From enchanting waterfalls to breathtaking mountain ranges, our world is filled with beautiful natural wonders. No matter where you are, Mother Nature has something to offer everyone and the best part is, it’s (mostly) free. If you’re looking for bucket-list inspiration for your next trip look no further than the outdoors. Here are nine natural wonders to celebrate our beautiful planet Earth and inspire your next vacation.
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
The cone-shaped Arenal Volcano is located in the La Fortuna district of Costa Rica. While it is considered an active volcano, it has been dormant since 2010 and remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Costa Rica. Walk through the Arenal National Volcano Park and look out for exotic birds and other wildlife until eventually you end up at a man-made lake which provides approximately 20% of the electricity in Costa Rica. If it’s a clear day, you’ll have a great vantage point to overlook the volcano but many of the resorts in La Fortuna, including The Springs Resort & Spa and Arenal Kioro, also offer great views from the hotel grounds and guest rooms.
The Baths, The British Virgin Islands
Over 60 islands make up The British Virgin Islands best known for secluded beaches, private yachts, tourist-filled cruise ships, and laidback island life. The Baths are a group of massive granite boulders on the southwestern side of Virgin Gorda which have become a popular attraction on the islands. Swim through unique cave formations and sunlit grottos which creates a romantic backdrop for photos. For great snorkeling, use the ropes and follow the stairs until you get to Devil’s Bay, a relaxing white sandy beach with crystal blue waters.
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The Tegallalang Rice Field, Bali
About 20 minutes north of Ubud lies the idyllic verdant rice fields and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit early in the morning to avoid the rush of crowds and wander the lush terraces that have been well-manicured and maintained through ancient irrigation systems. Don’t leave without taking your obligatory Bali swing photo (there are two separate swings here). Just look for the line of tourists waiting for their photo opportunity and carry a few dollars with you as there is a fee to take pictures.
Upper Waikani Falls, Hawaii
Upper Waikani Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Hawaii. It’s located along the famous Road to Hana route in Maui, a 64-mile scenic drive with countless hairpin turns. There are only a few places to stop along the narrow highway but these waterfalls are easily visible from the car. If you prefer a close-up view, there is a nearby lot with limited parking just past the 19th mile marker. Three parallel waterfalls of varying sizes (hence the nickname Three Bears) cascade down into a picturesque plunge pool enclosed by rich greenery and foliage. See if you can spot red torch ginger, a tropical flower that is prevalent in Hawaii.
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Arizona is home to the well-trodden Grand Canyon National Park, arguably one of the most recognized natural wonders in the world. For the best views, park in the designated lot and take the trail that stretches about 1.5 miles long. It will lead you to the overlook where you can enjoy the best views of the Colorado River and Glen Canyon or if you prefer an aerial view, book a helicopter tour of the magestic mountains. Just a few miles east of Horseshoe Bend is Antelope Canyon, another natural beauty not to be missed.
Zhangye National Geopark, China
The sandstone-colored mountains also known as the Rainbow Mountains in the Gansu Province of China look like something out of an artist’s painting. Years of extreme weather conditions and environmental erosion caused colorful striations on the rugged mountains and cliffs to form a unique geological landscape. The vivid colors splashed on the rolling hills are found on the foothills of the Qilian Mountains along the Silk Road. The best times to visit are in the summer months, early in the morning or during sunset hour when the colors can change.
Bora Bora’s Lagoon, Tahiti
There is a reason why the immaculate tropical island of Bora Bora in Tahiti is considered one of the most popular and sought after honeymoon destinations in the world. Luxury resorts including the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora and the newly opened Conrad Bora Bora Nui are studded with dreamy overwater bungalows that overlook the island’s massive mountain. The dormant volcanic island is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and tranquil waters that come in every shade of blue making it hard to believe this place is not man-made. For years, Bora Bora’s natural beauty and remote location has been luring in couples who are seeking a romantic retreat.
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On the eastern side of Iceland lies one of the most underrated natural wonders also known as Basalt Column Canyon. The stunning gorge isn’t clearly marked with a visible trail which may be why it is a lesser known tourist attraction but if you are lucky enough to find it you will be rewarded with striking views of dramatic columns encapsulating a turquoise blue glacial river. To access the bottom of the canyon, you have to enter through the east side but watch out for slippery rocks.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
With over 1,600 islets, the emerald-colored bay is dotted with limestone pillars and pristine beaches which have become the backdrop of many Hollywood hits including the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Although it is now considered a popular tourist destination, Ha Long Bay is most known for its floating villages and small fishing communities. Explore Cat Ba Island, the largest of the islands, which was recognized as a national park in 1986 in order to protect the area’s rainforest and rich biodiversity. The unspoiled archipelago is home to many endemic wildlife species and flora.