Ever want to leisurely enjoy the natural beauty of a coastal locale without having to worry about room or dinner reservations? You can be pampered and still experience an active vacation with an all-inclusive (more or less) bike tour. Trips usually come at a package price that may include airfare, but definitely includes lodging and at least some meals. Depending on the company, the itinerary may be totally round-trip―from your door back to your door. Some companies allow you to tack special excursions onto either of end of your trip. Popular tours can fill up quickly, so it is a good idea to book your trip three to six months ahead.
Some tours aim at beginners, with only light riding on level terrain, while others appeal to intermediate or advanced riders who seek more challenging distances or terrain. Many tours allow the rider to choose among several routes of varying distances each day. All tours follow the riders with a "sag wagon" (a van) to take you back to the hotel or on to the next stop for lunch if you tire of riding. Tours generally provide most meals while allowing you to experience some local restaurants on your own. Accommodations may be B&Bs, historic inns, or resorts. Tour guides, generally two per group, help make the experience personal and enjoyable.
When comparing tours offered by different companies, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Not all tour prices include the same amenities. Some have better accommodations or dining while others have a separate fee for bike or other equipment rental. Companies generally charge extra to travel solo, at least partly refundable if a suitable, willing roommate is found at the start of the tour. Some tour operators offer discounts for early reservations or self-guided tours.
Road and Mountain Bike Tours
• REI Adventures offers Canadian Pacific Gulf Islands cycling with views of peaceful farms, beaches, and old-growth forests. This seven-day adventure near Vancouver includes magnificent seascapes, glass-blowing demonstrations, and white-shell beaches. Group size is six to 12, and bicycles are provided. Visit reiadventures.com.
• Hawaii and Prince Edward Island are featured in nine-day deluxe trips planned and guided by VBT. This veteran tour company also offers six-day tours of the North Carolina coast or the Maine coast and Acadia National Park. The packages include most meals, plus bike rental. Visit vbt.com.
• Casual Inn trips by Backroads explore locations in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Nova Scotia, Washington state's San Juan Islands, the California coast, Canada's Prince Edward Island, and southern Alaska. While the accommodations and dining may be lower key than for Backroads' Premier Inn trips, there is no skimping on adventure or beautiful landscapes. The fee includes equipment and most meals. Visit backroads.com.
• Carolina Tailwinds offers four- or six-day tours of North Carolina's Ocracoke Island and Outer Banks in the spring and fall. The route snakes through scenic Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. A luxury bike tour of the Outer Banks explores the northern coastal region of North Carolina. Riders may bring their own bikes or pay an additional fee for rental. Visit carolinatailwinds.com.
• Experience the Maine coast over three- or six-day trips guided by locals who know the best restaurants and shops. Summer Feet Maine Coast Cycling Adventures schedules several trips throughout the summer and into the fall, when the foliage is at its zenith. Self-guided tours are available at a reduced cost. Bike rental is additional in most cases. Visit summerfeet.net.
• Bicycle Adventures specializes in multisport tours, many in coastal areas in the west, Canada, and Hawaii. These often include hiking, but might also involve kayaking, snorkeling, or sailing. Average group size is 12, and bike rental is a separate cost. Tours visit the San Juan Islands, the Oregon coast, the central California coast, the Canadian Gulf Islands, and Hawaii. Visit bicycleadventures.com.
• For an active way to see the Caribbean isles of Trinidad and Tobago, try REI Adventures. Participants take in the beautiful scenery while hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and snorkeling. Groups are usually of four to 12, and REI members get a price break. Visit reiadventures.com.
• Backroads offers trips to exotic locations such as Hawaii, Costa Rica, Belize, and Baja California, in addition to tours of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, Maine, Prince Edward Island, and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts. Most tours explore by bike, but multisport trips may also include hiking, kayaking, or horseback riding. Casual Inn trips include informal, modest accommodations. Premier Inn trips go upscale on lodging and dining. Visit backroads.com.
To search worldwide for bike tours ranging from short day trips to journeys of a week or more, visit bicycletour.com. Searchable listings include road, mountain, tandem, or recumbent bike tours. There are no guarantees as to how all-inclusive these trips are, but they are a great way to connect with other bikers riding your way.