You could limit yourself to standard island fare: beaches great for digging your feet into the sand, tiki torches, moonlight dips in aquamarine lagoons. Or you could seek out the delights found only on the choicest isles: whitewater rapids galore, verdant hiking trails winding through wolf territory, and mindblowing views of the northern lights.
Coral, Butterflies, and Sweat
Start with a seven-day whitewater-rafting descent of the boulder-choked Cagayan River, which churns down Luzon's Sierra Madre and through the island's last remaining rainforest. You may not be able to identify every one of the butterflies along the way (the Philippines have 895 species) because you'll be too busy paddling; this is, after all, only the second commercial trip down the steep and technical Class IV upper section of the Cagayan. Next, ditch the raft and embark on a four-day trek to the 2,000-foot-high, 2,000-year-old Banaue rice terraces before hopping into a sea kayak for four more days of paddling and snorkeling around the lush El Nido islands to see as many of the Philippines's 500 different corals as you can.
Outfitter: Mukuni Wilderness Whitewater Expeditions, 800-235-3085, www.mukuni.com
When to Go: December-January
Michigan: Backpacking Isle Royale National Park
The dense boreal forests of roadless Isle Royale, located 22 miles off Minnesota's easternmost tip in Lake Superior, put you in prime moose-viewing territory. Depending on your fitness level, guides choose between two seven-day, 45-mile island traverses: the mountainous Greenstone Ridge, which follows the island's backbone, or the precipitous Minong Trail on its north shore. At night, you'll watch the northern lights from camp and listen for the howls of the island's 29 wolves.
Outfitter: The Northwest Passage, 800-732-7328, www.nwpassage.com
When to Go: September
Ireland: Mountain Biking the West Coast
There's only one proper way to experience rural southwestern Ireland's druidic past—biking your way 30 to 65 miles a day for 14 days down coastal roadways and rough lanes on the Dingle Peninsula. You'll take detours over narrow sheep-clogged farm pathsin County Clare and cycle through the Irish mist to 2,200-year-old caves, ring forts, and mysterious stone dolmens—thought to be druid altars or gravestones—and sleep in village hotels. It could well rain, but in Ireland, you have to take dark skies with a grain of salt. (A pint helps, too.)
Outfitter: Classic Adventures, 800-777-8090, www.classicadventures.com
When to Go: July-August
Scandinavia: Road Cycling the Southern Islands
You'll start each of this trip's 15 days with platters of Danish pastries, mounds of Swedish pancakes, and no fewer than 12 varieties of yogurt. After breakfast, the cycling will wake you from a carbohydrate stupor as you explore the islands and mainland coasts of eastern Denmark and southern Sweden, powering 25 to 30 miles a daypast the grassy dunes and sandy beaches of Denmark's Baltic coast to the harbor towns of Aerø Island and the cool pine forests of Sweden's Lake District. And the best thing about a hard day's ride? Evenings spent lounging in the Swedish sauna.
Outfitter: Euro-Bike and Walking Tours, 800-321-6060, www.eurobike.com
When to Go: June-July
Indonesia: Tall-Ship Sailing the Bali and Flores Seas
It looks like a prop from The Princess Bride, but the century-old tall ship Adelaar is a prime sailing machine. It cruises east from Balifor 11 days and through the remote tropical archipelago Nusa Tenggara, detouring to let you snorkel the coral surrounding Rinca Island and deserted Banta Island in search of butterfly fish and Spanish dancers. On Komodo Island, you'll prowl the Komodo National Park with a guide to look for the nine-foot-long man-eating Komodo dragon.
Outfitter: Wilderness Travel, 800-368-2794, www.wildernesstravel.com
When to Go: July-August, December