Then... Plunge into the whitewater of Arizona
If you’re thinking about rafting the Grand Canyon, you should: a) do the full, two-plus-week trip and b) take a wooden dory. The sleek descendants of the wooden boats John Wesley Powell first took down the Colorado in 1869, dories let you really feel the river, bobbing and weaving over the same waves that a rubber raft wallows over, by comparison. Translation: You’re in for a wilder ride. Grand Canyon Dories offers a 13- to 16-day trip from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek covering 225 river miles, lots of rolling rapids, and, because wooden boats are speedier than rafts, ample time to explore the canyon’s depths on foot.
13–16 days from $5,226; oars.com
Then... Tame the Lochsa of Idaho
The Lochsa River tosses boaters through 40-plus successive Class III-IV+ rapids—with names like Killer Fang Falls, Bloody Mary, and Hellgate—in one of the wildest stretches of whitewater anywhere. Holding on is the better half of the battle on a harrowing two-day paddle with the experts at ROW Adventures. To be safe, warm up to the Lochsa with a five-day trip through Idaho’s remote River of No Return Wilderness. June is the best time to paddle.
$2,020 for combined, seven-day trip; rowadventures.com
Then... Kayak the jungles in Botswana
Paddle more than 100 miles of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland marsh, on a Natural Habitat Adventures throwback odyssey from the era when nothing came between you and African wildlife—hippos, elephants, crocs, giraffes, and, yes, lions—except the canvas walls of your tent. This eight-day trip, offered for the first time in 2014, is more physically demanding than your standard safari; expect five to seven hours of paddling daily between backcountry camps.
8 days from $5,995; nathab.com
Then... Walk on water in Baja, Mexico
With 100-foot visibility into the Sea of Cortez from a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), you can see straight down to the fish-filled reefs, spot pods of dolphins, manta rays, and humpback whales. Sea Trek Baja offers a fully supported weeklong trip on SUPs that plies the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, visiting the protected islands of Danzante and Carmen. Days are committed to exploring the rugged islands via SUP, hikes and snorkeling, while nights are spent under the star-studded canopy in backcountry beach campsites.
7 days from $1,295; seatrek.com
Then... Ride the waves off the grid in Canada
If you think the best place to find laid-back, one-with-the-water surf culture is on some sun-soaked beach, the treehuggers at Tatchu Adventures on British Columbia’s Nootka Island (just off the coast of Vancouver Island), will tell you to think again. A short walk from the Ewok-style surf camp (where bears and mountain lions roam), complete with treehouses and raised boardwalks, leads to the steady, empty breaks of Beano Creek Beach. Guide Raphael Bruhwiler, a lifetime local and pro surfer, knows Nootka’s every beach, reef, and point, so finding great waves is never a problem.
6 days from $1,695; tatchuadventures.com