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Ten outdoor destinations with everything!
Buena Vista, Colorado
Buena Vista translates to "beautiful view." It's easy to understand why the name stuck. Nestled into the central Colorado highlands, this Colorado town just might be the hidden adventure gem of the Rockies. Peak-baggers have twenty 14ers within roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Buena Vista, making it a perfect base camp for high-altitude hiking. Ski Cooper, Monarch and Aspen are all close by for a winter sports fix and the class III-V Arkansas River provides thrilling whitewater rafting all summer long.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is considered by many to be the adrenaline capital of the world. Cape Town has no shortage of blood-pumping options. Traditional sports like sea kayaking and mountain biking are epic here, but there's also more unique endeavors like sand boarding. If that's still not enough to get adrenaline junkies excited, there's always the shark cage diving experience.
Adventure pursuits like sailing and kayaking are synonymous with this famous Canadian coastal city. Of course, skiing is the main draw in Vancouver, a fact reinforced by the city's selection as host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. One visit to Whistler Blackcomb, among the top ranked snow resorts in North America, and the powder crazed will fall in love.
I was on the summit of a 15,763 foot active volcano within four hours of leaving my hotel in Ecuador's capital city, Quito. This short trek with dizzying altitude is but one of the quick fixes found in this city of less than two million. Rural Ecuador is still developing its adventure sports attitude, but when using Quito as a starting point guides can be found easily. Cotopaxi, one of the world's most perfectly shaped volcanoes, is only a two hour drive from town. Cycling and mountain biking have seen a huge boom in recent years and bike rental companies are eager to take visitors on epic rides through the Andes for up to two weeks in length.
Bar Harbor, Maine
In Summer, the population of this quaint Maine fishing village swells from around 5,000 inhabitants to 18,000, and for good reason. Surrounded by paddling and sailing opportunities, those making their way into the area's bays can not only watch whales and seals but can spot a variety of stunning bird species such as Bald Eagles and Puffins. During my stay I found that land based options are equally as spectacular with Acadia National Park sitting just out the back door. Hiking provides views of the channels and bays while the park's abundant exposed rock opens up endless climbing opportunities. There is even a climbing school in the city for those uninitiated to the sport.
Castries, St. Lucia
Once travelers work their way past the cruise ships and trinket shops, a world of adventure awaits in Castries, the capital city of St. Lucia. Professional mountain biker Tinker Juarez designed a trail system specifically for the Anse Chastanet Resort. Beginner, intermediate, and expert single track trails wind their way through former plantations and lush jungle vegetation. Diving and snorkeling opportunities abound along St. Lucia's shore. More experienced divers will find wreck diving just off the coast. This Caribbean island is even home to a diving shop named Scuba Steves. What more could a beach bum want?
La Paz, Bolivia
Trek along ancient Inca trails, raft the class II-IV rapids or the Rio Tuichi, or take on the world's highest ski resort Chacaltaya. If that's not enough adrenaline, mountain bike the Death Road, reported to be the most dangerous mountain bike ride in the world.
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland boasts average highs between 59 and 75 degrees year round. The mild temperatures make for an ideal adventure sports hub. Rappel into massive caverns with Waitomo Cave Adventures to explore the underworld of New Zealand. You will need at least two weeks to take in all the adventure Auckland has to offer. Surfing, horse trekking, sailing, and magnificent hiking can all be found near this city in the "Land of the Hobbits."
With a beautiful trout stream rippling through town and ski slopes just up the road at Mount Bachelor, Bend accommodates Winter and Summer visitors alike. I found a trail run around Todd Lake that was the perfect way to take in a pristine alpine setting. Backpack the 40-mile Three Sisters Loop and enjoy jaw-dropping views of these triplet peaks.
France's Chamonix has long been known as the site of world-renowned ski resorts and awe-inspiring vistas of the Alps. But these days, the French city is also home to an "air park" where brave visitors can paraglide from just below snowy summits and soar above green pasture. For those who prefer their adventures a bit closer to the ground, there's the Via Ferrata course. Via Ferrata takes rock climbing to the masses with metal steps and small ledges for climbers to use, all while clipped in to a secure cable system.
Having your cake and eating it too was never so easy. Any of these world-class destinations should be a crowd-pleaser for even the most ambitious adventure travelers.