I’ll admit — I am not one to sit back and relax poolside for the entire duration of any vacation, even if the intent behind my trip is to chill out. For me, getting out and exploring the native culture, foods and most of all, the sights and experiences of the region, is what travel is all about. And that often means that a little adventure is in order. While I don’t consider myself to be anything close to an extreme adventurist, I enjoy a bit of a thrill every now and then. Here are six adventurous activities that have made my travels more memorable, and that you might consider yourself:

One of many spectacular views from our open-air heli ride on Maui.

1) Open Door Heli Ride in Hawaii: This is no ordinary helicopter ride. An aircraft without doors means the wind whips through the cockpit with alarming force, making you feel as if you might just literally get blown away. My family of four took on this adventure recently on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The ride was amazing and took us through the hills and valleys of Maui and over to the adjacent island of Molokai, giving us unbelievable views of hundred-foot waterfalls, blue-green ocean water and unexplored tropical vegetation. The copter twisted and turned as it navigated the islands’ ridges and canyons. We were warned not to put our hands or arms outside the airborne vehicle — for those who have made the mistake of doing so in the past were sucked out, never to be seen alive again (or so we were told). Fortunately for me I had the middle seat and did not feel as though I was about to slip to my death as the helicopter tilted on its side to give us a closer look at the terrain. My husband wasn’t so lucky. No, he didn’t fall out, but he was sitting on the edge of his seat…and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more scared as he clutched onto the overhead handles to keep from sliding out of the aircraft. Still, it was an unforgettable ride — made all the more adventurous by the risk involved.

White Salmon River White Water Rafting. Image courtesy Columbia Cliff Villas.

2) Class 4 White Water Rafting on the White Salmon River, Washington, U.S.: If you’re like me and you have only gone white water rafting maybe once or twice in your lifetime, then a class 4 rapid is probably not a part of your typical vacation plans. But when we visited the White Salmon River, just north of the Oregon border and the spectacular Columbia River Gorge, we were able to take part in a level of rafting that we didn’t think was possible. Our idea from the start was to experience some fun rafting and to see the rugged beauty and powerful waterfalls that make up this region. It was summer, and we weren’t anticipating anything too thrilling overall, with water levels down. We even thought the class 4 drop that this outfitter promised might be a bit of an exaggeration for what appeared to be a largely class 3/class 2 mainstream excursion. Still, our outfitter prepped us for the class 4 dip quite adequately, showing us how to react in the event we were thrust out of the boat. And even though we knew we were in for a big drop ahead, it is just one of those things that you have to experience to understand the sheer excitement involved. Thankfully, we survived the steep, tumultuous plunge — which was clearly class 4 — without falling into the chilly water. Other than getting a bit splashed (we were wearing wetsuits) and having hoarse voices from screaming, we exited the boat unharmed. This particular whitewater adventure is perfect for anyone who enjoys a quick thrill amidst an otherwise consistent level of fun.

Thrilling ride on the Shotover Jet, Queenstown, New Zealand

3) Shotover Jet in Queenstown, New Zealand: Queenstown has labeled itself the adventure capital of the world, and for good reason. From bungy jumping, to mountain biking, snowboarding and more, there is more outdoor activity in this region than you can imagine. Before arriving in Queenstown, we had heard about their famous Shotover Jets, which shoot through the beautiful turquoise waters of the Shotover River at tremendously high speeds, skimming around — and nearly missing — boulders and sharp rocky crags, and then spinning in 360-degree rotations as you hang on for dear life. The drivers seem to make every attempt to come as close as they possibly can to crashing. Luckily, their piloting skills enable them to find some way to maneuver out of trouble at the last possible second. While these rides have been taking place in Shotover Canyon since the 1970’s, there’s nothing commonplace about them and they are definitely worth the price (around US$99).

Come back and see our next post when we talk about three more travel adventures, including one that was quite unexpected — and involved large, not altogether domesticated animals with horns. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Six Adventures for the Everyday Traveler – Part 1

  1. Kim says:

    What great ideas! Paula, you have a hidden thrillseeker gene I never knew about! (Must be because you’re the mother of boys!)

    1. savvypaula says:

      And being married to a guy who lives for a bit of adventure helps, too!

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