For outdoorsy types, a tiny basement fitness center at the hotel just isn’t going to cut it. For them, a great vacation is all about getting outdoors — and being in a stunning natural setting to boot. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic resorts around the world offering a range of activities right on-site, from horseback riding to water sports to fishing to stargazing. Check out our faves.
Calistoga Ranch was designed with Mother Nature in mind: All the modules for the property’s 48 exquisite private lodges were flown in by helicopter to minimize impact on surrounding trees and to maximize privacy. The 157-acre property offers abundant outdoor activities, including hiking (there are a number of trails on-site), outdoor yoga, a beautiful heated outdoor pool, a bocce court, and a fabulous fitness center. After all that exercise, there’s no need to feel guilty about indulging at one of the wine tasting seminars (this is Napa, after all).
Canyon Ranch is a health spa and all-inclusive resort in north Tucson near the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here the focus is on wellness, nutrition, and fitness, and there are numerous classes and activities that allow guests to embrace the outdoors. Among them: biking (several different types of bikes are offered free); racquet sports; golf at the 3,400-square-foot golf performance center; survival skill seminars; and four swimming pools.
Stretching over 400 acres (including 2 miles of beach), the 230-room resort offers attentive service, quality cuisine, and seemingly limitless activities. Guests can ride horses on the beach (Half Moon has its own stables), swim with dolphins in the private cove, golf on the championship course, or take out non-motorized water sports equipment such as windsurfing boards or kayaks free of charge.
Considered one of the top resorts in the Southwest for nearly a decade, the serene yet sceney Sanctuary has the most desirable location in Scottsdale, overlooking Praying Monk Rock and the desert. There are hiking trails, bicycling, and nature walks on the property, as well as tennis classes on championship courts. Personalized fitness programs are available from renowned fitness professionals.
This “inn” in Carolina Lowcountry, really more akin to a sprawling estate, provides a one-of-a-kind experience that uniquely blends southern history and almost otherworldly natural beauty: rivers, misty marshes, old oaks draped with wispy Spanish moss, and salty breezes. Guests can enjoy a range of recreational facilities, including golf, tennis, croquet, and swimming (in the two pools); in addition, guests can travel around the grounds by horse or bicycle. There are naturalist and wildlife tours of the bluff and wetlands, as well as kayak or boat tours of the salt marshes.
This ultra-remote, luxurious safari lodge on an island in Botswana’s Okavango Delta isn’t a hotel, it’s an experience, where everything — including the excellent food and the guided excursions (game drives, bush walks, river cruises) — is included in the price of the stay. Guests can get up close to exotic wildlife on both land and water (think: lions and hippos), and even arriving to the property is an adventure, requiring transport by small plane, safari vehicle, and a boat.
For outdoorsy types looking for an authentic eco lodge experience, Selva Negra is the real deal. In addition to offering lodging, Selva Negra is a coffee estate, working farm, and nature reserve, and there are tours designed to introduce guests to these different aspects of the property. Namely: the farm tour (the property produces its own dairy products, sausage, and vegetables); coffee tour (coffee tastings are included); a nature tour; and a night walk. Horseback riding is also available, and the staff can recommend numerous hikes around the 300 or so preserved acres of cloud forest. The cool mountain setting is rich with wildlife, including howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds.
The 40-room Ballynahinch Castle Hotel has a riverfront location amid the unspoiled nature of Connemara. The charming stone manor house dates to the 18th century and the 450-acre country estate embodies the sort of wild country beauty that Connemara is famous for. The grounds hardly appear to have changed for the last several hundred years, and indeed, the age-old country activities of fishing and shooting endure today; on-site activities include woodcock shooting, fly fishing, and beautiful hikes. Bikes and maps of looped cycling routes are also available for guests looking to explore the region.
This beautiful luxury beach resort on the Kohala Coast is chock-full of excellent features: top-rated dining, golfing, tennis, fitness training, and spa experiences. At the beach, kayaks, surf boards, stand up paddle boards, and canoes are available for rent. Free activities at the on-site Hawaiian cultural center — including tours of the historic rock carvings and the former royal fishing ponds on the grounds — are also a highlight.