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It really is forest bathing in the 100 per cent humidity of Costa Rica's Cloud Forest. (Kent Gilbert/AP)
It really is forest bathing in the 100 per cent humidity of Costa Rica's Cloud Forest. (Kent Gilbert/AP)

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If it's true that trees share their healthful properties with humans walking among them, then the Big Trail through the Meares Island rain forest is the place to go for a dose of woodsy medicine.

A three-kilometre boardwalk winds through plenty of old growth cedar, spruce and hemlock. Some are more than 1,000 years old, which places them among the oldest and largest living life forms on Earth; they were saved from forest industry chainsaws in 1984 by native groups. The reward at the end is the Hanging Garden Tree, an ancient western red cedar almost 18.3 metres in circumference, and almost 600 metres tall. Its girth means you can't really hug it but you can breathe it in.

Cedar has been known throughout history for its tranquilizing aroma and is prized for essential oils used in aromatherapy and bath products. Tincture from its fronds is a topical antifungal.

Need to know: Bring rain gear and big boots. A 10-minute water taxi from Tofino will get you to the island. For more information, go to www.tourismtofino.com or call 1-888-720-3414.


Before there were European land grants, sawmills or a Canadian forestry sector, there were ancient pines. Between the boreal forests to the north and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region to the south, they stood proudly unmolested for thousands of years as a home to the Teme-Augama Anishnabai.

Less than 1 per cent of Ontario's ancient pine is still standing, most of it in the Temagami region, about a five-hour drive north of Toronto. Temagami Island's Old Growth Interpretive Trail will take you through Canada's largest concentration of unlogged red and white pine, some of which are hundreds of years old. You will also see very old balsam fir, spruce and red maple. Watch out for flying squirrels and woodpeckers.

Ancient trees can be found around Obabika Lake, in the Lower Spanish Pine Forest, on Bear Island and around Blueberry Lake. But some of this area is true wilderness and may require a guide and/or canoe. Bear Island is a reserve with a tepee camp where visitors can hear stories from natives about the healing aspect of the forest.

Need to know: For more information, go to www.ancientforest.org and www.temagami.ca.


How about a forest steam bath? The Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve on the continental divide in Costa Rica is swathed in magical mists carried by ocean trade winds. It is a rare place to walk through a forest of 100 per cent humidity.

At the Monteverde conservation area in central Costa Rica, the 310-hectare reserve is just outside the village of Santa Elena, about four hours by bus from San Jose.

As you drift through the trees with the clouds, you will be in the company of lush vegetation - moss, fern, flowers and orchids.

The benefits of steam baths have been well-documented, but as of yet, there is no scientific evidence about the effect on your brain of hearing a howler monkey. It would no doubt wake up your sense of sound. And no telling what the sight of a quetzal flying by will do for your optic nerve.

The trails are well-maintained and there is no need of special hiking gear. But if you don't fancy a stroll and want a quick hit of a cloud forest you can try the zipline.

Need to know: For more information, visit www.reservasantaelena.org, e-mail info@monteverdeinfo.com or call 1-888-456-3212.


Jingyue Lake National Forest Park outside of the city of Changchun in northeast China boasts 30 kinds of trees, including larches, Chinese pine and Korean pine.

The 20-kilometre Huantan Road is designed for hikers and promises spectacular views of mountains, water and farmland. A spot at one end of the road is advertised as a natural oxygen bar, claiming to have a high percentage of oxygen and negative ions in the air. There are footpaths, rest spots and special exercise equipment, all geared to enhancement of breathing in healthful air.

Need to know: For more details, contact the China National Tourist Office at cnto@tourismchina-ca.com or call 1-866-599-6636.

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