Roads Less Traveled: Alternatives to Popular Destinations | Fauna Travel

Roads Less Traveled: Alternatives to Popular Destinations

By: Scott Dubois, Fauna Travel Designer

The travel industry has seen an unprecedented uptick in demand since the end of the pandemic, which means popular destinations are more crowded than ever. I’ve always enjoyed taking the road less traveled, but I believe alternatives to the tried and true spots are essential to continue to deliver a quality trip to those who want to escape the rush. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of ideas to consider when planning your next trip.

São Tomé and Principe Instead of Hawaii

Almost 10 million people visit Hawaii yearly, but only 30,000 visit tiny São Tomé and Principe. The small island nation off the west coast of Africa near the equator has tropical weather year-round, deep blue water, lush rainforests, and a fascinating history. Our favorite resort on the island is Sundy Praia, a luxury tented camp located on a quiet beach on Principe. Beyond the beach, you can spend days spotting monkeys or visiting one of the many chocolate plantations. At the turn of the 20th century, the country was the world’s leading producer of chocolate, and it is still renowned for producing high-quality beans. Because the best direct flight here is from Lisbon, we would like to combine the trip with a short stopover in Portugal. It makes for a particularly unique itinerary.

La Paz and Todos Santos Instead of Cabo

Mountain Biking at Rancho del los Cacahiles in Baja / Courtesy of Rancho de los Cacachiles
Mountain Biking at Rancho del los Cacahiles in Baja / Courtesy of Rancho de los Cacachiles

The coastline between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas is completely lined with beach resorts, but if you venture farther north into Baja California del Sur, the crowds start to thin out. This is where the region becomes a paradise for nature lovers. The rugged Sierra de la Laguna mountains have dramatic scenery, and La Paz is a world-class destination for mountain bikers and whale watches. The waters of the Gulf of California are home to many species of whales, including blues, humpbacks, and even orcas. And I wouldn’t suggest leaving Baja without some beach time. Todos Santos is an up-and-coming Pacific Coast destination with a few great hotels but fewer crowds than further south.

Morocco Instead of Portugal

Taghazout / Marchel Pirnay / Unsplash
Taghazout / Marchel Pirnay / Unsplash

Europe was more crowded than ever this summer, so if you’re looking for great culture, history, food, and surfing, Morocco is an easy swap for a Portugal vacation. There are direct flights to Casablanca from the United States, and you can explore the country from there. We like to start in Marrakech for a bit of culture and food before slowing down in nature in the Atlas Mountains or the coast. The major impact region of the 2023 earthquake was in the Atlas Mountains, but the area has already reopened to trekking. You can experience quiet Berber villages and North Africa’s best hiking here. If you prefer a water-based adventure, head to Taghazout on the coast. There are many excellent surf breaks near the tiny fishing village that is establishing a name for itself internationally. Major hotel brands are starting to open here, but it retains the surf town charm.

Belize or Panama Instead of Tulum

Nayara Bocas Bali / Courtesy of Nayara

Tulum was once the darling of in-the-know Mexico travelers. Unfortunately, the secret got out, and the area has experienced explosive growth, which has changed the experience. Fortunately, there are plenty of great alternatives as you travel south down the Caribbean coast. Nearby Belize is also a great beach destination. We prefer the quieter Placencia area to the more popular Ambergris Caye, and there are finally good hotels to recommend, including Itz’ana. Further south on the coast of Panama, you will find Bocas del Toro. The shallow waters around Bocas Town are crystal clear and are home to the best overwater bungalow in the Americas, Nayara Bocas Bali. Panama is making a big push to lure ecotourists. With new flights from the United States to Panama City, it is becoming one of my favorite destinations for a romantic getaway.

Congo Instead of Rwanda

Lowland gorilla trekking at Ngaga Camp / Courtesy of Congo Conservation Company luxury Congo gorilla lodge
Lowland gorilla trekking at Ngaga Camp / Courtesy of Congo Conservation Company

Rwanda has done a fantastic job using tourism dollars for sustainable development and conservation. If you want to see mountain gorillas, it is the premier place to go, and the lodging options are unparalleled. However, if you aren’t particular about what kind of gorilla you see, Congo is the world’s best destination for lowland gorillas. The country, often confused with its troubled neighbor, the DRC, is remarkably safe but only recently opened to tourists. There is one lodge circuit through the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which is operated by the trailblazing Kamba Africa. Their camps are rustic but stylish, and you will likely be sharing meals with gorilla researchers who use them as their base of operations. Other species nearby include forest elephants and a variety of herbivores. This is one of the most exclusive destinations on earth for a true experiential wildlife adventure.

Botswana and Zambia Instead of the Great Migration

Jack's Camp Luxury Botswana Safari Zebra Migration / Courtesy Natural Selection Travel
Zebra Migration / Courtesy Natural Selection Travel

Unless you book private reserves (we almost always do), the peak season for the Great Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania can feel very busy. The river crossings, in particular, have turned into a NASCAR-like event, with guides jockeying for the best position when the animals hit the water. If you want to see a large herbivore migration but aren’t concerned about numbers or crossings, there is an excellent option that is much less well-known. February is generally the off-season for most of Africa, but when the rains arrive, thousands of zebra animals gather in Botswana’s Magkhadighadi Pan for the grasses that sprout from the barren salt pan. Jack’s Camp is our favorite camp in the park and one of the most photogenic properties in Africa. From there, fly north to Zambia for the continent’s second-largest wildebeest migration at Liuwa Plain National Park. King Lewanika is the only camp in the park, so you have practically the whole 1,301-square-mile wilderness to yourself.

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