9 Unforgettable Ocean Adventures to Plan Now
These kayak, sailboat, and yacht itineraries have all the makings of a post-pandemic remedy: wide-open space and time with friends
Staying inside has us all dreaming of wide-open spaces. What better way to satisfy that desire than by planning a future ocean adventure? And as all of us wait to reconnect with our loved ones, these seabound journeys offer a great way to come together once we’re able to travel again. Whether by kayak, sailboat, or yacht, here are nine itineraries to start planning for now.
Go by Sea Kayak
For a warm-weather trip, head south to Baja, Mexico, where MT Sobek has a new seven-day paddling itinerary (from $3,295) around Isla Espíritu Santo, a national marine park off the coast of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Its January and April 2021 tours include stops for reef snorkeling with sea turtles, hikes to the highest point on the island, and swimming with friendly whale sharks. If you’d prefer to do the trip yourself, book one of eight safari-style tents at the island’s Camp Cecil (from $375 for two nights), located right on the beach. Your stay starts with a boat pickup in La Paz and includes the company of a naturalist guide on your kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, or bird-watching excursions. The camp is open from November to June.
Many paddlers will have heard of the Maine Island Trail, a 375-mile route that passes some 200 islands along the state’s coast from Casco to Machias Bay. While many of the islands are public, join the Maine Island Trail Association (from $45) in advance for access to 50 privately owned sites. If you have a few days, base out of the 271-site Hermit Island Campground, set on a 255-acre peninsula at the southern end of Phippsburg, an hour’s drive northeast of Portland. Or book a trip with Maine Kayak, which leads overnight trips (from $349) ranging from two to four days, with camping on remote islands or stays in boutique inns.
For advanced kayakers, the 100-mile paddle along Alaska’s Prince William Sound counts as a bucket-list trip. Enter the water at Whittier, a harbor town 60 miles southeast of Anchorage, where a number of rental shops offer fiberglass doubles, drysuits, and maps of camping spots along the sound (from $185 for two days from Alaska Sea Kayak Rentals). Give yourself 10 to 14 days for the trip; the amount of time it takes will depend on the area’s temperate-rainforest conditions, which can shift from calm to stormy in a matter of minutes. Allot a few days in Columbia Bay, home to one of the state’s largest tidewater glaciers. Or sign up for a six-day paddling trip next year with Adventure Life (from $1,429), which run from May through September. The tours start in Valdez and head to Prince William Sound and the Columbia Glacier. You’ll camp on islands and spot sea lion colonies, icebergs, and orcas along the way.
Go by Sailboat
While there are many ideal ways to experience Iceland, including via its one of its long-distance treks, seeing the country from the water offers a better vantage of its glaciers, iceberg-filled lagoons, and black-sand coastlines. Book a trip for 2021 on the Aurora Arktika (from six days for $2,606), a 60-foot sloop that sleeps up to 12 and departs from the harbor town of Isafjordur, a 40-minute flight from Reykjavík, with a captain named Siggi or Óli at the helm. You’ll sail into the remote fjords of the roadless Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and, depending on the time of year, enjoy backcountry skiing, trail running, or sea kayaking on excursions to shore.
If you want to learn to sail, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) leads an adult 14-day sailing course (from $5,490) from Nelson, New Zealand, on the country’s rugged South Island, where you’ll learn how to operate 35-foot keelboats through the Marlborough Sounds, an extensive network of submerged valleys. Every day will have you taking on a different role in the boat and focusing on a new skill, including navigation and overboard drills. It’s also a great way to study the country’s history—much of it built upon a seafaring past—with stops at important Maori sites.
For a trip a little closer to home, head to Maui—its hard-to-access shoreline means the best way to see the island is from the ocean. The coast is known for its 30 different trade winds, which have kept local operators from renting sailboats, but there are plenty of charter options available at every price point. Hula Girl departs from Lahaina on five-hour sailing trips (from $109), complete with snorkeling or scuba diving through the Honolua Bay Marine Sanctuary.
Go by Yacht
You want to cruise the open seas but would rather avoid being on a giant ship with hundreds of other people. We understand. These small expedition ships are designed for adventure travelers looking to explore less traveled ocean nooks that the bigger boats can’t get to.
Canada’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, 50 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to hundreds of tiny islands scattered throughout the Salish Sea. To visit the area, start in the provincial capital of Victoria, where you’ll board Maple Leaf Adventures’ 88-foot converted tugboat for a five-day cruise (from $2,267). The boutique outfitter’s permits and agreements with First Nations mean exclusive access to sites that are off-limits to larger operators, and the crew of five, which includes a naturalist and a chef, are all from the region. The boat features six private cabins with full bathrooms, four kayaks, and a hot tub.
Island-hop through Indonesia on AdventureSmith Explorations’ 15-to-21-day small-ship cruises (from $8,535). Start in Darwin, Australia, and set off on a 120-passenger expedition vessel en route to some of Indonesia’s less visited isles, where you’ll hike in search of Komodo dragons, snorkel in Taka Bonerate National Park, and visit local villages. Or, for a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, sign up for a trip aboard the Dunia Baru, a 167-foot traditional phinisi-style yacht that hosts up to 14 guests with 18 crew members (a dive instructor and chef included). The custom itinerary includes surfing Sumbawa’s uncrowded waves, diving in Raja Ampat’s pristine reefs, and kayaking across crater lakes (from $16,000 a day).
If you’re a scuba diver, head to the 20-cabin Walindi Plantation Resort in Kimbe, Papua New Guinea, then board the newly renovated MV Oceania, an 89-foot catamaran that calls the resort home. From September to November and April to June, the 16-passenger ship charters eight-day trips (from $3,810) to the island’s most popular diving areas, including Kimbe Bay, the Witu Islands, and Fathers Reefs, which are known for their crystal-clear waters, barrier reefs, and World War II shipwrecks.