More Splash, Less Cash: Summer Water Adventures for Any Budget


Summer is every outdoor athlete’s favorite season… for the first two weeks or so. But when the temperature’s been stuck above 90 for weeks on end, running, climbing, and biking start to sound less appealing than an air-conditioned room and a frosty drink.

This summer, keep your cool by taking to the lake, the river, or even a local swimming pool. We’ve chosen the best waterborne adventures around the state that provide plenty of bang—or splash—for your buck. Beat the heat with these budget-friendly, wet and wild suggestions.

Stand Up and Paddle

Surf’s up—at the lake! Stand up paddleboarding puts you in control of a super-maneuverable board and gives you a heron’s-eye view of everything happening on the water. This fast-growing sport originated in Hawaii, where surf instructors used outrigger canoe paddles to help them stand upright on their boards and watch their students. Soon, bystanders were grabbing their own boards and paddles to try this more forgiving version of surfing.

Now, stand up paddleboarding is popular with experienced water athletes and newbies alike. It’s easy enough to learn in an afternoon, and it builds balance, core strength, and agility while giving you a just-wet-enough workout. Another bonus for women athletes: Because of their lower center of gravity, women typically have an easier time staying upright on paddle boards than men do.

If you go: Utah Paddle Surfing offers classes, gear rental, and all the support you’ll need to make your first paddle boarding experience a success. Find them online at or inside Adventure Haus at Jordanelle State Park in Heber.

Save a buck: Get 50% off a two-hour rental with the discount code on Utah Paddle Surfing’s web site, or look for social media deals (see “Online Recreation Deals” for more info).

Hoist Your Sails

Ready to indulge your inner sea dog? Utah’s lakes and reservoirs offer the perfect place for a sail. Whether you’re belaying your own ropes or sipping a drink while the pros do all the work, there’s no better way to enjoy warm, breezy summer evenings than aboard a sailing craft.

If you don’t know your mizzen from your tiller, check out a sailing course or club to get started. While a full six-session beginning sailing class may cost hundreds of dollars, shorter-term options let you sample life aboard ship without emptying your bank account. Or, for an ultra-romantic evening, book a sunset cruise with your sweetheart. Enjoy your surroundings and each other’s company while the crew does the heavy lifting.

If you go: Find a full calendar of events, plus links to sailing classes, clubs, and more at Near SLC, Utah Lake is a popular sailing destination. Farther afield, Bear Lake’s clear, turquoise waters beckon visitors to the “Caribbean of the Rockies.”

Save a buck: For a two-hour introduction to sailing, check out the “Discover Sailing” course at Bonneville Sailing School, You’ll pay $90 per person (though discounts are sometimes available).

Head for White Water

For a major burst of adrenaline, plus guaranteed water-soaked fun and the chance to make a boatful of new friends, you can’t beat this classic adventure. Trips range from mild (just a few hours; no paddling required) to wild (week-long journeys requiring previous experience). With so many rivers lacing Utah’s canyon and mountain landscapes, there’s a scenic river trip for every taste.

For pure whitewater thrills, the section of the Colorado River near Moab is a great choice. Farther north, the Green River snakes through rugged landscapes, including Dinosaur National Monument, and includes both quiet floating stretches and heart-pounding Class IV segments. Going with a family group? Consider the San Juan River, a more peaceful river that still provides plenty of excitement as it wends past Anasazi ruins and beautifully preserved petroglyphs.

If you go: Dozens of outfitters offer trips from four hours to eight days long around the state. Get an exhaustive listing with contact details and special discounts at

Save a buck: A fully-supported rafting trip can be a spendy proposition. Getting your feet wet for the first time? Consider a less expensive half-day trip. The Sevier River, near Bryce Canyon, is easy to float in just a few hours—and you’ll have plenty of Class II and Class III rapids to keep things exciting. Bundle your raft trip with a horseback ride or hike for a full day of outdoor fun.

Take the Plunge

Utah’s native waters may not boast coral reefs or treasure-laden shipwrecks, but you can still enjoy scuba diving here. Take a taster class or get a full PADI certification at one of the SLC area’s dive schools.

Once you’re certified, you’re ready to turn to more thrilling destinations than the local lap pool. At Homestead Resort, 30 miles from SLC, you’ll find The Crater, a natural rock feature full of 90-degree water from mineral springs whose depths can only be explored in scuba gear. Or, for a tropical twist, dive into the “mini-ocean” at Bonneville Seabase, where exotic fish populate three spring-fed bays.

If you go: Scuba classes typically involve plenty of classroom or textbook instruction along with in-water practice. Get a jump on the course material with free online classes offered by Scuba Schools International at

Save a buck: Full certification classes not in the budget? Give snorkeling a try instead. The equipment’s less expensive to rent or buy, no classes are required (though many scuba schools offer short-term training), and you can still enjoy the sights at many popular dive spots.

Whatever your interests, budget, and schedule may be, there’s a water adventure perfect for you to try this summer. Get ready to make a splash!

Online Recreation Deals: Grab Them While They’re Hot

Looking to stretch your recreation dollar to the max? Online buying networks can help you find the perfect trip at a discount of 50% or more. New deals are added (and old deals expire) every day; keep an eye on your inbox to avoid missing great opportunities. Whether you’re shopping for a new swimsuit or a week-long rafting trip, check out these resources for wallet-friendly options.

Groupon: The original deal-of-the-day website offers dozens of SLC- and Utah-specific choices every day. Look beyond the headlines to find unadvertised, but tempting, offers like $99/night stays at Bear Lake in Northern Utah. The weekly “Groupon Getaways” email brings the most tempting trips straight to your inbox.

LivingSocial: Like a shorebound cruise director, LivingSocial creates its own “Escapes”: adventures tailored to the flavor of a city, from snorkeling in San Juan to range shooting in Atlanta. Another unique twist: Share your purchase with your friends via social networks; if three of them buy the same deal, you get yours for free!

Amazon Local: The online giant brings its marketing muscle to Salt Lake City with a twist on the deal-of-the-day system. Rather than buying a specific item or experience, you’ll get a voucher for a participating business at a discount of up to 75%.

CWstore: To keep it truly local, sign up for deals from City Weekly, SLC’s alternative newspaper. You’ll get a mix of offers you won’t see anywhere else, plus you’ll keep your money in the community.


About Author

Molly writes about fitness and nutrition from her home in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her teaching history, hiking the Gorge, or hitting the archery range.

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