Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Active Adventures: WOW Trip Reviews

by | March 21, 2023

More and more travelers are discovering the joy of experiencing a new place from the seat of a bicycle (or e-bike), the single-track of a hiking trail, or atop a horse, camel, or ATV. Count on our Trusted Travel Experts to add anything from some gentle countryside ambles to an adrenaline-stoking zip line into your next trip. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.

Baja, Mexico: scuba, surfing, horseback riding, zip lines…

Sea lions swimming and playing, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Sea lions swimming in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

“Baja CA is such an easy destination to get to from Southern CA, so when Zach and his team suggested a Thanksgiving trip for my family of 4, including 2 teen daughters, we jumped on it as we have not explored the other parts of Baja beyond Los Cabos. As up-and-coming areas, we saw the charm of Todos Santos town, hiked along the hills above the ocean and had surf lessons at Los Cerritos.

Next up was La Paz, which has potential to become a wonderful destination, as there are plenty of adventure activities to choose from. We had a few travel hiccups the first few days in Todos Santos and La Paz, but Zach’s travel team of Jose & Amalia worked to make it the best they possibly could. One of our main goals for this trip was to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz, which normally have a very dependable arrival in early November. However they decided not to show up in their regular numbers, so no one could get permits to swim with them in La Paz bay. This was a major disappointment but we had back-up activities planned and ideas ready, which is a useful travel tip for those “planning” on unpredictable animal life interactions. You just never know what will happen, so have something else in mind that will satisfy your travel wishes. We instead went on a sunset sandboarding excursion on the oceanfront dunes one late afternoon, and it was beautiful and remote. We also took a full-day boat trip to scuba dive with friendly, juvenile sea lions, took another dive through a shipwreck and then anchored at a remote beach for a wonderful lunch. These were both exciting excursions that filled the void of the whale sharks’ absence, and having Zach’s connections made it all that much easier.

Our last stop was Grand Velas on the Los Cabos corridor. What a property! The rooms, the views, the service, the spa, the food…it was all amazing!  We left the property for a few activities: horseback riding on the beach and in the hills, and a jam-packed adventure up in the mountains with zip lines, rappelling, free-fall jumps, climbing, & polaris vehicle driving; all seamlessly organized by Zach’s team.” —Andrea Phillips

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Belize: hiking, snorkeling, river tubing…

Tiger Fern waterfall in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize.

Tiger Fern waterfall, Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently returned from an eight-day trip to Belize planned by Patricia and Julianie. We are a family of four with 17 and 21 year olds. We wanted a mix of activities and relaxation.  We wanted to explore Belize but also stay in only one hotel. Snorkeling was our first priority and because we had recently been to Guatemala, seeing Mayan ruins and coffee and chocolate plantations were not important because we did those in Guatemala.

Patricia recommended we stay in the Placencia region at Naia Resort and Spa. It was the perfect location. The rooms are beautiful and well appointed, the staff is very attentive, the beach is very large and the food outstanding. We were able to do both land and water excursions with nothing being more than 45 minutes from Naia. Patricia and Julianie were in constant contact with us during our stay including making some last minute changes to our itinerary due to unexpected rain.  In addition to a private, full day snorkeling excursion, we did a tour of the Monkey River, a hike and river tubing in the Jaguar Preserve, and spent a day with a local Garifuna family. We loved every excursion and only wish we could have stayed a few days longer.” —Randi Maidman

Read more reviews of Belize trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Chile: heli-hiking, whitewater rafting…

Traveler Jeannie hiking in Chile.

Traveler Jeannie hiking in Chile. Photo: Jeannie Mullen

Tom planned a fantastic two-week holiday hiking trip to a part of Chile that I had never been to, the Lake District south of Santiago—an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Of the many activities offered —hiking, floating, whitewater rafting, cultural visits, among others—I would say that the heli-hiking in Pucon with my guide, Patricio Garrido, who is also a professional photographer, was a standout.

Our pilot, Benjamin, was great fun and anxious to show us private spots, tucked away in the mountains, that had phenomenal views and absolutely no other foot traffic. What a phenomenal experience. It’s like we had the world to ourselves for the day. This was the third time that I have used Tom for trip planning in South America. He chose terrific properties that offered impeccable service and every possible amenity. Vira Vira, an AndBeyond property, was exquisite.” —Jeannie Mullen

Read more reviews of Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Bali: white-water rafting, hiking…

ubud bali

Ubud, Bali. Photo: Yoan Carle/Flickr

“Having never been to Indonesia before, we told Diane the types of activities we enjoyed and she devised a custom itinerary that suited us perfectly. We spent an exciting day rafting down the Ayung river in Ubud and enjoyed a scenic guided hike to two beautiful waterfalls in the northern part of the island. We also enjoyed a visit to a Balinese farming village where we got to sample Balinese cuisine and meet the lovely Balinese people who call this area their home. A highlight we’ll always remember is the live Balinese music and dancing which were performed for our enjoyment. We were shy, to be honest, at first. But by the end of the performance we actually got up there and played the drums and cymbals! These are the types of experiences that make travel so worthwhile. We’ll never forget it—and we have Diane to thank for that!” —Joe McBrine

Read more reviews of Bali trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Australia: 5K and 10K city runs, snorkeling, spearfishing…

boat sailing in water on Sydney Harbour Australia with famous bridge in background

Sailing on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Tourism Australia

‘Wow’ is not a strong enough word to describe the incredible 19-day journey in Australia we enjoyed, thanks to the wonderful work of Stuart and Jacki. Our primary motivation was to participate in the 10K Sydney Harbour Bridge Run. So our trip started in Sydney at the Pier House, which is just below the south side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which turned out to be a perfect location, near the tourist sites but not in their midst. We then flew to Ayers Rock/Uluru and enjoyed dinner under the stars and the Field of Light show in the desert. Next came Brisbane, Cairns, and the Daintree Rainforest, where we went spearfishing and scalloping on the tidal flats with Brent Walker, a local aborigine, who then took us to his house and cooked the crab he and Susan had speared, as well as the unique flat scallops we had gathered.

The next day we went snorkeling at three sites on the marvelous Great Barrier Reef, which was alive with bright coral and many, many colorful fish. Thoroughly enjoyed the charming crew of the Calypso Blue. We then flew via private four-seater aircraft into the Arnhem Land outback, where we stayed with Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris in quaint cabins and enjoyed seeing aboriginal rock art in its natural state, unmarred by thousands of tourists. What a treat! We also saw an emu with its three babies, wallabies, dingos, and multiple species of exotic birds. We shared tasty meals with other guests, one of whom asked us how we Americans had learned about Davidson’s because few Australians know about it. (We credited Stuart and Jacki.) We finished our trip in Melbourne, where we ran in a 5K race that was part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival. Wendy, Jacki and Stuart, thank you all for our trip of a lifetime!” —John and Susan Mueller

Read more reviews of Australia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Costa Rica: rappelling, zip lining, boating…

Kayaking in Tortuguero National Park.

Kayaking in Tortuguero National Park. Photo by Sergio Pucci/Courtesy Costa Rica Expeditions.

“We recently returned (July 2022) from an amazing vacation in Costa Rica, which was planned by Priscilla. I traveled with my three adult children (17,19 and 23) and we were looking forward to an out-of-country excursion after staying in the States for an extended period due to Covid.

In my initial phone calls with Priscilla I had mentioned that we wanted to maximize our time in the country (12 days) and visit several different locations. We also love to be active. It was planned to perfection. My only request was to stay at Nayara Tented Camp. Priscilla went out of her way to coordinate the trip around my request. The Tented Camp was wonderful beyond words, it was a nice break of sorts from our busy days and we all loved it, especially the private plunge pool.

We started in Tortuguero, which is a gem on the Caribbean side of the country. We stayed at a river lodge, right in the middle of the rainforest. It was extremely lush and with lots of wildlife sightings. From there we went to Arenal, where we did waterfall rappelling and zip lining. Our rafting was cancelled due to an impending storm. We also did an evening frog tour, which I would highly recommend. Our last stop was the amazingly biodiverse Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific side. We were in awe of all of the wildlife sightings. The mangrove tour was one of the highlights of our trip. We were in the boat for about 4 hours, with constant wildlife sightings. One night we did an evening bug tour, with loads of different bug sightings, another must if you are in the Osa Peninsula. The tours, resorts and activities were planned by Priscilla perfectly.

Priscilla listened to my requests and worked closely with me to coordinate all activities that were suited to our interests. We accomplished our goal of seeing different areas of the country, and getting an amazing introduction to the unbelievable biodiversity of this country. She was a pleasure to work with, extremely responsive, and I would highly recommend her for anyone that is considering a trip to Costa Rica.” —Meg Castineiras

Read more reviews of Costa Rica trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Costa Rica: hiking, canyoning, ATV tour…

Amazing panoramic view of beautiful nature of Costa Rica with smoking volcano Arenal background. Panorama of volcano Arenal reflected on wonderful picturesque lake, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our family (husband, wife, and two college-aged daughters) used Priscilla to plan a trip to Costa Rica. We had a balance between fun activities and down time at the beach, which meant that we stayed in two different places. Our first base was the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa, which boasted large, comfortable rooms with stunning views of the Arenal volcano. From this location, we were able to go canyoning and have several nature hikes with our naturalist, Gustavo. At first I thought that it might be too much of a splurge for us to be accompanied all the time by our own naturalist, but honestly, it was so worth it! He was able to spot sloths (which, obviously, aren’t active enough for us to spot) and so many birds, exotic toucans, even an arboreal snake that we would have simply passed right by without noticing. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we had with him. Our second base was the W Resort at the beach, in first-class accommodations with howler monkeys in the surrounding forest. Every tour arranged by Priscilla was outstanding, from the canyoning to the ATV tour. Gustavo even arranged for us to have a private ATV tour because he saw that the afternoon forecast was looking pretty rainy.” —Claire Leuenberger

Read more reviews of Costa Rica trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Argentina & Chile: hiking in Patagonia

Hiking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia.

Hiking in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Photo: Explora

“Our trip to Patagonia was incredible. A couple of days in Buenos Aires was a great way to break up the long travel and a treat to explore an interesting, colorful city with our guide, Claudio. Tom’s suggestion to spend four nights on a small ship exploring the glaciers of the Beagle and Drake channel was spot on. We loved adventures in the zodiacs every day, as well as amazing guides and very good food. The highlight of the trip was Torres del Paine. The most beautiful place we’ve ever seen. So glad we stayed at Explora, with the best view in the entire park, fabulous guides to take you hiking, and great food and service!” —Carrie Lazarus

Read more reviews of Argentina and Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Canada: Heli-skiing

Alpine homes at the foot of Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler Mountain, British Columbia. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was the most fun vacation we’ve ever had!  We started with a phone conversation with Marc to explain our interest in helicopter skiing, combined with fine dining and luxury accommodations. Our biggest concern was that most heli-ski trips appear to involve staying in remote accommodations for a week with a small group of strangers and a common dining room, but no restaurants or other activities on-property for the bad-weather days. Instead, Marc suggested we stay at Whistler-Blackcomb Village in Canada and utilize the Whistler Heli-Skiing company that leaves daily directly from the Village. The best decision we made was to go with his recommendation.

Marc’s staff arranged private transportation to take us from the airport to Whistler and back, and confirmed (and reconfirmed) dinner reservations every night of our trip at the best restaurants. When one of our scheduled heli-ski days got cancelled due to weather, Marc’s staff immediately rescheduled our day to include spa reservations, to ensure we didn’t miss a beat. It was so nice knowing our trip planner was following up all the way through our trip. There was even a surprise cheese board that arrived in our hotel room shortly after arrival with a special note from our trip planners.” —Rachel Bunton

Read more reviews of Canada trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Ecuador: Hiking & horseback riding

Horseback riding at Hacienda Cusin, Ecuador

Horseback riding at Hacienda Cusin, Ecuador. Photo: Myths and Mountains

Allie did a great job customizing our Ecuador trip to fit our interests and goals. We started the trip off the beaten path at the Hacienda Zuleta, which was simply fabulous. I love historical inns and, at 400 years old, it hit the mark for me. The hiking and horseback riding were superb, and the staff was incredibly friendly and tried to make everything perfect for the guests. One of my daughters is a skilled rider, and she and her horse guide went out galloping through fields, mountain trails and back roads each day for hours.

The next stop was the Galapagos Islands, which we did via a land-based tour. Again the hotels were unique and charming, with first-rate staff. The wildlife was spectacular, abundant and ruling the land and sea. All of our tours were either private or small-group tours (two families), so we felt our experiences were unique and we were not on a conveyor belt. Everyone we connected with in Ecuador was friendly, interesting and happy to share their paradise with us.” —Stephanie Danforth

Read more reviews of Ecuador trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Hawaii: surfing, paddleboarding, biking…

Four Seasons Maui balcony

Four Seasons Maui. Photo: Four Seasons

“We were unsure which Hawaiian islands we wanted to visit, but Dani asked our family (four adults) so many questions about what we expected and how we wanted to spend our time, and was so well-informed, that we ended up with a fantastic vacation. We decided on the Four Seasons resorts on the islands of Maui and Lanai, which turned out to be perfect choices. Dani arranged all of our activities: surf lessons, paddleboard lessons, skeet shooting, archery. We had dinner reservations ready and were able to just enjoy our days. A highlight was our WOW Moment, biking down Haleakala through sun and clouds. Just a pleasure! Dani also maximized our time by advising us to take the ferry to Lanai, but to fly from Lanai to Maui instead of using the ferry again. Great advice!” —Nancy Stone

Read more reviews of Hawaii trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Switzerland: paragliding, glacier trekking, Via Ferrata…

Start of paraglider at Mannlichen top point above Grindelwald, Switzerland. - Image

Paragliding above Grindelwald, Switzerland. Photo: Shutterstock

Nina created an itinerary that included many excellent suggestions that we were not aware of, even though I had done a fair amount of research on my own to know what Switzerland had to offer. Paragliding in Grindelwald, a Canyon Swing, a Jet Boat in Interlaken, a private cave tour, glacier trekking, a helicopter transfer from Jungfraujoch to Gstaad, the Via Ferrata in Mürren-Gimmelwald, the Gorner Gorge adventure in Zermatt….AWESOME! The execution of the trip was flawless: When the helicopter landed in Gstaad in a grassy field, the driver was right there waiting for us. There would have been no way to plan this trip on our own and have everything run as smoothly as it did.” —Travis Schmitt

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


California: kayaking, paragliding, e-biking…

Kayaking in Southern California.

Kayaking in Southern California. Photo: Janette Gill

Our teenagers are still talking about our Southern California paragliding adventure over the beaches and golf course at Torrey Pines and our beach barbeque at Crystal Cove State Park while watching the sunset with our toes in the sand. Sheri was very helpful in recommending and organizing hotel stays at both the hipster Pendry Hotel in San Diego and the luxurious Pelican Hill Resort outside of Newport Beach. We initially had a little misunderstanding with the resort regarding our room location, but after a short conversation with Sheri, we were quickly upgraded to a room with a much better view (thanks, Sheri). This type of personalized service is the reason we plan most of our trips using Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel experts. Since this was our third qualifying trip, Wendy surprised us with a WOW Moment—a day of adventure on charming Coronado Island. Our guide for the day picked us up at our hotel for a short ferry ride over to the historic island, where we spent the day riding electric bikes around the quaint residential areas, and then we kayaked out into the Bay. Thanks, Wendy and Sheri, for a very memorable day for all of us!”—Janette Gill

Read more reviews of California trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.



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