The race to get the last poolside cabana can certainly get the heart pumping. But sometimes you need more stimulation, like a hike through the Andes Mountains or an extended kayaking journey in Hawaii. Our editors sifted through the best adventure travel vacations and found seven that will get your pulse pounding.
Sail in Thailand
Set sail from the island of Phuket, Thailand, where conditions are perfect nearly year-round, although November through March is prime season. This ocean adventure will take you cruising on the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean, past pristine white sand beaches, soaring limestone cliffs and deserted islands. Whether you’re a lifelong sailor or not, a once-in-a-lifetime journey on the Andaman Sea is a must. Charter your own boat or join up with a company like G Adventures, which offers a private seven-day sail complete with your own chef and captain.
Hit the Links in Scotland
Though some golf courses—Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina for one—replicate the Scottish links to a tee, there’s nothing quite like playing a few rounds where the game actually began. Golf originated in Scotland in the 15th century, and today it’s filled with bucolic courses overlooking the sea with luxury hotels to match. You can’t go wrong staying at the historic Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews (the sister hotel of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The American Club in Kohler, Wis.), which will put you in direct vicinity to its fabled courses.
Bike Through Southern Utah
The scenery along the 85-mile stretch between Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks is hard to match—think stunning geologic formations, desert landscape and wide-open roads. Cycling between the fiery red canyons and awe-inspiring sandstones will make you forget all about the intensity of the ride. And you’ll spend time off the bike, too, hiking the trails in both parks to experience the views up close. Book REI Adventures’ six-day trip where you’ll cover 15 to 40 miles a day, stopping along the way for meals and photo ops.
Hike the Inca Trail
For the hike of all hikes, follow the 27-mile Inca Trail in Peru through the Andes Mountains, lush forests and tropical jungles, and eventually you’ll end up at the legendary—and mysterious—Machu Picchu. Luxe travel company Abercrombie & Kent will lead you through the challenging hikes, whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River, camping along the trail and exploring the ancient Incan sites along the way. As one of Abercrombie & Kent’s “Extreme Adventures,” you’ll have top-notch guides leading the way.
Safari Through Southern Africa
You can find safari tours all over the world (even in the United States), but nothing tops an exclusive trek through Southern Africa—how does touring Victoria Falls by helicopter and seeing the “big five” at wildlife reserves in Botswana and Zimbabwe sound? You can cover the most ground by traveling via private jet with TCS & Starquest Expeditions. Its über-luxe 15-day safari trips take you through remote deserts and valleys (including what’s considered the world’s oldest desert), offering activities like nighttime game drives, rafting excursions and visits with one of the last nomadic people on earth, plus the option to extend your stay for a four-day excursion to see Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.
Yoga on the Beach
Whether it’s on the sands of Mexico or the cliffs overlooking the California coast, there’s no better place to tap into your inner Zen than on the beach. Yoga retreats abound in laidback Tulum, Mexico—the one at Amansala is a favorite—where serene beachfront resorts overlook turquoise waters. In Big Sur, Calif., hotels like Four-Star Post Ranch Inn offer complimentary yoga classes that allow you to gaze off into the Pacific while you work through Sun Salutation.
Kayak in Hawaii
In Hawaii, you can paddle along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, a 17-mile stretch from Hanalei to Polihale Beach that showcases plenty of postcard-worthy sights, including cascading waterfalls, 4,000-foot cliffs, sea caves and lush valleys. There are plenty of local companies that provide day trips (Na Pali Kayak Tours is a popular option), but those looking to extend the adventure can join Mountain Travel Sobek’s eight-day vacation. It takes you kayaking along the Na Pali Coast and down the Wailua River on Kauai, and then continues the journey on the Big Island for hiking, snorkeling, biking and paddling along the rugged Kohala shoreline.
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