Get wet on these water sports vacations:
Where: Moab, Utah
Duration: 5 to 6 days
Distance: 81 miles
Cost: $875, adult; $525, child
Operator: Red River Adventures ( www.redriveradventures.com; 877-259-4046)
Difficulty: Easy Even nonswimmers and children are welcome on this camping tour through the red-rock canyon walls of Utah's Green River. Everybody paddles through the 50 or so riffles and rapids on 18-foot rowing rafts captained by guides or—if you're feeling independent—in inflatable kayaks. Boston-area wine shop owner Jay Faber and his wife, Holly, chose a rafting trip as a way to introduce their two children, then 14 and 9, to white water. "They loved it," says Faber. "Maybe when they get older, we'll do something a little more wild." Camping equipment and meals are provided.
Where: Flagstaff, Ariz.
Duration: 15 to 19 days
Distance: 280 miles
Cost: $4,716 - $5,296
Operator: O.A.R.S. ( www.oars.com; 800-346-6277)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate O.A.R.S company founder George Wendt first rafted through the Grand Canyon 30 years ago, so suffice it to say he knows where he leads. This canyon journey from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead covers a geological wonderland—creeks, waterfalls, ancient rock, and some of the biggest whitewater in the canyon, rated 5 or higher. (A 1 is a small riffle. A 10 is the most difficult.) You navigate the river, and 47 major rapids, in a 17-foot hard-hulled dory that holds four passengers and a guide. Have no fear: The guide rows the dory through the daunting white water. In general, you're paddling for three to five hours a day; the rest of the time is yours for hiking and exploring the canyons. Plan to sleep on sandy beaches along the river, in a tent or under the stars. Bathing is done in the Colorado River. If you prefer to bring a solar shower along, you're welcome to do so. Minimum age: 12.
Where: Cortez, Colo.
Duration: 4 days
Distance: 100 miles
Cost: $1,120, adult; child, $1,010
Operator: Bill Dvorak's Rafting and Kayak Expeditions ( www.dvorakexpeditions.com; 800-824-3795)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate Referred to as the "Bach Before Breakfast" trip, this year's excursion combines morning and evening performances by a Santa Fe Symphony flutist and a string quartet from the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Talk about a setting for a concert. You paddle and raft through alpine forests, grottoes, and sandstone caverns decorated with Anasazi pictographs during the day on the river. The desert canyons of the Dolores include Ponderosa, Slickrock, and Gateway. Expect a wild ride or two through white water along with quiet, gentle moments on the river. Some days feature more hiking; others, more rafting. All are song-filled. The minimum age is 10.
Where: Awendaw, S.C.
Duration: 2 to 9 days
Distance: 6 to 10 miles a day
Cost: 2 days, $300—or $200 for ages 12 and under
Operator: Nature Adventures Outfitters ( www.natureadventuresoutfitters.com; 800-673-0679)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate These kayaking tours of the region near historic Charleston offer up an education, too: Guides are professional naturalists, so you learn all about the flora and fauna—dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, more than 270 species of birds—while you paddle. The coastal expeditions head out in sea kayaks to the barrier islands and saltwater marshes of the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge while the inland tours explore the rice canals, black-water swamps, and freshwater islands once paddled by the Santee Indians and populated by bald eagles, alligators, river otters, and wild boar. Time is built in for hiking, and the coastal tours include some open-water paddling with full sun, wind, and currents; bring plenty of sunscreen.