The Most Mind‑Blowing Places to Paraglide

What is the quintessential adrenaline rush exactly? For some it’s free-falling out of an airplane into endless sky while for others it’s diving into the deep depths of the ocean into waters teeming with eager sharks. The essential ingredient of any adventure trip is most definitely adrenaline, no matter what form it comes in. For those less willing to leap out of a perfectly good airplane, paragliding is a great alternative; a sort of slow-motion jump from a mountain top or towering hill that offers a similar experience to a free fall with the chance to take it all in at a slower pace.

8. Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago is just 16 kilometers off the coast, one of the most remote places along the east coast of Africa and also one of the most beautiful with alabaster beaches and water like glass. It’s here where paragliders will find the ultimate in options; simply scale the massive dune, choose any launching point, and coast through the clouds through sun and along the sea. One of the most popular facets of this unparalleled paragliding location is the lack of obstacles: many people don’t bother with helmets or even shoes because there’s simply nothing to hit, making it a great place for novices to practice and for the more experienced to try more daring stunts. Condition are most dependable between May and October and low tide is ideal: paragliders can cost to the ocean and land along the beach.

7. Wengen, Canton of Bern, Switzerland

Valleys, vistas, and waterfalls make the base village of Wengen, Canton of Bern, Switzerland, an incredible, year-round destination for paragliding, hang gliding, and sky diving. Originally renowned for world=class hiking and skiing, Wengen has become a paramount European destination for heart-pumping, mountain-scaling adventures. Wengen gives way to the Lauterbrunnen Valley, known as the Valley of Waterfalls, where more than 70 waterfalls plummet down sky-scraping cliffs in an area with more than 11,000 feet between base camp and the Jungfrau summit–higher even than Mount Everest’s 10,000-foot elevation from base camp. For some paragliders, that’s reason enough to book a trip. Soar past immense alpine meadows, lush green valleys, snow capped chalets, and 19th century timber houses back into base camp and start over again or try out some equally blood-pumping activities like canyoneering (traversing canyons using various techniques like climbing and swimming) or river rafting.

6. Oludeniz, Turkey

Babadag Mountain is the place to be when planning any adventure sports in Fethiye, Turkey. It’s known as a Mecca for paragliders and other sky surfers: it towers over 5,900 feet and offers sublime views of the mountains and surrounding areas. That first view from the top can definitely induce some queasy feelings if you’ve never paraglided from that kind of height–everything below appears absolutely minuscule. Outfitters provide all necessary equipment, a jeep ride up the steep mountain, and a tandem jump that lasts over 20 minutes soaring over white sand beaches, lush green forest, and cobalt water before landing directly on Belcekiz Beach. Any adrenaline junkie will love the elevation here and the ease of the jump but be sure to watch out for fog which comes in regularly–it can turn a fantastic jump lethal.

5. Point of the Mountain, Utah, USA

For those less willing to paraglide from heights pushing into thousands of feet, Utah’s Point of the Mountain near Salt Lake City is great place to languidly fly from the top of the mountain to escape gravity and take in the surrounding scenery, whether on short flight or a longer haul adventure, the conditions are legendary; winds are consistently smooth, offering the greatest potential for both paragliding and hang gliding. Point of the Mountain is ideal for beginners, with several professional paragliding companies offering lessons, tandem flights, and tours, and advanced instruction. If you’re just a beginner wanting to take to the skies, Point of the Mountain is perfect. Beginner tandem flights can start as low as just five feet and range up to 2,000 feet, offering a level of comfort for just about anyone.

4. Valle de Bravo, Mexico

El Penon in Valle de Bravo, Mexico is one of the most famous sites for flying in the world, offering consistent conditions that can lead up to four hours flying every day. the inland thermal site is situated on the boundary of a strong network of ancient, inactive volcanoes enveloped by lush hills and blanketed in temperate, emerald forest. From December through March, these elements combine, providing incredible thermal soaring conditions within an area that perfectly compliments the lifestyle and flying schedule. Launching from El Penon is at more than 7,000 feet and the glide is easy given good conditions without too much wind. The access road is ideal for driving up, making it a cinch to arrive at the top and onsite amenities ensure you’re primed and ready to go before take off.

3. Kamshet, India

Anyone who’s been paragliding in India maintains that Kamshet, just 110 kilometers from Mumbai in the Western Ghats, is a paradise for sky launches and an ideal destination for adventure-seekers looking for a major rush. Avoiding monsoon season–typically from June through October–paragliders can head to Kamshet during the summer season between March and May for ideal conditions and temperatures. From the launch points of either east or west Tower Hill, gliders can experience some breathtaking scenes, including tiny villages dotting the entire mountain expanse. There are several guesthouses in the area accommodating paragliders in the immediate vicinity wanting to spend their entire time flying, with either tandem lessons and solo flying or strictly tandem flights. Outfitters also offer transport to Tower Hill each day. In thermal seasons, depending on conditions, launches can be extended, cross-country flights with incredible views and panoramas of the entire region.

2. Danyang, South Korea

Undescribable freedom ensues when defying gravity in Danyang, South Korea. Heading to the take-off points of either Mount Dusan or Mountan Yangbangsan, gliders enjoy a facility that’s well designed and only a two-hour drive from Seoul. If coming in from Seoul, booking a jump is easy and includes transportation from the city, equipment, tandem jumps, and extended lessons if desired (if you’re planning on the approach independently, there’s a direct bus to Danyang from the East Seoul Bus Terminal). Beginners generally always fly from Mount Yangbangsan which is near the downtown area and the site for standard training prior to departure. The views from this jump point are incredible and feature the Manhangang River below and the city spread out before you while mountains pass alongside. International and national competitions happen at this location, proving it’s better than any other paragliding point in the country.

1. Castelluccio, Umbria, Italy

The Apennines Mountains are a range in Italy comprised of a network of smaller chains spanning more than 1,100 kilometers along the peninsular length of Italy. They’re beautiful, home to countless lovely towns and villages, and offer one of the best spots in Europe for paragliding. The highest village in the Apennines Mountains is Castelluccio, most notable for vibrant valleys that begin showing off their blooms in early spring and through the summer months. It’s these kinds of scenes paired with alpine heights that have attracted numerous hang gliding and para gliding schools to establish themselves in the vicinity. The thermals here are extremely smooth and the air perfectly calm most of the year creating good conditions for first-time flyers while experienced pilots enjoy the challenges offered by heading to the summit of Monte Vettore and flying a different, more challenging route.

Over The Top All-Inclusive Vacation Amenities

All-inclusive vacations are undeniably easy; all you have to do is show up and every need is catered to, without you having to open your wallet. Typical amenities include endless buffets and drinks but it can indeed go beyond that. Follow along as we explore 10 over the top all-inclusive amenities you don’t want to miss!

10. Fireplace Butler, New Mexico

Having a fireplace in your hotel room is one of the most romantic touches, but lighting that fire and getting it to stay lit can quickly kill the mood. Luckily for the guests at the Four Seasons Resort Ranch Encantado in Santa Fe New Mexico, there is a fireplace butler. All guests need to do is request a visit from this expert and your butler will arrive at your door dressed in outdoor gear and a red flannel hat, making sure he looks the part. The fireplace butler will go on to light the fire for you and serve you hot chocolate or steaming apple cider in charming camping mugs. And you thought you had heard of every kind of butler.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe

9. Complimentary Porsche, California

If you feel like going for one heck of a joy ride, make sure to head over to Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in California where you can take out a Porsche for the cost of nothing. Through an exclusive partnership, the resort is able to offer guests a complimentary vehicle for the day. The concierges are well versed in suggesting where to take this powerful car and feel free to keep it until the evening. For those high rollers who actually fall in love with the car, there is a Porsche certified concierge on site to speak with about taking one of these bad boys home. Whether you’ve got the kids, want the convertible or just need an excuse to test one out, this resort has you covered.

Photo by: Rancho Valencia
Photo by: Rancho Valencia

8. Extensive Rare Book Collection, Kenya

For any book lover out there, the chance to see an extensive manuscript collection from some of the finest writers is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately there is one resort in Kenya that not only offers an incredible eco-safari adventure but also a library full of unpublished letters, diary entries and unique photographs. Guests at the Segera Retreat will discover artifacts from Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, David Livingstone, Ernest Hemingway and more. This unique conservation retreat belongs to German entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz who stocked the library full of these priceless artifacts, as well as filling the resort with his personal art collection and vintage antiques. Nightly rates start at $1,070 per person per night and include meals, drinks, retreat activities and access to these rare and priceless books.

Photo by: Segera Retreat
Photo by: Segera Retreat

7. Cirque de Soleil Experience, Club Med

Club Med and Cirque de Soleil have teamed up to bring resort goers the opportunity to fly high at their new fitness program titled Creactive. This dream-like playscape is a program where guests of all ages can try their hand at a variety of artistic and acrobatic activities. Activities include trapeze, tight rope, aerial silk, trampoline, juggling and more. There will be no jumping through hoops to sign up for this program as it is included with the room rate at Club Med in Punta Cana. This one of a kind circus experience is under the direct supervision of dedicated trainers and the activities are inspired by the 20 plus productions that take place all over the world. Dedicated to bringing circus and happiness to the world, if you have ever wanted to fly high, this is the place to do so.

Photo by: Club Med
Photo by: Club Med

6. Extensive Wine Collections, Singita, Africa

Singita is the proud operator of 12 lodges and camps, in five regions across three countries in Africa and is at the forefront of luxury safari experiences. Therefore it should come as no surprise that their wine collections are both incredible and tailored to match each and every dish. The brand’s wine collection in fact may just come in second, perhaps only to seeing the incredible wildlife in Africa. For each lodge the selection is handpicked and although every wine on the list in included in the price; one won’t go wrong trusting the daily pairings. Lodges offer the majority of their red wines at five years and older and there certainly won’t be any typically house chardonnay on the menu. Sommeliers are on hand at each lodge, not only picked for their wine knowledge but also their travel experience, personality and love for the African bush land. Guests won’t find a more incredible experience, complete with outstanding wine anywhere else in the world.

Photo by: Singita
Photo by: Singita

5. Baby/Family Concierge, World Wide

More and more all-inclusive resorts, especially smaller boutique ones are getting on board with including a baby or family concierge with the packages. These personal concierges are devoted to your family’s needs including walkie-talkies to keep in constant touch with one another, cookies and milk turn down service and specialized activities for your family. Some resorts offer play pens, bottle warmers, customized “kids” mini fridges in the rooms, cribs, change tables, baby bath robes, strollers and more. The Paradisus Resorts even offer private pools and beach areas with valet service, a VIP lounge with private check in and a bath time fun program before bed. If you are looking to have all the help you can want, make sure to check out the resorts that really offer it all in terms of childcare.

Photo by: Paradisus by Melia
Photo by: Paradisus by Melia

4. Tennis Academy, Club Med

Club Med has once again stepped up their game in terms of the amenities offered in their all-inclusive packages by offering the Club Med Tennis Academy at select resorts. Guests of all ages will have access to daily, weekly and full-time tennis programs all year round, run by top coaches. At Sandpiper Bay guests will have access to morning and/or afternoon sessions, with a focus on skills, weight training, stroke productions and match play. Players also get the chance to train with the best players and play full-length matches against one another. From kids to adults, beginners to experts, there is a tennis activity for anyone at Club Med.

Photo by: Club Med Academies
Photo by: Club Med Academies

3. Cooking Classes, Karisma Hotels and Resorts

Karisma’s all inclusive resorts are ultra luxurious and offer incredible personalized service to each and every guest. A favorite amenity of guests here are the cooking classes that are included in your holiday. The focus here is on seasonal cuisine and local produce and this educational experience is meant to teach guests about the joys of food and cooking. Guests will work together with experienced chefs to create incredible tasting dishes. At the end of each class guests are invited to enjoy the dishes they created as well as sipping on complimentary wine. If wine is more your style, be sure to check out the wine tastings that are offered by the knowledgeable sommeliers, or take an interactive tequila tasting class where you will learn the history and basics of tequila. With resorts located across Mexico, it is easy to find your perfect cooking vacation.

Photo by: Karisma Hotels
Photo by: Karisma Hotels

2. A Temporary Closet, Berlin

If you have forgotten that little black dress and you happen to be at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin, there is no need to go out and buy another one. That is because this hotel offers Schumacher designer dresses at no extra charge. The Schumacher shop is located just a few minutes away from the hotel and in the snap of a finger; a private shopping trip will be arranged for you. Guests should be aware that they will have to return the dresses, and hopefully no red wine will end up on it. Whether it is a cocktail dress, evening gown or something more elaborate, Schumacher has got you covered. This is one amenity that we think other hotels and resorts need to get on board with!

Photo by: Hotel de Rome
Photo by: Hotel de Rome

1. Private Submarine Rides, Fiji

It might just be the absolute coolest hotel perk and guests of the Laucala Island Resort in Fiji can have the chance to experience a ride in the resorts personal submarine. What cost a guest $2,000 a few short years ago is now included in the price of an all-inclusive package. The futuristic two-seater submarine called DeepFlight Super Falcon is capable of diving up to 1,500 feet down. This winged submarine flies through the water more like a sea creature than a boat and features 360-degree viewing capabilities through its acrylic domes. Guests of the resort can enjoy a one hour trip with the pilot of the sub where they can expect to see an abundance of coral reef and marine life including clown fish, turtles and leopard sharks. Room rates here start at about $4,600 a night and include not only a submarine ride but spa treatments, golfing, butler service and other extreme amenities.

Photo by: Laucala Island
Photo by: Laucala Island

Extreme Sports Guide: 10 Best Spots in the World for Insane Stunts

From base-jumping and snowboarding to canyoning and bouldering, check out these beautiful natural spots where adrenaline junkies get their daily fix of death-defying stunts. Ranging from extreme to family friendly, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime at the 10 best spots around the world.

10. Underground Tubing

Also called blackwater rafting, get ready for the underground adventure of a lifetime at the Waitomo caves in New Zealand, a major tourist attraction in the North Island. Cave tubing is a great way to see up close the glowworms and ancient rock formations in a series of caves found in the northern King Country region. Formed on Oligocene limestone, the caves are an exciting family friendly activity that will make unforgettable memories. For the more adventurous, specialized tourism companies can take you on an extreme cave crawl that leads to spots rarely seen by the crowds.

Waitomo caves NZ

9. Zip Lining

With the popularity of eco-tourism in Costa Rica, zip lining is often included as part of the tour. Traversing a treetop incline by a pulley is also a great way to see the lush rainforest. Feel like a bird gliding along the horizon as you make your way across Selvatura Park. The zip tour is full of lush, breathtaking scenery, but adrenaline junkies should head to Sun City, South Africa for the world’s longest, fasted zip-line. The Zip 2000 is an intoxicating thrill ride blasting across the safari at 100 mph. It might seem dangerous but Zip 2000 (www.zip2000.co.za) has boasted a 100% safety record since it opened in 2004. It’s also open to kids 12 and up, making it a thrilling family adventure. Zip-lining enthusiasts claim that it feels just like flying, not freefalling like on bungees and parachutes.  

zip line

8. Coasteering

With coasteering, thrill seekers can get their fix of adrenaline on the edge of the world, literally. Head to Pembrokeshire, Wales, the rocky and precarious coastal cliff that is a top spot for extreme outdoor adventures. In a series of swimming, diving, and climbing trails, coasteering involves traversing the rocky coastline on foot and without the aid of watercraft. There are several coasteering outfits that offer guided tours across the windswept coastline, so get ready for a day full of cliff jumping, rock climbing, and swimming in the waves. Coasteering may seem like a sport for daredevils, but with the proper safety equipment and expert guides leading the way, even kids can do it, making it ideal for an outdoor family adventure against a backdrop of breathtaking coastal cliffs.

Coasteering

7. Canyoning

Also called river trekking, this rugged outdoor sport encourages the use of climbing techniques and equipment to rappel and climb rugged canyon terrain. The best places for canyoning are mountains with flowing water like The Grand Canyon in Arizona, which contains breathtaking scenery and some of the steepest canyons in the world. A good place to start is on a mountain with flowing water where you can follow a local expert through a tour of cascading waterfalls, windswept boulders, and trickling streams. Another popular spot for canyoning is in Norway and its Scandinavian fjord country. Armed with a wetsuit, helmet, and climbing gear, get an up close look at the Jostedal glacier as you swim, climb, and rappel your way across the Sognefjord, one of nature’s best obstacle courses.

Jostedal glacier

6. Bouldering

Bouldering, also known as climbing without safety equipment, can be as daring or dangerous as you want it. For thrill-seekers, it’s just you and thousands of feet below, so one wrong move and game over. Even so, that hasn’t stopped this popular sport from becoming a possible competition in the 2020 Olympics. Ranging from 10 to 25 feet, the boulders are quite a challenge, especially without any ropes or safety nets. Instead, climbers must rely on their skills and fearlessness to conquer the boulders one precarious step at a time. Popular spots for extreme bouldering is the lower Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Bishop, California, the giant Rocklands of South Africa, and the forests of Fontainebleau in France.

bouldering

5. Ice-climbing

If you have nerves of steel, get ready for the ultimate thrill as you ascend ice formations with nothing more than an ice pick and a will to live. Adrenaline junkies use Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park (www.ourayicepark.com), the world’s only park devoted to this extreme winter sport. Situated within walking distance of the town of Ouray, the ice park is a man-made climbing area in a natural gorge. Free and open to the public, the park also offers a range of climbs from easy and moderate to high-level. Depending on experience and skill level, there are many climbs to choose from, including the Kids Climbing Park and the Scottish Gullies for the more advanced ice-climber. So, get your axe in gear and head to the San Juan mountain range and the spectacular, rugged terrain of the Rockies. 

Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

4. Bungee Jumping

Bungee jumping is a classic adrenaline rush go-to because if it’s a bridge and it’s high up, why not jump off it? Plus, even the craziest daredevils feel somewhat protected by the bungee cord, the only thing between a stunt of a lifetime and certain death. One of the most popular jumps is at Macau Tower, the highest commercial jump established by Kiwi entrepreneur and professional daredevil AJ Hackett. Since the 90s, adventure seekers have traveled to this adrenaline-making mecca for the thrill of their lives. Located on the mainland of China in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, the 765-ft jump is in the Guinness World Records as the Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the world.

nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com
nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

3. Cave Diving

If you can handle the real dangers of freshwater cave diving, get ready to dive deep into an underwater hole in the earth for an up close look at ancient stalactites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, an area known for containing the world’s largest concentration of sinkholes. Surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest, plunge into the dark inner depths of crystal-clear turquoise waters. Another popular spot for thrill-seekers is Ginny Springs State Park in High Springs, Florida, one of the most dangerous cave dives in the world. On the way to the network of caves, some as big as two football fields, there are signs covered in skull and crossbones and with the ominous warning, “People have died here.” Even so, it’s one of the top cave diving destinations in the world for its extensive system of caves and caverns.

cave diving

2. Sky Jumping

Popularized by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, sky jumping is the ultimate thrill. Instead of jumping out of a plane, adrenaline junkies head to the nearest giant cliff and jump off, gliding into the air with the help of a winged bird-like suit. A favorite spot for this extreme sport is the mountains of New Zealand, a region known for its large population of extreme sports enthusiasts. The sport involves a wing suit, which is designed to help you glide through the air in a death-defying free fall and then finally the deployment of a parachute. This activity is perfect for sky divers who want to take the next step in their daily adrenaline fix. Only the most experience skydivers should attempt this. In fact, it is recommended that participants have at least 200 free fall sky dives under their belt before they take the plunge.

sky jumping

1. Heli-skiing

Heli-skiing is so dangerous it’s outlawed throughout Europe, but for the extreme adrenaline junkie, Alaska and the wild frontier of the Chugach Mountains is a popular spot for one of the most daring stunts. Considered to have the world’s deepest, softest powder, the Chugach peaks are an ideal spot to reach treacherous skiing slopes, ones that are so high and rugged that they can only be reached by helicopter. Only advanced skiers and snowboarders should try it, but for those looking for the ultimate thrill, there are several local outfits that can get you to the colossal vertical gorges and inspiring snow-capped peaks. Now is the time to channel your inner Bodhi from Point Break because “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.” No pressure.

heli ski

10 of the World’s Most Unusual Accommodations

There are traditional hotels the world over, from inexpensive motels to five-star luxury resorts offering a spread of classic services. For some, a clean room, comfortable bed, and a few valuable services are ideal but for those with a wild side and a definitive sense of adventure, something more unexampled is in the cards. Thankfully innovative hoteliers have come out of the woodwork to share their unusual–and sometimes even bizarre–hotel concepts. From Brazilian treetop rooms to a hotel made entirely of salt, here are ten of the world’s most interesting and unusual accommodations.

10. Propeller Island City Lodge, Germany

Berlin’s Propeller Island City Lodge is a visual masterpiece and a hotel unlike any other. Lars Stroschen, a renowned German artist, has designed a hotel-meets-museum backdrop with 30 one-of-a-kind rooms spanning from tame to incredibly dramatic. From a room with beds crafted from lion’s cages to one with a padded cell and another with a sloping floor called Mineshaft, these rooms are anything but conventional. The living work of art is nothing short of incredibly creativity–an inspiring feat for any visitor. The hotel is situated in fairly incognito postwar area block mostly comprising flats and accessible to exploring Berlin’s most significant destinations. A truly standout hotel, Propeller Island City Lodge is imagination coming to life from the head of an extremely innovative mind. If possible, ask for a multi-room stay to get real a feel for the breadth of the rooms.

Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News
Photo by: Mercury Press / Caters News

9. The Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

About as unconventional as it gets when it comes to hotels, The Dog Bark Park Inns in Idaho is an immediate attraction for dog-lovers, even those just driving by. Chainsaw artists own the Beagle-shaped hotel, which stands at 12 feet and sleeps four. The second-story deck is the entryway and portal to the interior body, reached via a large sliding door and near (surprise) a giant fire hydrant. The Dog Bark Park Inns is on the grounds of Dog Bark Park where visitors can browse folk-art chainsaw sculptures including dogs, moose, bear, and fish throughout the grounds and explore the husband and wife’s art studio. The artists in residence, Dennis and Frances Sullivan, are each self-taught in chainsaw art methods and have created more than 60 different breeds of dogs. The property of pet-friendly of course!

Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Frances Conklin via Wikimedia Commons

8. V8 Hotel, Germany

In Stuttgart, Germany, in the area’s Motorworld Region (an international hub for car traders), the four-star V8 hotel has been attracting auto lovers from all around the world. Classic modernism is the style used throughout the hotel, where racing paraphernalia,  and even a drive-thru cinema, are key players. Ten car-theme suites are offered here, with beds designed in the shape of various cars, from modern to sporty and vintage to classic. Book early and choose from suite themes like a car wash or automotive garage. Sleep in a classic Mercedes, VW Bug, or Morris Minor. Each room is designed with dedicated car enthusiasts in mind and features a host of unique props like car-shaped soaps and faux gas pumps. The historic airport terminal was once a docking station for the 1920s Graf Zeppelin flights and home to the ME-109 squadron fighter during WWII.

Photo by: V8 Hotel
Photo by: V8 Hotel

7. Hotel Marqués De Riscal, Spain

In Elciego, Spain southwest of Pamplona is one of Canadian architect Frank Gehry’s most unusual endeavors, Hotel Marqués De Riscal. Situated in one of the country’s prominent Rioja wine regions, the avant-garde hotel is similar in style to Gehry’s other revered projects including the Bilbao Guggenheim: a mammoth structure with colossal metal ribbons implemented on the exterior creating dramatic contrast between nature and modern design. The ornate structure overlooks the surrounding vineyard, appearing as a whimsical creation from afar. Belonging to world-famous Starwood Hotels group, Hotel Marqués De Riscal is available for those with thicker wallets but worth the cost for the onsite Michelin-starred chef, luxurious Spa Caudalie Marqués de Riscal, and exquisite wine selection. Certainly one of the most unique looking hotels, it’s the exterior that shines while rooms really only stand out for their massive, slanted picture windows fringing sweeping terraces.

Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal
Photo by: Hotel Marques de Riscal

6. El Cosmico, Texas

Anyone with nomadic tendencies–or simply a love for unique experiences–will admire 21-acre El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. Rather than one building, El Cosmico features a variety of shelters for guests including Aboriginal-style tepees, tent campsites, scout and vintage trailers, Mongolian yurts, and safari tents. Though it all sounds rather slapstick, design is an integral part of the shelters which are based in the high plains Texan desert. Communal spaces include an outdoor kitchen, outdoor stage, a hammock grove, and a community lounge. The owner, Liz Lambert, encourages guests to liberate themselves from modern world constructs and build on the unique theme: El Cosmico offers several ways to become truly involved in the concept of creativity with cooking and art classes, onsite building projects, song-writing classes, and more. Bikes for exploring the desert area and wood-fire hot tubs are also available at El Cosmico.

Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook
Photo by: El Cosmico via Facebook

5. Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico

Get in the ring without the bull at Quinta Real Zacatecas, the 17th century San Pedro bullring painstakingly transformed into a luxury hotel. In 1975, the bullring hosted its final run and stood stagnant for years. Snapped up by Quinta Real hotel group, it was extensively renovated while maintaining the original colonial architecture. One of the details of the hotel design is the bullpens: the bullpen wall was integrated into the hotel’s restaurant as part of the main bar. But the most impressive parts are the grounds. The entire bullring floor, now called the plaza, is still intact, and the hotel faces an ancient viaduct–both are near the Mexican capital of Zacatecas, sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff side alongside the hills of the Cerro de la Bufa and lying almost 9,000 feet above sea level just five minutes outside of the city.

Photo by: Quinta Real
Photo by: Quinta Real

4. Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn, Netherlands

Stacking houses to create one seamless building is an unconventional but creative way to build a hotel. The fairytale-esque Inntel Amsterdam Zaandamn is made from 70 individual houses put together like puzzle from both townhouses and cottages typical to the local Zaan area. The hotel, just 12 minutes by train to Amsterdam, is a sight to behold–each of the house are brightly painted in various colors which makes each individual house stand out accentuates the puzzle-like construction. The house colors, each a shade of vibrant green, are traditional colors of region. The inspiration for each of the rooms comes from local history and each is modern with clean lines and interesting features such as giant wall murals.  Guests have access to onsite amenities including a Finnish sauna, Turkish steam bath and a pool with adjacent spa. This is modern-day comfort meeting tradition head on.

Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook
Photo by: Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam via Facebook

3. Capsulevalue Kanda, Japan

In Japan, capsule hotels are a popular concept and one that works quite well with the country’s high population and very limited space. Stacked on top of each other and side by side to maximize on space, the capsules are exactly as they sound, tiny spaces perfect for one person and a few items. The capsule hotel concept has become so popular in fact that sleeping pods will also be introduced in Helsinki airports. Basic and cheap, the Capsule value Kana in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area is a popular stopover for both tourists and businessmen looking for inexpensive accommodations who don’t require a host of services traditionally offered by hotels. The entrance to each capsule opens to enter and can be closed up to create private quarters. Communal washroom and baggage storage is also available. Capsulevalue Kanda also offers TVs, alarms, and free WiFi along with a business lounge.

Photo by: Agoda
Photo by: Agoda

2. Ariau Amazon Towers, Brazil

Far west of Fortaleza along the Rio Negro riverbanks in Manaus, Brazil is Ariau Amazon Towers, an eco-retreat high in the treetops where guests wake to the sounds of songbirds and the calls of primates. Visitors can stay in a dense jungle paradise and enjoy animal sights and encounters of all kinds. Tucked into the lush canopy, several circular buildings are incorporated into the tree-top level high above the river. Within this high-reaching resort, there are bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, and almost ten kilometers of wooden walkways skimming along the tree canopies through thick forest canopies. Each and every room includes a balcony affording incredible jungle panoramas and the perfect place to hear the call of the wild. This treetop wonder is one-of-a-kind, built by Dr. Francisco Ritta Bernardino in 1987–his inspiration was Jacques Cousteau, the famous oceanographer, a staunch Amazon River preservationist.

Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure
Photo by: Ariau Amazon Towers via Travel + Leisure

1. Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

At more than 10,000 square kilometers, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats are the largest in the world so where better to build a hotel made entirely of salt?  The entire hotel and most of its furnishings are constructed from salt. The magical, natural space is on the majestic banks of the Salar de Uyuni, less than 30 kilometers from its namesake town, and in complete harmony with the surrounding landscape. Some might think a hotel built of salt would be more of a rustic experience but that couldn’t be farther from the truth: Palacio de Sal’s single and double rooms include central heating, hot and cold running water, and private baths. Each exhibits an igloo-shaped ceiling and simple, modern furniture and several spectacular common areas with fantastic outdoor views. A broad lobby, bar, central heat, and a complete electrical system throughout 30 rooms are offered.

Photo by: Palacio de Sal
Photo by: Palacio de Sal

7 Ancient Ruins of Central America

Many of the peoples of Central America were prolific builders and empire-makers; when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they found bustling metropolises and impressive monuments. Today, the ruins of cities built by the Mayans, Toltecs, Zapotecs and others serve as a testament to their civilizations, and many of them are preserved as World Heritage Sites scattered throughout the countries of Central America. A great way to begin learning about these ancient cultures is to visit 1 of these 7 sites; if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet some of the descendants of these amazing builders.

7. Caracol, Belize

Long thought to be a relatively unimportant Mayan city, Caracol has revealed itself to be one of the most influential political centers in the Maya Lowlands during the Classical Period of the Mayan civilization. The complex was larger than Belize’s capital city today and supported a population twice as large. The site was rediscovered in 1937 and archaeological work has been ongoing since 1985. Caracol was a dense city, with approximately 270 structures per square kilometer, which is denser than Tikal at its height. Caracol weathered the initial collapse of the Mayan empire, but was fully abandoned by 1050. When Europeans arrived, the site had already been disused for 500 years. The largest building at the site is Caana, the Sky Palace; the ruin is, in fact, one of the largest buildings in Belize.

Caana, Belize

6. Las Mercedes, Costa Rica

Las Mercedes was an important political center for the Indigenous peoples of Costa Rica. Associated with the Huetar, a Chibchan-speaking people, Las Mercedes was rediscovered in the late 19th century, when a railway connecting the capital city to Puerto Limon was built. The site has been excavated several times, although the earliest “excavations” were unscientific and many artifacts were removed. Las Mercedes was inhabited from around 1500 BC until 1500 AD, when the Spanish arrived. Glass beads at the site indicate the Indigenous peoples may have traded with the Spaniards. Spanning 25 hectares, the site has 3 large complexes, with a total of 15 platforms and many plazas, retaining walls and causeways. The causeways, which are paved, are a particular testament to the skill of the people that built them.

Photo by: International Expeditions / Jim O'Donnell
Photo by: International Expeditions / Jim O’Donnell

5. Joya de Ceren, El Salvador

Popularly known as the “Pompeii of the Americas,” Joya de Ceren is remarkably well preserved. Much like its ancient Roman counterpart in Italy, this Mayan farming village was covered in volcanic ash when the nearby Loma Caldera erupted, dumping between 4 and 8 feet of ash over the town. The inhabitants fled, but they left behind utensils, ceramics, furniture and even half-eaten food when they escaped the town. Excavations have uncovered about 70 buildings since the site’s 1976 discovery, all of which give us remarkable insight into day-to-day life and Mayan civilization in the late 6th century. Even the farm fields, which had been planted just hours before the eruption, have been preserved. Joya de Ceren was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and archaeological work has been ongoing since the late 1980s.

Joya de Ceren

4. Copan, Honduras

The ancient city of Copan lies in western Honduras, in the far reaches of the Mayan cultural region; in fact, Copan would have been almost surrounded by peoples from the Isthmo-Colombian cultural region. Nonetheless, the city was occupied for more than 2,000 years and, between the 5th and 9th centuries AD, became an important center of Mayan culture. The site contains multiple temples and the royal Acropolis, as well as a court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame ōllamaliztli. Copan is famous for a series of stelae depicting rulers and Altar Q is the most famous monument in the entire complex. During the 8th and 9th centuries, the population of Copan declined, as did its influence. Today, Copan is the best-known Mayan site in Honduras, as well as a World Heritage Site.

Copan

3. Canta Gallo, Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s Indigenous peoples are most closely related to the Choco-speaking peoples of Panama and Colombia. Most of these groups weren’t prolific builders, unlike the Aztecs and Maya further north. That’s part of what makes Canta Gallo so special; it’s one of the few sites in Nicaragua where you can see the ruins of ancient pyramids built by some of the country’s Indigenous peoples. To get there, you’ll need to travel deep into the jungle of Indio Maiz in southwestern Nicaragua. The site is sacred to the Rama Indians, descendants of the Chibcha. Relatively little is known about Canta Gallo, but some believe it is a lost city. Since the area is remote, the ruins have yet to attract mobs of tourists, meaning that this is a site where you’ll actually be able to get up close to the ruins.

Photo by: Niina  / Bizarre Globe Hopper
Photo by: Niina / Bizarre Globe Hopper

2. Teotihuacán, Mexico

Is it possible to write about Central America’s ancient ruins without addressing Mexico? Although not usually classed as part of Central America proper, Mexico’s Indigenous peoples were drivers of empire and modern Mexico is littered with the ruins of civilizations like the Maya, Zapotecs, Aztecs and Toltecs. The inhabitants of Mexico’s most famous ruins, however, remain unknown; the Aztecs claimed common ancestry with the Teotihuacans, but the ethnicity of the inhabitants is the subject of debate. Perhaps a multi-ethnic center, Teotihuacan was at one time the largest city in pre-Columbian America and its influence was felt throughout Mesoamerica, from Tikal to Copan. Today, it is is famous for its pyramids, including the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the Avenue of the Dead and its multi-family residences.

Teotihuacán

1. Tikal, Guatemala

The ruins of Tikal are instantly recognizable from the famous Tikal Temple I, a 47-meter tall limestone step pyramid with a Mayan roof comb. The temple is also known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar. Of course, Temple I isn’t the only building at Tikal; there are many more buildings. Given that Tikal was once the most powerful city in the Mayan empire, the complex of temples, altars, palaces and pyramids only makes sense. The site is divided into several groups, including the Great Plaza located at the core of the site, the Central Acropolis to its south, the North and South Acropolises and the Plaza of the Seven Temples. Located in the Peten rainforest in northern Guatemala, this World Heritage Site is perhaps one of the best-known in Central America.

Tikal, Guatemala

9 Awesome Canyons That are Just as “Grand”

What’s in a name? When we’re talking about canyons, one name will always come to mind before any other: the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. The name sure seems like a successful marketing ploy—not only is the Grand Canyon the first name that comes to mind, it’s often the only one. That’s despite the fact there are plenty of other canyons out there, scattered around the world, some of them larger, wider or deeper than the Grand Canyon. Here are just 9 examples of canyons that are just as “grand” as their American counterpart.

9. Katherine Gorge (Australia)

Bordering on the better-known Kakadu National Park, Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia is home to a series of gorges on the Katherine River and Edith Falls. The Katherine Gorge is the central attraction of the park, which was formerly called Katherine Gorge National Park. The Katherine Gorge is actually a series of 13 gorges cut deep into the sandstone by the Katherine River. The gorges are home to a series of rapids and falls, as the Katherine River moves through the area. In the dry season, the gorges are disconnected from each other as the water dries up. Cruises will take you up to the 5th gorge, but you can also strike out and explore on your own via canoe or flat-bottomed boat. There are also 2 campgrounds and a number of trails throughout the park.

Katherine Gorge

8. Copper Canyon (Mexico)

Move over, Grand Canyon; Mexico’s Copper Canyon system should probably be your top North American canyon destination. This group of 6 distinct canyons, located in the southwestern part of Chihuahua state, is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. They’re also breathtaking, thanks to the large deposits of copper in their formation: the canyon walls are eye-catching copper and green hues. Copper Canyon has been the site of tourist development for the Mexican state, although there has been some resistance from local peoples and there are concerns about developing a tourist industry that protects and respects this sensitive ecosystem. Popular ways of exploring the canyons include hiking, biking and horseback riding. The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, and the train travels through Canyon Urique, the main canyon in the system.

Copper Canyon

7. Nine Mile Canyon (Utah)

Don’t let the name fool you—Nine Mile Canyon in Utah is actually more like 40 miles (60 kilometers) long. While it’s not necessarily the longest, deepest or widest canyon in the U.S.—and certainly not in the world—it has earned itself a reputation as the world’s “longest art gallery,” thanks to its extensive collection of rock art by the Fremont and Ute peoples. Ruins from these cultures also make the area an archaeological hotspot. There may be 10,000 or more individual pieces of rock art in the canyon, including the famous Cottonwood Panel, making it North America’s largest concentration of rock art. Many sites in the canyon have been added to the National Register of Historic Places since 2009, and there are plans to add more in the coming years as efforts to preserve the rich heritage of Nine Mile Canyon continue.

Nine Mile Canyon (Utah)

6. Rugova Canyon (Kosovo)

The Rugova Canyon, also known as the Rugova Gorge, is approximately 16 miles (25 kilometers) long and up to 1,000 meters deep in some places, making it one of Europe’s longest and deepest canyons. The canyon was carved out over years as the glacier near modern-day Pec melted and eroded through the Prokletije Mountains, near the border between Kosovo and Montenegro. The Pec Bistrica river cuts through the canyon, dividing it in 2. Waterfalls, colossal rocks and caves dot the landscape. The Gryka e Madhe (Great Canyon Cave) is one of the better-known caves in the area, although only about 11 kilometers of the cave system have been explored to date. Obviously, the area is popular for spelunkers, but it is also popular for rock-climbers, reflected in the recent addition of a via ferrata (iron road) for climbers.

Photo by: Otaulant via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Otaulant via Wikimedia Commons

5. Itaimbezinho Canyon (Brazil)

About 170 kilometers from Porto Alegre, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, is the Itaimbezinho Canyon. The canyon is located within the Aparados da Serra National Park, which was created in 1959 specifically to protect the canyon. One of Brazil’s first parks, Aparados da Serra is relatively small and has a daily cap on the number of visitors in order to better protect sensitive environments. The canyon is approximately 6,000 meters (6 miles) long and has a maximum width of 2,000 meters at some points, with a depth of about 1 mile, making it the largest canyon in Brazil. Waterfalls dot the landscape as the Rio do Boi wends its way through the canyon. The park offers hiking tours through the area. The Cotovelo Trail is a popular option, as it winds around the edge of the canyon.

Itaimbezinho Canyon

4. Fish River Canyon (Namibia)

Namibia is home to plenty of natural wonders, including the Namibian desert’s infamous red sands, but this African country is also home to Fish River Canyon—not only the largest canyon in the country, but the largest canyon on the whole African continent. The canyon is approximately 160 kilometers (100 miles) in length, with gaps up to 27 kilometers wide and depths of nearly 550 meters in some areas. The Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail follows the canyon for about 88 kilometers, from Hobas to the hot spring resort Ai Ais. There are a number of footpaths and some shortcuts, which means that the hike will be largely up to the hikers. While hiking the trail can take 5 days, trail running is a popular and faster way of taking in the canyon—the current record for trail running is just under 7 hours.

Fish River Canyon

3. Colca Canyon (Peru)

The Colca Canyon, located on the Colca River in Peru, is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. That’s fitting, considering that the canyon is one of the deepest in the world, with a depth of 3,270 meters (10,725 feet). More than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it is only the second-deepest gorge in Peru, ranking behind the Cotahuasi Canyon. The Colca Valley area surrounding the canyon is popular with tourists for other reasons as well: the area is rich with pre-Inca cultures, including the Collagua and Cabana peoples who still inhabit the area, as well as Spanish colonial towns. The Canyon is also noted for bird-watching, as it is home to the Andean condor and tourists flock to see them flying at close range near the Cruz del Condor. Ruins, rock art and local festivals are also popular attractions.

Colca Canyon

2. Tiger Leaping Gorge (China)

Part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan World Heritage Site, the Tiger Leaping Gorge lies on the Jinsha River, a tributary of the Yangtze River. The river passes between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain in a series of rapids, down cliffs 6,600 feet (2,000 meters) high, creating one of the world’s deepest and most spectacular river canyons. The name comes from a legend, in which a tiger leaped across the gorge at its narrowest point to escape a hunter. Even then, the tiger was still leaping across 82 feet (25 meters)! The area is popular with hikers and backpackers from other areas of China and abroad. The high-road hiking path is well-maintained and takes hikers through a variety of micro-ecosystems along the gorge’s length. Although the gorge is only 15 kilometers long, the high road is approximately 22 kilometers (14 miles).

Tiger Leaping Gorge

l. Indus River Gorge (Pakistan)

The Indus River passes through the Himalayas, rising in Tibet and flowing through India and Pakistan, before emptying into the Arabian Sea. In the northern territories of Pakistan, the river must pass through the Nanga Parbat region, home of the world’s ninth-highest peak, the infamous Nanga Parbat. As the Indus winds through this mountainous region, it flows through enormous gorges, some of them 17,000 feet (5,200 meters) deep. Near Dasu Patan in Kohistan, the gorge plunges to a maximum depth of 6,500 meters—making it one of the deepest, if not the deepest, canyon in the world. Some dispute about the depth of the gorge and other contenders continues today. Nanga Parbat is likely the better-known tourist attraction in the area, but the Deosai Plains and the Karakorum Highway are also popular with visitors.

Indus River Gorge

Mexico Vacations: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are 10 of our best suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

10. Tequila is NOT the only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however its up to you to test that theory.

Tequila

9. You Have to Pay to Leave

The Mexico departure tax is overwhelmingly complicated, thanks to a lack of information available regarding it. Our best advice, make sure you keep at least 900 Mexican Pesos on hand when you arrive at the airport. Depending on whether you drive or fly in, depends on who asks for your money. Some airlines include the departure tax in their ticket price, some don’t. It is possible to go to any bank before you depart and pay the tax, just show them your tourist card, essentially a visa that allowed you into the country and they will give you a receipt to show the border officials when you leave. Yes, you have to pay to leave, or as others would say, you have to pay to get in. Either way, keep 900 Pesos handy and you’ll be just fine.

Pesos

8. Don’t Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

bottled water

7. Learn some Española

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.  
habla espanol

6. There is More to Mexico Than the Drug Cartel, But it is Still Dangerous

Like the title suggests, this country is not all drug cartels and smuggling operations. But there are drug groups openly battling law enforcements as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

5. Mexico is a Nature Lover’s Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea or Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

Butterflies

4. Buses are Safe…and Cheap

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first class busses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sightsee independently.

bus in mexico

3. Mexico is Loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

Mayan Ruins

2. Two Words: Linen and Cotton

It is HOT here. All the time. No matter when you come. Remember this. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester. You can thank us later.

beach clothes

1. Mexico is a Foodie Lover’s Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at ever turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for it’s own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.

churros

 

10 Amazing Day Trips to Take in Cancun

Cancun is one of the most popular destinations for North American vacationers over the winter and the college crowd during spring break. With beautiful beaches, great hospitality and a vibrant nightlife, many people head to Cancun’s resorts to soak up the sun. Many resorts are all-inclusive offering food, drinks, activities and entertainment. Staying at one of these it is easy to find yourself never wanting to leave the resort since everything you could want or need is right at hand. But Cancun and the Mayan Riviera offer more than resort activities and late night bar crawls. Here are some ideas for activities and places you can visit on a day trip away from the resort.

10. Selvatica

To say Selvatica is a theme park really would not do it justice. One of the more popular day excursions for visitors, Selvatica covers 330 acres of Mayan jungle and is an adventure destination experience. Drive ATV’S on the Mud Madness course, hurl head first through the jungle on the zip lines, swim in a Ceynote (underground swimming hole), try the bungee swing, ride Tarzana the human roller coaster or test your balance on the aerial bridges. TripAdvisor rated the park as being in the top 10 adventure destinations in the world. The parks motto is “making adventure personal”. Several tour packages exist at the park so you can tailor the activities you want. Lunch is provided in the ticket price. The park offers free pick up and return to your hotel in Cancun so all you have to do is pack a bag for the day and enjoy the adventure.

Photo by: Selvatica
Photo by: Selvatica

9. Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is an island located off the Yucatan peninsula coast. A short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun transports you to a more laid back island with lots of things to enjoy. The island has great beaches where you can relax or do some snorkeling. Several boat tours and charter fishing boats operate on the island and the turtle farm is a popular destination. There are several golf cart rentals on the island but these have been designed to look like jeeps and cars. Rent a cart and explore the island and since the island isn’t that large it should only take about an hour. If you want to relax head over to Captain Dulche where you can relax on the beach, have a drink at the shipwreck bar or visit the small maritime museum with artifacts and historical presentations.

Isla Mujeres Mexico

8. Xcaret Park

Xcaret Park is a theme park, eco-tourism destination and resort located near Playa Del Carmen about an hour drive from Cancun. Located within the park are the Mayan ruins of Xcaret which date to between 1400 and 1517 AD. The Park also offers a ride through the underground river where visitors get on inflated inner tubes and slowly float through the cool waters and the current takes you on a leisurely ride through the caverns. In the 200 acre park there are various exhibits, a Mayan village an aviary where tropical birds interact freely with guests, a coral reef aquarium, marine turtle pond and a small island occupied by jaguars. Visitors can walk the jungle paths, take a river boat ride or enjoy dining in the restaurants. An equestrian show provides entertainment during the day and at night the renowned “Xcaret México Espectacular” show takes you on a visual journey through Mexico’s past from pre historic times to present day. Many tour operators offer hotel pick up and return making the trip an easy one from Cancun.

Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock.com
Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock.com

7. Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen is another favorite destination for travelers and an easy day trip from Cancun. A smaller town than Cancun, Playa Del Carmen is a great place to spend the day shopping, taking a relaxing catamaran boat ride, do some deep sea fishing or enjoying the nightlife. Cleanse your body and soul with a sweat lodge experience at an authentic Mayan Temazcal with a real Shaman, cruise on board a private yacht and enjoy the Mayan Riviera or walk the Quinta Avenida pedestrian thoroughfare adjacent to beach and check out the local vendors. There are several public beaches where you can enjoy the clear blue waters along with first class restaurants and of course the famous night life. Popular clubs in Playa Del Carmen include the Blue Parrot, a Playa landmark, Coco Bongo and the Tequila Barrel. If you can decide which club to visit then take a pub crawl where you will visit several of the areas hot clubs in one night.

CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com
CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com

6. Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an means “Origin of the Sky” and is a biosphere reserve. Containing tropical forests, Mangroves and marshes the reserve is home to over 300 species of birds, manatees, turtles, crocodiles, jaguars and spider monkeys. The 1.3 million acres reserve is the largest protected area in the Mexican coastal area. In 1987 Sian Ka’an was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Property and is part of UNESC’S Man and Biosphere Program. Visitors to the reserve can expect to see creatures rarely seen in other areas. A valuable part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef lie within the reserves protected area. There are over twenty known archeological sites located within the reserve and almost 700,000 of the 1.3 million total acres are limited to scientific research only. Several tour operators can arrange day tours to and from Cancun.

Sian Ka'an Reserve Mexico

5. Tres Rios Eco Park

Located 35 miles south of Cancun lies the Tres Rios Eco Park. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing or riding a jet ski. You can take a hike on the trails through the jungle or ride horseback where you can get up close and personal with over 100 exotic species of animals. Enjoy snorkeling and viewing the many tropical fish swimming the coral reefs just offshore. The park has three rivers running through it flowing to the ocean and ten ceynotes (cave like sinkholes with natural water wells) where you can enjoy a cool dip in the water which will come as a welcome relief from the hot humid weather. There is also a beautiful white sand beach to relax on and enjoy the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. With over 150 acres to explore it is a relaxing respite from the party atmosphere of Cancun.

Photo by: Hacienda Tres Rios
Photo by: Hacienda Tres Rios

4. Cozumel

A popular spot on the cruise ship circuit, Cozumel makes for an enjoyable day trip from Cancun. To get there travel south to Playa Del Carmen where you can buy a ticket to the high speed ferry that will whisk you through the waters to this cozy island. Once on the island you can explore the town of San Miguel and check out the gift shops and restaurants. Rent a scooter or jeep and take a ride to the eastern side of the island where you can enjoy secluded beaches and more relaxed atmosphere away from the cruise ship day tourists. Visit the Celarain lighthouse which houses a small nautical museum and get an amazing view of the island from the top of the tower. The small village of El Cedral is built around an ancient Mayan ruin and dates to 800 AD and off course there is world class diving fishing and snorkeling which Cozumel is known for.

Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com
Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com

3. Tulum

While not the most famous, Tulum is certainly one of the most beautiful and picturesque Mayan ruins in Mexico.  Tulum is 130 kilometers south of Cancun and many tour operators offer day tours picking you up at your hotel. Once there you will see the ancient well preserved ruins dating from the 13th century sitting on a bluff overlooking a white sand beach. Tulum was a Mayan port that traded mainly in turquoise and jade. Protected by a 784 meter limestone wall on three sides the ruins are accessible by 5 doorways built into the walls. One of the more prominent building is the Castillo or Castle that sits on a 12 meter limestone cliff where visitors can ascend the steep rock stairs and be greeted with great views of the Caribbean.

Tulum Mexico

2. Coba Mayan Village

One way to learn about your hosts ancestors is to take a day trip to visit the Coba Mayan Village. Located at the Coba Mayan Ruins visitors can climb the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula and have an unpatrolled view of the surrounding jungle. The ruins can be enjoyed on your own while you walk around and see the various building and ancient ball courts. If you don’t want to explore on your own there are guides available at the entrance for a small fee that will give you a guided tour. The site has three authentic Mayan villages where you can see how the Mayans lived in the past and present. You will visit with a family that will explain Mayan culture and share how they live. Lunch is arranged where you can enjoy a real Mayan feast.  Other activities include swimming in one of the areas ceynotes.

Coba myan village mexico

1. Chichen Itza

Probably the most popular and certainly the most recognized of all the Mayan ruins in Mexico is Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza was an important Mayan center of influence for 1,000 years and several building have survived, most notably the massive pyramid. The Kukulkan Pyramid is 75 feet tall as was built for astronomical purposes. During the vernal and autumnal equinox the sunlight bathes the steps of the pyramid and descends the stairs lighting up triangles that form a serpents body until it reaches the head at the bottom. By standing at the base of the stairs and clapping your hands a sound resembling an eagle will echo from the massive structure. Other structures still exist including the Temple of the Warriors and the Great Ball Court. The ball court is 225 feet wide and 545 feet long overall and a whisper can be clearly understood by the other person at the other end. Chichen Itza is a popular destination and tours can be arranged from your hotel.

Chichen Itza

6 Amazing Underwater Attractions

With over 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface covered in water and billions of years of world history, it’s no wonder that our planet’s oceans, seas and lakes hold  some of the most fascinating attractions (both natural and man-made) that can be found on the planet. For those looking to flex their adventure muscles and temporarily leave behind the security of solid ground, here are 6 human contributions so fascinating, they’re worth taking the plunge for:

6. Yonaguni Monument, Okinawa

Found off the coast of Yonaguni, the southernmost of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, not much has been confirmed about the origins of the enormous rock formation. Containing step-like features, scientists dispute whether the “monument” is natural or man-made, and several theories have cropped up encompassing everything from monolithic construction to government conspiracy. Nevertheless, the site remains a popular destination for divers, providing a unique opportunity to stand on a massive underwater structure and witness an abundance of marine life brought on by the strong Yonaguni current.

"Turtleyonaguni" by Masahiro Kaji. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Turtleyonaguni” by Masahiro Kaji. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

5. Museo Subacuatico de Arte, Cancun

Created in 2009, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA) is the largest underwater attraction of its kind, now consisting of 500 life-size sculptures meant to showcase the relationship between art and environmental science. Founded by the Director of the National Marine Park, the President of the Cancun Nautical Association and an English sculptor, this unique museum, while being extremely cool, serves two very important ecological purposes: to divert traffic from the increasingly over-crowded waters of the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park and to facilitate the recovery of the area’s resources by providing an alternate complex reef structure safe for marine life colonization. The site of the underwater museum is both snorkel and scuba friendly, divided into 2 sections of differing depth. The Salon Nizuc is only 4 meters deep and is viewable via snorkeling only, while the 8-meter deep Salon Manchones allows for a much more up-close and personal experience for divers (and snorkelers if they so choose).

Photo by: Flickr/Pablo A. Arias Cid
Photo by: Flickr/Pablo A. Arias Cid

4. Truk Lagoon, Micronesia

This remote mid-ocean location found about 1800 km off the coast of New Guinea gained international media attention after its 1969 exploration by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. The lagoon and its surrounding 125 square km landmass served as the primary Japanese military base in the South Pacific during the Second World War, a fact that has remained unforgettable by the vast amount of largely preserved sunken ships that can be found throughout the area. Despite essentially being a Japanese military burial ground (human remains can still be seen in some of the wrecks), the site has become a popular scuba diving destination, providing a unique insight to the lives (and deaths) of those killed during the February 1944 allied attack known as Operation Hailstone. Today, divers can see ship decks littered with human objects, holds with remnants of weapons, military vehicles and artifacts and, what many consider to be most interesting, the remains of submarine I-169 Shinohara, a vessel involved in the 1941 attack of Pearl Harbor.

Truk Lagoon, Micronesia

3. Underwater Post Office, Vanuatu

For anyone who feels as though they have sent snail mail from every possible place on earth, this one is for you. Found in the waters of Hideaway Island in Vanuatu, the Underwater Post Office provides visitors with the chance to write a post card on dry land and then dive 3 meters to mail them, resulting in a truly unique postal experience. Opened for business in 2003, the official office consists of a small structure with a counter that houses postal workers during opening hours and a tiny yellow mailbox for after-hours postage. The site is accessible to both divers and snorkelers and open hours are advertised by a raised flag visible form the island’s beach.

Photo by: Flickr/eidlog42
Photo by: Flickr/eidlog42

2. Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo

One of three bronze statues (all cast from the same mold) created by sculptor Guido Galletti, the Christ of the Abyss statue found in Key Largo, Florida was gifted to the Underwater Society of America in 1962. The extremely popular scuba diving attraction is found about 25 feet deep in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and is weighed down by a 9-ton concrete base. A replica of the original (which is found in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of San Frottuoso, Italy), the statue stands 8.5 feet tall and depicts Christ offering a blessing of peace, with his face and arms raised upward. Aside from this world-famous attraction, this site also offers exceptional snorkeling and scuba diving for its expansive coral and marine life.

Christ of the Abyss Florida

1. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada

Opened to the public in 2006 by British sculptor Jason deClaires Taylor, the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park (also known as the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park) is the first contemporary art collection in the world to be found completely under water. The park’s goal is to unite the area’s inhabitants with the marine world that surrounds them, and consists of several exhibits of human forms created from casts of the local population. Divers can check out several installations, such as Grace Reef (a collection of statues depicting a local woman lying on the sea floor), The Unstill Life (a take on the classic “still life” using everyday objects), and the probably most recognizable Vicissitudes (a circle of children facing outwards and holding hands). Since it’s opening, the park has added exhibits by several other sculptors and continues to grow as one of the most popular diving sites in the region.

Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada

10 Secret Caribbean Hotels

There are hundreds of thousands hotels and resorts across the Caribbean and many of us have a picture in our minds that they all tend to be mega-resorts; but assuming this would be wrong. Besides the sprawling resorts that are littered with hundreds of rooms, pools and families; there happens to be more than a handful of incredible hotels that remain a secret. Some have been around since the 1960’s, others are new, but all of them offer superior landscapes, service and dining. From Jamaica to Antigua; these 10 secret Caribbean hotels are well worth a visit.

10. Turquoise Cay -Great Exuma, Bahamas

It used to be a former fishing lodge but just recently this lodge underwent extensive renovations and opened as a hotel. There are only a total of eight, simple yet elegant rooms each named after the different shade of blue painted on the walls. Furnishings here include round tables with wicker furniture and lobster print cushions, lamp bases filled with sand and daybeds suspended over the beach. Guests should plan on relaxing in the infinity pool that cascades into the bay or getting active with the kayaks and paddleboards available to rent. The Peruvian-Asian restaurant serves up amazing sushi and fresh seafood while music plays lightly on the outdoor deck under the twinkling stars. Guests shouldn’t miss out on visiting Little Exuma, the smaller island of the pair and home to Santana’s Grill Pit; a favorite spot that Johnny Depp often heads to.

Photo by: Turquoise Cay
Photo by: Turquoise Cay

9. The Caves, Jamaica

This all-inclusive, child-free resort offers visitors an incredible experience as soon as they walk through the door. The focus here is the ocean and all 12 wooden thatch cottages are located on the cliff top overlooking the sea. Each cottage is painted its own color and has its own private sundeck completed with hammocks. Leaping into the water from the 20-meter cliff is one of the most popular ways to cool down here, and for those who aren’t daring enough, you can find your peace lounging by the pool. As for the dining, guests here are encouraged to order breakfast whenever they want and the choices are endless, as goes the same for lunch and dinner. The candlelit bar built out of rocks creates the perfect after dinner setting and with a maximum of 36 guests at one time; you won’t have any trouble relaxing here.

8. Secret Bay Resort -Portsmouth, Dominica

This award-winning small hotel is immersed deep in nature on the unspoiled island of Dominica. Made up of just six sustainable luxury villas and bungalows, visitors here can be sure to have the utmost of privacy. Secret Bay is unique in many ways, including its cliff top location that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. This hotel also features two beaches, the magical Cario River, a spectacular sea cave and exquisite dining. Don’t worry about using the full kitchen that is located in your villa as the superior cooking service that is offered will come to you, and use only the best local and organic ingredients. Along with terrific views, gourmet meals, and above average service; guests are treated to such activities as kayaking, snorkeling, cooking classes, yoga and massages. With guests having to be over the age of 12, there is no need to worry about screaming and splashing children running about the tranquil resort.

Photo by: Secret Bay
Photo by: Secret Bay

7. Sugar Reef -Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines

65 tropical acres, eight beautiful rooms and one extraordinary private beach awaits visitors at Sugar Reef. Situated on a 65-acre coconut plantation straddling a breathtaking bay with quarter-mile-long beach views, Sugar Reef has managed to create the uniquely Caribbean tradition of living in luxury that is open to views and breezes, along with the occasional lizard and bat. The main dining room boasts enormous driftwood chandeliers where the best lobster roti on the island is served. The eight bedrooms are split between the Beach House and the French House, each featuring high quality linens, driftwood mirrors, four poster beds and French doors. Popular activities here include cycling through the estate, kayaking, snorkeling and gathering around the huge tables at night to play board games. Lush green mountains, sparkling blue ocean and the white sand beach is enough to make anyone want to stay at Sugar Reef forever.

Photo by: Sugar Reef
Photo by: Sugar Reef

6. CasaSandra -Holbox, Mexico

On the tiny island of Holbox, just north of Cancun sits a paradise inside a paradise. CasaSandra is the islands chicest hotel and the owner, a full-time artist has created a natural masterpiece. The hotel was designed with love, conceived with art, music and coziness in mind. With 18 rooms plus 1 luxury villa, personalized service and the absence of TV’s, telephones and radios; this resort is truly for those looking to bring tranquility into their lives. Known as having one of the best places to eat on the island, guests certainly won’t go hungry when they are staying here. Breakfast is served in the open air seating while dinner is taken in the elegant dining room complete with beautiful music and art. The islands’ claim to fame is the sheer number of whale sharks that congregate here from June to September and guests of the hotel should be sure to take some time out to swim with these majestic creatures.

Photo by: CasaSandra
Photo by: CasaSandra

5. The Dunmore -Harbour Island, Bahamas

The most famous beach on Harbour Island is three miles long, one mile wide and in certain lights the grains beneath your feet glow a soft pink color; hence the name Pink Beach. The Dunmore happens to be located smack dab in the middle of the beach and has been around since the 1960’s. In recent years the hotel was taken over for two former guests and has since gone under renovations, making this hotel even better than it was before. The 14 beachfront and garden cottages are decked out in teak furniture, graphic patterned cushions and rattan blinds. Guests can often been seen lounging by the pool or beneath turquoise umbrellas on the palm-fringed beach. The restaurant at the Dunmore produces some of the best food on the island, including snapper sandwiches, fish tacos and fresh lobster.

Photo by: The Dunmore
Photo by: The Dunmore

4. Hotel Deep Blue -Providencia, Colombia

Located on the beautiful Colombian island of Providencia lies a luxurious 12-room resort that is well worth the effort to get there.  The rooms are elegantly furnished with king size beds, private balconies and beautiful furnishings; all with an amazing view out to the sea. The restaurant is one of the most stunning features of this property as it is built right over the water and diners will enjoy the sounds of the waves lapping against the deck and indulging in mouth watering international cuisine. Hotel Deep Blue is part of a biosphere reserve giving way to a variety of animals, near-deserted beaches and a traditional Creole culture. Enjoy the private boat, snorkeling in the clear waters or trekking through the verdant jungle at this amazing hidden gem in the Caribbean.

Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue
Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue

3. Inn at English Harbour, Antigua

It may have opened in the 1960’s but this hotel has managed to stay under the radar, blanketed by thick palm forests complete with its own crescent of sand. Expect to see bright red flowers, colorful birds and painted clapboard buildings among the property. Currently there are 28 rooms which include beautiful four-poster beds, mahogany washstands and breathtaking water views. There are two restaurants on –site, one located down at the beach and another atop a hill. Expect a mix of dining options and be sure to try the lamb and mint sauce that is a favorite of guests. A small spa, sparkling pool, boutique full of gorgeous handmade dresses and tennis courts rounds out this intimate property.

Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour
Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour

2. Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

It is only a 15 minute plane ride from the glitz and crowds of Nassau but visitors will feel a world away when they get to this secluded island with its white sands and turquoise waters. Here is where Kamalame Cay lives; a collection of houses sprinkled along the shores among the thousands of coconut palms. This resort features such awesome amenities as tennis courts, a spa pavilion over the water, beachfront Tiki bar and the Great House dining room. Visitors are treated to luxury linens, nightly bonfires, incredible antique furnishings and some seriously good food. Plan on dining on fresh crab dim sum, fresh caprese salads and fresh bread baked from the on-site bakery. Plenty of celebrities grace the likes of this hotel around the holidays and we wish you the best of luck trying to get a reservation here.

Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas
Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

1. Golden Rock Inn, Nevis

What was once a 19th century sugar estate, complete with an array of stone buildings and rampant forest is now a breathtaking property that features incredible flora and fauna, along with eleven cottages. The old counting house was restored and transformed into the foliage-framed reception and the dining areas and outdoor terraces look onto serene reflection pools. Bamboo trees, palms and orchids are home to colorful hummingbirds and dragonflies throughout the property. Each cottage is designed to be different, each featuring unique amenities and the utmost privacy. Lively Caribbean cuisine is served using the freshest of ingredients and patrons can choose to sit on one of the decks overlooking the sea or within the intimate garden settings. Visitors here won’t find fully-stocked minibars or TV’s in their cottages; instead they will find beautiful surroundings that evoke the feelings of tranquility and peace.

Photo by: Raymond Jungles
Photo by: Raymond Jungles