10 Places to Seek Adventure on the Cheap in 2016
Canada's first national park spans more than 2,500 square miles and is full of hiking trails, stunning views, and famed mineral hot springs, discovered in 1884 and costing only about $5 for a dip. From skiing to dog sledding, Banff offers something for all manner of adventure seekers. A camping spot can be reserved for as little as $16 ($12 U.S.).
To visit a tropical rainforest anywhere else in the world, U.S. travelers need a passport ($110 for each adult applying or renewing). Flights from New York to San Juan, about 30 miles from the rainforest, arrive in less than four hours and cost as little as $300. Plan to set out early in the morning, before the crowds arrive, and watch out for road closings resulting from heavy rainstorms. Short walking tours are $3 to $5.
For adventure travel in unspoiled natural beauty, try the first national park in the eastern United States. Acadia has the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast, scenic trails along beaches full of seashells, rugged coasts and cliffs, and marshes teeming with wildlife. A free shuttle, the Island Explorer, transports visitors to the park, where seven-day vehicular passes cost $20 and camping is $20 a night.
This 130 million-year-old virgin rainforest -- the oldest in the world, and massive at more than 434,300 hectares -- is rightfully one of Malaysia's most popular attractions, and getting there is part of the draw. A three-hour boat ride on the Tembeling River is accompanied by playful macaque monkeys and bathing water buffalo. The fare is about $8 from Kuala Tembeling, or about $17 for a trip starting with a bus from Kuala Lumpur. Entering the national park costs about 24 cents, and a dizzying trip over a suspension bridge is a little over $1. Don't forget to buy a camera permit.
For roughly $6, visitors can take a ferry through Kerala's intricate network of lagoons, lakes, and canals. The waters span more than 500 miles and are laced with water hyacinths, colorful houseboats, and farming villages. With about 500 houseboats, Alleppey is a popular base for the boat trip, with plenty of budget options. Prices for overnight trips start at about $90, often with fresh-cooked meals, and that price can get lower with some haggling. Check the calendar when making plans, though: Prices can triple in December and January and often are discounted from June to September -- monsoon season.
This 80-mile trail along Lake Tahoe is known as one of the country's best mountain biking spots. The International Mountain Bicycling Association named a portion between Tahoe Meadows and Spooner Summit an "epic," a designation reserved for the world's most challenging backcountry rides. There are bike rentals for as little as $45 a day, and hikers can use the trail for free -- and do what mountain bikers can't: Take the full 165-mile trail through a state park, three designated wilderness areas, and three national forests.
This Cijulang River canyon can be visited by wooden boat for between $5 and $9, or on a full day's booking from nearby Pangandaran for about $10. Guides stop for only about 15 minutes for passengers to appreciate the steep, mossy rock, verdant cave, and waterfall, but another 100 rupiah (less than 1 cent) should buy a longer stay for swimming, climbing, fishing, and rock jumping.
The Pacific Northwest may be more famous for coffee and grunge than rainforests, but Olympic National Park's Hoh rainforest gets 140 to 170 inches of annual rainfall -- well over the 98 inches required to qualify. It features lush vegetation, trees several hundred feet tall, and plenty of wild animals. Hoh is about four hours' drive west of Seattle and an hour from the closest major town, Forks, which offers cheap lodging. Entrance to the park is $20 a vehicle, and there are 88 campsites for rent.
The adventure of traveling from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang by slow boat, a well-known leg of the backpacker trail through Southeast Asia, isn't about adrenaline so much as venturing into the unknown. With two full days on the Mekong River, be prepared for lots of down time with fellow travelers to take in the passing views. Tickets are about $27 at the dock, and the boat stops overnight in Pakbeng, where modest lodging costs less than $10. Be sure to bring your own food and water.
This small nation relatively untouched by tourism is known for some of the world's most pristine coral reefs. Divers are virtually guaranteed to meet sharks, mackerel, and other underwater animals. Whales, dolphins, and flying fish sometimes join ferryboats traveling across the Banda Sea. If the ferry's schedule doesn't work for you, hitch a ride with a local fisherman for roughly the same $10 and arrange for a meal of fresh-caught fish upon return to the mainland.