Here at Uproxx, we’re constantly trying to get you on the road. We show you the freshest destinations, profile bold adventurers sure to leave you inspired, and share scortching flight deals. Once you take the leap and buy a ticket, your trip unfolds in front of you — loaded with endless potential.
So what to do? Swim with sharks? Trek the Amazon? Practice yoga in a hilltop retreat? The choices you make will ultimately come down to your personal travel philosophy. Don’t you dare cede the choice to a package tour dealer or travel agent. Deciding how, where, and why you spend your money to gain experience is one of the joys of travel in the first place.
We asked 11 travel writers to tell us which experiences excited them for 2018. Their sagelike advice fit with some of the big travel trends we’re seeing this year — health, ecology, and community. More than that, all of these activities, tours, and excursions have one common thread: They sound like a whole lot of fun.
FIELD OF LIGHT ULURU, AUSTRALIA
For years, I visited Uluru — in Australia’s Northern Territory — to find white tourists climbing the side of the massive monolith. There were signs asking them not to. Local guides were on hand to explain the cultural significance. And yet… it happened. School groups. Tour buses. From afar, it looked like a steady stream of ants inching up the rock.
Was it technically allowed? Yes. It was part of a tourism deal that the Anangu people had with the government, a bargaining chip used in disputes. But the Indigenous owners of the land never wanted people to climb it, literally begged them not to.
Now, finally climbing Uluru is closing to tourists. In its place? Australia’s ‘Field of Light’ Installation — which features Anangu design patterns and colors, and is powered by solar. Plus it’s absolutely stunning.
This is responsible tourism at its best.
PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is a must-photo destination for 2018. A cosmopolitan African city by the sea, Cape Town has more to offer than breathtaking views and unmissable Instagram opportunities (although there are loads of those too). The city has a rich cultural heritage and vibrant energy to capture too!
Just north, you’ll find expansive wine lands and some of the most unique wine varietals in the world. Don’t forget the game reserves and Kruger National Park where you can have a true “Big 5” African safari. You can see all the highlights on this epic photography tour — so start planning!
CHOSEN LIFESTYLE OPTIMIZATION, BALI
Ready to embrace a spirit of personal evolution at the planet’s most rewarding destinations such as Bali, New Zealand, Iceland, and Guatemala? Allow me to introduce you to the Chōsen Experience, where for a full week you will benefit from positive challenges and expert guidance provided by Olympic athletes, nutritional therapists, meditation mentors, and yoga teachers. Surrounded by experts who are eager to pass on their deep understanding of such key disciplines as movement, nutrition, and mindfulness, the Chōsen approach enriches every aspect of the experience for a truly transformational result.
It’s a rare opportunity to recalibrate your life through experiential travel with eminent practitioners and a small group of like-minded people. I’ve attended Chōsen’s Bali program twice and plan on returning again as soon as possible. For me, Chōsen is the epitome of carpe diem. Both of my seven-day experiences were held at a secluded, beachfront property located a few minutes north of the très chic surf mecca, Canggu. Typical days began with morning surfing followed by beach workouts, canyoning, nutrition classes, goal-setting exercises, and a daily functional movement program.
Yes, the weeks are bursting with epic adventures, however, there are also ample opportunities for lounging by the pool and daily sunset yin yoga, along with the massages and bodywork that Bali is renowned for.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN COASTER, COPPER MOUNTAIN
Look, here’s some pretty easy math: Skiers and snowboarders like zooming along, going fast, taking tight turns, so… more of that is a good thing. Copper Mountain — one of the nation’s most underrated ski resorts — has clearly figured that out. Their Rocky Mountain Coaster just opened this fall and is quickly turning into a guest favorite.
The coaster is a bit of fusion — one part alpine slide, one part luge, all parts fun-as-hell. Literally, who on earth doesn’t want to race along the snowy landscape, while dropping 430 vertical feet? It’s clearly going to be a mega-hit, perfect for days when you’re too sore for the slopes but still want some excitement.
KO PHI PHI NYE & KO PHANGAN FULL MOON PARTY
Southern Thailand is well-trodden territory for most seasoned travelers, but it still reigns as the gateway destination for the young and sexy looking for a good party. New Year’s Eve on Ko Phi Phi (takeoff point to those islands of The Beach fame) is truly an all-night affair. Even if the party scene is not your game, the people watching alone is of the highest caliber. If you’re island hopping the next day, start early to avoid the crowds.
A longtail boat, a bus, and a ferry get you to the Gulf of Thailand to the island of Ko Phangan, home to the infamous full, half and quarter moon parties heavily endorsed by neon-clad twenty-somethings. A subsection of revelers, lacking accommodation, stay up and catch the morning ferry to Ko Tao or Ko Sui — don’t worry, they have “sea-sickness” bags.
There’s plenty to do on the island besides bask in the alcohol-induced glow of thousands of young, sexy partygoers. So take the next days to recover with a snorkel or sweat soak in their hilltop sauna dome.
LIVE THE VAN LIFE LIFE, NEW ZEALAND
‘Vanlife’ gets complicated and overrun with logistics, but NOT when you rent instead of own. Grab a gaudily painted ‘freedom camping’ van from Escape Rentals in Auckland New Zealand and head south to beautiful, laid-back Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake.
A week to ten days in November or December before the holiday crowds arrive allows plenty of time for an adventurous couple to experience the best of the region, centered around the friendly town of Taupo. Park by the lake and wake up with a refreshing dip in the clear cool water. Rent mountain bikes and get shuttled to ride the Great Lake Trail with sections of beautiful forested single track trails. Soothe sore muscles afterward at the numerous natural hot springs in this volcanic area. Day hike the nearby Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand’s oldest National Park, one of the world’s most epic day hikes.
In town, check out Plateau Restaurant and Bar for tasty local brews (and free, fast WIFI) and don’t miss a hidden gem, ‘The Tipsy Trout’ in the nearby lakeside village of Kinloch for great value New Zealand food and hospitality at its very best.
What started as a few friends gathering around music, conversation and unique experiences has become a global home for a community of travelers. Habitas, now a hospitality brand transcending traditional definitions of the term, has opened a hotel in Tulum with canvas palapas overlooking the ocean, a clubhouse in a historic firehouse in NYC, a refurbished 1940s beach cottage in Venice, and in 2018, two more hotels in Namibia and Malibu.
The idea is to foster a sense of community and wellbeing no matter where you are in the world. Music is central to everything Habitas, so expect mind-blowing performances to take place at each location. Apart from stunning hotels and clubhouses, Habitas hosts curated experiences in beautiful destinations around the world. The programming? Always a secret. Guests are encouraged to simply show up and trust that they are in good hands.
The company’s philanthropic initiative, Habitas Rise, leads with cultural infrastructure in one of the biggest refugee camps in Uganda. There, Habitas team members work with local leaders to set up communities where refugees can thrive and create new opportunities.
This dynamic concept is one to watch in 2018, as more and more hotels are moving away from old notions of hospitality and putting their resources towards creating new realities in a fragmented world, to change the conversation and truly inspire the people they come in contact with.
GO SOAK IN A HOT SPRINGS
If you’re like me, the term “hot springs” doesn’t necessarily evoke the most pleasant vibe. In my mind, a “hot spring” was a muddy, creek-like burbling fountain of water in the middle of nowhere, that the most adventurous people I knew would hike to, and skinny dip in — to soak up as many minerals as possible. Then they’d return to civilization more smug and wild than ever. Maybe that was me in a past life, but it sure as hell isn’t the 2018 version of me, who prefers high thread count to sleeping bags.
The last thing I want during my scarce free time is mud, creeks, or wilderness. Or so I thought.
It was while I was sitting on a smoothly carved, red rock bench built under a waterfall of boiling water that I had to admit, I have never been more wrong about something in my life. Hot springs are really just nature’s hot tub, which is reasonable because the earth is always beating us to the best ideas. When I recently traveled to Costa Rica, I tentatively dipped a toe, and then quickly plunged my entire body into the Tabacón hot springs, or as they like to call it, their Thermal Resort — now that is some phrasing I can get behind.
Aside from being quite literally the hottest ticket item on the property, the massive hot springs were secluded and quiet, surrounded by jungle, but also just a quick beck and call away from the bar, restaurant, and spa that came alongside the naturally-heated water. Located at the bottom of the local, inactive Arenal volcano, the magma beneath the surface of the earth naturally heats the water to a delicious temperature, and the man-made installations craft this mineral-infused water into waterfalls, deep pools, long, lazy rivers, and plenty more.
If the thought of stepping foot into water that had mysteriously heated by the forces roiling beneath the planet’s surface was still a little prehistoric for my taste, in Costa Rica I learned that prehistoric is awesome.
Plus, the low-key feel of the resort meant that lounging in robes and dipping in and out of secluded pools in the gorgeous jungle has become my new standard-bearer for a truly perfect vacation with loved ones. There’s no better time to catch up with siblings or best friends who live elsewhere than while immersed in relaxing, tropical heated water. The Tabacon Thermal Resort will probably always be my favorite hot springs since it’s the one that won me over, but I’d recommend this micro-adventure to anyone looking to get a little outside of their comfort zone, for something outdoorsy without the roughing it factor. Put away your misconceptions about hot springs and jump on in — the water is just fine, and your skin will thank you.
EAT OYSTERS AT THE SOURCE, HAMA HAMA WASHINGTON
This is the year we should all start embracing oysters as a great food. They are environmentally positive and serve as a sustainable source of animal protein that’s, well, delicious. One of the best places to eat oysters is right from their harvesting grounds at the Hama Hama Saloon, off Highway 101 on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
If you’re in Seattle, it’s about an hour away after a lovely ferry ride to Bremerton. You’ll wind your way along the Hood Canal with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains looming large in the sky. Once you arrive, you’re greeted with that misty rainforest the area is legendary for. The mossy trees give way to an estuary teaming with wildlife and oyster beds. You can huddle up around campfires or sit at the outdoor bar (year round) and eat oyster after oyster (freshly shucked or awesomely baked) while chatting with Canal locals and the fourth generation of the James family, who still run the place.
It’s a great way to enjoy amazing local eats while experiencing sustainable and local aquaculture with people who truly care about being stewards of the land around them. Plus, all the delicious oysters you can eat washed down with Port Townsend craft beer.
SURF WITH A CHEF, PARK HYATT AVIARA
How does a resort brand dive into the experience economy? By connecting two of the largest passion points for travelers: Food and surfing. The Surfing with Chef package at the Park Hyatt Aviara in North San Diego invites guests to surf and cook with Executive Chef Pierre Albaladejo.
“We meet guests in the kitchen and cook breakfast together,” Chef Pierre explains. “I cook it with them and then we sit down and eat, to plan out our day. Then we head to the break, get in the water, and try to teach them how to take a few waves.”
It’s a customizable, iconic, totally memorable adventure.
“It’s a full-on experience,” Chef Pierre continues. “After the waves, I do shrimp tacos on the grill.”
After the waves, guests who are super keen can drive up the coast a little to have a board shaped by the surf-legend Greg Noll. It’s an epic ending to a truly epic experience.