The most beautiful national parks in paradise

One of the top travel trends for 2020 and 2021 is getting back to nature – and what better way to explore the great outdoors than at a national park in the tropics? With colder days and winter skies right around the corner, heading to the tropics is a great opportunity to get outside and take in the fresh air.

On your next vacation, why not go beyond the resort beach? From lush mountains to majestic volcanoes and desert island gems, you’ll want to add these national parks to your vacation bucket list.

Aerial view of Isla Contoy, with palm trees overlooking a pristine beach
Isla Contoy National Park in Mexico

Nestled off the northern coast of Cancun is the hidden gem of Isla Contoy, an eco-explorer’s paradise. Declared a national park in 1998, only 200 visitors are allowed to visit the desert island each day to preserve the area’s natural beauty. The island is a nesting ground for numerous species of sea turtles that lay their eggs on the pristine shores every year, in addition to over 150 species of tropical birds like the double-crested cormorant and the brown pelican. You can explore the island on a Sunwing Experiences excursion, where you’ll have the chance to spot the area’s diverse wildlife and enjoy a delicious lunch on the serene white-sand beach.

Where to stay: You can visit Isla Contoy on an excursion when you stay at the soon-to-open Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun. Spend sunny days lounging by the white-sand shores or upgrade to Planet Hollywood Adult Scene Cancun, an exclusive resort-within-a-resort for guests aged 18+. Looking to immerse yourself in nature? Book a stay at Mystique Holbox by Royalton, a boutique resort located on the picturesque car-free island of Isla Holbox (just 30 kilometres south of Isla Contoy).

Woman sitting on a balcony overlooking tree-covered mountains Photo: @hjmatthews_
Blue and John Crown Mountains National Park in Jamaica

The Blue and John Crow Mountains aren’t just a national park – they’re also the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island! The park stretches across 100,000 acres on Jamaica’s northeast coast and is famous for its rich biodiversity. Embark on a hike through the rainforest and keep an eye out for exotic flora and fauna as you go – the park is home to 800 species of plants and one of the largest migratory bird populations in the Caribbean. At the end of your hike, refuel with some of the island’s famous Blue Mountain Coffee which is grown in the mountains.

Where to stay: After a day spent exploring the mountains, head back to your luxurious suite at Hideaway at Royalton Negril. This exclusive adults only oasis offers All-In Luxury® amenities and world-class service to make your stay in paradise picture-perfect. Upgrade to Diamond Club™ to enjoy lavish butler service, preferred room locations, a private pool, exclusive Bali beds and more.

Deck overlooking a cenote in a cave
Los Tres Ojos National Park in the Dominican Republic

Located just outside the historic city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is Los Tres Ojos National Park. The park (which translates to “The Three Eyes” in English) is made up of a series of mystical underground caverns and the caves’ three turquoise lagoons – the “eyes” of the cave. Learn all about the park’s fascinating history on a day excursion, including how the caves were used by the ancient Taino peoples for religious rituals, and admire petroglyphs on the cavern walls.

Where to stay: Enjoy ultimate fun in the sun at top-rated luxury resort Royalton Punta Cana Resort and Casino after your excursion to Los Tres Ojos. Soak up the sun on the shores of world-famous Bavaro Beach and test out the slides at one of the Caribbean’s largest resort water parks next door. Planning an adults only escape? Stay at Royalton CHIC Punta Cana Resort and Spa for the ultimate social vacation.

Lush tobacco fields with limestone cliffs in the distance
Viñales National Park in Cuba

Cuba is famous for its pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters – but it’s also home to lush landscapes and magnificent mountains. Viñales National Park, also known as Viñales Valley, is located on the island’s western tip and is famous for its unique limestone cliffs and tobacco fields. Embark on an excursion to this lush valley where you can learn how the island’s famous cigars are made, from the tobacco grown in the valley’s fields to the finished product being rolled by local craftsmen in a cigar factory. Admire the unique Mural of Prehistory on one of the cliffsides and explore the mystic caverns of Cueva del Indio on a boat ride.

Where to stay: Soak in the local culture when you stay at the adults only Royalton Hicacos Resort and Spa in Varadero. Grab a mojito made with Cuban rum as you listen to piano music at the Jazz bar before taking in a nightly show. Want to combine your beach getaway with a city stay? With the 2 Centre Combination ($), you can spend three nights at Memories Miramar Habana and four nights at Royalton Hicacos.

Aerial view of Rincon de la Vieja volcano Photo: @eckotraveler
Rincón de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica

Check visiting a volcano off your bucket list in Costa Rica! In Rincón de la Vieja National Park, you can explore the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s few remaining active volcanoes. Embark on a hike through the 34,000-acre national park that’s home to exotic flora and fauna, where you can admire magnificent views of the volcano’s peak and breathtaking hidden waterfalls. Keep an eye out for sloths, pumas and toucans as you hike through the jungle! The thermal activity from the active volcano has created numerous hot springs that you can enjoy a relaxing soak in after your hike.

Where to stay: Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica provides an ideal home base from which to explore Costa Rica’s lush landscapes. The entertainment-themed resort overlooks the Gulf of Papagayo with sweeping views from around the property. You can explore more of the area with PH Experiences, the resort’s curated selection of excursions that include everything from ziplining above the jungle to visiting Nicaragua for the day.

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