Kayaking the San Blas Islands
In 2001, Olaf Malver, the founder of outfitter Explorers' Corner, kayaked with his family to a remote part of the San Blas Islands, off Panama's north coast, where he met with a chief of the indigenous Kuna Yala Indians and requested permission to explore. Not only did the sahila agree, but he invited Malver to return with like-minded friends. On this ten-day trip to the Cayos Holandes, accompanied by two Kuna Yala guides, you'll paddle 60 to 80 miles, tracing the shorelines of mostly uninhabited Caribbean islands, camping on pristine beaches, visiting a Kuna Yala community known for its vivid molas, or tapestries, and tramping through orchid-filled jungles.
High Point: Reaching the uninhabited island of Esnatupile after a mellow, nine-mile paddle across two channels.
Low Point: Being outpaced by local fishermen in low-tech pangas.
Travel Advisory: Don't touch the coconuts! Your permission to visitseriously is contingent upon a hands-off agreement.
Outfitter: Explorers' Corner, 510-559-8099, www.explorerscorner.com
When to Go: December, January
Mountain-Biking the Conquerors' Route
This two-week mountain-bike adventure traverses the same terrain as the route of the 16th-century Spanish army through the former Aztec empire, wheeling along 200 miles of desert, mountain, and coastal singletrack and jeep roads. You'll ride about six hours each day, from the outskirts of Puebla to the Sierra Madre hills and valleys near the base of 18,700-foot Pico de Orizaba, overnighting in tents, 18th-century haciendas, and lodges as you make your way to a Gulf Coast beach.
Outfitter: Adventures SelvAzul, 011-52-222-237-48-87, www.selvazul.com
When to Go: November to July
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad's rugged coastline is as wild as its calypso culture, and sleepy Tobago boasts some of the Caribbean's less-trodden beaches. Explore the best of both islands on this hyperactive nine-day, inn-based tour that takes you mountain-biking through dense rainforests and farmland, hiking amid howler monkeys and macaws, river-kayaking beneath bamboo archways, snorkeling among hawksbill sea turtles and green moray eels, and caving in an intricate system swarming with bats.
Outfitter: REI Adventures, 800-622-2236, www.reiadventures.com
When to Go: February, April, June, November
Belize Adventure Cruise
Spend eight days aboard a sweet four-cabin luxury yacht, exploring intimate coves that full-size cruise ships can't get anywhere near. An onboard naturalist will point out the sea turtle nesting sites and the manatees as you cruise along the Caribbean coastline from Belize City. You'll take a nighttime walking safari up the Sittee River, past Garifuna villages, visit Maya caves and an excavation site, and paddle kayaks with see-through acrylic bottoms over the world's second-largest barrier reef.
Outfitter: AdventureSmith Explorations, 800-728-2875, www.adventuresmithexplorations.com
When to Go: Year-round