Famous Movie Hotels Where You Can Live Like A Star

Hotels have played a prominent role in movies throughout the years, from the glamorous places where James Bond stayed to the exotic resorts. Let’s discover the iconic hotels that were featured in famous films where you can stay and be treated like a star!

10. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Maybe because of the proximity to Hollywood or maybe because it is a beautiful hotel full of grandeur and luxury, either way, the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles has been featured in a lot of movies. In fact, the hotel has a list of movies, TV shows and other appearances listed on their web site that is 15 pages long. Some of the more famous movies shot all or in part here include Jersey Boys, The Italian Job, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man, Rush Hour 3 and Rocky III. When not starring in movies the Millennium Biltmore has hosted celebrities, presidents, and dignitaries for the last 90 years. The 27 suites range from 900 sq. ft. one-bedroom suites to the 4,600 sq. ft. Presidential Suite that encompasses 2 floors, has 3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and an antique elevator. Rounded out by a piano, full kitchen, dining room, and library it is truly majestic.

9. The Fontainebleau, Miami, Florida

Since opening in 1954 the Fontainebleau Hotel has popular with the rich and famous. You might remember the swimming pool from the movies Scarface starring Al Pacino and the James Bond classic Goldfinger. Parts of the movies The Bodyguard as well as Police Academy 5 were shot on location here as well. The hotel occupies 22 acres of prime oceanfront property in the heart of Miami’s Millionaire’s Row and offers luxurious accommodations along with a touch of the glamorous golden era. The hotel offers guest rooms ranging from the standard room at 300 sq. ft. and luxuriously appointed to the six luxury penthouses. For $3,000 a night you can book the La Baie Presidential Suite with its polished marble floors. The hotel has a marina where yachts can dock for the day and enjoy the award winning restaurants at the hotel or the famous pool and beach.

8. Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Long thought of as a playground for the ultra-rich, Monaco is still one of Europe’s premier destinations. No hotel exemplifies the opulence and luxury of Monaco more than the Hotel de Paris. Built in 1864 the hotel is still the standard for others to try and copy. Movies such as Iron Man 2, The Red Shoes from 1948 and the movie Monte Carlo from 2011 were shot here. What would a luxurious European hotel be without James Bond? Two of the famous spy’s movies were shot in part here, Never Say Never Again and Goldeneye. This 5-star hotel has 182 rooms appointed in European style and luxury to include Louis XVI chairs and heated floors in the bathrooms. The hotel has three restaurants where gentlemen must wear jackets and a private wine cellar holding over 400,000 bottles of wine, some dating back to 1850. Free entry into the famed casinos and 24-hour concierge service await you at the Hotel de Paris.

7. The Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, California

Originally opened in 1928 the Beverly Wilshire sits across from Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills. The hotel made an appearance in movies like Escape From the Planet of Apes and Sex and the City: The Movie. The world really came to know the hotel when it served as the setting for the blockbuster movie Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. With 395 rooms and 137 suites, the hotel has hosted celebrities, political figures, and royalty. The guest rooms are big, 400 sq. ft. and just get bigger from there. The Presidential Suite is 5000 sq. ft. has a media room and a huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Enjoy a meal at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant CUT where you can get some of the best steaks in the country including True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Japan.

6. The Plaza, New York, NY

The Plaza Hotel in New York has been featured in several movies. The hotel was featured in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby, featuring Robert Redford and in the 2013 version as well. The Plaza also appears in the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest as well as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Sleepless in Seattle and Scent of a Woman. The Plaza Hotel is the ultimate in New York style and sophistication. The hotel has 282 guest rooms and 102 suites including the Royal Plaza Suite. The three-bedroom suite overlooking 5th Avenue comes with a fitness room, baths with marble mosaic tile complete with 24-carat gold plated fixtures and butler services. The Plaza Food Hall is a culinary dining and shopping venue popular with guests and locals. Chef Todd English prepares award-winning meals in the European style food hall featuring rustic Mediterranean food.

5. Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Bellagio in Las Vegas and its iconic fountains have played a prominent role in movies about Las Vegas. The movies Oceans 11, Oceans 13, were shot there. Besides the fountains which attract thousands to the musical dancing waters, the hotel continues to be a favorite destination for Vegas visitors. Cirque du Soleil makes its home at The Bellagio and the conservatory and botanical gardens are a favorite. From the Fiori di Como chandelier containing 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms that adorns the lobby to the fine art gallery The Bellagio strives to provide the utmost in luxury. The concierge can obtain those hard to get show tickets and the staff goes out of their way to make you feel special. The resort rooms are 510 sq. ft. and have marble floor entries, sitting areas, and mood lighting. The Executive Parlor Suite is 2,500 sq. ft. and features a billiard lounge, theater room, and wet bar. For the most discriminating an 8,000 sq. ft. three bedroom, seven bathroom villa is the ultimate in luxury. Featuring a fitness center, massage room, dry sauna and private hair salon the villa comes with a 24hr butler service.

4. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, California

This 5-star hotel on famed Nob Hill in San Francisco sets the standard for luxury and elegance. The movies Hotel and The Rock use this as a filming location along with the 1958 classic Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart. The hotel has 592 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants and bars and a culinary garden where the hotel maintains honey bees that serve up over 800 pounds of honey each year. The Fairmont Hotel has 62 suites with the main building suites containing a parlor, bedroom and marble floors. The Penthouse Suite is 6,000 sq. ft., has three bedrooms and four bathrooms. Complete with a fireplace in the living room, formal dining, library, billiard room and terrace overlooking the city.

3. Waldorf Astoria, New York, NY

The 47 story Waldorf Astoria Hotel has over 1,400 rooms and is one of the largest luxury hotels in the world. The hotel has welcomed presidents, celebrities and royalty throughout the years. Movies have been using the Waldorf since the 1940s because of the grandeur and location on Park Avenue. The 1970 comedy The Out of Towners with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis was filmed at the hotel along with The Great Gatsby. Remember the scene in The Godfather Part III where George Hamilton, who plays the Corleone family lawyer, negotiates with the crooked Arch Bishop? Yep, filmed at the Waldorf. Rooms range from luxury guest rooms in the tower to suites, including two-bedroom apartments where figures such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe have all stayed. No word on whether JFK and Marilyn were staying there at the same time.

2. Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

The movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at the beautiful Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. What most people don’t know is that Turtle Bay has been the setting for over 150 movies and television shows. The original Hawaii Five-O filmed there as well as Magnum PI, the movie Soul Surfer and a host of others. There is no wonder why. I mean come on you have the beautiful tropical setting, great beach and of course the resorts impeccable attention to detail. Instead of a fussy concierge, you get a staff that is friendly and willing to do whatever is needed for you to have the ultimate resort experience. You might find yourself enjoying a cocktail with a local or a well-known pro athlete or celebrity. The resort is situated so you get an ocean view from every room whether it be one of the suites, beach cottages, villas or rooftop premier rooms with walk-in stone showers and soaking tubs.

1. The Savoy, London

The Savoy in London has long been an iconic Hotel and one known for elegance and style. Located on the Thames River, near the shopping and theater districts, the Savoy has attracted politicians, celebrities, and visitors from around the world seeking luxurious amenities. The movie industry is no exception and has the Savoy for settings in several movies dating back to 1921, including The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, Notting Hill in 1999 and Made of Honor in 2008. The 5-star hotel has 268 rooms decorated in either Edwardian or art deco styles featuring luxurious marble bathrooms. Suites also have the luxury of having a dedicated butler. The Royal Suite covers the entire 5th floor and was recently refurbished at a cost of over $3.7 million.

Bucket List Trips Worth Saving For

Travelling can be very pricey but so incredible. Sometimes places are expensive just because of the hype that surrounds in with celebrity travel, media or even just Pinterest. But what places are truly worth saving up for? Don’t get sucked into the trendy travel locations, save up for a trip that will make you check some items off your bucket list and continue to be enriched with valuable life experience.

1. French Polynesia

Ready for the trip of a lifetime? It’s pretty pricey but worth every penny. The French Polynesia has so many islands of beauty to offer including Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Ra’iatea and Taha’a, Tuamotus, and last but not least, Marquesas. Know for their uber relaxing spas and stunning black pearls, you’ll be ready to live there permanently by the end of your trip. The best time of year to travel is between May and September to avoid rainy season.

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2. Fiji

Find your place in the middle of no where. With friendly locals and a historically rich landscape, this island won’t disappoint. Snorkel, dive and zipline through the islands’ stunning surroundings to have an unforgettable experience that you will reminisce about for years to come.

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3. Paris

Bienvenue to the City of Love! You need to see this destination at least once in your lifetime to understand what the hype is all about. Stroll through the streets of Paris, visiting historical landmarks and eating incredible food. Oh, and don’t forget about the delicious wine at every meal.

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4. Hawaii

Make the flight to this tropical paradise that is covered in stunning cliffs, volcanoes, jungles, canyons and just about everything in between. With multiple islands, there’s no shortage of things to do and see on your bucket list trip. Snorkel with the friendly wildlife in the ocean, learn to surf and hike some risky trails with jaw dropping views. You won’t get photos like this anywhere else in the world! Hawaii is truly a traveller’s paradise.

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5. Iceland

You will definitely want to save up for this amazing destination. It’s everything you hope it to be and so much more! Go to the Blue Lagoon and swim in the bright blue hot springs, then hop in a car and camp anywhere on the island. That’s right, you can camp anywhere in Iceland! If you are the adventurous type, this trip is definitely for you. You can whale watch and visit some incredible geysers that make stunning photos. Last but not least, go visit the countless waterfalls that are scattered over this heart stopping landscape. Needless to say, it’s a perfect vacation.

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6. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Looking for a peaceful, rejuvenating getaway with first class treatment? To describe the beauty of this location leaves me at a loss for words (very uncommon). Having been there, all that can be said is that the fresh air and beautiful scenery is a sight for sore eyes and the perfect way to wake up every morning.

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7. Australia

Take a long trip down under and explore every inch of this incredible country. With hot weather, the world famous Great Barrier Reef and the 12 Apostles, you’d think that would be enough! But guess what? You can visit Kangaroo Island to see the country’s most popular animal roam freely. The cost is steep but the experience definitely worth it. Head down to Australia!

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The 10 Best Stargazing Spots in the Northern Hemisphere

We’ve told you where to find the best views of the heavens in the southern half of the world; the southern hemisphere’s positioning makes it a particularly good location for aspiring astronomers to get a glimpse of our galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that those of us in the northern hemisphere have to miss out on awe-inspiring starscapes. There are dozens of dark-sky reserves and parks and prime viewing spots in more northerly climes. You’ll want to pack your telescope if you plan to travel to any of these 10 locations.

10. Brecon Beacons National Park, United Kingdom

Head to south Wales and you’ll quickly find that sheep outnumber people in this part of the world. Brecon Beacons National Park is a prime stargazing location because of its seclusion. The ruins of the Llanthony Priory provide a stunning backdrop for the night sky. The area near the park is home to 33,000 people and within easy access for nearly 1 million, which means that residents have worked hard to ensure that lighting within the communities near the park are dark sky-friendly. Most of the park is open grass moorland, which makes for plenty of open viewing of the night sky. The park was originally designated in 1957, and in 2013, it became an official International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Reserve. Once you’ve done some stargazing, be sure to step into the Priory to grab some authentic Welsh ale—the ruins have been converted into a pub.

Llanthony Priory

9. Westhavelland, Germany

The Westhavelland Nature Park, in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, was established in June 1998. With an area of 1,315 square kilometers, the park is the largest protected area in Brandenburg and is home to the largest contiguous wetland in all of Europe. It has also become renowned for its dark skies, despite being just 70 kilometers west of Berlin, Germany’s most populous city. Its location also means easy access for the nearly 6 million people living in the region—and tourists to Berlin. The Dark Sky Reserve, which was certified by the IDA in 2014, is approximately 750 square kilometers within the park. The park offers an extensive education program, including the annual WestHavellander AstroTreff Party and an interpretive program. The Milky Way shines in full splendor over Germany’s first and foremost “star park”!

Brandenburg Milky Way

8. Mauna Kea, United States

Although there are several locations in the Hawaiian islands that are prime stargazing spots, Mauna Kea has to claim the top spot. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea Observatory sits 13,756 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, on the slopes of the mountain, high above the town of Hilo. Here you’ll be able to see northern hemisphere favorites, including the Milky Way, Ursa Major, the bands of Jupiter and Orion, with perfect clarity. Although the largest optical telescope in the world will be off-limits after nightfall, you can still peer through telescopes offered at the visitors’ center, located at 9,200 feet. Free lectures and Q&A sessions at the observatory are complemented by tour packages offered by adventure companies, some of which include dinner. Although Mauna Kea isn’t an IDA-certified site, it remains a popular location for stargazers from around the world.

Mauna Kea night sky

7. Tenerife, Spain

You can probably pick any of Spain’s Canary Islands to get a good view of the stars. In fact, the island of La Palma is a protected area, although it’s not officially a park or reserve. For the best views, however, hop over to Tenerife, the largest island in the chain. Tenerife has passed a law controlling flight paths, specifically with the quality of stargazing in mind. From April through December, you can take a tour of the Teide Observatory. Visitors can also enjoy a cable car ride up to the top of the volcanic Mount Teide to really get a good gander at the stars. Cap off an evening by enjoying dinner at the mountain-top restaurant, with the stars as the romantic backdrop. The semi-annual Starmus Festival is also a popular attraction, celebrating science, music and the arts.

Tenerife Night sky

6. Kiruna, Sweden

The northernmost settlement in Sweden, the town of Kiruna lies about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which means that between December 11 and January 1, there is a period of continuous night. While some of us may not be enthused by the idea of constant darkness, it does make for an amazing opportunity to view some of the spectacular skies. Given the remote location, the skies are truly dark, creating the perfect canvas for the aurora borealis. Visitors can book a stay at the world-famous Icehotel, just 11 miles from Kiruna in Jukkasjarvi. Nighttime “picnics” are offered on northern lights tours. Other activities include ice-sculpting and wintertime sports like skiing. You can also tour the Esrange Space Center, which developers hope to turn into a spaceport in the near future.

Sweden aurora borealis

5. Cherry Springs State Park, United States

There may not seem to be a lot of reason to visit Pennsylvania, but stargazers are drawn to the 82-hectare Cherry Springs State Park. This highly regarded site provides one of the best glimpses into the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The park sits atop a 2,300-foot (701 meter) peak, which allows you to leave civilization (and light pollution) down on the ground. The park offers various programs throughout the year, including its annual Black Forest Star Party in early September, a popular event for amateur astronomers. In 2014, stargazers were lucky enough to spot the aurora borealis not once, but 4 times in Cherry Springs. First designated a dark sky park by the state in 2000, Cherry Springs was proclaimed an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA in June 2007.

Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure
Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure

4. Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

The County Kerry in Ireland is considered one of the most picturesque areas in the country. Situated between the Kerry Mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Iveragh Peninsula is home to the Ring of Kerry, with numerous scenic attractions along its length. In 2011, the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve became the only gold-tier reserve in the northern hemisphere, and it was officially designated in January 2014. The night sky has long been important to the inhabitants of the region; Neolithic stone formations dating to 6,000 years ago were used to observe astronomical events and track the sun and moon. The area, which is approximately 700 square kilometers, incorporates territory along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is naturally protected from light pollution, although the inhabitants are working to create dark sky-compliant lighting systems to improve the quality of the night skies even more.

ring of kerry

3. Jasper National Park, Canada

Jasper, located in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, is probably one of Canada’s most famous national parks. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also declared a dark-sky preservation area in March 2011. Although Jasper is not certified by the IDA, sites in Canada must adhere to the strict guidelines set out by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The guidelines were developed to protect wildlife that is sensitive to light pollution. Every October, Jasper holds a Dark Sky Festival, which includes daytime solar viewings and rocket launches to entertain the kids. There are approximately 100 year-round campsites scattered throughout the park, meaning that you don’t need to visit in the fall to get some spectacular views of the night sky over the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper at night

2. Zselic Landscape Protection Area, Hungary

In the past, the starry skies were essential for Hungarian shepherds guiding their flocks back to fold. Today, Hungary is home to some of the best dark skies in the world; in August 2015, Wanderlust named it the third-best stargazing spot in the world. Zselic Starry Sky Park is located within the National Landscape Protection Area, which was originally established in 1976 to protect the natural assets of the North Zselic region. The Triangulum Galaxy is visible to the naked eye here, and in the spring, you can spot Orion and the Orion Nebula, along with the zodiacal light. The Lighting Society of Hungary and 17 surrounding municipalities have worked with the park to minimize the impact of lighting both within and outside the 9,042 hectares of parkland.

Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Natural Bridges National Monument, United States

This Utah national park was the first IDA-designated International Dark Sky Park, declared in 2007. The park is renowned for its 3 natural bridge formations (hence its name), one of which is the second-largest in the world. The area was first designated a park in 1908. In the summer, the park provides astronomy ranger programs to help share its gorgeous nighttime skies with some of the 95,000 people that visit each year. The Milky Way is very clearly visible and the desert conditions of the area make for many nights of clear viewing throughout the year. During an assessment by the NPS Night Sky Team, the park registered as a Class 2 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, making it one of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Utah stars

7 Best Things to Do for Thrill-Seekers in Hawaii

Hawaii’s islands conjure images of sun-soaked, alabaster beaches, flourishing landscapes of dense, emerald rainforest, and an endless swath of rugged mountain summits. In this quintessential land of adventure, thrill seekers take the bull by the horns and capitalize on Hawaii’s varied landscapes to elicit some of the most electrifying feelings humanely possible, wrestle their fears, and conquer some of the most formidable endeavors in the Western hemisphere.  The wild and unpredictable frontiers of Maui, Kauai, and Big Island prove worthy contenders for some of the world’s most mind-blowing outdoor pursuits.

7. North Shore Skydiving

Oahu’s incredible North Shore is best known for world class surfing—and the breaks, yes they are legendary—but another way to get an eagle’s eye view of this scenic, wave-pounding expanse is to take a dive—right out of a plane. You’ll need to rub shoulders with a few professionals here, who will take you to the skies for a heart-pounding tandem skydive session. There are a few factors on how far up you go—weather and experience are main ones—but it’ll be between 7,500-14,000 feet. On queue, you’ll take the plunge into blue Hawaiian skies and free-falling at almost 200 km/hour. If you’re not too busy being wowed by the sensation tumbling out of an airplane, you might even notice the sensational views of the island’s big waves and small farms, curving strips of white sand, and plenty more ethereal sights.

Skydiving Hawaii

6. Na Pali Coast Helicopter Tour

If you crave the thrill of hitting the skies without actually leaping out of a plane, a helicopter tour of the Kauai’s Napali Coast is the way to go. This coastal spread is easily one of the most beautiful across Hawaii’s islands, and fittingly, can only be reached by hiking, sea, or helicopter. Words to describe this otherworldly spectacle: majestic, enchanting, flourishing—there’s really no end to the beauty of this wondrous coastline. Jade green mountainous pinnacles are settled along the shore, enduring a full 17 miles along a coast shaped by the very waves that have crashed the shores for hundreds of years. Once you’ve taken flight, your prize will be Pacific Ocean panoramas, emerald, velvety cliffs, and plummeting waterfalls cutting into narrow, seemingly bottomless, island valleys. The rough-hewn coastal terrain has seen little change since the first Hawaiians settled Napali centuries before.

Studio Barcelona / Shutterstock.com
Studio Barcelona / Shutterstock.com

5. Coastal Kite Surfing

Kite surfing is a pretty amazing way to take to Hawaii’s ocean waters, catch some serious wind, and coast along at high speeds. For the best experience, the waves and the wind have to be working together, providing ideal conditions. This exciting sport, born in Maui ofvcourse, draws on both wakeboarding and windsurfing and takes on multiple forms depending on experience—you tend to find the more extreme variety throughout Hawaii but beginner’s can try it out too. There are plenty of places to kite surf throughout the islands: Maui’s north shore boasts Kite Beach where you’ll see top surfers working with steady, strong winds blowing parallel to the shoreline; and Big Island’s Hilo Bay is another hot spot for kite surfing along the eastern edge when the afternoon northerly winds blow in. Avoid disappointing conditions: kite surf between March and April or wait until October or November.

kite surfing hawaii

4. Oahu Shark Diving

Some would say deliberately putting yourself in way of a shark is a little bit crazy while others can’t wait for the electrifying feeling of swimming with the ocean’s most dangerous creatures. Forget goose bumps, you’ll be getting full on chills when you enter shark-infested waters—in a steel cage of course, and with professionals. Tiger Sharks, gray Reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, and Galapagos sharks all swim these waters, and if curious enough, will swim directly to the underwater cage to get a closer look at you. The cage bars, though thick, leave a lot to the imagination—the gaps are wide so you’re highly encouraged to keep your arms and legs tucked tightly inside. You’ll be able to snap away during the excursion (where you could purposely be almost cheek to cheek with a shark if you choose)—you’ll need some proof when recounting this perilous adventure!

shark cage diving

3. Kipu Falls Cliff Jumping

Bring up Kipu Falls to any Kauai local and they’ll almost surely be able to give you directions right to it. Situated near the favored eastern side of Kauai, Kipu Falls is about a half-hour from Lihue’s downtown core. If you’ve got GPS capabilities, you should be able to find it fairly easily too—you won’t miss the cluster of cars parked along the road adjacent to a mammoth field. Park your vehicle there, trek by the edge of the lively stream, and find yourself in verdant Arcadia in about 15 minutes. You’re easy hike brings on huge rewards: a massive, freshwater pool to throw yourself into, a huge tree swing even Tarzan would covet, and loads of opportunity to make friends from around the globe. If you’re lucky, a local will back flip from a tree limb 70 astounding feet to the pool below.

Kipu Falls

2. Coastal Kailua-Kona Night Diving

Nerves of steel is just about a requirement for night diving off Big Island but if the you’re curious enough about the ocean after dark, hook up with pro divers for a one-of-a-kind diving trip. Book a trip for Big Island night diving and be prepared for spectacular underwater scenes. Several diving outfits head up the five-hour journey, whisking intrepid souls out a few miles off the Kailua-Kona shore—in pitch black. Most excursions leave prior to sunset, making the short journey while the sun is still up. Once the sun sets though, you’ll be kitted with gear and led into black waters with large spotlights: the lights illuminate scores of plankton, attracting the flourishing Manta Ray population to enjoy a little midnight feast. The sight is truly incredible, and though they are related to sharks and can definitely be intimidating, Mantas are beautiful, captivating creatures.

night diving

1. Paddle Opposite Sky-Bound Sea Cliffs

Hawaii’s first Polynesians navigated waters around this nexus of islands in double-hulled, hand-made canoes and traveled the archipelago like champions. If you think you have the chops, you can follow in the ancients’ footsteps and paddle Kauai’s rugged coastline. Day-long day trips from Hanalei Bay-based outfitters are reasonably priced and include everything to take to the swells successfully. The 27-kilometer expedition is of Herculean proportions—and definitely for the physically fit. This trip takes route alongside the stunning Napali Coast where random 6-foot swells and unpredictable winds will require all that you’ve got. This stamina-tester of a paddle takes you through towering sea caverns, traditional Hawaiian fishing sanctuaries, and alongside suspended valleys on a feat some Hawaiian outfitters have named “the Everest of sea kayaking expeditions.” If thinking about it makes you weary, enjoy a mid-level, two-hour sunset paddle along the rugged west coast instead.

Sea Kayak Hawaii

The 15 Best Volcanoes Hikes in the World

What does it take to climb a volcano? In some cases it takes permits purchased months in advance, technical climbing skills and a paid guide. In other cases one can simply drive right into the volcano, or spend an hour hiking up a moderate hill to reach the top. How about the best volcanoes to hike, how do you determine that? We looked at hundreds of volcanoes and determined the 15 best hikes to take based on a number of factors including ease of access, views from the top, lava activity and the reward factor. From around the world, here are our top 15 choices for the best volcano hikes in the world.

15. Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

This long but challenging hike takes trekkers through scenic landscapes including snow, ice and ash from the most recent eruptions. The trek starts at sea level and goes all the way to the top through a crevasse riddled glacier and finally to the summit where you can view an enormous crater that was left by past eruptions. Glacier equipment such as crampons are required as you literally will be climbing on ice. If you happen to reach the top on a clear day, expect unbelievable views of half the entire island including glaciers, more volcanoes and the Vestmannaeyjar islands. April to September is the time to go and if you are feeling extra adventurous it is possible to ski back down. The climb can take eight to 10 hours and although challenging, you will certainly feel on top of the world on this glacier volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

14. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes from about 1968 to 2010 and since then has slowed down but this volcano still is known to spit out ash and sometimes even lava. It is classic in shape, being tall and symmetrical and there is no worry about being cold up here. Climbing to the summit of this volcano is actually both illegal and very dangerous, but luckily there are a few worthwhile hikes that are totally legal and still get you up on the mountain. The main trial inside the park is about 5 km in length and takes you through the rain forest with several opportunities to view the peak. Expect lots of wildlife including toucans and monkeys along with explosions from the peak. Expect to hike over old lava flows and hit many viewing areas where you can actually hear the volcano breathing, which is really quite impressive.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

13. Mount Fuji, Japan

It is the highest volcano and highest peak in Japan where tourists and locals’ alike swarm to climb this volcano, known as one of the three Holy Mountains. More than 200,000 people a year to be exact. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707 and spread ash as far as what is now Tokyo forming a new crater on the east flank. July to September is the official climbing season where trails and mountain facilities are open. The most popular way to climb this volcano is to climb halfway up to one of the huts, take a break and set off again in the night, reaching the summit for sunrise. Worshipping the sun from the top of Japan’s highest peak creates something of a spiritual experience, no matter if you are religious or not. Avoiding the crowds is not possible on this mountain and some trekkers believe that climbing amongst so many like minded people just adds to the overall experience.

Mount Fuji 1

12. Mount Etna, Sicily

The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna soars into the sky often surrounded by mist and steam. Mount Etna is special in that it has this unique relationship with the people that live as the foot of it. They believe that Etna gives them fertile ground by spitting out lava and respect must be granted as it can also take away life. This volcano can be climbed year round and does not require any sort of permit or guide, but it is recommended to be informed about the activity status as it sometimes shuts down to hikers. It has recently come to the attention of many trekkers that the actual summit is unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a guide, but that fact is up for debate. Plan on seeing solidified rivers of lava, views of the sea and the mainland, provided the top isn’t covered in clouds.

Mount Etna

11. Pacaya, Guatemala

You aren’t allowed quite to the top of this volcano but it should be on your list of things to climb for a number of reasons. First up, this trek can be done in half a day, which makes it perfect for someone on a time crunch. Secondly, not only are you climbing on an active volcano but you can actually see a second active volcano nearby and a third that is now a crater lake. The trek begins through lush green foliage and views are of surrounding fields and hills. The trail eventually turns into lava rock and dust, becoming really slippery. This is when it pays to have a walking stick. At the “top” the lava is literally running underneath you and it becomes clear as to why you need shoes with really good soles, they will literally melt. Marshmallows and hot dogs are routinely busted out and cooked over the lava.

Pacaya Volcano

10. Mount Vesuvius, Italy

This volcano is known worldwide as being responsible for covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., which in turn preserved it until the re-discovery of it in the 1700’s. Since that time this volcano has blew its top more than 30 times throughout history and most recently in 1944. The climb to the summit is the easiest climb on this list and only takes about 30 minutes. It is best done in hiking shoes or running shoes and there is no need to carry any gear with you. What awaits visitors at the top is a stunning panorama of the city, islands and part of the Apennine Mountains. Admission to the volcano actually includes a guided tour of the crater at the top which many climbers are unaware of. You won’t find any spewing lava here but steam is often seen coming out of the crater. On a sunny day expect to see views out to the bay of Naples. If you are wanting to climb a famous volcano and don’t want to worry about tackling snow, steep ridges or carrying gear; this is the one for you.

Mount Vesuvius

9. Pinatubo, Philippines

This active volcano is actually located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and last erupted in 1991, producing one of the most violent eruptions of the 20th century. As of now the volcano is quite quiet and it is the perfect time to summit and enjoy the blue green crater lake that didn’t exist 30 years ago. January is the best time to go as temperatures are at the coolest and the lake color at its finest. The one day trek is actually quite easy as a 4X4 will take you part of the way. The trek is done within a few hours at a moderate incline. If one desires it is actually possible to pitch a tent at the summit and spend the night, an outhouse is even provided at the top. Hikers will make their way up the path, passing sandy cliffs along the way as well as small tribes of indigenous people.

Pinatubo, Philliphines

8. Kilauea, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of the most easily accessible. In the 20th century alone this volcano has erupted on 45 separate occasions with the most recent eruption beginning in 1983. To date this eruption continues and has spewed over 32 billion cubic yards of lava, forever changing the landscape. You can actually drive into this volcano, but hiking throughout is most recommended as it’s one of the only places on earth you can literally walk through an active volcano. Walking around Crater Rim Drive is one of the most popular activities as you can witness lava oozing out of it, witness steam vents and walk across the land that is only a few days old. There are numerous hiking trails throughout and although one can’t plan a visit around when and where to see the lava, helpful guides at the visitors center will point you in the right direction.

Mount Kilauea

7. Mount Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Hiking up this volcano is only permitted with a guide and there is a strict limit on how many people are allowed to visit the crater each day, thus make sure to book your trip in advance. The trip to the top isn’t for the faint of heart and will take anywhere from two to four hours to reach the summit. The most popular time to reach the top is at nighttime and thus more tours leave around 4 pm. A gentle incline awaits hikers at first, taking you through lush vegetation. It quickly becomes steeper and one should expect to walk through volcanic sand that is strewn with black rocks. There are actually three craters at the top that billow out steam and smoke, making strange gurgling sounds. The light show at the top is what everyone waits for though as the craters explode with red fiery sparks, shooting high into the air.

Mount Stromboli

6. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 100 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, making it a popular place for adrenaline junkies and hikers alike. Although Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of the active volcanoes in Indonesia, it is the most visited and is quite easily accessible. The volcano has a constant stream of white smoke coming out of it, reminding visitors that it could explode at any time. Getting to the summit is easy without a guide and is best done in time to see the sunrise, meaning a 3 am wake up call is necessary. The well-defined path up should only take you an hour or so. An interesting fact about this volcano is that the Tengger people believe that in order to appease the Gods here they must offer food and money to them by throwing it into the crater of the volcano during the annual Kasada festival.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It is the second highest peak in Ecuador, lovely looking with its white snow and cone shape. This trek is not for inexperienced hikers though as it is more of a mountain climb than just a hike up the side. In the 18th and 19th century this volcano had a violent spell but now it is mostly just a plume of steam that comes out the top and melts its glacier surroundings. To get here most climbers take a 4X4 up to the border of the national park. They then climb with their guide up to a mountain hut and spend the night, summiting the next morning. It is currently illegal to climb to the summit without a guide and recent signs of eruption have limited the climbing that is allowed. If you have the chance though, summiting the world’s third highest active volcano is certainly something to put on the bucket list.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

4. Mont Pelee, Martinique

In 1902 this dramatic volcano erupted and destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre killing about 30,000 people. Luckily since then you can climb this volcano without worries and without tourists at every bend in the trail. Being an integral part of France, visitors climbing here face no red tape or fees but will need some French to get by as English is not widely spoken. Because of the immense vegetation on the island there are three established routes that trekkers can take. The most popular of these is the Aileron Route as it is a well-constructed and wonderfully varied trail. Climbing before dawn is recommended as the clouds roll in day after day just after dawn and prohibit hikers from the magical views that await. Gorgeous lush green vegetation, flowering plants and jagged peaks surprise visitors along the way of this volcano that really looks nothing like the grey, lava strewn volcanoes you are used to.

Mount Pelee, France

3. Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is full of volcanoes, both dormant and active and it can be hard to choose which one to climb but we highly suggest heading to Telica. The majority of the way up tends to be flat, through farm lands and over dirt roads. It is only the last hour or two where you finally start to hike to the top. The best season for climbing this mountain is up for debate as the dry season tends to be hot whereas the rainy season can make the lava harder to witness. Camping at the top of Telica is one of the most popular trips to do as seeing the lava at night is something special and the sunrise in the morning is truly spectacular. The lava is below the crater rim at a depth of about 120 meters and visitors should expect to have to lie down on their stomachs to look into the crater.

Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

2. Mount Aso, Japan

It is Japan’s largest active volcano and climbing it is certainly an adventure that should be on the top of your bucket list. There are three trails you can use to get up to the summit, with one of them not actually leading up to the volcano (hint: do not take the left trail). The hike itself can take anywhere from an hour or three depending on which trail and how many stops you take along the way. There are actually five separate volcanic peaks here and Mt. Nakadake is the most active spewing a constant stream of sulfuric gas from its peak. If you are feeling really lazy and still want to get to the top of the volcano, there is a choice of two cable cars that will get you there.

Mount Aso, Japan

1. Mount St Helens, United States

It is mandatory to have a permit to hike this active volcano, no matter what time of year and there are only a number of permits that are handed out each year if you want to make it to the top of the crater. Although it is not a technical climb it is strenuous and presents hazards such as ice, loose boulders and fast-changing weather. The scene at the top is what people climb for an it has been described as ‘surreal, unbelievable and awe-inspiring’. A huge crater with a dome that grows in size each year and has a horseshoe glacier around it, not to mention incredible views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, as well as the blue green hills that surround them are all sights to take in from the top. This is truly one of the best volcano hikes in the world and must be at the top of your list to climb.

Mount St Helens, US

The 10 Best Scuba Diving Locations in the World

There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.

Cozumel, Mexico

9. Hawaii, U.S.A

This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.

Kauai Sea Turtle

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.

Great Barrier Reef

7. The French Polynesian Islands

It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.

Diving French Polynesia

6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras

This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

5. Malaysia

It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.

Diving in Sipadan

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.

Diving Galapgos Islands

3. Turks and Caicos

It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.

Turks and Caicos

2. Belize

Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.

Diving Red Sea, Egypt

The 15 Worst Airports For a Layover

While the increase of people flying means more flights, it also means more stops and connecting flights, which can be a good or bad thing depending where you stop. Having a layover is most people’s worst nightmare. There are often long lines to clear customs and security and scarce food choices along with overpriced Wi-Fi and uncomfortable seating. The following 15 airports are the absolute worst for layovers in the world. Next time you are booking a flight you may want to avoid flying through any of these airports even if it means spending a few extra dollars. Trust us, you’ve been warned.

15. Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport, France

This airport is mainly used by budget airlines and is often found at the top of the list of airports to avoid at any cost. This is in due part to a number of different factors. To start with the airport is located a long and slow 88 km away from Paris, therefore count on not leaving during your layover. The airport looks more like a bus station rather than an airport and the building is run-down and dirty. It is often cramped and crowded with passengers who are unloading and trying to leave as quickly as possible. The airport also closes at night so you will want to avoid an overnight layover here, as you will be asked to leave. In saying all of this, the airports in Paris are not known for being first-class so if you are looking to save a few dollars, flying in here may be worth your while.

Paris airport

14. Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C

If you were expecting to enjoy your layover at the Dulles International Airport, think again. With one of the worst on time performances in the US, this airport often keeps passengers waiting far longer than necessary. If you think your layover was long already, expect to tack on even more time. What really irks passengers who are on a layover here is the lack of amenities and shops that can keep you entertained. If you were looking for options when it comes to dining, think again and realistically your best bet may be to slide up to the airport bar and have a beer. The good news is that the Dulles International Airport at least offers WiFi throughout the terminals; the only problem will be finding an available plug.

Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

13. Miami Airport, Florida

The biggest thing about having a layover in Miami is making sure it isn’t a long one. The reason being is that this airport moves at a ridiculously slow pace and if you need to rush to make your connection, you aren’t going to make it. Expect security lines, baggage claim lines and a frustrating lack of amenities. Shops and restaurants are limited and highly overpriced and don’t let the “free WiFi” signs fool you, it isn’t actually free to browse the net. If you are planning on spending the night here, one will be hard pressed to find a floor that is carpeted, a place where the lights are dimmed and the announcements stop. Instead sleepers are privy to noisy cleaners, brightly lit areas and chairs that have armrests, thus ensuring you have to lie on the floor. The only saving grace this airport offers is that South Beach is just 15 minutes away, therefore if you can store your bags and leave the airport, we highly suggest hitting the beach.

Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

12. Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France

It is one of the world’s busiest airports and although it is improving it is still one of the worst airports to have a layover in the world. If you want to use the internet while you are here, plan on paying big bucks to connect to WiFi. One can also plan on disorganization, chaos and rude staff who absolutely refuse to speak to you in English. You won’t find first class shopping, nice lounges or attractive dining options here either. Many complain about the size of the restrooms quoting they are ‘dirty and too small’ while others have frustrations in the all too often terminal corrections. Food here is also quite pricey and if you are planning on eating, we suggest bringing as many snacks with you as possible from outside the airport.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

11. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi

It is not surprising that Africa has some of the worst airports in the world, due to the impoverishment of the country, the overwhelming heat and questionably effective security processes. Having a layover in any of these airports can often be long, tiring and downright boring. Passengers seem to expect more from this International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, but instead are faced with long lines that have been referred to as ‘cattle markets’, overcrowded lounges, dirty and run down restrooms, shabby stores and overpriced food. It is currently undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation which hopes to be open in 2017 and capable of handling 20 million passengers. For now though, when you have a layover here expect to pay loads for the WiFi, food and drinks. Expect the bare amenities and cross your fingers you are not there during a threat as that is when things really go downhill.

Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons

10. London Luton International Airport, England

You are most likely flying into this airport if you have booked on a budget airline but expect to spend even more money once you get here. If you stuck here on a layover everything will cost you more. If you want access to WiFi, expect to pay. If you need a plastic baggie to put your liquids in to go through security again, you will have to pay for one of those too. If you want to buy something to eat, expect to pay higher than normal airport prices. Because of the slew of budget travelers that are flying into here seating can be limited, as well as sleeping space. The carpet is hard and cold, the announcements boom day and night every 10 minutes and it’s freezing cold, all the time. Do we need to say anything more about the layover life here at Luton?

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

9. Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago, USA

If you get stuck on a layover here and it’s unexpected it is most likely due to weather. Both Chicago airports are notorious for cancelling and delaying flights because of weather and unlike O’Hare, the Midway Airport lacks in pretty much all amenities to keep you occupied while you wait. If you do have to have a layover here we suggest doing it overnight. In Concourse C this airport actually sets up cots, military style for a few hours, until 4am when they wake you up and tear down the cots as the airport is opening. It is actually your only option here as the concourses close from midnight until 4am. If you are stuck here during the day it is good to know that WiFi isn’t free, the food is bearable and you may have to fight someone for an electrical outlet.

Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport
Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport

8. Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii USA

A layover at this airport is almost always inevitable if you are visiting one of the Hawaiian Islands but it’s not exactly the greatest welcome to Hawaii. If you are planning to sleep there overnight it is important to note there is no real good sleeping area other than the floor. As well, many layover passengers complain about the constant Hawaiian music that plays on repeat all night loud, except for when one of the many announcements comes on. There are a few dining choices at the airport, but everything closes by 10 pm. A lot of boarding gates do not open until right before flight time which leaves many passengers roaming aimlessly around the halls as the seating is very limited. WiFi will cost you, plugs are a hot commodity and it can get quite hot in this open air airport.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

First off let’s be clear in saying that this airport is not in Frankfurt, despite the official name. Don’t depend on leaving the airport and spending a few hours in the city during your layover because the city is actually located over 120 km’s away. The best way to describe this airport is downright depressing. The low ceilings, the plastic chairs, the lack of artwork or anything of color and the overall feel. The floors are dusty and dirty and if you plan on sleeping here we suggest laying some newspapers down on it. Nighttime layovers tend to be loud with lots of young people who are flying on budget airlines and if you can muster up a quiet space, the good news is security won’t bother you. Dining options are nil after about 10 pm and expect loud cleaners and announcements all night long.

Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons

6. Los Angeles International Airport, California, USA

It is safe to say that most people hate flying through this airport. It is a stark contrast to the many Asian airports it connects with and needs serious updating to compete with them. An overall lack of signage and unfriendly staff is what people complain about most. Being the fourth busiest airport in the world, this airport gets crowded quickly and not knowing where you are going becomes quite frustrating. An overall lack of cleanliness is also a major complaint and it is best to avoid staying here overnight. The food options are scarce and overpriced, the chairs are uncomfortable with armrests on all of them and the charging stations throughout are placed in areas where there are no seats. Combine all these things with the fact that some terminals close at midnight and the security lines are atrocious and you’ll understand why people hate this airport.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

5. Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport, Italy

This airport although cheaper than the others that service Milan can be a big pain if you have a layover here. A lack of electrical outlets is a major source of irritation amongst tech savvy travelers, as well as a lack of seating. Due to the number of backpackers and other budget travelers who fly in here, there are many people trying to sleep and waste hours upon hours on layovers. It means there is not enough space for everyone. The security staff and cleaners can often be short tempered and if you were hoping for a restful sleep think again. Sleeping passengers are often woken up to move for cleaners and otherwise. The lack of WiFi is annoying and there is often loud, drunken travelers spending the night alongside with you.

Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons

4. LaGuardia International Airport, New York, USA

This worn out airport is at the top of the list for the worst airports in the US, layover or not, year after year. Even Vice-President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia to the likes of a ‘third world country’. So what makes this airport so awful for a layover? To start, the ridiculous long lines you have to wait in, to clear security, to recheck your bags, to even get a coffee. Speaking of coffee, the restaurant choices are mediocre and unfriendly at best. The décor doesn’t help out matters as it is downright depressing, as are the metal and plastic seats that don’t have any cushions. This airport isn’t overly clean either. The amount of delays this airport faces is almost embarrassing so one can expect a long layover here, even if it wasn’t scheduled to be. Spending hours in this airport is a total mind numbing experience that will have you avoiding it like the plague for the rest of your flying life.

Photo by: La Guardia Airport
Photo by: La Guardia Airport

3. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)

This airport has been referred to being more like a prison than an airport and having a layover here is definitely not recommended. If you do happen to be stuck here, it is recommended you don’t leave the airport as taxi drivers and touts like to loot the unknowing customers. This airport is often overcrowded and there is seemingly no crowd control throughout the entire place. Complaints range from corruption to aggressive security checks to an overall lack of cleanliness to non-existent technology. Officers will outright ask for bribes and this is generally just not the place to be stuck on any type of layover. Filthy, crowded, and hot are all words used to describe this awful airport. The good news, apparently they are building a new airport that will be finished in 2016, let’s hope it’s not as corrupt as this one.

Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com
Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

2. Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, USA

Passengers can’t say enough bad things about the Newark airport. It is awful being stuck here on a layover, whether it was scheduled or a result of weather delays. The biggest complaints are about the unfriendly staff who work at this airport, from security that kicks you out of the terminal at ungodly hours to the service staff at the restaurants. Using the WiFi here will cost you, although it probably won’t work or be too slow for your liking. We also suggest bringing along a heavy sweater as even during the summer it seems this airport is freezing. Chairs with solid armrests force travelers to sleep on the floor and make sure you watch out for cockroaches as they constantly roam the terminals. And don’t even think about trying to make it into NYC to waste some time, it’s at least an hour and half by public transit, and that’s on a good day.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

1. Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila

This is by far the worst airport in Asia and has been continuously at the top of that list for years. Luckily they are doing things to improve conditions but clearly not fast enough. First off passengers will want to fly into terminal three and only terminal three, but if you have the problem of being stuck in any other terminal on a layover than this is what you can expect. Dirty, filthy, cramped toilets that smells awful. This is one of the most widely-known complaints about this airport. Metal seats, spotty WiFi and a lack of dining and shops are some of what passengers can experience. Plan on waiting in lengthy lines and be sure to grab any seat available as they don’t come up often. Don’t plan on sleeping on this layover as the announcements every 10 to 15 minutes will keep going all night long, along with the three beeps before and after, just to make sure you are listening.

Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons

10 Things to See and Do in Honolulu

The capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu offers much to see and do. The dining, nightlife and shopping there are legendary not to mention the splendid crescent beach, palm trees and extravagant high-rise hotels. No matter what adventures you choose to partake in, the panoramic views will mesmerize you. The historic landmarks, monuments, arts and culture of Hawaii will be something you won’t soon forget. You can try some of the local cuisine to get the full Polynesian experience and visit some of the most alluring places in the state right in Honolulu.

10. Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii

Wet ‘n Wild Hawaii is a waterpark located in Kapolei, Oahu’s “Second City” and is one of the top 10 most visited family attractions on the island. It features more than 25 exciting and fun attractions on 29-acres of lush tropical landscaping and natural cliffs. Whether you are looking for a fun time with the entire family or are more of an adventurist, this is the place for you. You can make this a day stop (though you may regret that), or rent a cozy cabana and stay for a while to enjoy all the park has to offer. There are attractions suitable for all age groups from children to adults such as, Water World Kids Playground, Keiki Kove (spray world), Surf Sliders, Kapolei Kooler (river), Cutter’s Island and Island Adventure Golf (miniature golf course). Whether you go for a day or a week, the fun will never stop.

Photo by: Wet'n'Wild Hawaii
Photo by: Wet’n’Wild Hawaii

9. Shangri La

Located just outside of Honolulu, Shangri La is an Islamic-style mansion built in 1937. It was turned into a museum in 2002. The estate is fully furnished with the inclusion of art with built-in architectural elements taken from the traditions of Iran, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, Syria, Egypt and India. There is a Playhouse modeled after 17th century Chehel Sotoun in Isfahan, Iran. The landscape around Shangri La is pristine featuring an Indian Mughal garden, terraced water features, a private Hawaiian fishpond, tropical garden and breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The mansion’s gilt and painted Moroccan ceilings, ceramics from Iran, intimate Syrian interiors, Spanish and Indian pierced metalwork and vibrant textiles from are showcased beautifully. Tours originate at the Honolulu Museum of Art and take two to two and a half hours with Shangri La taking up most of the tour time. Tickets must be purchased in advance but you won’t be disappointed.

Shangri La

8. Foster Botanical Garden

Located in the heart of bustling downtown Honolulu, Foster Botanical Garden is a floral paradise offering a dramatic contrast to the city life all around it. It is the oldest botanical garden in Honolulu and houses an incredible variety of mature tropical plants. This 14-acre garden is home to impressive trees that were planted in the 1850s marking its heritage. While visiting, you can explore the Conservatory, Outdoor Butterfly Garden, Palm Garden, Prehistoric Glen Cycad Collection, Exceptional Trees and gift shop. You can take a guided tour or self guided tour with the assistance of a provided map to see many  features of the garden. It’s an island paradise within an island paradise that promises to stimulate and excite all your senses. Don’t forget your bug spray and camera.

Foster Botanical Gardens

7. Iolani Palace

A National Historic Landmark located in downtown Honolulu, Iolani Palace is a fully restored and lavish palace which served as home to the Hawaiian monarchy. You can lose yourself in the ostentatious surroundings of the palace and see how King Kalakaua, his sister and successor Queen Liliuokalani lived in their time. The palace offers guided tours, as well as an opportunity for a self-guided tour of the exhibits in the basement area. They also offer classes and Royal Hawaiian Band Concerts here, so you will want to check the schedule and plan ahead. The grounds around the palace are said to be sacred and are beautifully maintained featuring a coronation pavilion, barracks, and the Sacred Mound. Allow yourself at least of couple of hours for this visit, so you can truly absorb the opulence and grandeur of Hawaiian royalty.

Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock.com
Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock.com

6. Kualoa Ranch

If you have never visited a working cattle ranch and farm, then Kualoa Ranch is a must-visit destination on your next vacation. It offers so much, you may want to make it your entire vacation rather than just a stop-over. At the ranch you will have the opportunity to take a bus tour of the 4,000 acres of historical natural beauty or be adventurous and really experience the outdoors. There is a treetop canopy zip-line tour available for your enjoyment or perhaps you’d enjoy a horseback or ATV tour or venture through the movie sites on the ranch land. You may recognize areas of the ranch from movies such as: Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Tears of the Sun and 50 First Dates. It is definitely an outdoor activity paradise to be enjoyed by all ages and only 22 miles from Honolulu.

Kualoa Ranch

5. Honolulu Zoo

The Honolulu Zoo is a 42 acre zoo housing more than 900 animals from the tropics. Open everyday except for Christmas Day, it is located between the Diamond Head slopes and Waikiki at the corner of Kapahulu Avenue and Kalakaua Avenue. There is a nominal fee for admission to the zoo, but it is easy to spend an entire day there visiting the exhibits or walking through their gardens, which rival many botanical gardens you may have visited elsewhere. You can see such animals as Komodo Dragons, elephants, orangutans, primates and a selection of African animals. In the gardens, you will see rare and beautiful indigenous and endemic plants while learning about their importance to Polynesian life. They also offer educational camps for children of various ages which allows them to have fun and learn about different species, their preservation and natural habitats.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

4. Hanauma Bay

Formed in a volcanic crater, Hanauma Bay is an amazing natural circular pool demonstrating evidence of volcanic activity on the seafloor. Its name is derived from two Hawaiian words – “hana” meaning bay and “uma” meaning curved. It is both a Natural Preserve and Marine Life Conservation District. Therefore visitor numbers are limited, as well as access, so if you want to make this a destination on your vacation, you will want to plan carefully. The beach will most likely be crowded in the mornings, but if you would like a more secluded visit, mid-afternoon offers a quieter venue. While there, you can take a tram ride to the rim of the crater for an incredible view of the entire bay, then go snorkeling or take a hike on one of the many trails along the ridge and coastline. It’s an incredible piece of paradise well worth the extra effort.

Hanauma Bay

3. Bishop Museum

Founded in 1889, the Bishop Museum is a history and science museum located in Honolulu and is a great source of arts and culture. It is the largest museum in Hawaii, home to the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. The museum is open to the public year-round with the exception of Tuesdays and Christmas Day.  Though there are many exhibits to view, there are also many other activities and workshops happening at the museum during different times, so before venturing there you might want to check out what is currently going on to avoid missing out on something everyone can enjoy. You might like some traditional Hawaiian lauhala bracelet weaving, an evening planetarium show, a movie on the lawn in the evening or a museum dinner. The possibilities are endless.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

2. Manoa Falls

Located in Manoa on the island of O’ahu, Manoa Falls is a waterfall featuring a 150 feet (46m) vertical drop. You can access the falls by hiking 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the nearest road. The hike to reach the falls takes approximately two hours but offers many breathtaking photo opportunities along the way. You will pass through several ecosystems which feel like an arboretum. Because it is a natural setting, the path is often muddy and slippery and flash flooding can unexpectedly occur. Before starting down the trail, you will want to ensure you have plenty of bug spray, a walking stick, good hiking boots and water. The trail can be challenging since most of it is uphill and can be muddy as the path sometimes gets quite narrow. However, the scenery and the ultimate destination make for an incredible adventure.

Manoa Falls

1. Diamond Head

Resembling the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin, Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu. It was named by British sailors in the 19th century who mistakenly thought the calcite crystals found on the adjacent beach were diamonds. Though part of the area is closed to the public, the proximity of the crater to Honolulu’s resort hotels and beaches makes the rest of the area a popular tourist destination. You can reach the crater’s rim by taking a beautiful 3/4 mile (1.1 km) hike up a trail with the trip taking about one and a half to two hours return. Though the hike is not a difficult one, it involves some hiking on a mostly unpaved trail, passing through tunnels and climbing stairs to the summit. But the climb is most definitely worth the incredible view.

Diamond Head

America’s Most Scenic Road trips

A road trip can be defined as a journey by car, with no restrictions on how long you must travel for or how many stops you must make. Therefore exploring America’s most scenic road trips has led us anywhere from day trips to week-long adventures. In terms of scenery, America is full of crashing coastlines, rain forests, historical architectures and rolling fields of wildflowers. From the lava flows of Hawaii to the quirky roadside signs on Route 66 to the quaint villages of New Mexico; these 15 scenic road trips will have you headed to the car in no time.

15. Route 6, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

When you hear the words Cape Cod, one immediately thinks of quaint villages, historic lighthouses, miles of beaches and picturesque harbors. Route 6 offers over 117 miles throughout the Cape Cod area and road trippers will want to give themselves a few days to complete this trip, in order to truly get the most out of the scenery. Sand dunes, tidal pools, beaches and marshes will all entice you to stop the car and explore the surrounding areas. In the midst of the forests along the side of the road, keep your eyes peeled for wild blueberry and huckleberry bushes.The perfect treat to compliment any trip. Route 6 takes you into Provincetown, where music festivals and art work await. Make sure you rise early to catch the epic sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean while on your trip.

Route 6

14. The High Road, Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico

This winding scenic road takes travelers along a 52 mile route through an authentic remainder of Old Spain, which is evident in the religion, architecture, topography, history, and people here. This day trip can take anywhere from four to seven hours depending on how many times you stop to admire the breathtaking churches, scenic byways and unique villages. This twisty road takes you up into the mountains, with views of snow-capped peaks, evergreen trees and wildlife. In the autumn this road turns into the “High Road Art Tour” where artists open their studios and galleries to the public. Visitors can meet with the artists and purchase directly from them while taking an incredible road trip through the historic villages, in a season where the trees turn color and the sky is an incredible shade of blue.

High Road

13. Historic Route 66, Chicago to Los Angeles

For three decades Route 66 was known as the “Main Street of America” as it wound its way through small towns across the Midwest and Southwest. This legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States and continues to captivate people from all over the world. To drive the entire route, it is over 2,000 miles and takes you past some of the most outrageous road signs, giant statues and quirky roadside attractions. The scenery along Route 66 is not to be forgotten though. Giant cornfields of Illinois, the streets of St. Louis and the golden sands of California pave the path for an unforgettable road trip through the history of America. Step back in time and discover what was the start of the American love affair with road trips on this iconic route.

Historic Route

12. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

It provides one of the closest ways to experience the Wild West, as if it were still wild today and the Million Dollar Highway through Colorado takes travelers past old mines, deep gorges, waterfalls and breathtaking views. The actual Million Dollar Highway is only a 24 mile stretch of road but many road trippers choose to extend their trip down to Durango. Along the way travelers are privy to the peaks of Red Mountain, a set of three peaks that get their name from the red iron ore rocks covering their surface. The region’s old mines are here and can be explored by hiking or biking. The spectacular overlook at Molas Pass is not to be missed and it is said that the air here is the cleanest in the USA. In the spring, wildflowers are in full bloom and elk, mountain goats, black bears, and mule deer are often visible from the road.

Million Dollar Highway

11. The 1 Week Grand Circle Road Trip, Southwest Canyons

The dramatic red-rock scenery will absolutely blow your mind as you travel through Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. In Zion visitors will be privy to emerald pools, the Narrows of the Zion Rivers and dramatic orange-red sandstone. Bryce Canyon is known for its colorful hoodoo formations that will awe and inspire you. The drive from here to Capitol Reef will be full of scenic overlooks and breathtaking views. Make sure to get out of your car and explore the Grand Canyon by foot or bicycle as every viewpoint offers something different. This amazing one week popular road trip offers jaw-dropping scenery both on the road and off, and is a must do for every American.

Bryce Canyon

10. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

It is one of America’s most scenic road trips; no matter what time of year you travel it, but many travelers head here in the fall to see the unbelievable display of changing colors on the leaves. This scenic highway connects Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. This highway runs 468 miles with cliff-hugging turns, sweeping views, diverse flora and fauna and over 200 overlooks to take advantage of. Expect lakes, gorges, waterfalls, red oak trees, wildflowers and incredible rock formations. Begin in Virginia and snake your way down this colorful road all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hiking and biking trails lead right off the parkway and the small town’s quirky roadside attractions and great restaurants along the way make for the perfect scenic road trip.

Blue Ridge Highway

9. Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, Oregon

This was the first scenic highway in the United States, a marvel of engineering for its time, a National Historic Landmark and is still considered one of the most scenic drives in all of America. The highway treats travelers to ever-shifting views of the Columbia River Gorge, along with numerous hiking and biking trails that lead to hidden waterfalls. Historic monuments and buildings, fish hatcheries, stunning overlooks and of course the majestic waterfalls await you on this 70 mile journey. The most highly anticipated part of this drive is the five miles of figure eight loops that lead travelers down the river, loaded with waterfalls at every turn. The 620-foot Multnomah Falls, the fourth largest waterfall in the US is the highlight for many on this trip. After the waterfalls comes the impressive geological formations of the gorge and makes way for the dry, eastern Columbia River plateau where native plants and wildflowers make up the view.

Historic Columbia River

8. Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

The Road to Hana is at least a day, if not two day adventure through the beautiful island of Maui. This legendary road winds its way 50 miles through lush rain forests, past waterfalls, plunging pools and by dramatic seaside. The road is full of hairpin turns, one-way bridges and state parks. Taking your time on this road is highly recommended. The best way to see what the Road to Hana really has to offer is to do your research ahead of time. Many of the beaches, waterfalls and dramatic lookout points are hidden just off the road and require you to know which mile marker to pull off at. Black sand beaches, turquoise sea waters, bamboo forests, old wharfs, lava tubes, churches built of lava rocks and so much more await you on this epic drive through a breathtaking island.

Road to Hana

7. Beartooth Highway, Montana

This almost 70 mile stretch of highway from Montana to Wyoming is only open from May until late September and takes travelers throughout some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. This zigzag highway is complete with switchbacks, steep climbs and endless views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, alpine plateaus, lush forests and sparkling lakes. This drive can take you anywhere from two hours to two days, depending on how many times you want to stop and explore. Most choose to start their drive in the town of Red Lodge and head east to Yellowstone National Park, as this route reduces glare and gives you the best views of the twenty plus peaks you pass. Wildlife sightings, countless overlooks and jaw-dropping views await you on one of the most scenic drives in all of America.

Beartooth Highway

6. The Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

This scenic loop takes travelers 329 miles, from the Olympic Mountains to the rain forests and to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. What makes this drive so unique is the diversity of terrain it covers as it circles the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest. It is recommended to take at least two to three days to make this scenic road trip because many of its best kept secrets are located off the beaten path. It is therefore important to mention that not all the ‘scenery’ can be seen from the road. Venture off at Sequim and head to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge and Dungeness Spit where you can visit the world’s longest natural sand spit. Don’t miss Rialto Beach where towering rock formations and sea life provide ample photography opportunity. Other hot spots are Lake Quinault and the Quinault rain forest, Ruby Beach and Hurricane Ridge.

Olympic Park

5. Seward Highway, Alaska

Starting in Anchorage, this 127 mile highway runs from sea to mountains and back to sea, all the way south to the harbor town of Seward. If you are planning on doing this route as a round trip, it is recommend you give yourself at least three to four days because the sights you see will literally be a visual overload. This drive is where you will find majestic waterfalls, blue glaciers, whales, jagged mountains, ponds and ocean fjords. Numerous hiking and biking trails can be caught right off the highway, as well as many overlook points and picnic areas. What makes this drive so special is that it is truly interesting the entire way, with mountains, glaciers, wildlife, trails, lakes and rivers to see throughout the entire 127 miles. Combine that with a wide and easy driving road and you have yourself one of the best road trips in all of America.

Seward Highway

4. Pacific Coast Highway, California

It comes as no surprise that this is one of the best loved drives in all of America with its mind-blowing scenery, quirky stop-offs and exhilarating driving experience. This highway runs a whopping 550 miles along California’s coastline and is the most scenic part of the highway, although most travelers tend to drive the Central Coast which runs about 240 miles. Driving north to south is recommended to have unobstructed ocean views the entire way. Highlights of this trip include upscale villages, state parks which feature hundreds of species of birds and mammals, remote forests and towering sand dunes. Big Sur is often the highlight of the trip, as this coastline is made up of redwood groves stretching high into the sky, jagged cliffs stretching out into the sea and waves crashing onto rigid rocks.

California Highway

3. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

It is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park in Montana and is only open from early spring until late fall. This two-lane paved 50 mile highway gives visitors a look at all terrains within the park including large glacial lakes, alpine tundra’s, cedar forests and dozens of animals. The road twists and turns throughout the park and offers plenty of places to pull over, admire the views and snap photos. Visitors should expect to take at least a few hours to drive this road. This highway was created with the notion of making it barely visible in the landscape, thus creating a minimal impact in the park and leaving visitors with the feeling of driving on the edge of a cliff. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for waterfalls, the Jackson Glacier and the array of beautifully colored lakes.

Going to the Sun Highway

2. Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Highway 101, Oregon

This 363 mile Byway traces the entire coast of Oregon, one of the most photographed regions in the nation. To do the entire coast, you will start in Astoria and head south, all the way to Brookings. The road takes travelers to the sea and away again, as it winds past marshes, seaside cliffs, lush agricultural valleys and wind-sculpted dunes. Expect to see majestic temperate rain forests, a rugged, rocky coastline and resort towns scattered throughout the state. All of the beaches along the coast are open to the public and travelers will want to spend some time exploring them, beachcombing for shells and splashing in the waves. In the winter months it is possible to see the migrating gray whales and colonies of seals and sea lions appear all year round. Make sure to allocate an extra day or two as most travelers find themselves stopping more than expected due to the striking landscapes, beaches and towns to explore.

Highway 101

1. The Hawaii Belt, Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island was the first Hawaii, the biggest of all the islands and is home to one of the most scenic road trips in all of America. Taking a road trip around this island is perhaps the best way to experience everything the island has to offer, from its lava desert flows to its soaring mountains to the farmlands and sandy beaches. The Hawaii Belt Road is made up of three sections and it fully circles the island, giving travelers a full picture of what Hawaii truly is. Expect to see coffee farms, Eden-like forests, active lava flows, lush rain forests, long stretches of beaches and welcoming villages. It is easy to take this road trip on a whim with plenty of places to stay and eat along the way. Experience the finest of the Big Island and all its beauty it has to offer.

Big Island

13 Things to See and Do on Hawaii’s Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is exactly what it sounds like, the biggest island among all the islands of Hawaii. It is also the youngest, most diverse in landscapes and many argue is the most fascinating of all. Packed with volcanoes, beaches, reefs and fascinating cultural sites; a trip to the Big Island would not be complete without exploring at least some of our recommendations. From waterfalls to night scuba diving with manta rays, from local hot pools to red hot lava views; there is something for everyone to discover. Sit back, relax and read on to discover why you should be planning your next trip to the “Big Island”

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A visit to the Big Island isn’t complete with a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. First head to the Visitors Center where there are always helpful rangers to point out the numerous hiking trails, best vantage points and will tell you about any  trail closures. You will want to hike through the Indiana Jones like lava tube to the devastation trail; where the lava has incinerated everything as far as the eye can see. Watch steam vents explode into the air and be awed by the desolate beauty that surrounds you. Head to the Jagger Center Museum which is home to one of the best views of the volcano and houses interesting displays and information about the park. Head to The Rim restaurant in the Volcano House for an awe-inspiring view of the glowing caldera after dark and enjoy some excellent food.

Lava Tunnels Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

2. Kona Manta Ray Night Dive

The world famous Kona Manta Ray Night Dive is any diver’s dream come true. Hop aboard one of many tours and cruise out into the ocean after dark for some serious diving. If you aren’t scuba certified don’t worry; there are plenty of companies that offer the Manta Ray Night Dive for snorkelers as well. Hang onto a surfboard, pool noodle or small boat and watch as the manta rays come right up and summersault in front of you. For the scuba divers you will dive down to the bottom and stand on the sandy bottom while manta rays playfully summersault above and around you. There are many excursions to choose from including options such as dolphin swimming by day, twilight scuba diving or dinner on the boat. We highly suggest taking this once in a lifetime opportunity to see these incredible marine creatures up close and personal.

manta ray at night

3. Ahalanui Park

Not your hotel swimming pool, you will find that the locals often outnumber the tourists here. The feature of Ahalanui Park is the spring fed volcanic heated pool that sits around a balmy 90 degrees. The perfect place to soak your muscles after a hike, the view of the crashing ocean beyond the sea wall and the surrounding coconut trees makes this a hidden oasis. A perfect outing for the family; there are lots of ladders to climb down in the water and snorkels are allowed and encouraged as there are plenty of little fish swimming about. A few words to the wise; the water depth varies so for any little non swimmers you will want to bring a lifejacket or floaties. Also in keeping up with the natural ambiance there is no change room. Ahalanui Park is a great stop along the way when exploring the Puna Region and one of our hidden gems for The Big Island.

Ahalanui Park

4. Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach)

Off the beaten path lies one of only four green sand beaches in the world. If there’s a beach to visit on The Big Island that is unlike any other; Papakolea is the one. Getting there can be an adventure but we assure you it’s worth it. Choose to drive your 4X4 rental, hike the 2miles or catch a ride down to the beach with locals for a small price. The beached is carved into the side of a cinder cone that erupted over 50,000 years ago. The result is a breathtaking cove with sparkling soft green sand. The current is strong at this beach and we suggest never venturing out of the cove when you are in the water, and weaker swimmers should be very careful. Often uncrowded with plenty of sunshine, Green Sand Beach is a must stop. Please be aware of the natural setting and take all garbage with you, leave all sand and respect this beautiful hidden oasis.

Papakolea Beach

5. Mauna Kea star party

There is no better way to end a day on The Big Island than staring up at stars, planets and the galaxy through one of many telescopes atop Mauna Kea. Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (VIS) offers a stargazing program every evening that offers access to state of the art telescopes. For stargazing and a summit adventure hook up with Hawaii Forest and Trail. Offering a guided tour for ages 16 and up; Forest and Trail will take you up the mountain and serve you a hot picnic dinner. At the top of the summit a gorgeous sunset like no other awaits you. Descending back down to 9000 feet you will gaze at the stars with a provided telescope. There are no clearer skies than the skies above Mauna Kea; and this is one view you will never forget.

Mauna Kea

6. Waipio Valley

Arguably one of the most beautiful places on the Island, Waipio Valley is a must visit on any trip to The Big Island. We recommend parking your car at the lookout and walking down to explore the Valley. It can be a steep walk so be sure to wear sturdy shoes and tread carefully. Reaching the beach is like walking onto the set of Jurassic Park, a long black sand beach separated with a river and a waterfall in the distance. Cross the river to the other side of the beach where it’s less crowded and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings.  A short hike will bring you in views of the majestical waterfall. If you are looking for a longer hike it’s possible to hike to the bottom of the falls but be prepared for multiple stream crossings. Waipio Valley is beautiful from the lookout point but once you trek down and discover all that it offers, you will be lost in the magic of it.

Waipio Valley

7. Akaka Falls State Park

Located just outside of Hilo Town; we recommend taking the scenic drive along the coast from Hilo to reach Akaka Falls State Park. Giant bamboo trees, lush green foliage, bright fauna and a 442ft waterfall that cascades into a stream eroded gorge awaits you in this natural paradise. Choose from a short or long trail that is clearly marked and hike through the towering trees, vines and giant philodendrons. The marked paths are perfect for children but we suggest leaving your strollers in the car as there are stairs. Rails line each path for further safety measures. Akaka Falls is most impressive during rainy season when the water crashes violently over the cliffs.

Akaka Falls

8. Puuhonua o Honaunau Historical Park

This 180-acre national historic park is considered sacred royal grounds that provided refuge for defeated warriors and law breaking civilians in times of battle. Immerse yourself in Hawaiian history and learn about the ancient kapu system that governed Hawaii. Follow the map and take a self-guided walking tour through the grounds exploring ancient temples and hangouts that teeth-barring idols watch over. Discover the resting places of many historic Hawaiian warriors. After a trip through history and the grounds, head two blocks over for some amazing snorkelling at Two Step Lava Beach. You will find an underwater garden oasis littered with extraordinary coral and tropical fish. Shallow, clear and calm waters make this the perfect snorkel destination.

Puuhonua o Honaunau Park

9. Punalu’u Beach

One of few black sand beaches on The Big Island, Punalu’u Beach is a favourite of ours. Typically less crowded than other beaches on the Island paired with one of the best places to see sea turtles in their natural habitat; this beach is a must visit. The fine black sand, the coconut trees swaying in the distance and the huge lily pond boasting white and purple flowers makes for a picture perfect setting. Between sunbathers you will more often than not spot the giant green sea turtles catching some rays. If the surf allows for it; make sure to snorkel into the water for some amazing underwater marine life where brilliantly colored reef fish dart in and out of sight. If you are fortunate you may see some sea turtles that come close to shore. Offering restrooms, change rooms and more than a fair share of waves; Punalu’u Beach is worth the visit.

Punalu’u Beach

10. Hawaii Botanical Gardens

This “garden in a valley on the ocean” flourishes under the golden sunshine and makes Hawaii Botanical Gardens number ten on our list of things to see and do. Take a self-guided tour through the beautiful lush oasis that house over 2500 species of tropical plants. The owners have done an outstanding job labelling plants and flowers to ensure visitors always know what they are looking at. The paths through the gardens end at a spectacular ocean view with plenty of good photo opportunities. Take time to admire the wood carvings as you walk through and look up to admire the many birds that pass through. Make sure to visit the souvenir shop for many unique treasures. This is truly a garden paradise that begs to be visited.

Hawaiian Flowers

11. Kealakekua Bay

For any snorkelling enthusiast, Kealakekua Bay is one of the most sought out places on the island. From technicolour glistening fish to spinner dolphins to green sea turtles; this is a paradise for marine life. To get her there are only two options. The first is a challenging strenuous hike down to the Bay. If you are in good shape and bring plenty of water this is an amazing hike that will lead you past an ancient temple and right to the Captain Cook Monument. Here you will find incredible snorkelling. If hard hiking is not your thing there are plenty of boat tours you can join. Another option is to rent a kayak from a licensed outfitter and paddle your way through the Bay. We suggest going early in the day or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Kealakekua Bay

12. Hapuna Beach

The Big Island is more famous for its technicolour lava beaches rather than its white sandy beaches but if white sand is what you are looking for; Hapuna Beach is the place to visit. With calmer waters than most other beaches on the island and silky white sand stretching a 1/2 mile long; Hapuna is a great family beach to visit. Kids and adults will find frolicking in the waves hard to resist and there is great snorkelling at the South end of the beach. With excellent facilities, easy access to the water and some of the best swimming conditions on the island, Hapuna Beach has been voted one of the best beaches in The United States. Pack a picnic or buy your lunch and spend the day relaxing in the sun, swimming in the crystal clear water and taking in the scenery.

Hapuna Beach

13. Helicopter Tour

There is no better way to experience the vast landscapes of Hawaii’s biggest island than by air. Whether you are after hidden cascading waterfalls or unprecedented views of Mount Kilauea’s lava flows; a helicopter tour is the best way to see The Big Island. Few other places can you experience the molten red lava being pushed out of the earth while flying just feet above it, snapping photos and creating memories that will last forever. Most heli tours conclude with a trip past some incredible waterfalls that are more breathtaking from the sky than the earth. There are many different choices for helicopter tours so we suggest doing your research before hand and choosing the option that best suits your needs. If there was anything to splurge on when you are on The Big Island, this is it.

Hawaii Aerial