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When you think of whale watching, you might imagine sitting on a boat with a pair of binoculars, waiting for the world’s biggest creatures to appear before your eyes amidst the waves. But this isn’t the only way to see whales up close and in their natural habitat — without having to see them in a tank.
Typically known as a winter pastime, you can go whale watching almost any time of the year in places like California and Oregon’s Depoe Bay. Specific regions of the Golden State, including San Diego, Monterey Bay, and San Francisco experience larger numbers of whales mid-December and January to mid-March and April.
If you can’t wait that long, you can spot whales in Maui and Vancouver in the fall. Sightings in Maui start as early as October, running to March or April. There’s still time left to find them in Vancouver, where the season starts in March and ends in late October.
Here’s where and how you can see whales, on boats and from shore, both with and without a tour package.
As much as we appreciate hotel loyalty programs, accumulating points from just one hotel brand can feel like quite a slog, and a little uninspiring — who, besides the very frequent business traveler, wants the same brand experience each and every time they check in?
Just over a year ago, Preferred Hotel Group introduced a loyalty program, iPrefer, that honors stays at the more custom, bespoke hotels over the big box brands; it’s the world’s only loyalty program available at a global collection of truly independent hotels. Here’s how it works, and how you can join.
There’s no excuse like being on vacation to indulge in decadent dishes that you’d feel guilty about tucking into at home, right? Plus, eating local is part of the cultural experience of any destination. Here, five bizarre and over-the-top regional eats — and where to try them if you so dare:
By now you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding SeaWorld. As a result of the documentary film Blackfish, and its exposure of what animal rights advocates claim is mistreatment of the orcas used in SeaWorld shows, calls for a boycott of the marine mammal theme park chain have grown. The debate goes on: SeaWorld released an open letter stating that, among other things, their research on captive whales benefits those in the wild, but the Oceanic Preservation Society then rebutted the claims.
And there are signs that public opinion is turning against the theme parks. The company recently posted a 13 percent drop in attendance. If you the claims have gotten the better of your conscience and you’re looking for an alternative, here are seven places in North America where you see the same animals that you’ll find at SeaWorld, but in their natural habitats. Read more
The Hawaiian islands aren’t just about luaus, mai tais, and surfing. Each year they get more inventive with special festivals that showcase their signature brand of food and entertainment. Of course, any visit to Hawaii is brag-worthy, but if your visit coincides with one of these festivals, that’s even more hu’i hu’i (cool).
It’s no wonder zipline tours are more popular than ever here in the States. The sensation you get from ziplining feels like flying, and it’s a manageable way for all types of travelers (at all fitness levels) to join in an adventure activity. Some tours include guided hikes through lush landscapes before an effortless ride, while others shuttle you straight to the top. Ziplines can range from leisurely to speedy, catering to those who want to soak in the scenery, or get a rush of adrenaline.
Considering that there are currently more than 700 ziplines in the country, we’re not going to rank them all. But here’s a list of some classic rides – plus a few quirky ones to try:
Headed to Maui – perhaps for one of these fantastic hotel deals we highlighted this month? This beautiful island might be famous for its wealthy residents and spendy accommodation, but springtime offers a wide range of distractions for less. From marine fun, to golf, to happy hour, here are five ideas for a more affordable Hawaiian vacation:
All-inclusive resorts are great at keeping their guests busy. Included yoga classes and dance lessons are a fun way to spend a less-than-sunny day, and free-to-use kayaks and snorkeling gear can get you away from the pool and into the ocean. But many resorts also offer additional activities and day-trips that aren’t covered by the basic all-inclusive rate. (Usually the division between included and not lies with the type of activity. If the activity is “non-motorized,” it’s probably included. If it requires a ride off the property or a heavy piece of equipment, it probably requires an additional fee.) The good news? In many cases, that additional fee is worth it.
The eight itineraries listed below will give you a sense of what’s available, and how much these day-trips cost. And keep in mind that these are just examples to show you the breadth of resort offerings. There are many other resorts that offer similar excursions.
Between the killer waves, unbeatable seafood, and lush landscapes, the amazing islands of Hawaii manage to captivate pretty much every traveler who visits. If you’re considering a repeat visit of your own, now’s the time to start planning – each May, a tiny tourism lull between the end of winter and the start of busy summer means a significant drop in hotel rates. Our advice? Snap up one of these eight great deals, catering to a range of budgets, while you still can: Read more
Lots of budget travelers like to avoid renting a car in favor of taking public transportation, but in the case of Hawaii, that’s not necessarily the case. By securing a rental, you’ll be able to access points of interest on your own that can be costly to experience on a guided tour. Here are five “tours” that require nothing more than a set of wheels and a good map: Read more
Think New York City has a lock on the most expensive hotels in America, or glitzy South Beach? Think again. The highest hotel rates in the U.S. are actually in Hawaii. So far in 2013, guests have spent an average of $233 per night for a hotel room in Hawaii – that’s an increase of $27 over the previous year! With airfare costs on the rise, this can make for a spendy island getaway. But not all Hawaii hotels cost a fortune. Here are some money-saving tips so you can enjoy the luau (or the whale watch, or six hours of lazying in the sun with a view of Diamond Head in the distance) without worrying about how you’ll pay for it: Read more
Have you booked a trip to Hawaii for 2013 yet? On and off since late fall, we’ve seen jaw-droppingly low fares from Hawaiian Airlines, offering non-stop service to the 50th State. And they’re back again this week.
Depart from New York City and head to the Aloha State’s capital, Honolulu, for just $365, round-trip, taxes included. For a more laid-back vacation on the islands of Maui, Kauai, or Kona (The Big Island), add just $13. For less than $400, you could trade next week’s chilly New York forecast for Hawaiian paradise. Seriously. Read more
It’s that time of year. Jack Frost has taken his first bite out of winter and on the most dismal of days we start dreaming of leaning palm trees, swaying hula dancers, and any drink with an umbrella teetering on top. While driving or walking to work dodging sideways sleet, it’s settled, our dreams turn into plans, and our island itinerary is set: indefinite sun, never-ending beach strolls, and overflowing Mai Tais await. Having made the over-ocean journey to the Hawaiian Isles more times than I can count, may I suggest Maui as your your muse for a complete getaway that puts tropical before touristy and sand before scene. I’ve found two beachfront locations that fly under the radar of most visitors’ viewfinders.
With so many national parks in the U.S. and so much ground to explore, choosing an ideal hiking trail can be a challenge. The best hikes should get you to one or more of the park’s top sights, and our 10 favorite national park hikes do just that. These trails, some more strenuous than others, guide the explorer past stunning landscapes and offer a glimpse of the park’s most remarkable treasures: rare species, peculiar rock formations, pristine beaches, spectacular canyons, or abundant wildlife. Take Grinnell Glacier Trail in Montana’s Glacier National Park to view three of the park’s remaining 25 glaciers (down from 150 a hundred years ago); or the Waikamoi Cloud Forest Hike in Maui’s Haleakala National Park to get up close to rare species found nowhere else on the planet; or the Outer Loop Trail to Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove to walk through, around, and underneath ancient towering sequoia trees. Nature’s wonderland beckons – all you need is a good pair of walking shoes, plenty of water, and a taste for adventure.
Some hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.
Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.
An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.
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