Every December since we started this site, we list the favorite places we visited in the previous calendar year. But 2020 threw a big monkey wrench into our travel plans. If we made a list like previous years it would consist of biking and hiking trails within 25 miles of our backyard. Therefore we've decided to do the list a little differently this year. This time we are going to highlight some of our favorite places from before we started the Path Less Chosen web site. Follow the links to see additional articles about some of these places. Even though we have written about a few of these locations, we visited them all prior to December of 2016, which makes them eligible for the 2020 list.
1. Cinque Terre - Italy
One of the best hikes we have ever taken. Cinque Terre is made up of five fishing villages along the Mediterranean Sea in northwest Italy - the Italian Riviera. Because the towns are perched along a very steep seacoast it is very difficult to get to them by car. Many people take the train or a boat tour. We opted to hike the trail that connects the towns. We stared on the north end in Monterosso and hiking through olive groves and lemon orchards to Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarolla, before finishing in Riomaggiore. Each town is unique and small enough that you can take time to explore. The entire hike can easily be done in a day, even with frequent gelato stops.
2. Treasure Beach - Jamaica
This spot on the south side of the Caribbean island is about as far from the touristy part of Jamaica as you can get. Treasure Beach is a fishing and farming community without any glitzy resorts or other tourist trappings. Instead, it is a quiet community filled with friendly locals, marvelous food and plenty to do. It's easy to hire a boat to take you on a tour of the Black River (longest river in Jamaica) with a stop at the Pelican Bar which sits half a mile out into the ocean. A short drive away is the Appleton Rum Factory and YS Falls. Or, you can spend your time with a cool rum drink in your hand, gazing out at the ocean. This was probably one of the most relaxing vacations we ever took.
3. Death Valley National Park - California
Every year (except 2020, of course) we participate in a charity bike ride for JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The rides take place all over the country. We've ridden in upstate New York, Florida, Tennessee, and around Lake Tahoe, to name a few. Seven times the ride has taken us to Death Valley. This is a land of stark beauty and hot temperatures. Even in October when the weather is supposed to be cooler, the thermometer usually hits 100 degrees at some point during the ride. In addition to this borderline insane physical activity, we've also hiked through Golden and Mosaic Canyons, explored the sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, and visited a nearby ghost down and art installation. One of our favorite activities is just hanging out at the Furnace Creek Ranch pool. The desert has a way of cleansing one's soul.
4. Manuel Antonio National Park - Costa Rica
This smallest of Costa Rica's 34 national parks boasts 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. The biodiversity is incredible. While hiking through the park it is easy to spot sloths, monkeys, toucans, coatamundis, and iguanas. Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the central Pacific coast of the county. Each of park's main hiking trails lead to one of the four beaches. These beaches look like they could have been the model for every Hollywood movie tropical beach scene.
5. Maggie Valley - North Carolina
A log cabin, halfway up a mountain, helped make this one of the best family vacations we took. Maggie Valley is a quiet little town nestled just south of Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The cabin was a great spot to use as a base for trips into the park. We did several hikes, including climbing to the top of Clingman's Dome. Thanks to a guidebook in the cabin, we spent another day hunting for waterfalls. Where there are waterfalls there is also whitewater. We headed over to the Pigeon River in nearby Tennessee for a rafting trip. All in all, it was a great, active, outdoors vacation.