Experience wildlife, natural beauty, and a good soaking with our guide to the best spots for water sports.
Credit: Fernando Diez

All winter long, you yearned for the summer sunshine. Now thatit's finally here, you can't wait to seek relief and take to thewater. The challenge is finding the ideal place for your favoriteactivity.

Cooking Light searched the country to find the best of thebest, settling for nothing less than breathtaking views, unspoilednature, and clear waters.

Whether your idea of aquatic adventure is catching a wave orfloating down a lazy river, there's bound to be something here foryou to enjoy.

Best Tubing
James River, Virginia Tubing is less a sport than an excuseto watch the world float by, and the best place to do just that ison the James River in Scottsville, Virginia. Sit back, relax, andenjoy the wild scenery--the area is ideal for catching glimpses ofdeer, blue heron, and the elusive bald eagle. James River Reelingand Rafting offers a two-to-four-hour trip down a scenic four-milestretch of the river through the Blue Ridge Mountains. To keep thegood times rolling down the river, pack a cooler and rent an extrainner tube to keep your refreshments afloat. Details: 804-286-4386or www.reelingandrafting.com;$14 per person.

Best Kayaking
Coastal Maine Imagine gliding silently across the cool, bluewater under the watchful eye of a bald eagle as a harbor seallumbers toward the water from the margins of a monolithic rockisland. The gentle current carries you past stands of fragrantspruce trees from which a weathered lighthouse protrudes, havingled fishermen home for more than a century. This would be Maine,and you would be on a Coastal Kayaking tour.

Whether it's a sunset paddle around Mount Desert Island, amultiday camping trip that allows you to spend your nights onseveral different uninhabited is- lands, or the Inn-to-Inn Tour,which offers over-night lodging and meals in classic New Englandinns, you'll find the serenity for which you've been searching.Located in Bar Harbor, the gateway to Acadia National Park, CoastalKayaking of- fers a wider variety of guided sea-kayaking tours thanany other outfitter on the East Coast. Details: 800-526-8615 or www.acadiafun.com; toursfrom $34 to $599.

Best Surfing
La Jolla, California Would-be surfer girls looking to makelike Gidget should head to La Jolla, California--a tony suburb ofSan Diego and a top travel destination in its own right. There, onwarm, sun-soaked Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Surf Diva SurfSchool conducts a women-only surfing clinic. As you soak up thegrand view from La Jolla Shores Beach (surrounded by sandstonecliffs), you can pick up boarding tips from some of the world'sbest women surfers (there are several surf champions among SurfDiva's twenty-odd instructors). It's a girl-power kind oforganization, but instructors booked for private lessons willgladly accept tagalong guys, too. While we think the view and thefirst-rate instruction are enough to make La Jolla the best placeto hang 10, the town also offers some of the world's finestrestaurants, art galleries, and stores, so you can while away theevenings eating, browsing, and shopping. But if the surf's thething, ask about Surf Diva's Las Olas Surf Adventure, a weeklong,women-only retreat held in a small fishing village near PuertoVallarta, Mexico--tuition ($1,595 to $2,190) includes surfinginstruction, lodging, meals, yoga lessons, and even a free massage.Details: 858-454-8273 or www.surfdiva.com.

Puget Sound, Washington If the thought of sailing among podsof majestic killer whales isn't enough to get you to the PugetSound this summer, consider this: The waters of the sound offerhundreds of first-rate destinations--from isolated spots such asJones Island (where you can feed deer apples out of the palm ofyour hand) to untrampled state parks with winding trails, toupscale resorts serving succulent sea- food. Not to mention thatyou couldn't ask for better sailing conditions than thosecharacteristic of the San Juan Islands, just north of the sound.Protected from ocean storms by Van- couver Island to the northwestand from rain by the Olympic Mountains directly west, the waters inthe summer frequently offer ultraclear sailing under sunnymidafternoon skies. Charter a boat from San Juan Sailing, home ofthe country's largest charter fleet, or learn the ropes through oneof the many packages offered by its accredited Sailing School.Details: 800-677-7245 or www.sanjuansailing.com;trips from $149 to $949.

Best Sailing

Best Canoeing
Minnesota's Boundary Waters With more than 1,000crystal-clear glaciated lakes to explore, Minnesota's BoundaryWaters Canoe Area Wilderness is the place to get your oars wet.Although you'll find a variety of guided and unguided tours for allages and abilities, Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters gives you thebest of both worlds with its Rustic/Plush Combo Vacation. Bruce andSue Kerfoot are the fourth generation to provide these canoeadventures, and they'll help you choose your route, plan and packyour food, and gather all the gear you'll need for three days ofpaddling, camping, and communing with nature. When you've had yourfill of roughing it, return to your modern cabin, where you cantake a steamy sauna and prop your feet up in front of thefireplace. Though no motorized or mechanical equipment is allowedinside the wilderness area, the peacefulness may be broken by amoose or two foraging down by the lake. Details: 800-328-3325 or www.gunflintoutfitters.com/rustic_plush;$1,195 (adults), $495 (children).

Best Fly Fishing
Snake River, Idaho Here's your opportunity to fly-fish in oneof the most revered trout waters in the country: the South Fork ofIdaho's fabled Snake River, which runs just west of the TetonRange, across the state line in Wyoming. Blessed with large watervolume and rich nutrients, the pristine waters of the SouthForkabound with big, healthy rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout;plan for a good catch regardless of your skill level. That is, ifyou're not distracted by the impressive mountain views or themoose, bears, otters, mountain goats, and bald eagles that nesthere. And for guides who are unsurpassed in the fly-fishingprofession, book an overnight trip with World Cast Anglers. Atwo-day float takes you through the 26-mile stretch of Snake RiverCanyon, past remarkable scenery and abundant wild- life. Roomytents are furnished with cots, sleeping bags, and linens. All foodand beverages, Orvis fishing equipment, and camping gear areprovided. Details: 307-733-6934 or www.worldcastanglers.com;$950 per boat (two people maximum).

Best Snorkeling
Crystal River Area, Florida Think of snorkeling, and you'relikely to picture coral reefs. But for a truly unfor- gettablesnorkeling experience, head west from Orlan- do until you reach theCrystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, Florida,where natural springs keep the fresh water a comfortable 72 degreesall year round. There, you may find yourself swimming with manatees(which you're allowed to touch with one hand if they come up to youfirst). The choice location is King Springs, which boasts thearea's highest manatee population. Running a close second is ThreeSisters, a triad of shallow springs that's popular with touristsfor its sparkling clear water. Make a day of it: Visit ThreeSisters or King Springs in the morning, then head over to RainbowRiver, a lush location filled with wildlife and more species offish than you can count. The experienced guides at Birds Underwatercan take you out for a memorable experience. Details: 352-563-2763or www.birdsunderwater.com;$44.50 per person (includes snorkeling gear).

Best Rafting
Colorado and Arkansas Rivers, Colorado Ready to brave therapids? Head for the upper Colorado River, a prime spot forbeginners to learn the rafting ropes. These relatively mild watersare unlikely to overwhelm, letting you catch a glimpse of thebighorn sheep and elk that call this area home. Don't miss thePumphouse, a peaceful canyon on the Colorado featuring anon-the-river hot spring and a spectacular view of the awe-inspiringRockies. If you've got some rafting experience under your belt,head south on the Colorado to the Shoshone Rapids, or opt for atrip through the canyons and gorges on the popular Arkansas River.For a hair-raising experience, watch the ponderosa pine and Douglasfir whiz by as you tackle Browns Canyon on the Arkansas, awhite-water paradise filled with twists and turns for rafters ofall abilities. Not sure what you can handle? Let Brad Crimmins,founder of Rio Expeditions in Arvada, Colorado, and an 18-yearrafting guide veteran, suggest the ideal route. Details:800-291-2080 or www.rioexpeditions.com;trips from $42 to $99.