Five Ways Nature Can Be the Best Medicine

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Five Ways Nature Can Be the Best Medicine

January 10, 2019

Despite an unattractive spring through the airport, I arrive at the gate for my connecting flight too late. The next flight isn’t until the next day, so I now have a day and a night in Vancouver. Nothing against Vancouver, but I’m not happy about the unplanned time here. Also I’ve got a headache. I’m stressed and sad my vacation is now cut short by a day. Until I find Stanley Park.

Vancouver’s 1,001-acre Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America. It’s adjacent to downtown and almost entirely surrounded by water. Within its borders are ever-blooming gardens, about 500,000 cedar, fir and hemlock trees, a 5.5-mile paved seaside pathway (the Seawall), over 40 miles of dirt trails through the park’s interior and a collection of First Nation totem poles, among other things. The more I wander around Stanley Park, the more I wish I had longer to explore. Kiosks rent bikes. There are horse- drawn carriage rides and a shuttle trolley. Joggers and rollerbladers crowd the Seawall. The views of the city, craggy mountains rising verdantly behind, from the Seawall are spectacular, but evidently the park’s best views are from the Brockton Point Lighthouse, which I pass over in favor of the totem pole collection.

The longer I’m in the park, the more I relax. By the time I’m back at my hotel for the night, after a couple of hours wandering the woods, I’m not longer sad, and also no longer have a headache. Both history—going back to early Chinese medicine and Roman doctors—and recent scientific studies show I’m not imagining that my time in the outdoors has helped my mood. Spending time in nature can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms and hostility, while at the same time improving cognitive function and sleep. (A book that touches on both the historical use of time outside as a therapy and also on recent studies is Your Brain on Nature, by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND. It is amazingly informative without being the least bit dull.)

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It turns out the beauty of travel is more than meets the eye. It goes all the way to your brain, if you take the time to plan an outdoor activity or two. (The science shows it doesn’t matter what you do outside; it’s the being outside that counts.)

Free Rx: Trees and plants secrete chemicals called phytoncides that impact our cognition, mental state and immune systems in ways science is only beginning to understand: Experimental studies have shown that phytoncides can lower the production of stress hormones, reduce anxiety and increase pain threshold; higher phytoncides cause increased production of anticancer proteins in the blood.

Park City, Utah: Ski (And Shoot) with Olympic Spirit

Park City has succeeded where many Olympic host cities have failed: It has kept the venues constructed for its Games alive and open. Here you can go bobsledding and watch ski jumpers train. The area’s Olympic spirit is most alive at Soldier Hollow, the site of the 2002 Games’ cross-country skiing and biathlon events. Today you can ski on the same 20 miles of skating and classic trails Olympians trained and raced on. Since one of the state’s best Nordic ski schools is here too, it doesn’t matter if your experience level is decidedly non-Olympian. Private skate and classic lessons are available daily, and there are scheduled group lessons for classic skiing every weekday. Group lessons are Saturdays and Sundays.

Soldier Hollow is also one of the few places int he U.S. you can give biathlon a try. A mysterious sport, for Americans, at least, because we so rarely see it, biathlon is a combination of Nordic skiing and target shooting. Soldier Hollow’s programs range from one-hour “Bronze Level” introductory shooting class (no skiing and you shoot from 10 meters) to a two-hour “Gold Level” experience, which includes ski gear and shooting .22 Olympic rifles on the Olympic range. (The shooting only happens after you’ve taken a safety clinic, also included in the program.)

Stress Test: Think you don’t have stress? It’s all relative. In a 151-country Gallup World Poll, Americans’ stress levels ranked fifth- highest.

Nevis: The Ultimate Locavore

Diving at the Four Seasons Nevis does double duty. The resort has teamed up with the Caribbean island’s original SCUBA outfit to help you hunt your own dinner. Have you ever lassoed a lobster? Their kitchen then turns your catch into a gourmet fireside feast on the beach. Generations of Nevisian divers have harvested Caribbean Spiny Lobsters—some up to five pounds—just one mile out from the Four Seasons’ beach. Your dive starts on the dive boat’s deck with a lesson on how to properly lasso a lobster—slide the specialized lasso around its tail from behind and then cinch it. After a few practice lassos, you strap on your diving gear, drop off the boat’s side and head down. You’ll see colorful corals, feather dusters and possibly even stingrays, but the dive master and resort chef have their eyes peeled for lobster. If you can’t lasso a lobster because they’re too fast—the latter might have been the case when I was on the hunt—the staff are professional backup.

Once back on land with lobsters in hand, you turn your catch over to the kitchen, where it disappears until lunch- or dinnertime. When it’s time to eat, head to the beach, where you’ll enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres while either lounging in front of a driftwood fire or watching the chefs work their magic in an open-air gourmet kitchen. When the chefs are done, take your custom, all-lobster menu— each course paired with a wine, of course— into a private beach cabana and savor your successes. Lobster sashimi, anyone?

Smart Walks: At least one study has shown that a nature hike elevates the neurosteroid DHEA, which declines with aging and whose administration has been shown to improve cognitive functioning in adults. An urban walk of the same duration did not have this effect on DHEA.

Bali: Serenity by the Bay

Sunrise or sunset? In your private villa courtyard with birds singing overhead, the beach pavilion with a background soundtrack of Jimbaran Bay’s crashing waves or under palm trees on the expansive, frangipani-scented lawn facing the beach? Such are the difficult choices when arranging for yoga, tai chi or guided meditation at Belmond Jimbaran Puri, on Bali’s southern tip. “Having a deep connection with nature can enhance your practice, increase wakeful relaxation and internal focus,” says Ida Ayu Citra, a yogi at the island’s Surya Candra Bhuana studio and school who has been doing private sessions at Belmont for more than five years. “You can feel limitless and open as you look up to the sky, or out at the ocean—your breath will be bigger.” Sessions are 30 or 60 minutes and can be modified for all levels of practice and experience. “Sixty minutes is best,” Citra says. “More time to establish a deep connection with the earth, sky and ocean.” Yogis typically do Ashtanga and Hatha yoga, with some Balinese modifications. If you don’t feel like anything physical, there’s also the option of claiming a teak chaise lounge under the palm trees at the resort’s infinity pool.

Mellow Out: Stress is one of the biggest factors of mental fatigue, yet spending time in nature has been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol. It follows then that since nature can help you avert mental fatigue, time spent outside could improve cognitive health.

Napa Valley: Biking with Benefits

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You’d think wine country would be a place of rest. Maybe even som overindulgence. Then there’s Napa Valley, where rest and overindulgence are certainly allowed and encouraged, and where there’s also a winery founded and run by the Clifs, the same family behind the popular sports performance food brand Clif. The winery, Clif Family Winery just south of downtown St. Helena, welcomes everyone, but it is cyclists who flock there. Its tasting room is called Velo Vino and there, alongside wine and espresso, are branded bike shorts, jerseys and bottles. Staff can give recommendations for rides throughout the valley. Most of the people in the line at its food truck, Bruschetteria, sport spandex and bike shoes. “I know riders plan their route so that they hit the food truck when they’ve got about a quarter of their ride left,” says Thatcher Greene, a Calistoga Bikeshop rep who was born and raised in the valley. “They stop for some tasty bruschetta and a rest and then finish up.”

“The road riding here is world-class because you can be very selective with what kind of ride you want to do and there is so much scenery to see,” Greene says. “You can go out for a flat, mellow cruiser ride, or a 100-mile ride with climbs that have 20 percent grades. Add the great food and wine and amenities that come with being in a wine destination and you’ve got a five-star package.”

For a “mellow ride through pretty scenery on the most excellent shoulders in the valley” Green recommends Silverado Trail. This road is home to dozens of wineries. Ride as long as you want—stopping at as many wineries as you want—and then turn around. “You can hop on this road anywhere in the valley,” he says.

Cyclists looking for a challenge should check in at Clif Family Winery or the Calistoga Bikeshop for details on riding the Oakville Grade to Dry Creek or Howell Mountain to Pope Valley. Both of these are loops with “good, solid climbs off the valley floor,” says Greene. Thankfully the 1,500-foot climb up Howell is slightly blunted by the scenery—the mountain is terraced with vineyards; grapes from Howell vines go into some of Napa’s best wines, including several of the Spire Collection’s seven Napa wineries. I love wine and cycling equally, but the high- speed, twisty descent through pine forest off the backside of Howell Mountain down into Pope Valley excited me more than any wine I’ve ever had, including the 2010 Dancing Hares cabernet blend (95 points from Wine Advocate) I enjoyed at the Michelin-starred Solbar at Solage Calistoga the evening after my ride.

Fly-Fishing South Carolina’s Kiawah Island

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Fly-Fishing South Carolina's Kiawah Island

December 10, 2018

As we round a grassy, flooded corner of Kiawah Island, moving slowly in Capt. John Irwin’s flats boat, all three of us onboard begin scanning the shoreline for fish. Irwin spots one first. “We’ve got a belly-crawler at 2 o’clock, about 20 feet in,” he announces. “You see him?”

Charleston-based angler/artist/musician Paul Puckett is standing on the bow, fly rod in hand. He sees the fish a split-second after Irwin does, and makes a perfect cast, landing the fly 6 inches in front of the feeder’s nose. It pounces without hesitation, coming clear out of the water to eat the fly and connect Puckett with 5 pounds of hard-fighting red drum, a.k.a. redfish, one of the most popular game fish in America.

As he’s bringing it to the boat, a man yells “Fore!” from an adjacent golf course, and I instinctively duck my head. Such are the risks of fishing in coastal South Carolina.

Kiawah is a barrier island along the South Carolina coast, sitting about 20 miles south of Charleston. It is known primarily as a golf destination—a fair assessment, considering that five acclaimed courses weave around the island’s 11 square miles, including the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, host of the 2012 PGA Championship. But many anglers have discovered that Kiawah and the surrounding area is also an exceptional fly-fishing destination, especially for tailing redfish found in the Spartina-grass salt marshes.

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“The endless interconnected creeks and rivers here make it easy to forget that you’re fishing close to civilization,” says Puckett. “Even with some of the best shops and restaurants really close by, Kiawah’s not quite as developed as other towns, so whether you’re wading or in a boat, you feel like you’re on your own private island.”

Indeed, most of Kiawah is a private island. Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission, through a partnership with Kiawah Development Partners, offers a beautiful public beach on the west end of the island called Kiawah Beachwalker Park. But beyond that, Kiawah is essentially a gated community, albeit one with many rentable vacation properties, where it’s possible to find fish on foot or in a rental car without even leaving dry land.

“There are brackish ponds on Kiawah that hold lots of big redfish,” says local photographer Jason Stemple, who spent five years as the staff photographer for Kiawah Development Partners, exploring the island every day, including its creeks and marshes. “It’s pretty hit or miss. Sometimes you can pull up to a pond, hop out and see fish right away. Other times you can cast for hours and never see a thing. But each little creek is unique, and has the possibility of holding belly-crawling, shrimp- gobbling redfish.” (Kiawah also has a few freshwater-fed springs and ponds with good largemouth bass fishing, along with other fish that can survive in brackish water, like carp and tarpon.)

These belly-crawlers that both Stemple and Irwin refer to are redfish that have come into very shallow water at “flood tide” to feed, swimming half-exposed—sometimes even their eyeballs are above water—through stretches of Spartina grass that look like a flooded hayfield. A flood tide is the term for the highest high tides of each month. The food chain on these flooded flats goes something like this: flyfisher chasing redfish; redfish chasing blue crabs or fiddler crabs; crabs chasing the snails that cling to the stalks of grass. The result is a unique and challenging visual fishery for three or four days on both sides of a new or full moon. “Tailers” are redfish that are nose-down, eating in the mud or grass, with their tail sticking above the water, often wiggling from side to side.

“We usually get two sets of flood tides each month between
May and November, which keeps us pretty satisfied,” says Puckett. “There’s just something special about being able to see a fish before you catch it.” Stemple adds that shooting pictures of redfish during a flood tide offers the best opportunity to photograph them without a human involved. “It’s the only time they take a part of their body and place it in our world,” he says. “Flood-tide tailers give you the best chance, whether fishing or photographing, of stalking an individual fish in the most visual way possible.”

As great as flood tides are, they’re certainly not the only time to catch redfish. Nor are redfish the only quarry worth chasing around Kiawah Island. On two consecutive mornings fishing with Irwin and Stemple, a black drum at low tide was my first fish of the day. Black drum are a close cousin to red drum, but grow even larger, with a few recorded catches of more than 100 pounds. Mine were both about 4 pounds, and were just losing the vertical dark stripes they sport as juveniles— markings that sometimes cause them to be mistaken for another Lowcountry specimen, the sheepshead.

The state fish of South Carolina is the striped bass, but with stripers falling on hard times of late, visitors to Kiawah target everything from dorado to cobia to seatrout to sharks to amberjack to false albacore— even the occasional tarpon. We saw several fishermen targeting sharks close to shore, but offshore options are also available, especially during summer months, when bluewater captains use bigger boats to target species like wahoo, snapper, grouper, tuna, mackerel and billfish.

We caught redfish each day on both dropping and rising tides. Some were tailing in the shallowest water of a small bay, some were milling about near the mouths of creeks, waiting for the tide to rise, and a few bigger fish were found cruising alone or in pairs, looking for unsuspecting shrimp, crabs or glass minnows, or working the oyster beds, which they love. All of this was sight-fishing—the best kind of fly-fishing—and would not have been possible without clear water, which doesn’t always occur, especially in summertime. Nor is it possible without the eyes of a competent guide, which Irwin certainly is. It doesn’t hurt, either, that he grew up spending summers on Kiawah, or that his father still lives there, giving him easy access to boat ramps, as well as the occasional golf game.

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“I spent seven years guiding for trout in southwest Montana,” Irwin says. “But I decided to return home in 2001, get my captain’s license and focus on the fish I grew up with. Plus, it’s warmer here.”

Trading south Montana for South Carolina also allows Irwin to
guide year-round—a huge bonus for a career that’s often seasonal. To accommodate both inshore and near shore clients, he has an 18-foot skiff for redfishing and other shallow-water endeavors, and a 23-foot V-hull boat for trips to the ocean side of the barrier islands, when chasing migrating fish like dorado (also called mahimahi or dolphinfish.)

Come fall, flood tides in South Carolina can last longer than in spring or summer, which keeps most fly-fishers targeting redfish. But as temperatures drop during winter, crabs start hibernating, causing fewer redfish to feed on the flats during high tides. While this reduces the number of tailing redfish, it causes them to school up into larger groups. Winter is when some of the biggest schools of reds can be found, sometimes along the beach, but also in the same marshes they occupy the rest of the year. It’s also when redfish will push into very skinny water to try to avoid dolphins (the mammal, not the dorado)—one of their major predators. If you’ve ever seen an Internet video showing dolphins “herding” redfish and mullet onto dry land, chances are it was filmed near Kiawah Island.

The climate of Kiawah makes redfishing a year-round sport, and with several guides offering early morning or late afternoon options to match the best fishing conditions, it’s possible to get in nine holes or a game of tennis and still have time for fishing the same day.
Three great fly shops in the area—Charleston Angler in Charleston, Lowcountry Fly Shop in Mount Pleasant and Bay Street Outfitters in Beaufort—all have knowledgeable staff that can outfit you or connect you with a guide. In addition to Irwin, Captain Mike Tucker lives and works on Kiawah, offering anglers both fly and light-tackle charters.

If you’re interested in lessons instead of, or in addition to,
a chartered trip, Bay Street Outfitters offers several one-day “Redfish Schools” throughout the year, focusing mostly on casting, knots and flies. Irwin teaches seminars as well, which are run through Charleston Angler. He also hosts several two- day redfish schools throughout the year, scheduling them to coincide with flood tides. “Having the two-day classes works best,” Irwin says, “because it allows people to screw everything up on the first day, and still redeem themselves on the second.” It also provides what all anglers want from every redfishing trip we take: one more day on the water.

Why Travelers Who Visit Alaska Return Over and Over Again

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Why Travelers Who Visit Alaska Return Over and Over Again

October 18, 2018

Once in Alaska, it doesn’t take long to understand how the place can upend a person’s travel life. In a good way. Alaska either grabs your heart and your imagination, or it doesn’t. (When it doesn’t? Well, I don’t understand that, but it happens.) But if it does? There’s a good chance future vacation planning conversations will start with, “Well, we could go back to Alaska again.” 

The more you learn about Alaska, the more you want to see of it. A cruise is a great sampler platter, but don’t expect it’ll make you cross off Alaska from your “to see” list. It will rev up your hunger for more of this most dramatic, diverse state.

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Ask around when touring the state and you’re sure to meet other travelers who came to gaze out on a pod of orcas swimming around Prince William Sound or to see bears or a massive bull moose, the latter’s antlers weighing up to 80 pounds, from a cruise ship. They visited for the chance to step out on a glacier with a guide leading the way or to try their hand at salmon fishing, hoping to ship enough reds back home for an elaborate dinner party.

That all stuck with them when they got home. So, another Alaska trip. And then another. Visitors here return again and again because their fishing skill exceeds their expectations (and the taste of the salmon is even better). They want more of the quiet they experienced while hiking through the thick of an old growth forest, dense with more greens than one could ever imagine—from dark green spruce tips to bright green mosses. 

They return for the unexpected variety: The public art in Ketchikan; the lazy paddling around Sitka’s islands; the chance to learn about Alaska’s rich Native heritage in some of the finest small museums imaginable and the stories of the Tlingit and Haida people who have lived in Southeast Alaska for thousands of years.

That all, of course, is both an endorsement and a warning. Your future may require more rain gear. I was a return tripper myself. Now? I still call myself a New Yorker, but I’m a full-time Alaska resident.

But first, the cruise, an introduction to one of Alaska’s many regions. Watch for a circle of bubbles rising up in the water—a sign that a group of humpbacks is feeding below. Bubbles. Bubbles. Bubbles. And then a massive burst of energy as the whales come to the surface to catch the fish caught in their “net.” It’s always surprising. Also keep watch for the state ferries, dressed up in blue and yellow. The Inside Passage doubles as the Alaska Marine Highway, the only all-water National Scenic Byway in the country. The ferry service—which started in 1949—shuttles nurses to their jobs, basketball teams to tournaments and cargo to the towns that dot the state’s shoreline.

Listen for the sound of giant blocks of ice calving off of Hubbard Glacier. Speed along on a Zodiac for an up-close (but not too close) look at icebergs and South Sawyer Glacier. Visit the wee fishing settlement of Elfin Cove—which blooms to 100 people during the busy summers. Once winter rolls in, making access to Elfin Cove challenging, the population drops somewhere south of 20 hearty souls. Wander the town’s boardwalks before going to visit the area’s other inhabitants by Zodiac—the sea lions and otters await. (And, yes, they really are as amusing as you imagine.)

Another warning: Alaska is both a photographer’s delight and greatest frustration. Even for pros. It doesn’t take long to realize that, despite the oohs and aahs your photos will garner back home, they don’t capture that the glacier stretching across the frame sits 1,800 inches thick and 32 miles long. Or the details of wildlife. Puffins in particular all too frequently end up as blurry blobs in images. These birds, which stand only 10 inches tall, jet past at speeds up to 55 mph.

No matter, memories both large and small will forever stay in your mind. And your urging of friends to make the trip themselves—“You can’t understand until you see Alaska for yourself ”—will probably include a follow-up sentence: “Hey, we should all go together.”

Pedal the Val d’Orcia to Experience the Essence of Tuscany

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Pedal the Val d’Orcia to Experience the Essence of Tuscany

August 14, 2018

Tuscany is always a good idea. When your mind dreams of the Italian countryside—the stuff of Renaissance paintings and Puccini’s operas—the Val d’Orcia is where it’s wandering. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Val d’Orcia is the essence of Tuscany. One of the most intimate ways to experience it is from the saddle of a bike, when there’s nothing between you and the region’s sights and smells—or between you and that gorgeous Tuscan sun.

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Villa Azzurri is a restored farmhouse that can accommodate up to 10 guests.

The Val d’Orcia begins south of the provincial capital Siena and continues to the volcanic landmark, Monte Amiata. Its rolling, cyprus-tree-studded hills are best suited to touring bikes so you can access the many miles of unpaved backroads and trails. This network triangulates within the villages of Pienza (a 15th-century urban-planning experiment from the mind of Pope Pius II), Radicofani (once the stronghold of the 13th-century gentleman bandit, Ghino di Tacco) and Montalcino (the appellation of the famed Italian varietal, Brunello di Montalcino). 

Here you may taste Sangiovese and Trebbiano wines, nibble on pecorino cheese, and lose yourself in a land where you can practically hear an angelic soprano singing Puccini with every pedal stroke.

Villa San Bartolomeo, Tuscany, Italy
Villa San Bartolomeo, a historic villa that's been fully updated.

If you’re looking to experience Tuscany as authentically as possible, choosing the right accommodations is essential. Inspirato has a few options for your next stay. First, there’s Monticelli, a six-bedroom farmhouse tucked away in the rolling Tuscan hills. Next, there’s Villa San Bartolomeo, a historic Italian villa that sleeps 12 guests and boasts much of its original charm. Finally, there’s Villa Azzurri, another restored farmhouse on an Italian hillside.

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Monticelli is a contemporary farmhouse in the Italian countryside.

It’s time to add pedaling the Val d’Orcia to your bucket list. Tuscany is notoriously one of the most beautiful places in the world, and there’s no better way to experience it than on the back of a bicycle riding the winding gravel roads.

Gorgeous Natural Destinations for Adventurous Travelers

Gorgeous Natural Destinations for Adventurous Travelers

June 6, 2018

There are two types of travelers: the adventurer and the comfort-seeker. Neither type is right or wrong, they’re merely matters of preference, but some destinations are simply not cut out for the comfort-seeker. The gorgeous natural destinations featured in the slideshow below are for adventurous travelers only.

Only the most adventurous of travelers will take a chance on the beauty of Antartica.

Drive the winding roads of St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies.

Natural Destinations, Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Watch the sunset at Amanyara, a hotel in Turks and Caicos that's built into its natural surroundings.

Natural Destination, Xhale Villa, St. Lucia

The lush mountains of St. Lucia are the perfect setting for relaxation and meditation.

Beaver Creek, CO Westin Riverfront Hotel

Excitement and serenity await those kayaking down the legendary Beaver Creek in Colorado.

Natural Destination, Gstaad, Switzerland

Walk the winding paths among summertime greenery and mountains in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Natural Destination, Copa Caneel,St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Lounge in the hammock at Copa Caneel on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Natural Destination, Telluride, Colorado

Traverse the pink-hued fields at sunset in Telluride, a gorgeous mountain town in Colorado.

Natural Destination, Mykonos, Greece

Soak up the fresh, ocean air in the beautiful coastal town of Mykonos in Greece.

Natural Destinations, Big Sur, California

Cruise along California's coastline and stop in at Big Sur, one of the state's most beautiful destinations.

Natural Destination, Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky, Montana is one of America's best kept secrets and a must-see for nature lovers.

Natural Destinations, Vancouver, British Columbia

Walk the hazy hiking trails of Vancouver, British Columbia in the springtime.

Natural Destination, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Wailea is one of the most beautifully treacherous places in Maui.

Natural Destinations, Zermatt, Switzerland

Explore the stunning mountain scenery in Zermatt, Switzerland.

When the two types of travelers go on vacation, they are each searching for drastically different things. The comfort-seeker prefers destinations with predictability, easy transportation, and a large variety of places to lounge on site. On the other hand, the adventurer prefers to be surprised, even challenged, every step of the way.

Adventurers love when their destinations require multiple forms of transportation to get there, i.e. a flight to a ferry ride to horseback, while comfort-seekers might request a pre-paid car to meet them at the airport the minute they land. Comfort-seekers like to know what they’re getting into before they arrive, while adventurous travelers prefer the road less traveled. Predictability is what sets these two types of travelers apart.

Caribbean Adventurous Travelers

There are plenty of island destinations in the Caribbean that are perfect for the comfort-seeker. Jamaica, The Bahamas, even Turks and Caicos are ideal for travelers seeking predictable transportation, resorts, and languages.

Some islands in the West Indies are less predictable, like St. Kitts and Nevis, a 100 square-mile area with less than 60,000 residents known for it’s expert-level hikes, winding roads, and untouched beauty. And while the crime rate is still a conversation topic, if travelers don’t walk alone at night in urban areas, there should be nothing to worry about…although carrying around a can of pepper spray couldn’t hurt.

Another destination only the most adventurous of travelers would enjoy is Antarctica. Crossing Drake’s Passage, the world’s most tumultuous body of water, is only one of the discomforts Antarctic adventurers will have to endure. Staying on board is your first task.

Of course, once sailors reach the peninsula, the seas are about as calm as they come. As Antarctica’s tourism scene grows, the ships get bigger and the amenities get richer, making this adventure less dangerous (and way less uncomfortable) than it’s ever been.

Antartica Adventurous Travelers

There are two types of travelers, meaning there are two types of destinations: those for the comfort-seeker and those for the adventurer. Thankfully, there are plenty of travelers that fall on both sides of the spectrum, so no destination will ever go untraveled or unloved. If you’re not sure which end you fall on, perhaps you might give one of the adventurous destinations above a try to figure it out. 

Unforgettable Destinations You Have to Visit At Least Once

Unforgettable Destinations You Have to Visit At Least Once

June 6, 2018

The world isn’t lacking in desirable destinations for travelers to explore. When it comes time to think about the next vacation, it’s easy for planners to get overwhelmed by the question, “Where to next?” The slideshow below features unforgettable destinations travelers have to visit at least once, making that questions a little bit easier to answer.

Destination, Llao Llao, Bariloche, Argentina

The Llao Llao Hotel surrounded by lakes and mountains in Bariloche, Argentina.

The Infinity Pool at Alila Ubud in Bali, Indonesia.

Amanyara, Turks and Caicos, Exterior

Open-air villas at Amanyara in Turks and Caicos.

Casa Romana, Marbella, Spain

The indoor pool at Casa Romana in Marbella, Spain.

Destination Xhale Villa, St. Lucia

The views from the balcony at St. Lucia's most luxurious home, Xhale Villa.

Unforgettable Destinations, Big Sky, MNontana

Wide open sunsets in beautiful Big Sky, Montana.

Destination, Gansevoort Villas, Turks and Caicos

The Gansevoort Villas on the rocky coastline in Turks and Caicos.

Destinations, Alpina Gstaad Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland

Cozy accommodations at the Alpina Gstaad Hotel in the Swiss Alps.

Destination Austin, Texas

The historic Pennybacker Bridge in Austin, Texas.

Unforgettable Desinations, Hale Kalea, Kohala Coast_Hawaii

The Hale Kalea estate sits above the crashing waves on the Kohala Coast on Hawaii.

Unforgettable Destinations, Chateau Mondeau, Whistler, British Columbia

The beautifully eerie and enchanting Chateau Mondeau in Whistler, British Columbia.

These unforgettable destinations can be found all around the world. The Llao Llao Hotel in Bariloche is a little known treasure surrounded by natural beauty in the Argentine Patagonia, and from the balcony at Xhale Villa in St. Lucia, the views of the West Indies and the Caribbean can’t be beat. 

For travelers who want to experience a fairy tale, the Chateau Mondeau in Whistler, British Columbia is a must-visit. This multi-million dollar mountain chalet offers gorgeous views in the summer and direct ski access in the winter.

Unforgettable Destinations, Chateau Mondeau, Whistler, British Columbia

But if travelers are looking to travel far into the Pacific, the striking infinity pool at Alila Ubud in Bali is nestled into the smoky mountains. Although, if travelers are looking for indoor marvels, the indoor pool at Casa Romana in Marbella, Spain is stunning.

Travelers will never be able to forget the unique, open-air villas at Amanyara or the luxurious Gansevoort Villas located on the rocky coast of Turks and Caicos. For mountain-lovers, the Alpina Gstaad hotel (pictured below) in the Swiss Alps has the perfect accommodations to relax and unwind. 

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The historic Pennybacker Bridge in Austin is another must-see destination, but if travelers prefer to head north in the summertime, wide-open sunsets contribute to their namesake in Big Sky, Montana. And if travelers are able to see all of the destinations listed in the slideshow above, they don’t need to fret—there are countless other vacation experiences to explore.

One-of-a-Kind Vacation Experiences That’ll Change Your Life

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One-of-a-Kind Vacation Experiences That'll Change Your Life

June 1, 2018

Vacations are an opportunity for rest and for taking a break from work, routines, and everyday stresses. In addition to offering a much-needed reprieve from the ordinary, vacations allow travelers to visit new locations, to have new experiences, and to add a little adventure to their lives. If you’re planning to take a trip in the near future, the slideshow below features one-of-a-kind experiences for you to consider that are sure to change your life.

Walk the historic shores of Italy's famous Lake Como at sunset.

Float between giant boulders surrounding Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

Cross the Pont de Pierre bridge in France's fairy tale town of Bordeaux.

Experience, Llao Llao, Bariloche, Argentina

Soak in the mountain views in the pool at the Llao Llao resort in Bariloche, Argentina.

Experiences, Big Sky, Montana

Fish in the rushing rivers at sunset in Big Sky, Montana.

Vacation Experiences, Alila Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

Visit the world class spa at Bali's finest beach resort, Alila Seminyak.

Experience, Xhale Villa, St. Lucia

Meditate at the edge of the world at St. Lucia's most luxurious home, Xhale Villa.

Vacation Experiences, Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico

Escape to the tropical paradise of Puerto Rico at Bahia Beach Resort.

Experience, Amanyara, Turks and Caicos

Embrace the beauty of the Caribbean in Amanyara's open-air villas.

Experiences, Alpina Gstaad Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland

Dive into the one-of-a-kind pool at the Alpina Gstaad Hotel in Switzerland.

Experiences, Big Sur, California

Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway through beautiful Big Sur on California's coast.

Experiences, Gansevoort Villas, Turks and Caicos

Jump off of the floating deck at the Gansevoort Villas in Turks and Caicos.

Fire Pit, Costero, Los Cabos

Watch the sunset by the fire pit at Costero in Los Cabos.

Destinations Hot Tub, Alpina Gstaad Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland

Relax in the hot tub in the snowy Swiss Alps at the Alpina Gstaad Hotel in Switzerland.

Vacation Experiences, Zermatt, Switzerland

Wander through the smoky trails of the Swiss Alps in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Vacation Experiences, Whistler, British Columbia

Bungee jump with the best views in North America in Whistler, British Columbia.

For those looking for a more historic—and romantic—experience, walking the shores of Italy’s notoriously beautiful Lake Como or crossing Bordeaux’s famous Pont de Pierre bridge in France at sunset are great options. Adventurous travelers would love floating or snorkeling between enormous boulders on the coastline of Virgin Gorda (pictured below) in the British Virgin Islands, and beauty-seekers would love soaking in the pool while soaking up the snow-topped mountain views at Llao Llao in Bariloche, Argentina.

Vacation Experience Featured Image Virgin Gorda

Escaping to a tropical paradise is as easy as staying at Puerto Rico’s Bahia Beach Resort or embracing the beauty of Turks and Caicos in an open-air villa at Amanyara. If travelers are willing to go long distances, the world class spa at Alila Seminyak in Bali offers ultimate relaxation. Other relaxing options include meditating on the edge of the world (or the infinity-edge pool) in St. Lucia or diving into the indoor pool, pictured below, at the spa in the Alpina Gstaad Hotel in the Swiss Alps.

Vacation Experience Gstaad Spa Featured Image

Travelers seeking a life-changing vacation experiences are also invited to drive up the pacific coastline for stunning views of Big Sur in California, to fish in the rushing rivers of Big Sky, or to jump off the floating deck at the Gansevoort Villas. The final one-of-a-kind experience featured in the slideshow involves a fire pit, a sunset, and endless natural beauty at Costero, an upscale rental home in Los Cabos. For travelers looking to take a break from the ordinary on their next vacation, the options are endless.

How to See the Costa Rica That Tourists Usually Miss

How to See the Costa Rica That Tourists Usually Miss

Natural treasures of all kinds can be found in the Central American country of Costa Rica. History aficionados love the capital city of San Jose, beach bums have the choice of Pacific or Atlantic Ocean views, and adventure junkies can hike or zipline through the rainforests. Costa Rica has something for everybody. Read through four of the must-see stops that tourists miss below.

Not sure where you’ll stay during your trip to the island? Check out Costa Rica’s best kept secret, Villa Vientos, in the slideshow below.

CaciqueCostaRica_Res_Vientos_exterior pool night

This beautiful standalone villa can accommodate up to eight guests with four bedrooms and bathrooms.

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Guests can enjoy the views at Villa Vientos from inside or on the expansive terrace.

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While the villa is just a five-minute drive from the beach, it also has a pool for guests to lounge or swim.

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Daily housekeeping and breakfast preparation will make guests feel like royalty.

CaciqueCostaRica_Res_Vientos_Pool View sunset

The sunset views from Villa Vientos' terrace are perfect for after-dinner lounging.

CaciqueCostaRica_Res_Vientos_bedroom

Luxury bedding and a warm interior design will make guests feel right at home.

CaciqueCostaRica_Res_Vientos_Landing Entryway

The unique design details in this home give off a much desired beachside vibe.

Costa-Rica-Cacique_waterfall

The rainforests in Costa Rica are some of the most beautiful in the world with wildlife and waterfalls.

Costa-Rica-Cacique volcano

Arenal Volcano is an active volcano that visitors from around the world come to experience.

Costa-Rica-Cacique hot springs

Soaking in the volcano-fed hot springs of Arenal Volcano is the perfect end to a long hike.

Relaxing in Volcano-Fed Hot Springs

The hot springs at the Arenal Volcano are some of the most unique in the world, surrounded by lush rainforests and volcano views…just be ready to run if you hear a rumble.

Hike the Cloud Forest

Costa Rica’s tropical climate is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, especially in places like the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica. Not only will visitors have plenty of cool wildlife to see, the misty forest is the perfect photo op for adventurers.

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Visit a Chocolate Plantation

Who doesn’t want to see how this favorite food is made? With plenty of options for day tours and taste testing, chocolate lovers will adore this uniquely Costa Rican experience.

Float Down the Tortuguero Canals

This northeastern region of Costa Rica isn’t accessible by car, and it’s the perfect excursion for nature lovers and solace seekers. As visitors float down the canal, they’ll see an abundance of wildlife in the heart of the rainforest.

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And finally, to experience the best of Costa Rica, it’s important to find accommodations that let you soak in the natural beauty of the country. One home in particular, Villa Vientos, is a perfect option. View Villa Vientos in the slideshow above.