Vacations That Require You to Break a Sweat

A week at the beach sure seems ideal—until boredom sets in with that third margarita. Instead of zoning out completely, why not plan an escape with the sort of heart-pumping excitement that you last experienced as a Boy Scout? Don’t worry: For every daylong hike, there’s a 90-minute massage waiting back at base camp. After all, you’re still on vacation. David Kaufman

The snow may be a few months away in most places, but the glaciers remain frozen year-round in the Canadian Rockies, where heli-hiking replaces heli-skiing in warmer months. Reached via chopper, the base for your three-day trek is the Bobbie Burns Lodge—home to the regionÿs best-stocked wine cellar. Your tools—besides courage—include the zip lines, footbridges, and iron axes needed to reach your 10,000-foot date with destiny. (800-661-0252;; $2,888 per person)

Just 15 years ago, Brazil’s Ilha Grande was a penal colony, peopled with hard-core convicts, a few fishermen, and not much else. With the criminals gone, this car-free island 100 miles from Rio de Janeiro now beckons tough souls to the Alpha Adventure experience: an aggro-sounding, weeklong guy retreat that pairs testosterone-spiking activities (rappelling, machete-hacking) with more refined male pursuits like yoga and samba lessons. (55 21 9925 9756;; $2,100 per person)

With nearly 500 miles of Atlantic coastline and countless reefs, Portugal offers some of the best surfing in Europe, for novices and aces alike. At Nomad Surfers’ one- and two-week camps in southern Algarve, near Praia de Amado, you get instruction and gear plus chilled-out yoga lessons, Latin-inspired meals from the organic garden, and beer-fueled late nights with your fellow boho beach bums. (34 971 31 17 17;; from $700 a week with double occupancy)

Horseback riding may not sound arduous, but what could be more full-throttle than exploring Tanzania’s 350,000-square-acre Singita Grumeti Reserve in a saddle instead of a Jeep? Four-night convoys—six riders max—cover some 25 miles at a clip, passing herds of giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests. You overnight at Faru Faru, a modernist bush retreat with wooden terraces, an al fresco restaurant, and dual infinity-edge swimming pools. (27 21 683 3424;; $5,790 per person)

The Maldives
More than 20 hours by plane from the United States, the Maldives have always been a tough sell. But the new 142-villa Shangri-La Villingili Resort eliminates the sense of remoteness, offering boat rides to a causeway that connects five nearby islands to form a 12-mile biking and hiking path for visiting the villages along the coasts. Back at the resort, your villa’s plunge pool soaks away any muscle exhaustion. (866-565-5050;; from $860 a night with double occupancy)