The Question: My best friend and I – both busy moms – want to take a trip to celebrate our 40th birthdays. We want hiking, sightseeing and relaxation, too.
If you're looking for an urban escape, consider places like Vancouver, New York or Paris. You can walk your feet off, take in the cultural sights, admire the scenery and then linger over locavore meals, interruption-free. (Imagine that!) But for the Big 40, you might long for something more distinct. Jessica Ainlay, who explores the world as one half of GlobetrotterGirls ( globetrottergirls.com), has these suggestions:
Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast meets your criteria if wildlife and natural beauty is on your sightseeing agenda. You'll find cliffside rooms with a sweeping view of the beach, jungles filled with black iguanas, three-toed sloths and purple-crowned fairy hummingbirds.
"The national park would be the main place to hike," says Ainlay, who visited 11 countries last year, including Costa Rica. "It's easy and is filled with animals: Sightings of monkeys and sloth, coatis, exotic birds and many other animals are practically guaranteed. … The hiking paths are all very scenic, leading through the lush jungle or following the coast line, including some remote beaches."
After all that, relax at your ocean-view swimming pool or spa. There's a range of accommodation, but Parador Resort and Spa ( hotelparador.com), Gaia Hotel and Reserve ( gaiahr.com) and Issimo Suites ( issimosuites.com) have all garnered notice for those looking to splurge, Ainlay says.
If you favour beer steins over beaches, consider southern Bavaria in the foothills of the Alps. This is a land of fairy-tale castles, traditional spa towns and air so fresh "you try to gulp it in by the bucketful," Ainlay says.
She suggests basing yourself in the small and historic town of Fuessen ( fuessen.de), a two-hour train ride from Munich.
"There are a number of different paths – from easy strolls through the river valley to serious hikes through the mountains. You can actually walk from Fuessen to Neuschwanstein Castle alongside the Alps. No matter how strenuous the hikes, a stay at a spa hotel like Wellnesshotel Sommer ( hotel-sommer.de) will relax the muscles and the mind."
Or capture your birthday moment atop Germany's highest mountain, Zugspitze. Located about an hour from Fuessen, you can hike up (and ski down in the winter) or take a heart-pumping ride in a cable car that literally zips to the top.
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Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail