You’re feeling the urge to break away from your usual routine and set out on one of the adventure vacations you’ve seen all over Instagram — but what if your budget doesn’t allow for ziplining across the Alps or whitewater rafting in Zambia?
There are plenty of things to do on vacation right here in the United States, and by staying local you can leave your bank account out of the risk — and find cool adventures from coast to coast.
- Patagonia, South America: $925 to $1,399 for three days
- Colorado River, Colo.: $98 for a half-day
How much you save: $817 to $1,301
Whether you’re seeking heart-pounding thrills of the roller coaster variety or some tranquil R&R, kayaking has a lot to offer. You move across the water in a boat similar to a canoe while the paddler sits facing forward, getting a decent low-impact workout. The kayaks come in various sizes and might hold one person or two or three, so it’s ideal for more intimate vacations. As a bonus, kayaking is a beginner-friendly water sport, and the only additional gear you need is a life jacket.
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates: $544
- Santa Barbara, Calif.: $159
How much you save: $385
If you’ve fantasized about flying through the air like a superhero or want to experience the rush of soaring, skydiving can make your adventure dreams come true.
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While many people assume the sensation is comparable to a rapid drop on a steep roller coaster, there is no falling sensation. You leave the plane moving at about 100 miles per hour and transition smoothly from airplane speed to a gravity-induced state in which you feel supported by the wind.
- Costa Rica: $100
- Pocono Mountains, Pa.: $10
How much you save: $90
A zipline is one of the most thrilling ways to sightsee, allowing you to take in the expansive scenery as you're suspended on a cable that stretches across a distance. Though it can bring exhilaration and a sense of daring adventure, you might also find it relaxing.
Use the zipline as a fun way to get from one thrilling place to another or for the journey alone. Many places in the states offer zipline tours that allow you to take in new places and geography with a knowledgeable guide.
- Copacabana in Rio de Janerio, Brazil: $145
- Sedona Red Rocks in Sedona, Ariz.: $125
How much you save: $20
Paragliding allows you to fly freely from a foot-launched aircraft over land or water. Participants of the sport say they enjoy the sensation of soaring on the air currents.
If this seems a bit daunting, go for parasailing, which is similar except that you’re attached to a vehicle — typically a motorboat — that provides the momentum. No matter which option you choose, you can fly up for a half hour or stay in the air for several hours or more, potentially reaching elevations of 15,000 feet on a paraglide. Some paragliders travel long, even cross-country, distances.
- Norway: $440 for a first jump course
- Twin Falls, Idaho: $399 for a tandem jump
How much you save: $41
The BASE in base jumping is an acronym that stands for buildings, antennas, span and earth — any of which a partaker might choose to jump from. Because of the high risk for injury — and even death — base jumping is considered an extreme sport that is best pursued with caution and plentiful training by a certified instructor.
Popular for the adrenaline rush it provides, each jump gives a few seconds of freefalling followed by soaring like a bird at up to 140 miles per hour — in some cases though caves.
- The Amazon Rainforest in South America: $3,000 for a four-day tour
- The Boundary Waters, Minn.: $125 per person for three days, self-guided
How much you save: $2,875
Very little provides a scenic, tranquil escape quite as blissfully as canoeing. The waters can get rough and your ride a bit bumpy, but depending on your location, being out on the water and soaking up fresh air are probably the biggest draw.
Canoeing allows you to chat with your fellow travelers, exercise and tone your upper body — and admire luscious scenery at the same time. It’s more affordable than many other recreational activities, and it is one your whole family can enjoy together.
- Reykjavik, Iceland: $2,899 for an eight-day guided trek
- Yosemite National Park, Calif.: $10 permit fee per person
How much you save: $2,889
For avid hikers who want to take the adventure factor up several notches, trekking provides a perfect getaway activity. If you want, you can go solo. Or, go as a pair or in a group and trek for one day at a time between hotel stays — or for several days and camp in between.
You can trek in virtually any climate, whether you’re a cold weather fan or someone who prefers warmth and sunshine. The versatility, physical activity and scenic views attract many partakers to trekking.
- Sri Lanka: $39
- Newport Beach, Calif.: $26
How much you save: $13
Whale watching might sound like a relaxing way to spend time, but it can bring major thrills to your adventure vacations. You ride along in a boat to the voice of a tour guide until you reach a spot where whales frequently appear. The excitement really amps up once a fin is spotted above the water. As the distance between the boat and the whale lessens, the immense size of the animal might send your heart racing and take your breath away.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
- Loire Valley, France: $270
- Albuquerque, N.M.: $200
How much you save: $70
For a gentle adventure with scenic views, hot air balloon adventures soar above the rest. You’ll get your thrills from the adrenaline rush of floating high up into the air as well as savoring the peaceful serenity of the experience as you gaze down at sights below. The takeoff isn’t jolting either — much like releasing a balloon into the air — and partakers have compared the sensations to "floating in a dreamland."
- Australia: $1370 for a three-day excursion
- Green River in Utah: $849 for a four-day excursion
How much you save: $521
Whitewater rafting is ideal for vacationers who want to try something challenging and exciting without engaging in something as extreme as jumping out of an airplane or deep sea diving. You ride over rushing streams and dodge boulders in an inflatable boat driven by an expert instructor. As a passenger, you will get a massive upper-body workout from paddling as you navigate the tumultuous waters.
Splash alert: You’ll probably get wet and might end up sore, but the experience will leave you feeling "one with the river."
- Bali: $100
- Destin, Fla.: $38
How much you save: $62
If a vacation just isn’t a vacation without being in the water, add snorkeling to your list. You’ll move through the water suited up with a diving mask, a snorkel and swim fins to explore the underwater scenery. If you go snorkeling in colder water, you might need to wear a wet suit.
Partakers love snorkeling for its cost-effectiveness, ease and safety. Though you’ll need to learn the basics before you first jump in — some places provide brief training — it’s a fairly simple activity to get the hang of.
- Chamonix Valley, France: $535 per day, guided
- Joshua Tree, Calif.: $390 for a weekend, including training and guidance
How much you save: $680
Rock climbing allows you to get up close and personal with rock formations most people only view from a distance. Unlike a climbing gym where you might bolder up five feet on a wall, sport climbing takes you anywhere from 10 feet off the ground to mountainous heights upwards of 13,000 feet.
The intense toning exercise and ability to quickly learn and improve draw many people to rock climbing vacations. You can mix and mingle as you meet fellow climbers, as well as work your way up and down the rocks.
- Kenya: $3,500 for seven days (including lodging)
- Sonoita, Ariz.: $825 to $1125 for four days (including lodging)
How much you save: $2,675 to $2,375
If you love animals, nature and exercise, very little beats a horseback riding vacation. Fans of the activity appreciate the magnificence of these large and graceful animals, as well as experiencing the undeniable human-to-horse connection. You can ride on tours with an experienced guide and choose a horse that best suits your hopes, physicality and abilities. Trails vary as well so you can opt for a low-incline, easier locale or trails with hills and valleys.
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- The Bahamas: $200
- Catalina Island, Calif.: $78
How much you save: $122
Scuba diving is the perfect pick if you find snorkeling fun but crave even more thrills. Rather than stay close to the surface in shallow water, you dive deeply and freely with an air supply hooked to you.
People love the adventurousness the activity provides, from the feeling of moving about an aquatic abyss to spotting sea creatures — even spotting manta rays, harbor seals and sea lions. Depending on where you go, the plants and tropical reefs might provide just as much eye candy as the fishy friends that reside there as well.
- Costa Rica: $1,800 for one week (including boarding and breakfast)
- Ventura, Calif.: $222 camping for a week
How much you save: $1,578
Riding the waves is never quite as literal as when you’re on a surfboard — there’s only you, the board and those ocean waves. The popular activity allows you to soak up sun and ocean air while delighting in that belly lift reminiscent of the effect of amusement park rides — only any surfer will tell you it’s far better. You may feel as though you’re dancing with nature as you get your groove, which makes it a top pick when it comes to adventure vacations.