Soft-adventure trips are growing rapidly in popularity among mature travelers, according to recent travel surveys by the National Tour Assn. and several national senior publications.
Soft adventure trips are generally outdoor ventures to spectacular or exotic destinations, offering a room each night instead of a tent and a bedroll.
Although such trips shy away from high altitudes and extreme temperatures, they may be packaged around a series of easy day hikes from a comfortable base, compared to continuous treks of several days to a week.
"We get people from age 40 or 50 up into the 70s on almost all our trips, hard or soft," says David Risard, president of Sonora-based Geo Expeditions, which sends people on tours to more than 30 outdoor destinations each year.
"Our soft adventures are almost exclusively filled by mature travelers," he added. "That's the growing market these days. If I were to pick one trip for someone who has never tried an outdoor or nature experience, I'd tell them to try Hawaii."
Geo's 10-day Hawaii Natural History tour is not the typical tourist's Hawaii. It's for the mature traveler who has been there before and who wants to view its exotic flora and fauna up close, not from a tour bus.
Participants will visit three islands--Kauai, Molokai and Big Island--and do it with a series of easy and moderate day hikes with overnight accommodations in bed and breakfast inns.
On Kauai, for example, the tour will explore a bird sanctuary and hike along the dramatic Na Pali Coast Trail and the rim of Waimea Canyon.
Hikes into Volcanoes National Park, uninhabited Pololu Valley and snorkeling at Kailua will highlight the four days on the Big Island.
Three days on Molokai will include hiking in the lush rain forest of Halawa Valley to Moaula Falls and a visit to isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula, site of a former leper colony, where the tallest sea cliffs in the world are located.
Geo Expeditions' Hawaii Natural History tour costs $1,295 per person, double occupancy. Although a single supplement is $300, Risard will try to double-up singles if requested. The price includes most meals and all inter-island air fare. Round-trip air fare from California is not included. Departures are July 28 and Oct. 27.
For more information on the Hawaiian trip or on any of Geo's 30 other expeditions, contact travel agents or Geo Expeditions, P.O. Box 3656, Sonora, Calif. 95370, (800) 351-5041.
Lee Klein's day trips for The California Native are also soft adventures for the mature traveler.
Available are one-day Channel Island boat/hiking trips to Anacapa Island June 22 and Santa Cruz Island Aug. 4. Anacapa costs $99, Santa Cruz $120. There's also a July 20 "Soaring Adventure" that includes a glider ride and a picnic lunch. Cost is $99 person.
The California Native, although not limited to mature travelers, has discovered that its strongest appeal is short trips for the 50-years-and-over traveler. Klein also offers weekend cave explorations and Baja California trips, as well as longer tours to Mexico's Copper Canyon, the Canadian Rockies and other soft adventure destinations.
For more information, contact The California Native, 6701 West 87th Place, Los Angeles 90054, (213) 642-1140.