active travel destinations

Forget gaining dreaded vacation weight when you take your next trip. These five travel destinations are fitness-friendly and designed for the active and adventurous, meaning after you get back you’ll be relaxed, rejuvenated…and one step closer to fitting into your skinny jeans.

Travel Destination #1: The Grand Canyon, Arizona

An oldie but a goodie. If you’re in the market for an outdoorsy and active place to spend your paid vacation, this iconic American spot is it. If you were dragged here by your fanny pack-adorned parents on a childhood road trip, it’s worth revisiting on your own terms (without a younger brother tormenting you in the backseat), and if you’ve never been, it’s a definite destination you need to cross off your stateside bucket list…in this case, while burning some serious calories.

There are plenty of day-long hikes to enjoy, whether you opt for the South Kaibab Trail or the slightly more difficult paths, Grandview Trail and Hermit Trail. While not known for their intensity, they do warrant some serious walking—surrounded by awesome scenery, naturally. For an action-packed twist on the typical Grand Canyon experience, you can also take on the rapids of the Colorado River and do some whitewater rafting. Surrounded by the tall walls of the canyon, the natural beauty is almost enough to distract you from the burning in your arms from all the rowing. Almost.

South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon. Photo via Grand Canyon NPS.

Travel Destination #2: O’ahu, Hawaii

Whether you prefer to get your fitness kicks on land or in water, this Hawaiian island’s exercise options are practically endless. Dreaming of awesome arms and washboard abs? Rent a surfboard and channel your inner Kelly Slater on any of the beautiful beaches rimming the island. (Though we suggest you stay away from the North Shore’s famed Banzai Pipeline. A world-renowned wave, it’s known for epic and dangerous breaks that are best left to the professionals.) Surf lessons are readily available all over O’ahu, and after just an hour or two of the arduous paddling process, you’ll be just as sore as you would be after a killer CrossFit session.

But you don’t have to get wet to break a sweat. There are several famed crater hikes on the island that will challenge your legs, cardiovascular system and stamina, but reward you at the end with views that are nothing short of spectacular. Clamber up Koko Head Crater via a trail that’s a straight shot to the top, a stairway to heaven consisting of over 1,000 steps. Diamond Head (in Diamond Head State Park) is another devilishly challenging crater to climb, complete with tunnels, stairs and switchbacks. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to arrive at the top slightly winded, extremely satisfied…and definitely ready for a celebratory mai tai.

Travel Destination #3: Moab, Utah

A top pick of, Moab boasts breathtaking red rock formations, two national parks, and plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and indulge your adventurous side.

Examine your surroundings from a two-wheel standpoint while barreling down the famed Slickrock Bike Trail—9.6 miles that, according to, are considered by many to be the ultimate mountain biking experience. Or stick with a less challenging option like the Bar-M Loop Trail, which is ideal for when you want to really enjoy the excellent scenery—and not just the process of acquiring killer quads.

Moab also boasts awesome hiking options that range from 10-minute strolls to seven-mile hikes and more, all of which allow you to gaze upon the red rock surrounding you as far as the eye can see. Or alternately, for an top-knotch arm workout and different perspective, you can take to the water and enjoy some whitewater rafting (or canoeing and kayaking) on the Colorado River.

Finally, you can’t mention Moab without acknowledging the advanced activities that some adrenaline-craving athletes enjoy—ones that for the average man are best observed and not attempted. These include highlining and swinglining, which boast a “wow factor” most easily explained through a viewing of this video from Somewhereelseland.

And while it’s not exactly breaking a sweat via exercise, simply observing these professionals is sure to make your palms sweat, and their activities—while admirable—would definitely be classified under “Kids don’t try this at home.”

So, you know, feel free to stick with the whole hiking thing.

Travel Destination #4: Austin, Texas

Though most known for live music…and admittedly, tacos…the capital of Texas has a lot to offer in the form of outdoor recreation and fitness-friendly activities.

austin texas travel

Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin, TX.

In the middle of the city itself is Lady Bird Lake, which is rimmed by 10 miles of always-populated hike and bike trails that provide runners, walkers and bikers with killer views of both the water and skyline. (If you’re in need of some fitness inspiration, you’ll find it in the numerous men and women who are pushing strollers across the trail and still blazing past you.) And if you want to venture onto the lake itself, that’s also an option. Kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals abound, and as soon as the sun comes out, the lake is sure to be dotted with bathing suit-clad Austinites that appear to be having such a good time that you can’t help but want to join them. (Even in December, oftentimes. Welcome to Texas.)

For hiking, biking, rock climbing and swimming, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a lush and scenic 809-acre area where you can get your nature fix, stretch your legs and soak up the hot Texas sun. And if you venture outside the city limits, the Hill Country is home to Enchanted Rock, a pink granite dome of sorts where visitors can climb, picnic and even camp—all while enjoying awesome 360-degree views.

And after all that hiking, biking and more, well…naturally, you’ll have to try a few of those tacos.

Travel Destination #5: Lake Tahoe, California

The appeal of Lake Tahoe lies primarily in the abundance of activities on either side of the seasonal sports spectrum—and your ability, oftentimes, to do both in one day. Take to the lake itself in the morning for aquatic activities such as waterskiing, wakeboarding and swimming, and in the afternoon, increase your altitude and enjoy the perks of the powder by skiing or snowboarding on the white-capped mountains. Whether you’re a fan of winter sports or summer, this is a rare destination where you might just have the ability to indulge in both.

And along with the perks of the crystal-blue lake and towering mountains, the beautiful forests are prime spots for hiking and enjoying scenery, the sensation of solitude and maybe even some bear sightings. Bike trails also abound, and whether you take them on yourself or bring the whole family, putting foot to pedal is a great way to simultaneously score Vitamin D, fresh air and some exercise in a seriously killer setting.

Ha! And they say you can’t have it all.