Katmai National Park, Alaska
World-famous Brooks Lodge is one of the best places on Earth to view giant Alaskan brown bears—the world's largest grizzlies—at close range. The lodge, originally conceived as a fishing camp, overlooks the Brooks River in the heart of Katmai National Park and has been in operation since 1950. From the lodge's 16 rustic cabins, it is an easy mile walk to viewing platforms overlooking Brooks Falls, where bears famously fish for salmon as they fatten up for hibernation during winter's long freeze. In September, bears are seen everywhere in the area, not just at the falls.
Accommodations are rustic but comfortable, requiring 3 to 4 travelers to share rooms with bunk beds. Here, we match travelers by gender (or by couples, depending on the group). The cabins have private bathroom facilities. Any inconvenience caused by having to share a cabin is more than outweighed by the spectacular show the bears put on, however! The main lodge enjoys a splendid view of Naknek Lake and surrounding forest. Its large circular fireplace is a popular spot for relaxing in the evenings and sharing stories about the day's adventures. Hearty Alaskan fare is served buffet-style three times a day in the lodge dining room. Cocktails are available for purchase at the bar each afternoon and evening.