One of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors is to take in all the sights from the vantage point of the water. When you kayak, no matter if it’s a gentle coastal tour, or a death-defying whitewater rapid, you get the chance to pass through a variety of wilderness along Mother Nature’s original roads: the rivers and the seas.

North America is home to some wonderful rivers, lakes and shorelines. If you want to take your family out for a challenging sea kayaking adventure, or else you have a burning desire to risk life and limb on a wild river (hopefully leaving the toddlers at home), we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best kayaking trips and whitewater journeys the US has to offer.

San Juan Islands, Washington State

The San Juan Islands in Washington State are a wet, wild and misty place to go sea kayaking. There are plenty of outfitters scattered across the various islands that will take you out to explore the marine sanctuaries for hours, or even days. You’ll be able to see bald eagles, harbor seals, sea lions and white-sided dolphins, not to mention the mighty orca (killer) whales that inhabit these waters. Just picture one of those giants breaching the waves near your kayak!

Lake Yellowstone and Yellowstone River, Wyoming

The Thorofare region, in the southeastern part of Yellowstone National Park, is billed as the most "roadless" area in the lower 48 States. Here, the Yellowstone River runs into Yellowstone Lake, and creates a large delta, perfect for long and leisurely kayak trips. The waterway is full of crisscrossing canals, armies of reeds and tons of wild nature. Bald eagles, bears, bison, elk and wolves are just some of the animals you'll be able to spot during your paddles here. This is the perfect place to experience a lake and river journey away from the trappings of civilization.

Salmon River, Idaho

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River boasts 105 miles of cascading rapids with an overall drop in elevation of 3,000 feet. To put that in layman’s terms, if you shoot this river, you’re in for one heck of a wild ride. Granite canyons and spectacular cliffs, interspersed with gentle hills and hot springs, await you and your guided kayak tour through Idaho. This is a beautiful river, but if you plan to tackle it in a kayak, you’d better know what you’re doing, because it can be brutal at times and throw you around like a well-tossed salad.

The Na Pali Coast, Hawaii

In Hawaii on the island of Kauai, you’ll find the sublime Na Pali coast, which is probably one of the most spectacular kayaking locales in the world. It isn’t called the "Mount Everest of sea kayaking" for nothing. If you choose to take a trip here, you’ll be treated to white sand beaches, overhanging cliffs and sea caves, waterfalls that drop into the ocean, and all kinds of marine life. It will be a long day of paddling, but you will be well rewarded for your efforts.

New York City, New York

What? New York City, you say? Well, you’ve got us there. This isn’t exactly "wild" paddling, but there’s still plenty to see from the water. The New York City Water Trail encompasses the rivers and salt water bays surrounding the city, as well as miles upon miles of additional waterways. The looming structures you’ll observe, and past under (bridges and skyscrapers) might be manmade, but they’re still very impressive. A few touring companies even offer nighttime kayak trips, so you can watch the city’s lights sparkle across the water. Hopefully you won’t run into Godzilla (or whatever monster Hollywood has dreamed up to wreck the city) lurking beneath the waves.

The Everglades, Florida

The swampy Everglades, full of alligators, herons and manatees, plus tons of mangrove and cypress trees, will give any would-be kayaker his or her fill of exotic adventure. This backcountry spot is swarming with wildlife. You can weave in and out of the marshy channels, and even from brackish to salt water, where you can paddle next to dolphins and sea turtles. You might have to duck your head now and again to make your way through some of the channels. And if you think you’re being watched, you’re not paranoid, because you probably are. Those glassy eyes staring at you from the water just might belong to a hungry alligator.

Kenai Fjords, Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park, on the Kenai Peninsula in Southern Alaska, is a massive expanse of water and land, and an experienced sea kayaker's dream. The scenery here is quite austere, yet very enchanting. The sea is turquoise in color, and surrounded by magnificent glaciers, high cliffs and beautiful (and very cold) water. With ice fields, glaciers, whales, eagles, and lots of other examples of lofty landforms and wildlife on display, you can’t go wrong here, unless you happen to fall into the freezing water. This kayak adventure is definitely not for the novice paddler.

Owyhee River, Oregon

The Owyhee River, which crosses Idaho, Oregon and parts of Nevada, is sometimes referred to as the "Loneliest River in America." This stretch of waterway makes for an isolated, yet splendid whitewater kayak or rafting trip. The Owyhee Canyon, through which the river flows, is also known as Oregon’s "Grand Canyon," due to the similarities between the two. The landscape is dry, and the cliff and rock formation are high and imposing. Hot springs are sprinkled about here and there, which can make the journey that much more appealing.

Channel Islands, California

The Channel Islands, which can be found in Southern California, have some remarkable arches, cliffs, grottos and sea caves that are just begging for the intrepid kayaker to explore. The islands of Anacapa, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz are overflowing with marine and land-based wildlife, as well as stunning rock formations that you can steer your kayak directly into. And to think, all of that unspoiled nature is just a short boat ride away from one of the most populous coasts in North America.

Westwater Canyon, Utah

Westwater Canyon is a whitewater classic, located on a part of the Colorado River that runs through Utah. Skull Rapid (the most famous rapid here) turns and flows beneath high canyon walls, as does Staircase Rapid, Marble Canyon Rapid, Big Hummer Rapid and a host of other sloshing stretches of water. After you exit Skull Rapid, you need to watch out for the "Room of Doom" whirlpool in order to avoid getting stuck. As you have probably already guessed, you ought to know what you’re doing before heading out into these waters. But with some proper instruction, and a good guide, you should have a whitewater blast.