Get Your Thrills in Safe Doses on These Vacations for Adventure Travel Novices
An easily accessible place and a little guidance make a big difference. So here are some trips worthy of—and not too scary for—beginning adventurers.
Upper James River Water Trail, Virginia, USA
Glide down the James River in a kayak or canoe to get a different view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beginners can take a guided trip with Twin River Outfitters in Buchanan, Virginia. Once you perfect your strokes, consider renting a canoe for an overnight trip on this family-friendly, all-seasons river. Twin River Outfitters can supply you with a waterproof map depicting take out points and the best camping sites.
The Blueberry Trail, Quebec, Canada
The Véloroute des Bleuets, or Blueberry Trail, runs 256 kilometers (160 miles) around Quebec's huge Lake Saint Jean. Many bicyclists spend several days following the trail through farms, city neighborhoods and along the lakeshore. Novice bikers can tackle a mostly flat 45-kilometer (28 miles) chunk of it. Rent a bike in Parc National de la Pointe-Taillon and enjoy lake views, a sandy track and the possibility of moose sightings. There's even a carnivorous plant garden. Afterwards, stay the night in Huttopia, a canvas-sided cabin on the lakeshore.
Via Ferrata Dolomites, Italy
If rock climbing looks a bit too scary, a via ferrata is a safer way to scale a rock face. Italian for "iron path," this activity originated during World War I, when the military installed metal ladders in the Dolomites to make them easier to navigate. Don't worry, the hardware has been updated, but the idea is the same. A harness keeps you safe, even if you miss a rung. This is much easier than finding handholds in rock.
Hydrobiking in Bermuda
In 2015, two young Bermudan entrepreneurs brought hydrobiking to the Atlantic island. A hydrobike looks like a stationary bicycle mounted on two 10 foot-long catamaran floats. It provides a whole different way to experience the water than swimming or boating, and is accessible to people of all ages, from little kids to active seniors.
Snow School at Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada
Seldom do ignorance and inexperience pay off. But at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, absolute newbies to skiing and snowboarding pay only $25 Canadian for the resort's annual "Never-Ever Days." The price includes a lesson, lift ticket and equipment rental. Or attend Snow School on any winter day. Private lessons – either one-on-one or for up to four skiers of similar ability – give beginners the necessary confidence to succeed on the slopes.
Learn to Snowmobile Package, Togtowtee Mountain Lodge in Wyoming, USA
For those who like to go fast, Togtowtee Mountain Lodge's Learn to Snowmobile package offers personalized instruction and three nights of lodging. In two days of snowmobile school, you'll learn throttle control, side hilling, boondocking, avalanche awareness and getting unstuck. After a day in the snow, you'll come back to hot tubs and a Western-themed saloon.
Chicabrava Surf Camp, San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
This one is for the ladies. Combine warm weather, surf and girl power at Chicabrava. Founded by pro surfer Ashley Blaylock, the all-female staff provides individualized instruction to women of all ages and experience levels. They've taught guests from eight to seventy years old to stand on a board. Stay at the beachy Surf House in town, or the more upscale Cloud Farm with a private pool and a view of the ocean below.
Grizzly Bear Watching, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
The Great Bear Rainforest has more rivers than roads. Venture to the little town of Bella Coola, gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest in western British Columbia, and hire an accredited bear viewing guide to take you out in a shallow-keel boat. You'll see grizzlies and eagles fishing for salmon. Or, to adventure in comfort, be one of nine passengers on a 92-foot classic schooner built in 1904 and run by Maple Leaf Adventures. If you're really lucky you might see the rare white spirit bear.
Balloons over Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Eastern Safaris operates hot air balloon rides in some of the world's most scenic places. In August, they added the north Chilean desert of Atacama to their roster. Take off at sunrise and admire the desert rock formations with volcanoes in the distance. The balloon seats 16. But for an extra charge, you can reserve an exclusive ride for you and your seven best friends.
Snowshoeing, Door County, Wisconsin, USA
People who fear that skiing will break their bones can enjoy the gentler winter sport of snowshoeing. Join a guided snowshoe outing at The Ridges Sanctuary. Door County is mostly known as a summer destination, but in winter this northern Wisconsin peninsula is quiet, cold and peaceful. The Ridges' weekly winter snowshoe hikes last 90 minutes and only cost five dollars -- or ten, if you want to borrow snowshoes. Kids snowshoe for free. This is family-friendly adventuring at its most affordable.
Sailing in Fiji
If you love to travel by boat but a giant cruise ship isn't your style, consider sailing with the eco-focused Moana Sailing Fiji. The company offers customizable options – such as wayfinding by the stars, diving or cultural experiences-- on a 38-foot Polynesian-style catamaran. Expect world-class snorkeling and an opportunity for hands-on sailing.
Ice Climbing, Ouray Ice Park, Colorado, USA
Those who dream of scaling a sheer wall of ice will enjoy the two-day Intro to Ice Climbing course at Ouray Ice Park. Guides cover knots, hitches, anchoring, rappelling, and making quick decisions while climbing an icy waterfall. Over the course of two days, students progress from low-angled to steeper terrain. Avoid weekend crowds by attending ice climbing school on a Thursday and Friday.
Walk Japan Tour
For most people, walking isn't much of an adventure. But increasing your daily mileage while immersing yourself in another culture elevates walking to a new level. Sign up for a trip with Walk Japan and they'll take you to authentic Japanese inns and family-owned restaurants. Tours are divided into six tiers, from the easiest – less than three miles per day – to tours requiring the ability to walk for eight hours over mountainous terrain. Get off the beaten track on the Hokkaido Snow Tour or Oita Hotspring Trail. Tours are limited to no more than twelve participants.
Polar Snorkeling, Antarctica
Cold weather adventurers can try polar snorkeling on a trip with Aurora Expeditions. Experienced polar divers will train you in best practices and help you gear up in a drysuit, hood, gloves, fins, mask and snorkel. Examine icebergs up close while penguins speed by. You might even get the chance to explore shipwrecks.
Riding the Aurora Bubble Sled, Kilpisjärvi, Finland
One of the problems with northern light viewing is that it usually involves standing out in the cold. But Off the Map Travel's Aurora Bubble Sled offers couples and families the chance to stay cozy while waiting for the lights. Relax in a heated, transparent bubble while a snowmobile pulls you through the artic wilderness. Kilpisjärvi, Finland – also known as Lapland – is perfectly situated for northern light viewing.