Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn’t Know You Needed​

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Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn't Know You Needed

December 18, 2018

When people are drawn to the ocean, it’s typically to the edge where water meets the shore. Most ocean lovers are actually beach lovers, enamored by the border zone between the solid and liquid worlds — waves tossing themselves onto sandy expanses, seagulls cawing and calling as they wheel in the air, sunlight glinting off the water. For some reason, gazing at that flat expanse of water is fulfilling in a way that staring at the flats of Kansas can never be.

The lure of the ocean is indescribable, and for many it’s enough to merely approach its shores. Even standing neck deep in the water, it’s comforting to realize the shore is close at hand. But others long for a more intimate interaction with the sea. Wave riding is one of the simplest forms of recreation. With as little as a swimsuit and a board, you can catch a wave standing up, kneeling or lying prone. The simplicity is part of the attraction. There’s not a lot of gear to contend with; it’s just you and the wave, period.

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Body surfing is arguably the most basic and harmonious interaction we can engage in with a force of nature. Stand-up surfing is “The Sport of Kings” for reasons both historical, per the ancient Hawaiian royalty, and visceral, because that’s how you feel when you’re up and riding. “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world,” —the Beach Boys weren’t lying. 

To surf is to be engaged with your environment. Whether it’s your first time out or you’ve been surfing for years, when you are in the water you are aware of your surroundings. It’s an invigorating sensation to feel the surge of water, the salt on your skin, to shake the water from your hair. 

To surf is to return to the rawest element of nature; to dance delicately upon the power of the sea. Motion, sound, the feel of water sliding through your toes, the glare of the sun … birds, fish, constant movement – watching, waiting. You banter with your friends, your kids, your spouse, whoever’s in the water with you, all the while keeping your eye on what’s coming. Then the right bump appears on the horizon and it’s time to fly. Carving turns on top of moving water is an adrenaline rush. Finding yourself wrapped in that water, being propelled by the wave’s own intensity, is like nothing else.

For many sports-minded individuals, surfing holds a special place, partly because the highs are so elusive. The surfing experience is incredibly dependent on the vagaries of swell direction and strength, wind, crowds, beach contours — the list goes on. For all of the variables to come together in the right combination is something rare and wonderful. And yet it happens. And it keeps happening.

As special as surfing is, period, it’s exponentially better with someone else. Not only is it safer to surf with friends or family (always a good idea to have someone in the water who will notice if you’re not there) but when you catch that wave and take a ride, it’s good to have an audience who understands what you just did and how it felt. And if you feel compelled to brag, well, that’s good, too. 

Big waves get all the press — those perfect tubes of turquoise water, the famous competitors who so often ride them. But the truth is, even the little ones are worth paddling out to meet. And, especially for beginners, the rush of riding a knee-high wave can be a mind-blowing experience. It only takes one ride to get hooked. 

There’s a reason they say a bad day surfing is better than a good day doing anything else. They say it because it’s true. Inspirato destinations are ideally situated in some of the prime surf spots all the world over.

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Though surfing was invented in Hawaii, surf culture came directly out of Southern California. There are a variety of breaks ranging from beginner to advanced within 30 minutes of Newport Coast. Water temperatures in the summer range from mid-60s to mid-70s; in the winter they drop to mid-50s to mid-60s.

Blackie’s, on the north side of Newport Pier, is great for beginners. It’s named for Blackie’s Bar, which has been there for ages. It’s generally a very forgiving wave, so it’s not only softer but also there’s a long window in which to catch it. It’s a popular spot for longboarders, too, both beginning and advanced. 

Trestles requires a 15-minute hike from the car, so it’s a bit of a commitment for boardtoting surfers. There’s a river that becomes an estuary, and it’s one of the few places on the Southern California coast that is not surrounded by a lot of development. Thanks to the cobblestone reef, it’s a classic break for advanced surfers with clean, solid waves. Several pro contests are held at Trestles, which, because of the hike, is sometimes less crowded than other spots. 

San Onofre is a state park that draws longboarders attracted to its consistent, mellow waves. Like many surf spots, there’s a wave called Old Man’s. Recently, locals have begun referring to it as Old Woman’s, as female surfers are almost beginning to outnumber male. 

Surrounded by jungle, Punta de Mita is known for rights — meaning waves that break to the surfer’s right. Rights are best for regular footers, or those who surf with their left foot in front. Various peaks jut along the rock reef, which stretches for miles and miles down the coast. Because of the various resorts on the coastline, it may be easier to hire a guide and boat to take you to some solid, less-crowded waves. Water temperatures are in the 80s year-round.

Punta Burros draws both locals and visitors. With peaks for both shortboarders and longboarders, it’s also one of the easier breaks to access. The waves are better at high tide.  Sayulita is 25 miles to the north, and is an excellent beginner spot with primarily beach breaks. It’s a draw for longboarders and shortboarders, and seems made-to-order for goofy footers, or people who surf with their right foot forward. Sayulita feels like a traditional Mexican town with lots of old buildings, churches and history. It’s quaint with a relaxed vibe, and a fun destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. 

The Cove and El Faro at Punta Mita Point are found in the southernmost bay. Though you can walk there in about 40 minutes, it’s easiest to hire a ponga. It’s a consistent break, but is better before the off-shore winds kick in. Los Cabos is at the southern end of Baja California. It has several world-famous point breaks, as well as a variety of beach breaks. It’s a special place with secluded beaches balanced by abundant nightlife. Water temperatures fluctuate from the 70s to the 80s year round.

The south-facing East Cape is designed for the adventurous soul, but is best in the summer months during south-swell season. The area lies just past the town of San Juan del Cabo, on the Sea of Cortez, and seems almost mystical. The desert runs right to the shore, and is both beautiful and uncrowded.

The West Cape, which is just northwest of Cabo San Lucas, has surf year round. With both beach and reef breaks, it has several consistent waves. In addition to breaks that can be accessed on foot, there are several breaks that can be accessed via sea kayak.

Todos Santos on the Pacific side is not just a fun surf spot, but it’s a draw in its own right. A funky art community, Todos Santos is loaded with galleries, artist studios and artists. It’s about an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas.

The World Hiding Beneath the Waves in Mexico’s Riviera Maya

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The World Hiding Beneath the Waves in Mexico's Riviera Maya

November 9, 2018

“The caves are a gateway to the underworld,” says guide Pablo Salce Zambrano as our group of eight visitors prepares to descend into a series of caverns called Rio Secreto beneath the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. “When you go down, you die,” he says, pausing, “and then you get reborn.”

The underworld was sacred to Mayas, a place of renewal used for rituals. Much of their fresh water came from underground rivers and cenotes, natural pools formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, creating sinkholes that fill with water and become oases for swimming or snorkeling.

So what better way to go deep in the Riviera Maya than to die and be reborn in its caves and cenotes? My husband and I start at Rio Secreto, near Playa del Carmen about 50 miles south of Cancun. The guides are knowledgeable and eager to protect the underground caverns and the water that flows through them, asking all guests to shower off any sunscreen and hair products that could contaminate the Secret River. “Our job is to preserve this place,” Pablo says.

The caves were discovered about a decade ago on private land; at the time of our visit, more than 10 miles of caverns have been mapped. The Rio Secreto tour only covers about 700 yards, but sloshing and swimming through the water that goes from ankle-deep to chest-high makes it feel longer. We follow a rope line along waterways (and some dry sections) through caves illuminated by colorful lights. Rio Secreto is draped with so many natural wonders it almost seems like it was designed by Disney animators. It’s a full immersion into this limestone-rich region. Literally.

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We get into wetsuits and life jackets, then put on helmets and headlamps and drop into a nondescript passage. At the entrance is a Mayan altar with candles and totems. The yellow beam of my headlamp illuminates the icicle-shaped stalactites hanging like daggers from the ceiling of the cavern as I wade into transparent blue-green water. The subsurface water found in caves, we learn, is especially clear because after filtering through the ground it’s mostly free of particulates. The water is “fresca no fria” Pablo says, then he quickly returns to English: “cool not cold.”

We learn to read the structures as we walk, wade and swim through the ancient spaces. Artful lighting—in bright blue, orange and red—highlights nature’s cathedral of stalactites and stalagmites. Pablo gives us a quick lesson about how the caverns, stalactites (which hang down) and stalagmites (mounds of mineral deposits that rise from the caverns’ floor) are formed. In brief, erosion of the relatively soft limestone creates the caverns: the ’tites and ’mites grow from thousands of years of drips, each one leaving infinitesimal amounts of minerals behind.

Overhead is a natural chandelier, white with age. A bat flits over my head, flying by an orange-tinged stalagmite. Blue reveals manganese in a stalactite group that looks like a flag sculpture. Some dripstones look like a wavy curtain, an indication that somehow a slight breeze had sneaked in, shaping the structures little by little.

When we reach a cavernous room, deep inside Rio Secreto, Pablo suggests we sit down in the water. He turns off the light—we find ourselves wrapped in silence and impenetrable darkness. But I’m not scared. As the first few minutes pass, I wonder what would happen if none of our headlamps come back on. Becoming a sacrifice to the Mayan gods crosses my mind, but calm and peace take over. “Leave your worries behind,” Pablo says. “The cave can hold them.”

As soon as Pablo turns his headlamp back on, we see a tiny moth flutter by—a sign that the outside world is near. We follow the rope line until the odorless cave gives way to the earthy scent of the living land. We see a speckle of light ahead and ascend, soon trampling over deadened leaves ground into dirt. The world seems greener, bluer and so much brighter, more vibrant.

Though I had moments of trepidation, I never felt the Rio Secreto tour was risky. Rather, I reveled in getting beneath the surface of the Yucatan Peninsula, revealing layers most visitors don’t see.

Beyond the wondrous caves are cenotes, natural pools formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock. In parts of the Yucatan, cenotes are linked by creeks; you can paddle a kayak from one to the next, then jump out and explore. No trip to the Yucatan is complete without a dip into the cool, cobalt-blue waters of a cenote.

Many Riviera Maya resorts, such as the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, about 30 miles south of Cancun, offer cenote tours where you can swim and snorkel your way from one limestone sinkhole to the next. But hotel tours aren’t the only way to see cenotes. If you have a rental car you can drive to places such as Cenote Dos Ojos, a pool ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling, but perhaps not the best choice for those who just want to swim.

My husband and I take a dip at Cenote Ik Kil, a sacred cenote in the interior of the Yucatan, about 3 miles from the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. From a height of about 85 feet above, I look down into the giant hole filled with crystalline water. Skeins of tree roots, vines, palm fronds and other lush vegetation tumble over the opening and straight into the cenote. These frame a waterfall. A shaft of sunlight makes the falling droplets dance and spotlights swimmers as they float among schools of fish. The sides of the cenote are sheer limestone walls that rise up and up. To get from our vista to the water, we first descend a grand stone spiral staircase then climb down a wooden ladder. Finally, we splash into the cenote. Bliss. Fed by crystal-clear, fresh water rivers, cenotes are simultaneously refreshing and bracing, the ultimate antidote to a hot day. I float under the waterfall and close my eyes. When I pop back up, fish dart below me. As
 I swim from one end of the 200-foot-wide pool to the other, it appears fathomless, but I know the bottom is 130 feet below.

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Near Playa del Carmen, we bike to several different cenotes and snorkel and then paddle in one that flows
to the ocean. In the latter, the water is so clear that my shadow reflects on underwater rocks. We follow black- striped yellow fish down the current, floating past fallen trees, roots and algae, then kayak along the river as a family of coatis follows alongside on the branches of the mangroves. The coatis look like a cross between raccoons and anteaters. My amateur paddling startles a flock of white egrets, which fan out, only to circle back to their mangrove perches.

We can’t leave the Riviera Maya without touring the ruins at Tulum. The structures there may not be as majestic or historically important as those at Chichen Itza, but Tulum certainly has the better view. Perched on bluffs overlooking the coast, Tulum towers over an azure sea. A mostly flat trail traverses the compact compound, making it easy for families to walk among its various constructions. Prehistoric-looking iguanas patrol the ruins while adventurous swimmers bob in the choppy waters below.

Just south is the Sian Ka’an wetlands reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site and, at 1.3 million acres, the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. It offers numerous opportunities for going deep into the Mayan world. One is a snorkel tour of a colorful coral reef that’s home to dolphins and sea turtles.

Another is the Sian Ka’an and Muyil Tour, which follows a canal Mayas built over a thousand years ago. The excursion traverses the turquoise Chunyaxche waterway by boat with opportunities to explore the Xlahpak temple complex and climb El Castillo, a break from the below-the-surface explorations that offers a commanding view of the region.

Our week in the Riviera Maya ends in Tulum. On our final night we walk on the beach and notice that outside lights have been dimmed. The eco-conscious area wants to avoid confusing sea turtle hatchlings that rely on moonlight to find their way to the sea. Looking back on a week of adventures on the Yucatan’s east coast, perhaps the most memorable moment is when we emerge from the caves of Rio Secreto into the light of day. As Mayan legend predicts, rising from the depths gives us a sense of renewal. We surface from our all-too-brief time in the Riviera Maya rejuvenated and refreshed—and ready for whatever lies ahead.

Nantucket’s Most Loved Coastal Activity

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Nantucket's Most Loved Coastal Activity

November 6, 2018

In the summer the prevailing winds blow across coastal Massachusetts and Cape Cod from the southwest. The gentle morning sea breeze often builds throughout the day into a stiff wind that wafts across the exposed crescent that is the island of Nantucket. The Wampanoag were the first to ride these winds and settle Nantucket, the “far away land” in their language. European explorers used these winds to sail past the island in the 17th century, and the great whaling ships that once chased sperm whales across the globe called Nantucket harbor their home port. While this glacial remnant that juts out of the ocean 30 miles south of Hyannis is now known for its sandy beaches and stunning vacation homes, sailing—more than anything—defines the Nantucket way of life.

When spending time on the island, it is impossible not to feel the urge to hop aboard a boat and hoist the mainsail. The best place to get a sailing lesson or send the kids to sailing school is Nantucket Community Sailing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching and providing sailing opportunities. Once you learn how to sail, the waters around the island open up to a whole new world.

Oddly enough, Herman Melville had not set foot on Nantucket before writing Moby Dick in 1851. But he knew the history of the infamous whaling ship the Essex from Nantucket, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. And his book, hailed by some as the Great American Novel, foisted both sailing and the island of Nantucket into the national consciousness.

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Nantucket was the hub of America’s whaling fleet from 1715 until the eventual demise of commercial whaling 150 years later. (The last whaler reportedly left the harbor in 1869.) At its peak in the mid-19th century, 72 whaling ships listed Nantucket as their home port. The ships had three masts that hoisted square-rigged sails; three-dozen crewmembers would board and set sail from the island on expeditions that lasted as long as three years. That’s quite the contrast from the fleet of recreational day sailors that flit about the harbor or swing with the tide on moorings today.

Nantucket took to its present-day incarnation as a vacation oasis not long after those whaling ships faded into history, with visitors flocking to the island for the same reason as the original settlers—rugged yet picturesque beauty and a large protected harbor.

The island is actually part of a glacial moraine, formed at the forward edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that retreated at the end of the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago. It left behind a 50-square-mile chunk of land in the shape of a crescent moon off the coast of Cape Cod. Melville described it in Moby Dick as an “elbow of sand,” but that’s not exactly right. Parts of the island’s sandy shoreline are still littered with boulders and rocks from the leftover glacial till. Much of the island rises up from the beaches in the form of vast bluffs that provide high vantage points for gazing far across the surrounding waters. The opening to Nantucket Harbor sits in the middle of the crescent, facing north into Nantucket Sound and across to the Cape. There is always at least a little wind. 

“Nantucket Sound is just a glorious sailing location,” says Diana Brown, the chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. “There are steady breezes every day and the water is clear.” Founded in 1994, Nantucket Community Sailing is dedicated to teaching sailing and making it accessible to people who live in or visit Nantucket. It offers weekly classes for children in season, all taught by instructors certified by US Sailing. Adults and kids alike can sign up for private lessons. “Our primary focus is children,” says Brown. “But we work with sailors from age 5 to 95.”

Youth classes range from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced racing level, and adults can sign up for private lessons at all skill levels. There’s also a woman’s sailing clinic and an adult racing program. Last year, the organization provided sailing opportunities to more than 1,000 kids and 2,000 adults over the season, which lasts mid-June through August, with rentals available through mid-September.

For rentals and lessons, head to Jetties Sailing Center, where Community Sailing keeps its boats. It’s on the beach just off Bathing Beach Road, about a mile from downtown and the docks for the ferries from Oak Bluff and Hyannis. Prospective sailors can rent or take lessons in small one- to two-person boats such as Sunfish and Lasers or larger Rhodes or Marshall Cats or take a trip with a captain aboard a J/105.

All of Jetties Sailing Center’s introductory sailing lessons, as well as rentals, stay inside the protected waters of the harbor. From the center, you can sail past the historic Brant Point Lighthouse, first established as an aid to navigation in 1746. The interior harbor offers protected water where first-timers can learn basic skills such as how to set and trim a sail so that it works to move the boat no matter the wind direction, how to tack and jibe, control the centerboard and how to come about, which is how you change direction. A lesson aboard the 35-foot J/105 can involve leaving the harbor and exploring the waters surrounding Nantucket. And there is no better way to see the island than from the deck of a boat.

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Heading west along the shoreline leads to the smaller Madaket Harbor, which is more exposed to the elements but offers the best view of Nantucket’s sunset. Sailing farther west and to the north provides the best opportunity to see the privately owned summer community on Tuckernuck Island, or sail beyond to the neighboring Muskeget Island to view the largest population of grey seals in the United States. (Don’t try to swim near them; it’s illegal to get within 150 feet of one, and seals attract sharks.) An article from the Cape Cod Times described the seal-viewing experience this way, “On a foggy day you can smell the island before you can actually see it.” But the chance to see roughly 3,000 seals in the wild is worth the olfactory assault.

Heading north and east outside of the harbor entrance leads to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a pristine stretch of grassy sand dunes and marshes that juts north into the ocean, protected at its tip by the Great Point Light, built in 1785 to guide sailors in from Cape Cod. As Ezra G. Perry wrote in his 1898 book A Trip Around Cape Cod, “The long-drawn sandy shores of Great Point are among the first land of the real island sighted on the trip across,” from the Cape. This is another place to watch seals flopping on and off the beaches into the surf, as well as several species of migratory shore birds like American oystercatchers, piping plovers or snowy egrets.

The south shore of Nantucket is exposed to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean, and subject to much larger seas. (It holds great surfing spots, if you want to try that.) But on calm days sailors can cruise along the sandy beaches and observe the famous Nantucket summerhouses perched atop the bluffs.

Sailors with serious experience can venture about 20 miles offshore to the whale feeding grounds, where it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the massive humpback and finback whales that pass through these waters throughout the summer season. And whale watching brings the Nantucket experience back full circle to its days of Captain Ahab and the majestic whaling fleet. As Melville wrote in Moby Dick of the Nantucket sailor, “For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires.”

Welcome to Rio, Brazil’s Must-See Oceanside Metropolis

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Welcome to Rio, Brazil's Must-See Oceanside Metropolis

October 30, 2018

We’re hiking to Rio’s praias selvagens, wild beaches, on a deserted, petrified dirt trail that cuts across a steep, vegetated hillside several hundred feet above the Atlantic Ocean, which stretches to the horizon. The only things between me and Namibia, more than 3,000 miles distant on Africa’s western coast, are a couple of fishing boats whose motors I can hear puttering below.

When I decided to come to Rio, I expected beautiful beaches, and Copacabana Beach, a three-minute walk from my hotel, Belmond Copacabana Palace, delivered. Or so I thought. My hiking guides disagree. “These wild beaches
are special,” says Sergio Tavares, a Carioca (native of Rio) and the founder of Rio Ecoesporte Adventures. Copacabana Palace has beach attendants who set guests up in chaise lounges and periodically stop by with chilled water and fruit. Copacabana’s sand is so white it looks like it’s been bleached, and it’s as soft as pashmina. That’s my definition of special.

Sergio’s definition of special is something not directly accessible by road. “This means we must do some walking,” he says. Thankfully we don’t have to start our walk in Copacabana. Geographically, Rio is gigantic— covering 485 square miles. By comparison, New York City covers 306 square miles. A walk from Copacabana, or anywhere remotely near downtown, to the wild beach trailhead would take forever. Even driving there from Copacabana takes nearly two hours, mostly because we took the scenic, oceanfront route. From the car I see more beaches than I can count. They’re almost all equal to Copacabana in beauty, but have different personalities.

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Copacabana is flashy and full of beautiful people. There are games of beach soccer and tennis going on. Sit down for five minutes and you’ll be approached by people selling towels, leather bracelets and key chains and/or offering massages. Sao Conrado beach is smallish; paragliders and hang gliders who launch off Pedra Bonita land nearby. Surfers flock to Prainha Beach, one of the city’s best surfing spots. Abricó Beach is the city’s sole nude beach. The last major beach you can drive to is Grumarí. We drive 15 minutes past it, climbing steeply up a rocky, verdant peninsula and then dropping down its far side into the neighborhood of Barra de Guaratiba. We’re still technically in Rio, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Old men in bathing suit briefs play cards at plastic tables. Cats laze in the sun. “This place is true Carioca style,” Sergio says before elaborating, “Relaxed.” Two- and three-story stucco houses are painted every shade of the rainbow. The rainbow spills down a crescent-shaped hillside until the hillside meets the ocean. Here the water is clearer and more vibrant than at the eastern and central beaches because it’s further from the mouth of Guanabara Bay and its heavy shipping traffic. The trail to the wild beaches is hidden at the end of a residential road so steep and narrow I’d be nervous to drive it. I guess I’m not relaxed enough. Locals have parked cars along the sides all the way up.

I manage to walk for 30 minutes before doing something very un-Carioca and asking, “Are we there yet?” Almost. Before we get our wild beach on Sergio recommends a short climb. “Then you can see all of the wild beaches and take your pick,” he says. Ten minutes later we’re atop Pedra da Tartaruga, Turtle Stone, a rocky double mound rising from the Atlantic, attached to the mainland only by a narrow isthmus, its tail. On the mainland side of the tail are the wild beaches. From the top of the turtle’s shell we look back to the wild beaches—four of them, separated from one another by small outcrops of snaggly cliffs.

Rio is going to meet all of your expectations for a historic, populous, cosmopolitan beach destination. There’s traffic. The elegant Art Deco Copacabana Palace is relaxing and peaceful. The beaches are beautiful. Officials say it is the yearlong celebration of the city’s 450th birthday and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics that power the city’s current energy. “Rio has always been a great location for tourists, but with all of the positive changes—in everything from transportation to the complete transformation of the port area—it’s even more so,” says Leonardo Gryner, General Vice Director of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. I say it’s from the fun of going Carioca, of relaxing into the city and finding expectations are often exceeded.

When Sergio first mentioned an outing to wild beaches, I imagined small pockets of sand tucked into coves pirate ships might hide in. Each wild beach is the size of many football fields though. Three of the four beaches have only a handful of people on them. The fourth, which Sergio says is about 2 miles farther, doesn’t have a soul. If I walked another 45 minutes, I could have an aircraft carrier-sized beach in Rio, a city of more than 6 million, all to myself.

After enjoying Copacabana along with several hundred others, only having three couples share Praia do Perigoso, the first beach, with me is pretty special. Praia do Perigoso translates to “Danger Beach.” When I ask about this Sergio says, “It’s Carioca danger. The danger here is that you won’t want to leave.”

Waves turn a dozen shades of green before cresting and breaking in a froth of white on the shore. Had I 1) thought to ask Sergio or the Copacabana Palace to pack a picnic lunch 2) didn’t have an appointment for a facial at the hotel’s spa in the late afternoon and 3) didn’t have dinner reservations that night for the seven-course tasting menu at Olympe, one of the four restaurants in the city recently awarded a Michelin star, I wouldn’t leave.

My next chance to settle into a Carioca groove is on a day trip to the mountainous Serra dos Órgãos National Park, about an hour’s drive from downtown Rio. The park sits above the former imperial city of Petropolis, which spills over the range’s western, forested foothills. My intention is to pass through Petropolis and spend the majority of the day in the park, exploring its waterfalls and hiking trails.

Petropolis was the summer home of Brazil’s emperors and royal family from 1845 until they were deposed in a coup in 1889. I can’t resist a trip to the former royal summer palace, which has been restored to its original color—the same pink you see inside a conch shell—and made into the Imperial Museum. Inside, exhibits include the pen Imperial Princess Isabel used in 1888 to sign the law that emancipated all of the country’s slaves and the gold crown of her father, Emperor Dom Pedro II, studded with 639 diamonds and 77 pearls.

Across the street from the neoclassical Imperial Museum is The Enchanted, a quaint, 100-year-old French alpine- style home. Walking around the historic center of town, where canals run down the medians of major streets and moss hangs from trees boughs like overgrown beards, I also find half-timbered homes that look like they’ve been transplanted from Bavaria, crenellated Italianate and Victorian villas and a French neogothic cathedral. All of these date from the 19th and early 20th centuries and were built for European expats, or as vacation homes for wealthy Cariocas or government officials. It’s the most charmingly schizophrenic historic architecture I’ve ever seen.

It is just before we tour The Enchanted that my guide, a Petropolis native, breaks the news: I’ve already spent too much time exploring Petropolis to do any justice to the Serra dos Órgãos. I feed my disappointment at the café in front of the Imperial Museum with a slice of moist, nutmeg cinnamon cake with custard filling and topped with chocolate and a double espresso. Despite Brazil being the world’s largest producer of coffee for at least the last 150 years, the country has only recently developed a coffee culture. With hints of citrus and cherry and a thick crema, the espresso is delicious.

Our new itinerary has us driving out to Vale das Videiras, in Araras, a rolling agricultural district at the edge of Petropolis and home to a burgeoning food and outdoor adventure scene. Turning off the expressway, the transition from Petropolis’ historic downtown is as complete as that between downtown Rio and Barra de Guaratiba. Here, dogs and chickens run alongside the rudimentary road. Colorful roadside stands sell fresh eggs and cola. Traffic lessens with each hill we crest.

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Thirty minutes after leaving the expressway we stop in a bucolic cobblestoned plaza in front of a row of gleaming, fire engine red Specialized mountain bikes. The bikes belong to Galpão Caipira, a boutique/café/bike shop/day spa. The spa part is thatch-roofed, tucked away in the back and intimate. The placemats on the café’s tables feature a hand-drawn map of the area’s roads. I wouldn’t want to use one for navigation, but it gives me an idea of the amount of riding in the area: a lot. While the road to Galpão Caipira from the main highway isn’t bike-friendly, past here the roads are like well-groomed ski runs. Join several of them into rides between 10 and 30-odd miles. “And that just shows our road riding,” says Beth, the manager. “More and more trails are being built.” Most trails are double tracks, suitable for riding or hiking. You can also tour them in Galpão Caipira’s vintage, yellow Land Cruiser. During a lunch of mushroom-stuffed raviolis handmade a few miles down the road, I learn a boutique cachaçaria is nearby and offers samples.

Cachaça—pronounced ka-shah-sa—is Brazil’s answer to rum, but made from fresh sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Most cachaça is like drinking fire; it’s best put to use in cocktails like the caipirinha. At Duvale, the cachaça can be sipped. In the shade of a pavilion overlooking two ponds, I can sample as many of their varieties as I want: cachaça aged in French oak barrels, cachaça infused with berries, cachaça aged in barrels that were previously used to age bourbon, cachaça aged for six months, cachaça aged for two years. The list goes on. After sampling two, I decide that I’m not at all disappointed to have missed the Serra dos Órgãos. Leaving, I give myself an “A-minus” for my Carioca-ness today.

I don’t totally give up on my wilderness trip. There’s a national park within the city itself, Tijuca National Park, found in the rainforest- covered mountains rising up behind Copacabana. At 15 square miles it is the smallest of Brazil’s national parks, but it is also one of the largest urban forests in the world. On clear days, from one of many of Tijuca’s summits, the Serra dos Órgãos, 30-some miles away as the crow flies, are clearly visible.

I hike up Pico da Tijuca, the park’s tallest peak at 3,320 feet. While the purpose is to see the mountains that I missed in Petropolis, I don’t ignore the journey. I’m in the middle of one of the world’s densest cities, yet once inside the forest I hear no sounds of civilization. There’s never a time I don’t hear micos, monkeys about the size of a squirrel and a tail like a cat’s, or the slightly larger capuchin monkeys, rustling in the trees overhead.

During the six hours it takes to hike up and down, I don’t see a single monkey. Evidently, the rosewood, eucalyptus and mahogany trees don’t just hide the honking horns, squealing brakes and wheezing shocks of the traffic below, but also monkeys. I don’t know what’s hiding the people. I see less than a dozen the whole time I’m out.

Before I can enjoy the panoramic views, I must make it past the final section of trail, 117 steps carved into the granite. Once on top, little is hidden from Pico da Tijuca’s rocky, exposed summit, which rises out of the rainforest like an anvil. The entirety of Rio spreads out below. I can pick out Guanabara Bay, Bico do Papagaio Peak, Pedra da Gavea, the Christ the Redeemer statue, Maracanã stadium and Barra da Tijuca. To the north, past the oil tankers and fishing boats heading into or out of the city’s protected harbor in the bay are the Serra dos Órgãos. From here, it’s obvious how they came by their name, which translates to “Organ Range.” When seen in silhouette, their pointy spires resemble organ pipes.

Later in the day, and eager to show Sergio my burgeoning ability to relax and go with the flow, I accept his offer of a water safari around Tijuca Lagoon. The lagoon is notorious for its polluted water and trash, and for the first five minutes of our cruise, that’s all I see in the water and the mangrove trees. But then I start noticing the birds—several species of herons, scarlet ibises, egrets, water chickens—everywhere. Some of the taller mangroves have nearly one dozen egrets perched in their branches, the birds’ white feathers popping against the dark green leaves.

Looking back down at the roots, alongside the trash I now see mangrove crabs. And there are caimans, Brazil’s alligators. A lot of them. I see caiman with their heads resting on logs and swimming alongside the boat. Some are as long as I am tall. I ask Sergio if I need to be worried. No. “These are Carioca caimans,” he says, “They’re relaxed, like the people here. They’re no problem to you.” It appears even the animals here have adopted Rio’s approach to life.

Two Gorgeous Islands on Croatia’s Exclusive Dalmatian Coast

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Two Gorgeous Islands on Croatia’s Exclusive Dalmatian Coast

October 15, 2018

As a New Englander, I’ve been collecting islands all my life. The ones I first fell for were close to home. We went as a family to Nantucket, a misty, sail-shaped, moor- covered patch of sand some 14 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. We also vacationed on smaller, quieter islands like Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island) and Swan’s Island and Isle en Haut, both adrift in Maine’s island-speckled coast.

Thirty-some years ago, I did my junior year of college abroad and lived in London, the vibrant capital of an island nation and also a jumping-off point for getaways to nearby islands like the Isle of Wight, the Scilly Islands, and the Channel Islands. That January, trying to escape the gray skies and damp of London’s winter, two friends and I set out for islands farther afield—Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea. We expected to find sunshine, wear T-shirts, and maybe even take a swim. But it turns out Greece in winter was barely warmer than Scotland. Broke and chastened by our mistake, we sullenly boarded a train back to London. Thankfully we weren’t so sullen we didn’t talk to fellow passengers.

A pair of Yugoslav Australians on the train were traveling to Split, Croatia. Split, on the Adriatic Sea, they told us, was a fascinating city—Roman ruins, constant sunshine, and good wine. And warmth. The Aussies were getting off the train in Novska and driving to Split in a Volkswagen van borrowed from an aunt. Did we want to come? We could stay with them at a relative’s house, a big place by the sea with beautiful views. Of course we said yes. Walking around Split a couple of days later, the sun so relentlessly toasted the town’s old streets that we were in T-shirts by noon.

Another day, an uncle of our generous new friends said he’d take us to the island of Hvar (pronounced Hwahr) on his fishing boat. He described it simply: “It’s so beautiful it will take your breath away.” We only got to see Hvar from a distance though. Marshal Josep Broz Tito, President for Life of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was vacationing on a nearby island and the country’s coast guard wasn’t letting boats through. They turned us around. The back- up plan was the best consolation prize I’ve ever gotten: We spent the day in the delightful town of Primošten, some 35 miles up the coast from Split. Here we picked up a chicken and several bottles of Babić, a hearty red produced nearby in stone-walled vineyards (that are currently being considered for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). After a swim at Mala Raduča, one of the best beaches in Croatia, we found a quiet cove, put ashore, and had a picnic. We ate fat olives, sharp ewe’s milk cheese, just-baked bread, Croatian ham, and, over a driftwood fire, spit-roasted the chicken and grilled the sardines we’d netted that morning.

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When we had to return to London for the start of the next semester, I left the southern Dalmatian Riviera amazed by the fuzzy, yellow mimosa bushes flowering around Split’s train station. I was determined to come back.

I was, of course, far from the first traveler to fall in love with this littoral. When the first rail lines opened from Vienna and Budapest to the Adriatic port towns of Rijeka and Opatija during the second half of the 19th century, the spectacular beauty of this craggy coastline quickly captured the sun-starved subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The cerulean waters and gentle climate were irresistible. The charm and history of handsome old cities like Split and Dubrovnik offered sophistication.

The most powerful testament to the allure of the Croatian coastline predates this first rush of modern popularity by more than a millennium, however. Roman emperor Diocletian had the vast and varied territories of the ancient world’s largest empire—including much of Britain, Spain, Egypt, and Greece—at his disposal, and chose to retire to what is today Split. Diocletian ordered his retirement villa built there on the water’s edge. (He was the first Roman emperor to abdicate the throne voluntarily.) Diocletian’s palace—“villa” doesn’t do it justice—was completed in 305 A.D. It survives today as one of the best- preserved Roman palaces in Europe and includes both Diocletian’s original residence as well as other structures added over the ensuing centuries like a cathedral, a baptistery created from one of the palace’s original temples, and three 3,500-year-old sphinxes brought to Split from Egypt for the emperor. (If time allows, Split’s Archaeological Museum displays a superb collection of Illyrian, Greek, and Roman artifacts—an elaborately carved, 1800-year-old Roman sarcophagus, a Greek sacrificial altar dating to the 4th century B.C., and gold Roman jewelry from the 4th-7th centuries A.D. Much of the collection was discovered during excavations at Salona just outside of the city.)

Split is also the hub of the ferry and catamaran network linking Croatia’s islands to the mainland. From the Italian border in the north to the Montenegrin border in the south, the Croatian coastline is more than 1,100 miles long.

Only seven months after my promise to return, I was back in Croatia exploring its more than 1,200 islands. An Italian couple taking a two-month-long yachting vacation along the coast hired me as an English tutor for their two children. We spent two weeks between the two islands the couple told me they liked best, Brač (“pronounced Bratch) and Hvar. “They go together like salt and pepper,” said Alessandra, the woman who hired me. These sister islands share a common history— Illyrian, then Greek, then Venetian rule—but are different in terms of their atmosphere, topography, and the visitors they attract. “Brač is primal, rough, and essential, while Hvar is lively, sexy, and fun,” Alessandra said. Both are relaxing in different ways. Brač’s relaxation is in its slow pace; Hvar’s in a day spent on the beach.

That summer I circumnavigated both of these islands by boat several times. With my 13- and 15-year-old charges as guides—they already knew these islands like the backs of their hands—we toured the islands by motor scooter and did long hikes. I helped them with the intricacies of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye; they taught me these two islands so well I still don’t need a map when I return today, which I regularly do. Both Brač and Hvar are reached by boat from Split. If you get an early start, you’ll have plenty of time to discover each in one day. Or both on two different days. Among the hundreds of inhabited islands off the Croatian coast, these two are true gems.

Brač, the third largest of the Croatian islands, is plump and leaf-shaped, rugged and rustic, and has always earned its keep from hard work. Archeological evidence shows humans lived here during the Paleolithic era. During Illyrian, Greek, Roman, and Venetian rule, Bračians were fishermen and sailors; tended olive groves; worked vineyards, at least until phylloxera destroyed most of them in the 19th century; and mined the beautiful, creamy white limestone the island is made of. At quarries, miners cut the stone into blocks and sent them to the mainland as building material. (Sixteen centuries after being used to build Diocletian’s palace, Brač limestone was used to build the White House. Nearly two centuries after that, Brač stone was used in the construction of the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York City.) Brač’s most famous beach, Zlatni Rat, is famous not for celebrity-spotting like Hvar’s beaches are, but for its geomorphology. Changes in tide, current, and wind transform the shape of the spit at the center of the beach.

Supetar, on Brač’s northern coast and the island’s biggest town (pop. about 3,500), rolls down and around gentle hills blanketed with pine trees and wild herbs like rosemary and thyme. It’s peaceful and idyllic. The intimate harbor front, where ferries from the mainland dock, is edged with the island’s creamy white stone and plump palms whose shaggy crowns are often filled with twittering starlings. It was often the cheerful chatter of these birds that woke me in the morning during my summer on the yacht teaching English. Awake, I’d have a quick coffee in one of the cafes overlooking the port and its small, colorful fleet of fishing boats before heading to a bakery for several loaves of fresh bread.

Bistro Palute (Put Pasike 16), one of the places I liked to linger with a novel when I had an occassional afternoon off, is still in business today. Much of Supetar looks the same as it did those many decades ago. The parish church of Mary Annunciation was built in the 18th century. Its pipe organ dates from 1737 and, with a little luck, you might show up during a service when it’s being used. Next to the church, there are some early Christian mosaics from the 6th century.

Konoba Vinotoka is the village’s best restaurant, whether you choose its cozy, whitewashed tavern with a wood-burning fireplace or the large, modern, airy dining room with views over the town. The same menu is served in both and the catch-of- the-day options are always impeccably fresh, because they’re what local fishermen brought in that morning. I’d start with a plate of Croatian prsut, the country’s rich, savory country ham, and then go for grilled dentex (crimson sea bream), served here with spinach and potatoes.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be served by Bubi, a young waiter who speaks perfect English and has an irrepressible desire to share his love of Brač. Most recently when I ate here, I almost missed my return ferry because of Bubi. When he insisted on serving a complimentary plate of pastries with my coffee at the end of the meal, I insisted on knowing more about the sweets and the conversation became very engrossing.

As cute as Supetar is, Bol, a village on the island’s southern coast that’s long been an artists’ colony, is an operetta set come to life. And the drive there—twisting through a rural, mountainous countryside dotted with small, stone bunje shelters dating back to prehistoric times, and tiny villages (the whole island only has 14,000 permanent residents)—is the stuff car commercials are made of. The landscape is a patchwork of silvery-green olive groves, vineyards, and scrub forest with live oaks and pines. Along the way are two stops, each with a serious sense of place: the village of Škrip and the Blaca Hermitage.

Škrip is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement on the island, and it’s a moody, mineral-hard place. Literally. The homes here are built entirely from stone—both walls and roofs. The Museum of the Island of Brač is in Škrip, and the whole village feels a bit like an open-air museum. Walk around, dodging the donkeys and sheep of the village’s contemporary residents, and see remnants of 5,000-year-old walls built by Illyrians and the island’s largest Roman cemetery. Archeologists believe that buried somewhere near the cemetery are the ruins of a Roman temple.

Compared to Škrip, Blaca Monastery is modern: it was founded in the mid-16th century by Glagolitic priests fleeing the Ottoman invasion of the Croatian mainland. For several years they lived in caves carved out of the cliffs here, but eventually began building the monastery still standing today. The last priest of the order died in 1963 and the monastery has been preserved as a museum since. Its library has more than 8,000 volumes, there is an impressive armory collection, and the monks’ cells and a schoolroom for local kids look like they were used only yesterday.

From Blaca, meat-lovers and adventurous eaters should head to the village of Donji Humac where Konoba Kopačina serves the best version of Brač’s signature dish: vitalac. Cooked over a wood fire in a big open hearth, vitalac is a spit-roasted preparation of lamb’s offal wrapped in caul fat. The restaurant also does less exotic grilled dishes like lamb chops, sausage, and fish, and its terrace has beautiful views over the countryside.

Just before the road begins a series of hairpin curves that zigzag down to Bol, keep your eyes peeled for a view of Zlatni Rat, the geomorphing beach. The cobalt-blue waters of the Adriatic lap at both sides of its arrowhead- shaped, white-sand spit. Just beyond it, built right up to the water’s edge, is Bol. If you want a swim before exploring Bol, look for the sign that indicates the Zlatni Rat parking lot. The beach is about a 10-minute walk.

Bol’s most interesting attraction, aside from Zlatni Rat and the town itself, is the Branislav Dešković Museum, housed in a Renaissance villa on the harbor-front. The museum is named for a Croatian sculptor, but displays more than 300 works by dozens of Croatian artists active in the 19th and 20th centuries. Dešković was best-known for capturing the expressions of animals, and there’s a bronze of a hunting dog just inside the front entrance to the museum. The English-speaking docents are friendly, but they’re no Bubi.

If plump and rugged Brač is a loving babushka, Hvar is a supermodel—long and thin and, thanks to its popularity with Dalmatian nobles in the 18th and 19th centuries, cultured with an aristocratic gloss. (In 1869, Empress Elisabeth of Austria visited and liked Hvar so much she helped finance the construction of the Hotel Palace.) In the island’s main port and biggest town, also named Hvar, buildings date to Venetian rule. Today, during the summer, yachts fill the harbor, and the café terraces around the port are packed with a glamorous, international crowd that has included Beyonce, Tom Cruise, and Oprah.

Depending on the season and the direction of the wind, it’s possible you’ll discover Hvar’s signature scent before you actually arrive on the island. The perfume of the lavender fields planted along the main road that runs from Hvar Town east sometimes wafts out to sea. Otherwise, the breeze coming into the harbor may be laced with the fragrances of pine trees or fig leaves. Whatever scent is in the air, the arrival of every ferry has an opulently festive feel. Passengers on foot and in cars, impeccably dressed, spill onto the stone-edged wharf and air kiss friends accessorized with bright silk scarves and oversized sunglasses, or quickly pop into one of the cafes that line the eastern edge of the port.

While Brač is an island to explore, Hvar is an island to be. To do this, you don’t have to leave Hvar Town, which is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved port towns in Croatia. If Bol is an operetta set, Hvar is an elegant open-air baroque salon perfect for wandering—there are boutiques, restaurants, and museums. The Venetians rebuilt the town—the earliest settlement of note in the area was Roman—in the early 1600s, adding the Pjaca, a rectangular stone-paved main square that is still the area’s heart, and in miniature, recalls some of the refinement of Venice’s Piazza San Marco. At one end of the Pjaca is the harbor and an old arsenal building whose second floor is one of the oldest Baroque playhouses in Europe. The main market and Saint Stephen’s church are at the other end of the Pjaca. You’d think St. Stephen’s Dalmatian Renaissance exterior its most remarkable asset, until you step inside and see artwork that predates Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Bahamas: the 13th-century icon The Madonna and Child and a 15th-century pieta.

Out of the square, wander the narrow lanes of Groda, old town, and make the hike up to the Fortica. Venetians built the Fortica with the help of Spanish engineers in the 1550s; today it has superb views over town. I never look down on the flotilla of yachts, each grander and more gilded than the next, without feeling an affectionate nostalgia for the handsome, white, mahogany-trimmed 1930s yacht that first brought me here more than three decades ago. Notwithstanding my New Englander’s preference for things both simple and plain- spun, I love gawking at this mid-summer magnificence. In both human and nautical terms, it’s one of the best shows to be found anywhere in Europe.

After looking at this show, become part of it. People come to Hvar for the same reason they go to Saint-Tropez—to be a part of one of the world’s most stylish beach scenes. As in Saint-Tropez, the owners of the extravagant craft anchored in the harbor spend their days at glamorous beach clubs.

Hula-Hula Hvar has a party vibe with piped music and a gorgeous young crowd tossing back Austrian sparkling wine. Built in 1927, Bonj les Bains was recently renovated and is more formal. Rent a cabana with chaise lounges and an umbrella here, swim off the pier, book a massage, and tuck into a plate of spaghetti with lobster sauce in its restaurant. Afterward, bring the best of Hvar and Brac together: punctuate the deliciously lazy hours of a long, nose-stuck- in-a-novel afternoon with a plunge into the Adriatic and a glass or two of Stina Winery’s Pošip, a white wine made in Bol of Bračian- grown grapes.

Discover the Best Beach in Nicaragua

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Discover the Best Beach in Nicaragua

September 26, 2018

As co-founder of the New York City-based luxury travel blog Compass + Twine, I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting hotel and destination experiences around the world. From Zanzibar, Tanzania, to Jaipur, India, it’s my job to seek out the true character of a location— as well as the best place to stay while immersing oneself in a new place. Mukul Resort, on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, had quickly climbed onto our radar over the past year; so when I saw that Inspirato recently added it to their collection, I had to check it out. 

Situated on a private, secluded bay only two hours south of the capital, Managua, Mukul was built by the Pellas, a fifth generation local family involved in everything from rum to hospitals. It is the country’s first truly five-star resort and home to one of the best surf breaks in Central America.

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Convincing Daniel, my husband, to go for the world-class surfing was easy. The relatively simple 4- to 5-hour flight from New York City didn’t hurt either. We flew direct into Costa Rica’s Liberia Airport and drove north into Nicaragua (this route better matched our schedules than the direct flights to Managua). This was where Inspirato’s level of service showed its worth: They steered us toward using the hotel’s car service to cross the rather chaotic border and helped with all the transportation arrangements. With long lines and redundant checkpoints, traversing this particular crossing would have been an arduous task to tackle on our own.

As we drove down the coastal hills to the resort, it was like entering a time warp; we saw an emerald paradise of lush tropical foliage with very few commercial developments. Rather than coming up on an imposing resort complex, Mukul’s bungalows and beach villas were tucked unobtrusively into the jungle. My husband and I both thought that perhaps this is what Costa Rica looked like 15 years ago.

The star attraction at the resort is the secluded beach on Bahia Manzanillo: it lives up to the hype. With stunning turquoise water and silver-white sand, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen. Best of all, the entire stretch is almost always empty aside from the occasional hotel guest or two. 

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The surf break at Mukul pumped out consistent 3- to 5-foot waves across the bay. Beyond pleased, my husband happily reported that you could catch full “30-second rides.” That’s a thrill for any surfer, but it’s that much better when you have the wave all to yourself. While I didn’t take advantage of the resort’s surf school or surfboard rentals, I did hop on one of their body boards to experience the awesome break for myself and enjoyed every minute.

The family that owns Mukul also produces the best rum in the country, Flor de Caña, and they celebrate this synergy with an open-air rum-tasting cigar bar. Every day they offer both cigar and rum tastings, where guests can sample the family’s famed rum, including, if you’re lucky, a taste from their coveted 33-year-old bottle. 

As for the food, breakfast was our favorite meal of the day and included some of the freshest fruit we’ve ever tasted. Opting to dine each morning on the terrace, we enjoyed all the local, tropical ingredients the kitchen had to offer. Come lunchtime, we couldn’t get enough of the chilled gazpacho, usually served poolside with a side of plantains. That was plenty to keep us going for the rest of the day.

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As a romantic getaway over a long weekend, Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast is just about perfect. It’s far enough away to feel truly adventurous without being so far as to wear you out with travel or jet lag. Between the golf, the surf, and the amazing spa (the couple’s treatment room came with a private plunge pool on the deck overlooking the jungle), Mukul feels best suited for adults.

Back home, reflecting on our incredible trip to the Emerald Coast, what sticks with me most is the genuine pride Mukul’s staff had in Nicaragua, along with their passion for showcasing their beautiful country. They are truly excited to share Mukul and Nicaragua with the world. It reminds me of why I love to travel and discover new places: There’s something magical about getting to a place before it becomes overly developed as a tourist destination. Fortunately, as long as Mukul can keep Bahia Manzanillo to itself, this little bit of paradise should stay that way.

The Best Balcony Views in Cabo

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The Best Balcony Views in Cabo

August 20, 2018

On the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, visitors will find the gorgeous Los Cabos region hiding away. Lush jungles and outdoor activities await the most adventurous travelers, while serene beaches and waterfront resorts await the relaxation seekers. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for—this beautiful region has it. There’s a reason this area that was little-known only a few decades ago is booming in popularity today.

And while most travelers plan to explore outside of their hotel rooms and rental homes, most agree that views from their accommodations are a must. If stellar balcony views are a must for your next vacation, check out the resorts and home in the slideshow below for your best options.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Cabo Balcony Views

Ocean view from Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Forbes Five Star Award-winning boutique resort.

The Cape, Cabo Balcony Views

The balcony view from Cabo's trendiest escape, The Cape.

Costero, Cabo Balcony Views

Stunning view from Costero, a $5M oceanfront home.

Casa Las Palmas, Cabo Balcony Views

Casa Las Palmas has a stunning first-floor view of Cabo's lush landscape.

Auberge Private Residences, Cabo Balcony Views

Some of Cabo's best balcony views can be found at the Auberge Private Residences.

Casa Colina Cresta, Cabo Balcony Views

Casa Cresta is a grand Mexican-style hacienda with incredible Sea of Cortez views.

Casa Miraflores, Cabo Balcony Views

This penthouse suite, Casa Miraflores, has gorgeous balcony views.

Joya del Mar, Cabo Balcony Views

This balcony view comes from Joya del Mar, a $9.9M oceanfront villa.

Villa Dos Mares, Cabo Balcony Views

Villa Dos Mares is located in one of Cabo's most exclusive enclaves with wide open ocean views.

One and Only Palmilla, Cabo Balcony Views

Balconies at the One&Only Palmilla Resort have views of the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula.

Villa Buenaventura, Cabo Balcony Views

Villa Buenaventura is a $6M oceanfront home with stunning views.

Villa Oasis, Cabo Balcony Views

This view comes from Villa Oasis, a 3,000-square-foot home within Palmilla.

One&Only Palmilla, Cabo Balcony Views 2

One&Only Palmilla offers guests gorgeous views and modern hacienda charm on the Baja Coast.

The first featured image comes from Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a luxury oceanfront boutique resort. This elegant option is perfect for honeymooners and scuba divers alike, and it allows travelers to experience authentic Mexico in an upscale environment. The slideshow also features standalone homes like Costero, a 3,300-square-foot home with two infinity pools that can accommodate up to 10 guests at a time, and Joya del Mar, a 6,700-square-foot home that can accommodate up to 16 at a time.

One&Only Palmilla, Cabo Balcony Views

The balconies featured from the One&Only Palmilla, like the one above, have unique views of the Sea of Cortez and a high-end design. The resort is ideal for couples, families and golfers, and the interiors are described as “Contemporary Mexican with traditional touches.”

The image below comes from The Cape, a modern resort with Cabo’s only rooftop bar. Travelers will love Monuments Beach, a haven for surfers and swimmers, that also has views of El Arco. This trendy getaway has a robust nightlife as well as 161 rooms, suites, and villas to choose from. The Cape was designed by Javier Sánchez, a renowned architect, making it one of the most desirable Thompson Hotels to visit. The design marries old world tradition and modern architecture, so it’s perfect for travelers of all ages.

The Cape, Cabo Balcony Views

Anyone who’s traveled to Cabo understands the one-of-a-kind serenity that awaits. Views of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez highlight the natural beauty that surrounds its homes and hotels. Want to rent one of these balconies in Cabo? Visit Inspirato.com to learn how.

The Most Beautiful Balcony Views of the Ocean

The Most Beautiful Balcony Views of the Ocean

August 6, 2018

With Americans spending over $100 billion dollars on vacations in 2017 alone, the desire to run away to a beautiful place is stronger now than it’s ever been. Thankfully, vacation rental companies like Inspirato are making the escape as easy as clicking “Book,” but travelers still have to decide where to go. 

Between metropolitan, mountain and oceanfront destinations, many summer vacationers opt for the sound of waves and breathing in the salty ocean air. And what’s better than lounging Oceanside and feeling the breeze? Relaxing on your private balcony with a panoramic ocean view.

Ocean Balcony, Batu Villa, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

View from the balcony at Batu Villa on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

Ocean, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Views of the ocean and lush mountains from Six Senses Ninh Van Bay on Vietnam.

Ocean Balcony, Makana, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Stunning views of the Hawaiian sunset from Makana in Wailea, Maui.

Ocean Balcony, Copa Caneel, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Gorgeous views from Copa Caneel on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ocean Balcony, Casa de Bravo, Valle de Bravo, Mexico

The view from the balcony at Casa de Bravo in Valle de Bravo, Mexico.

Ocean Balcony, Six Senses Zil Payson, Seychelles

Sunset views from the balcony at Six Senses Zil Payson in Seychelles.

Ocean Balcony, Le Sereno, St. Barts, French West Indies

Balcony views from the window at Le Sereno on St. Barts in the French West Indies.

Ocean Balcony, Shorebreak, San Diego

Pacific ocean views from Shorebreak in San Diego, California.

Ocean Balcony, Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venice, Italy

Evening ocean views from the Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venice, Italy.

Ocean, Amanera, Playa Grande, Dominican Republic

Views of the wide open ocean from Amanera in Playa Grande, Dominican Republic.

Copa Caneel, pictured below, is a flawless beachfront villa on the small island treasure of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands that’s only steps from the sand. Nestled into a lush acre of land, travelers can relax on their expansive deck or in their private pool and enjoy the ocean views. With over 5,200 square feet of space and five bedrooms, up to ten people can be accommodated at a time.

Ocean Balcony, Copa Caneel, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Shorebreak is an impressive rental that’s closer to home. Designed for world travelers and beach lovers alike, this 4,000 square foot La Jolla beach house is just a three-minute walk from the water with unbeatable hillside and ocean views. Up to twelve people can comfortably stay in Shorebreak’s five bedrooms, and the wraparound balcony allows guests to ocean gaze in luxury.

Ocean Balcony, Shorebreak, San Diego

Americans have never spent more on vacations, so now more than ever, it’s important that they know their best location and rental options. For the ocean lover, there are salty-aired escapes all around the world, but in order to fully take in its beauty, a balcony view is a must.

Three Mexican Villas in Los Cabos Perfect for Your Next Vacation

Los-Cabos-Hero

Three Mexican Villas in Los Cabos Perfect for Your Next Vacation

May 24, 2018

The dream of a long, beach vacation is one of the things that gets you through your hardest days. Lounging near the ocean with a frozen drink in hand, the sound of your family laughing in the background accenting the rhythmic sound of waves, all indicators of pure bliss and relaxation. So when you go to book your next beach trip, one of these three Mexican Villas in Los Cabos will perfectly accommodate your wildest vacation dreams. 

First up, Joya del Mar, a modern Mexican villa. 

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Los Cabos-Res-Joya Del Mar-Patio Pool Beach Seating
Living Room, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos
Kitchen, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos
Bathroom, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos
Mini Golf Green, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos
Dining Room, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos
Terrace, Joya del Mar, Los Cabos

Welcome to Joya del Mar, a $9.9M oceanfront home within the stunning Punta Ballena community. Nestled in the rocky coastline, guests are invited to enjoy the best that Los Cabos has to offer. Whether you’re swimming in the heated, infinity-edge pool, relaxing in the hot tub overlooking the waves, or dining in the outdoor Palapa on the beach, you’ll be right at home soaking in this ocean paradise. High-end amenities, a breakfast service, and a modern interior design make Joya del Mar one of the most luxurious options in the region.

Next, there’s Costero, an oceanfront villa with a guest casita. Guests will enjoy ultimate luxury in this 3,300 square foot home that can comfortably accommodate up to 10 people. This gorgeous $5M villa sits on the ocean shore, and it even has a guest casita that’s not joined to the main house for added privacy. 

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LosCabos_Res_Costero_ExtHero_0484-Exterior Pool
Kitchen, Costero, Los Cabos
Fire Pit, Costero, Los Cabos
Bathroom, Costero, Los Cabos
Pool, Costero, Los Cabos

With two infinity-edge pools and tons of outdoor space to explore, guests will never want to go inside. An outdoor palapa, fire pit, hot tub, and expansive terrace are just a few of the outdoor attractions at Costero. The home has panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez and Land’s End Arch, and it’s fully of handcrafted furnishings and original Mexican art that reflects the region.

And finally, there’s Villa Oasis. Located inside of the well-known Palmilla community, this beautiful home is truly one-of-a-kind. Large outdoor living spaces, a stunning interior, and plenty of available entertainment options guarantee that guests will have the vacation of a lifetime. And with both ocean and golf course views, you’ll get the best of both worlds every time you look outside.

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Los-Cabos_Palmilla_Villa-Oasis_Pool-Firepit-View Sunset
Master Bedroom, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
Living Room, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
Kitchen, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
Living Room, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
Master Bathroom, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
Hot Tub, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos
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Terrace Dining, Villa Oasis, Los Cabos

Villa Oasis is only a short golf cart ride to the beach, restaurants, golf, and other resort amenities, and there are two golf carts available for guests to use upon their arrival. But if guests prefer to dine at home, there is a fully equipped kitchen available for home chefs as well as an option to dine indoors in the formal dining room or outdoors under the covered terrace. Villa Oasis is the perfect vacation option for beach lovers and sun-seekers alike. 

So the next time you’re planning a beach trip, come see all the beauty Los Cabos, Mexico has to offer. There really isn’t a better place to accommodate all of your wildest vacation dreams.