Written and reported by Rich Beattie, Jason Cochran, Jennifer V. Cole, Amy Farley, Martin Forstenzer, Granville Greene, David Howard, Xander Kaplan, Eric Kater, Dean Kuipers, Clark Mitchell, Celeste Moure, Clara Ogden, Dan Oko, Kira Salek, Jack Stephens, Anya Strzemien, Bonnie Tsui, and Marion Winik.
Sometimes, a trip is more than a trip—it's an adventure. An opportunity to test your limits, to learn something new, to find yourself—whether you're alone on a mountaintop or with a group, diving to the ocean floor, in a city or even indoors. Adventure today is about much more than braving the elements: it's also about embracing unique experiences. From a classic kayaking trip through Yellowstone to a training session with a Hollywood stunt team, here are 50 ways to seek your thrills in the United States. Plus: Dream trips and gear recommendations from adventurers who have been there and back.
The Trip Small-boat cruising through Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound.
Why When you board the small-scale boats and sail past this gorgeous landscape, the Dall's porpoises, Steller's sea lions, bald eagles, and other wildlife come close, and the local humpback whales are nearly half the size of the ships. Try sea kayaking amid icebergs and hiking on glaciers.
Don't Miss Photographing orcas cavorting off the bow.
Wilderness Travel, 800/368-2794; www.wildernesstravel.com; Glacier Bay cruises from $2,995. Geographic Expeditions, 800/777-8183; www.geoex.com; Prince William Sound cruises from $2,950.
The Trip Kayaking the Buffalo National River, through the remote wilderness of the Ozark Mountains.
Why Dillard's Ozark Outfitters offers exclusive tours of Crooked Creek, near the Lower Buffalo.
Don't Miss The great abundance of wildlife—mink, beaver, bobcats—along the creek.
Dillard's Ozark Outfitters, 800/423-8731; www.dillards-outfitters.com; kayak rentals $35 per day.
The Trip Explore the Everglades among otters, orchids, and alligators with naturalist and photographer Jeff Ripple.
Why You can customize your tour: walk the swamp for a day or sign up for a four-day stint.
Don't Miss A glimpse of the American crocodile—an endangered species of which there are just 1,000 left. The southern Everglades is the only ecosystem in the world where crocs and alligators coexist.
Dragonfly Expeditions, 888/992-6337; www.dragonflyexpeditions.com; four-day trip $2,500 per person.
The Trip White-water rafting on the rapids of the 40-mile-long Chattooga River, where the movie classic Deliverance was filmed.
Why In the three-hour mini trip, you'll learn precision paddling from an expert guide as you glide down Chattooga's easier Section III run.
Don't Miss An overnight excursion—which includes a catered trout dinner—will take you to Chattooga's challenging Section IV.
Southeastern Expeditions, 800/868-7238; www.southeasternexpeditions.com; from $49.
CLASSIC The Trip Surfing in Waikiki, where the sport was born.
Why Modern surfing has abandoned Honolulu's tourist-choked beaches, but grab one of the heavy old 10-foot planks for rent anywhere in "town," as islanders call it, and you'll discover why a statue of Duke Kahanamoku still blesses the bay where Jack London learned to ride the waves. Summertime swells are bathwater warm and perfectly shaped.
Don't Miss Local delicacies, such as laulau.
The Trip Sailing and diving along the remote Napali Coast of Kauai.
Why Austin-Lehman Adventures has a multisport tour that includes catamaran sailing in the Pacific and biking around Waimea Canyon's volcanic rim. You can also take advantage of Pure Kauai's customized spa vacations and end a day of sailing with a muscle-melting massage.
Don't Miss Snorkeling off powdery, 15-mile Polihale Beach, or a kayak tour of the coast from Haena to Polihale to look for humpback whales and sea turtles.
Austin-Lehman Adventures, 800/575-1540; www.austinlehman.com; six-day itinerary from $2,848 per person, double. Pure Kauai, 866/457-7873; www.purekauai.com; seven-day trips from $2,500 per person, double.
The Trip A 6-day chauffeured raft ride through the canyons of Idaho's Main Salmon River. Mackay River Wilderness Trips' advance teams set up luxury camps, so when rafters stop for the evening, tents are already pitched.
Why This summer, guides will be adding a spare "cataraft" to each downriver regatta. Borrow one when you feel like some easy paddling.
Don't Miss The high-end cuisine, cooked over an open flame, including local salmon and paella.
Mackay River Wilderness Trips, 800/635-5336; www.mackayriver.com; from $1,495 per person.
The Trip Wreck Valley, off the south shore of Long Island, a diving spot with an impressive concentration of historic shipwrecks, including rumrunners, wooden schooners, and paddle-wheel steamships.
Why You'll be one of the first to climb aboard the Wreck Valley, a custom-built boat from Aqua Explorers; it's piloted by Captain Dan Berg, author of 10 books on shipwreck diving.
Don't Miss If you're lucky, Captain Dan will find you a fresh lobster to take home.
Aqua Explorers, 516/868-2658; www.aquaexplorers.com; from $65.