Staying Active on Vacation

Fri, 13 Aug. 2010 - 12:16 p.m. MT
Credit: Jeff Venables

Have an Active Vacation

On Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula sits The National Park of Corcovado, the country’s last remaining tropical humid rainforest, an area designated in 1975 to be protected, and presently holding an astounding 2.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. On the peninsula sits the vacation resort El Remanso, which is designed for the “nature-loving traveler.” Here you’ll find adrenaline-pumping experiences like waterfall rappelling, but also a romantic breakfast on a platform in a tree canopy. The folks at El Remanso offer rainforest massages, guided bird-watching tours, night hikes in the jungle, and strolls along a deserted beach. If this sounds like your idea of the perfect getaway, you are among the thousands of Americans who envision active vacations. What follows are a few ideas for exploring the world less by family snapshot than by getting out there and being the photo.

Zipline Lunch

“Leave your cabin getaway and ride a cable to a platform 125 feet above the jungle floor.” At El Remanso, ziplining is an active and exciting way to enjoy spectacular birding and wildlife watching, including monkeys, sloths, and anteaters. Very early morning or late evening trips are available, and these cooler times of day are the best time for observing the Osa Peninsula wildlife. For the less adventurous…

Sightsee by Bicycle

Simply biking in a foreign city offers a great opportunity for relaxed fitness while taking in historic sights. Depending on region, bicycle rentals abroad can be more common than in the U.S., as many tightly districted cities in Europe accommodate bikes as well as or better than automobiles. Pack a lunch of bananas, apples, yogurt, and/or protein bars—they are healthy snacks that travel well. Some serious cities for cycling: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Reykjavik. Be sure to ask the rental place for details about local traffic laws.

From the Redwood Forest

But stateside, don’t forgo the beauty of our national parks and historic trails. At Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, you can find magnificent mountain hikes including the Rim Drive, which will take you right to the Crater Lodge. Surrounded by the Rogue River National Forest, Crater Lake offers camping and boating in summer, and cross-country skiing in the winter months. Established in 1902, Crater Lake stretches 183,277 acres and is the result of a nearly 8,000-year-old eruption of nearby Mount Mazama. Among the wildlife to look for: Red-tailed and marsh hawks, golden and bald eagles, raven, great horned owl, rainbow trout, mule and black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, and black bear. In addition to cross-country skiing, backcountry camping, and boat touring, the park offers hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and biking. Wildflowers are at their peak in August. Be wary that the volcanic rock is unstable and can be difficult to climb.

To the east, consider the unsurpassed beauty of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. This 2,158-mile continuous marked footpath stretches from Maine to Georgia. Whether it’s the rhododendron-painted slopes of Tennessee’s Roan Mountain or the crystalline waters surrounding Maine’s Bigelow Preserve, millions of visitors each year enjoy countless wild, scenic, and pastoral settings on the “A.T.” Many people do extended hikes spanning several days or even weeks, but an active family day trip offers magnificent bird-watching and plentiful photographic opportunities of one of our nation’s most treasured natural spaces. 


And nearly anywhere there’s a stream, fly fishing offers quality family time or the quiet solitude of nature. At 6.0 METs (the caloric burn of a moderate run-walk), fly fishing (midstream in waders) is a surprisingly active way to spend your vacation days, given that the usual outing lasts the better part of the summer daylight hours.

If soaking up the sun is your thing, beaches worldwide offer parasailing opportunities. In the Bahamas in particular you’ll find boats routinely combing the shorefront looking for takers. A few U.S. dollars usually gets you hooked into a seat and soaring above the bright blue waters within minutes. While not quite an “active vacation” event, this relaxing but exhilarating thrill-ride should not be overlooked.

Not This Year

For folks intent upon a good old fashioned timeout, simply getting your heart rate up for about 20 minutes four times a week can help burn the extra calories from constantly eating out on vacation. Here are a few easy ways to spend 20 minutes of quality cardio.

If your hotel lacks a gym, try 20 minutes of continuous swimming in the pool. Even more convenient: use the stairs. Deciding to take the stairs once or twice a day instead of the elevator can help provide that needed activity when your schedule keeps a full workout elusive. You can also walk instead of glide on the airport people-mover. Take a scenic stroll instead of using the bus or subway. Walk as much as possible and not only will you shed unwanted pounds but you’ll keep your fitness levels up so you don’t have to start from scratch when you get home.

Jeff Venables is the editor of Running & FitNews, the publication of the American Running Association.

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