9 Tropical Island Adventures
Sunny days relaxing on the beach can be heavenly, but a big, bold world of adventure awaits on our favorite islands. Swim with stingrays. Surf Hawaii’s legendary waves. Spot vibrant wildlife in dense, lush rainforests or from a glass-bottomed kayak.
1. Maui, Hawaii: Surf, whale watch and get lost on the trail
Located at the foot of the verdant West Maui Mountains, Kapalua is a dream base for active travelers. Winter months bring humpback whales as well as fast-breaking winter swells for surfing lovers. Year-round, travelers can snorkel the calm, clear waters of Kapalua Bay or swap fins for hiking boots and get lost on the trails of the West Mauis. History nerds can hike to the private arboretum of the late D.T. Fleming, while thrill-seekers can scramble along jaw-dropping ridgelines and swim under waterfalls.
2. Tenerife, Spain: Get lost on the trail, and harness the wind on the sea
Tenerife, the largest island of the seven Canary Islands, is an off-the-radar adventure hub. With 43 protected nature areas, and brilliant marine life, there are endless activities on both land and sea. The island has hundreds of miles of trails that can be traversed on foot, by bike or on horseback. If watersports are your thing, the region’s wind patterns make Tenerife a mecca for windsurfers and kitesurfers.
3. Amelia Island, Florida: Kayak the marshes and spot baby sea turtles
Just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is home to 13 miles of beautiful beaches as well as incredible native wildlife. Kayak tours are one of the best ways to experience the area’s natural wonders. A paddle through salt marshes and Spanish moss-draped estuaries might move you past heron, egret and manatee. May is sea turtle season, and it’s not unusual to spot hatchlings making their way to the ocean. Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch gives visitors the opportunity to attend a nest excavation and learn more about the plight of the turtle.
4. Aruba: Go on a Jeep safari
The tiny Dutch island of Aruba has a wild side that sets it apart from other Caribbean islands. Rugged landscapes and remote beaches on the eastern side still feel undiscovered. A Jeep safari is a thrilling way to take in the island’s coastline as it allows plenty of opportunities to stop and play. The Natural Pool, formed by a wall of volcanic rock, is the perfect place for a midday dip. And any island tour should include a visit to desert-like Arikok National Park and its mysterious caves, many lined with drawings by the Caquetio Indians.
5. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands: Swim with stingrays
Popular Stingray City gives travelers the chance to get up close and personal with marine life. Wade out to the shallow sandbar and you’ll find yourself surrounded by more than two dozen Atlantic Southern Stingrays. Guides will assist and snap photos as you snorkel alongside the magnificent rays. Brave snorkelers can even feed the gentle creatures.
6. Cancun, Mexico: Fine Art, Natural Beauty
Experience one of the world’s most unique museums at Cancun’s underwater gallery Museo Subacuático de Arte. Seeing the hundreds of life-size sculptures reposed silently in the shallow depths — gradually transforming into a coral reef — brings a profound sense of our intimate and delicate connection with the natural environment. View the museum and stunning marine life by scuba diving, snorkeling or glass bottom boat.
7. Bali: Trek to rice paddies and waterfalls
Bali’s beaches are renowned worldwide, but the island’s interiors are equally as spectacular and refreshingly secluded. Trekking offers a unique lens on local culture as well as breathtaking natural scenery. Trailheads near Tirtagangga Water Palace in eastern Bali weave through small villages and vast rice fields. For Instagram-worthy waterfalls, head to Munduk in the central rainforest, home to dramatic river gorges and flowing falls.
8. Okinawa, Japan: Zip line through the treetops
Get a bird’s-eye view of Okinawa from high up in the treetops during a zip line adventure at Forest Adventure in Onna. Ten zip lines let travelers glide high over a forest-lined cavern as they take in distant ocean views. Bridges, ladders, Tarzan swings and other obstacles are interspersed between zip lines, making for a fun day of adventures for all ages.
9. Sanya, China
Known as the “Hawaii of China,” Sanya is a coastal city at the southern tip of Hainan Island that’s becoming a hot spot for travelers. The tropical climate is warm all year long, so it’s a great place to go when you want to escape the frigid temperatures of winter. Head to Yalong Bay to experience the beauty of our revolving planet from white sand beaches.