The Best Beach Vacation Destinations for Adventure

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. Here's a list of some of the best places to go to enjoy both an amazing beach setting and an adventure at the same time. 

  • 01 of 10

    Nevis

    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 while en route. Mountain bikers can wander off-road however, discovering some great jeep trails or single track that that range from very easy to quite challenging. You can also go hiking or climbing here, so there are several adventurous ways to explore this island paradise. 

  • 02 of 10

    Wales' Pembrokeshire Coast

    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, 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 to combine sunbathing on soft sand with a healthy dose of adventure too. Catseye Beach is a prime choice for people who like to snorkel around colorful coral in tranquil waters. 

    Off 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-submarine and watch fish through glass in an underwater viewing chamber. Afterwards, travelers can go diving or snorkeling or take 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 overlooking the beach from the trails of 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 to cool off in the ocean. Hikers and bikers still find panoramic 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 total climbing, with the toughest segments generously cooled by the ocean breeze. The Lemming Trail offers hikers 12 miles of strenuous terrain stretching from Tarzana to Temescal along the Pacific.

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  • 05 of 10

    Taiwan's Penghu Archipelago

    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

     

    Doug Pearson/Getty Images 

    Cliff jumping provides an adrenalin rush to many visitors taking a beach vacation at a 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 the leap of faith yourself.

    The bluffs range in height up to about 40 feet above the ocean, and cliff jumpers and divers often scramble up the side of a cliff 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 jump off a bridge into the water instead.

    Along the famous Seven Mile Beach (which is actually about four-miles-long), 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 fly high, too.

  • 07 of 10

    Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

    Manuel Antonio National Park

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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 want. You 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, and as you walk, be sure to stop and listen to the squirrel monkeys chattering overhead. You might even catch a glimpse of sloths, iguanas, and colorful tiny crabs along the way. 

    Surfing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, and sport fishing are all popular activities in the area, not to mention the tiny islands dotting the bay. Day trips can can include everything from zip lines and canopy tours in the rainforest to boat rides to an island where you may see white-faced monkeys, caymans, and even boas in 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, though the waters there can be quite chilly at times. But considering all of the adventurous activities to be found there, 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 out on the water. Back on shore, coasteering is a popular option as well with travelers leaping off high rocks into the water, scrambling along rugged shores, and encountering curious penguins along the way. And for the truly brave, why not give cage diving with great white sharks a try. Where else can you get up close and personal with one of these fearsome predators? 

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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 plenty 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 go hiking as well, with Teide National Park particularly standing out. There, adventurous travelers can trek to the top of one of the tallest peaks in the islands, the 12,198-foot Teide volcano. 

  • 10 of 10

    Waikiki Beach

    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 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 the stunning beach setting. Just offshore the currents can be difficult and dangerous, and the waters can get quite rough, making it a surprisingly challenging place to swim or snorkel.