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Five trips for adventure travel novices

SmarterTravel

The words “adventure travel” put off many people who think of vacation as a time for rest and relaxation. But adventure travel doesn’t have to be scary. If you’re intrigued by the idea, but worried about the effort, never fear. Just read our list of five trips perfect for the laid-back adventure traveler.

Alaskan cruises

Cruises to Alaska aren’t just for your grandparents. Small, intimate, and interactive, a Cruise West sailing is more than a stay on a floating hotel with great views. It’s an Alaskan adventure with some comfortable perks. Its ships are small, typically holding about 100 people, and can maneuver into places big ocean liners can’t. Typical itineraries include wildlife viewing (bears, whales, and eagles, for example), visits to local fishing villages, small-craft explorations, up-close encounters with glaciers, and plenty of photo-ops. “We ‘nosed’ into a huge waterfall and could actually reach out and touch the water,” says Jim Mitchell of Blue Springs, Missouri, who sailed on Cruise West with his wife Marsha. “Now that’s up close.”

For those on a budget, the five-day “Glacier Bay Highlights” cruise ($1,695 a person) is a good fit. Fares include onboard accommodations, meals, shore activities, and taxes and fees. For more information, or to book a cruise with Cruise West, visit the company’s website.

Costa Rica’s volcanoes and beaches

It’s no wonder Costa Rica tourism is on the rise. The small Central American country boasts biological and geographic diversity. “You can see and do amazing things in relative safety [here],” says Lenny Bankester, an American living in San Jose. “You can visit a cloud forest in the mountains one day and watch monkeys eat almonds on the beach the next day.”

CentralAmerica.com’s “Beach and Back with a Volcano Driving Tour” is a self-guided tour of Costa Rica’s capital city, rainforests, volcanoes, and beaches. The company arranges hotel reservations and a four-by-four SUV rental, but you do the driving. This means that as long as you remain reasonably on schedule, there’s still a little room for exploring out-of-the-way places.

Double occupancy rates start at $529 per person, which includes taxes, hotel accommodations, airport transfers, and vehicle rental with unlimited mileage and insurance. For more information, visit CentralAmerica.com.

Whitewater rafting in Utah

Utah is a paradise for outdoorsy types, with adventure opportunities ranging from tackling 13,000-foot peaks to fly-fishing. One “in between” is Outdoor Adventure River Specialists’ (O.A.R.S.) four-day rafting adventure through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. Located near Moab, Utah, Canyonlands is one of the nation’s premier parks, featuring dramatic scenery carved by the Colorado and Green rivers, windswept sandstone arches, and the remnants of ancient Native American cultures.

The O.A.R.S. Cataract Canyon trip includes a little bit of everything, and is suitable for novice rafters when water levels are low in April, September, and October. Highlights include a 50-mile motorboat ride into Canyonlands, Class III and IV river rafting, hikes to Native American ruins and petroglyphs, and a scenic flight from Lake Powell (the rafting trip’s end point) to Moab.

The trip costs $1,311 per person. For more information, visit the O.A.R.S. website.

Cultural China

China offers a wealth of adventure opportunities for travelers. And, given its enormous size and cultural differences, taking an organized tour is not taking the easy way out. One such tour is Grand Circle Travel’s “China’s Cultural Capitals.” This 14-day, all-inclusive tour visits three of China’s most important cities: Shanghai, Beijing, and Xian. It goes beyond the typical bus tour, however, featuring visits to Chinese homes for authentic meals, market outings, and a stop at a local school to meet children. China’s top attractions are also included: stops at the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

Prices start at about $1,600 per person and include round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, airport transfers, all hotel accommodations, meals, tours, and transportation within China. For more information, visit Grand Circle Travel’s website.

Cruising Patagonia

Situated on the southernmost tips of Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is home to mountains and glaciers, as well as penguins, sea lions, and dolphins. The region’s remote beauty attracts hardcore adventure travelers as well as the less daring.

Cruising is a comfortable way to take in Patagonia’s rugged beauty. One of the best-known cruise companies is Cruceros Australis, which offers three- and four-night cruises between $960 and $2,200 a person. Prices vary depending on the time of year in which you to travel. The seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, so November through March is considered high season. It’s also the time of the year with the most penguin sightings, which, to many travelers, is an integral part of the trip.

All cruise prices include trips through the Strait of Magellan, visits to Cape Horn, wildlife viewing, shore excursions to hike on or near the glaciers, three meals a day, open bar including cocktails made with glacier ice, and all onboard activities. For more information, go to Cruceros Australis’ website.

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