By Chantae Reden | Published on October 18, 2022

There are few experiences more exciting than soaring through the sky at over 120 miles per hour. If you've always dreamed of flying, take a leap and explore some of the world's most beautiful places to parachute jump.

Skydiving at sunset. California.
Skydiving at sunset. California.

My First Breathtaking Jump Over San Diego

I pulled my hair into a bun on top of my head and stuck a baseball cap over it, resulting in a conehead. My grandma stepped back, assessed my hairstyle, and said, "You look ready."

My stomach flipped as I approached the Supreme Scream, an amusement ride where you free-fall 30 stories in three seconds. The ride attendant motioned for me to stand against the height chart. The top of my conical head grazed just above the must-be-this-tall line.

 aerial of Mission Bay and Pacific Beach in San Diego. California.
aerial of Mission Bay and Pacific Beach in San Diego. California.

After months of waiting, my 10-year-old self was finally given the green light to go on the ride of my dreams. My sister and I gripped the handlebars as we cranked to the top of the ride, where it hovered for a moment. After a loud hiss, the ride plummeted toward the earth, relocating my stomach into my chest. Just as I thought the end was surely near, the ride slowed to a gentle stop. Once my feet hit the ground, I bolted to the back of the line and rode the ride again and again until it was time to go. At home, we attempted to recreate the ride in our yard by jumping from a tree with a rope tied around our waists. One launch off our homemade ride dubbed the Supreme Tree knocked the wind out of us, putting a quick end to our D.I.Y. amusement ride inventions. I vowed to go skydiving as soon as I was tall enough, or old enough, whichever came first.

A few days after my 18th birthday, a friend and I ended up at the parachute jump drop zone in San Diego. Because it'd be my first time skydiving, I signed up as a tandem passenger, meaning I'd be strapped to an instructor who would be in charge of the timing, body position and parachute deployment for our jump. All I had to do was listen to the instructions and get as close to relaxation as possible — which was easier said than done.

After a short safety training, we piled into a plane with a bare interior. Wiping sweaty palms on my jeans, I tried to make conversation to avoid my racing thoughts. After fifteen minutes, the altimeter ticked to 13,000 feet, and it was time to jump. The first pair of skydivers leapt from the plane and were swallowed by the bluebird sky within seconds.

My instructor braced himself against the airplane door frame and double-checked my harness. I peered toward the earth and saw an abstract mosaic of lakes, building blocks and greenery. My brain had yet to comprehend that very soon I'd be hurling toward it.

"Ready?" he asked.

Without thinking, I said yes. A short countdown later, we were free-falling at 120 miles per hour. To my surprise, my stomach didn't drop like it does on a rollercoaster or bungee jump, and after about a minute, my instructor deployed the parachute, a reassurance that we'd land safely. The skydiving vacation went from thrilling to strangely serene as we drifted below the clouds, encompassed by sweeping views of San Diego and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, Otay Lakes and Mexico's northern border. I already loved this region, and my appreciated grew deeper with this stunning aerial view.

A few minutes later, we landed at the San Diego drop zone, and I had a newfound confidence of overcoming my fears and having fun doing it. I've kept a personal vow to seek out the most beautiful places to parachute jump as well as not pass up heart-pounding adventures like skydiving.

A parachute jump over the Hawaiian Islands will reveal a geological wonderland.

Beautiful Places In The World To Parachute Jump

Hawaii's Geological Wonderland

aerial view of the Hana Maui shoreline. Hawaii.
aerial view of the Hana Maui shoreline. Hawaii.

In Hawaii, explore a string of islands where just about every vantage point reminds you that the earth is ever changing. There are skydive centers on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, all offering some of the most beautiful views on land that become even more striking from above.

Imagine the circular ridgelines of craters and calderas, ink-black lines of lava flows or the expanse of lava fields clashing against a teal sea. Up close, these features might look like just another hill, a cluster of black rocks or a cove with volcanic sand — but a parachute jump over the Hawaiian Islands will reveal a geological wonderland. And while scenic flights certainly provide a good look at the landscape, too, it's only when you remove the barrier of metal and glass that you'll feel embedded into the islands themselves.

Linger a little longer with a parachute overhead to take in the mist wafting over the ocean as waves crash against the cliffs, the glint of a rainbow in the distance and the blanket of forest cloaking parts of the island.

New Zealand And Its Island Collection

visiting the Franz Joseph glacier in South Island. New Zealand.
visiting the Franz Joseph glacier in South Island. New Zealand.

As a haven for travelers who have a penchant for thrills, there are so many spots in New Zealand worthy of taking the leap. Head to the South Island to capture unforgettable views of snow-capped Mount Aoraki, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier while free-falling from nearly 20,000 feet. The snowscape below glistens like glitter under full sunlight. If you want to go all-in on adventure, go parachuting in Queenstown. This little lakeside town is where you can pair your skydive with bungee jumping, white-water rafting, ziplining, caving and paragliding. If you're after adrenaline, you'll certainly find it here.

Over on the North Island, there are more spectacular sights to behold. Skydive over Tauranga for a bird's-eye view of Mount Maunganui and the Bay of Plenty. From the sky, you'll spot swirling shades of blue in the bay and stretches of sugar sand beaches. Other intriguing drop zones on the North Island include the 140-island smorgasbord seen from the sky over the Bay of Islands and the mesmerizing blues over Lake Taupo. To catch a glimpse of both the North and South Islands at once, jump in Motueka, a site that also overlooks Abel Tasman National Park.

aerial view of the Scenic Bay of Islands in Paihia. New Zealand.
aerial view of the Scenic Bay of Islands in Paihia. New Zealand.

Australia's Technicolor Landscape

With its fringing coral reefs, white sand beaches, turquoise waters and a red center, Australia is one of the most iconic  places in the world to fly through the skies when traveling on a skydiving vacation. Divers of both the sky and scuba variety will want to take full advantage of the beautiful blues of the Great Barrier Reef. Expect hues of powder blue, aqua, teal and deep cobalt. Search for shapes in the outlines of coral bommies, then look for matching shapes in the clouds. If you jump near the Whitsundays, you'll spot the soft curves of white sandpits connecting the tranquil islands that look just like watercolor paintings from afar. If that's not enough, take your gaze inland to admire the greens of the rainforest.

Skydive along Victoria's Great Ocean Road for a new perspective of the string of limestone pinnacles found in the ocean offshore sheer cliffs, known as the Twelve Apostles. As you float, search for swell lines on the horizon rolling into Bells Beach, home to a wave famous among surfers. To spot city skylines from above, skydive near Australia's metropolises, such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. If you skydive at Sydney's Wollongong Beach, your feet will touch down on soft white sand upon landing.

Time your jump along the Australian coastline during whale migration season, and you might be lucky enough to spot whales breaching, fin slapping and exhaling long billows of air from their blowholes.

vacation beach views of Wollongong. Australia.
vacation beach views of Wollongong. Australia.

Dubai For Futuristic Views

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Artificial palm island
dubai united arab emirates artifical palm island

Linger around the skydiving scene long enough, and you'll undoubtedly be pointed toward Dubai. The view from the sky above this glamorous city is one you won't find anywhere else. The most scenic jump zone in the region takes place near the Palm Jumeirah — an artificial island shaped like an encircled palm leaf. The futuristic Burj Al Arab building paired with Dubai's skyscraper skyline makes the parachute jump feel like you're about to touch down on another planet.

Around twenty miles inland of Dubai's city center, you'll find one of the most popular skydiving schools in the world tucked among the tan sands of the Dubai desert. The soft sand coupled with an expansive stretch of open space make it a forgiving landing zone for budding solo skydivers.

Norway’s Gorgeous Fjords

It's hard to argue against Norway's aesthetic appeal. With fjords seen from cruise ships that plunge into a dark sea, jagged mountain peaks topped with shimmering snow, villages that look like they belong in illustrated storybooks — just about everywhere you go is picturesque. Head above the clouds, and you'll soon discover Norway from an even more impressive perspective.

Voss, famed as Norway's extreme sports capital, is near some of the country's most striking fjords. On your way down, the view shifts from being one of ridgelines, canyons and waterways to more detailed views of tucked-away waterfalls and streams. Tønsberg, the oldest city in the country (and home to the original Vikings), is also a surprising hub for parachute jumpers who want to glimpse at the cobblestoned 9th century city from the sky.

Preparing For Your Parachute Jump

Even the most fearless of travelers are bound to feel butterflies before their first (or 50th) skydive. When choosing where to jump, look for an operator with high safety ratings and a gamut of good reviews. And be sure to ask your instructor any questions you have, too. Finding someone you trust will give you peace of mind before it's time to take the plunge.

On the day of your jump, wear comfortable clothing with closed-toe shoes and keep accessories to a minimum. Temperatures tend to be chilly in the skies, so pack an outer layer as extra protection. Some skydive centers may have you wear a jumpsuit over your clothes. Pull hair back and away from your face to avoid tangles. Though it might seem counterintuitive, having a small meal a few hours before your jump will help to quell pre-jump jitters and will keep your head clear and ready to have fun. Because skydiving is a weather-dependent activity, try to plan your jump near the beginning of your trip just in case it gets pushed back due to poor weather.

The actual parachute jump typically lasts less than ten minutes. Most skydive centers request you budget two to three hours of total time spent at the center to check in, complete a safety briefing and catch a ride to the drop zone. For newbies, you'll need to jump as a tandem skydiver for the first few jumps to get the general feel of skydiving before you can earn a solo parachute jump certification.

My best advice is to try to be present in the moment. The experience can feel like a whirlwind. Your senses are heightened, you may be a little nervous and the adrenaline-rush of the actual jump can make it pass you by. Take it all in, trust your gut, and jump with eyes open, so you don't miss a moment on your skydiving vacation.

Written By
CHANTAE REDEN

Chantae Reden is an adventure writer and photographer who rarely strays far from the coastline. She is a freediver, surfer, scuba diver, and has a mild obsession with sharks. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Escape, ScubaDiving.com and she's a guidebook author for Moon Travel Guides. Discover more of her stories on her travel website, TheSaltSirens.com.

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vacation traveler parachuting over the beautiful city of Dubai. Asia
vacation traveler parachuting over the beautiful city of Dubai. Asia
 

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