Top Ten Active Beach Vacations

From biking to kayaking, horseback riding to swimming, snorkeling to hiking, these beach destinations will keep your heart racing on your next vacation.
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Sandy Beach in Acadia National Park, Maine
KICK UP SOME SAND: Acadia National Park has biking, hiking, paddling, and swimming—though the water is extremely cold  (courtesy, Maine Office of Tourism)

A morning bike ride topped off with a late afternoon stroll. A chance to sea kayak in rarely-seen coves, followed by a hike on underused trails. My definition of an active beach vacation consists of a destination where you can sample a variety of sports. It doesn't hurt that the following best active beaches also boast stunning scenery. Head into the wilds of Big Sur or the Big Island and you'll think twice about taking that return flight home. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to truly savor these adventures.

10. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Best known for their Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that once hosted the Ryder Cup, Kiawah Island, a half-hour drive from Charleston, features a ten-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline and a flat interior shaded by those southern beauties—live oaks and magnolia trees draped in Spanish moss. Outside the five golf courses, other activities include deep-sea fishing, kayaking through the marsh in search of mink and osprey, and biking the trails to spot gators. Stay at the swanky Kiawah Island Resort and you can add tennis to the list of activities. Tennis Magazine ranked them the number two tennis resort in the United States.
Kiawah Island Beach Vacation Guide

9. Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Seven miles off the coast of Massachusetts, accessible via a short ferry ride from New Bedford or Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard is the perfect playground for the active traveler. The short hills, limited car traffic, and bike trails attract a loyal legion of bikers who cruise along the coast through the historic towns of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, or follow backcountry roads to the multi-colored clay cliffs of glorious Gay Head Beach. Walkers stroll with the warblers through Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. Kayakers paddle the large ponds on the island including Edgartown Great Pond and Poucha Pond in Chappaquiddick. Anglers have their fill of stripers, found in remarkable numbers along the rips that lead from the ponds out to the ocean. Head to Coop's Bait and Tackle (508.627.3909) to find out where the fish are biting. Stay at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort, where you can do morning yoga around the pond, and then take a jog on nearby South Beach.
Martha's Vineyard Beach Vacation Guide.

8. Acadia National Park, Maine
Sitting on top of Acadia Mountain's short summit, peering down at the lobster boats anchored in Southwest Harbor, one is easily captivated by the merging of summits and sea at Acadia National Park. Stunning East Coast mountains, vast pockets of pine forest, the Atlantic Ocean, even a landlocked fjord are all within grasp on this compact island. You can hike up Acadia and Cadillac mountains; mountain bike on 43 miles of carriage path trails, hard packed gravel roads that crisscross the entire eastern half of Mount Desert Island; paddle Long Pond, the largest body of water in the park; sea kayak to the Cranberry Islands; even go rock climbing on a sheer cliff wall. Stay at the Seawall Campground (207.288.3338), four miles south of Southwest Harbor on Route 102A. Primarily consisting of tent sites nestled in the woods, the campground is only a ten-minute walk to the tidal pools that hug the Atlantic shoreline.
Acadia National Park Beach Vacation Guide

7. The Big Island, Hawaii
Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, Hawaii's southernmost island is falsely assumed by many to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. But this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea that evoke Montana and are thus ideal for horseback riding; the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast; the almost-impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast; the enormity of two nearly 14,000-foot mountains; even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano. Indeed, Hawaii is more like a miniature continent than an island in the Pacific. Cars race around the island, not experiencing a shift of terrain until they're smack dab in the middle of it. Bikers have the privilege of slowing down to watch the sea wash against a narrow fringe of palms and to smell the pink-and-purple bougainvillea (sorry, no roses here). At the Kilauea Lodge, you'll wake up to a breakfast of fresh Kona coffee, pineapple, and papaya, all grown here, then bike or hike along the Kilauea crater.
The Big Island Beach Vacation Guide

6. Kas, Turkey
One of the last unspoiled regions of the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey boasts aquamarine waters relatively free of boat traffic and mountainous shores that contain few posh hotels or high-rise condominiums. The coastal community of Kas is the gateway to Kekova, a sunken city where homes can still be seen submerged under the water. You'll also spot numerous sarcophagi—ancient tombs sitting mysteriously in the Mediterranean. This archaeological treasure is best seen by sailboat, aboard a chartered gulet (a Turkish wooden yacht) on the legendary Blue Cruise. Your daily itinerary includes snorkeling or scuba diving before breakfast, a visit to Lycian tombs at lunch, and a feast of fresh fish and lobster for dinner. Book a cabin with a reputable Turkish broker like Vela Dare and spend a glorious week on the Turkish Mediterranean cruising from Kas to Gocek.
Kas Vacation Guide

Published: 4 Jun 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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