For 14 years CondÃ© Nastâ€™s Wendy Perrin has been analyzing more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators to compile her annual list of who she thinks is the best to turn to for every area of travel imaginable. This year, 146 hopefuls made the list, which statistically speaking was a tougher feat to accomplish than getting into Harvard. This list is broken down into very specific regions of the world, often times even a countryâ€™s best; cruises, also broken down into regions; special interest, which involves different types of travel; sports and adventure; and lastly, hard-to-get tickets, seats, and guides. Feel free to check out the entire list, but weâ€™re going to highlight a few, in no particular order, that we think are especially great.
Adam Vaught, Cuba, GeoEx
Adam Vaught is the top tour operator from Cuba. Although, GeoEx has only one set itinerary for group tours, CondÃ© Nast proves thatâ€™s all you need by naming them number because of their ability to customize that trip for as few as 4 people. Over the course of 5 years, Vaught has spent nearly 6 months guiding and traveling through the country, so heâ€™s the perfect person to be your guide. He will give you the best, and most authentic Cuban experience.
Zachary Rabinor, Mexico Travel and Villa Specialist, Journey Mexico
For travel to Mexico, Zachary Rabinor from Journey Mexico is the top choice. Being based out of Puerto Vallarta allows Rabinor to keep up to date with the newest hotels and villas on a constant basis. As a Mexico resident himself, he has been able to compile a select list of luxury properties all over the country for your pleasure and relaxation. Heâ€™s also an avid surfer, which allows him to know the best beaches to suggest to you, on top of his passion for hiking and other inland adventures.
Michael Kaye, Costa Rica, Costa Rica Expeditions
Costa Rica Expeditionsâ€™, Michael Kaye, tops the Costa Rica category, probably because of his long-standing dedication to the country. Heâ€™s been based in Costa Rica for more than 3 decades. In that time, Kaye has been focused and has grown his start-up white-water rafting operation into one of the countryâ€™s leading trip planners. He will give you the best of everything, because he has access to it since heâ€™s been going so long. He hires the best wildlife guides so you will be guaranteed to have great tours, and he also knows all the ins and outs so that heâ€™ll be able to arrange excursions to get you away from the crowds, and more possibilities. All in all, Kaye has taken the time to become the best, and itâ€™s paid off.
Tom Damon, Ecuador, The Galapagos, Patagonia, and Peru, Southwind Adventures
It takes an avid hiker to be able to arrange hikes for places like Machu Picchu, and Tom Damon of Southwind Adventures is just that. He can arrange a trip of any skill level and suggest the best strategy for your trek. It is for this reason he was named the top tour operator of Ecuador, The Galapagos, Patagonia, and Peru. But what about the Galapagos and all of the island adventures? Well, heâ€™s also the person to go to for family friendly trips to the Galapagos, the jungle of the Amazon, and Patagonia. He can do it all!
Todd Smith, Small Ship Expeditions, AdventureSmith Explorations
Todd Smith, of AdventureSmithExplorations, takes home the prize of Small Ship Expeditions this year. As a former expedition leader on small ships in Mexico and Alaska, itâ€™s easy for you to imagine how he could transition to small ship expeditioning. Smith arranges cruises on 150-passenger or less vessels in locations that are rich with nature, like Central America or Alaska (where heâ€™s an expert!). Heâ€™ll make you an active adventurer while off the ship, by taking part in things like paddleboarding, hiking, or canoeing.
Mindy Gleason, River Rafting, O.A.R.S.
You might wonder what it takes to be considered one of CondÃ© Nastâ€™s top specialists. Well, Mindy Gleason of O.A.R.S. has 27 years experience running rapids of every difficulty level. Sheâ€™s also rafted 33 of the over 40 rivers that O.A.R.S. has traveled over the years. Sheâ€™s the best, and to make her even better, sheâ€™ll customize an adventure to suit your needs, even if that means camping in the wilderness or at a top ecolodge. Sheâ€™s game for anything.
Exito Insight: Two of the above standout in the following ways. O.A.R.S runs a charitable foundation and AdventureSmith by their commitment to green travel.