One of the things I’ve been reflecting on lately is how to spend my time in ways that are most fulfilling for me. Many of us, myself included, have had some challenging past few years. If you’re anything like me, maybe you didn’t give yourself enough time to have fun and discover what truly brings you joy. So, this year, that’s my priority.
I love spending time outdoors, enjoying the beauty and awe of nature. The following are 24 outdoor hobbies that I want to challenge myself to try in the coming year (if I haven’t already). There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re looking for high adventure or just want to take a stroll in nature. One of the best parts? You can try a lot of these activities on Nat Hab trips!
One of the best things about photography is that truly anyone can do it. Sure, there are many skill levels with this hobby. But to get started, all you need is a camera—which often can be your phone camera. Photography is great because there are a ton of resources online to help improve your skills by adjusting your settings, angles, lighting, etc. A great one is The Natural Photographer blog, written by Nat Hab Expedition Leader and expert photographer Court Whelan!
There are also lots of niche areas of photography that you can try out, like nature, travel, wildlife, people, food…the list goes on.
Try your hand at photography on a Nat Hab Photo Adventure trip in Greenland, the Galapagos, Botswana, Mexico and more.
Hiking allows for plenty of variation and exploration! It requires very little specialized gear, only good quality boots and perhaps a trekking pole if desired. No matter where you live, there are likely opportunities for hiking within a short drive. You can hike in the forest, mountains, desert, or even on the beach. You can also challenge yourself by doing harder or longer hikes and hiking to unique sites like waterfalls, lakes, caves or even remote communities.
Almost every Nat Hab trip features hiking. You truly can’t go wrong with this because you will experience a variety of terrain and see a plethora of landscapes while hiking on a trip. One of our travelers’ favorite hiking-focused trips is our Peaks, Lakes & Meadows of the Canadian Rockies adventure.
Spelunking, commonly referred to as caving, requires advanced skill. It’s an activity that is riskier than many other outdoor sports because it requires you to enter caves and explore very dark, tight spaces. If you love exploring geology and geology, this would be a great hobby for you to try, as caving reveals many artifacts of how our world came to be.
This activity requires specialized equipment like ropes, headlamps, kneepads, gloves, and more. It’s safe to say that you will be covered in mud or dust by the time you exit the cave. Luckily, there are plenty of caves around the world that don’t have as many tight spaces, so those who are claustrophobic can also enjoy this activity.
We stop at Marakoopa Cave in Mole Creek Karst National Park on our Australia South: Tasmania, Kangaroo Island & the Great Ocean Road adventure for an easy underground experience. See crystals and stalagmites, reflecting pools and underground streams, all illuminated by millions of bioluminescent glowworms.
4. Whitewater rafting
This is an activity for those who love a thrill! Whitewater rafting involves rafting through rivers with varying degrees of rough water. It is something you would do with a small group of others on the same raft as you simultaneously paddle through and navigate the river. This hobby requires some specialized equipment and should always be done with a professional for safety to be the top priority.
This activity caters to various skill and “thrill” levels. Each whitewater river is classified by how difficult the rapids are to manage, with these levels ranging from level one to level six. Give this exhilarating activity a try one of Nat Hab’s Costa Rica Private Custom Adventures.
5. Skiing & snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports here in the United States. They can give you an adrenaline rush yet keep you calm as you weave through snow-covered trails. It is an activity that requires special equipment like skis, a snowboard, poles, helmets, goggles, and lots of warm layers. This hobby can vary based on your skill level and how much you’d like to challenge yourself.
Read about a WWF staff member’s life-changing snowboarding experience in the Alps, “An accident changes a writer’s relationship with the mountains she loves.”
This sport is the practice of using a bow to shoot arrows at a target. It’s one of the oldest sports in the world, dating back to 2340 BC, when the Babylonians used bows and arrows for combat. Archery requires precision and accuracy, which comes with immense concentration.
Join the Nat Hab Wild & Ancient Himalaya: Nepal & Bhutan trip to experience a traditional archery lesson with a Bhutanese community.
Have you always wondered what underwater life was like? Snorkeling may just be the perfect hobby for you! With this activity, you’ll be able to see sea creatures right in front of you and experience the pristine water that many underwater animals get to call home. Similar to other activities mentioned, you’ll need specialized gear (mask, snorkel, fins, etc.) and to have a trained guide to show you the ropes.
Experience snorkeling on any of our Galapagos adventures!
This has been one of my favorite things I’ve ever tried, and I’ve been yearning to do it again! I sandboarded a couple of years ago when I was in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and I absolutely loved it.
Sandboarding is essentially just snowboarding but in the sand rather than snow. If you’re a warm-weather person like me, this is a perfect hobby to try out. You don’t need to have any skills to give this hobby a whirl because, thankfully, sand is soft and a very forgiving place to fall if needed.
Sailing is an activity where you are on a boat and navigate the open waters using the wind. Most boats have engines or require you to paddle, but sailing is unique because it is very weather dependent, and unlike most other outdoor activities, you want to do this hobby on a windier day. Although it shouldn’t be too windy because it can be quite dangerous with aggressive waters and a chance of your sails tearing.
Check out sailing for yourself on our Sailing Antarctica: The Ultimate Polar Nature Expedition trip.
Kayaking allows you to sit just a foot or so above the water. It is something that many people find relaxing as you can paddle around at your own pace on a body of water of your choosing. You can even lean into chaotic waters, similar to those of whitewater rafting if you are seeking out a boost of adrenaline.
Kayaking requires some specialized gear, like a kayak, paddles, and safety equipment. However, kayaking is a water activity that is quite easy to get started with, as many parks and recreation centers have kayaks for rent and courses to learn the ins and outs of this hobby.
11. Rock climbing
This activity allows you to scale mountains and rock formations of all kinds. People of all ages can try their hand at rock climbing. Oftentimes, you will find gyms specific to rock climbing with artificial rock walls so that people can practice before putting their skills to the test outdoors.
This activity requires some special safety gear like a rope, harness, belay device, climbing shoes, helmet, and chalk. Rock climbing is a challenge-by-choice activity where you can push yourself the whole way up the mountain or as far as you feel comfortable going.
12. Horseback riding
Horseback riding is a hobby that can either be competitive or laidback. If you’re engaging with it for fun, you’ll be able to explore miles of trails by horseback, regardless of your location. This is something that is best to engage in when traveling or in your local community, where there are horseback riding experiences or training courses for you to take part in.
Explore Iceland’s fascinating lava formations on a private, one-hour horseback ride around Lake Myvatn on our Iceland: Circling the Land of Fire & Ice adventure. We also ride horses to visit butterfly sanctuaries on our Kingdom of the Monarchs trip through the Central Highlands of Mexico.
Geocaching is a unique hobby that will surely excite those who love a good treasure hunt. This activity uses GPS signals to help you locate small treasures that past geocachers have left. This is a great hobby for those who already love hiking and exploring the outdoors and want to reignite some of their child-like curiosity by navigating clues and discovering hidden gems!
Up for a challenge? Surfing takes a lot of practice to get good at, but it’s something that just about everyone can try out. If you plan to travel to a coastal area, research surfing lessons that you can participate in to see if surfing is right for you.
In my opinion, the best part about surfing is the serenity that comes with it. It is so peaceful going to the beach in the early hours of the morning before anyone else is up to enjoy the calm waves as the sun is beginning to rise.
Paddleboarding is less intense than surfing, yet equally enjoyable. This activity might be appealing to those who would like to get out on the water, test their balance with yoga on the board, or simply relax and enjoy the beautiful sights around. Paddleboarding requires little equipment. You’ll only need the stand-up paddleboard and some paddles to get started. It is also recommended you have a safety vest and are a confident swimmer, as it is not unlikely for paddle boarders to fall off their boards.
16. Zip lining
This action-packed activity is not your average everyday hobby. Zip lining is often an experience that you can take part in when you’re traveling or otherwise live somewhere that is a destination. With zip lining, you’re harnessed onto a cable that pulls you through a jungle, the mountains, or any other beautiful location. It is safe to do when you’re with trained guides and have proper safety equipment like helmets, gloves, and of course, a harness to keep you strapped in.
On the Nat Hab Natural Jewels of Costa Rica trip, you have the opportunity to zip line through the canopy if you’re feeling adventurous.
Yoga is a restorative yet physically challenging hobby. This activity can be done inside or outside, rain or shine, solo or in a group. One of my personal favorite hobbies is practicing yoga in nature. I feel an immense sense of peace when engaging in sun salutations with rising right in front of me. Yoga requires little equipment, making it accessible for anyone to get started with this hobby.
Similar to hiking, birdwatching is a hobby that can be done anywhere, as long as birds are nearby. It is very versatile and is vastly different wherever you go, from looking at tropical birds to those residing in the Arctic. Fun fact: you can even enter competitions for birdwatching to see how many birds you can find and correctly identify and compete with others across the world! It’s a hobby that requires little to no equipment. The one thing that might be especially helpful is a pair of binoculars to zoom in closer to the birds.
Want to learn more about birdwatching? Take a peek at this Daily Dose of Nature webinar, Birding: The Basics and Beyond, hosted by Nat Hab Expedition Leader Mike Hillman. You’ll have plenty of birding opportunities on our Great Amazon River Expedition and our Wilds of Borneo adventure.
Do you have a green thumb? Are you someone who collects houseplants or enjoys eating fresh fruit and vegetables? Gardening is a hobby that gives back in the sense that after you put in the work of giving it a stable home to grow, you get nourished by being able to eat it! Gardens can come in many shapes and sizes and are highly customizable based on what produce you enjoy growing and eating most.
Learn more about how to get started with a garden of your own by reading “Want to give local wildlife a boost? Try planting a native garden.”
There are so many different types of fishing, you’re bound to find one that fits you! Fishing can be as simple as sitting by a pond with your fishing rod hanging over the edge, waiting for a bite. Or, if you’re a thrill-seeker, you may want to go out on a boat in the middle of the ocean to try deep-sea fishing. You even can fish while paddleboarding!
Take a peek at the blog Seasoned Travelers Fulfill Dreams of Seeing Alaska’s Fishing Grizzlies from fellow Nat Hab travelers recounting the fishing they witnessed while they were on our Wild Alaska Grizzly Encounter trip!
This hobby is perfect for winter-weather people who love hiking! Essentially, you are just hiking through the snow but with specialized gear called snowshoes. Snowshoes are flat shoes that clip onto your winter boots, which allow you to walk more easily in deep areas of snow. Hiking poles are highly recommended for this activity to help keep you upright and tread through the snow more efficiently. This hobby doesn’t require as much specialized equipment as other snow sports, like skiing or snowboarding, making it more cost-effective.
Bundle up and give snowshoeing a try on our winter Yellowstone: Ultimate Wolf & Wildlife Safari.
22. Dog Sledding
This one combines two of my favorite things: dogs and outdoor adventure! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of cold air rushing past your face as you’re pulled behind a team of excited sled dogs. It’s also a great way to experience Indigenous culture, since dog sledding was a traditional mode of transportation used by many Inuit and First Nations people living in northern Canada.
Dog sledding at the Indigenous-owned Wapusk Adventures is a highlight of our Churchill polar bear tours.
Whether you’re already an avid cyclist or haven’t put foot to pedal since childhood, cycling is a great way to get outside while upping your fitness level! According to the Mayo Clinic, cycling offers a bevy of health benefits. It’s an amazing cardio workout that puts minimal stress on your joints. And you can do it almost anywhere, from country lanes to mountain trails—even the beach!
Our partner Duvine offers cycling trips all over the world, bypassing main roads in favor of getting off the beaten path. Picture yourself cycling along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, quaffing wine in Napa’s Wine Country, or touring tulip farms and winding past windmills in Holland!
Personally, stargazing is one of my favorite pastimes. Whether I’m in my backyard or traveling somewhere new, this is a must if there’s little to no light pollution. The stars look vastly different depending on the time of year and the location you’re in, making it an incredible and varied experience. I especially love identifying various constellations and reading up on the myths behind them!
For a once in a lifetime stargazing experience, check out our Northern Lights & Arctic Exploration trip to see the northern lights and the stars under a dark Arctic sky.
Which of these outdoor hobbies and activities will you try this year, and which are already your favorites?