A short but inspiring list of beautiful places to relax both near and far; these are just a few of our favorite beaches. Exotic islands exists not only in the Caribbean but in far flung locations like the South Pacific which showcases Tahiti with its magnificent landscapes, warm and friendly people, and luxurious overwater bungalows. Go further afield and escape to the exclusive Maldives and Seychelles, sandy atollis, which provide the ultimate in exclusivity and luxury.
Located 600 mi/965 km east of Jakarta, the island of Bali is among the most popular stops in Indonesia, and it's no wonder why—the island's friendly people, Hindu culture, rhythmic dances, volcanoes, sculptured rice paddies, spectacular beaches, and beautiful jungle and mountain scenery—combined with a wide array of accommodations—make it one of the most fascinating places in the world. Indonesia has become a troubled land and is slowly recovering from its struggles. A series of terrorist bombings in Jakarta and Bali caused a significant decline in tourism, and bloody civil conflicts in other parts of the country discourage nonessential travel to such areas. And if Indonesia's social and political troubles weren't enough, the country has suffered a number of devastating natural disasters in recent years. A 7.7-magnitude earthquake, volcanic eruptions and several major tsunamis have rocked the nation, killing and injuring thousands, and recovery is a slow process. Still, amid all this, Bali Island remains a magical getaway that doesn't seem of this earth, much less part of the troubled country that surrounds it.
More than 30 Caribbean island gemstones, large and small with unique charms, enticements and colors await your vacation. The natural beauty of the Caribbean leaves the soul stirred and the senses yearning for more. Since Columbus's voyage to the Caribbean over 500 years ago, visitors from across the globe have sampled the aquamarine waters, gleaming beaches, delectable cuisine and invigorating nightlife. With mountains to climb, volcanoes to conquer, rain forests to explore and secluded lagoons to discover, there are activities and temptations for any and every vacation. Enjoy a sunny and warm Caribbean vacation close to home. As the trade winds blow gently through each perfect Caribbean island, you will revel in the culture and traditions that draw on a rich history. The Caribbean is a wonderland overflowing with romance, adventure, discovery and awe blended with the modern rhythms and luxurious amenities of today.
Travelers familiar with the Lilliputian scale of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands may be surprised by the Dominican Republic's size. This is not just another tiny Caribbean island with a beach and a straw market. Instead, it's a big country with spectacularly varied scenery that includes the tallest mountains (with elevations of more than 10,000 ft/3,048 m) and lowest point (more than 100 ft/31 m below sea level) in the region; ecosystems that range from desert to cloud forest; stretches of talcum-white sand that run unbroken for miles/kilometers; and the Caribbean's oldest and—some claim—most cosmopolitan city, Santo Domingo. No surprise, then, that the "DR," as it is colloquially known, outstrips all other Caribbean destinations in the number of international visitors by a wide margin.
Although Fiji has palm-lined beaches and coral reefs like many other parts of the South Pacific, it's often the people of the islands, rather than the scenery, that make it memorable. Their friendliness to visitors is well-known, expressed with a pleasant bula (welcome) and with an invitation to join them for a bowl of tongue-numbing kava.
Fijians have not always been as friendly to one another: Political struggles between ethnic Fijians and the descendants of Indian laborers have resulted in three political coups since 1987. Visitors were largely unaffected by the events, however, and although the situation remains somewhat unstable, Fiji is considered a safe destination. As a result, it is in the middle of a record-setting tourism boom. A Fiji vacation promises a lot of enjoyable possibilities: exquisite scuba diving, lovely natural surroundings and an appealing range of places to stay—from secluded, eye-poppingly expensive resorts to pleasant guesthouses on the beach to simple accommodations with local villagers.
It's surprising how close a visit to French Polynesia comes to fulfilling the ideal of paradise. The islands, which include Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, are still largely quiet and move at a slow pace outside Papeete, Tahiti's busy capital city. The lagoons of French Polynesia are still amazing shades of blue or green; the mountains still rise dramatically above the sea. And though the residents of French Polynesia may spend more time buzzing around in SUVs than paddling outrigger canoes, they still (cliched as it may sound) spend an inordinate amount of time humming or singing, and many wear flowers in their hair. But as with most things beautiful, French Polynesia isn't easily had as a travel destination. A (decidedly chic) thatch-roofed bungalow there can cost you 68,400 CFP a night or more, and there are few bargains to be found in dining, activities or transportation. However, those who can afford a vacation in the islands of French Polynesia aren't likely to be disappointed. And were it not for the travel price tag, you might be tempted to stay forever. The islands' foremost attractions are relaxation, spectacular scenery, scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, yachting, archaeological sites, mountains, music, dance, fishing and luxurious, uncrowded resorts. French Polynesia is for travelers interested in the classic South Pacific experience: clear water, gorgeous scenery, quiet surroundings and friendly, interesting people. French is the common language, but visitors confining themselves to the major tourist islands will find English widely spoken. A more serious obstacle is the cost. French Polynesia is an expensive place to vacation, though some budget options exist.
There's enough beauty and activity in Hawaii to fill more vacations than we could take in a lifetime. Everyone will find something enjoyable in Hawaii, and different islands will appeal to different people. Each island is unique, with distinctive attractions, special places and geophysical features. Our recommendation is to settle first on the Hawaii you want to see. It might be beaches, a luau and nightlife; it might be rare orchids and hikes in the rain forest; it might be quiet countryside, small towns and scenic drives. Whatever the combination, there is almost certainly an island or islands best suited to your Hawaii vacation dreams.Hawaii's foremost attractions are beaches, volcanoes, surfing, luau, lush scenery, waterfalls, Polynesian culture, ravishingly beautiful (and rare) tropical flowers and plants, hiking, relaxation, historical sites, shopping, water sports, deep-sea fishing and friendly people who exude the "spirit of aloha."
The Maldives is a great place to play Robinson Crusoe: You can stay on a tiny island that has a soft, sandy beach, a sparkling turquoise lagoon and only a single dwelling (although Crusoe only could have imagined the comfort of some of the better resort hotels). And if you plunge beneath the surface of the lagoon, you'll find extraordinary underwater scenery with an amazing variety of colorful reef fish.
The luxurious escapes you'll find in the Maldives (pronounced MAHL-deeves) are not merely an accident of geography, but a matter of deliberate design. Overwhelmed by an influx of tourists during the 1970s, government leaders created a master plan for the tourist industry, with the aim of emphasizing quality over quantity and minimizing the impact of tourism on the natural—and human—environment. The result was the development of a series of high-quality island resorts that have been cited as models for sustainable tourism development.
This model remained more or less the same for decades until a change of Government in 2008. The first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, encouraged the development of interisland and interatoll public ferry services at affordable prices, which means that Maldivians and tourists alike can now travel more freely around the Maldives. Foreigners are no longer required to obtain permits or special permission to visit inhabited islands. The live aboard yacht industry has also greatly expanded, with around 170 vessels now operating in the Maldives, offering diving and surfing charters throughout the year.
The foremost attractions of the Seychelles are beaches, bird-watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, big-game fishing, tropical scenery, windsurfing, surfing and local cuisine. The romantic setting of Seychelles has made the country popular not just with honeymooners but also with couples wanting to tie the knot. Many tour operators specialize in "Weddings in Paradise." Any beach or water sports enthusiast will love these islands. There's little else to do, however, so don't expect wild nightlife (though a number of hotels have live music). The only other restriction is self-imposed—you may feel intimidated by the high cost of goods and services.
Good buys include colorful sarongs and batiks, paintings, model ships, sculpture and pottery by local artists; gold and pearl jewelry made in Mahe and Praslin; and woven coconut palm hats and mats. Other purchases to check out include spices, island tea, local music CDs, bright T-shirts, picture books, island perfumes and Coco d'Amour, a tropical Seychelles liqueur in a bottle the shape of the coco de mer.
St. Lucia island in the Caribbean possesses a wealth of natural beauty—lush mountains, a steaming sulfur volcano, 19,000 acres/7,690 hectares of rain forest (35% of the country), charming black- and white-sand beaches, rare colorful foliage and exotic wildlife. Add to this mix the pleasant St. Lucia weather and the nice beaches, and you understand why it is a popular Caribbean destination.
There's plenty to do on this small island, although given St. Lucia's rise as a high-end resort, you'll need your wallet or purse handy to take advantage of much of it. The rain forest is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching or standing near a waterfall to soak up the mist from its spray. There's also whale- and dolphin-watching, snorkeling, kite-sailing, fishing and diving. Vacationers who go to St. Lucia travel there generally for two distinct reasons: either to enjoy its charm and undeveloped feel, still found in some places, or to luxuriate in five-star waterfront luxury. Whether visitors stay in a deluxe, all-inclusive resort or a local inn or hotel, St. Lucia and its residents extend a warm welcome.