While there’s nothing wrong with a waterside escape where the most activity you have is getting up from your lounge chair to step into some waves, sometimes you just want an adrenaline-pumping way to make the most of a beach vacation. Here are five go-to destinations where it’s all about boats, boards, and adventure.
Kiteboarding in Barbados
Kiteboarding, also known as kitesurfing, is a type of surfing done while harnessed to a kite propelled by wind across the water. The sport is best practiced on large open bodies of water off the beach with consistent wind conditions. The beautiful beaches of Barbados are a great launching pad, and the island’s constant trade winds from mid-November to June, average temperatures in the 70s and 80s year-round, and warm waters make it a great choice to try the sport. Endless Kiteboarding has set up shop on the high sand banks of Silver Rock Beach — Barbados’ most popular kitesurfing beach — at Womans Bay on the island’s south coast. While learning with Endless, you may also head to other nearby beaches such as Long Beach, but you’ll spend most of your time at Silver Rock. There, the choppy waves are just strong enough for exciting amateur windsurfing, and instructors emphasize fun with their relaxed attitudes. Silver Rock is the beach called home by local legend and former Olympian windsurfer, Brian Talma.
Fishing on Big Island
Big Island’s Kailua-Kona region on the island’s west coast has Hawaii’s best big-game fishing. Not only do ahi, marlin, and mahi mahi swim within 15 miles of the coast, but catching a 1,000-plus-pounder is a possibility 12 months out of the year. In fact, Kona hosts what’s known as the “grandfather of all big-game fishing tournaments” — the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. Those looking to catch one for themselves, whether a beginner or expert, should ask their Luxury Retreats concierge about charter experiences. Bite Me Sportfishing has seven different charter boats from which to choose. Have a large fishing party? Gather on a 46-foot vessel made for large groups and outfitted with leather couches, a TV, a refrigerator, and overnight sleeping quarters. Small group? Choose an intimate 41-footer equipped with a full-size fighting chair (a chair bolted down to the floor from which anglers can comfortably wrestle their catch) and tuna tubes (where you can safely store live bait to catch big fish).
Surfing in Costa Rica
Surfing is the undisputed champion of water sports in Costa Rica, and athletes flock there in all seasons thanks to two coasts that both present great swells. Experts tend to occupy the Caribbean coast, where waves can be powerful during big swells, while the Pacific side has good surf for everyone in places like Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa, and Dominical. The latter is an uncrowded town with a cool breeze off the sea and refreshingly clean water. Its fishing village vibe and bevy of local bars (no chains here!), keep it a typical Costa Rican surf town. “When you come to Dominical, you have the feeling of being in the real Costa Rica because it’s not commercial or touristy,” says Henry Aguilera, a local surf instructor whose 35-plus years riding those waves gives him the inside scoop on the local scene. Aguilera is an Adventure Guide with Dominical Surf Adventures, whose surf school operates on Dominical Beach. Dominical’s experts, like Aguilera, offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced surf lessons teaching students everything from standing and paddling to ocean awareness and surf ethics.
Sailing in Punta Mita
Sailing on luxury French yachts is a great way to relax and be pampered while finding adventure in the beautiful turquoise waters of Punta Mita. Join Punta Mita Adventures for a luxurious sailboat ride with one of their expert captains. They’ll start the day with a quick introductory lesson so that guests are well-versed on the essentials of sailing. Then, the day’s itinerary can be made as active as wanted. After setting sail from Marina Vallarta into Banderas Bay, home to world-class racing and “après-sail” parties, strap on some snorkeling gear and get a look at the bay’s amazing underwater village, populated with various bright colors of fish, plus turtles, rays, and seahorses. Summer is ideal for snorkeling off Mexico’s Pacific coast — that’s when the water warms up to the mid-80s and visibility extends down to 100 feet below the surface. From the comfort of the sailboat, you can spot dolphins, who love to swim right alongside boats, humpback whales, sea turtles, and manta rays. Having worked up an appetite, you’ll appreciate the Punta Mita Adventures crew serving lunch and drinks on board.
Scuba Diving in Turks and Caicos
The Turks and Caicos’ islands are famous for their sparkling turquoise waters, so water sports here are a must. We suggest going deep and capitalizing on TCI’s flourishing coral reef ecosystem full of walls, wrecks, and marine life. There are five major dive areas on the islands: Grace Bay has deep coral canyons where you’re likely to spot pregnant reef sharks; Pine Cay’s unusual limestone structure creates an “underground lens,” in which rainfall is absorbed at the top of the sea to form a lens-shaped layer of freshwater that floats on top of the saltwater; North West Point’s walls plunge more than 3,000 feet deep; West Caicos is an uninhabited island where walls are covered with barrel sponges and staghorn corals; and French Cay is a small island off which you might see the occasional hammerhead or humpback whale. Big Blue Collective is the only tour operator that will take you to all five. Big Blue leads diving tours that prioritize quality by keeping dives to small groups of four to nine people to get closer to the sights, stay out longer, and see more on the excursions.