Fun Fitness Activities for Your Next Vacation

No matter where you’re headed, there’s an adventurous activity to try.
Published November 9, 2015

When you think about an upcoming vacation, what do you look forward to most? New foods? New sights? New cultures? If “new forms of physical activity” isn’t on your list, you might be missing out on a lot of fun.

“Vacations offer an escape from your day-to-day obligations, so you can focus on yourself,” says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "And that includes discovering fun new opportunities to be active.” Whether you’re headed to a tropical island or bound for an urban getaway, put “move more” on the itinerary. Hop on a bike instead of a bus tour, or try a water sport you’ve always been curious about—no matter what you do, you’ll return home with memories of how good those physically driven days felt, which Matthews says can motivate you to be more active in the everyday.

Wherever your next trip takes you, consider one of these sporty endeavors await.

Destination: A tropical beach

Must-try activity: Snuba

Snuba, a hybrid of scuba diving and snorkeling, allows you to explore beautiful marine life without scuba-related inconveniences like spending vacation time getting certified or worrying about getting the bends. Like snorkeling, you can Snuba right offshore or from a boat; you’ll go to shallower depths and have shorter dive times than with scuba. A guide remains nearby, and you can come up to the surface whenever you want. 

Gear: You’ll wear fins, a mask, a weight belt (to keep your body from naturally popping above water), and a harness that connects your air line from your mouthpiece to a raft holding your air supply. 

Tips for newbies: Bring an underwater camera, says Hannah Mayfield, director of marketing and communications for SNUBA International, Inc. 

The perfect spot to try it: Hawaii is big on Snuba. In Maui, Snuba through a kaleidoscope of fish around the Molokini Crater (visit

Destination: A summer lake

Must-try activity: Stand-up paddleboarding

Get an arm and core workout while socializing with fellow paddleboarders. (Note: Great balance is not required.) You’ll glide along calm, flat water on a paddleboard—which resembles a wide, thick surfboard—using a long oar to control your direction and speed. 

Gear: Don a swimsuit, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Rental places will provide a board, paddle and a floatation device or life-vest. Novices should get a board that’s 30 inches wide, suggests Phil Segal, president of the Lake Tahoe Paddleboard Association.

Tip for newbies: Skip the water shoes and hop on the board with bare feet, says Segal. You’ll get a feel for the board more quickly. 

The perfect spot to try it: Soak in the phenomenal alpine scenery while paddling around North Lake Tahoe (visit Segal suggests looking straight down into the blue crystal water to observe fish, submerged rock formations, boulders and even trees.

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Destination: A rainforest 

Must-try activity: Hiking

What could be more peaceful than trekking along mostly-shaded, greenery-fringed trails that lead to breathtaking waterfalls, overlooks and wildlife encounters. Follow a map or a guide, and figure out ahead of time which trails are steep, which are flat – and which one you prefer.

Gear: Put on hiking shoes and pants, and fill a small backpack with a poncho (for unpredictable downpours), water, an energy bar, a camera and just in case, bug spray, suggests Jorge Gutierrez, General Manager of Nayara Hotel, Spa, & Gardens in Costa Rica.

Tips for newbies: While you’re walking, look down to avoid tripping on roots, reminds Gutierrez. 

The perfect spot to try it: In the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, you’ll spy cool creatures like sloths and toucans and distinct landscape features, from dormant volcanoes to uniquely-colored rivers, says Gutierrez, who recommends hiking the dry lava paths in Arenal National Park and traversing the suspended bridges along the Hanging Bridges of Arenal reserve.

Destination: A snowy mountain

Must-try activity: Snowshoeing

Sneak in some cardio and strength-training while you enjoy a winter wonderland trek. Snowshoeing is much like walking, explains Joe Henry, retail store manager for Umiak Outfitters in Stowe, Vermont. While you’ll feel a little resistance (calorie-burning!) from the weight of the snow, the shoes keep you from sinking when the snow is deep and also provide traction to reduce slippage on well-packed trails. 

Gear: Wear lightweight hiking boots. Along with the snowshoes, rent collapsible poles for extra stability, to take some of the pressure off your knees and so you can adjust your poles on different inclines during your walk. You might also want to bring binoculars. 

Tip for newbies: To keep snow from sneaking into the top of your boot, Henry recommends strapping on a pair of Gaiters, which are waterproof nylon sleeves that wrap around your calf muscle. Also, “if you’re toasty warm when you’re ready to set off, you’re probably too bundled up,” says Henry, who says that you'll generate a lot of heat while hoofing. 

The perfect spot to try it: The quintessential New England town of Stowe, Vermont offers extensive showshoe trails. Trod along the scenic, level recreation path that offers access to restaurants and shops, or take a guided moonlight tour with Umiak Outfitters.

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Destination: A new city

Must-try activity: Trapeze class

Get an adrenaline rush under the guidance of an acrobatically-gifted instructor: you’ll jump off a towering platform (attached to safety lines, of course), swing from a trapeze bar high above a net and maybe learn “simple” tricks like dangling upside down by your knees. 

Gear: Wear form-fitting athletic shorts or pants with a top that won’t flip up when you flip over, plus socks. Tightly secure long hair, and bring a towel in case you sweat. 

Tips for newbies: The Trapeze School New York recommends that beginner flyers do some exercises and stretches about 15 minutes before class starts to warm up muscles; the folks there also suggest eating fairly lightly in the four hours before class.

The perfect spot to try it: You can find great trapeze schools in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, and many Club Med resorts. If a birds-eye view of the New York City Skyline sounds appealing, join the circus-like set-up in Manhattan at The Trapeze School New York.

Destination: European countryside

Must-try activity: Biking

Pedal power let's you have an authentic encounter with gorgeous scenery, medieval towns and local people. Beginners usually travel in manageable-size groups in areas that aren’t heavily-trafficked; tours may last from part of a day to multiple days, with breaks for sight-seeing, “fueling,” and resting. Some kind of motorized transportation is often available along the route, in case you poop out.

Gear: Single day tour newbies should only require tennis shoes, a helmet, a water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen and comfortable shorts. “If you’re going to be in the saddle for multiple days, get a pair of padded bike shorts, bike gloves and a lightweight, waterproof jacket,” says Jodie Scholz, co-owner of We Bike Tuscany, a company that offers multi- and single- day tours in Tuscany. 

Tips for newbies: About six weeks before your tour, practice riding a bike in an area with some hills at home, says Scholz, who also suggests mixing in a couple of spinning classes. 

The perfect spot to try it: Cycle with We Bike Tuscany past vineyards, stone farmhouses, olive groves and little villages in Italy’s idyllic winemaking region of Tuscany (yep, vino-tasting stops are included). What better way to offset the region’s must-try pasta, gelato and wine?

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