Bring your beach ball: 5 great destinations for an active beach day

June 29, 2015                 3m read time
Kirsten Akens


Think “beach destinations” and you might picture people reclining in chaise-lounges, their faces buried in the latest summer read and a fruity cocktail at their side. But coastal escapes can be much more exciting than flipping pages and sipping mai tais. Pick the right location and your vacation could include kayaking in sea caves, hiking through rain forests, and spotting boobies (of the blue-footed and feathered variety). If you want more real life action on your next seaside escapade, check out these beachy—but far from boring—getaways. 

A landscape view of the Na Pali Coast at the ridge leading to Kalalau Beach on Kauai ZOZI

A landscape view of the Na Pali Coast at the ridge leading to Kalalau Beach on Kauai

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Kauai, Hawaii

The temperatures on Kauai, the northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain, average between 69 and 84 degrees. Light trade winds blow away humidity, and most rainfall, when it happens at all, hits at night, leaving rainbows in its wake. Sound like paradise? Pretty much. Hiking, zip-lining, yoga, helicopter tours, golf, hammocks—all are available on the “Garden Isle.” And to top it off, your choice of watersports: from surfing and kayaking the northern Hanalei Bay to snorkeling and scuba diving off the southern Poipu Beach in 71-to-81-degree ocean water, year-round. (Keep an eye out for the colorful, but aggressive state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa.)

Espanola Island Galapagos with many sea-lions sleeping on a beach ZOZI

Espanola Island Galapagos with many sea-lions sleeping on a beach

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Galapagos Islands

Volcanoes are still active on the Galapagos Islands, as seen with the recent 33-years-in-waiting eruption of Wolf Volcano, the highest peak in the 20-island archipelago. It’s just part of what UNESCO has described as “one of the most unique, scientifically important, and biologically outstanding areas on earth.” A visit here is a bucket-list dream for many, primarily to view the wildlife that exists nowhere else on earth (such as the giant Galapagos tortoise, the flightless cormorant, and the pink iguana), and to visit such sites as the Santa Cruz Island Lava Tubes, the Sierra Negra Crater, and the Charles Darwin Research Center. Reading "On the Origin of Species" before you go is optional.

Humpback whale breaching in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica ZOZI

Humpback whale breaching in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica

Costa Ballena, along the southern Pacific side of Costa Rica, includes three major towns: the laid-back surfer’s paradise of Dominical at the north; Uvita, with Marino Ballena, one of the only marine national parks in the country, in the middle; and Ojochal, where you can explore the tidal caves at Playa Ventanas and the nearby Nauyaca Waterfalls. After making your way south through these towns, keep going until you get to Corcovado National Park. Hailed as “the most biologically intense place on the planet” by National Geographic, Corcovado’s 429 square kilometers of protected national forest is home to at least 500 species of trees, more than 500 species of mammals and birds, and thousands of different types of insects.

Surfers enjoy sunset in northern Nicaragua ZOZI

Surfers enjoy sunset in northern Nicaragua

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Nicaragua

Just a few hours drive in a 4x4 separates your arrival into the capital city of Managua, Nicaragua, from the world-class waves of the Southern Pacific Coast. You’ve dreamed of the powerful reef break at Popoyo Beach; the barrel-fest that is Playa Colorado; and Astillero’s hollow waves, double overheads, and point breaks. But surfing isn’t the only activity in this area. Swim with fish in tidal pools, soak your muscles in natural hot springs, hike to the stunning Magnific Rock overlook, and don’t miss a visit to the Chacocente Wildlife Refuge, one of the few places in the world where you can observe up to 5,000 sea turtles nest in mass and weeks later watch their hatchlings waddle off to the ocean (sea turtle season is between July and January).

Waves crashing against rocks at Troncones, beach in Guerrero, Mexico ZOZI

Waves crashing against rocks at Troncones, beach in Guerrero, Mexico

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Manzanillo Bay, Mexico

The seaside fishing village of Troncones, Mexico, is just 20 miles north of Ixtapa and the Zihuatanejo airport, but it feels worlds away from city life. Surfing rules along the three-mile beach, which includes breaks at both Manzanillo Bay and Troncones Point. And a 20-minute drive north will get you to La Saladita, aka “the wave machine,” with its never-ending left break. Spend your days catching waves, and your evenings catching well-deserved Zs after a dinner of fresh fish tacos, ceviche, and margaritas. Mix things up with a horseback ride on the beach or a guided fishing tour.

Kirsten Akens

Kirsten is an award-winning journalist, editor, photographer and practicing yogi based in Colorado. A lover of books, balasana, baked goods, blogging, and Boston terriers, she also has an unnatural affection for alliteration.

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