Wanting to explore and get adventurous but not be so remote that you’re far away from great cultural and food excursions as well? Below are 5 top destinations that will give you plenty of both.
1) Diving & Dining On Lionfish (Curaçao)
Dive into tropical waters to get up close and personal with Curaçao’s thriving corals, tropical reef fish and the invasive lionfish species that threatens the entire Caribbean reef system.
Photo of a lionfish courtesy of Kristina Vackova via Shutterstock.
Join Ocean Encounters for an add-on safari to any dive to hunt and eat the invasive lion fish. During their Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience, receive a short presentation on the predator’s anatomy and its effect on local reefs before you make a 50-minute dive and assist the divemaster in spearfishing lionfish.
After the hunt, watch how the lionfish is transformed into sashimi dockside and travel into town for an island-style lionfish fry. Your visit not only benefits Curaçao by actively removing lionfish from the reefs, but also teaches people how to continue to combat the problem responsibly.
2) Beachside Biking, Deep-Sea Fishing & Sushi Making (Ecuador)
Join Opuntia Eco Journeys & Hotels for “Galapagos Wildlife for Active Foodies,” where island exploration is synced with the preparation and enjoyment of endemic, gourmet meals. This program provides an invaluable opportunity to learn, stimulate your senses and savor the finest products of one of the best-preserved islands on earth.
Gourmet Adventures in the Galapagos. Photo courtesy of Opuntia.
Snorkel with marine iguanas, kayak with sea lions, visit a tortoise rearing center and stay at a lodge where giant tortoise roam freely. You will deep-sea fish with locals and turn the catch of the day into fresh sushi and sashimi, as well as search for edible plants on a primary forest walk. Feast on wild pig in a southern style BBQ, grilled snapper on a tropical beach, organic beef, Galapagos coffee and Ecuadorian chocolate at a highland farm.
3) Cave Swimming & Chocolate (Belize)
Join Adventure Life for an active, cultural and culinary immersion trip in Belize. Kayak, river tube and zip line through Mayan jungle, potentially encountering tropical birds like woodpecker, trogons, parakeets and toucans along the way. You will also hike half an hour to mouth of Blue Creek cave, then swim upstream inside to a point where the river cascades from a fissure in the cavern wall.
Your creative side will also get a workout with drumming lessons from a master teacher and craft lessons from the Chiacs family who make functional crafts out of materials gathered by hand from the surrounding jungle. You will leave their village with an appreciation for the hard work that goes into regional baskets, hammocks, shoulder bags, palm fans and rosewood carvings.
A Belizean chef also takes you on a tour of the nearby street market before heading into her kitchen to prepare a traditional local meal. Before you leave Belize, visit the Ixcacao Mayan Chocolate facility in nearby San Felipe village and savor a cacao-infused lunch. This boutique factory is known for its delectable, sustainably-produced, environmentally-conscious chocolate.
4) Hike With Howler Monkeys & Sip On Shade-Grown Coffee (Panama)
Explore Panama’s beach, volcanoes, cloud forests and indigenous communities with Backroad’s hiking and biking tour. Start surrounded by sand and sun with snorkeling in Chiriquí Gulf National Marine Park among dolphins and colorful fish. Then delight in cooler temperatures as you hike and bike at the base of Boquete’s Barú Volcano, keeping an eye out for howler monkeys. Here you will tour and taste famous shade-grown coffee at Finca Lérida plantation.
Howler monkey courtesy of Jess Kraft via Shutterstock.
Then, take a scenic flight to David in western Panama for a journey into the vaulting Cordillera Central mountain range. Throughout this trip, you will encounter layers of Spanish colonial and San Francisco gold-rush history, seven indigenous tribes and a jazzy Afro-Caribbean vibe. Dining highlights include fish and seafood dishes on the coast, local beef and trout in Boquete and a visit to Panamonte restaurant, home to the award-winning Chef Charlie Collins.
5) Paragliding & Pisco (Peru)
Join Realworld Holidays in their “La Vida es Dulce” tour of Peru, a country with some of the best food and most amazing nature in the world. Start in Lima where you will paraglide over the cliffs of Miraflores, then meet a chef to pick up some ingredients at the local market for a private cooking lesson.
Hike the legendary path from Cusco to the Lost City. Photo courtesy of RealWorld.
Next, head down the coast to the desert oasis of Huacachina for a dune buggy ride and sandboarding. Spend your afternoon relaxing at Peru’s best vineyards for tasting sessions of wine and Pisco brandy.
From the coast, you will head into the Andes to Arequipa, for a bike ride in the countryside before enjoying an enormous asado barbecue at one of the local haciendas. End your trip in the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco. From here, you will do a full-day trek through the mountains to reach Machu Picchu, before heading down to the gourmet restaurant at the Sumaq hotel where you can gorge yourself on some of the finest novo andino (New Andean) cuisine.