Nothing tops the beach, especially when you bust your butt in the office for vacation time. But let’s be honest, if you’re the kind of traveler who craves adventure, burying your toes in the sand gets old after a few days. The good news? There’s a lot more to beaching than margaritas and chaise longues. Here’s a list of the world’s coolest coastal experiences that you’ve never thought of -- you know, just in case your next getaway needs a little spicing up.
If you like a rush, try sand-tobogganing. Grab a special waxed board and lie or sit (forwards or backwards) as you sled down a massive dune. For the best ride on Earth, head to Moreton Island’s Mount Tempest, the world’s highest coastal sand pile, over 900 feet tall. Feeling extra brave? Try standing up and riding your edges like a surf or snowboard. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Flying isn’t just a superpower anymore. Thanks to a jetpack fitted with a special marine engine, you can literally cruise around like Superman. Visit Mallorca, an island off the coast of Barcelona, and seek out Jetlev-Flyer located in Port Adriano on the island’s southern coast. They’ll hook you up with a jetpack that harnesses water to propel you up over the bright blue Mediterranean Sea.
For prime cliff-jumping, head to Phra Nang Beach in Thailand. Since it’s only accessible by a 20-minute boat ride from Ao Nang (the closest small resort town to the beach), tourists haven’t overtaken this long white sand strip just yet. Hike up either side of the limestone cliffs as high as you dare, and take the gut-wrenching plunge from one of the natural platforms into deep turquoise water. If you’re a climber, bring your gear — the tropical climate attracts some of the world’s best athletes who train year-round.
Skip the hotel whirlpool and dig your own Jacuzzi at Hot Water Beach in Whitianga and Mercury Bay on the east coast of New Zealand. A naturally heated river flows into the Pacific Ocean underneath this long strip of white sand bookended by cliffs. Pick up a shovel, start digging and watch as warm water bubbles up. You can dig a romantic bath for 2, or get the kids to help out for a larger pool. If you’re lucky, you can time it right with the tide and get front-row seats to one of New Zealand’s best sunsets.
Take snorkeling and diving to the next level at Shark Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Located about 4 miles south of San Pedro, Belize, this slice of ocean attracts harmless nurse sharks, rays, sea turtles, spotted dolphins and dozens of species of tropical fish. Boat tours take you out for less than what you’ll spend on dinner. Swim with the curious marine life and bring an underwater camera to capture it all.
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is pocked with inlet beaches and bays perfect for sea-kayaking. Head to Zaton Bay Beach, 6 miles north of Dubrovnik, where you can put in a kayak and cruise around, sheltered from the country’s infamous coastal gusts. Check out the bubbling underground springs, stone villas from the Renaissance, and cliffs and caves. Plus, a handful of private coves offer the perfect spot for a mid-paddle snorkel or a cliff-jumping break before turning around.
If you’re a camping freak, Hawaii’s Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a must. Pitch your tent right on the jet-black volcanic sand (don’t worry, it’s legal), keep an eye out for Hawaiian sea turtles that bask in the sun, and indulge in a nap as the light breeze blows through the coconut trees. It’s located between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu. The best part? Swimming isn’t ideal here, so most tourists opt for other beaches — you’ll likely be sleeping solo.
High tide secludes Piedras Coloradas Beach from Patagonia’s mainland so don’t be surprised you when you’re temporarily cut off. You can reach the strand on foot or by car via a gravel road, but if you want to find your inner cowboy, you really ought to go on horseback — trust us, you’ll be grateful for your mare’s sure footing as you cross the damp ocean floor. Grab a donated book from the small library in the adobe hut, or stroll around and watch fishermen catch octopus. Go in January or February when temperatures are hottest.