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Looking to expand your travel horizons this summer or fall? We’ve got the deals for you. From Bonaire to Bali to Bulgaria, travel outside the usual domestic or Caribbean destinations and head somewhere truly special this season – and still save in the process. Read more
Firmly convinced that our primordial ancestors had every reason to sprout legs and lungs and crawl out of the mayhem that is the sea, I had never felt particularly inclined to reverse that trend. A mediocre swimmer at best, harboring a primal fear of being gobbled up by sharks, and having tuned in to one too many Discovery Channel specials about the veritable sea monsters trolling the ocean’s depths, I had resolved that I would happily stay on terra firma and leave the sea to those with gills.
Of course, having a couple of scuba diver girlfriends along with my boyfriend, John, harp on for years about the wonders that lie beneath the surface of the sea – “it’s like visiting another planet!” – I was, admittedly, intrigued. And then John pulled out the trump card: No true explorer (and gosh darn it, that I was!) could claim to truly know this planet – the Earth’s surface is, after all, 70 percent covered by ocean – without setting out undersea. Read more
This year, I spent my very first Christmas away from home, trading in New York’s brisk winter for the balmy beaches of Bali, Indonesia. A lifelong New Yorker, I’m used to having Christmas practically smack me in the face, with the city’s sensory seasonal overload oozing over-the-top holiday window displays; jingle bell-shaking, Salvation Army Santas vying for loose change; bustling Christmas markets and tree-hawking Canadian vendors cropping up on every other corner; and chilly temps only tolerable for their potential to deliver that coveted white Christmas.
In Bali – a predominantly Hindu island that’s part of a larger Muslim nation – setting out to find the spirit of a Christian Christmas required a decidedly more active approach, but with my boyfriend and I intent on celebrating the season in our own special way this year, rest assured, happy Bali-days were there for the taking. Read more
In Bali, hot hotel openings are booming, with the sexy Starwood Hotels brand in particular playing a heavy hand here – three Starwood-branded hotels alone have scheduled openings in just a one-year span.
Yes, Bali’s a long way to come for the American traveler, but I can tell you, having landed in this Indonesian slice of paradise just last week, that this “Island of the Gods” is a journey that us mere mortals really ought to take, with enough top-rated beaches and snorkeling/dive sites, lush vegetation and volcanoes, and hospitable locals and cultural curiosities to satiate the demands of even the most jaded traveler – all at budget prices, to boot.
While here, I’m bedding down at the brand-new Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, which opened its doors on December 1 on the storied shores of Bali’s Kuta Beach, a surfers’ and sunset seekers’ mecca. The Starwood-branded resort’s trump card comes in the form of its sweeping ocean views, best enjoyed with frothy cocktail in hand from the panoramic picture-window lounge (or during the venue’s weekly wine-tasting event); while savoring tasty Italian fare at its Bene restaurant; while splashing about in the outdoor rooftop pool; or while just kicking back and relaxing in your guestroom. Read more
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to spend more quality time with the person you love, then I suggest you enjoy that togetherness someplace amazing! And what’s better or more romantic than a stunning, sun-kissed island? There’s something innately sexy and bond-inspiring about the sea – floating together in gentle turquoise surf, walking hand-in-hand at sunset, enjoying the day’s fresh catch paired with a rum cocktail or a fine wine. So as the new year begins, here are my top 10 picks for the most amazing islands to escape to together in 2012. Read more
If you have a thing for H2O – you love to be near it, in it, over it, or under it – here’s a sampling of some of the unique water-centric features of a variety of resort and cruise ship spas in the U.S. and around the globe. All are located on or near the ocean as well, so it’s water, water everywhere!
Deep Ocean Spa, Bora Bora: If you are planning a romantic getaway or honeymoon, consider the exotic South Pacific island of Bora Bora, where The Deep Ocean Spa at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa (shown above at left) is a water-lovers’ fantasy come true. Features include overwater treatment rooms with glass panels in the floor so you can spy on fish as your back is massaged, and an al fresco hydrotherapy circuit filled with mineral-rich sea water pumped from 3,000 feet below the Pacific. Rooms from $670, treatments from $108.
The Setai Spa, South Beach, Florida
There are heaps of beautiful spas in Miami, but I like how close this one is to the beach and the Love Potion No. 9 kind of theme: Couple’s Love Ceremony includes a 60-minute Couple’s Ancient Balinese Massage followed by a Love Bath – a soak in a Love Potion-filled tub with rose petals. Champagne and canapes included. $500 per couple. Photo above courtesy The Setai. www.setai.com/thespa
We’re already a month into 2011 (and close to Valentine’s Day), so I’m sure you’ve begun thinking about when you can get away with your sweetheart – for an anniversary or birthday – and where to go. Here’s a roster of my favorite ideas:
January: New Zealand You missed out this year, but that gives you time to save for next year and see one of the world’s most beautiful places. It offers a superb mix of outdoor adventure (from hiking to bungee jumping) and excellent food and wine (amazing lamb and world-class pinot noir). It will be summer, so plan ahead and allot two weeks as the North and South Islands combined are about the size of California.
February: Costa Rica This jungle-meets-beach playground – home to loquacious howler monkeys, luminous blue morpho butterflies, and next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor” – is close enough to enjoy on a five- or six-night getaway. Most flights are into the capital, San Jose, but if you plan to explore the Pacific Coast, you can fly into Liberia. Another option, a seven-night cruise on Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), which also visits neighboring Nicaragua.
Travel news these days is peppered with trips and deals centered on the memoir-turned-movement Eat Pray Love. Agencies are hawking women-centric, yoga-filled sojourns to Italy, India, and Indonesia, the destinations author Elizabeth Gilbert visited over the course of a year. Hotels – even ones where Gilbert didn’t stay – are offering EPL-themed discounts.
Hey, if all this hype inspires people who rarely venture out of the easy chair to dust off the suitcase, great. But I have to admit all the hoopla has me wanting to say, “Eat Pray Ugh.”
And I’m not the only one. Some of the locals in the EPL destinations are already annoyed by the hordes of tourists clamoring for Gilbert-esque enlightenment. One entrepreneur in Ubud, Bali (Gilbert’s final destination) has already come up with a T-shirt that has a mock book cover that reads, “Eat Pay Leave.”
So if the idea of a quest for personal fulfillment sounds appealing, but not so much the crowds of Gilbert devotees (or the unoriginality of following in the footsteps of someone else’s personal journey), then here are some suggestions where you can eat, pray, and love in peace. And not to mention, get a dose of adventure far beyond what a meditation class could offer. Read more
This small Indian Ocean island bursts with thousands of Balinese Hindu temples and 3 million Balinese – all of whom seem to be on scooters at the same time! No sense is left untested: Bali is equal parts serene (lush jungles, mystical volcanoes, black-sand beaches), chaotic (buzzing markets, vibrant dance performances, tourist-clogged Kuta beach) and spiritual (delicate incense-and-flower temple offerings, carved goddess figurines, burning funeral pyres). It is a magical place to find – or celebrate – love. And is it ever the place to shop!
Since Bali is an island, it is tempting to think, beach. Certainly, its shores are studded with resorts. The main enclaves are Jimbaran Bay, Nusa Dua, and Seminyak – home to upscale hotel brands such as Four Seasons, Starwood Luxury Collection, and Oberoi. Read more
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