Forget the hotel gym – there are plenty of ways to incorporate a fun workout during your holiday. Hike up to a coffee plantation, abseil down a mountain, take a dip in a tidal pool or act like Iron Man and flyboard in the air. Here are the best cities in the world for outdoor activities and fitness.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio’s sunkissed beaches are not made for loungers. Stroll along Copacabana Beach or Ipanema Beach and you’ll find locals playing football and volleyball. It’s common to bring a football to the beach and start a game with friends – or anyone nearby. Hit up Flamengo Park for an atmospheric place to play volleyball as you’ll be surrounded by Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Come sunset and hike half an hour up Pedra Bonita (Pretty Rock) for a panoramic view of Rio or Pedra Telegrafo (Telegraph Rock) for an Instagram shot of yourself dangling at the edge of a cliff – don’t worry, there’s a ledge below.
The Krom River Hiking Trail is for serious waterfall chasers – boulder hop down the river for two and a half hours before reaching the first waterfall. Then climb up the falls by gripping the chains to the second waterfall and jump in the vast swimming hole. If that isn’t enough to get your heart pumping, abseil down the summit of Table Mountain. It takes just 45 minutes and is a great way to see Robben Island, Lions Head and the glistening South Atlantic Ocean. Cool off with a dip in a tidal pool. Millers Point by False Bay has a waterslide and grassy spots for picnics and Maiden’s Cove is another lovely place to swim then have a braai.
Many go to Barcelona for a city break but this beautiful Spanish city is for nature lovers too. There are many outdoor hikes to choose from and a day trip to Montserrat National Park to see its oak tree forests is imperative. For more pastoral views, try Vall de Núria which looks stunning covered in autumn-coloured leaves as it does in the snow. Or, stay closer to the coast and play volleyball at Bogatell Beach. Even within the city, it’s easy to exercise with Bicing, Barcelona’s bike share system. Rent a bike and ride down Avinguda Diagonal which spans east to west and remember to stop for shopping.
Tokyo might be synonymous with crazy-themed cafés and wacky fashion but even city rats must keep fit. Yoga is big here and aerial and acro yoga are the latest fitness fads. Check out Aerial Yoga Studio Mana for lessons on how to strike poses in the air using a soft hammock. For something more traditional – and action-packed – sign up for a Jiu-Jitsu class at Axis or Carpe Diem. Jiu-Jitsu is one of the oldest Japanese martial arts forms and you’ll be learning to pin people down and put them in a joint lock.
This northern Thai city known for its zen mountain retreats and eco-hotels is unsurprisingly a spa-goer’s paradise. The Dhara Dhevi’s utterly luxurious Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre has an Ayurvedic specialist on-site and you can also sign up for yoga and meditation. At the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, guests can have a massage on the banks of the Ping River. Many hotels come with free bike rentals, too, so make use of the service and cycle the Mae Rim-Samoeng trail which covers waterfalls and elephant farms. Or, ditch the bikes and hike from Doi Pui mountain to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The route cuts through coffee plantations and hill tribe villages.
Party cities are usually big on fitness – vice must be checked or at least balanced – and Miami is no exception. Decompress from a night out with a free sunrise yoga session at South Beach or Bayfront Park which has an amazing view of Biscayne Bay. Biscayne National Park is home to Half Moon and Emerald Reef, where you can snorkel with yellow snappers, hogfish and even bottlenose dolphins. The truly adventurous can try flyboarding with Miami Flyboard or FlyBrothers. Invented in 2012, the sport requires the rider to be strapped onto a hydroflight device connected by a hose to a jet ski. The water pressure hoists you nearly 15 metres up into the air before taking a nosedive.
Bask in the glory of the Great White North on a canoe or kayak at Deer Lake Park, the natural habitat of turtles, beavers and eagles. Deep Cove, or “the Cove”, another popular place to kayak, is home to seals and sea lions. Before winter sets in, go white water rafting in Squamish or Chilliwack where Squamish Rafting Company and Chilliwack River Rafting offer excursions. Squamish boasts rugged landscapes and spectacular vistas, while Chilliwack has sprawling parks and farms. Can’t get enough of the crisp air? Hike up Dog Mountain, an easy hike, even in the snow, or St. Mark’s Summit for top-of-the-world lake views.