• Photo for Where the boys are: A guide to gay adventure vacations
    Photo Credit: courtesy of Atlantis

Where the boys are: A guide to gay adventure vacations

By David Toussaint

So you’ve decided to get into rip-roaring shape. Gym shorts…Check. Cross-trainer shoes…Check. Passport…what?

Yep, the boys are turning into men, as active/adventure vacations are the splashy new rage (and neither one involves going to Splash or Rage). For years, hotels around the world have been adding gyms for vacation fitness buffs. The difference now is that fitness is part of the vacation. Gay and gay-friendly tour companies like Atlantis, RSVP Vacations, Alyson Adventures and DavidTravel pride themselves on active vacations. They range from group tours on cruise ships that stop for snorkeling and bicycling to more extravagant fitness tours like, say, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Where you go and what you do depends on your buff needs, your budget restrictions, and whether you’d like to be alone with just your buddy or a whole group of them.

Atlantis has everything a "normal" cruise offers (including cruising). The company charters huge ships like Royal Caribbean (3,700 passengers) and popular hotels, then turns them into gay vacations, complete with active optional activities roster. On these cruise and resort vacations, a variety of exercise amenties are available, like personal training, yoga, pilates and a fitness center.

On an Alaska cruise you can go dog-sledding, sea kayaking, rock climbing and biking among the glaciers or take a float trip—basically white-water rafting but in really cold water.

“We tailor everything for a gay audience,” says spokesman Steve Loss. “And the drinking’s included.” But no imbibing until after you’ve gone deep-sea fishing (Puerto Vallarta), diving (Playa Del Carmen), even rock-climbing on the ship itself.

In addition to cruise and resort vacations, Atlantis offers stunning tours, like an African Safari (Roarrr) or packages to experience Sydney’s Mardi Gras. Seven-day cruises with Atlantis start at $900 per person.

At RSVP vacations, the specialty is gay cruises in the Caribbean and around the waters of Mexico. RSVP has expanded operations for the guys who think happy hour is 60 minutes of Scuba. On a typical cruise, you can stop and hike up Mayan ruins, go off-road biking or horseback riding in Puerto Vallarta, or hiking in Costa Rica.

On a Barbados trip, RSVP offers a chance to go on the Royal Clipper, the largest sailing vessel in the world (that’s a lot of sailors). And part of the fun is helping the crew get ready.

“The crew teaches you about the vessel,” says Nick Pavlick, Guest Sales Coordinator, who adds that you get to climb up to the crow’s nest at the top of the mast for an amazing 360-degree view.

RSVP also offers the river boat experience, part of an Austrian-based company in which you board the Johann Strauss and float down a blue Danube itinerary from Prague to Budapest. Along the way, you can take bikes and cycle along the river on your own, meeting the ship at the next port of call. And yes, Vienna waits for you too. Take a map, those bikes, and cycle the city (one of the most beautiful—and easy to navigate—spots on earth). Seven-day cruises on RSVP start at around $1,000 per person.

Alyson Adventures offers multi-sport vacations, which they call "sexy" and we agree. You can go mountain climbing and black-water rafting (think dark caves with glow lights) in New Zealand, rafting through the Grand Canyon, even hiking the Inca trail in Peru. Not to mention Orienteering (where you’re taken down a canyon, given a compass, and left to your own devices to get the hell out of there), hiking in the Swiss Alps, and diving the Great Barrier Reef.

"The idea is to explore locations with physical activity and challenge as part of the tour," says Dan DiStasio, marketing manger. "You may have one free day on a trip, but that’s it!"

Yes, sir! Alyson arranges trips in all seven continents (no word yet on marching with those penguins), in small groups of about 12 to 15 people. Like RSVP, the vacations are for gay women as well, though both companies put the male percentage at around or above 90 percent. Perhaps since they started in France, Alyson is still the most popular in Europe. "Bicycling trips in France, Italy, and Spain are still very popular," says DiStasio. Part of that appeal might come from the Euro Factor: "A lot of guys will fly over to Paris, spend a few days there, then join one of our trips." Makes sense to us: Besides, kicking it up at the Moulin Rouge certainly counts as exercise! Expect your excursions to cost from around $2,000 to 4,000.

For those of you who want to whip out the big guns and Gold Card, try David Travel. This custom adventure organization specializes in finding the exact fitness trip that’s right for your needs and budget. Among the trips founder David Rubin has organized are shark-diving off the coast of South Africa (you get in a cage and “swim” with Jaws), walking along the Great Wall of China, and kayaking in the Amazon.

Rubin says that most of his clients are pre- or post-cruise fitness buffs. "They might be on a regular cruise," he says."But instead of a generic shore excursion, they want to go sky-diving or Bungee Jumping." Or white-water rafting, or heli-skiing, or rock-climbing, or hang-gliding, or just plain old snorkeling (an excellent form of exercise). In that sense Rubin’s like the Dolly Levi of gay fitness excursions. Clients give him a buzz, tell him how much they can spend, and what they’d like to do, and he sets them up with the best deal.

“Some clients of mine wanted to go diving in Greece,” he says. “I told them that for a lot less money, I could send them on a much better vacation in Turkey.” Rubin’s also sent a lot of people to Argentina, not just for the incredible skiing, but also so they can get a load of what’s new in gay Buenos Aires. Rubin can arrange trips for two, or hook you up with others doing a similar excursion. For a price, his custom-built trips can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $15,000, excluding airfare.

You don’t have to come home from your next vacation with a buffet belly. It’s possible to see the world and stay fit.

David Toussaint is the author of Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony. He can be reached at