The Best Beach Vacation Destinations for Adventure

kayaking along a beautiful beach
Kayaking makes the perfect active beach adventure.

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There is a misconception among many travelers who believe that you can't go to the beach and have a great adventure at the same time. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. As with most other destinations, the beach can provide some opportunities for epic excursions and heart-pumping activities. Here's a list of some of the best places to go to enjoy both an amazing beach setting and a grand adventure at the same time. 

01 of 10

Nevis (Caribbean)

Cycling in Nevis

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The Caribbean is certainly a fantastic place for anyone looking for a bit of rest and relaxation on the beach, but there is also plenty to do for those who prefer to stay active while on holiday. For instance, the island of Nevis actually has a bourgeoning cycling scene both on and off road. 

Road riders will want to stick to the main road that runs completely around the island, offering some wonderful views of the ocean and island landscapes while en route. Mountain bikers can explore those settings further by leaving the road behind completely. In the island's interior they'll discover some great jeep trails and single track that that range from very easy to quite challenging.

While on Nevis you can also go hiking or climbing as well, so there are several adventurous ways to explore this island paradise. 

02 of 10

Pembrokeshire Coast (Wales)

Coasteering off cliffs in Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom

Visit Wales

The Pembrokeshire Coast on the southwestern shore of Wales is a magnet for adventurous travelers who enjoy coasteering, cliff jumping, surfing on scary reef breaks, and swimming in sea caves. And that's just what happens in the water. On land, there is plenty of hiking and biking along the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, rock climbing on sea cliffs, and riding horses in the sand. If you enjoy exploring, there are more than 40 Iron Age promontory forts, Norman and Medieval castles, and towns to wander through, too.

Freshwater West and Newgate are good starting locations for adventurers. If you're a surfer, Fresh is a huge coastal area with large peaks along the main beach and good breaks in the smaller bays further to the south.

Coasteering (scrambling up a cliff while wearing a helmet, a wetsuit and life jacket, then jumping back into the whitewater surf below) is popular here, too. St. David's is the starting point for many of the most popular coasteering trips in the region. 

03 of 10

Hamilton Island (Australia)

Snorkeling off Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Hamilton Island

Australia's Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef is a top beach vacation destination for travelers who love combining sunbathing on soft sand with a healthy dose of adventure too. Catseye Beach is a prime choice for people who like to snorkel and scuba dive around colorful coral in tranquil waters or course, but there is much more to offer here as well.

Away from the beach, you can go kayaking, parasailing, wakeboarding, and enjoy other water sports. Adventure sailing on a 36-foot catamaran is a popular option as well, giving travelers a chance to hang off the side of the boat on the 'trapeze,' or try boom netting in the front of the ship.

For something completely different, take a day trip to Reefworld where you can board a semi-submersible vessel and watch fish through glass in an underwater viewing chamber. Afterwards, travelers can take to the sky on a scenic helicopter flight over the world famous Heart Reef.

04 of 10

Santa Monica (California)


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With a trapeze school right by the shore, non-stop beach volleyball games, great waves for surfing or stand-up paddling, and nearby hiking and mountain biking trails, one could say an active, adventurous lifestyle is a part of Santa Monica's DNA. Travelers can join locals in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, or explore the challenging terrain on the trails that overlook the beach from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.

The South Coast Bicycle Trail stretches along the sand from Malibu down to Torrance and offers great riding for cyclists of all ages and experience. The trails are a great way to stay close to the beach, with plenty of opportunities to stop for a quick dip in the ocean and seek refuge from the warm, Southern California sun.

Hikers and bikers still find panoramic and breathtaking views, from the dozens of trails threading the Santa Monica Mountains. The 17-mile Paseo Miramar/Temescal Canyon Loop challenges mountain bikers with over 4,300 feet of vertical gain, with the toughest segments generously cooled by the ocean breeze. Alternatively, the Lemming Trail offers hikers 12 miles of strenuous terrain stretching from Tarzana to Temescal along the Pacific Coast. If you're braving the terrain, you might want to carry along one of these backpack coolers to keep your on-the-go snacks and drinks nice and cold,

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05 of 10

Penghu Archipelago (Taiwan)

Penghu Archipelago

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Made up over over 50 picturesque islands, Taiwan's Penghu Archipelago is another surprising destination for adventure travelers. Located just north of the equator, Penghu is the perfect tropical escape for spring and fall visits. The warm turquoise waters are surrounded by towering basalt cliffs and lined by pristine white sand beaches with abundant corals to be explored. 

Sea kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the Penghu Archipelago, and it is the only way to visit many of the breathtaking basalt columns on the uninhibited inlets. This makes it a paradise for paddlers who will enjoy the crystal clear waters and breathtaking landscapes that are found there. 

Adventure travel company LittlePo Adventures offers a number of itineraries for those who want to explore this region, which has remained true to its cultural and historical roots. The tiny fishing villages remain largely unvisited by outsiders, making it an amazing place for those looking to escape the crowds. 

06 of 10

West End Cliffs (Jamaica)


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Cliff jumping provides an adrenalin rush to many visitors on a beach vacation at one of the resort perched on Negril's West End Cliffs in Jamaica. But if you're not staying in that part of the island, all is not lost. Just hop in a car or take a taxi for a quick ride to the cliffs where you can get your chance to take this leap of faith for yourself.

The bluffs range in height from just a few feet above the water, up to about 40 feet above the ocean. Cliff jumpers and divers often scramble up the side of a rocky bluff to choose the height from which they want to make their plunge. If leaping from a cliff sounds too risky, simply head to Tensing Pen resort where you can make the leap into the water from a bridge instead.

Along the famous Seven Mile Beach (which is actually about four miles in length), sunbathing beachgoers can enjoy a variety of water sports, such as kayaking, sailing, and jet skiing. Breezes Runway Bay Resort has multiple trapeze nets for guests who want to give that high-flying activity a go too.

07 of 10

Manuel Antonio National Park (Costa Rica)

Person walking along the beach in Manuel Antonio

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Manuel Antonio National Park may be a tiny destination on Costa Rica's coast, but between the beaches and the rainforest it has everything an adventurous traveler could possibly ask for. Visitors can relax on the crescent-shaped beaches lined by lush forests on one side, then cool off by snorkeling around the coral reefs found just offshore. 

Hiking trails meander through the park's rainforest, providing opportunities to explore that setting as the squirrel monkeys chatter overhead. Keen-eyed visitors might even catch a glimpse of sloths, iguanas, and colorful tiny crabs along the way too.

Surfing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, and sport fishing are all popular activities in the area, not to mention visiting the tiny islands dotting the bay. Day trips can include everything from zip lines and canopy tours in the rainforest to boat rides to a remote island where white-faced monkeys, caymans, and even boa constrictors make their home amongst the mangrove forests.

08 of 10

Cape Town (South Africa)

Penguins, Cape Town, South Africa

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Cape Town, South Africa is another destination that features fantastic beaches, although the waters found offshore can be quite chilly at times. Considering all of the adventurous activities to do there, chances are you'll want to spend less time relaxing in the sand in favor of exploring the local landscapes instead.

Sea kayaking is a popular activity for those visiting Three Anchor Bay, giving paddlers a chance to cross three oceans in a span of just a couple of hours. Back on shore, coasteering is a popular option as well with travelers leaping into the water from the tops of high rocks, scrambling along rugged shores, and encountering curious penguins along the way.

The truly brave can even test their nerve by going cage diving with great white sharks. Where else can you get up close and personal with one of these fearsome predators and still live to tell the tale?

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09 of 10

The Canary Islands

mountain biking canary islands

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The Canary Islands may have a reputation for drawing a large number of visitors from Europe, but there are still some remote locations that remain well off the beaten tourist track. Take for example La Palma, a seldom visited island that offers excellent mountain biking, including an excursion into a massive caldera of a long extinct volcano. 

Visitors to the Canary Islands will also discover good surfing, snorkeling, and diving, not to mention opportunities to go whale watching, too. Further inland there are opportunities to stretch their legs on a hiking trail as well, with Teide National Park as particular stand out for those who prefer to explore on their own two feet. In the park adventurous travelers can trek to the top of one of the tallest peaks in the islands, the 12,198-foot Teide volcano. To say the view from the top is spectacular would be an understatement.

10 of 10

Waikiki Beach (Hawaii)

Paddling an outrigger canoe by Oahu's Waikiki beach in Hawaii
Waikiki Beach Services

Millions of visitors each year sunbathe on this strip of sand, which is backed by dozens of multi-story hotels on one side and rolling waves as far as the eye can see on the other.

But look a bit closer and you'll discover some great opportunities for adventure. For instance, just offshore you'll find wanna-be surfers learning the basics of the sport, and further out you'll see experienced surfers and stand-up paddlers riding some surprisingly big waves. It's also not uncommon to see outrigger canoes helmed by local boatmen who are experts at navigating the swells that form just off the beach. 

Don't be fooled by the beautiful, tranquil setting found along this stunning beach setting. Just offshore the currents can be difficult and dangerous, and the waters can get quite rough, making it a challenging place to swim or snorkel. When venturing out into those waters, be sure to take caution, or you may find yourself on a bigger adventure than you had ever asked for.