10 Adrenaline-Fueled Things to Do in California

Get your adrenaline fix diving with great white sharks off the California coast
Get your adrenaline fix diving with great white sharks off the California coast | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Ben Kempton
13 August 2020

If lying on a sunny California beach isn’t enough for you, there are plenty of heart-pounding things to do in the Golden State. From facing off with great white sharks in San Diego, to getting in the passenger seat of a Nascar motor at the Auto Club Speedway, here are Culture Trip’s best activities for adrenaline junkies on America’s West Coast.

ActivitiesCatalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour
From $134 per person
2 hours
4.4 (23)

Gaining speeds of nearly 40mph (64kph), this unique aerial tour of Catalina island will take you 600ft (180m) above sea level and provide the most spectacular views as you soar across the landscape with the Pacific Ocean gleaming below. Five different ziplines take you from platform to platform, while an informative guide will provide interesting information about the island at each stop.

Cave Rappelling in Moaning Cavern

Natural Feature
Map View

Strap up and abseil down California’s largest cavern. This dark, vertical chamber will require you to rappel 165ft (50m) from top to bottom. Once at the floor, you can choose to continue the adventure by squeezing through narrow burrows on a two-hour cave adventure. Be prepared to get on your stomach and wriggle through tight, claustrophobic passageways with suitably labeled nicknames such as Meat Grinder and Pancake Squeeze.

Nascar ride on Auto Club Speedway

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. This Nascar experience is the perfect treat for fans of the motorsport, or any speed demons who want to feel the power of one of these ferocious machines. The cars can reach up to 200mph (322kph) and accelerate from 0-60mph (0-97kph) in 3.5 seconds. You can choose to get behind the wheel of one of the beasts yourself, or let a professional show you how it’s done and brace yourself for the ride ahead.

Hollywood iFly Indoor Skydiving Experience

Amusement Park
Map View
A girl receives assistance while experie
© FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

It’s not quite jumping out of a plane, but this unique experience will get your pulse racing as you fly in the air above a giant vertical propeller. The wind tunnel is appropriate for anyone over the age of three and is the perfect chance to show off some mid-air acrobatics. Push yourself and see how long it will take to perform your first somersault.

ActivitiesTop Gun and Air Combat Experience in San Diego
From $531 per person
30 minutes
5 (3)

Ever wondered what it’s like to be Tom Cruise? Well, now’s your chance to find out in this Top Gun experience. Climb into the cockpit of an Extra 330LC and feel the G-force as you twist and turn upside down in either an acrobatic flight or a dogfight race against a friend. Fly the plane yourself – with the assistance of a trained pilot – or take to the passenger seat and embark on the craziest airborne roller coaster ride of your life.

RocketBoat, San Francisco

Natural Feature
Map View
San Francisco, California - July 10, 2019: Rocket Boat tour vessel is docked on the pier of Fishermans Wharf. This jet boat tours the San Franscico ba
© Melissa Kopka / Alamy Stock Photo

This boat really does go as fast as the flame painted on the bow might suggest. It’s a 30-minute wild ride from Fisherman’s Wharf, jetting at speeds of up to 60mph (97kph) around San Francisco Bay, past Alcatraz, underneath the Bay bridge, alongside Oracle Park. You’ll get stunning views of the city’s skyline – if you’re able to see through the wind being blasted into your face, that is.

Shark Cage, San Diego

Natural Feature
Map View
Scuba diver photographing Great white shark, (Carcharodon carcharias) from cage. Guadalupe Island, Mexico, Pacific Ocean. September 2011.
© Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Stare Jaws in the eyes as you come head to head with one of the deadliest killers in the ocean. Take the long, beautiful boat journey out into Mexican waters towards Guadalupe island, renowned for being one of the most popular destinations for great white sharks in the world. A metal cage will be the only thing between you and Jaws as you submerge into the Pacific Ocean.

Bridge to Nowhere Bungee Jump, Azusa

Bridge, Forest
Map View
Launch yourself off the side of a bridge into the valley below and let the rubber rope catch you as you swing back and forth above the gorge. Start by trekking 5mi (8km) through the stunning Angeles National Forest, then get prepped by the experts on what to do after you’ve thrown yourself off the Bridge to Nowhere. For the bravest daredevils among you, there is also the option of jumping at night into pitch black darkness.

Allen Berg Racing Schools, Salinas

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, USA30th March, 2019 WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, CA., USAAction during the early styages of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Series, 8 hour race at the USA's most iconic racetrack
© Motofoto / Alamy Stock Photo

Get to race a formula car around the professional circuit Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey County. You can have your very own personal instructor to teach you the ins and outs of the carbon fiber machine, then put the pedal to the metal and unleash your inner Lewis Hamilton as you fly around this nail-biting track.

These recommendations were updated on August 13, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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