaining a reputation as a culinary hot spot where you can sample Michelin-starred cuisine or enjoy a simple fish stew in a local tavern—washed down with a regional wine and the soul-stirring notes of fado music.
Copenhagen embodies Scandinavian style, from its sleek, modernist decor to its bike-riding, scarf-wrapped locals, all set against a cozy, colorful waterfront—quite a bit frostier than settling in for a bite at Koko Marina. In addition to an abundance of fine dining—led by Noma, four-time winner of the title World's Best Restaurant—this easygoing city offers plenty of walkable, historic neighborhoods and art museums filled with European masterpieces.
Hot springs, Vikings and a vibrant nightlife make Iceland's chilly capital one of Europe's hottest destinations. In summer, Reykjavik takes advantage of its 20-hour days with a slate of festivals and concerts, while the winter months attract visitors willing to brave polar temperatures for a glimpse of the northern lights. Spend some time walking the city to enjoy its eclectic architecture and cafes, and venture just outside the city for a dip in the wondrous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa that sprang from a lava field (our lava fields don't have anything quite like this). Worthwhile day trips east of Reykjavik include a visit to explosive Gullfoss, arguably the most breathtaking of the country's many waterfalls; and to nearby geyser, Strokkur, in Geysir hot spring area—a place that lends its name to hot blowholes the world over (again, nothing like our own at Halona Lookout).
Park City, Utah
Less than an hour from Salt Lake City, this winter wonderland offers world-class slopes for skiing and snowboarding in a low-key mountain town that has a way of feeling more remote than it is. Culture lovers will enjoy Park City's shopping and art galleries, as well as the Sundance Film Festival, which takes over the town each January. In the summer months, hit the trails by mountain bike or on foot, to explore terrain quite different from Hawaii's, including gorgeous groves of shimmering aspen.
For those craving more of a country music scene than we have to offer in Hawaii, a visit to Nashville may be in order. After you've made the pilgrimage to the Grand Ole' Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame, take some time to explore Nashville's antebellum history, with visits to Belle Meade Plantation and the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. But don't miss out on the nightlife while you're in Music City. Dubbed "Honky Tonk Highway," Nashville's Lower Broadway is where you'll find the row of bars and clubs where greats like Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline got their start.
We may get excited about the few inches of snow that blankets Mauna Kea on our coldest days, but for more dependable powder, head to Canada. Located within Banff National Park in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff offers three ski areas, luxury resorts and jutting mountain vistas, making it a top winter sports destination. The action doesn't stop in warmer months, with plenty of hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and white-water rafting for summer adventures. Keep an eye out for bears, elk and other wildlife while you're at play.
A vibrant street food scene and beautiful temples make Taipei a great destination to sample Chinese culture and cuisine away from the crowds. The sprawling National Palace Museum boasts one of the largest collections of Chinese art and antiquities in the world, while you can take in stunning views of the city from Taipei 101, a 1,667-foot skyscraper. At the end of the day, head to one of the city's many night markets for a standing-room-only feast.
This fun-loving port city knows its nightlife, with a kaleidoscope of restaurants, cafes, bars and arcades to choose from in the neon-lit Dotonbori neighborhood. There's plenty to do by day as well, including visiting 16th-Century Osaka Castle and its surrounding park of peach, plum and cherry trees, while the Shinsaibashi shopping street offers wall-to-wall boutiques and food stalls. One of the largest aquariums in the world, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan displays an impressive collection of marine life, including rays, dolphins and whale sharks.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai's cool temperatures, stunning temples, and vibrant street markets make it a relaxed alternative to hot, bustling Bangkok. Located in the mountainous northern part of the country, this ancient city was founded in 1296 and once served as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Stroll the narrow streets of Chiang Mai's old city, then enjoy a Thai feast at a restaurant overlooking the Ping riverfront—and you'll be surprised that what we know as "Thai food" in Hawaii is quite different from the dishes you'll savor when you're actually in Thailand. Nearby, you can take in the rugged natural beauty and bird watching at Doi Inthanon National Park, and play with elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
Hoi An, Vietnam
A literal melting pot that includes Vietnamese, French, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese cuisines, Hoi An is an ancient trading town seemingly forgotten in time. Sample the vibrant flavors of the region with a cooking class offered at many local restaurants. Then take in the temples, French Colonial architecture and Cau Chua Pagoda, a famous Japanese covered bridge, with a walking tour of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, take a break from the flurry of cultural exploration, by relaxing on one of the area's sugar-white beaches—where the water is even warmer than our own, and vendors stroll the shores selling drinks, fruits and snacks.
Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire until it became ground zero for the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 1600s. Today, colonial-era cathedrals sit alongside (and occasionally on top of) archaeological sites like Qorikancha, the ruins of an ancient sun temple that was once covered in pure gold. For a lively street-shopping experience where you can find everything from llama-wool sweaters (that work great for colder nights back home) to fresh squeezed juice, visit colorful San Pedro Market. Daily trains to Machu Picchu's unforgettable expanse of mountain-framed ruins allow less outdoorsy travelers to skip the four-day trek on the Inca Trail.
Bohol Island, Philippines
The islands and reefs around Bohol are renowned for diving, with opportunities to swim through schools of colorful reef fish and commune with whale sharks. On shore, you can trek through mahogany jungles and admire the island's strangely beautiful Chocolate Hills, a terrain of more than a thousand symmetrical, grass-covered mounds of earth. For a dose of cuteness, visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, a refuge for an adorable, wide-eyed native primate.
Huahine, French Polynesia
Referred to as French Polynesia's "Garden Island" and speckled with marae or ancient temples, there's something of Hawaii in this island marked by crystal waters, deserted beaches and craggy, jungle-draped mountains. The solitude of the place makes peaceful Huahine an idyllic Polynesian escape. Just 10 miles long and ringed by a coral reef, there's plenty to do on this sparsely populated sanctuary in the Society Islands, including scuba diving and snorkeling, where you might see colorful surgeonfish, triggerfish, wrasses and the occasional reef shark. Additional activities include horseback riding and cruising the lagoon in an outrigger canoe.
Located on Australia's west coast more than 2,500 miles from the nearest city, Perth is a laid-back and hip outpost of culture and night life Down Under. Check out the indigenous gardens and walking paths in the 800-acre King's Park, where you can stroll along a 730-foot bridge through the treetops, or head to one of the city's many beautiful white-sand beaches. After dark, check out Perth's indie music scene at one of its trendy downtown bars.
Less touristy than Marrakesh, Meknes is Morocco's off-the-beaten-path cultural gem. Head to the medina, or old city, for tea houses, markets and the impressive Grand Mosque, constructed in the 12th Century. Pass through the Bab Mansour Gate, an imposing and ornate gateway, and you enter the imperial city. Less than an hour outside of town, you can explore the crumbling arches and pillars of Volubilis, a Roman city built in the 3rd Century and a UNESCO Heritage Site. While admiring these remnants that date back thousands of years, you will suddenly be struck by how odd and extraordinary it is to be quite this far from home.