Some people think of a vacation in terms of a cocktail on the shore of a tropical island. For others, a chance to travel is less about leisure and more about adventure, exotic wonders and the awe of natural beauty. If you fall in the latter category, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better trip idea than hiking in the rainforest. The Amazon jungle is usually the first destination that comes to mind, but it’s worth knowing that there are worthy rainforests closer to home.
Lanipo Trail, Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu is one of Hawaii’s more densely populated islands, but it still offers a number of remote trails of varying difficulty to take in the beauty of the islands. Lanipo Trail is a great start for less experienced hikers. It’s 7.8 miles long and can take anywhere from four to six hours, depending on your pace and the conditions of the trail – most notably, rainfall. The trail offers panoramic views of Oahu’s coast, the terraced waterfall, and, at the end of the trail, the three peaks of Olamana. Preparation for the trail is made easier by the fact that civilization lies nearby, but it doesn’t impinge on the wildlife along this trek.
Hoh Rainforest, Washington
In case you were unaware, we actually have our own rainforest here in North America. On the west side of Olympic National park in Washington is the temperate Hoh rainforest. Some of the natural flora include giant western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and maples. The forest is populated by Pacific tree frogs, deer, elk, and the northern spotted owl among other fauna. The Sitka Nature trail is a beginner-friendly trek of 1.25 miles, but do keep in mind that you’ll want to bring rain boots and water-resistant clothes.
Gocta Falls, Peru
The Gocta Cataracts have been known by locals for centuries, but they weren’t brought to international attention until the early 2000s when a German expeditioner ventured out to the falls with Peruvian explorers. The trail to Gocta Falls sits between the Andes and the Amazon. The waterfalls themselves are over 2,000 meters above sea level, shrouded in mist among cloud forests. Much of the surrounding area is untouched and unmapped. It goes without saying that Gocta Falls offers a tranquil and authentic foray into rainforest exploration.
Lake Cuicocha, Ecuador
The countless trails in nearby Ecuador have been a tourist destination for years. Many of these spots are more accustomed to hiking enthusiasts, offering glimpses into the rainforest that have been commonly traversed but remain nonetheless stunning. About an hour bus ride from the town of Otavalo is the Lake Cuicocha crater in the Andes. “Cuicocha” is Kichwa for “Guinea Pig Laguna,” after the pig-shaped islands in the lake and the area's budding population of guinea pigs, a popular dish among Ecuadorians. The trail around the edge of the lake is about a four-hour hike at high elevation. The weather can shift drastically between blistering sun and heavy rain, so make sure to go equipped.
Rio Celeste, Costa Rica
There are few things in the world that say “pura vida” more than the incandescent hues of the Costa Rica’s heavenly river. The Rio Celeste has naturally occurring acidic waters that receive inflows of aluminum and silicon particles from the Buenavista River. The result is the brightly shining turquoise water of Rio Celeste. The hike takes you through Tenorio Volcanic park, Laguna Azul, and across a suspended bridge. The hike is two miles up a steep incline, and will require some stamina, but it’s well worth it for the sight of the unadulterated beauty of the rainforest.