There was a time when a waiter handing you a rum punch by the pool was the textbook illustration of a vacation. While sipping drinks from a bungalow is still quite high on many to-do lists, more travelers are longing for adrenaline rushes they simply can’t find at the bottom of a cocktail glass. High-end hotels around the globe have heard this primal call for more thrills and are delivering them in the form of skydiving excursions, ATV rides through the mountains and even elephant feedings. Buckle up for a look at 20 properties that pamper and get hearts pounding.
Joyride in the Desert
When you imagine Colorado’s Red Rock Canyons, you probably conjure thoughts of long nature hikes and wild ATV rides. And while all of that can certainly be done during your visit to remote gem Gateway Canyons Resort — in fact, tell curator of curiosity Zebulon we said “hello” on your morning Talks, Walks and Rocks tour — your heart will really start racing once you try Driven Experiences, a revved-up onsite program that allows you to either drive or ride shotgun in a Pro-Baja truck on a private two-mile desert track. Jazz things up by taking a Bentley Continental, Tesla Roadster or one of the other extravagant cars out for a spin for a few hours.
Embark on a Sea Odyssey
The white sands of Seven Mile Beach are wildly captivating, but what lies beneath the azure waters may be even more spectacular. With the help of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, explorers of all ages are given the chance to point out colorful triggerfish and blue tangs through various snorkeling odysseys or a trek some 100 feet down in the Atlantis XI submarine. If you don’t feel like donning flippers this time around, rest easy knowing that the Grand Cayman hotel also coordinates kayaking trips through mangroves filled with coastal birds, green iguanas and jellyfish.
Race in a Hot Car
If you have a need for speed, Four-Star Corinthia Hotel London will send you off on a day trip to Chichester’s Goodwood Estate—home to the Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival—for the Ultimate Driving at Goodwood experience. Pick from a BMW fleet that includes a Mini Cooper, M and X models, an i8 and an M235i Racing, and embark on an off-road ride on 32 miles of ancient woodland trails in the 12,000-acre estate. Stateside, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta will put you in the driver’s seat of a 911 Carrera 4S, Boxster S or another car of your choosing at the only U.S.-based Porsche Experience Center. A personal driving coach will help you through the 90-minute session, where you can zoom around a 1.6-mile driver development track.
Witness the Wildlife
When you venture around The Lodge and Cottages at Primland’s 12,000-acre playground, you aren’t shocked when a fawn or wild turkey skirts by. It’s this abundance of wildlife that makes the Blue Ridge Mountain getaway so attractive to hunters. Though wing shooting and deer hunting are major draws, there is plenty of clay shooting and archery fun to be had on the premises, too. Still, the biggest rush at Primland might come when you put down the weaponry and put on the helmet for a riveting RTV ride through the wilderness. Follow your guide up steep terrain, down through rocky streams and across picturesque mountain stretches — just remember the rabbits have the right of way.
Roam on a Ranch
If you don’t plan on spending at least a week at Four-Star Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, you may not have enough time to do all of the exhilarating activities. At this 240-acre, Colorado River Valley escape, raft down the river, go mountain biking in one of the nearby national parks or hop on a horse for a memorable detour somewhere in between. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, ask someone from the Ranch’s guest experience team to set up a skydiving trip over the breathtaking red rock formations for you and any other brave souls in your party.
Attempt Daredevil Skiing
Adventure seekers head to Park City, Utah, in droves, but the lesser-known (and less crowded) place to go for some of the most difficult terrain in the West is on the other side of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is known for its deep, dry powder; killer drops; and ample backcountry. The Cliff Lodge sits at the base of the resort, and serves as a very welcome luxury respite from the exhilarating topography. Battle-weary skiers and boarders should get a service at the rooftop spa (hello, outdoor hot tub) and take in the majestic alpine views in comfort.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa sports luxury lodge décor at its finest — deer antlers, slate floors and stone fireplaces — and the tasteful interiors aim to reflect the outdoorsy nostalgia that runs deep in Upstate New York’s Lake Placid. When you tire of the seemingly endless alfresco exploits this area offers (rock climbing, boating, fishing, snowshoeing, skiing, dog sledding), hit up the nearby Olympic venues for a history lesson or one of the many onsite indoor amenities, including a great spa, family game room, pool, movie theater and ice cream parlor.
Have the Ultimate Winter Adventure
The Ranch at Rock Creek offers a dream trip for winter sports enthusiasts. As part of the Five-Star ranch’s Winter Wellness and Adventure Special, you will cross-country ski, snowshoe, ice skate and ride a horse along the property’s spectacular 6,600 snow-dusted acres in Montana. The four-day package gives you an extra perk: either a downhill skiing excursion or a treatment at its spa — stay six days and you’ll get both. If you stay longer, then you can add snowmobiling, Snowcat tours, sleigh rides and snowga (snowshoe to a mountain-top yoga class where warm tea will be waiting for you) to your itinerary, too. And don’t worry about lugging your gear; the all-inclusive resort will outfit you with everything.
Try Ice Climbing
You can check ice climbing in Alaska off your bucket list after paying a visit to the modern, chalet-inspired Hotel Alyeska, about 30 miles from Anchorage. What else? Extreme skiing, dogsledding, glacier cruises, canyoneering and bear viewing are just a handful of thrill-inducing escapades to be had at this outdoor wonderland. There are lots of creature comforts here, too, but we’re partial to the jaw-dropping views on display at Seven Glaciers, the hotel’s mountaintop, fine-dining restaurant accessible only by an aerial tram ride.
Plunge into Skydiving
If you’re hesitant to take the skydiving plunge, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore can give you all of the thrills without the safety hazards. The Five-Star hotel’s Fuel the Adrenaline package lets you soar at iFly Singapore, the world’s largest themed wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. You won’t need to jump out of a plane; the wind tunnel (which is the equivalent of five stories) simulates the free-falling drop and its 18-foot-tall acrylic glass wall affords a view of the South China Sea. To make your stay even more of an adventure, you’ll also receive a pair of three-day tickets to the Formula One Green Room, where you can watch the Singapore Night Race from an air-conditioned suite or a private balcony.
Ride the Rapids
You can choose your own adventure with St Julien Hotel & Spa‘s action-packed package, but we’re snapping up the whitewater rafting trip near Boulder. Half- and full-day options for all levels are available, but expert paddlers should go for the advanced session to tackle ominous-sounding spots like the Double Knife, Hells Corner and the Terminator. Make it through the rapids, and you can enjoy dinner at the Four-Star hotel’s Jill’s Restaurant (use the $50 daily food credit for the filet mignon Diane with truffle sauce) and a luxe spa treatment (apply your $130 credit toward a massage).
Seek Out Skijoring
It’ll be tough deciding when exactly to visit Triple Creek Ranch, a Four-Star luxury ranch in Western Montana. The fall brings with it breathtaking views of the foliage and activities like hiking, whitewater rafting and panning for sapphire; the often-mild winters offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skijoring (a horseback rider pulls a skier). Horseback riding and fly-fishing are popular year-round pursuits, as is lingering over fine wines after a superb local-inspired, seasonal dinner in the casual-chic dining room.
When you sign up for Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo’s canyon tour, you won’t simply hike and admire the scenery. To conquer steep canyon Guachipelin and the fast-moving river below it, you’ll zip line, rappel, rock climb, venture along hanging bridges and swing like Tarzan. Then journey on a horse for great vistas of Rincón de la Vieja volcano and enjoy a relaxing swim in La Chorrera waterfall before heading back to the Four-Star Costa Rica hotel, which offers its own onsite activities (snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, sunset kayak tours, nature hikes and more).
Zero in on Zip Lining
Don’t let The Broadmoor’s classic, sumptuous décor fool you — this Five-Star Colorado Springs hotel is an adventure junkie’s playground. There’s The Ranch at Emerald Valley, nestled among more than 100,000 acres in the Pike National Forest; Cloud Camp, which sits 9,200 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain; and the Fishing Camp, a fly-fishing spot along the Tarryall River. The newest addition is the Broadmoor Soaring Adventure, two zip-line courses (the second opens mid-September) that let you explore Seven Falls waterfalls. Glide through 10 zip lines ranging from 300 to 1,800 feet long and then hike, cross rope bridges and rappel your way through the rest of the striking canyon.
Live Among the Elephants
There’s something about the entrance to Khao Sok National Park’s Elephant Hills that’ll make you feel as if you’ve walked onto the Jurassic World set. But just beyond the massive gates and thick foliage, you discover a camp that doesn’t house its animals behind electric fences; instead, this sanctuary for endangered Asian elephants that were once used in Thailand’s logging industry allows its inhabitants to roam as if they were in the wild. So, instead of watching elephants play soccer or polo, here you feed them pineapples and wash off their trunks. Mahouts (elephant trainers) and warm, knowledgeable guides assure your safety. Eco-luxe tents and flavor-packed buffets guarantee your comfort.
Surf with a Pro
Whether you’re a novice or seasoned surfer, Hawaii’s epic waves make it a bucket-list-worthy destination. But there’s another big reason to vacation in paradise: Legendary pro Bill Hamilton, who has been hailed as one of the most influential surfers in the sport’s history, will school you at The St. Regis Princeville Resort in Kauai. Get a two-hour private surfing lesson from Hamilton, followed by a poolside lunch at the Four-Star hotel’s Nalu Kai Restaurant. Afterward, visit Hamilton’s Hanalei workshop to design and create your own custom surfboard (which will be shipped to your home).
Sample Snowshoeing or Tobogganing
Sure, you can go skiing at nearby Whiteface Mountain, but Lake Placid Lodge, a Four-Star Adirondack stunner, has more than slopes to lure in guests. Autumnal colors are a true sight to behold here, especially during heart-pumping trail hikes out the front door. In winter, lace up ice skates to glide around Lake Placid, borrow a toboggan to hit the 30-foot-high Lake Placid chute or don snowshoes to explore the landscape. Private cabins are about as rustic-chic as it gets, but don’t skip the communal nightly bonfires.
Tackle Jackson Hole and Yellowstone
Who says staying mountainside is best? The Wort Hotel is proudly located in Jackson Hole’s town center, and guests are the better for it. A private shuttle whisks skiers to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in about 15 minutes, and the concierges here are experts in planning outdoor exploits, from wildlife expeditions to tours of Yellowstone. And you get to retire to The Wort for a boisterous meal at Silver Dollar Bar (check out the elk gyros) and admire the original Western art scattered throughout the historic Four-Star boutique hotel.
Become a Cowboy
Glampers will want to book a so-called luxury tent at The Resort at Paws Up (don’t worry, you won’t be roughing it with a personal camping butler) before the end of the glamping season in mid-October at this gorgeous Montana resort in Big Sky Country. For the rest of us, one of the 28 luxury cabins will fit the bill through the winter. It’s located on a 37,000-acre cattle ranch and is laden with opportunities to get your inner adventurous cowboy excited — horseback riding, ATVing, dogsledding, snowmobiling and sleigh rides.