Up the adventure on a sun vacation

A surfer uses a paddle as he rides a wave through large surf in California. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

A surfer uses a paddle as he rides a wave through large surf in California. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

LORI KNOWLES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET

While it's perfectly okay to laze around the pool during your entire sun vacation, opportunity for adventure awaits just beyond that bottle of sunscreen. Here are three favourites:

Stand-up paddle surfing

It looks like surfing. It's nearly as fun as surfing. But it's not surfing. And it's a whole lot easier than surfing. It's stand up paddle surfing (SUP), an ocean adventure sport that is gaining popularity in sun spots from Hawaii and California to Florida and the Caribbean.

Its roots go back to the 1960s, where surf pros on Hawaii's Waikiki Beach would use longboards and long outrigger paddles to navigate the waves while teaching tourists to surf. The longboard-and-paddle combo has morphed into a sport of its own.

Like canoeing or kayaking, it's mostly done on calm water -- including rivers and streams that lead into the ocean. You simply hop aboard a longboard and navigate your way up and down the river, or through gentle ocean surf. The board is tippy, and the paddling and balancing required can be an intense core workout.

SUP is especially popular on the Hawaiian islands of Kaua'i and Maui, but it's done in the Florida, the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. along the Atlantic Coast as far north as Virginia Beach.

Spotting sea turtles

Imagine a midnight walk to a deserted tropical beach with nothing but the moon to light your way. With the surf pounding and the breeze softly blowing, you follow a guide to a remote section of sand where a leatherback turtle the size of an Austin Mini is laying her eggs. Intrepid sea turtles swim from as far away as Africa to bury their eggs on the beach of their birth.

Trinidad has the largest population of nesting leatherbacks in the Caribbean, but they're also nesting on Grenada and Curacao. All three host turtle-watching tours from March to June. These are run by volunteer groups established to protect the eggs and hatchlings from predators, both animal and human. You can quietly watch as these 900-kilo giants move slowly out of the surf, dig a hole in the sand, lay up to 100 eggs, cover them with dirt, then slip back into the sea leaving their offspring to hatch and fend for themselves. Hatchlings have a one-in-1000 chance of surviving -- witnessing the process is a very special adventure.

Tropical volcano hike

Tramping across lava fields in northwest Costa Rica to the rhythm of squawking toucans and howler monkeys is the definition of a feisty tropical hike. It's an adventure to the Arenal Volcano -- one of the Americas' most active volcanoes -- constantly recommended by adventure travel bloggers, as well as National Geographic Traveler.

Hiking up to the Arenal Observatory to watch as the volcano's incandescent rocks glow at night is a highlight. The windsurfing, ziplining, horseback riding, hot spring soaking and white water rafting in the area aren't bad either.

Other lush tropical hikes: Guadeloupe's La Soufriere Volcano hike, Dominican Republic's 23-km Pico Duarte ascent, Jamaica's 10-km Blue Mountain Peak hike, and the trails inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park on the Caribbean isle of Dominica.

loriknowles.com


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