THE SELL: Paddling the wet wilds
A short 2.5-hour hop from Seattle, Juneau averages 54 inches of rain per year. All that precip makes this a nutrient-rich haven for whales, dolphins, sea otters, porpoises, sharks, and other marine life. Southeast Alaska is an ideal spot for families, fishermen, and aspiring marine biologists. There are few roads leading out of Juneau, so an outgoing Cessna is your access pass. Your likely fellow passengers: a bearded commercial fisherman wearing a Deadliest Catch cap, an expedition kayaker, or a thrill-seeking retiree looking to ditch the "newlyweds, overfeds, and almost-deads" on the cruise ships.
OUTFITTED: The Northern Song, an 84-foot sweetheart of a yacht, ranks high in the most-luxurious-way-to-see-Alaska category. With in-suite showers, an aft cockpit with a teak dining table, a top sundeck, and a swim and fishing platform, there's not a chance you'll get claustrophobic. Weather depending, Captain Michael Mills recommends one of eight weeklong routes between Juneau and Sitka, all of which allow you to kayak, get close to bears and marine life, watch glaciers calve, and catch your own dinner when the fishing's good ($10,000 per two-person cabin, all-inclusive; northernsongcharters.com).
DIY: For a self-guided Alaskan initiation, paddle Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (nps.gov/glba). Rent a kayak from park concessionaire Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks, then launch from the beach in front of Glacier Bay Lodge for a 55-plus-mile paddle up the bay to the Carroll, Rendu, Margerie, or Johns Hopkins glaciers ($45 per day; glacierbayseakayaks.com). Or get among the ice and wildlifebears, coyotes, wolves, sea lions, porpoises, humpback whales, and myriad fish and bird speciesby hopping aboard Glacier Bay Lodge & Tour's high-speed catamaran, which will transport you and your kayak to a designated drop-off site, then pick you up a week or so later at another designated site across the bay ($115.50 each way; visitglacierbay.com). For your final night in the park, save enough cash to splurge on a room with a hot shower and a view, followed by a feast of the freshest salmon you'll ever eat, at Glacier Bay Lodge (doubles from $199; visitglacierbay.com).
WILD CARD: Surfing in Alaska? Nominally sane surfers head to Yakutat. Within 15 minutes of stepping off Alaska Airlines Flight 61 from Seattle, you'll be trolling the coastline for the perfect break. May, June, and September are the best months to find rideable waves, but be prepared for water temps in the upper forties. Jack Endicott, at Icy Waves Surf Shop, rents boards ($20 for fiberglass; $30 for a stand-up paddleboard; icywaves.com).