Once the kids hit their teen years, it’s almost impossible to convince them to go on another family trip that doesn’t include a posse of their friends. To make your offer as appealing as possible, you have to up the ante with a tantalizing mix of adventure and food (the way to any teen’s heart). The finest family adventure trips escort you into a world of active travel you would probably never attempt on your own, like in these five destinations.
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Central Highlands, Costa Rica
Blessed with a lush interior that could rival Hawaii and a tropical setting that’s home to three types of monkeys, slow moving sloths, vibrant colored scarlet macaws, toucans, and 45 different species of hummingbirds, it should come as no surprise that Costa Rica has become an increasingly popular family getaway. A perfect introduction to the landscape is the often overlooked Central Highlands on the verdant back slopes of Poas Volcano, less than a 90-minute drive from the international airport in San Jose. In the small farming community of Bajos del Toro, horseback ride on meadows that climb the hillside. Or take a hike to three waterfalls hidden within the cloud forest on the grounds of the resort, El Silencio. In the neighboring Sarapiqui River region, Tirimbina Biological Reserve houses a cocoa plantation smack dab in the middle of primary rainforest. Cross an 866-foot long canopy bridge, the longest in the country, past flowering bromeliads and orchids to sample chocolate.
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Swiss chocolate and fondue are two of the main ingredients on a new Backroads Family Breakaway Multisport Adventure to Switzerland. Geared to families with children in their upper teens and early 20s, the itinerary features a hike in the Swiss Alps to Bachalpsee, one of the country’s famed lakes, a thrilling cog train journey to Grindelwald at the foot of Eiger peak, and biking in Lauterbrunnen Valley to a series of glacier-fed waterfalls. The reward for your efforts is the chance to dine on raclette, fondue, apple strudel, and local chocolate. Add Lausanne and Bern to your itinerary and you’ll get to kayak on Lake Geneva and tube done the Aare River.
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Hood River, Oregon
Oregon is blessed with spectacular scenery around every bend, from the snowcapped peak of Mount Hood to the electric blue waters of Crater Lake National Park. Start your tour of the state in Hood River, an hour’s drive from Portland and best known by kiteboarders for the wind tunnel on the Columbia River Gorge. Another 90-minute drive and you’ll reach Maupin and the chance to raft down the Deschutes River. Then it’s on to the outdoors hub of Bend to go on smooth singletrack rides, like Phil’s Trail in Phil’s Canyon. The big finale is a hike around the rim of Crater Lake National Park, where hopefully you booked a room at the Crater Lake Lodge. You’ve never seen a lake such a shade of vibrant blue, the result of sunlight pouring down on the deepest lake in America. California deserves the hype, but if you want to take your family out West, consider Oregon, a state with far less traffic at much more affordable prices.
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Head west from Calgary and the landscape changes abruptly from flat prairie to lofty peaks. Glaciers wrap themselves around the five-digit summits like white frosting and rivers slide down the mountainsides into lakes that dazzle with their cobalt blue coloring. Waterfalls form deep pools under the shade of towering aspens, firs, and fragrant pines, a dense forest worthy of the large mammals that reside here — grizzlies, elk, and mountain sheep to name a few. Welcome to the Canadian Rockies and the oldest national park in Canada, Banff. Austin Adventures does an exemplary job of steering families on hikes and bike rides far away from the masses on their 6-day trips in the Canadian Rockies. You’ll rock climb on Mt. Yamnuska, go on a glacial walk on the massive Athabasca Glacier, and hike near the shores of Moraine Lake.
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For some silly reason, the typical family road trip in the province of Quebec starts in Montreal and ends in Quebec City. Don’t make that mistake. Continue your trip north another 3 hours to Saguenay and you’ll be treated to a low-cost multi-sport adventure that rivals the best outdoor hubs in North America. Spend the first night at Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon, a peninsula that juts into Lac-Saint-Jean and offers a 45 km biking circuit. The nearby town of Desbiens is where you’ll find the outfitter, H2O Expeditions, who will take you on a thrilling run down the Class III and IV rapids of the Metabetchouan River. Then it’s on the inky black water of the 100-kilometer long Saguenay Fjord. Grab kayaks 20 kilometers in from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and you have a good chance of spotting beluga whales that mate in the federally preserved waters of Baie-Sainte-Marguerite. Top it all off at one of the few Via Ferratas in the world outside of the Dolomites. Using cables affixed to an 1187-foot rock face, attach your carabiner to the iron rungs that clamber up the rock wall at Palissades De Charlevoix. After crossing a suspension bridge high above the canyon floor, you rappel down.
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