Our new 2017 U.S. Tourism Quality Index benchmarked American tourism destination performance. Here’s how each city performed in the Sports and Adventure category—shorthand for America’s foodiest towns. Get the full report for free now.

By Chris Fair

Last month, we released our 2017 U.S. Tourism Quality Index. Last week we shared America’s Best Food Cities with you, based on city performance in the Index’s Culinary category. This week, we move on to the best adventure and sports destinations in the country.

Resonance creates the free U.S. Tourism Quality Index annually to help cities better understand the reality of destination performance, both in the eyes of visitors and locals, and from the perspective of a place’s product development.

This index has been lauded by DMOs and destination managers as a valuable tool for better understanding the competitive advantages—and weaknesses—of destinations across six metrics.

These metrics are based on quality experiences that cities offer from one product and experience category to the next as rated by locals and visitors themselves. For destinations with the best-performing adventure and sports scenes, we evaluated their performance in TripAdvisor’s Outdoor Activities, and Boat Tours & Water Sports categories.

Get your free Resonance U.S. Tourism Quality Index now.


Top Sports & Adventure finisher Oahu enjoys the enviable balance of seemingly infinite coastline, exploding topography and the tourism infrastructure—as the gateway and largest urban center in this paradise—to convince many Hawaii visitors to not bother island hopping.

It’s why the Big Island of Hawaii is so notable. Its rank just behind Oahu and Maui for Sports & Adventure (#3 for both Boat Tours & Water Sports and Outdoor Activities) has everything to do with its designation as one of the most climatically diverse places on the planet. Visitors can experience (read: play in) four out of the world’s five major climate zones.

The Big Island’s 2016 visitor numbers of 1.55 million pale in comparison to Oahu’s 5.6 million and Maui’s 2.6 million, but traveler recommendations are so fervent that they make up for this disparity in tourism volume. Those who like the Big Island, in other words, really like the Big Island.

As you’d expect from a place that (almost) gives you the world in a day, the few visitors who venture to this youngest (and most geologically active) of the Hawaiian Islands, can’t wait to share their discovery. And the Big Island is making access to this staggering diversity easier, with new surf schools (now with SUPs!), diving adventures (snuba is just like it sounds—snorkelling with an on-boat air supply), and that most beguiling (and awesome) of bucket list items: lava anything!

Such direct, uncrowded interaction with the elements—to say nothing of the blooming cultural renaissance—triggers adrenaline rushes in the retelling alone.


These are America's Top 10 adventure destinations.

These are America’s Top 10 adventure destinations.


Find out how top American tourism destinations performed against each other in visitor perception and supply-side delivery. The complete ranking and analysis is in our free U.S. Tourism Quality Index, ready for you to download now.