The need to be out in nature has never been stronger. And for those in the U.S., one way to stay sane this second-wave winter is by connecting to Mother Earth as much as we can. So what could be better than an away-from-it-all travel experience like camping in the wild?
Lying under the stars in the midst of a seemingly endless landscape is a humbling experience that helps put things into perspective. We’re able to brush up against something much bigger than ourselves — something greater than the confines of our own understanding — thereby bringing us closer to meaning. From a wildlife sanctuary in the Costa Rican jungle to the sand dunes along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, PRIOR charts five places open to campers from many countries for the ultimate winter escape.
San Carlos, Costa Rica
Costa Ricans live longer, healthier lives, according to studies. In many ways, it all comes down to pura vida — “pure life” — a term you’ll hear across the country, all the time: It’s used to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “everything’s good,” and “same to you.” There’s no better place to immerse yourself in this singularly Costa Rican way of life than at Nayara Tented Camp, one of the leading eco-resorts in Central America. They’ve created a sloth sanctuary thanks to the reforestation of hundreds of native trees, now also home to native frogs, birds, and armadillos. Tents feature full sinks, claw-foot tubs, outdoor showers, and — the showstopper — terraces with built-in, hot spring-fed pools, which vary in temperature from very hot to shockingly brisk, all overlooking the canopy and offering unobstructed views of the active Arenal Volcano. A major plus: The camp adjoins Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs resorts, so you’ll have access to the entire Nayara property. It’s all connected by blossom-lined pathways, where glass-wing butterflies flit between you and the orchid-covered trees. So relax and enjoy that pure life for as long as you can.
Dar Ahlam, Morocco
For those seeking a faraway land that stretches the imagination in every way possible, head to the Sahara’s Dar Ahlam Dune Camp, set in the pristine dunes of Iriki. The five-hour drive to get there is thrilling, as your 4x4 passes through deep valleys and craggy mountains, passing glittering pools and caravans of Berber nomads and their camels resting under olive trees until you finally reach the beautiful expanse of the desert.
Inside the tents, it’s full-on Saharan chic: Berber rugs, vintage furniture, wrought-iron lanterns, a bed strewn with piles of cushions — all in a palette of desert neutrals. (Luckily, a clever water system allows for showers, so the dust can stay outside). The best part? The food served is all of its place: You can expect authentic harira (spicy lentil soup), tagines, and a concoction of orange, grapefruit and carrot — all served with a crisp Chablis.
For an easier but no less exotic domestic experience, explore Under Canvas’ tented retreat. Tucked between Utah’s famed Arches National Park, home to more than 2,000 sandstone arches, and Canyonlands National Park, you can properly zone out among 40 acres of red-rock landscape, far from the packs of mountain bikers and off-roading gearheads that this adventure-packed region attracts. The pet-friendly tents offer guests the opportunity to connect with nature from their private patio without giving up the comforts of home. You can also explore the surrounding trails on horseback or desert bike. This year’s season runs from March 11 to November 8; be sure to book your reservation well in advance, as new safety measures have made this luxury campground even more exclusive this year.
Isla Espiritu Santo, Mexico
If you’re longing for the sea this winter — one in which you can kayak through inlets, snorkel into caves, and swim with whale sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and manta rays — look no further than the UNESCO-protected Isla Espiritu Santo in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, home to towering cliffs, azure bays, lava-rock formations, and ancient rock art left by the Guaycura and Pericu Indians. Here, there are no roads, no bridges, no permanent human population. You come to this still-wild strip of Baja Californian coastline to fully unplug. TOSEA has designed cozy tents with linen-sheeted beds and everything you’ll need for a beach escape. Each morning, you’ll wake up to a spectacular chorus of birds, from blue-footed boobies to reddish egrets and great blue herons.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Arriving at Hoanib after cruising up the Skeleton Coast — driving through rust-colored dunes, past shipwrecks, seals, lions, elephants, and zebras — is surreal. The land feels primordial and desolate, with no humans in sight, just desert elephants, rhinos, hyenas, lions, jackals, giraffes, and kudus. There’s nothing like the feeling of walking barefoot among the dunes here; a single touch and its surface shifts forever.
Wilderness Safaris has built a wonderful tented camp dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife, designed to have the lightest possible impact on the environment. “If the tents have to be moved in future, they will leave no trace they were ever there,” they claim. Here, birding enthusiasts will take in the diverse avifauna of the northern Palmwag Concession, from soaring raptors to Rüppell’s korhaans. From the campground, you can venture off on day trips to desert oases for a respite from the dry desert surrounds. And for dinner? Loads of fresh wild game, rooibos tea, and oatmeal–chocolate chip cookies.
Now more than ever, health and safety is a singular priority. PRIOR offers our members a customized pre- and post-trip safety checklist, including access to local Covid tests before returning home. Get in touch with our team to inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Hannon Hubley works on PRIOR’s content & editorial team, after having worked at the New York Times in Beijing. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, and speaks Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish. He is based in New York.