While all-inclusive mega resorts have their time and place, sometimes you want your trips to be a little farther off the tourist path. Whether you’re looking for a less-than-conventional vacation spot, a location for a vacation or retirement home, or are considering an expatriate lifestyle these are some of the best places to check out in 2018.
While the beachy Ambergris Caye gets all the attention — and a lot of tourism — the Cayo District, home to the capital city of Belmopan, is where an adventure vacation awaits you. This jungle-covered landscape is home to many eco-activities and adventures and is dotted with Mayan ruins. San Ignacio, a town with a population of nearly 18,000 serves as the perfect point to launch your trip as all roads and activities branch out from this hub. Here you can find waterfalls, cave exploring expeditions, Mayan ruins and so much more!
Must Try Activity: Explore the hidden depths and crystal clear waters at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a natural wonder featured in National Geographic. From here you can swim into a mysterious cave known as Xibalba, which the ancient Mayans considered to be a portal to the underworld. You’ll have to hike, climb, and possibly even swim, but the history and beauty can’t be beaten.
If your ideal vacation involves fewer beaches and more jungles, you must check out El Castillo in the Alajuela province. Getting there can be quite the trip as it’s about a 2.5 hour trek by car or bus through Costa Rican jungle roads, but once you make it, you’ll know the trip was worth it.
Must Try Activity: There are a ton of great things to do using El Castillo as a jumping off point, but visiting the hot springs of the Arenal Volcano tops the list. While there are numerous hot springs in the area, those looking for a more intimate and natural experience will enjoy Eco Termales Fortuna, where the number guests is limited per day.
Coming in close behind are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and the Sky Adventures Arenal Park (both offer a great view, neither are for those who are afraid of heights!) and the Arenal Ecozoo.
Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago
Scarborough, the capital of the island of Tobago lays outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean. The population of around 17,000 gives off the smalltown vibes while having a deep-sea port allows for an influx of cruise tourists and a nearby rainforest preserve will make you believe you are in a much more remote locale. English is the official language of the island which makes it easy for Americans to travel around, although tourists should be aware that prices can be quoted in either USD or Trinidad & Tobago (TT) dollars, so make sure to ask which one your purchase is in!
Must Try Activity: Take a glass bottom boat out to Nylon Pool. It’s a shallow area in the ocean that you can bathe in! The “sand” is pulverized coral (so exfoliating!) and people who bathe here are said to return looking 10 years younger! Along the way there are beautiful, tropical fish to see and is very inexpensive with many tours under USD 10. Other notable attractions include Argyle Falls, a three-tiered waterfall with natural rock tubs (great for relaxing!) and swimmable areas and Fort King George, a military outpost from the 1700s with gorgeous sunset views.
Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago
Gasparillo, a small town near Upper Santa Cruz in the San Juan/Laventille region (not to be confused with the town of about 16,000 on the southeastern side of Trinidad), located 5 miles (8 km) from the capital city of Port of Spain.
Must Try Activity: Spend your day lounging on the nearby Maracas Beach, the best place for sun, sand, and surf on the island of Trinidad. When you get hungry, head over to Richard’s Shark and Bake where they sell deep fried shark sandwiches with all the fixings. There are other shark and bake shops, but this is the local favorite!
Jamaica is known for beautiful, turquoise beaches, but almost as well known as the beauty are the hustlers and vendors that crowd the tourist areas trying to vend their goods. Looking for a more unadulterated paradise experience? Set up camp in the town of Green Island, located in the Hanover Parish on the northwestern side of the island.
Must Try Activity: Half Moon Beach is a private beach with a small entrance fee and provides the peace and serenity vacationers are looking for while having an onsite bar and restaurant for those whose version of paradise still includes a well-cooked meal. The beach also offers a nearby healthy reef for snorkeling and a bamboo rafting tour–the only of its kind on the open sea! Other fun vacation activities nearby include the Crocodile Reserve and Bird Sanctuary as well as the Kool Runnings Adventure Park, a theme park based off the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.