The Great Outdoors Is Waiting: 9 Hotels That Get You Closer to National ParksBy Jenny Shank
Vacationing near one of the world’s stunning national parks teeming with wildlife and overflowing with otherworldly landscapes is one of the finer things in life.
It’s even better when you’re able to base yourself at a relaxing, amenity-rich hotel close to the park. After all, not everyone needs to love tent camping and minimalist cooking over a campfire to enjoy the great outdoors.
From towering cliffs and waterfalls to island adventures and safari expeditions, these nine unique hotels take advantage of their epic surroundings and provide guests with a bevy of modern comforts after an adventure-filled day.
As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Haleakalā National Park; AC Hotel by Marriott Maui Wailea
But the truth is, there’s no bad time to take in the otherworldly landscape, from the crater’s sweeping dunes of clay-red sand and rock to the pictureworthy moments along every stretch as you travel from ocean to summit.
No matter what time of day you make the trek to the island’s version of Mars, pack extra layers of clothes (temps can be below freezing at the top) and load up on sunblock.
Afterward, enjoy a serene hourlong drive back to the AC Hotel by Marriott Maui Wailea in gorgeous, inviting Wailea along Maui’s south coast.
Settle into a cozy cabana by the capacious infinity pool and enjoy some local ahi tuna tacos and a pineapple margarita from poolside restaurant Kai, helmed by a team of warm and gracious staff.
Zion National Park; SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park
It’s little wonder why Zion National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. given its stunning steep red cliffs, canyons and waterfalls.
Adventurous sorts would do well to book an adrenaline-inducing activity such as rock climbing, kayaking or canyoneering with a local outfitter. For a more moderate activity, hike to the glorious Upper Emerald Pools, a three-mile round-trip with a shuttle that drops you at the trailhead’s start.
Whether you go big and bold with a canyoneering tour or take it slow with a leisurely hike the whole family can enjoy, find a rewarding respite at SpringHill Suites Springdale Zion National Park, a mere five-minute drive away.
The amazing views continue at the hotel, and one thing’s for certain: They are best enjoyed from the hot tub.
After dark, when the desert temperature dips, head inside and pull up a cue stick because if you’ve never played a game of pool in front of a roaring fireplace, this is your chance to rectify that.
Ao Phang Nga National Park; The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket
Calm turquoise waters, pristine sandy beaches and limestone cliffs rising straight out of the water spell tropical paradise at Ao Phang Nga National Park off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea.
Hop in a canoe or kayak and explore the park’s islands, hidden caves and one of the largest mangrove forests in Thailand.
There’s more paradise to be discovered at The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket. The five-star resort is on the beach, so requisite water activities and the always-classic sunbathing are appealing options.
But this luxury spot has lots else up its sleeve, including cooking classes, tai chi lessons and windsurfing, plus three beachside restaurants and a serene spa.
Sierra Nevada National Park; Hotel Palacio De Santa Paula, Autograph Collection
The highest peaks in continental Spain can be found in Sierra Nevada National Park in eastern Andalusia. Meander along one (or more) of the park’s 25 footpaths, marked by signs indicating the difficulty level and length.
Along the way, spot mountain goats, wild boar and badgers, but don’t forget to look up for more awesome wildlife glimpses: Golden eagles, skylarks and vultures all call the park home.
Less than an hour from the park, the Hotel Palacio De Santa Paula, Autograph Collection, awaits. The luxe Granada property, once a 16th-century convent, is an artistic and historic monument close to Granada’s best attractions, including Gardens of the Triumph, the Archeological Museum and the Alhambra. Don’t miss dinner at elegant El Claustro Restaurant in what was once the convent’s refectory.
Nairobi National Park; Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Hurlingham
As far as safari adventures go, Kenya’s Nairobi National Park, about five miles from Nairobi’s center, is tough to beat. There’s just something special about being close to a big city and a rugged, untamed landscape at the same time.
But if you think the park’s proximity to the city impacts its wildlife sighting opportunities, rest assured: This is the place to see black rhinos, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes and giraffes. And birders will be in for a real treat as more than 400 species call the park home.
Urban explorers will adore Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Hurlingham, located in a hip and happening part of Nairobi. The rooftop pool is transcendent, perfect for a post-park dip.
Also occupying coveted rooftop space are Mezze on the Deck restaurant and Level 8 Lounge & Bar, both with sweeping views of the city below.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas; Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado
Machu Picchu tends to get all the Peruvian love, but there’s much to bask in outside of the Lost City. Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas, also called Urubamba Valley, also contains ruins (minus the crowds of the aforementioned wonder), lush farmland, and charming adobe houses and shops.
The heart of the Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo. This town, and its ruins, on the route to Machu Picchu is worth a stop of its own. Make the easy-to-moderate trek from the center of town to the 15th-century Pinkuylluna Storehouses, perched on a steep hill, and take in the scenic view of the valley from the top.
Nearby, Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado is an elegant resort complete with a fabulous spa and mesmerizing views of the Sacred Valley. With its perfectly appointed guest rooms, warm Andean decor and inviting outdoor communal spaces, you can easily achieve a state of Zen.
Nahuel Huapi National Park; Arelauquen Lodge, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, San Carlos de Bariloche
Argentina’s first national park, Nahuel Huapi National Park, is named after Nahuel Huapi Lake. But in fact, there are many lakes in this park located in what’s known as the country’s Lake District.
There’s a lot of wonder for visitors to experience here, from rushing waterfalls to epic glaciers, flowing rivers and majestic mountains. Keep an eye out for cougars, foxes, pudus (small deer) and the llamalike guanacos, in addition to a diverse range of bird species.
Awaiting intrepid explorers just a 30-minute drive from the park is Arelauquen Lodge, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, San Carlos de Bariloche. Settling into your luxurious guest room and ordering something off the room-service menu, available 24 hours a day, is a tempting treat, as is a swim in the outdoor pool with gorgeous mountain views. Or head to the hotel’s 18-hole golf course for a friendly game on the green.
Great Smoky Mountains; Courtyard Pigeon Forge
Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts an incredible 800 miles of hiking trails. A memorable trek (5.4 miles round-trip) takes you to Rainbow Falls, one of the most coveted spots in this park that straddles Tennessee and North Carolina.
On sunny days, the moderate-to-difficult trail rewards hikers with a beautiful rainbow created by the mist of the 80-foot-high cascade. You can also explore the park on horseback, which is a great way to check out colorful fall foliage during leaf-peeping season.
Just a 20-minute drive from the park is the inviting Courtyard Pigeon Forge. In addition to an indoor and outdoor pool, this spot has a lazy river, ideal for a leisurely late-afternoon float following a Great Smoky Mountains hike. The on-site eatery, The Bistro, does an excellent burger, though there are delicious items to please vegetarians, too.
Arusha National Park; Four Points by Sheraton Arusha, The Arusha Hotel
Arusha National Park in Tanzania may be relatively small compared to some other national parks, but what it lacks in total area, it makes up for in grandeur thanks to Mount Meru, a 14,980-foot volcano.
The other thing this East African park is known for? Giraffes! In fact, the world’s largest population of the species is found in Arusha, and these tall, elegant creatures are joined by zebras, elephants, leopards, hippos, monkeys and more. For up close yet safe animal viewings, you can’t beat a guided tour or full-length safari.
After a day exploring the park, retreat to the Four Points by Sheraton Arusha, The Arusha Hotel. Bright, airy and modern decor greets you at one of the region’s oldest hotel spaces, built in 1894. Unwind with a drink at chic Hatari Bar or dinner on the terrace of Parachichi Restaurant overlooking scenic gardens.