13 Outdoorsy Trips Even Non-Adrenaline Junkies Can Handle
Given the proliferation of ziplines, bungee jumps and extreme vacation packages in popular destinations, you’d think everyone was interested in planning a trip that sounds like a best-of list of terrifying roadblocks from “The Amazing Race.” But what if you’re one of those people who craves a good time in the great outdoors, but prefers to travel without panic attacks or heart palpitations? The following scenic places and packages are perfect for travelers who would rather stop to smell the roses than skydive into them.
1. Vail Valley, Colorado: Sneak a Peak
When the mountains call, you should always go — and some of the best are in Colorado, including those in the Vail Valley. There you’ll find Beaver Creek and the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, which offers four seasons of fun. There’s a ski lift for downhill runs, but a snowshoe trek with a naturalist and the resident Saint Bernards is a more serene way to play in the powder. When the snow melts, the same summits are carpeted in color and used for wildflower walks, yoga and meditation sessions, stargazing, survival-skill treasure hunts and private picnics. The spa grotto’s jetted pools and saunas ease sore muscles after all that alpine adventure, and there’s a complimentary oxygen bar to help with altitude sickness. (If those don’t cure you, we suggest s’mores by the communal fire pit.)
2. Guatemala: Life in Ruins
Traipse through the rainforests of Guatemala to see real-deal Mayan archeological sites like Tikal, Uaxactun, Ceibal and Yaxha. The ancient cities are full of temples, carved portraits of rulers, plazas, ball courts and sacrificial pyramids, many built more than 15 centuries ago. The jungles are also filled with even more historic inhabitants. Think jaguars, macaws, crocodiles and deer. Book Las Lagunas Hotel, which inhabits a small lakeside fraction of 300 acres of private reserve, and prepare to encounter many more native species like ocelots, danta, margay tigers, boars and 700 types of birds. Daily ATV tours to meet the property’s “pets” are available, as are boat trips to Monkey Island, where you can take a selfie with a spider monkey.
3. Catalina, California: Island Vibes
Catalina, despite being the most developed member of the Channel Islands archipelago, still offers a rustic retreat and throwback thrills 26 miles off the coast of Southern California. Driving tours — on a retro ’50s bus or a convertible Hummer powered by biofuel — take you deep into the isle’s wild side, where buffalo (descendants of a herd brought over for a film production in the 1920s) roam. For more of a workout, you can venture to see the deep canyons, quiet coves, grassy mountaintop patches and dusty paths on foot. If you can handle the chilly temperatures, the water offers great visibility for snorkeling and scuba. Eschew the comforts of an Avalon hotel and boat over to Two Harbors to tent camp. With the recent introduction of the new white Harbor Sands beach and water sports equipment rentals, the seaside town isn’t as remote or rough as it used to be..
4. Wyoming: Te-Tons of Fun
The list of adrenaline junkie-approved activities available in the greater Jackson Hole area is long, but this vast Wyoming valley and its surrounding wooded wonderlands offer plenty more peaceful pastimes, such as sipping chardonnay next to Spring Creek at the family-operated Jackson Hole Winery, hiking through wildflower patches in Grand Tetons National Park, fly-fishing (lessons offered through Orvis’ school at the Snake River Sporting Club) or setting sail on a Jenny Lake cruise. Get National Geographic-worthy snaps of pronghorns, bears, foxes, moose and, if the stars align, wolves on an outing with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris in GTNP or neighboring Yellowstone. It’s a full and exhausting day, so you’ll appreciate the convenience of staying at Mountain Modern, a hip new motel concept that is walking distance from downtown’s famed antler arches and delicious eateries.
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5. South Carolina: Dune Generation
Gather your tribe for a look at low-country life and exploring South Carolina’s grassy sea dunes, barrier islands, friendly bottlenose dolphin population and scenic waterways. Make HQ the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms: They offer a wide variety of sailing and wildlife excursions, golf, rental equipment and culturally significant crafts like sweetgrass basket weaving. Even the spa menu is influenced by the setting, with treatment ingredients like magnolia blossoms, honey, sweet tea and pluff mud. And you know what they say: “The family that crabs together stays together.” OK, they probably don’t say that, but if you get in a pinch, spending a day learning to catch blue crabs like a pro will entertain all ages.
6. Tallahassee, Florida: Happy Trails
They don’t call Florida’s capital “Trailahassee” for nothing. Tallahassee earned its sporty nickname from the more than 600 miles of biking, hiking, running, paddling and equestrian paths inside its borders. They wind around sinkholes, through oak groves, on top of reflective waterways and even amid urban sprawl. Reward yourself with fresh seafood in the coastal community of St. Marks after completing 16 miles on two wheels biking down a converted railroad line. Spot alligators, rare birds and manatees from a kayak on Wakulla River. Feeling lazy? Skip paddling and board a jungle boat cruise along Wakulla Springs, or meander by car down one of nine Spanish moss-strewn canopy roads.
7. Punta Mita, Mexico: Secret Beach
Off the coast of Punta de Mita and Puerto Vallarta lies a perfect little patch of sand known as Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach) and Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach). Completely invisible from the outside, this gem sits inside a tall-walled hole in one of Mexico’s Marieta Islands and is only accessible at low tide by a natural tunnel you have to swim or kayak through because there is only six feet of space above the waterline. It has a cap on the number of daily visitors because it’s a protected bird colony, an UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve and a national park. If you’re more interested in seeing blue-footed boobies or whales, combo snorkel/standup paddleboard tours with Punta Mita Expeditions leave from the beach at the St. Regis Punta Mita.
8. Australia: Down Under Dalliance
Less than a three-hour drive from Sydney, but figuratively a million miles away from hurried city life and urban din, the 40 luxurious and airy homestead-style villas that make up Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley occupy just 1 percent of a 7,000-acre conservancy. The rest of the verdant landscape, surrounded by the steep bluffs of the Blue Mountains and smelling of pine and eucalyptus, will feel like a private playground as you ride bikes or horses, stroll around the kangaroo-friendly grasslands or the river, sit by a campfire and count constellations, hunt for fossils, salute the sun from a yoga mat as it rises or try your hand at archery. As the moon rises, hop into a four-wheel drive to spot owls, wallabies, gliding marsupials and wombats as they scavenge for sustenance. Another guided tour will shine light on the secret lives of glowworms.
9. North Carolina and Colorado: Find Dining
Get off the eaten path with a foray into foraging. Various hotels, such as the Wright Inn and Carriage House in Asheville, North Carolina, offer fingers-to-forks promotions when wild edibles are in season. They partner with No Taste Like Home — foodies who will help you gather greens, berries, seeds and more — and participating local restaurants to cook up your haul. The fun guys over at Colorado’s Hotel Telluride take advantage of the late-summer mushroom yield with their Mountains & Morels package, which includes a collection basket, specialty knife, illustrated book of varieties found in the San Juan region and a private three-course dinner made using your harvest.
10. Burgundy, France: Viva la France
It’s always wine o’clock in Burgundy. At first glance, a getaway of daily winery tours, tastings of fine crémants and pinot noirs and buttery Michelin-starred meals might not seem rustic or outdoorsy enough. But the adventure level is upped when you do said trip with DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. on the back of a bike. One thing’s for sure: After pedaling past miles of vines and sunflower meadows, through rolling hills and cobblestoned cities that almost didn’t survive World War II, it is fairly easy to justify a basket full of cheese and carbs. The four-day vino voyage is considered level one in terms of elevation gain, distance and topography, but there are longer and more challenging tours for more capable riders.
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11. Hawaii: Big Island Bounty
Hawaii is always a good idea, but Hawaii (as in the island that shares the state’s name) is a particularly wise investment of precious PTO days. Float above giant manta rays barrel-rolling beneath you in Keauhou Bay. (If this feels too close to the action, book a table that overlooks the favored feeding ground after dark at the Sheraton Kona’s Rays on the Bay). The day heats up at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can get close to Kilauea’s fiery caldera or hike/bike the eerily empty trail through expansive lava fields at dusk to watch the fiery flow ooze from underground and fall explosively into the Pacific. Waterfalls are plentiful on the north and east sides of the island from heavy annual rain. Don’t miss the early-morning color display at Rainbow Falls in Hilo or the orchids that surround 422-foot-high Akaka cascade. You can even have a snowball fight most of the year, thanks to the bizarre phenomenon of tropical snow on Mauna Kea.
12. Argentina: Ice, Ice Baby
Crampon, you crazy diamond, and join a guided trek across a majestic glacier like Perito Moreno in Los Glaciares National Park in the Argentine Andes near the Chilean border and the gateway town of El Calafate. The crystalline expanse boasts dramatic icefalls, white dunes, capricious formations and hidden rivers. For the faint of heart, guided walkways cover the territory, providing incredible views of the five kilometer-long perimeter.
13. Southern California: Death Valley Days
Don’t let the morbid name or the fact that it is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the entire United States scare you from visiting Death Valley. If you do, you’ll miss out on seeing one of the most varied and unique habitats in the world. It’s a land of extremes, from sky-high sand dunes and looming red rocks to crackled salt flats and spring-fed pools that are surprisingly full of wildlife. Four Points Adventures organizes four-day group camps that utilize 4x4 vehicles to seek out less-populated far reaches of the giant park, including the Racetrack, where mysterious moving rocks baffled scientists for years. They provide the food and car-roof tents. You bring your sleeping bag and thirst for adventure.
What Do YOU Think?
We’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with mild versus wild vacations. Have any tips or recommendations if you have already visited one of these resorts or destinations? Any non-daredevils in a relationship with an adrenaline junkie? How do you make that work while wandering the world? Share your thoughts, comments and stories below.