More and more people are ditching expensive resort vacations and opting for the excitement and thrill of adventure travel. The options are endless, from hiking and horseback riding to scuba diving and rock climbing. Adventure tourism is booming!
What is an Adventure Vacation?
Adventure travel involves exploring remote or exotic locations, such as mountains, jungles, or deserts, and engaging in physically challenging outdoor activities like hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, rafting, or surfing.
Adventurous vacations can also involve immersing in local cultures, trying new foods, and meeting new people. Unlike traditional vacations, adventure travel focuses on experiencing the thrill of the journey rather than simply relaxing at a resort or hotel. It is an excellent way to expand one’s horizons and push personal limits while creating meaningful memories.
If you are considering partaking in an adventurous vacation, you are not alone. According to a recent study published on Grand View Research, the adventure tourism market is expected to grow by over 15 percent by 2030. Right now, it’s currently valued at 282 billion dollars. Yes, billion!
Benefits of Adventure Vacations
By now, you may be asking yourself why? Why should I try an adventurous vacation if I’m comfortable with the same ol’ beach getaway each year?
In short, adventure vacations offer a unique and exhilarating way to experience the world. Whether hiking through rugged terrain, mountain biking, white-water rafting, or exploring a new culture, an adventure vacation can be life-changing.
Throughout these adventurous experiences, you can disconnect from your daily monotonous routine. Disconnecting is crucial in today’s world, which is controlled by technology. A digital detox can truly reduce stress levels and promote mental well-being.
Adventure travel also allows you to challenge yourself physically and mentally, potentially boosting self-confidence, resilience, and personal growth. When you push yourself past your comfort zone, you will create long-lasting memories, spark creativity, and offer a sense of accomplishment far beyond the trip’s end.
Types of Adventurous Vacations
When you first hear adventure, your brain may automatically jump to sky-diving, cliff-jumping, and white-water rafting. Thinking of these activities may lead to immense fear and an adverse reaction to the idea. Thankfully, adventure travel is much broader than these high-risk activities, leaving room for all interests and risk levels.
Adventure tourism is often classified into two categories: hard adventure and soft adventure.
Hard adventure travel involves physically demanding activities like rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, skiing, white-water rafting, and other extreme sports. You will typically need specialized skills, fitness levels, and proper gear to succeed in these activities. Hard adventure travel is often more dangerous, but the sense of accomplishment and thrill of pushing oneself to the limit can be very rewarding.
Soft adventure travel is less physically demanding but still offers a sense of excitement and exploration. Examples of soft adventure travel include guided nature walks, horseback riding, wildlife safaris, snorkeling, and sea kayaking. Soft adventure travel is often suitable for individuals of varying skill levels and is well-suited for families or groups with mixed abilities. This is a great place to start.
Small group travel companies, like G Adventures, are perfect for exploring the great outdoors. Here are some of the best soft and hard adventure ideas for your next adventurous vacation.
Soft Adventure Travel
National Park Adventure Vacations
National Parks are a great starting point for those wanting to dip their toes in epic outdoor adventures. They are found worldwide and are full of natural beauty, accessible hikes, wildlife, and other soft adventures. Below are some of the best National Parks in the world to visit on your next adventurous vacation.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park offers soft adventure experiences for individuals and families of all ages and skill levels. It has some of the most scenic drives and over 250 miles of hiking trails. Whether you participate in a ranger-led tour or explore the park alone, you’ll surely be enamored by the stunning natural beauty.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the most important and beloved wildlife parks in South Africa. With over 7523 square miles of wildlife conservation and protected landscape, visitors are in for an unforgettable adventure. A Safari Game drive is the best way to experience everything this park offers. By partaking in a guided safari, your local guide will ensure you see some of Africa’s most iconic animals.
After your safari, you can also birdwatch, take a guided bush walk, or participate in a cultural tour to learn more about the local history and customs.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a breathtaking United States park that draws millions of visitors annually. Spanning over one million acres across Montana, it is home to glaciers, lush forests, rugged peaks, and abundant wildlife. Glacier National Park is the perfect place for your first family adventure vacation, with over 700 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking trails, hundreds of pristine alpine lakes, and a rich cultural history.
Torres del Paine National Park
If you’re looking for the ultimate place to connect with nature, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is a stunning destination. Although it will take some work to get to, your long travel days will be 100 percent worth it.
The park is in the southern reaches of the Andes and the Patagonian Steppe in South America. Torres del Paine boasts towering granite peaks, bright blue glaciers, emerald lakes, and peaceful forests.
You can hike the French Valley, horseback ride through the mountains, or kayak the Grey Glacier.
Acadia National Park
If you are looking for an adventurous vacation on the East Coast, Acadia National Park differs from the others on this list. Although you won’t find the same snow-capped mountains and alpine lakes, this National Park is home to many soft adventures.
In addition to the picturesque hiking scene, you can swim, kayak, explore tide pools, and stargaze.
Adventurous Vacations to See Natural Wonders
Although the Earth is home to countless natural wonders, seven internationally recognized ones outrank the others. These are sights around the world that will leave you breathless and in awe of Earth’s beauty. Viewing some of these will surely get you hooked on adventure vacations! Keep reading to discover 3 of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders to add to your adventure bucket list.
There’s nothing quite as magical as seeing the sky light up in vibrant greens, blues, and purples. Viewing the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) should be on everyone’s adventure bucket list.
You might catch this natural wonder in many locations, but Norway, Iceland, and Alaska during winter are the best places. To increase your chances and have a memorable experience, try booking an off-the-grid stay in domes like those found at the Borealis Basecamp in Fairbanks.
Great Barrier Reef
The expansive Great Barrier Reef is home to the world’s largest coral reef. It’s a sight that you must see with your own two eyes. Although you could spend your time here relaxing by the deep blue sea, there are many adventurous activities to check out.
Some soft active adventures here include snorkeling with the vibrant sea life, exploring the sea via sailboat, or taking a helicopter tour to see the reef from above.
Located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, you’ll find another magnificent natural wonder. Victoria Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the entire world, spanning over 5,603 feet wide.
The adventure truly begins by connecting with a tour operator to be able to swim in Devil’s Pool at the top of the falls!
Soft Adventure Vacations for Water Activities
For those of you who love a good beach day but sometimes get bored simply sunbathing, some great adventurous vacations involve all the time on the water. From snorkeling and swimming to safely swimming with sharks, you’ll never want to leave these tropical paradises!
Hawaii (Cage-diving with Sharks)
Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, coconuts, and tropical vibes. But, beyond the surface, Hawaii is a mecca for adventures. From vibrant rainforest hikes to swimming with sharks, it’s a great adventure vacation destination.
Belize (Great for Snorkeling)
Don’t sleep on the opportunity to take an active vacation to Belize. This tropical Caribbean paradise has some of the best snorkeling in the entire world. In addition to snorkeling, there are many guided boat tours, scenic flights, and even cave tubing. It’s a definite bucket list vacation destination.
Florida Keys (Kayaking, Snorkeling, & Fishing)
Driving from Miami to Key West is one of America’s most iconic road trips. The Florida Keys make up a 125-mile-long chain of islands that leads to many adventurous things to do. While exploring The Keys, you can snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, parasail, fish, and swim in crystal-clear waters.
Monterey County, California (Surfing, Whale-watching, & Scenic Hikes)
There’s more to California than Hollywood and pretty beaches. Monterey County is great for adventure travelers as there are many active things to do. Wildlife lovers will enjoy a scenic whale-watching tour or spot the harbor seals and otters playing along the shorelines. If you are looking for some exercise, head to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for amazing seaside hikes or Carmel Beach for great surfing waves.
Hiking Adventure Vacations
Once you start adventure planning, you’ll quickly realize you can find epic hikes all around you. From the large-scale National Parks to your local State Parks, there’s natural beauty in every corner. But if you are looking for a hike of a lifetime, check out one of the premier hiking destinations below.
The Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc is an iconic, multi-day hike through the scenic Alps. You’ll pass through Switzerland, France, and Italy throughout your journey. Although you can hike this trail alone, many tour operators are available to make the experience seamless.
Trek to Machu Picchu
If you’ve spent time on social media lately, you’ve seen awe-inspiring pictures of Machu Picchu in Peru. You can take a train to the base of Machu Picchu, but it’s much more adventurous (and scenic) to partake in a multi-day trek. Most of these hikes take between 3 and 5 nights, depending on your chosen route.
Thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail
For those looking for a beautiful hike in the United States, head to the famous Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast. The entire trail stretches across 2,650 miles and typically takes thru-hikers about five months to finish. If you do not have five months to spare, you can pick a section of the trail for a much shorter (yet still amazing) journey.
North Coast Trail
Located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, you’ll find the secluded yet extremely scenic 27.6 North Coast Trail. Throughout this multi-day trek, you’ll pass through muddy bogs, thick forest paths, spectacular views, and sandy beaches. You’ll likely spot whales, wolves, bears, and other wildlife during the journey. This backcountry adventure is one of the most challenging hikes in North America and a more challenging alternative to the popular West Coast Trail. A local guide is recommended.
Hard Adventure Travel
When you feel ready for a greater adventure, you can start transitioning to (or sprinkling in) some hard adventure activities. The following ideas are much riskier than the soft ones and require a certain amount of skill and/or research before participating.
Hang Gliding in Switzerland
Switzerland is undoubtedly one of the most amazing places in the world to try hang gliding. Many tour guides in Interlaken will allow you to experience flying over some of the most beautiful landscapes.
Bungee Jumping in New Zealand
If free-falling for eight or more seconds sounds exhilarating, head to New Zealand for some world-class bungee jumping. There are multiple options, including the original Kawarau Bridge or the highest jump at The Nevis.
Ice Climbing in Norway
Norway is home to the world’s longest frozen waterfall routes. It’s a winter adventurer’s dream, as there are countless locations to choose from. Ice Climbing can be extremely dangerous, so be sure you have the right gear and experience or book with an experienced guide.
Rock Climbing in Yosemite National Park
Nestled in the heart of California, Yosemite National Park is home to some of the very best rock climbing in the entire world. Experienced climbers visit Yosemite to tackle multi-day climbs, while new climbers can choose between day climbs and/or lessons.
Planning an Active Vacation – Tips, Safety and Responsible Travel
It’s no secret that an adventurous vacation poses more risk than simply relaxing in a spa. But the following tips and tricks will ensure you are partaking in your active adventures as safely as possible.
1. Research your destination: Before booking your trip, research your destination to understand the local culture, customs, and safety tips. Be aware of potential risks, such as wildlife encounters, extreme weather conditions, or altitude sickness. Do not let them scare you away, but rather feel more prepared.
2. Choose a reliable travel company: If booking a guided adventure tour, research to ensure the company has a good safety record and experienced guides.
3. Pack the essentials: Ensure you have the appropriate gear and equipment for your adventure travel activity. Pack comfortable and functional clothing, sturdy shoes or boots, and safety equipment such as helmets or life jackets.
4. Stay hydrated: This one sounds obvious but is so important. Depending on the climate and activity, staying hydrated is crucial. Ensure you have adequate water and a means of purifying drinking water if necessary.
5. Respect local cultures and environments: Be mindful of cultural expectations and responsible travel practices. Avoid leaving any litter or damaging local flora and fauna.
6. Be prepared for emergencies: Make sure to have travel insurance (check the distinction between hard and soft adventure coverage), a first aid kit, and emergency contact information for local authorities and your embassy.
7. Follow safety guidelines: Pay attention to safety guidelines provided by tour operators or local authorities. Follow all instructions regarding safety equipment, activity restrictions, and emergency procedures.
Are you ready to unleash your inner explorer on your next adrenaline-pumping adventure vacation? With so many unique experiences and off-the-beaten-path destinations, your options are truly endless. So where will you head first? Whether it starts with a road trip or a flight, it’ll surely be a bucket list trip to remember for years and years.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur. Photo Credit [@Diana.mironenko/DepositPhotos]
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, travel enthusiast, dog mom, Type 1 diabetes advocate, and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. On her website xoxoBella, she encourages others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause.