Skydiving has always attracted thrill-seekers and daredevils. Whether you’re interested in overcoming a fear of heights or feeding an adrenaline-sports addiction, skydiving won’t disappoint. Below are areas and outfitters who offer some of the best skydiving in the world. As usual, before you make the leap (er, fall) be sure to inquire about instructor experience and certification as well as about company safety records.
Not only is the region in southwest Switzerland home to some of the world’s most delicious cheeses, but it’s also the launch-point for some of the world’s most daring adrenaline junkies. It’s hard to imagine more stunning scenery than the Swiss Alps. Good thing, because you’ll be hurtling toward them after jumping out of a plane at 4,000m (12,800 ft.). The Ecole de parachutisme de Château-d’Oex keeps things interesting for its divers by moving around from location to location within the area on various weekends. 41/22-366-18-70; www.epco.aero.
Only 25 miles from downtown San Diego, Skydive San Diego offers a unique diving experience. Where else can you take off and land in the same spot? Because they’re located at a dedicated skydiving airport, Skydive San Diego allows your friends, family, and others you want to impress to watch as you hurl yourself from sky high and float gracefully back to earth. Launch a tandem jump or an AFF Solo jump, depending on your level of experience (and nerves)
The views are amazing. From 13,000 feet (3,900m) you can see downtown San Diego, Coronado Island, and the San Ysidro mountain range. 800/FREE-FALL [373-3325] in California or 619/216-8416; www.skydivesandiego.com.
Although it offers only tandem jumps (no soloing here), it’s hard to beat the setting for skydiving over the island of Oahu. Known for its amazing surfing and the big city of Honolulu, the most urban of the Hawaiian isles is also spectacular from 14,000 feet (4,267m) in the air. From your sky-high vantage point, you can see the entire island, including Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and all the way to Diamond Head. The experienced staff at Pacific Skydiving Center will outfit you and excite you for your amazing island adrenaline-inducing dive. 808-637-7472; www.pacific-skydiving.com.
Motueka, New Zealand
Thrill-seeking newcomers can go for tandem jumps. Those with higher aspirations (no pun intended) can participate in a nine-stage AFF qualification course. And if that’s not good enough for you, Abel Tasman offers AFF-qualified divers the opportunity to work toward their New Zealand Parachute Industry Association license, which allows divers to solo anywhere in the world. All jumps here afford divers brilliant views of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks, and endless miles of beaches and ocean. 64/3-528-4091; www.skydive.co.nz.
A city known for adventure opportunity, Interlaken also has arguably the most beautiful drop zone in Europe. Your jump will usually be from approximately 3,900 to 4,200m (13,000–14,000 ft.) and the trip up is almost as wonderful as the one down. From that height you can see multiple countries, including Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France, and view some of the world’s great mountains, such as the Jungfrau, Eiger (see the Eiger Jump ), and the Matterhorn. Skydive Interlaken ( 41/33-222-5848; www.skydiveinterlaken.ch). Skydive Switzerland ( 41/33-821-00-11; www.skydiveswitzerland.com).
Gardiner, New York
Though the skyscrapers of Manhattan offer some pretty impressive views, the vistas from 13,500 feet (4,050m) up in the air in upstate Gardner, New York, are amazing. Located next to the Shawangunk Mountains, Blue Sky Ranch Skydiving offers Tandem jumps and training for AFF dives. When the weather gets cold, Skydive The Ranch operates in cooperation with a sister company in Florida. 845/255-4033; www.skydivetheranch.com.
It’s hard to beat the scenery in Montana when you’re on the ground, so imagine the views from 9,000 feet (2,700m) nearby gorgeous McGregor Lake. Whether you’re jumping tandem or solo, the rush you feel when freefalling is incomparable. Skydive Lost Prairie is an experienced outfitter in the area. Their highly qualified instructors are on hand every step of the way. 888/833-5867 or 406/858-2493; www.skydivelostprairie.com.
Anybody can travel halfway around the world to a Pacific isle and call herself an adventurer. But the adrenaline adventurer takes it a step further and checks out the stunning beauty of the West Pacific from 14,000 feet (4,200m) in the air. Priced on a graduated scale based on the altitude from which you’re jumping, Skydive Guam offers “unparalleled views” of the island and surrounding blue waters. For a few extra bucks, they’ll throw in photos and a DVD of your dive so you can earn your bragging rights back home. 671/475-5555; www.skydiveguam.com.
Home to world-class paella and gorgeous Moorish-architecture, the Andalucia region of Spain is hard to beat in terms of tourism bang for your buck. But why not be a tourist who takes in the sights from a different point of view? Say, from 4,500m (15,000 ft.)? Skydive Spain offers all manner of diving opportunities, from one-time tandem jumps (sometimes you just want to be able to say you’ve done something!) to AFF certification and solo parachuting. 34/687-726-303; www.skydivespain.com.
In Montalla, just south of Portland, Oregon, in the scenic northwest United States, Skydive Oregon takes flight from a dedicated private skydive airport. From up high you can jump tandem or solo (AFF certified divers only), as well as with a group. Imagine you and your friends (up to 23 can go at one time) careening toward earth from 13,000 feet (3,900m) with mile-wide smiles on your faces. For pals too chicken to join you, they can stay on the ground in a designated spectator area and photograph your antics for posterity. Group discounts are available. 800/934-JUMP  or 503/829-3483; www.skydiveoregon.com.
If you’re not ready to make your own BASE jump, coming to Bridge Day as a spectator is still a total rush. The first time you see a human body tumble off the bridge is enough to make your heart skip a beat and an involuntary “ohmygosh” to escape from your mouth. Watching hundreds of people soar off the bridge for 6 hours, deploying their colorful parachutes and sailing to graceful landings in less than 10 seconds each is mind blowing.
Of course, at this high-energy festival, even spectators don’t stay on the sidelines. A local outdoor adventure company, Passages to Adventure (www.passagestoadventure.com), sets up a special 1-day 600-foot (183m) zipline that drops 200 feet (60m) off the bridge, and anyone can try it. You can also rappel off the bridge or try rafting in the river below.
Official Bridge Day Festival ( 800/927-0263; www.officialbridgeday.com).
When to Go: The third Sat in Oct.
Airport: Yeager airport in Charleston, West Virginia.