Vacations are a time to treat yourself, but truly treating yourself well means staying active during your getaway. Whether you’re looking for a quick hike to work off an indulgent dinner or seeking a vacation actually built around workouts and wellness, the landslide of activities available in countries like Costa Rica, Greece, Sydney, Turks and Caicos, and Los Cabos are up to the task. And don’t worry, beach bums—these destinations make it fun to stay active.
How to Stay Active in: Costa Rica
For get-fit activities with a side of wildlife, Costa Rica is hard to beat.
A jungle hike in Costa Rica can both challenge you physically and stimulate you sensorially. Our favorite is the Pura Vista Climb at the Papagayo Peninsula. Puffing up the lengthy staircase—it’s 1000+ steps up and down—is actually a joy thanks to all the Costa Rican wildlife that surrounds you throughout the climb. You’ll spot monkeys, see colorful birds, and admire the local fauna every step of the way, and this hike can even incorporate a stop at Prieta Beach for an expert-led fitness class. Plus, the reward at the top of Papagayo’s jungle stair climb includes fresh coconut water and pristine views of the peninsula’s coastline.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a super-popular activity for travelers to Costa Rica. SUP is a variation of surfing which you do upright with your feet on the board and a paddle to guide you. The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is one beloved site where a paddleboard affords you the ability to explore hidden parts that you can’t get to on a hike—like the scenic Cabo Blanco Island, home to Costa Rica’s first national park, where pelicans and lobster are commonplace. For a sanctuary-like SUP experience, seek out the quiet Matapalo mangroves, backing Playa del Rey and Playa Matapalo at the south edge of Manuel Antonio National Park, where calm waters provide a peek into the lives of anteaters, lizards, snakes, and more wildlife.
How to Stay Active in: Greece
Staying active in Greece might be a whole lot easier than you’d expect. You don’t have to give up any of the stunning views or tasty cuisine you came for—just think of those as your rewards.
Hiking the Samaria Gorge is a can’t miss experience for active types. Samaria—Europe’s longest gorge (a narrow valley between hills or mountains) on Greece’s largest island: Crete—stretches through the island’s varying terrain between the White Mountains and Libyan Sea, and the 16 km hike takes about six hours. Hiring a tour guide via Diktynna Tours (ask your Luxury Retreats concierge for details) is the best way to experience the hike at a slower pace while uncovering the hidden gems of the gorge, like small churches that many hikers walk right past and remnants of old villages. This particular tour includes lunch on the beach in the small village of Agia Roumeli and a ferry ride to the mountainous Sfakia.
Rock climbing in Kalymnos is a more high-octane experience. Head to this island to experience some of the world’s most extensive climbing surfaces. Unpolished, top quality limestone poses a healthy challenge, and dramatic caverns and iconic island views delight throughout the climbs. At the end of it all a plate of moussaka, fried casserole of eggplant, potato, and minced meat, is a nice reward.
Horseback riding is a less intense, but equally fun way to take in the breathtaking scenery in Mykonos. Mykonos Horseland leads tours on the beach that provide gorgeous views and a completely different way to see the island.
How to Stay Active in: Sydney
Staying fit in Sydney is all about one simple rule: do as the locals do. For born-and-bred Aussies, an active lifestyle and spectacular weather is simply part of the lifestyle.
Surfing is a no-brainer in Australia, especially in its most populous metropolis, Sydney. This sport is so embedded in the city’s culture that Sydney-born Aussie kids have their feet firmly planted on a board moments after they learn to walk (like hockey in Canada or soccer in Italy). While the city’s popular Bondi Beach is a staple for surf-seekers, savvy travelers avoid the crowds and head to Bronte or Manly beaches. Though Bronte is smaller, it’s also far less crowded and has an open surf which is great for body surfing. Away from the waves, Bronte is charming, sporting a family-friendly pool, a huge grassy park, and a clifftop walk featuring some of Sydney’s best panoramic views of Bronte, Tamarama, Bondi, and Malabar Headland. Manly, on the other hand, is a good beginner’s beach with consistent breaks that make it easy to learn on. There’s a reason so many Aussie surf legends, including Midget Farrelly, Pam Burridge, and Layne Beachley got their starts here.
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is a unique way to take in Sydney while staying on your feet. The three-and-a-half-mile trek provides a different perspective of local terrain. Over two hours, this stroll includes cliff top views of surfers in action, a look at the beautiful Waverley Cemetery, and a view of Wedding Cake Island with a surf break that (apparently) resembles icing as it arcs toward shore.
How to Stay Active in: Turks and Caicos
The shining sun, soft sand, and crystal clear waters of Turks and Caicos makes it a desirable destination for a mellow vacation—but you don’t want to lay on the beach all day, do you? Get in the water—activities are endless!
Snorkeling in Turks and Caicos provides unbelievable visibility thanks to the incredibly blue crystalline waters. Coral reefs like Bight Reef and Smith’s Reef are full of life, from angelfish to squirrelfish, and shallow enough that they’re easily accessible even for first-time snorkelers. Plus, there’s plenty of ways to take your experience a step beyond the usual. Top tour operators like Big Blue Collective also offer cool twists on the experience, like sunset snorkeling, eco-tours—where you learn about fish identification and coral reef ecology—or private custom tours. The latter can include excursions to ruins, cliff jumps, access to remote beaches, and more.
Kiteboarding is another thing TCI is known for—an extreme combination of wakeboarding and windsurfing, this sport uses wind force to propel a surfer across the water. Long Bay Beach is the go-to beach for this activity thanks to conditions that are newcomer-friendly: soft sand, shallow water, and stable wind for 10 months of the year (November through September).
How to Stay Active in: Los Cabos
Blue skies and panoramic landscapes make Los Cabos easy on the eyes and the soul, but look behind the beauty and you’ll discover a whole range of ways to challenge yourself physically. From San José del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas and The Corridor, the whole region is ripe with excursions.
Hiking Sierra de la Laguna tests not only your hiking prowess, but your rock climbing skills too, so show up prepared to take on the elements. The Sierra de la Laguna mountain range north of Los Cabos presents some undeveloped land where you’ll find hundreds of plant species along the trail, from cacti, to palm trees, plus (potentially) sightings of wild mountain lions. The hike is also challenging, with river crossings and steep inclines where climbing techniques will come in handy.
Cabo Pulmo mountain biking trails are challenging and recommended for the experienced only. Rent a bike from Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort and head for higher ground—the reward is worth the effort; two popular trails climb to the tallest point of the mountain on the east side of the Baja California peninsula. Views in the winter even include humpback whale sighting as they navigate the shore.
Cabo Pulmo is a national marine park that’s home to the oldest coral reef on the west coast of North America. So if you plan ahead and bring along snorkeling gear, don’t miss the mile-long hillside trail toward Mermaid Beach, a small bay in the park that’s loaded with marine life.