Up for an adventure holiday? Admire the sunrise after trekking or dive with whale sharks with these activities in Southeast Asia.
Let’s be real. For many of us, Southeast Asia is a wonderland of quick escapes. You can go bargain shopping, stay in lush tropical villas, and get heavenly massages. But don’t forget: the region is an incredible, natural playground for the adventurous. It’s dotted with colossal caves, mountains and vast oceans of marine life. Your thrilling, life-changing adventure is really just a hop, skip or jump away. From extreme skydiving to sandboarding, here are the best adventure holiday activities in Southeast Asia.
Adrenaline pumping adventure holiday activities in Southeast Asia
1. Snorkelling in Atauro Island, Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and oceans. A must-try adventure holiday activity is snorkelling and diving. Between Atauro and Jaco Islands, you’ll be spoiled for choice for snorkelling sites. The waters are crystal clear and full of gorgeous marine life. There are nearly 600 different species of coral and 2,000 species of reef fish. One of the highest amounts of fish biodiversity of any reef! This is a great playground if you do underwater photography too. If you’re lucky, you might snap a pic of manta rays and turtles swimming about.
2. Surfing at Bai Dai Beach, Vietnam
When you think of surfing, your first thought might be to head to Bali. And we won’t lie, we usually think the same. Kuta Beach is a hotspot for newbies and avid surfers alike. But if you’re looking for lesser-known spots, why not head to Vietnam? Bai Dai Beach has a giant coastline that is covered in beautiful golden sand. It’s one of the quieter spots if you want to get away from crowded surf spots. There are good shallow spots if you’re planning to bring your kids on a beach getaway. You can even break out some kites for extra fun! The waves might be a little smaller, but it’s a great spot for beginners.
3. Tubing down Mae Ping River, Chiang Mai, Thailand
This is a far cry from Laos’ now-closed party activity of tubing. But Chiang Mai’s edition is about relaxation and taking respite from the region’s action-packed activities. Stock up on snacks and drinks that’ll be stored in a cooler floating alongside you on your trip. And rent the waterproof speakers to blast your fave holiday playlist. Got all your equipment? Settle down in your inflatable tube and recline as you meander down the Mae Ping River. It’s relaxing enough to have you dozing off, but don’t worry about losing sight of your buddies. You can easily strap your tubes together prior to your journey. Relaxation? Done and dusted.
4. Sunrise trekking in Mount Agung, Bali
The Island of the Gods isn’t just all beaches, luxe villas and exotic cultures. It’s also home to some of the most awe-inspiring mountains in the world, including Mount Agung. A sunrise trek is the perfect adventure holiday activity to start your trip. But we’ll make no bones about this: Agung is a killer climb. Standing at 3,142 metres tall, this mountain is highly recommended for physically fit climbers. Choose between two main climbing routes: Pasar Agung or Bekasih Temple. The former is said to be an easier three- to four-hour climb up a mostly steep pathway. The final trail ends at a moon-like crater rim with sweeping island views. The latter is a more demanding climb to the summit. The route is estimated to take approximately six to seven hours with the final hour requiring climbers to get down on all fours.
5. Wreck diving in Coron, Philippines
The wrecks of the WWII Japanese Navy fleet lie at the bottom of stunning Coron Bay in the Philippines. Sunk as a result of an air attack by the US Navy, each shipwreck is within manageable diving depth and is still largely intact. After getting your gear on, explore the coral-encrusted ships. You’ll find diverse marine communities – big groupers, sea turtles and shoals of tropical fish – and well-preserved artefacts. With almost a dozen shipwrecks to explore, everyone from beginner divers to experienced pros can have a go at Coron’s wreck dives.
6. Quad biking in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Think you’ve been there, done that in the Siem Reap scene? We’re pretty sure you’ve never experienced Cambodia this way. Combining adventure and authentic culture, a quad bike tour allows you to experience Angkor Wat’s rarely visited abandoned temples, remote villages, stilt houses and Buddhist monasteries. You’ll end your day on a spectacular note; catch a breather while watching the sun set spectacularly over the paddy fields.
7. Spelunking in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam
Housing the oldest Karst mountains in Asia, as well as untouched jungles and underground rivers, World Heritage site Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of Southeast Asia’s most jaw-dropping natural wonders. It’s home to hundreds of cave systems, including the world’s largest cave, Son Doong Cave, which boasts magnificent stalactites, colossal stalagmites, lush jungles and a localised weather system. Regular spelunkers can also explore the newly opened Hang Va Cave, which features extraordinary stalactite lakes and stalagmites almost submerged in crystalline waters.
8. Whale shark diving in Koh Tao, Thailand
For most divers, wreck diving and crave diving probably rank high on their bucket list, but whale shark diving? That’s something that doesn’t happen every day. Spotting these rare creatures is entirely up to luck – some of the most experienced divers have never seen one, whereas newbies have reported sightings on their first dives. Despite whale sharks’ massive size (up to 12 metres in length), these gentle giants only feed on plankton and small fish. Over in Koh Tao, Thailand, whale sharks are often spotted in the months of March, April, September and October in the areas of Southwest Pinnacle and Chumphon Pinnacle.
9. Sky diving in Pattaya, Thailand
The Land of Smiles is about to give you another reason to grin. In Pattaya, SEA’s only full-time skydiving drop-zone, your hair-raising free fall takes place from a height of 9,000 to 13,500 feet. The good news? You’ll be attached to an experienced instructor, so you’re in safe hands. The bad news? Well, aside from the obvious dangers, there are none. Try to relax! Once you’ve gained your composure, you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of Pattaya’s gorgeous beaches on your canopy ride for the next five to seven minutes.
10. Hot air ballooning in Bagan, Myanmar
Add this to your #bucketlist, pronto. You can stop pining over Cappadocia’s magical hot balloon rides ‘cos Southeast Asia has its own equivalent, and it’s no less swoon-worthy than its Mediterranean counterpart. Soak in the Buddhist zen of Myanmar’s beautiful Bagan with lofty views of the golden pagoda-studded landscape, villages and sprawling countryside. Flights usually take place during sunrise or sunset, so prepare to whip out your cam if you’re hell-bent on capturing the first (or last) ray of light over the majestic city. Pro tip: To make the most of your time in Myanmar, go with FLYMYA – these guys not only handle flights but car hire and activities as well.
11. Subwinging in Gili Islands
Reinvent the way you explore the ocean. Take a flight through Gili’s sparkling blue waters on the back of underwater wings. Called the Subwing, the relatively new sport simulates the feeling of flying through water, with total freedom of movement from two separate wings connected with a rotatable swivel. How it works is simple; while being towed by a boat, riders simply have to pull upwards to resurface, push to dive, and pull one wing up and push the other one down to spin. Words won’t do this exhilarating sport justice – check out the video above for a closer look!
12. Sandboarding in Mui Ne, Vietnam
Similar to snowboarding, sandboarding involves your legs being strapped to a board as you cruise down the sand dunes. Located four hours away from Ho Chi Minh, Mui Ne’s sandy paradise encompasses miles and miles of pristine, white sand. Rent your sandboards from the local shops for a small fee, and remember to stay long enough to catch the sunset dipping over the sandy hills.
Pack your bags and your gear, because it’s time for adventure holidays with these activities in Southeast Asia!