Fewer crowds, better deals—here's where to get away this autumn.
Jimmy Im 1 / 9
Surfing in Hawaii? Been there. Mountain biking in Park City? Done that. This fall, outdoor enthusiasts are exploring a slew of classic adventures in atypical (yet familiar) places while the weather is perfect, the deals are enticing, and the crowds are at bay. From Costa Rica to Bhutan, these thrilling, life-changing journeys are a surefire way to see all corners of the globe—and get you pumped with action-packed activities.
The last thing anyone would associate with the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador is mountain biking, but wheels are trumping cruise boats thanks to Pikaia Lodge. The destination’s first luxury, on-land resort is visually engaging, forward-thinking and eco-friendly, and visitors take advantage of the resort’s private yacht for traditional cruising. Thanks to the opening of the lodge, mountain biking has become a reality on unspoiled terrain. Guests take complimentary mountain bikes out for a 15-mile ride through the national park (with stunning views) to El Garrapetero Beach, volcanic craters with lava tunnels and small villages with organic coffee farms and cattle ranches—while seeing wildlife in their natural habitat (including the giant Galapagos tortoise and dozens of native birds) along the way.
Prices start at $8,115 for a three-night stay with daily activities, meals, and transportation included. Pikaialodge.com
Just twenty minutes outside the Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon is a best-kept secret for avid mountain climbers. In addition to vast, extensive climbing, the Red Rock rises in a 3,000-foot wall of red, pink, and cream-colored Aztec sandstone, stretching more than ten miles long and cut perpendicularly with many major canyons. The only sign of human impact is an occasional glimpse of the narrow access road, so you feel worlds away. Among towers and summits, long crack lines and steep, exposed face climbing are some of the country’s best non-granitic climbs. There are also a large number of long, high-quality routes of moderate technical difficulty for more hardcore climbers.
Red Rock Resort is the closest resort (ten-minute drive) and offers a brand-new, guy-friendly spa—The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being—that includes vertical wall yoga (a form of yoga that is relatively new to the United States and exclusive to this Well & Being location. This exercise practice safely supports the body using the traction of ropes as guests flip upside down, pose with feet against the wall and more), body fat composition testing in the state-of-the-art BodPod (used by NFL teams), and men-specific spa treatments.
The Discovery Package (from $160 a night) includes two nights in a deluxe room, two-day car rental, admission pass to Red Rock Canyon, two admission passes to Bonnie Springs (an Old West-themed ranch with gun fight reenactments and an old jailhouse), and picnic lunch. redrock.sclv.com
Known for its excellent skiing, the small town of Telluride, Colorado, is among few places in the country that offers via ferrata, a protected climb using a steel cable fixed to the route as well as iron rungs (or stemples) in the form of a ladder for easier access (and limiting any fall). It’s like extreme hiking along a sheer cliff, and it still works major muscle groups. In the San Juan Mountain Range, climbers can scale a 600-foot wall 350-feet off the ground and take in immense views of the old mining town and Bridal Veil Falls, the town’s famed boxed canyon.
While the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu is known for its legendary hikes, visitors can cross scenic terrain in nearby Sacred Valley with Explora Valle Sagrado. This high-end, all-inclusive resort (opened July 1, 2016) challenges travelers with daily experiences, with more than 20 options to choose from. The most physically demanding (yet rewarding) hike is 8 hours and 11 miles through the vast, scenic landscape, crossing the Urubamba mountain chain and over a trail that goes along the second highest peak in the region, the Sawasiray, at an altitude of 10,900 feet high. The resort also features a fantastic spa where calf muscles can get proper attention post-hike.
Three-night, all-inclusive package is $1,910 per person for a double room (inclusive of transportation, all guided excursions, meals and alcohol). explora.com
Narvik, Norway has become a prime fall destination, most particularly because of its Northern Lights viewing (starting in September) thanks to its little light pollution. It’s all about nature in Narvik, where most travelers head to the sea for excellent kayaking with the backdrop of the fjords. Fall is the best time to spot sea eagles and killer whales while you drift in the extremely natural landscape (the fresh mountain water can be drunk right on the spot). From here, guests can tap into their inner Kevin Costner and head a short distance to Polar Park, a wildlife park where wolves have been socialized, so guests can interact with them in their natural habitat.
Forever known as one of the happiest and healthiest countries in the world, Costa Rica is a magnet to travelers seeking practice for a better self. The five-star Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo recently debuted Pura Vida for All, a permanent wellness initiative that will fully launch early 2017. The program is designed to help guests immerse in the country’s secrets to living longer and being healthier and happier. Among the myriad activities offered, it features natural remedy and nutrition workshops, yoga, energy treatments (like Costa Rica hot stone massage with chakra realignment), and a wealth of outdoor activities like stand-up paddle boarding, hikes, and full-body workouts.
Pura Vida packages start at $450 in addition to room rates starting at $495 per night (stay three nights for a complimentary fourth night and $100 resort credit). fourseasons.com/costarica
Famous for gorilla trekking, Uganda has become a hot destination for extreme river rafting. Here, the Nile River is favorably dam controlled, and the country is located on the equator, which keeps the water warm throughout the year. There are class 3, 4, and 5 rapids out of Jinja, considered to have some of the best rafting in the world with rapid names that match their intensity like “Hair of the Dog” and “The Bad Place.” You will fall out of the raft considering the velocity. As you can imagine, the Nile is chockfull of crocodiles in certain areas, which adds a certain thrill. But don’t worry: guides keep rafters miles away from known crocodile spots, and tour operator Adrift even arranges bodyboarding and surfing the river’s wild streams.
During fall, rafting enthusiasts head to the river for abundant deals outside high season (summer and winter). Book a 5 to 6-hour, grade-5 rafting tour ($140) with Adrift, one of the most popular white water rafting outfitters. Most guests stay at Wildwaters Lodge ($230 a night), right in the rainforest on its own private island, mid-stream in the Nile. adrift.ug
Bhutan may be voted as one of the happiest countries in the world but it also gets top praise as one of the most scenic countries in Southeast Asia.COMOUmaBhutan offers a 10-night, immersive Himalayan itinerary that includes five nights at luxurious, rustic COMO Uma Paro lodge, and five nights camping in the wild, which has recently become high demand in the region. Among the highlights along the trek are mythical forests and ancient monasteries, as well as wild animals like blue sheep. Guests overnight in Jigme Dorji National Park, the second largest national park in Bhutan. The trip includes a private chef for all meals, guides, massage, and ponies to carry luggage.