Outside magazine, Travel Guide 1997-1998
LONG CAYE, BELIZE
On Long Caye, it is. Daily sea-kayaking instruction is comprehensive but painless: No one's barking orders, and by the third morning you'll be planning a half-day paddle to nearby Middle Caye or learning how to do a roll. And instead of cramming the kayaks with tents and sleeping bags for an island-to-island camping trip, your home for the week is a cozy thatch-roof cabana on stilts — complete with private hammock, a kerosene lamp for reading, and the sound of crashing waves to lull you to sleep.
Finding the balance between nap-induced delirium and watersports burnout, however, can be tricky — especially given all the alternative activities. You should forgo long, blister-inducing stints on the windsurfer if you plan on surf-kayaking in the sandy break off the point. Likewise, an afternoon dive at the famed 3,000-foot wall just offshore will require fortifying yourself on fresh conch stew. Linger too long in the shower and you'll miss the evening beach volleyball game.Then again, you can't miss the sunset: The view from the palm-lined outdoor stall is spectacular.
Slickrock Adventures' ten-day sea-kayaking trip to Glover's Reef costs $1,595 per person November 21-April 24; the price rises to $1,695 if you book after January 1. Call 800-390-5715. — Katie Arnold
BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
Sheer cliffs and desolate peaks are the backdrop for much of the 65-mile paddle from Bahía Agua Verde to San Juan de la Costa, but your more immediate perspective is one of incredible biological riches. Every evening the sea boils with action; enter the frenzy and snorkel with the snappers and angelfish — if you're lucky, you'll see one of the graceful manta rays winging below you or leaping into the air. Or stretch your legs after a day's paddle by exploring the side-canyon oasis of Rancho Los Dolores, where a short hike takes you to a waterfall and the ruins of a Jesuit mission.
Below Rancho Los Dolores you can make the five-mile crossing to Isla San Jos‰, one of the most fertile islands in the Sea of Cortez. Deer, coyote, and scorpions up to six inches long live here. Sandy lagoons pay out hearty jackpots of scallops and oysters. On your way back to the mainland, stop at two-acre Isla Pardito just off San Jos‰'s southwest end, home to a prosperous fishing village, where there's colorful diving in the town marine preserve amid coral and giant lobsters.
Fall and spring are the best times to go; you'll miss the staggering heat of summer and the crippling winds of winter. Baja Expeditions runs ten-day trips for $1,395 per person, double occupancy. Call 800-843-6967 or 619-581-3311. — Andrew Rice
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND
So we set out from the town of Marahau in a double, and just then a storm comes in off the Tasman Sea. For the next two days we paddle, heads down, into the wind, into the rain and the cresting swells. We cut across open water to reach camp sooner, skipping the sightseeing, arguing over who's not paddling enough.
Still, the trip is saved, because the Kiwis have this park all figured out. We ditch the kayak on the beach at Onetahuti Bay, where a water taxi will pick it up. Then we shoulder our gear, wade across a tidal inlet, and start hiking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, through mossy fern forests, past waterfalls, beneath trees with Maori names like manuka and kanuka, to lookout points where we can see other kayakers still playing man-against-the-sea.
That night we leave our tent packed and stay at the convivial Awaroa Lodge, which has a fireplace and a natural-foods cafe. From here it's an easy two-day stroll back to Marahau. But at Abel Tasman there is always another option: When the storm rages on the next day (banana belt of the south Island, my ass!), we grab the noon water taxi back to the car.
Abel Tasman Kayaks runs a four-day trip for three to six people ($345 per person, including all meals and one night at Awaroa Lodge; 011-643-527-8022). Ocean River Adventure Company rents kayaks (two to four days, $55-$102; 011-643-527-8266). Contact Awaroa Lodge and Cafe (doubles, $35-$38) at 011-643-528-8758. — Tom Huth
Filed To: Snow Sports