Opt Outside: Cool Adventure Trips You Need To Book Now

Greg Keraghosian - By now, you might be hung over from reading lists of what destinations to visit in 2016. But what about the best times to go, or the best ways to actually see them? A  Cuba trip where you only hang out on the Malecon and a Cuba trip where you explore the nation via kayak are two different trips indeed.

Here, then, are some exciting trips to keep on your radar in 2016. You just might find me exploring one of them:

Rio de Janeiro before the Olympics

The Olympics will make Rio a prime destination even before they officially begin.  (Photo: iStock)

You might have heard of a little thing called the Summer Olympics happening in Rio in August. You might also know that attending them can be an expensive proposition when you combine summer airfares, lodgings, and event tickets.

But did you know you can also visit Rio to watch some of the same athletes before the Olympics for their test events? They'll be happening from January through May in such desirable spots as Copacabana, and they're meant to test the facilities and help the athletes get familiarized with their surroundings.  

You can visit the Aquece Rio site to see which events are happening when. This way you'll get some of the same festive Olympic atmosphere without all the headaches.

A South African safari with a cheetah expert

Checking out cheetahs with NatGeo sounds like a worthy trip to us. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Just last month, National Geographic teamed up with G Adventures on a series of trips meant to bring people up close with the places and people they visit. One trip that really stands out is a South Africa safari alongside a cheetah researcher with NatGeo's Big Cats Initiative that promotes conservation of big cats threatened by poaching. You'll go with the researcher through Karongwe Private Game Reserve and get to see other Big Five animals as well.

Any American national park to celebrate a 100-year anniversary

What better year than 2016 to visit a national park like Yosemite? (Photo: Thinkstock)

The National Park Service turns 100 in August 2016, and all you have to do is pick a park have one big outdoor party. To that end, the NPS has a Find Your Park feature to help you find the right park for your location and interests. There's a calendar with events happening through the year. And if you want to in the great outdoors on the anniversary itself, mark your calendar for Aug. 25.

A kayaking tour of Cuba

You can be among the first Americans to go kayaking in Cuba.  (Photo: Kimberley Lovato)

So, yeah, Cuba is a big deal in the travel world right now. You might have noticed our recent stories about visiting Havana and running a marathon there.

One adventurous option is to see the country via the water with ROW Adventures, which offers the first people-to-people kayak tour. It lasts eight days and brings Americans through Havana, Trinidad, the wetlands of Zapata National Park, and more. You can kayak at sunset through the Bay of Pigs – the site of the famous 1961 American invasion and where Americans hadn't ventured since. 

If that's enough, you'll also visit a crocodile farm and Ernest Hemingway's house. Plus you'll meet locals by staying in private casa particulars. My friend Kimberley Lovato, a fellow travel writer, just took the trip and recommends it highly.

Indianapolis for the 100th racing of the Indy 500

Gear up for the 100th Indy 500 with a parade. (Courtesy: 500 Festival)

You don't need tickets to the race to savor the centennial of this American institution – the entire city is essentially a big Indy 500 party. The 500 Festival throughout May includes more than 50 events and programs, including a parade, a mini-marathon, and a ball.

A train trip through the Canadian Rockies

There's no better way to travel through the Canadian Rockies than on a train. (Photo: Greg Keraghosian)

I can vouch for this one, having taken Rocky Mountaineer's Banff-to-Vancouver trip in fall 2015. It's the ideal season to go, with the fall foliage enhancing the grandeur of the Rockies. You'll be enchanted before you step on the train just by checking out Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff, and once you're on, the best way to gawk at the natural beauty is outside on the vestibule. Get ready for some killer photo-ops. 

Related: Canada's Most Spectacular Train Trip: Views You Won't Believe

An Alaska Cruise on a small ship

You can get take a skiff to get closer to Alaska's Northern Passages, (Courtesy: Un-Cruise Adventures)

I have a tough time getting excited about cruises – I'm just one of those people – but there are times when a cruise brings a greater adventure within arm's reach. One example is the seven-night Northern Passages and Glacier Bay tour with Un-Cruise. Because you're on a smaller ship, you'll have greater access to the winding inner coastlines from Juneau to Sitka, with a stop at Glacier Bay National Park. And there's plenty of time for exploring off the boat, including a forest hike and kayaking.

Related: Envelope Please ... the Best Cruise Lines of 2015

Help Nepal by paying a visit

You can help Nepal pick up the pieces after the earthquake by supporting its tourism industry. (Photo: Bill Fink) 

It's been less than a year since Nepal suffered a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake, but as we reported, the country is ready for visitors and offers a beautiful, exotic collection of natural and urban sights. Intrepid Travel calls Nepal a "part of our DNA as an adventure travel company," and it's demonstrating this by donating all profits from tours in the 2015-2016 season to charities committed to rebuilding the country. 

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