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Beach Cities Health & Wellness Island

10 Dreamiest Beachfront Resorts in the World

We may be safe at home right now, but we’re already dreaming about our next vacation. At these dreamy digs on some of the world’s best beaches, you can sink your toes into warm sand and find your ideal place in the sun. Divide your time according to your own rules: Learn to paddleboard or parasail, reel in a magnificent fish, or simply lie back and adjust your hat as the sun moves across the sky. Read on for 11 out-of-this-world beachfront resorts to add to your bucket list.

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

LUX South Ari Atoll is the only hotel on the island of Dhidhoofinolhu. Pristine beaches and crystal clear water are steps away from the thatch-roofed suites. Looking for a retreat? Pamper yourself in the ocean-view spa. Want a more active holiday? LUX South Ari Atoll  is a prime spot for snorkeling and whale-shark spotting.

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles

This dreamy beachfront resort is located on a private island in Seychelles. Six Senses Zil Pasyon has 30 villas to choose from, each with stunning vistas of the ocean and surrounding islands. Book a spa treatment and soak in the beautiful landscape of this sustainable gem.

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay has done a great job of integrating elements of Indonesia into this hotel—from the lobby to the villas modeled after a Balinese home. Discover the island’s cultural heritage through onsite artist workshops and take a tour of the resort’s temple with a high priest.

Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

Vana Belle is all about privacy, with 79 suites and villas all tucked into a secluded cove over Chaweng Noi beach. Each suite and villa has a terrace with a private pool and stunning views of the beach or of the lush rain forest.

Ocean Club Resort, Turks And Caicos

Ocean Club Resort, Turks And Caicos

Even though the Ocean Club Resort is packed with things to do, the best one might be to do nothing at all. Of course, you can scuba or snorkel to see yellow tangs, parrot fish, and turtles, go bonefishing, or arrange for the resort to drop you off on one of the 30-plus deserted islands in Turks and Caicos so you can spend the day Robinson Crusoe-style. Or, simply sleep late. Think about reading a book. Order a drink. And watch the sun set.

The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas, Jericoacoara, Brazil

The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas, Jericoacoara, Brazil

Malhada Beach was named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by the Washington Post. Make the most of it at The Chili Beach Private Resort & Villas. This exclusive boutique hotel has only six rooms, so you’ll be able to truly get away from it all.

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius

Experience tasteful paradise at Le Touessrok, a resort that cuddles up to Trou d’Eau Douce Bay in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It has all the requisite amenities: nearby reefs for diving and snorkeling, southern trade winds for sailing, and ample turquoise waters for swimming and admiring.

Travaasa Hana, Hana, Hawaii

Travaasa Hana, Hana, Hawaii

Maui’s Road to Hana is as famous as its beaches. A journey to Travaasa Hana, which sits just off that road, leads to an older, quieter Hawaii, complete with waterfalls tucked into lush forests. The original Sea Ranch Cottages opened here in 1947 and became a favorite retreat for generations of travelers seeking barefoot elegance. Today, Travaasa runs the resort in the picturesque Hana community, where Hawaiian culture is still the focus. Daytime activities include outdoor yoga classes, horseback rides, spa treatments, and Hawaiian cooking classes. You won’t miss the glitz of the more populated beaches.

Thonga Beach Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Thonga Beach Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Seek out this untouched escape, where golden beaches and turquoise waters sit adjacent to coastal forests, a silvery lake, and a wetland park. The five-star eco Thonga Beach Lodge makes the most of its natural setting. It’s the ultimate beach safari, located just south of Mozambique’s fabled sands on the western edge of the Indian Ocean. The lodge sits in a dune forest overlooking a pristine beach. During winter, you can spot nesting turtles and whale sharks.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, Motu Tevairoa, Bora Bora

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

You won’t want to cross Bora Bora off of your bucket list after spending a few days at The Pearl. It’s worth returning to again and again. The full-service resort sits on one of Bora Bora’s islets, facing the main island. The peaceful retreat stuns with 360-degree vistas. Keep it calm by spending your days snorkeling in the crystal-clear water, hiking up a tropical mountain, or sailing on a catamaran.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Adventure Travel Experiential Travel Group Travel Island Luxury Travel

10 Rules for Sailing the Seychelles

Remote, wild, lush—when the first European explorers discovered the 115-archipelago that is the Seychelles, they thought they had found the Garden of Eden.

Upon arriving at these pristine, white sand, palm tree-fringed islands populated with gorgeous creatures that don’t roam the earth anywhere else, I wasn’t sure that they were wrong.

On my island-hopping cruise around the Seychelles with Zegrahm Expeditions, I learned a few valuable lessons that apply to the Seychelles or any adventure.

Always Get Off the Boat

Our Zegrahm Expeditions cruise director wanted to manage expectations. The snorkeling wasn’t as good as some of the other times, the announcement warned. There was a light chop in the water, and we might not see as many fish as before. Not needing more of an excuse to stay in bed for a long post-lunch nap, many people opted to stay on the boat. I dragged myself out and had one of my favorite snorkels of all time, thanks to two sea turtles that joined me (apparently they didn’t get the announcement). Sure, I swallowed some seawater due to the waves, but I would have always wondered what I’d missed if I didn’t go out.

Take a Trusted Guide (or 14)

Me, on this trip: “I saw a fish; it was shaped like a potato but a bright yellow color.” “What’s that crazy thing that looks like it’s embedded inside a rock but has teeth and moves?” Rich Pagen, a conservation biologist and one of our designated marine life guides/”fish guys” onboard always had an answer for me, no matter how odd my description sounded.

We had a team of 14 expedition guides on this trip, with expertise in microbiology, ornithology, anthropology, and more—it was like having access to a highly specialized (and fact-checked) Wikipedia of the Seychelles. The experts dined with us at every meal and were always socializing in the ship’s lounge at night, so we could corner them with more questions at any time.

Perhaps most importantly, we had Gemma Jessy, a naturalist and native Seychelloise. Gemma grew up on the island of Praslin and was invaluable for her knowledge of the Seychelles’ history, culture, and best places to go.

If you try to do this trip alone, you’ll miss out on the knowledge, stories, and expertise that make it so memorable.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid of looking dumb. Ask the question. The experts onboard won’t judge you, and you’ll learn things in a way that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It’s better to say “hey, what’s that?” any time you see a unique bird or animal and get an instantaneous answer (usually along with a few fun facts) rather than try to Google it yourself later.

However, if you’re the person who asked (while we were on a boat) what elevation we were at, the other guests might judge you a little. Blame your mental lapse on the altitude sickness.

Never Miss a Sunset

On a cruise, your daily life can be a bit regimented. There are set times for meals and activities, with repeated announcements to get you to the right place at the right time. But sunset is an extracurricular that you’ll have to plan for on your own.

Make it a priority to figure out what time the sun sets each day and which side of the boat will be best for viewing. Be settled in well before the sun dips below the horizon, so you can watch the sky gradually change from a golden glow to a fiery red—the show is spectacular, wildly unproductive, and different every night.

Saving time for simple joys in life like a sunset can remind you to slow down and appreciate each day.

Bring SPF 50…

…and a sun shirt, swim tights, and a bandanna. The Seychelles are only a few hundred miles from the equator, and the sun is merciless down here. Any inch of exposed skin gets sunburned after an hour or two in the water, so covering up is the way to go. Just make sure that any sunscreen you wear is reef-safe.

Covering up is a reminder that sometimes, there’s an easier and simpler solution to what you’ve always done (slathering yourself in sunscreen).

Don’t Forget to Look Up

Change your viewpoint from what’s in front of you and you’ll find more stars than you’d know the sky contained. Birds you won’t see anywhere else on the planet, eyeing you with confusion and curiosity but no fear. Clouds lit up by the setting sun. Stunning, clear blue skies with an unbroken horizon that you could lose yourself in.

Sometimes in life, we’re so focused on what’s in front of us, or watching our feet so we don’t trip, that we forget to look up and appreciate the bigger picture.

Minimize Your Impact

The Seychelles are special because they are so untouched by humanity. Follow the “leave no trace” rule by packing out anything you bring in and never stealing anything (like sand or shells) for a souvenir.

Protect the wildlife by keeping your distance from animals, who can catch diseases from humans or learn bad behaviors. Never touch a coral reef (the oils from your skin can cause destruction), and avoid kicking or walking on coral, which can kill it.  

Many of our Zegrahm guides on this trip made their own reef-safe sunscreen, picked up marine trash, and even took home plastic water bottles for recycling—emulate that behavior. 

Don’t Give up the Moment for the Photograph

I could have taken a million photos and videos and never quite accurately recreated the delicate light here, the sparkling emerald-turquoise color of the waves, or the softness of the sand. If I spent the whole time trying, I would have missed out on the real-life moment.

Snap a photo or two and then put the camera down, so you can fully embrace this moment in time that you’ll never have again. Feel the heat of the sun warming your skin. Smell the unpolluted fresh air. Taste the salt spray on your lips. Run the sand through your fingers and marvel at its softness. Be fully present, and the memory will stick with you much longer than any photo.

Leave Your Plastics at Home

The Seychelles have banned plastic bags, cups, plates, and cutlery. Remember that as you’re packing and leave your Ziploc bags behind—and think about how you can replace them with eco-friendly alternatives. It was an eye-opening lesson to me as I was packing for this trip just how much I rely on one-time use plastic bags for travel, and I’ve now replaced them with reusable alternatives.

Be Flexible

The Seychelles are wild, and you can’t plan your trip down to the minute, unless you want to miss out on an amazing snorkel because you refused to wait for the right tide. No matter where you go, you can’t plan every minute of your trip, or you’ll lose the chance for spontaneous adventures to occur.

Be flexible in your plans, release your expectations, and give yourself up to the flow of the islands—you’ll be rightly rewarded.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Zegrahm Expeditions on its Ultimate Seychelles Tour With Aldabra Atoll. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for pictures of the tour and more.

Categories
Beach Island

The 8 Caribbean Destinations with the Cleanest Beaches

Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department is encouraging potential visitors to reconsider all travel abroad. Read more here for updates on the situation and information on when it might be safe to travel again to destinations like the ones below.

In a world where we’re all trying to be a little more environmentally-conscious, these eight Caribbean destinations are doing their part in keeping themselves as clean as can be.

The Caribbean’s Cleanest Beaches

So, if you’re dreaming of white sand beaches and crystal-clear water, here’s where you’ll find the cleanest beaches in the Caribbean.

We used information from the Ocean Health Index and an ocean health study done by Get Going Travel Insurance for this story.

The Bahamas

beach chairs on a bahamas beach.

The Bahamas rank highest in the world out of all the Caribbean nations on the Ocean Health Index, with its 84-point score coming in at 11th. Explore its untouched Out Islands for an even more pristine landscape.

Antigua and Barbuda

antigua caribbean pristine beach.

The two-island nation is positioned where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, so its ecosystem is incredibly unique with reef-lined beaches and rainforests. Its beaches are among the purest in the Caribbean, with an overall Ocean Health Index of 80 and rated 27th in the world.

Aruba

Straw umbrella Eagle Beach Aruba.

Aruba’s waters come in 31st in the world with an Ocean Health Index of 79. Its biodiversity and protected coastline help Aruba rank among the best countries to visit for its beaches in the Caribbean.

Turks and Caicos Islands

caribbean providenciales island in turks and caicos.

Turks and Caicos’ Grace Bay consistently ranks as one of the top beaches in the world, so it’s no surprise that the country has some of the cleanest and most enjoyable beaches in the Caribbean. The islands come in at 35th in the world, with an overall Ocean Health Index of 79.

The U.S. Virgin Islands

Coral Bay St Johns U.S. Virgin Islands.

With an overall Ocean Health Index of 76, the U.S. Virgin Islands places 47th in the world (the listing is combined with Puerto Rico). The island chain is also ranked at number 10 on Get Going’s study, making it one of the cleanest oceans in the Caribbean.

Saba

saba island caribbean.

This Caribbean island is among the least-visited, which means fewer tourists to pollute its beaches. It’s known as the “Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean and its overall index score is 73, ranking 60th in the world on the Ocean Health Index.

Curacao

Grote Knip beach Curacao Netherlands Antilles.

It’s no wonder why Blue Curacao liqueur uses the country’s beaches for its color inspiration. Get Going ranks Curacao’s beaches as 11th in the world, and the country has an overall Ocean Health Index of 73, ranking 61st in the world.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

aerial view of isla mujeres in mexico.

While the country of Mexico doesn’t place very high on the Ocean Health Index (166th, with an index of 67), Get Going’s study positions Isla Mujeres as 15th in the world for its underwater experience, and as one of the best places to swim with whale sharks during their peak season. Located off the coast of tourist-filled Cancun, the island feels thousands of miles away (when it’s really only eight).

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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Adventure Travel Island

When We Were the Wild Adventurers: Sailing Between the Stars and the Sea in the Seychelles

An expedition cruise conjures up a picture of explorers suffering through harsh conditions to experience some of the most secret corners of the globe. Of rations and camping in battered tents aboard a cold freighter. With Zegrahm Expeditions, an expedition cruise meant surprise macarons on the beach and a floating bar in the bluest, warmest ocean you’ve ever seen—all while still seeing those same hidden places previously reserved for tough explorers.

And yet, on even on a comfortably luxurious cruise ship, I found myself surrounded by explorers. There’s something different about the people you meet onboard an expedition cruise. It wasn’t your standard group of tourists who were just there for the buffet. It was three-course meals eaten next to the only person in the world who’s stood on the bottom of the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, sitting in a zodiac with someone about to embark on a round-the-world private jet cruise, and drinking a sunset cocktail next to a traveler who could tell me what Tibet was like in the 70s. Every conversation referenced places I couldn’t find on a map, but immediately added to my bucket list.

Meeting people like the gentleman in his 80s who was nearly to his goal of visiting all the national parks in the U.S. and Canada sparked a promise to myself to never stop traveling, learning, or appreciating life.

A Trip Unlike Any Other

sunset in seychelles

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, “you cannot step in the same river twice.” I keenly felt this on the tour, as every snorkel, every dip into the water brought unknown surprises, with tides bringing me past brilliant corals and curious fish that flitted by in a moment that I’d never have again. Likewise, you can’t take the same Zegrahm Expedition trip twice. The Ultimate Seychelles With Aldabra Atoll trip that I took won’t ever be offered again.

The company changes up the trips each time, offering different stops and switching up the game on a daily basis. I dined with a couple who had been on multiple Zegrahm trips across the globe, and asked how they had decided on the Seychelles as their next trip. It was easy, they replied. They asked the Zegrahm staff on their last trip which voyage the guides were all fighting to get assigned to, and picked that one.

While I slept in late, ensconced in my perfectly air-conditioned, silent cabin each morning, the expedition guides were scouting the area for the best landing spot. There was no plan to tear up when the tides dictated a new itinerary, as the staff didn’t make a schedule beyond a general briefing—what we did and where we went depended on what nature had in store for us. The running joke at the briefing was to show a miles-wide circle around the area we were in, and say that we would snorkel “somewhere in here.” Local guides were called in for expertise, helping us find the perfect snorkel sites and deserted beaches.

Le Bouganville ship exterior

Our first day of the voyage was spent at sea as we cruised away from Zanzibar and toward the Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean. I ran on the ship’s treadmill in front of a wall of panoramic windows displaying the real ocean breaking around the ship, while a simulated beach and ocean scene played on the screen before me, and thought:

How much of what we see lives up to real life? We admire photos on Instagram and travel websites that have been edited past all recognition, and are disappointed when we arrive to find crowds of tourists just like us clutching their phones and looking for the perfect shot. Would the much-hyped Seychelles be the same?

“Look around the room,” our expedition leader Brad solemnly advised that night. “By this time tomorrow, one of you will be lobster red. Will it be you?” Spoiler: It was me.

If you want to make God laugh, the saying goes, make plans. If you want to make Mother Nature laugh, be part Irish and face the sun south of the equator with a mere SPF 50. Fortunately, the very fashionable French ship Le Bouganville that we were sailing on had a well-stocked gift shop that sold swim tights (which is obviously what all French women wear to look good at the beach).

I reassured myself that at least wearing these sexy tights every day of the cruise brought the price down to a very reasonable cost per wear. There’s nothing to make you feel more glamorous than washing out a sun-safe uniform in your luxury cruise bathroom with the complimentary Hermes toiletries, but now I was ready to dive in again—which was good, since we were about to arrive at Aldabra Atoll.  

Aldabra Atoll

Our most anticipated stop on this voyage was to the Aldabra Atoll.

Aldabra has been compared to the Galapagos Islands. Both locations are home to hundreds of endemic species, but it seems an unfair analogy for Aldabra to be compared to a destination that’s so relatively invaded by tourism. While the Galapagos see over 225,000 visitors a year, only around 1,000 people get the privilege of setting foot on Aldabra each year.

Aldabra’s relative harshness has been its savior. No fresh water sources are found here, and the area is fairly inaccessible—rough waters make it impossible to visit for a significant portion of the year.

Aldabra consists of four islands around a lagoon. The size of the island of Manhattan, Aldabra is the world’s second-largest coral atoll and home to over 400 endemic species and subspecies that you won’t see anywhere else on this planet.

Zodiacs ferried us out to the top of Grand Passe, where the incoming tide would whisk us into Aldabra’s lagoon. Right before we dropped into the water for the first time, one of our guides mentioned the possibility of sharks, striking fear in my heart and the theme song to Jaws in my head.

It only took one snorkel and one encounter with a shy and graceful reef shark (who was so small, I figured I could take him in a fight if it came to that) to go from “please don’t let me see a shark” to “please let me see lots of sharks up close.” It helped that the water was crystal clear, the visibility so good that nothing could sneak up on me.

Hundreds of orange fish were suspended in the light beams around me, like a fistful of glittering confetti thrown into the crystal-clear water.

swimming with fish scuba diving

A drift snorkel feels like flying.  As we drifted along without the need to kick or swim, we had a bird’s-eye view of the vibrant ecosystem below. The tides swept us up along with huge schools of fish, in vivid oranges and yellow and patterns so flamboyant they seemed unnatural.

A turtle, as big as myself, startled me as it zipped past at high speed. A shot of fear turned into adrenaline and a gasp of joy inside my snorkel at seeing this gentle giant up close, even if it had no interest in hanging out with me for long. Whoever gave this graceful beast a reputation as being slow must have never seen one swim.

A small grey reef shark gaped at the schools of snorkelers before darting away to quieter waters.

At the end of the drift, we were scooped up in a zodiac and pleaded like kids at an amusement park to go again and again, the boats bringing us back to the start to experience nature’s magical ride once more.

How rare it was to be one of a few people on the planet to get to experience this golden moment. We headed to shore and strolled along soft, white-sand beaches as gold-tipped reef sharks swirled around the waves, visible just inches away from our feet. We watched the giant tortoises go about their daily life in their beautiful habitat.

I wondered if they were enjoying the golden sunset and soft light as much as I was or if it was just another day on the sand to them.

turtle walks along the beach

Learning Life-Changing Lessons

There’s nothing like an expedition cruise to make you feel humbled—insignificant against the millions of stars above and endless expanse of ocean and sky—but also powerful and important with every choice you make every minute of every day.

Before the voyage, I knew that plastics were bad for the environment. But to sit in on a lecture from Dr. Merel Dalebout, a naturalist with a Ph.D in ecology and evolution, and learn that one million plastic water bottles are sold every minute worldwide, and then to go for a swim with the magnificent creatures that ingest and die from these plastics, and then to see plastic bottles and flip-flops washed up on remote shores miles from civilization, makes me realize just how powerful my everyday choices are, and I vowed to become a more conscious consumer upon returning home.

“Le Hard” on La Digue

La Digue beach

In this untouched part of the world, there’s no local population putting pressure on the ecosystem, and you can see what nature is like when it’s left wild and unafraid of humans. After two glorious days at Aldabra, we sailed on, exploring remote corners and secret sections of the Seychelles, before finishing up our journey on La Digue.

You may have seen the picture-perfect island of La Digue on generic, calming screensavers before. This island is the embodiment of the word paradise: huge, granite boulders that frame blindingly white sand, fringed with lush green palm trees. Brilliantly turquoise waves crest in white foam and pound on the shores in a white-noise-worthy soundtrack. The night before we landed, we were given a choice that honored the French heritage of these islands.

Pick “Le Hard, L’Easy, or Le Truck.” I tentatively wrote my name down on Le Hard, also branded as the Survival of the Fittest Hike/Bike/Swim. Was I up for this mini-triathlon after two weeks of French cheese?

Fortune and jaw-dropping scenery favor the brave … and the cheese-stuffed. On La Digue, a fleet of the island’s finest bikes were waiting for us. Slightly ocean-rusted and creaking, these beach cruisers let us stretch our legs and fly down the dirt roads of the islands. We passed through local villages and forests to emerge triumphant at what I thought was the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen. It looked just like I had been dropped into the screensaver I had imagined. But this was not the beach we were here to see—our guide Murph promised us an even more stunning one in exchange for a little sweat.

We trekked over the beach and up a rocky trail that confirmed La Digue’s granitic island history. The boulders formed stairs, and at the top of the natural granite staircase, a breeze and sparkling ocean view gave a signal that this hike would be more than worth it. We descended down to Anse Coco beach.

Accessible only by boat or hike, the crowds were minimal. Desperate to cool off after our expedition, we shed our sweaty clothes down to our sweatier swimsuits and plunged into the water. Cooler than many other spots in the Seychelles, the water offered sweet relief, at a price. The undertow made the ocean’s power very clear. The aggressive waves came tumbling one after another, knocking us off our feet much as did the beauty of the island. We frolicked in the glowing turquoise water, getting taken out by waves and giggling with glee, feeling like explorers who’d stumbled upon a secret paradise.

At the day’s end, we’d return to the ship and our pampered existence as cruisers. But out here in the swirling waters, we were the wild adventurers.

From the Stars to the Bottom of the Ocean

Each night on the ship, we journeyed from the stars to the bottom of the ocean. At 9 pm, the boat lights were turned off. The top deck was empty and still, with just the hum of the engines and the rushing of the waves as we cut through the water. There was no light to compete with the stars, their brilliance shone brighter than I’d ever seen—a natural dark sky reserve. The Milky Way cut a vibrant swath through the sky, and too many other stars for me to identify lit up the sky. After hours of stargazing and tracing constellations I’d never seen before, I tore myself away and took the elevator down six flights, emerging underwater.

Ponant Blue Eye Lounge

Le Bouganville’s Blue Eye Lounge added a submarine element to the ship. Four holes cut into the hull and encased in 18 layers of glass let us live underneath the sea each night. Blue underwater lights lit up the ocean around us, giving us a peek into life below the water line. I felt like a spy suspended in space as curious needlenose fish darted by the windows. The room erupted in cheers as a sea turtle swam by, and gasps when a flying fish danced across our view. Bioluminescence sparkled below, looking like precious gems in the blue light, bringing one of the ship’s marine experts nearly to tears at seeing such a rare sight up close, dry, and with a drink in hand.

We spent our nights pressed up against the glass in wonder and with our eyes turned up to the sky. Back in Boston I lift my gaze up to the light-polluted skies in search of the same brilliance. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see them anymore—I know the stars are up there just as I know the spirit of the adventurous expeditioner lives on inside me.    

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Zegrahm Expeditions on their Ultimate Seychelles Tour With Aldabra Atoll. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for pictures of the tour and more.

Categories
Beach Fashion & Beauty Island

13 Tropical Vacation Outfits for Better Days

Warmer weather will be here soon. Be ready for it with these fun outfits that will make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation.

Anne Cole Maxi Robe Coverup

Anne Cole Maxi Robe Coverup.

Available in regular and plus size, Anne Cole’s Maxi Robe is the perfect cover-up for hot destinations. The robe style is one-size-fits-all, and simply ties in the middle, so you don’t have to worry about it clinging to you in the heat. Plus, the ultra-colorful sunset floral print will look great in poolside photos.

Tilley TOY1 Audrey Hat

Tilley TOY1 Audrey Hat.

For stylish sun protection, you can’t beat Tilley’s TOY1 Audrey Hat. With a four-inch brim, this hat will add a touch of glamour to any tropical vacation outfit. Made from 100 percent rice paper, the Audrey is lightweight but still provides UPF 50 sun protection. It’s lined with mesh on the inside and has a moisture-wicking sweatband to help keep you cool. There’s even a secret pocket on the interior to store your valuables.

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Viscata Espadrilles

Viscata Espadrilles.

Add (comfortable) height to your tropical vacation outfit with Viscata Barcelona’s Roses Canvas Wedges. These on-trend espadrille wedge pumps add three inches of height via a 2 1/3 inch heel and half-inch platform that’s still easy to walk in. Made out of a soft cotton canvas lined with leather, these are some of the world’s most comfortable wedges. 

Ably Valerie Maxi Skirt

Ably Valerie Maxi Skirt.

Ably’s Valerie Maxi Skirt is a versatile item that can work for a long plane ride, as a beach cover-up, or as a part of a fun outfit in a hot climate where you want to remain modest. The skirt is made from a trademarked Filium activated fabric that repels liquids, stains, and odors, so you can wear it multiple times on one trip without needing to visit the laundromat.

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Public Rec All Day Every Day Short

Public Rec All Day Every Day Short.

Public Rec’s All Day Every Day Shorts look casual, but they have plenty of serious features. Two front zipper pockets are deep enough to hold all your valuables, and two large back pockets hold anything you need easy access to. An elastic waistband makes these comfortable enough to wear on a long plane ride, or after a day of vacation indulgence.

Nisolo Serena Sandals

Nisolo Serena Sandals.

Nisolo’s Serena Sandals are the only shoes you need to pack for your tropical vacation. Available in three neutral colors, these minimalist sandals will go with everything—and they’re so comfortable you’ll want to wear them every day. A small three-quarter-inch wedge heel adds a little bit of support without causing pain and makes these sandals easy to pack. A cushioned insole, ankle strap, and soft leather lining add to the comfort factor.

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Catalina Swim Bikini

Catalina Swim Bikini.

No tropical vacation outfit is complete without a cute bikini underneath. Catalina Swim’s Twist Front Underwire Bikini Top and Hipster Bikini Bottom are flattering and comfortable. The twist front and ruching add a pop of style. The bikini top has underwire for extra support, plus removable cups and adjustable straps so you can get the perfect fit.

Belongsci 3/4 Sleeve Dress

This incredibly breathable dress comes in a wide variety of styles, colors, and sizes. This adaptable find is a cute and casual dress for any tropical occasion.

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Milumia Plus Size Tropical Maxi Dress

Milumia Plus Size Tropical Maxi Dress.

Looking for plus size tropical vacation outfits? Check out Milumia’s Plus Size Tropical Maxi Dress which is available in sizes up to 3XL. The dress has a trendy cold shoulder design and a flirty split hem and comes in lots of tropical prints like palm leaf or florals.

Sanuk Water Shoes

Yes, water shoes can look stylish. In fact, you’d never know that these slip-on shoes from Sanuk are designed to be worn in the water—they look just like a cute beach espadrille. Made out of canvas with a rubber sole, these shoes are perfect for when you need to transition from the beach to lunch. They come in a variety of styles, including a men’s version.

KGB Running Shorts

KGB Running Shorts.

Whether you plan on working out on vacation or just want something casual to throw on over your swimsuit bottoms, the KGB Running Shorts are a perfect choice. Available for men and women, these shorts hide a secret SmartSlot pocket in the waistband that’s large enough to hold a phone or wallet—or your sunscreen.

[st_related]The 10 Most Comfortable Men’s Walking Shoes for Travel[/st_related]

Halo AIR Series Headband

Tired of headbands slipping off your head whenever you do anything remotely active? Give Halo AIR Series Headband a try; it has silicone nubs on the inside to keep it securely in place. The headband offers UV protection, making it great to wear during sunny activities like snorkeling or hiking.

Poseshe Plus Size Maxi Dress

Nothing says vacation like a maxi dress. Poseshe’s Plus Size Maxi Dress is flowy without being frumpy, thanks to an adjustable waist tie that gives you definition. Made from a modal/spandex fabric blend, this dress travels beautifully and can be packed without causing wrinkles.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Beach Health & Wellness Island Luxury Travel

9 Remote Spa Getaways Where No One Can Bother You

Forget sightseeing, walking tours, and signing up for adventures you don’t have the energy for. It’s time for vacation to mean vacation again, and there’s no better way to escape completely than by taking a trip to a spa—preferably one in the middle of nowhere. These days, the only way to truly relax is to get off the grid and emphasize in your out-of-office message that you’ve set off for somewhere where the Wi-Fi is “very limited.”

If you’re looking for a vacation where no one can bother you, check out these luxurious and far-flung spa getaways and their most delectable treatments.

Naia Resort and Spa in Placencia, Belize

Although Belize is closer to the U.S. than most people think (just a two-hour flight from Miami), you’ll need to take another short flight on either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air to get to the Naia Resort and Spa in the small city of Placencia. The hotel itself is lovely on its own, located on a wild beach lined with ocean-view studios and villas, but the spa hidden away on a private lagoon is what makes this resort really worth the trip. Perched over a lily pad-speckled pond, each treatment room has a private deck perfect for enjoying the spa’s quiet serenity. You can book a treatment whether or not you’re staying at the resort, and you’ll also have day access to the spa’s pool area.

Top Treatment: The Maya Cacao and Cinnamon Wrap is one of Naia’s most famous and delicious treatments. Your body will be exfoliated with a mix of dark chocolate, brown sugar, and hydrating coconut oil, and then wrapped in warm towels to infuse. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to becoming a chocolate brownie.

dipiu at Hotel Giardino in Ascona, Switzerland

The Hotel Giardino is “located where the Alps meet Italy’s lemon trees” and is home to the dipiu Spa. Named for the Italian phrase “a little more,” you’ll be wanting a lot more when you see the facilities like the indoor pool and lovely treatment rooms. In the small town of Ascona, right on Lake Maggiore, the hotel offers a peaceful atmosphere halfway between the busy financial centers of Zurich and Milan.

Top Treatment: You can’t go wrong with the Fusion Stone Massage, a treatment that blends classic massage techniques with hot stones and aromatherapy.

Forest Spa at the Bwindi Lodge in Uganda

If you want the adventure of a lifetime and a remote spa getaway all in one trip, it’s time to think about Uganda. At the Bwindi Lodge, when you sign up for a gorilla trek, you’ll also receive a complimentary 30-minute massage upon your return. You can choose to have your treatment in the spa or in your room. There are eight private bandas, or bungalows, for guests, each with its own luxury shower, sitting area, and terrace overlooking the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Top Treatment: Try the African Rungu Massage, which uses a rungu, a Maasai throwing club carved out of eucalyptus wood. This treatment uses long strokes and deep pressure to reduce soreness and improve blood circulation.

Maya Spa at Azulik in Tulum, Mexico

On a secluded beach in Tulum at the adults-only, eco-friendly resort of Azulik, the Maya Spa offers spiritually inspired treatments meant to reinvigorate your mind and body. From sound-bathing and biomagnetism to massages and facials, you’ll find the perfect treatment to suit your physical and emotional needs—whether you’re looking to relax or rejuvenate.

Top Treatment: For vitality, try the Ancient Traditional Massage. Using traditional Mayan techniques, this full-body massage utilizes lemons and herbs to detox your body, as well as cupping to help restore balance and give you more energy.

KurSpa at the Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, British Columbia

If you want to get away to somewhere quiet but don’t want to stray too far, check out the Sparkling Hill Resort, one of the most luxurious spa getaways you can get, where the 40,000-square foot-spa is the height of luxury. This wellness resort is owned by the Swarovski family and decked out in beautiful crystals everywhere you look, from the large chandeliers in the lobby to the decorative details in the guest rooms. At the spa, you have all the basic spa treatments available, as well as the opportunity to visit the Wellness Clinic, which customizes treatments for guests to address issues like chronic pain, inflammation, and slowing the aging process.

Top Treatment: For something on the colder side, test out the KurSpa’s three-chamber approach to cryotherapy. Guests pass through a series of chambers that get progressively colder. The cold treatment boosts the nervous and circulatory systems and is effective for treating arthritis, multiple sclerosis, blunt joint trauma, sleep disorders, and more.

The Arctic Bath in Harads, Sweden 

The trendy Arctic Bath is a floating spa that made waves when it opened in 2018. In Harads, Sweden, this timber- and ice-inspired building will feature four saunas, a pool, outdoor showers, and overnight lodging in rooms featuring large skylight windows for appreciating the northern lights in the winter months.

Top Treatment: The Arctic Bath might not be open yet, but there’s no way you won’t be able to get a classic Swedish massage when it does. Is there any place better in the world to get a Swedish massage than floating on a lake in Sweden underneath the northern lights?

Jawa Juu Spa in Pacuare, Costa Rica 

At the Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica, Jawa Juu is a spa where you can experience the rainforest all around you. Treatments are inspired by the ancient traditions of the indigenous Cabecar culture, and the spa offers a menu of holistic massages, reiki, and rituals that combine aromatherapy, sound therapy, and yoga. Jawa Juu’s wellness philosophy has been instilled with all things restorative with an emphasis on using local materials.

Top Treatment: Costa Rica is famous for its coffee, so while you’re staying at the Pacuare Lodge don’t miss a chance to try the Invigorating Coffee Exfoliation. After the coffee bean rub leaves your skin silky smooth, the infusion of orange-essence body cream will have you feeling fresh and renewed.

Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in Chengdu, China

Settled in view of the majestic Qing Cheng Mountains in China near the city of Dujiangyan, Six Senses is a decadent spa retreat with beautiful suites and villas. No trip to Six Senses is complete without a visit to the spa, where the architectural design of the facilities matches the natural beauty of the mountains. Every treatment is incorporated “with the purity of Taoism” and uses a variety of holistic therapies personalized to guest needs.

Top Treatment: While in China, treat yourself to the Bamboo Massage. This treatment uses different types of bamboo sticks to apply firm pressure to your back, legs, and arms. At Six Senses, it is followed by a face massage that will reduce signs of fatigue.

SpaTerre on Little Palm Island, Florida

Florida might be the last place you think of as remote, but in order to get to Little Palm Island Resort and Spa, you’ll need a seaplane. Located on an exclusive island in the Florida Keys, SpaTerre is inspired by Balinese spa treatments and Thai rituals.

Top Treatment: Order the Madrugada Water Massage for a blissful experience you’ll never forget. With your massage table located right in the water, you’ll be surrounded by the sounds and smells of the ocean while receiving a customized massage that makes use of seashells. Note that this massage is only available in the morning and when weather conditions are suitable.

More from SmarterTravel:

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who loves a good facial while traveling. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Island Outdoors Packing Travel Trends

15 Beach Bag Essentials You Need for Summer 2020

From a clever sand-removing powder to a high-performance water camera, these beach bag essentials will make your trip to the beach much more enjoyable.

HyperGo Body Wipes

After a long day at the beach, you’ll have sand, salt, and sweat on your body. Quickly refresh before heading back to your car—or the closest bar—with HyperGo Full Body Wipe. These biodegradable, hypoallergenic wipes come in a variety of sizes—and they don’t leave a sticky residue. Bonus: The wipes are alcohol-free and also have a moisturizing component.

MyKazoe Waterproof Wet Bag

gray chevron bag and aqua drawstring bag

These water-resistant pouches by MyKazoe are amazingly multi-functional—use them for a wet swimsuit, to separate dirty items from the rest of your beach bag, or to protect your phone or any other valuables from water and sand. You’ll want one in every fun print for your beach bag essentials.

BYRD Texturizing Surf Spray

Throw this sea salt spray into your beach bag for a natural UV filter for both your hair and scalp. It will complement your wavy beach hair and protect your locks and contains only natural or plant-derived ingredients so your hair won’t dry out. I recommend using it on damp hair and reapplying after swimming.

Icy Cool TSA Approved Neoprene Caddy

Keep those beach bag essentials that you don’t want to be exposed to the sun shaded and cool with these bags. Whether it’s your phone, a snack, medications, or toiletry items, these pouches are a great alternative to a cooler. Simply freeze the inserts and place them in the lining of the bag.

Vitrix Kitchenware Bottle Caps

green bottle cap on wine bottle

Throw this bottle stopper in your beach bag so you can close and save your drink on the beach. Each bottle stopper comes in a different color, so you know whose bottle is whose. The stopper fits on bottles like beer, wine, water, juice, or sports drinks, and is a must-have for serious beach days.

Takeya Actives Water Bottle

Stay hydrated at the beach with a Takeya water bottle. These babies will stay cold for 24 hours, and come in sizes as large as 40 ounces. Whether it’s water or something stronger that you want to keep discretely chilled, this bottle will be one less thing to pack in a cooler.

Beach Sandy Sand Remover 

wooden brushes and blue bag

This miraculous brush set removes sand from your body and belongings after a long day at the beach. It wicks away any excess moisture and sand so you won’t track anything back to your car or house. The lightweight beechwood brushes come in a portable microfiber towel bag.

Dock & Bay Towel Microfiber Towel

Dock & Bay makes roomy quick-dry towels that are easy to transport and perfect for the beach. The extra-large size is great for more than one person to use, and the lightweight material makes it easy to shake any excess sand off.

Blue Lizard Sport Sunscreen

Obviously sunscreen and sun protection are beach bag essentials, but I especially love Blue Lizard Sport for its environmentally friendly formula. The formula is also mineral-based and paraben-free. This dermatologist-recommended sunscreen also packs up to 80 minutes of water resistance.

iJoy Beach Bomb Portable Speaker

This portable speaker was made for the beach: It can float, has a long-lasting battery of up to six hours, and is durable enough to handle sand. Amazon reviewers love the sound quality, and the speaker doesn’t take up too much room in your bag.

Beach Reads 

Nothing beats relaxing on the sand with a good book or magazine. Whether it’s a new, juicy novel or your favorite classic, a book is always one of my top beach bag essentials.

I’m currently reading The Futures by Anna Pitoniak, and highly recommend it as a beach read this summer. You can find our full list of the hottest beach reads here, or check out some of our readers’ choices for top beach reads on Amazon.

Nixon CoolPix W300

yellow digital camera

SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon tested out this beach bag essential. “I’ve never been one to trust a water-proof case to protect my iPhone, so I jumped at the opportunity to try a Nikon CoolPix W300, which is completely waterproof and can transfer photo and video directly to your phone over Wi-Fi,” she says. “A point-and-shoot camera with its own memory card, it has far better resolution and storage capabilities than my jam-packed iPhone.”

Wallaroo Hat Company Crushable Hats

For more beach bag essentials that will protect you from the sun, you’ll want a stylish hat for the beach. The Wallaroo Hat Company makes crushable hats for men, women, and kids, plus the fabric is UPF 50+ protective. SmarterTravel’s Christine Sarkis loves the Catalina Cowboy Hat for its style, lightweight material, and easy reshaping.

REKS Unbreakable Sunglasses

Sunglasses are a must-have item at the beach, and REKS Unbreakables are one of the ultimate beach bag essentials because they won’t break or scratch, and still have UV 400 protective lenses. Available in a variety of styles for both men and women, just add on floating croakies and you’ll never lose or damage your sunglasses at the beach again.

Zesica Beach Cover Up

A cover-up is a classic, but often one of the more neglected beach bag essentials. I love this light and airy cover-up from Zesica because it’s more like a blanket, and you can adjust it to cover only the areas you don’t want to be exposed to the sun.

For more ideas, see The Best Beach Accessories and Traveler Tips for Your Next Beach Trip.

Cute Beach Bags to Snag this Summer

Stylish Beach Bags

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Active Travel Beach Budget Travel Island Outdoors

The Cheapest Caribbean Islands to Find Your Paradise

A week of sun and sand may be priceless for your mental health (and your tan), but you don’t need to pay a fortune to get it. We gathered data on airfare, hotel rates, and package deals to unearth the cheapest Caribbean islands to visit, along with reasonably priced places to stay on each one. To qualify, the destination also must be ranked on the top half of the Price of Travel’s index of the cheapest Caribbean islands.

Cozumel

shopping street in cozumel mexico

This small island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is known for its white-sand beaches, colorful marine life, and the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio. While you can fly directly to Cozumel from a handful of U.S. airports, including Dallas and Charlotte, you can often save hundreds of dollars by flying to Cancun instead and then taking a ferry to Cozumel from nearby Playa del Carmen.

“Regularly under the $300 mark, nonstops to Cancun can be found from most major U.S. airports at any time throughout the year,” advises Tracy Stewart, Content Editor at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site.

You’ll likely find cheaper hotel nightly rates between August and November. (Note that this falls within Caribbean hurricane season.)

Where to stay: Past guests rave about the friendly service and quiet, homey vibe at Casita de Maya Boutique Hotel, where rates are regularly below $75 a night. If you’re looking for a beachfront resort experience, try the Blue Angel Resort, where you’ll usually pay less than $150 a night.

Jamaica

sea view jamaica

Eco-adventurers will find plenty to do in Jamaica, from swimming in waterfalls to zip-lining through the rainforest. Only-in-Jamaica spots to visit include the Bob Marley Museum and the Rastafari Indigenous Village. And, of course, there are plenty of beaches to relax on between excursions.

With three main tourist areas—Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril—you can price-shop for the best rates for your Caribbean vacation. Again, travel between May and October may offer lower rates because of hurricane season.

Where to stay: For hotels, try the budget-priced Westender Inn, where you can look out over the ocean from an infinity pool.

Puerto Rico

colorful buildings in old san juan

In Puerto Rico, you can split your vacation between the lush El Yunque Rainforest, the island’s wide sandy beaches, and the vibrant colonial streets of Old San Juan. A boat trip into one of the island’s bioluminescent bays is another must-do.

“If departing from most East Coast major cities, San Juan is consistently low (under $300) and [has] plenty of flight options,” says Stewart of Airfarewatchdog.

It’s easy to budget for expenses in Puerto Rico, as the local currency is the U.S. dollar. Bonus: You don’t need to pay for a passport to get there. And with a variety of hotel options all over the island, it’s not hard to find one in your price range.

Where to stay: The laid-back, beachfront Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn is a convenient jumping-off point for trips to El Yunque or San Juan, at rates typically under $150 a night. Even cheaper are the clean, no-frills rooms at Dreams Hotel Puerto Rico in the outskirts of San Juan.

Dominican Republic

beach chairs in punta cana

The Dominican Republic is probably the cheapest Caribbean island to visit if you’re looking for affordable all-inclusive deals. You’ll find dozens of packages in Punta Cana on CheapCaribbean.com, with prices such as $499 per person for air and four nights’ accommodations. Activities in the area include snorkeling, zip-lining, and off-road ATV tours through the jungle. You can also go hiking and swim in clear lagoons at the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park & Reserve.

You’ll have plenty of popular resort areas in the Dominican Republic to compare prices at which include La Romana, Puerto Plata, and Samana.

Where to stay: The Punta Cana Princess All Suites Resort & Spa offers a beachfront all-inclusive experience for less than $200 to $250 a night on a recent search. If you’re not up for a big resort, consider the NH Punta Cana, a boutique hotel with breakfast included and a beach within walking distance.

Curacao

Wilemstad_curacao_colorful_buildings.

You can’t go wrong with a visit to the “C” of the ABC Islands, especially during the spring or fall shoulder season, when you’ll find even more savings. And since Curacao falls outside of the hurricane belt, you can book a trip here without worrying about the storm season. Whether you visit for the numerous festivals or the pleasant beach weather year-round, on a Caribbean visit to Curacao you’ll fall in love with the local food trucks, colorful Dutch architecture, unparalleled snorkel spots, and secret beaches.

With nonstop flight options from major U.S. cities like Charlotte, New York’s JFK, and Miami, Curacao is accessible from the East Coast.

Where to stay: The island has plenty of hotel inventory with competitive nightly rates. Check out ACOYA Curacao Resort, Villas, & Spa in downtown Willemstad, which averages $133 per night. Or try the Boho Bohemian Boutique Hotel in the Pietermaai District, one of the hottest areas to stay in Curacao; it has nightly rates starting at $105.

Trinidad & Tobago

beach with palm trees

Get two Caribbean islands for the price of one: Trinidad and Tobago are connected via a fast ferry that takes about three hours. And like the ABC islands, Trinidad and Tobago are located outside of the hurricane belt and you can experience even more savings in the late spring and fall months. Enjoy the vibrant culture, serene beaches, and rainforest landscapes.

While most nationals live on the island of Trinidad, more than half of the country’s resorts are on Tobago. North Americans can enjoy nonstop routes to the main airport, Port of Spain on Trinidad, from cities like Dallas, Houston, New York, Newark, Miami, and Toronto. (New Yorkers also have a nonstop option to Tobago.)

Where to stay: Hotel prices are well below average expectations for Caribbean resorts, with many chain properties in Port of Spain posting under $200 nightly rates. Blue Waters Inn, Half Moon Blue Hotel, and Native Abode are three wallet-friendly options on Tobago within a short distance of beaches.

Bonus Destination: Bahamas

speedboat in nassau bahamas

While this destination isn’t ranked on the top half of the Price of Travel Index, it’s worth considering a trip here to help put money back into the economy post-Hurricane Dorian … and it doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny.

This Caribbean-adjacent strand of tropical islands is a popular getaway just an hour-long flight from Miami. Most visitors fly into Nassau (on New Providence Island) or Freeport (on Grand Bahama Island); it’s worth checking fares to both airports to see which is cheaper. Consider Grand Bahama Island for a quieter, more laid-back vacation, while high-energy Nassau suits travelers looking for lots of activities and nightlife.

One way to save money is by looking into packages from sites such as CheapCaribbean.com or Expedia.

Where to stay: The Bell Channel Inn in Freeport offers basic but comfortable rooms within walking distance of the beach. Bay View Suites Paradise Island is a modestly priced option near Nassau.

More from SmarterTravel:

What to Wear on a Caribbean Island

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Island Luxury Travel

Wish for Rain: The Elemental Splendor of Tofino

“I hope it rains every day you’re there.”

My friend says this as I’m leaving for Tofino, and I laugh. I’m not sure what to make of this unlikely send-off.

By the time I arrive in Tofino, this hope has manifested into dense rain that falls from a matte gray sky. I step off the plane and look up, curious about this wished-for rain, wondering what makes it the sort of guest you invite on vacation. Cold drops pummel my face, challenging the elasticity of my skin; if I were made of sand, the rain would already be carving channels down my cheeks. I shudder involuntarily as a trail of water slides past my ear and settles on the nape of my neck, sending a snaking sensation up my spine. I nestle back into my hood and wipe my face with my already-wet jacket sleeve.

The rain is steady but not dramatic—there are no thunderclaps, no lightning bolts. The impenetrable rainforest surrounding the small air strip signals that this storm is just another day of the usual water cycle commute, southbound.

I’ve packed strategically, and think I’m prepared for the weather. But I’m not. On the tarmac trudge from the plane to the one-room airport, my water-resistant jacket reaches maximum saturation. Soon, my toes are swimming inside my shoes. 

If the West, itself a frontier, has a frontier, this is it. This stretch of Vancouver Island the wildest, wettest, West—where thick forests invent new shades of green with each flicker of sunlight and you’re never far from the roar of waves that have been building strength for 4,500 miles of open Pacific before crashing into Tofino’s rocky shores. On this far left edge of North America, people rush out to meet the rain. In Tofino, home of storm-watching, cold-water surfing, and temperate rainforests, rain is the reason—it’s why people come, and why they stay. 

Tofino’s Alchemy of Rain

Tofino is the end of the road, and no one comes here accidentally. I am no exception—I’ve been dreaming of this place for years. At home in California, I live within sight of the Pacific, yet my daily glimpse is of an ocean tamed by straits and bays into tentative whitecaps or, at most, assertive lapping. In Tofino, however, the Pacific gets a true running start, and I’m ready to see this wild ocean unleashed.

In most places, storms clear a beach. But this is a place that comes alive with each deluge. Here, there’s an alchemy of rain and big waves. Roiling currents, torrential downpours, and surfers claiming every wave—this is Tofino life. Even non-surfers get in on the action; there’s no surer sight than storm-swept shorelines dotted with beachcombers suited up like New England fishing crews, savoring every minute of big weather.

Storm-Watching from the Inside …

Around here, there’s nowhere more famous for pairing wild and welcoming than the Wickanninish Inn, the hotel that invented storm season. I slosh to the hotel, leaving puddles in my wake, unsure about this adventure as I drip my way through the lobby and up to my room. But after a change of clothes and a warm drink beside a hot fire, I begin to understand the wisdom of my friend’s parting wish.

The Wick, as it’s known locally, sits deep in a forest on the edge of the continent; cradled by trees and holding tight to an outcropping that extends out over the Pacific. Inside, hand-carved wooden columns and windows angled for perfect sea views keep nature close. 

Settled inside the warm hotel, I get down to the serious business of storm-watching. I stretch out by the fire and watch surfers take on the storm. I stake out the lobby, which feels more like a living room lined with soft leather chairs and dotted with driftwood tables. I divide my time between watching the waves break around the point and casually inspecting guests—young families, Italian backpackers, retirees, urban sophisticates, honeymooners. I settle onto my sheltered balcony, watching the waves crash into the outcropping just below my room. Not a view goes uninspected, not an overstuffed chair untested.

And yet, the more I watch the rain, the waves, and the dark skies, the more the storm beckons. So instead of putting back on my still-damp jacket—total rookie-wear—I suit up in one of the hotel’s Tofino-grade rubber suits and knee-high galoshes, and set off to discover that the real place to be is not watching the storm, it’s out in the middle of it. 

… And Out

Some beaches are backdrop. Tofino’s take center stage. 

Clusters of rocks frame the long stretch of beach, guarding its edges like continental bastions. As soon as I step onto the sand, this place owns my every sense. The wind catches the ocean’s spray and anoints my forehead, my lips, my nose. My cheeks tighten and flush, awake to the tingle of warm and cold pressing in from opposite sides of my skin. The briny tang rushes in on the stiff breeze; I recognize scents that have relied on the same recipe of salt water, seaweed, and sand for millions of years. There is no horizon from here, just towering whitecaps riding a heaving gray sea. 

I walk for a while and then realize staying still is the only way to take all this in. I stop, crouch down next to a tangle of brown and orange seaweed knitted slickly together, and watch the ocean. The alternating crash of the waves and the waterfall rush of the retreating water creates a rhythm that slows my thoughts and softens my breathing. 

I’ve entirely lost track of time when something, some shift in the breeze, compels me to turn around. I catch sight of the trees at the sand’s border—the trees seem to inhale me, pull me toward it. I walk closer. Here, the tangled branching torrent of the temperate rainforest tumbles down to the edge of the sand.

Standing in this in-between place, I’m struck by the sound of the sea and the rain, these two instruments of Tofino. The symphonic deluge plays the densely forested land-—droplets making each leaf sing a slightly different note—and the crashing waves maintain the baseline for an audience of anyone willing to stop and listen.

I inhale again, and smell the trees as they swap volatile organics for fresh water, flooding the air with Sitka spruce, western hemlock, cedar, and fir. This is a place to feel the earth breathing. I follow a narrow path into the forest, finding my way around the ferns that carpet the forest floor. If I stand still for just a moment too long, I suspect the forest would start to grow up around me, claiming me back.

Hiking the Rainforest

Walking through the temperate rainforest of Pacific Rim National Park in the driving rain, shrouded in waterproof gear, I rediscover something I hadn’t realized was lost: the joy of rain.

I remember playing in the rain as a child and wondering why the adults didn’t join the fun. For a while, they’d hunker under an umbrella and watch us splash and jump, stomp and spin. And then, they’d grow impatient to get back inside, and that would be it. Fun over.

It seemed so strange to me at the time, to act like rain was a hassle instead of the sky inviting you to play. And then it happened: year by year, the delight faded. The thrill of tilting my face up to the rain, arms open to embrace every drop, was replaced by the power of forethought, of being able to imagine the stickiness of a wet jacket, the claustrophobia of soggy socks. Adulthood seemed to leave no room for the ancient pleasure of rain.

And yet, here in the forest, I discover a new form of playing in the rain. The falling drops tickle my face, but the rest of me remains responsibly dry, sheltered within this oversized fisherman’s suit. I wade through pond-caliber puddles and feel the weight of the water pushing up against my boots. I don’t go full Singing in the Rain, but I do stomp, sending out concentric waves and then watching as the water ricochets off the edges of the puddle and bounces back to meet me.

I clear the puddle and walk deeper into the woods. The rain continues, threading its way through the maze of the forest canopy. Drops shatter on leaves around me. 

Another puddle. A stream. A waterfall. The rain and the distant percussion of the ocean. I’ve stumbled onto a family reunion, water greeting the earth after a long trip. Feeding the churn of the seas, the green of the trees; creating congregations in creeks and channels—the land transforms the water, and the water transforms the land. And the water, it will continue to transform, through millions of years of precipitation, evaporation, and condensation. But for a moment, it’s home. I realize I’m holding my breath, and I don’t know why. Then I understand, I’m caught up in a wish. I’m wishing for rain. 

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis experienced a version of the Ultimate B.C. package as a guest of the participating hotels and Visit Canada. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Cities Island

The 10 Best Beach Destinations in the World

You could spend hours daydreaming about the world’s best beach destinations. But how do you choose one that’s right for you?

The following list can help. All of the beaches below offer exceptional beauty, clean sand and water, and nearby tourist infrastructure—and many of them are trending upward in traveler popularity.

Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the U.S. State Department is encouraging potential visitors to reconsider all travel. Read more here for updates on the situation and information on when it might be safe to travel again to destinations like the ones below.

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

grace bay beach providenciales

Providenciales is home to Grace Bay Beach, which made Tripadvisor’s list of the top 25 beaches in the Caribbean as well as SmarterTravel’s own list of the 10 best Caribbean beaches. (Tripadvisor is SmarterTravel’s parent company.)

“Provo” is the picture-perfect Caribbean destination, one that’s been discovered but not overrun. There are clear turquoise waters, coral reefs for snorkeling, and soft white sand where you can beach comb for miles without encountering crowds. Groove to ripsaw music with the locals and savor conch fritters and jerk chicken at the outdoor island fish fry on Thursday nights.

Where to stay: The Oasis at Grace Bay offers rooms, suites, and villas just a short walk from the soft sand of Grace Bay Beach.

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Bali, Indonesia

grace bay beach providenciales

Find your beach nirvana on the southern peninsula of Bali, where scenes from Eat, Pray, Love were filmed. Spirituality infuses many aspects of daily life here, so expect encounters with local traditions that prompt a little soul searching.

Among Bali’s best beaches are Kelingking Beach, which requires some 500 steps to access (but don’t worry, the jaw-dropping views from above are worth it); and Gunung Payung Beach, one of the island’s hidden gems.

Where to stay: Highlights of a stay at the dreamy Seminyak Beach Resort & Spa include the warm, friendly service and the infinity pool overlooking the ocean.

Maui, Hawaii

tropical beach maui hawaii

Maui is among America’s most iconic bucket-list beach destinations. Its beaches—including Kaanapali Beach and Kapalua Beach—consistently rank among the best in the world. And what Maui lacks in affordability, it makes up for in beauty and novelty far beyond the perfect palm-fringed beaches.

Experience fire dancing at luaus, sunrise hikes to dormant volcano summits, and countless waterfalls along the curvy drive to Hana. And it’s now a little more affordable to get there: Southwest started regular service to Maui (and other Hawaiian destinations) from select West Coast cities last year.

Where to stay: Each spacious unit at Aston at The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach includes a full kitchen and a private balcony.

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Grenada

morne rouge beach grenada

Ringed with silky white sand, Grenada, the Caribbean’s “Spice Island,” even smells like paradise with all the nutmeg grown here. While you can find cruise passengers and hawkers if you go looking for them (at Grand Anse Beach, for instance), the beauty of this island lies in its quieter corners, including Morne Rouge Beach, the underwater sculpture park, and rainforest trails.

Grenada tourism is on the rise, with growth in visitor numbers over the past couple of years.

Where to stay: The cottages and hotel rooms at Petite Anse Beachfront Hotel & Restaurant are located on a secluded beach in the northern part of the island.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

fernando de noronha brazil

A 21-island archipelago and natural UNESCO World Heritage site 224 miles off the northern coast of Brazil, Fernando de Noronha is home to three of the world’s top-ranked beaches. One of them, Baia do Sancho, topped Tripadvisor’s 2020 list of the best beaches in the world.

The archipelago limits the number of visitors to protect its delicate ecosystems and wildlife. Those lucky enough to experience Noronha’s secluded beaches will see crystalline waters flanked by reddish sand, volcanic cliffs covered in lush vegetation, and dramatic sightings of the local spinner dolphins.

Where to stay: Rooms at Pousada Del Mares are simple but comfortable, with a location near restaurants, beaches, and shops.

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Clearwater Beach, Florida

sunset clearwater beach florida

White sand as soft as powdered sugar brings spring breakers and retirees in droves to Clearwater Beach, where restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops vie for space within sight of the calm waters. Clearwater made Tripadvisor’s 2020 list of the best beaches in America.

The most pristine beaches in the area are at Caladesi Island State Park, an undeveloped paradise accessible only by ferry.

Where to stay: The family-owned Barefoot Bay Resort & Marina overlooks Clearwater Bay and is just a short walk from the beach.

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Crete, Greece

elafonissi beach pink sand crete greece

The 2018 release of the Mamma Mia! sequel brought the buzz back to the magical Greek Isles, where the storyline is set. Crete isn’t as popular—or pricey—as Mykonos or Santorini, but it still offers plentiful sun, sand, and history.

You can split time between the island’s rich culinary culture, ancient ruins, and alluring beaches. Laze in sheltered coves or on the top-rated Elafonissi Beach, a nearly mile-long protected stretch of white sand with shallow turquoise lagoons and sea turtles.

Where to stay: The intimate Theodore Boutique Hotel has just nine rooms, most with full or partial sea views.

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St. Lucia

white sand-beach saint lucia caribbean

A favorite of honeymooners, St. Lucia is growing more popular with tourists of all types. Last year, this exclusive tropical paradise saw a record-setting number of visitors.

In between adventures such as swimming in waterfalls, hiking to the summit of Gros Piton, and kayaking to Pigeon Island, you can relax on St. Lucia’s many beautiful beaches. Traveler favorites include Anse Mamin and Jalousie Beach.

Where to stay: The all-inclusive Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort offers a little something for everyone, from half a dozen swimming pools to a spa and wellness center.

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Praslin Island, Seychelles

anse lazio beach praslin island seychelles

Secluded and romantic, the 115-island Seychelles archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, has a mystical draw. Seychelles’ beaches, including Anse Lazio on Praslin Island, are among the most photographed in the world.

Anse Lazio is a sweeping white crescent framed by granite rocks and tropical rainforest. It’s isolated but worth the effort to get to Anse Lazio, where solitude and nature reign. Or hop a 15-minute ferry from Praslin Island to La Digue to see the stunning pink sands of Anse Source d’Argent.

Where to stay: Hotel Cote d’Or overlooks a stunning white beach on Praslin Island and offers activities such as canoeing, beach volleyball, and even archery.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

myrtle beach south carolina at night

Myrtle Beach is one of the most family-friendly and affordable beach destinations in the U.S. Here you’ll find 60 miles of sandy shores with nonstop fun for kids, plus reasonably priced condo-style accommodations that parents love.

There’s always something happening in Myrtle Beach, from the opening of new restaurants and breweries to special events year-round.

Where to stay: One of the newest hotels in town, South Bay Inn and Suites, is an ideal option for families with its indoor water park and convenient boardwalk location.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The Best Travel Destinations for Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Editor’s note: Travel to some countries mentioned in this story have been affected by COVID-19. Check the websites of the CDC and the U.S. State Department before your trip for current recommendations about the safety of travel to your intended destination.

Spin a globe, point your finger, and see where it lands—if only planning a trip were that easy. For those who prefer to take a more rational approach when arranging travel, look to your Myers-Briggs personality type.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a behavioral assessment that calculates how people perceive the world and make decisions. Based on the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the test determines your four-letter personality archetype based on the following main factors:

  • Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I): Do you draw energy from your surroundings (outgoing) or from within (reserved)?
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N): Do you process new information through concrete facts or by reading between the lines?
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F): When making decisions, are you more likely to prioritize logic and objective criteria or personal values and others’ feelings?
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P): Do you approach life in a systematic, schedule-oriented way or prefer more flexibility and open-endedness?

Not sure of your Myers-Briggs personality type? You can read about the various types here.

For each of the 16 total Myers-Briggs types, we’ve recommended destinations around the world that best complement your personality and comfort zone. Find out in which direction your internal compass points you for your next trip below.

ENFJ: Sao Miguel Island, Azores

hydrangeas coastal path Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.

Go on vacation with an ENFJ, and they’ll frantically ensure that you’re happy and living your best life. These people pleasers strive to cultivate a sense of community wherever they go, which is why the Azores’ largest and most lively island is the perfect spot for their next getaway. With diverse attractions and easy accessibility (you can drive from one end of the island to the other in less than two hours), the ENFJ will be in their element, organizing activities galore.

Where to stay: Because planning can be exhausting, we suggest seeking respite in the wellness-inspired Furnas Boutique Hotel.

ISTP: Rwanda

Solo travel can be food for any type’s soul, but perhaps no one “owns” that style quite like the ISTP. Often described as an adventurous loner, this type gravitates toward the road less traveled, and the Central African country of Rwanda is a perfect example. Any visit to Rwanda’s dense forests will reward the ISTP with a renewed sense of peace, while local interactions will leave them feeling humbled and with an enriched perspective on the world, something they’re always seeking.

Where to stay: The journey continues at the Bisate Lodge, where the ISTP can become one with nature in an environmentally friendly hut nestled in the mountains.

ISFJ: Santa Fe, New Mexico

“The City Different” is an ideal trip for these unique social introverts who can adapt to their surroundings arguably more than any other type. With its communal atmosphere and colorful melding of Mexican, Native American, and Spanish cultures, the oldest capital city in North America will satiate ISFJs’ love of history and tradition while fostering personal connections along the way.

Where to stay: Bunk up at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, a traditionally designed hotel only steps from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza.

ENFP: Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

Routines don’t sit well with the ENFP, a type with an aching desire for anything out of the ordinary. Behold: the Republic of Georgia. Nestled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the underrated city of Tbilisi is a hub of food, wine, history, and adventure. These amiable free spirits will have plenty of options to bounce around, based on whatever feels right in the moment, and they’re sure to make friends along the way.

Where to stay: ENFPs will swoon over the Stamba Hotel, a former printing house with a storied past and a hip, social vibe that will quench the ENFP’s thirst for creativity and personal connections.

INTP: Hydra, Greece

Channeling one of history’s great INTPs, Socrates, this philosophical type was born to explore the deeper meaning of life. The small, slow-paced Greek island of Hydra offers a welcome invitation for INTPs to unravel details of some of humanity’s earliest civilizations and see the world in a new way, while savoring all the alone time they need.

Where to stay: The historic Bratsera Hotel is more than a place for INTPs to rest their heads; with a fascinating history, this converted sponge factory is an experience all its own.

ESFJ: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap continues to rise in the ranks as a top travel destination, with any mention usually complemented by a glossy image of the famed ancient temple of Angkor Wat. While ESFJs will be highly attuned to the country’s history, these altruistic social butterflies also will love the city’s trendy downtown peppered with colorful boutiques and culturally rich restaurants.

Where to stay: Plan early so you can snag one of three rooms at Hotel Be Angkor, each of which features the work of a local artist.

ISFP: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Living in the moment is an ISFP’s mantra. Pair that with their emotionally driven spirit, and we can’t think of a better place to go with the flow than Mostar. This small city is an inspiring representation of the country’s perseverance—a story that will pull at the ISFP’s heartstrings as they stroll through its intimate cobblestone streets. When the need to recharge strikes, retreat to the banks of the Neretva River and marvel at Mostar’s iconic Stari Most bridge.

Where to stay: The cozy, traditionally designed Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Cuprija offers picturesque views.

ESTJ: Bhutan

When it comes to planning a trip, ESTJs are more likely to save up for one big, bucket-list adventure than take a few spontaneous vacations throughout the year. This logical approach is bound to lead them to places of which people only dream—and next year or the following (because we know this year is already planned), we set the ESTJ’s sights on Bhutan. Tucked away in the Himalayas, the small kingdom will invigorate this high-energy type with its friendly locals, vibrant culture, and breathtaking mountain landscapes.

Where to stay: The Dhensa Boutique Resort’s prominent location near several hiking trails means the ESTJ will never get bored.

INFP: Tunisia

Daydreaming is the INFP’s pastime, but when traveling, this empathetic type prefers places with which they can emotionally connect while simultaneously feeding their curiosity. Tunisia’s capital city of Tunis and its suburbs are a conglomerate of cultures, historic landmarks, and streets made for getting lost. Soak up the sights and sounds of the Medina, revel in the white and blue buildings of Sidi Bou Said, and discover centuries past at the ancient ruins of Carthage.

Where to stay: All the areas listed above are within proximity of Tunis, so we suggest using the city center as a starting point, with the Dar El Jeld Hotel and Spa as your home base.

ESFP: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Where there’s a spotlight, there’s an ESFP. Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored, Spanish colonial buildings set the stage for these natural entertainers, who enjoy surrounding themselves with people in fun-filled environments. That’s exactly what you’ll find in Puerto Rico’s capital: bustling locales and musical block parties that beckon everyone to have a good time—all within few steps of fresh local cuisine.

Where to stay: To balance out the party scene, stay at the Gallery Inn, where 300-year-old buildings and sea breezes make for a relaxing escape in the heart of downtown.

INTJ: Telluride, Colorado

Unlike ESFPs on the opposite end of the spectrum, INTJs make it a point to avoid the spotlight. Their ideal vacation involves a lot of time dedicated to introspection, and Colorado’s postcard-perfect town of Telluride—isolated by its surrounding cliffs and forested mountains—affords ample opportunities to do so. Hike amid alpine lakes and wildflowers in the summer, bike through fall foliage in September and October, or take advantage of world-class skiing without the crowds and over-commercialization during the long winters.

Where to stay: Downtown Telluride’s charming Hotel Columbia is only steps from the gondola, the United States’ first and only free public transportation service of its kind.

ESTP: Tasmania, Australia

From hiking seemingly untouched mountains to whitewater rafting in the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Franklin River, Tasmania’s diverse terrain affords myriad thrills for this risk-taking type. When you’re not relishing the rugged, protected lands that comprise most of the island, embark on an urban adventure through Tasmania’s quaint capital city of Hobart.

Where to stay: Pamper yourself in between treks at Hobart’s historic Islington Hotel.

ISTJ: Kyoto, Japan

If anyone lives by the book, it’s the ISTJ—which is why they thrive in the peaceful, orderly environment of Kyoto, Japan. The ancient city is replete with temples, museums, and shrines that pique the ISTJ’s intellectual senses as they pace through their spreadsheet of activities.

Where to stay: At Villa Sanjo Muromachi Kyoto, a local, Kyoto-based publisher offers highly organized concierge services with “travel solutions” geared toward individual interests.

ENTP: Guyana

Driven by a desire to challenge the standard, ENTPs continuously seek new experiences, using logic over their emotions to make decisions, including when it comes to travel. A logical reason for the ENTP to visit Guyana now is that its natural beauty remains unspoiled, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a chain store in any of its cities or towns. In South America’s only English-speaking country, you can trek to Kaieteur Falls, the largest single-drop waterfall in the world, and taste your way through history during a rum distillery tour.

Where to stay: Find your home away from home at the Cara Lodge, one of the oldest buildings in the capital city of Georgetown.

INFJ: Alacati, Turkey

To an outsider, the INFJ might appear quiet and reserved; in reality, they love connecting with others and sharing their advice and wisdom, as long as the setting is right. This setting conjures up visions of Alacati, a Turkish fishing village where alfresco cafes on bougainvillea-canopied cobblestone streets inspire deep conversation, and quiet moments allow you to hear the breeze roll off the Aegean Sea, carrying with it the scents of lemon, thyme, and other herbs.

Where to stay: Alacati’s intimacy continues at Alavya, where lovingly restored stone buildings are surrounded by private gardens and courtyards.

ENTJ: Jerusalem, Israel

Every group of travelers needs an ENTJ—someone to take charge and put activities into motion. When it comes to vacation planning, these natural-born leaders set the bar higher than any other type. Jerusalem’s historically significant archeological sites could fill a week-long itinerary, so a trip to this city requires strategic organization; this way, you get to enjoy a little bit of everything.

Where to stay: Plant yourself at the Alegra Boutique Hotel, and explore hidden gems in the heart of Jerusalem’s tranquil Ein Karem neighborhood.

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10 Best Places to Go in Florida

The United States is home to more than a dozen cities and towns named Florida, but none can compare with the real Florida’s natural fun-in-the-sun appeal.

The Best Places to Go in Florida

From the coolest cities in Florida, like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, to top theme parks like Busch Gardens and Disney World, these must-see attractions top our list of the best places to go in Florida.

Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida

Disney Magic Kingdom

It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Walt Disney should have named his Orlando theme park Disney Universe—or even Disney Galaxy. The Walt Disney World Resort is so large, in fact, that it’s difficult to narrow down which of the four main theme parks and two water parks to make time for, let alone whether to stay at a hotel within the resort confines or conserve costs with a nearby off-resort stay. Even selecting your preferred theme-park entry ticket can be daunting.

Here is some helpful Walt Disney World Resort information to get you started at this must-see Florida attraction:

Disney World ticketing options include single-day, single-park passes for Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom. You can extend your Disney World family vacation with multi-day passes, which reduce the per-day rate significantly. For example, you can purchase two-day passes, three-day passes, seven-day passes, and 10-day passes. All tickets must be used within 14 days of your initial visit.

With multiday passes, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one Disney theme park. Tack on the Park Hopper option (with access to all four parks) to increase your ticket’s flexibility: Admission to Magic KingdomEpcotDisney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is included.

For some Florida visitors, it’s not a vacation without wild water play or tee time. Disney knows how to round out the visit with two water parks (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach), a nine-hole golf course, two mini-golf courses, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park. Access to these extras is included in the Water Park Fun & More pass. You can also combine both the Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options for an additional fee.

Budget-minded travelers will easily find an array of accommodations options, with thousands of hotel rooms from “budget” to “luxury” within driving distance of Disney World. Consider a stay at a Disney Resort such as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin if you want to take advantage of early-morning and late-night access to select theme parks. Guests of Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista also have an added hour of play before the general public is allowed in and three hours after the parks close for the evening.

With so many parades and shows, peruse the Disney calendar to find scheduled events, plan your itinerary, and work around park closings. No matter what, you’ll find there’s plenty to do in Orlando—one of the coolest cities in Florida.

South Beach, Miami, Florida

lincoln road miami beach.

Lovingly dubbed SoBe, South Beach’s reputation as a gregarious scene for the fun-loving is well deserved among young and old visitors alike. From laid-back lounges to racy dance clubs, South Beach is world-renowned for its hot nightlife (many clubs operate until dawn). And while the robust club and dining scene is too caliente to sleep through every night, SoBe also knows how to play “grown-up” during the day.

Actually the southernmost tip of Miami Beach, South Beach is one of the best places to go in Miami Beach and home to many enriching cultural offerings, including Miami City BalletNew World SymphonyHolocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and Miami Beach Botanical Garden. And you’d be remiss to pass up a stroll along South Beach’s world-famous Art Deco District. This historical part of South Beach is easy to meander along—not only because of its vintage beauty, which is alive with more than 800 candy-colored art deco-style structures, but also because of its concentrated size: a single square mile. Learn about South Beach’s celebrated history by going on a guided art deco walking tour led by the Miami Design Preservation League.

On South Beach, both locals and tourists know how to share the sun, sand, and the occasional pickup volleyball game. Expedite a speedy hangover recovery with yoga lessons from 3rd Street Beach Yoga. Generous instructors facilitate donation-based “yoga from the heart” near the beach’s lifeguard hut.

Always a popular tourist destination, South Beach experiences its biggest influx of visitors in March (spring break), April (Pride festivities), and over Memorial Day Weekend (Urban Beach Week).

Everglades National Park, Florida

everglades national park

A visit to Everglades National Park isn’t just a must-see Florida attraction or one of the top things to do in Florida—it’s an adventure traveler’s dream. The Everglades offers canoe and hiking trails, airboat and tram tours, bird-watching expeditions, and camping.

Also a mecca for those seeking out wildlife sightings, the Florida Everglades’ ecosystem is one of the top attractions in Florida because it’s like no other in the world. Alligators, crocodiles, falcons, turtles, and even panthers are but a few of the many animals you can spot in the Everglades.

Not to be missed, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge lies on the western edge of the Everglades. This 35,000-acre national refuge comprised of mangroves and islands provides refuge to endangered wildlife, among them West Indian manatees, bald eagles, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. There’s some debate about how many islands are actually in the Ten Thousand Islands area. Conservative estimates have it in the hundreds, while more robust assessments estimate at least 17,000 islands during low tide. The Everglades National Park as a whole spans about 1.5 million acres.

Fort Lauderdale

canals with large boats in florida

Ft. Lauderdale is known by many nicknames, among them the “Venice of America” (for its vast system of canals) and the “Yachting Capital of the World” (because locals collectively own 50,000 private yachts). Regardless of what you call it, there’s no disputing that this Florida must-see is a dream destination for boaters. For more than 50 years, Ft. Lauderdale has hosted the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show—the largest such event in the world.

But boaters aren’t the only ones docking in this local scene. Countless spring breakers flock to the city for hedonistic fun each March, beach bums bask on Ft. Lauderdale’s 23 miles of beaches, and snorkelers and divers seek out underwater adventures among the 75-plus artificial reefs.

Key West, Florida Keys, Florida

Key West Florida street.

The final stop on the Eastern Seaboard’s 2,369-mile Route 1, Key West really is the be-all and end-all. Geographically, Key West sits at the southernmost point within the continental U.S. and is closer to Havana than it is to Miami. In spite of its tropical climate (Key West boasts an annual average temperature of 77 degrees) and its low-lying land, Key West is hit by hurricanes less than other coastal regions.

While Key West is enthralling in and of itself, be sure to make it out to sea when in the area. Just a few miles off the coast is the third-largest coral-reef system in the world, the Great Florida Reef. Snorkeling, diving, and deep-sea fishing are popular area adventures. Man-made reefs offer wreck diving just a few miles offshore, too.

Key West was once home to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, among other celebrities of yesteryear. These days, its most famous residents come in a more natural variety: iguanas, feral chickens and roosters, and a clutter of cats, the latter of the excessive-toe variety, nestled in Hemingway’s former home.

Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida
(Photo: Universal Orlando Resort)

Just like Walt Disney World Resort on the other side of town, Orlando’s Universal Studios can hang with the big boys. And planning a visit in advance yields major savings.

Multiday tickets purchased online offer as much as $20 off gate rates. For single-park, single-day passes, you can choose between Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Single-park, multiday tickets are available two days, three days, and four days. Multipark, single-day passes are also available. Multipark, multiday options are available for two days, three days, and four days.

You can skip the lines while at the Universal Studios parks with the Universal Express Pass. A multipark, single-day Universal Express Pass option is also available; as are multiday and even annual pass options (with select blackout dates). Season passes are available that offer “red-carpet treatment.”

With so many theme parks, resorts, and other top attractions to choose from all in one place, it’s easy to see why Orlando is one of the coolest cities in Florida—not to mention one of the best places to go in the entire Sunshine State.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island

The beaches of Sanibel Island are revered around the world as one of the best places to go in Florida by conchologists (shell collectors). The practice of shell collecting is so popular on Sanibel Island’s shores that locals have nicknamed the act of bending down for a shell “the Sanibel Stoop.”

Sanibel Islanders celebrate the seashell with an annual three-day exhibit and festival that typically runs in March. Shell enthusiasts can also learn about shells and mollusks by visiting The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The biggest prize on the beach is the junonia shell, which can land you in the local newspaper.

While shelling is serious business on the island, so is conservation. More than half of Sanibel Island is part of a designated wildlife refuge.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine isn’t nicknamed “Ancient City” for nothing. Juan Ponce de Leon first explored the area in 1513 and claimed it for Spain. It was later turned over to Britain, then back to Spain, and finally ceded (with the rest of the Florida Territory) to the United States in 1819. Today it’s one of the coolest cities in Florida.

You can see much of its rich history infused into St. Augustine’s architecture in places like Ft. Matanzas National MonumentCastillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the country, the Hotel Ponce de Leon (once a regal hotel, now part of Flagler College and also a designated National Historic Landmark), and, of course, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. (Folklore says that Ponce de Leon was searching for the elixir of life when he stumbled upon St. Augustine.)

St. Augustine is also home to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. The park opened its doors in 1893 and now houses more than 20 species of crocodile as well as other reptiles, a bird collection, and many mammals.

Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida
(Photo: Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida via Shutterstock)

For those seeking an up-close look at safari wildlife without the high price of an airfare ticket to Africa, Busch Gardens is one of the best places to go in Florida. Among the 2,700 animals that call the 335-acre zoological-themed park home are elephants, cheetahs, hyenas, hippos, kangaroos, meerkats, and lemurs.

Busch Gardens Tampa also features an adjoining water park, Adventure Island. Seek out some water-filled fun on the twisting Aruba Tuba, the 55-foot-drop Riptide, and the 700-foot-long Key West Rapids. Adventure Island closes from November through February and reopens in March; see the current calendar for more information.

All theme-park tickets provide complimentary round-trip shuttle transportation from several Orlando pickup/drop-off points.

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida

Among the southernmost of the Sea Islands, Amelia Island is an easy drive from Jacksonville and only about five hours from Atlanta. Two bridges connect the island to the mainland.

Amelia Island’s seashore provides plenty of adventures for all. Scallop digging, snorkeling, and horseback riding are all quintessential Amelia Island activities. Watch for the shoreline’s playful dolphins and (if you’re lucky) perhaps even a right-whale sighting.

Amelia Island offers upscale resorts, spas, championship golf courses, a variety of festivals, and of course beaches. Amelia is routinely recognized among the top 10 U.S. islands in Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published on March 1, 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information about the top attractions and best places to go in Florida. 

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Why the Australian Bushfires Shouldn't Stop You from Visiting

Following months of apocalyptic images—billowing smoke, suffering animals, orange flames licking at a blood-red sky—the Australia fires that made headlines around the globe are finally under control. Though bushfires are a natural part of Australia’s ecosystem, this year’s summer fire season was particularly hot and dry, with grim consequences: More than 30 people died and some 27 million acres burned across the country.

It’s enough to scare any would-be tourist off a visit Down Under—but don’t take Australia off your list just yet. Though the damage was very real, Australia is a huge country, and the majority of popular tourist attractions were unaffected by the fires. You can still do most of the things you likely want to do on your Australia vacation—like climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef, or hiking in Blue Mountains National Park—and visiting the country this year can actually contribute to disaster recovery by supporting the local economy.

Below are answers to a few frequently asked questions about Australia travel this year to help you decide whether you’re ready to plan a trip.

Are the Australian Fires Still Burning?

Although regional firefighting agencies report the occasional small bushfire, there were no vast or uncontrolled blazes anywhere in Australia at the time of publication.

Which Areas Were Affected by the Australia Fires?

cable car blue mountains scenic railway.

The southeastern part of the country saw the worst damage, including parts of New South Wales, Victoria, and Southern Australia. About half of Kangaroo Island burned, causing the destruction of homes, farmland, and the renowned Southern Ocean Lodge (the owners plan to rebuild). Adelaide Hills, a region near the city of Adelaide known for food and wine, and a number of coastal towns between Melbourne and Sydney (such as Mallacoota) also saw significant damage.

Parts of the Blue Mountains, a popular national park not far from Sydney, had to close intermittently due to fires, but major visitor hot spots such as Scenic World were not affected. Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra were at times subject to smoke from bushfires, but the air is clear now.

Many of the fires were in rural areas rarely visited by international tourists. You can see a current map of the fire impact on the Tourism Australia website.

Despite the damage, many of the regions impacted by the fires have started to bounce back and are welcoming visitors. For example, Kangaroo Island’s tour operators have adjusted their itineraries to take visitors to unaffected parts of the island, where you can still see the distinctive wildlife for which the island is known.

Where in Australia Can I Travel in 2020?

The vast majority of Australia is open to visitors in 2020, but here’s a sample of appealing spots that were undamaged by the recent fires and are worth adding to your itinerary.

Sydney

No first-time visitor to Australia should miss a stop in Sydney, with its iconic landmarks, golden sand beaches, diverse cuisine, and world-class museums.

Whitsunday Islands

In a country ringed by Insta-worthy beaches, this cluster of islands off the coast of Queensland offers some of the best—along with access to the Great Barrier Reef and plenty of outdoor adventures like sailing and sky diving.

Uluru

The Northern Territory’s most famous landmark, part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is open as usual for tours, walks, cultural experiences, and sunrise and sunset viewings.

Tasmania

Australia’s island state saw only very minor bushfires this year and is a popular draw for hikers and nature lovers. To learn more, see Getting Back to Nature in Tasmania, Australia.

Great Ocean Road

Though other parts of Victoria saw some fire damage, this famed coastal drive and its nearby attractions are open and make for a memorable road trip.

Rottnest Island

Known for its unique wildlife (especially the adorable quokka) and pristine sandy beaches, this island is located off the coast of Western Australia, accessible via a ferry ride from Perth.

Why Should I Travel to Australia This Year?

The tourism industry employs one out of every 12 Australians, so by vacationing here you’re helping to support the economy during the bushfire recovery.

As a bonus, there are some pretty great deals available right now. Ricky Radka, an airfare analyst at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, says he’s seen a number of recent sales on flights to Australia from airlines such as Air New Zealand, Qantas, Fiji Airways, and even Air Canada. “Finding sub-$1,000 round-trip fares [from the U.S. to Australia] is fairly common now,” says Radka, attributing it to “better connections, newer planes, lower costs, and increased long-haul competition” over the past few years.

Depending on where you’re traveling, you can also find savings on lodging, tours, and experiences. Kangaroo Island, New South Wales, and Melbourne are among the destinations advertising deals right now.

How Can I Protect My Trip from Future Australian Bushfires?

While the future is impossible to predict, Australia’s bushfire season typically runs throughout the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months (December through March), so planning a trip outside of this time period is one way to protect your vacation. This comes with secondary benefits as well: Wildlife is often more active when temperatures are slightly cooler, and you’ll likely pay a little less for airfare and accommodations since you’ll be traveling outside of the peak summer season.

No matter when you decide to visit, consider purchasing travel insurance, which generally will reimburse you if you need to change your plans due to natural disasters. (Buy early, though—if you purchase a policy after fires have started, you likely won’t be covered for any losses due to a preexisting incident.)

How Can I Help with Australia Fire Recovery?

Besides planning a vacation to Australia, you can support the country’s recovery with donations of money or time. Australian Wildlife Journeys is offering a handful of recovery-focused itineraries that allow visitors to plant trees for koala habitat, help with weed control, and carry out biodiversity surveys. Echidna Walkabout is offering a koala recovery tour in Victoria with departure dates in July and August 2020. You can find other volunteer opportunities here.

Note also that the Australian government has changed its visa rules to allow backpackers and others on working holiday visas to stay 12 months rather than six if they’re helping with bushfire recovery efforts.

In lieu of volunteering, you can make a monetary donation to the following organizations:

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Adventure Travel Beach Island

Are the Seychelles Safe? Warnings and Dangers Travelers Need to Know

The Seychelles are made up of 115 islands scattered around the western part of the Indian Ocean. Not all the islands are inhabited or open to visitors, and many are only accessible by boat. The Seychelles are a relatively safe destination, but there are still a few tips you should follow to have an incident-free trip.

The Seychelles Sun Safety Tips

The Seychelles are located close to the equator, and the sun may be more intense than you are used to. Pack a water-resistant sunscreen of at least 50 SPF, and make sure that it’s reef-safe if you plan on swimming. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming. Wear a hat to help prevent sunburn to your scalp.

Even a high SPF sunscreen likely won’t be enough if you’re spending lots of time in the water enjoying the Seychelles’ famous snorkeling or diving. Wearing a long-sleeve swim shirt and swim tights will be your best form of protection against potentially severe sunburns.

The sun and heat on the Seychelles can be intense, so take breaks in the shade (or air-conditioning) often, and be sure to stay hydrated. Pack a reusable water bottle and keep it with you on the boat or the beach.

The Seychelles Water Safety Tips

The Seychelles have some of the best beaches in the world, but be careful when wading out into the water. Some beaches are very rocky, and you’ll want to wear water shoes to protect your feet from cuts.

The surf at some beaches can be very rough, and hidden undertows can be dangerous to swimmers. Never swim alone or at a beach that you don’t know is safe for swimming. Note that certain beaches may be safe for swimming during one season, but dangerous during another.

Are Pirate Attacks a Danger in the Seychelles?

Pirate attacks have occurred on boats sailing near some of the outer islands in the Seychelles. Visit the United States Maritime Administration page for the most up-to-date warnings on pirate activities before traveling. Booking a trip on a larger cruise ship with more security is generally safer than chartering your own yacht.

Health and Safety in the Seychelles

Although malaria is not found in the Seychelles, other serious mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, such as Chikungunya and dengue. Mosquitoes can be vicious on many parts of the Seychelles, so be sure to use bug spray and avoid being outside when the mosquitoes are most active (at dusk) if possible.

In addition to routine vaccines, the CDC recommends the hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines for travelers to the Seychelles, so check with your doctor before you go.

Other Dangers in the Seychelles

On Mahe, the Seychelles’ capital, the roads can be narrow and winding, with steep drop-offs. Use caution when driving.

As in most destinations, petty crime (such as pickpocketing) can occur. Watch your wallet or purse while in a crowd, and never leave valuables unattended while on the beach.

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Active Travel Beach Island

8 Best Beaches in the Florida Keys

While residents of cold-weather climates are shivering indoors by the fire, the lucky folks who visit the Florida Keys are snorkeling, splashing, and fishing in still-temperate waters. The shores of this island chain—with dazzling coral reefs and an abundance of wildlife—are recognized as excellent spots for water play, not to mention some incredible beach hotels. Blissfully removed from any signs of winter, these eight beach destinations showcase the best of what the Keys have to offer, from diving to kayaking to just plain sunbathing.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

Best Beach For: Diving

In John Pennekamp, endless protected miles of the Atlantic Ocean are host to stunning coral reefs and enchanting mangrove swamps. The undersea state park, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers a variety of guided diving options, from certification courses to clinics for underwater photography and fish identification. Divers shouldn’t miss the SS Benwood, a World War II shipwreck that sits at a depth of 50 feet, and the Christ of the Abyss statue, in almost 25 feet of water near the Dry Rocks reef.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West

Fort Zachary State Park in Key West, FL

Best Beach For: Snorkeling

The waters that surround this Civil War-era fort, located on the very tip of Key West, reflect its location: where the calm ripples of the Gulf of Mexico meet Atlantic Ocean waves. This convergence creates rocky offshore formations that are home to a spectacular variety of tropical fish, hard and soft corals, lobsters, and crystal-clear turquoise waters through which snorkelers can view all the underwater activity. Best of all, snorkeling-gear rentals are available right in the park.

Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key

Best Beach For: Family Fun

Located on the Gulf side of Big Pine Key, Calusa Beach is protected from Atlantic Ocean winds, making it a great swimming beach for children. Calusa’s shallow blue-green waters and close-by facilities—showers with restrooms, a covered picnic area with grills, and parking—also help boost its popularity. And if the little ones need to get out of the sun for a bit, the park’s Sand and Sea Nature Center is within walking distance and offers exhibits on native creatures and habitats.

Smathers Beach, Key West

Smathers Beach In Key West

Best Beach For: People-Watching

Key West’s manmade strand, built with sand brought in from the Bahamas in 1961, offers a rare stretch of white sand among the Keys’ otherwise-rocky shores. The convivial vibe of downtown Duval Street extends to this beach, where the people-watching and socializing are just as important as the sun and waves. Beach volleyball and parasailing are also popular activities on Smathers, where the water has a year-round average temperature of 79 degrees.

Key Colony Beach

Marathon at the Florida Keys

Best Beach For: Fishing

Expect to catch snapper, cobia, wahoo, and much more when you cast a line at Key Colony Beach. Hop on one of the many charter boats that dock in the Key Colony Beach Marina, including Cara Mia Fishing ChartersBest Bet Sportfishing, and The Main Attraction, which offers a no-fish, no-pay guarantee for full-day trips. The islands are known as superb destinations for saltwater angling, so you’re almost certain to land something for dinner.

Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon

Best Beach For: Kayaking

There’s nothing quite like gliding over glassy water with visibility that extends all the way to the ocean floor, where fish weave in and out of sea-grass beds and stingrays skim the sandy bottom. Curry Hammock State Park is a great place to start a Keys kayak tour, as the park offers rentals, a sandy launch area, and a spectacular trail that rings the island and takes paddlers through a mangrove creek. Make your way to the sandbar just off the shoreline, where the snorkeling is excellent and the shallow water is great for a refreshing mid-tour swim.

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key

Bahia Honda Beach in Florida Keys

Best Beach For: Sunbathing

The beaches of Bahia Honda State Park were named the best in America in 1992 by Dr. Beach—and with more than 2.5 miles of white-sand shores and glistening turquoise waters, it’s easy to see why. Bahia Honda’s quiet, palm-tree-lined strands are havens for travelers seeking pure relaxation. Plop down a beach lounger, pull out a good book, and soak it all in.

Long Key State Park, Long Key

Best Beach For: Camping

With campsites that are located literally steps from the Atlantic, Long Key State Park is a beach camper’s dream, offering 60 tent and RV sites and full-service facilities that include hot showers, electric hookups, and kayak rentals. Each camping spot overlooks the ocean, which, at high tide, might meander mere feet away from your tent. Wake up with the wildlife—the park is home to egrets, herons, and ibis; loggerhead and green sea turtles; and starfish, to name a few—and take in a private viewing of a vibrant sunrise over the water.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.