The Latest Trend in Creating Memories with Travel Photography

The Latest Trend in Creating Memories with Travel Photography 3

The Latest Trend in Creating Memories with Travel Photography

February 13, 2020

Selfie stick, step aside. The new trend in creating unforgettable travel pics is the personal travel photographer, who documents your trip and delivers gorgeous, high-quality photos—without you having to snap a shot. Societal norms are rapidly shifting around hiring a travel photographer; it’s now considered akin to hiring a photographer for a wedding. Fueling the trend: the growing recognition that the travel photos a pro takes are a different order of magnitude than the ones you can snap on the fly with your phone. Admit it: You probably struggle with photo fatigue, whether it’s rooted in roping in a stranger to take a group shot, contorting for a collective selfie, or resigning yourself to be the designated documenter. While those strategies may be good enough for a Facebook post or Instagram feed, the benefit of hiring a professional means you’re guaranteed to end up with genuine, timeless keepers—photos you will actually want to blow up, frame, and treasure.

If this sounds more savvy than splurgy, Flytographer (basically Airbnb for travel photographers) will connect you with a professional, fully vetted photographer in over 275 cities worldwide. Or explore a more immersive experience with a private photographer who shadows your family all day to capture an intimate—and unforgettable—day-in-the-life. Inspirato talked to both Flytographer and Casie Zalud, an independent documentary family photographer, to explain why good vacation shots are worth every penny.

According to Flytographer founder Nicole Smith, a former Microsoft executive, the personal photographer movement coincides with the rise of people recognizing the value of experiences over “stuff.”

The Latest Trend in Creating Memories with Travel Photography

“Our clients have found the most memorable mementos are professional-quality vacation photos,” Smith said. (Enjoy the relief of calling off the search for the perfect souvenir.) She discovered this firsthand, when the idea for Flytographer arose after a trip she took with her best friend to Paris six years ago. “The photos we had taken of ourselves and the ones we had asked strangers to snap were disappointing,” she said, “so we asked a friend living in the city to take some shots. We ended up with stunning images that captured the spirit of the trip.” She founded the company in 2013—as a side project. Since then, burgeoning demand has spurred aggressive growth, and the company keeps upscaling. Flytographer offers packages that range from 30 minutes to two hours: Prices start at $250 and go up to $650, with customers receiving a complete set of digital images within five days of the meeting. “Most people opt for 60 to 90 minutes,” she said, “because it does take a little time to warm up to the camera.”

The success of companies such as Flytographer suggest that our best defense against visual overload may be discrimination. “With Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, we’ve become a much more visual world, and in particular, there’s been an explosion of visual storytelling,” Smith said. Our devices bombard us with images in our feeds, posts, texts, and emails.

And we are active participants in the scrum: One estimate from InfoTrends Worldwide is that we each take roughly 10 photos a day. The antidote? Seeking out professional photographers who can take extraordinary shots of what makes travel so special.

If you opt for a private photographer such as Zalud, another perk of the experience is that she will capture the moments traditionally not thought of as camera-ready. A documentary photographer, Zalud aspires to bring the unscripted intimacy of real life into the frame—the private, fleeting exchanges that define your family’s unique constellation. Zalud “stays with your family and photographs everything from the littles having Cheerios in their PJs to sleigh ride dinners, ice skating, swimming, the wee one’s first days on skis, and anything else you plan.” To put the family at ease, Zalud puts in extra effort to establish rapport. She comes over for dinner with her clients the night before the shoot, befriends the kids, and familiarizes herself with the family dynamic. She aims for the vulnerable underbelly of family life, not just the cookie-cutter highlights.

Zalud speaks of her favorite photos she’s caught: a very tall father carrying his son in his ski harness as if he were a suitcase, a boy’s first triumphant cycling ascent of a steep hill, a mother falling into a river as the rest of the family fishes.

“I offer this because it’s what I myself crave—someone who can capture my family from the inside.” Her full-day rate, which starts at $2,100, includes an online slideshow—a digitally edited selection of the day’s highlights set to music.

Whatever option you choose, your travel milestones will include everyone in the picture. And that means a collective sigh of relief for all involved (especially the moms). “Vacation photos allow the entire family to slow down and be more present,” Zalud said.

People still harbor negative preconceptions about hiring a personal photographer, chalking it up to millennial narcissism, Smith said. “But it’s so much more than that. It’s for all the big life moments, from friend getaways, solo trips, proposals, honeymoons, to golden anniversaries and family reunions.” It’s less “Insta” gratification and more about what hangs for decades on your private walls. One bonus of booking a flytographer is they double as an informal local tour guide, sharing a treasury of tips on the best things to eat, see, and do, along with the places to avoid. A perk of working with a documentary family photographer, on the other hand, is the chance to capture the less obvious, quirkier nuances of family life. With both models, many clients stay in touch with the photographers and become friends.

The Latest Trend in Creating Memories with Travel Photography 2

So next time you take a trip, consider giving yourself and your dear ones the royal treatment: photos that will be your most treasured family heirlooms—and legacy. The right photos help us not remember but relive the magic of a place, the trajectory of our lives, and the beauty of our fellow travelers.

Flytographer’s tips to get the most out of your travel shoot:

Optimize the Light. Flytographer comes close to insisting the shoots take place during the “golden hours” of dawn or twilight—the two times a day when the light is the most flattering. Morning is particularly conducive to good shots, said Smith, because most of the time there’s nobody else there (less potential for photo bombs). “Plus, one of my favorite parts of travel is getting to see a city ‘rustle’ awake,” she said.

Coordinate Your Look. While you don’t have to go matchy-matchy, you don’t want the distraction of rampant pattern conflict either. Make sure your outfits fit well and have a consistent tone, both in terms of style and color choice. Formal outfits should be paired with formal—or let a casual look set the entire tone. For colors, complementary tones work best. Play off each other’s choices through accenting your outfit with the primary color of your partner’s or the group’s. To make the clothing easy on the eye, contrast prints and patterns with solids, so the faces become the focal point.

Put Your Best Foot Forward. There’s no detail too small when it comes to portraits, but unfortunately many people overlook their shoes. Scuffed shoes really do lower the vibe, so put some thought into your footwear—the shoes make the outfit. High heels are not always a good choice, not just because of the comfort factor but because they can be awkward on cobblestones, sand, or grass.

Adapt to Your Environment. Explore picking up on cues from your environment. Dress for the weather, for example, wearing earthy tones during autumn’s foliage or bright colors that will pop against snow. If you are in a rainy city with a preponderance of gray, you might want to have bold touches of color that will provide texture and contrast.

Go light. Try not to carry anything with you that you wouldn’t want in the photos. Backpacks, tote bags, and even purses can disrupt the lines of the body and add unnecessary bulk. That goes for pockets too—wallets, phones, and keys create unsightly bulges that your eye will be drawn to in the photo.

19 Places to Seek Adventure Around the World

19 Places to Seek Adventure Around the World Montenegro

19 Places to Seek Adventure Around the World

February 10, 2020

Travel is an adventure in and of itself that can reduce stress, open our minds, and boost happiness and creativity. When we are exposed to new places and different cultures, our perspectives broaden. Even the act of planning a trip can help you learn new things and bring you joy by giving you something to look forward to.

Our team of Inspirato travel experts have hand-selected 19 exciting destinations for you to consider exploring this year. Dotted around the globe—from urban to off the beaten path—these trending locales are sure to offer inspiration and adventure.

Latin America & The Caribbean

Abaco, Bahamas. Abaco—a Bahamian isle surrounded by crystal-clear waters—is perfect for fishing enthusiasts. Bonefishing in the shallow flats offers a challenging thrill even for experienced anglers. And for a new adventure, try spearfishing with a local guide. Abaco is a perfect launching pad for island hopping around to nearby offshore cays, including Elbow, Great Guana, Man-O-War, and Green Turtle, where you can visit curious stingrays, swim with wild pigs, or lounge on a secluded beach.

Cartagena, Colombia. This walled colonial city by the sea feels like an open-air museum—its winding cobblestone streets leading you to bougainvillea-covered plazas, monumental churches, and Old World palaces. Cartagena’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s main attraction, showcasing beautifully preserved colonial architecture. It’s the perfect city to explore leisurely by foot, stopping at cafés along the way for arepas and fresh fruit smoothies, or ceviche and mojitos.

19 Places to Seek Adventure Around the World Maldives

Galápagos Islands. For the intrepid, the Galápagos Islands are a can’t-miss destination. This storied archipelago, a subject of fascination since Charles Darwin’s famous expedition in the 1830s, is one of the most richly biodiverse regions in the world. Superb wildlife-viewing—from aquatic iguanas to playful penguins—is the top draw of these isolated islands off the coast of Ecuador, and some of the best diving in the world can be found off their shores.

Turks and Caicos, British West Indies. The pace of life slows way down in the Turks and Caicos Islands, hidden at the southern tip of the Bahamian Archipelago. This destination is off the radar of many travelers, making it an exclusively luxurious getaway. Home to the third-largest coral reef system, you’re sure to spot marine life—such as rays, turtles, dolphins, or even migrating humpback whales— while snorkeling or diving in the turquoise waters. Island- hop among the 40 islands and cays to find enchanting deserted beaches, traces of colonial relics, and charming seaside bars.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Named the “World’s Best City” two years in a row by Travel + Leisure, San Miguel de Allende showcases an intriguing side of Mexico many tourists have never experienced. Wander the 500-year-old city down cobblestone lanes—still traversed by the occasional burro lugging milk and firewood—past colorful stucco structures, art galleries, jazz clubs, and bistros. Try elote (grilled corn) on a shady bench in El Jardin, the city’s plaza.

Tortola, British Virgin Islands. This Caribbean gem is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and is regarded as the sailing capital of the world. Relax on Tortola’s white-sand beaches, go snorkeling at the site of the wreck of the RMS Rhone, and shop in Road Town, BVI’s capital. Plus, a quick ferry ride to neighboring Virgin Gorda offers a chance to see the famed Baths, volcanic rock outcroppings creating tranquil grottoes and tide pools.

United States

Coastal Maine. With even more miles of coastline than California—3,478, to be precise—the northernmost state in the contiguous U.S. offers loads of coastal adventures from hiking and biking to fishing and canoeing. Take in the historic lighthouses dotting the coast, and stop over in Portland, Maine’s capital, to enjoy fresh lobster—or even try catching your own. And swing by the shops of the historic Old Port District, full of nautical delights.

Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado. Originally a mining town in the 1800s, Dunton Hot Springs has been described as a perfectly restored ghost town. Rustic yet luxurious, this hideaway in the San Juan Mountains is an all-inclusive retreat boasting non- sulfurous hot springs, a spa, and world-class sustainable dining. Right outside your cabin doors is a vast wilderness with opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, and more. It’s an authentic Wild West experience with just the right amount of decadence.

Juneau, Alaska. The small Alaskan city of Juneau has an interesting claim to fame—it’s one of only two state capitals unconnected by road to the North American mainland (the other being Honolulu, Hawaii). But its isolation is exactly what makes it so appealing. Juneau is a popular cruise ship port surrounded by the Coast Mountains. Go see Mendenhall Glacier, a 13.6-mile-long river of ice, or catch glimpses of brown bears in Tongass National Forest.

Seattle, Washington. The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle boasts a thriving culinary scene and ample outdoor adventures only a short drive away. Hike beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park or kayak with orcas in the nearby San Juan Islands. Music lovers will appreciate the chance to see the birthplace of grunge—be sure to visit the Museum of Pop Culture, the second floor of which is entirely devoted to Nirvana and the rise of the influential genre.

Sedona, Arizona. Sedona’s official tourism tagline is “The Most Beautiful City on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree. With its sweeping views of grand red rock framing endless valleys of green pine, this small Arizona city is the perfect retreat for those in need of art, outdoor recreation, spas, and plentiful yoga classes. Be sure to catch a sunset in Red Rock National Park.

Stowe, Vermont. When it comes to East Coast skiing, Stowe and its mountain resort are the premier spot for incredible runs. But this charming New England town has more to offer than just powder. Located at the base of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, this town boasts breweries, spas, and scenic trails. Bike down the Stowe Recreation Path or head to nearby Burlington for a tasty tour of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.

Europe

Chamonix, France. Nestled at the base of Mont Blanc amid the jagged peaks of the Alps, the world-class winter sports town of Chamonix is where the French go for a taste of alpine living. The village boasts an impressive pedigree as the first-ever host of the Winter Olympics back in 1924. The spectacular scenery here begs to be explored, whether that means carving down the mountain on groomed ski runs or trekking through windswept meadows on miles of trails.

Lake Como, Italy. The glittering crown jewel in northern Italy’s Lakes District is undoubtedly Lake Como. Tucked in the shadow of the snow-dusted Italian Alps, this serene body of water is a dreamy retreat with plenty of opportunity for adventure like rock climbing, vertical sailing, and boating. Make like the locals do and find a sunny patio in one of the charming lakefront towns to sip an Aperol Spritz and watch classic, wooden Riva yachts zip across the lake.

Prague, Czech Republic. If you’re a history buff, you’ll likely fall in love with the “City of 100 Spires.” Architectural wonders, sprawling green parks, and romance abound in this well-preserved medieval city. Prague will sweep you up in Old World charm while you enjoy modern attractions such as acclaimed restaurants, art museums, and cutting-edge shops speckled amid cobblestone streets and towering church spires.

Chamonix 19 Places to Seek Adventure Around the World

Sveti Stefan, Montenegro. Like many of its eastern European neighbors, Montenegro keeps a relatively low profile. Probably not for long. Go to Sveti Stefan for its pinch-me scenery—sandy beaches that give way to the bathwater of the Adriatic Sea—and stay for the fresh seafood and rich heritage. Sveti Stefan, a 15th- century village plopped on a peninsula just off the coast, offers an enticing mix of cobbled lanes, red-tiled roofs, and open-air piazzas.

Asia & Oceania

Kauai, Hawaii. Oahu has nightlife, Maui has posh resorts, and the Big Island has national parks— but what Kauai trades in is scenery: secret beaches, jagged cliffs that plunge into the sea, cascading waterfalls, emerald valleys, and lush mountains worn down by age. Discover the rustic splendor of the so-called “Garden Isle” while whale-watching, snorkeling, hiking, or even touring by helicopter above impressive Waimea Canyon.

Laamu, Maldives. The Maldives possess a treasure-trove of underwater wonders, attracting scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts from across the globe. Made up of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, the beaches of the Maldives can lay claim to some of the softest and whitest sand the world has to offer. Every resort in the Maldives is its own private island, and Laamu is a brilliant choice for families. Partially encircled by an atoll, or ring-shaped coral reef creating a lagoon of crystalline calm water, Laamu’s waters are ideal for children to swim and snorkel in.

Melbourne, Australia. This trend-setting Australian city has a European feel and is full of surprises. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Melbourne is its laneways—streets accessible only by foot—that each take on a bustling life of their own, hiding secret bars, coveted coffee shops, world-class eateries, and art galleries. The city’s main neighborhoods are all worthy of a visit for their individual scenes—we’re particularly fond of the quirky beach town St. Kilda, where you might get lucky enough to meet the local penguin colony on a stroll down St. Kilda Pier.

What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos

What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos

What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos

February 7, 2020

A good book can inspire you to take the trip of a lifetime, be your best travel companion, and —if it’s really good—be as impactful as the journey itself. Likewise, an inspiring film can spark the irresistible urge to pack your bags and set off to see the breathtaking landscapes and experience the fun-filled adventures you just witnessed on screen. Whether you’re planning an upcoming trip or just dreaming about exotic destinations, you’re likely to find some wanderlust in these pages and films.

If You're Visiting Bali

Rich in culture, spirituality, and joy, the island of Bali is ideal for travelers seeking more than just a beautiful beach. But rest assured— there are plenty of beautiful beaches. Not to mention ancient holy temples, impossibly green terraced rice paddies, active volcanoes, charming people, and delicious food. Take a look into the otherworldliness that is Bali with these recommendations.

Read Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler. Jump off the beaten tourist path with expat author Cat Wheeler as she takes you along on her journey of putting down roots in Ubud. A long-term resident, Wheeler paints a complex, beguiling, and often humorous picture of Bali that is rarely seen.

Read this if you value authentic cultural experiences.

What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos 2

Read Fragrant Rice: My Continuing Love Affair with Bali by Janet De NeefeThe rich culinary experience of Bali is a main focus of this memoir of one woman’s 1974 trip to Bali that resulted in marrying a Balinese man, having four children, and running two successful restaurants in Bali. Traditional Balinese recipes are woven throughout the book, making it fun to read before, during, or even after your trip to Bali.

Read this if culinary adventures are your favorite part of traveling.

Watch Eat Pray Love. Starring Julia Roberts, this movie showcases Bali’s most amazing landscapes, from the pristine Padang Padang Beach to breathtaking rice terraces and the mystic monkey forest in Ubud. And if you’re interested in visiting a traditional healer while in Bali, this film gives some insight into that, too.

Watch this on the plane to Bali.

If You’re Visiting Central Mexico

Mexico is much more than beaches—it’s ancient archaeological gems, cobblestoned colonial towns, 16th-century cathedrals, and open-air markets. From eclectic Mexico City to magical San Miguel de Allende, the romantic highlands of central Mexico have a colorful nostalgia that has inspired many books and films into fruition.

Read The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border by Judith Gille. This real-life story of one Seattle family’s impulsive purchase of a hot-pink hacienda in San Miguel de Allende provides a compassionate look into the relationship between two country’s cultures. Gille’s account of how her family becomes part of the local community in San Miguel is filled with insight, history, and charm.

Read this if you enjoy travel memoirs.

Read Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis. Wander the bustling streets of Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood in the 1980s with teenage protagonist Luisa as she searches for a boy who works in the real-life bookshop Through the Looking Glass. This coming-of-age novel paints an intoxicating portrait of Mexico like you’ve never seen it.

Read this if you like coming-of-age stories.

Watch Frida. Artist Frida Kahlo remains one of Mexico City’s most loved celebrities—her lifelong home has even been converted into a museum where much of the 2002 film Frida was filmed. Depicting the painter’s bold and controversial life with husband Diego Rivera, Frida was also filmed throughout Mexico City and at the Teotihuacan pyramids, one of Kahlo’s favorite places.

Watch this if you love art history.

What to Watch and Read Before You Visit Bali, Mexico, or the Galápagos 3

If You’re Visiting the Galápagos Islands

The volcanic islands of the Galápagos are an ecological wonderland home to an array of wildlife not found anywhere else. The birthplace of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, this World Heritage Site still feels somewhat unspoiled by humans. Visiting the Galápagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience—one that you should prep for with these recommendations.

Read My Father’s Island: A Galápagos Quest by Johanna Angermeyer. It’s hard to believe this romantic tale is a true story. Author Johanna Angermeyer originally went to the in an attempt to solve the mystery of her father’s tragic death. Her experience, though packed with danger, was so filled with joy and wonder that it led her to dream of living in the islands, just like her father.

Read this if you love memoirs, history, and mysteries.

Read Galápagos: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut. In this zany novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, the human race has been wiped out, except for a small group of people who boarded a nature cruise in the Galápagos, where they are now stranded. Funny, dark, and satirical, this novel is really about adaptation—something the unique Galápagos ecosystem is all about.

Read this if you enjoy off-the-wall literature and irreverent humor.

Watch Galápagos TV Series. This three-part BBC nature documentary explores the natural history of the Galápagos Islands and their role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Offering incredible footage of erupting volcanos, stunning vistas, and rare wildlife, you can observe natural selection in real-time.

Watch this if nature documentaries give you the goosebumps.

Where You Should Buy Custom Ski Gear Before Your Next Trip

custom ski gear family

Where You Should Buy Custom Ski Gear Before Your Next Trip

January 30, 2020

Just a few miles down valley from Telluride in Pacerville sits a formerly abandoned service station that’s now home to Wagner Custom Skis. Inside is owner Pete Wagner, a boyish 38-year-old with a messy Beatles haircut. Describing the differences between stock and custom boards, Wagner says, “All the big companies make nice skis these days. Our advantage is focusing on fit. As most experts know, a custom-fit boot performs better. Same goes for custom-fit skis. The big companies can’t tailor products to each individual skier. We can.”

custom ski gear wagner

Making a custom ski is a complicated process. Wagner has customers fill out and e-mail back an eight-page questionnaire. The detailed questions (What are your top three terrain preferences? What do you like or dislike about your current skis?) determine your “skier DNA.” Computers in an upstairs aerie digest your DNA and create a ski recipe just for you. Then they transmit it down to the factory floor. Whereas some custom builders merely switch between a selection of molds, Wagner forms “a complex 3-D jigsaw puzzle of your proposed ski, built from scratch.”

Wagner grew up in Dayton, Ohio, skiing a 300-foot-vertical molehill 10 minutes from his house. He left the Midwest to study mechanical engineering at the University of California, San Diego, which led to a job designing high-performance golf shafts for Carbite Golf and Penley Golf, mastering carbon-fiber models for PGA pros such as John Daly.

He spent his winters in Telluride though, seven of them, working on new golf club designs at night and skiing by day. Then one day it dawned on him that skis involve variables golf clubs don’t have to worry about: differences in terrain, environment, and skiing styles are much more complex. It was an engineering challenge ignited by his passion for the slopes. Accordingly, Wagner quit golf, tweaked his software to conceive gear for mountains instead of country clubs, and started making skis.

“We didn’t—and still don’t—need to reinvent the wheel, here” Wagner says, “just focus on fit and design improvements.” His company does this by building each ski by hand, with workers carefully assembling sandwiches built with premium hardwood cores: maple and ash. Structural layers blend fiber- glass and Kevlar.

custom ski gear wagner telluride

The result is a pair of skis that start at $1,750, a price that buys “the highest quality materials we can find,” Wagner says, “like extra thick base material and oversized edges. Those make the skis less prone to damage from rocks.” In a good snow year, Wagner sells only about a thousand pairs. “It’s labor intensive,” Wagner says. “Lots of craftsmanship goes into it. Lots of love, too.”

Because Wagner uses no molds, it’s impossible to recommend a Wagner “model” for heli-skiing. But the company makes as many powder skis as hard-snow skis, and will happily build a fat ski to match the terrain accessed by Helitrax choppers and produce a 100-percent Telluride skiing experience.

Maui’s Hiking Trails Are the Island’s Best Kept Secret

Maui-Hero

Maui's Hiking Trails Are the Island's Best Kept Secret

December 9, 2019

Towering high above Maui’s famous white sand beaches, above the island’s dense and tangled jungle, deep in the hear of Haleakala National Park, lies a red, cinder-coned crater that is, possibly, the quietest spot on Earth. To reach this crater, runners (and hikers, of which there are arguably more) must first drive through the park’s entrance and navigate a series of switchbacks to the Ke- onehe’ehe’e Trailhead (elevation 9,740 feet). The trail is barely visible on the scoured surface of ancient volcanic lava, long cooled and broken into gravelly cinder. It climbs about 300 feet before descending into the crater. Run it, says Ben Auerbach, a Kaanapali, Maui-based fitness concierge who creates custom training plans for locals and visitors, and the experience will change your life.

“When you look all around, it’s blue skies and sun, and you’re surrounded by brownish-reddish dirt gravel that insulates you from sound, and also by silversword plants, which are unique to Maui. It doesn’t feel like you’re on Earth, really.”

Hiking Hana Maui Hawaii

Otherworldly is a word that comes up often in regards to the trails on Maui, the “Valley Isle” of the Hawaiian chain. Roughly 728 square miles, Maui has Haleakalā on its eastern side; the West Maui Mountains are on its western half. This geographical uplift contributes to an extensive diversity of microclimates and an eclectic combination of beaches and jungles, rainforests, waterfalls and redwoods. And that, according to the island’s runners, is what makes Maui a trail runner’s—and hiker’s—paradise.

“Nothing can compare to Maui,” says native Reid Hunter, 24. “It’s one of the most diverse islands, is beautiful year-round and has amazing views everywhere. You can start at sea level, climb up a mountain, turn around and all you see is crystal blue ocean and red dirt fields.”

Hunter, an elite runner who logs 80 miles a week and dreams of competing in the 2020 Olympic Marathon, briefly left Maui for university in New Zealand, where he ran with some of that country’s top coaches. Upon graduating in 2012, he heeded Maui’s siren song, returned home and began training in ear- nest. Although Maui doesn’t draw a cadre of elite runners in the same way that California’s High Sierra or Colorado’s Rocky Mountains do, Hunter says the island’s got plenty of challenging long-distance trails on which both runners and hikers can strengthen and train.

Chief among them are the West Maui Mountains’ Village Trails, a steep and tangled network that snakes through an abandoned golf course. So rugged are these that, last October, they were home to the 2014 XTerra World Championship 5-kilometer race. Hunter not only won this notorious sufferfest, but also broke the course record by 42 seconds. 

But it’s not all rigorous and rough when it comes to Maui trails, says island native Matt Holton of Mauirunner.com. There are also mellow(ish) trails that seem to lead into magical worlds bursting with color, vegetation and views you never imagined existed (Thompson Road, Waihee Ridge and Sugar Beach on map below).

“There’s a timelessness to the trails here,” says Holton. Other trails are vibrant with color—purples and reds from the minerals and rocks (Skyline Trail). Still others are loaded with guava fruit and wild raspberries. “There is so much diversity,” says Holton. “The running here never gets boring.”

Where to go?

The hardest thing about running or hiking on Maui is deciding where to go. Here are some of the island’s most scenic and superlative trails.

Haleakalā Crater: Located at 10,000 feet within Haleakalā National Park, the crater sits among a network of trails that are mainly “out and backs,” allowing runners and hikers to pick their distance. With no shade, high altitude and variable temperatures, don’t forget sunscreen, layers and water.

Kapalua Maui Woman Waterfall

Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls: A 4-mile round-trip route, the Pipiwai Trail forges through lush bamboo forest, climbs a total of 600 feet and leads to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls, which plunge through verdant cliffs to a pool.

Kahakapao Trail System: This extensive trail system located in the Makawao Forest, a state preserve near the town of Haiku, offers miles of single track through thick evergreen forests. It’s also a popular mountain biking area.

Kapalua Coastal Trail: This northwest Maui beach run offers beautiful, picturesque views of the coastline. “Think Big Sur with warm water,” says Ben Auerbach, who leads guided runs and hikes on the trail. An added bonus: The trail, which is about 3 miles, also leads to a traditional Hawaiian burial ground and labyrinth.

Experience Lake Tahoe Like a Local

Experience-Lake-Tahoe-Like-a-Local

Experience Lake Tahoe Like a Local

August 2, 2019

Look out over the north shore of glistening Lake Tahoe this August and you’ll undoubtedly squint. The vast body of crystal mountain water shines, as do the nearby snow-topped Sierra Mountains. And then there’s the impressive glare generated by sunlight reflecting off the 20 or so coats of varnish applied to many of the dozens of pristine and fabulously expensive, show-ready, wood speedboats. The boats you see are here are at the end of their annual migration to the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, a highly contested competition, that features some of the world’s finest and most beautifully preserved waterborne craft. While judges begin their duties, the show is open to the public all day. Walking the docks, as well as chatting with these prized boats’ restorers and owners, instantly transports a viewer back to an earlier era where vessels were as prized for their meticulous details and handcrafted workmanship as their size and speed.

San Franciscans reverently speak of the lake and its surroundings simply as Tahoe, and the term has been in the Bay Area vernacular for over a half-century. Lake Tahoe, which lies approximately 200 miles northeast of San Francisco (or about an hour’s drive from the RenoTahoe International Airport), straddles the California-Nevada border and is the second-deepest lake in the United States with an average depth of 1,000 feet. At 22 miles long by 12 miles wide, the lake is also vast, and it sits amid many small towns and communities as well as 72 miles of shoreline.

Native Americans were early Tahoe inhabitants, and by the beginning of the 20th century mining and railway industries brought more attention and people to the pristine, high-elevation (6,200 feet) waters. Many of the first Tahoe enthusiasts to build vacation homes on the lakeshore among the granite boulders and evergreens were the Bay Area’s elite and very wealthy. They also brought boats, including the wood speedboats that enjoyed a heyday from the 1930s to the 1950s. At the time the boats were costly— they could be as expensive as a house—and would ultimately become toys for silver screen celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. Helping fuel the boom; Tahoe’s dry alpine air proved hospitable to the wood boats, which in more humid conditions were susceptible to rotting. Time ticked by, Squaw Valley’s Winter Olympics in 1960 came and went, and fiberglass emerged as a superior material for making speedboat hulls. Then in the summer of 1972, a dozen or so owners of wood boats along the lake brought their old rigs together for drinks and a casual gathering along the shores of Homewood, a west Tahoe community.

Since then, the meeting place, the scope of the meeting and the Tahoe area have all changed. Now called the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, the three day affair is yet one more compelling attraction in a summer playground that nowadays tempts visitors with world-class mountain biking, lake-view golf courses and spa treatments at the RitzCarlton. The Concours is currently held at Homewood’s Obexer’s Boat Company, which coincidentally became Tahoe’s first wood-boat dealership back in 1928. The Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation, the nonprofit organization that hosts the Concours, saw about 60 boats entered last year and expects roughly 50 entries this year. In 2013, approximately 5,000 people gladly paid $25 to $35 each to enjoy intimate looks at the exotic collection of polished wood and gleaming chrome. “We had entries that came from as far east as Florida and as far north as Seattle,” says Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation president Dave Olson. “The Tahoe show is known as shutterstock one of the most prestigious of all.”

Floating Artifacts

Spend an afternoon or two at the wood-boat show and your eyes will encounter beauty that’s as seamless as the massive lake. The Tahoe show stands apart from the dozens of other woodboat shows held annually across the country because much of the watercraft you’ll encounter are a step far beyond what are called “user boats,” or boats that may be well-loved but are also regularly used. Many of the Concours boats, courtesy of careful restoration and/or preservation, are really pristine objets d’art and are judged appropriately. Boats don’t necessarily win awards at Tahoe when they’re better than the competition. They win for having been preserved at—or more likely returned to—showroom condition, even if those boats haven’t seen a showroom for a century. Walk down to the dock during the show and the first thing you’ll notice is the deep, rich wood used on the boats’ decks and hulls. You won’t find prettier wood on a Steinway. Whether it’s Spanish cedar, Honduran mahogany or timber from the Philippines, the vessels’ wood skins glisten under layers of marine varnish. The silhouettes are equally diverse and fetching. Some boat transoms are squared off , while others are rounded or shaped like torpedoes. There are many types of boats on display, from lakers, launches and runabouts to commuters. The boats can come with one, two and even three “cockpits,” or compartments with seats. Entries run as small as 16 feet and well over 30. Spotless chrome and brass hardware and trim shine brilliant against the deep blue sky. The engines gleam, as well. In fact, it’s really the unseen and seemingly prosaic mechanicals inside the motors that command the most attention and respect from the Concours connoisseurs and judges. 

“Engines are the biggest challenge to restore. Back when these boats were built there were a wide variety of manufacturers,” says Terry Fiest, who’s been the Concours d’Elegance’s chief judge since 2008. “It’s hardest to come by the old parts.” Between the efforts made to scour docks, marinas and barns for usable parts, and the time and labor involved in custom fabrication of whatever can’t be found, Fiest says that an engine rebuild can cost upwards of $100,000. Complete, Concours-ready boats can take years to prepare and are valued anywhere from $40,000 to more than $700,000. Some boats featured at Tahoe are one-of-a-kind. Others might only have been made for one year as part of a limited edition, 100-unit production run.

Like Tahoe itself, some of the Concours boats seem almost too good to be true, and occasionally, in fact, they are. For all of the owners’ painstaking restoration efforts, their boats may no longer carry the identities they once did. Sometimes engines are “over-restored” according to Fiest, with brass and copper parts that have been polished to look better than the original stock. “We always have to ask, ‘How close is it to how it left the original factory?’” Fiest says, who has competed in the Concours himself, and knows the anxiety of a snooping judge deducting points on a score sheet. “What we’re always looking for is authenticity.” The best in show is therefore the craft that best captures a very special place in time on the lake, back when it was less crowded, slower, and quieter, but no less spectacular. If you’re lucky enough, you will be there when an owner fi res up the engine, and if you close your eyes, listen to the simple, throaty rumble of the engine and breathe in the crisp, clear air, you’ll transport yourself back to a simpler, and dare I say, more elegant time on Lake Tahoe.

Playground for the Fit

BikeRent a mountain bike and ride the spectacular 22-mile Flume Trail high above the east side of the lake. 
Golf: Tee off at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, on Tahoe’s south shore.
Spa: Choose from the skin, water, touch and nail therapies available at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, located at the
Northstar California Ski Resort near Truckee, Calif.
Dine: Make reservations cat Zagat-rated Evan’s American Gourmet Café, in South Lake Tahoe, for excellent seafood entrées and its wine selection.
H
ike: Local favorites include hikes around the lake’s iconic Emerald Bay and up Mt. Tallac in the Desolation Wilderness. GambleThe casino at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, situated along the lake’s gorgeous northeast shore, is a scenic drive from either of Inspirato’s luxury destinations in the area.

Make Yourself at Home

Lake Tahoe Squaw Valley or Northstar at Tahoe? Members can take their pick. The 5,000-square-foot Apex Signature Residence in Squaw Valley hosts 10 guests spread between five bedrooms in a secluded mountain-side setting. At Northstar, three Inspirato Signature Residences with two- or three-bedroom options await members who want to be at the center of the ski area’s summer activities. Both locations are a scenic drive to the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

Tips from a Vacation Advisor

Where to Eat: Drive a car or rent a boat and cruise to the dock for lunch at Sunnyside Restaurant on the lake and take in one of the best views you can find in Tahoe.
D
ay Trip: The aerial tram at Squaw Valley takes you to 8,200 feet and the High Camp Pool and Spa. Take a dip, soak in the hot tub and breathe in the crisp, cool air.

Experience Aspen Like a Local

Experience Aspen Like a Local

August 1, 2019

During the year-end holidays, Aspen’s busiest week of the winter, “Campo Dave” Ellsweig works round the clock, managing Aspen’s popular Italian eatery Campo de Fiori. Tall, dark and handsome, he choreographs one of the most popular spaces in town with ease, sending plates of crispy frutti di mare to impatient patrons and decadent espresso martinis to the bar’s loyal following. Does he mind working and not skiing? Not at all. Ellsweig knows much of Aspen’s best skiing happens in March. That’s when he hikes up Highlands Bowl in a T-shirt to ski deep north-facing powder and wrap up a morning session on the slopes with a wine-saturated lunch at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain restaurant, Cloud Nine

Back in town after lunch, he can pull up a chaise lounge at the Sky Hotel on Sunday afternoon when the poolside DJ is in full swing. Or say he decides to ski Aspen Mountain: He’ll take the slow Couch quad, ski down sun-softened bumps before joining the lift operators for a barbecue at the bottom. From there it’s a couple of steps to check out the band outside at Ajax Tavern. For dinner, there’s king crab tempura at Matsuhisa a few blocks away. Every day, Ellsweig can set out to do something different: click into alpine touring skis to skin up Aspen Mountain, Nordic ski around the town golf course or ride a fat-tire’d snow bike up the unplowed road to the Maroon Bells.

It’s springtime in Aspen and anything’s possible. No, Ellsweig doesn’t understand why anyone would go to the beach in March. There are plenty of other months perfect for sun bathing, like December. March boasts the deepest base depths of the winter and more open terrain than at any point in the season. Colorado’s snowiest month of the year intersperses spring storms that bring deep powder days with abundant sunshine that create idyllic spring snow conditions, forgiving moguls and groomed runs made for carving turns. And the atmosphere on the mountain warms with the temperatures. Groups mingle on gondola square or atop their favorite run. And the deck scenes come alive. “In spring, you don’t have to get up early in the morning to get the best tracks—the ski day starts at 10 or 11 a.m.,” says Aspen-based pro skier Chris Davenport. “It’s all about timing in the spring.” 

What Davenport means is that the snow that freezes overnight is rock hard in the early morning, perfect around midday and slushy and sticky by late afternoon. You’re looking for the daily harvest of “corn,” a granular snow surface that turns mediocre skiers into phenoms, and you’ll find it by following the sun as it warms up the snow from the southeast to southwest, lower mountain to upper mountain. And with four ski mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk—you can hunt for corn on a different mountain each day or on the same day thanks to complimentary shuttle rides between each area. 

On Aspen Mountain, Davenport recommends skiing the steep, east-facing aspen trees off the top of F.I.S. chair, known collectively as “The Dumps,” as soon as they’re warmed by the morning sunlight. “Ski a groomer like North American to test the snow and see if it’s transforming,” he says. “If your edges grip into the snow and hold a carve, take F.I.S., ski a perfect lap in The Dumps, go up the gondola and do it again.” “If it hasn’t changed,” he says, “swing into Bonnie’s mid-mountain restaurant for an oatmeal pancake.” 

At Aspen Highlands, longer days and warm sunshine motivate skiers to make the 45-minute hike up to the 12,392-foot-high top of Highland Bowl. It’s a long way to shoulder your skis, so bring a backpack or purchase a ski strap at the Aspen Highlands ski patrol shack near the start of the hike. While blustery conditions often limit summit time midwinter, March’s plentiful windless, sunny days allow hikers to linger atop longer and take in the most dramatic alpine views in the area. Depending on your skiing pleasure, you’ll ski down 1,500 vertical feet of wide-open steeps or flow through tree glades. When the sun has overcooked everything on the mountain, the Bowl’s north-facing G-Zones can still harbor good snow.

If it’s your first time skiing the bowl, hire a pro like local ski mountaineer and ski instructor Ted Mahon to find the best stashes. Beginners and kids love Buttermilk’s gentle terrain year round, but in spring, its two terrain parks soften up enough to make jump landings a little more forgiving. At Snowmass, where intermediate groomers reign, it’s hard to beat cruising any of the runs accessed from the Elk Camp chairlift on a perfect spring morning. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, head to the Sheer Bliss run and look for one of the gates leading to Hang On’s or Buckskin. Spring storms blast the high elevation terrain at Snowmass. After a storm, head to the top of the mountain to ski spring powder before the sun’s rays bake the snow. 

By March, conditions in the backcountry also grow safer and Aspen offers plenty of ways to ski beyond the resort boundary, no matter your experience level. Ride a luxury snowcat to the backside of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, where you’ll score fresh tracks down gentle alpine bowls with expansive views of the picturesque Elk Mountains. Aspen Expeditions’ guides lead clients to lift-accessed backcountry off all four of Aspen’s resorts. Ski wide-open intermediate terrain off Snowmass Mountain or black diamond steeps off Aspen Highlands. Take it even farther off the map and to a higher level of luxury with one of Aspen Expeditions’ Epicurean Hut Trips. Ski on alpine touring equipment to one of Aspen’s many backcountry cabins for a lavish meal prepared by a gourmet chef, sleep to the sound of a crackling fire and enjoy fresh powder the next morning after another over-the-top meal. 

After months of sitting vacant due to the freezing cold, the decks around the mountains and in town defrost and host the liveliest scenes in Aspen and some of the world’s greatest people watching. The famous two-tiered deck at Bonnie’s on Aspen Mountain should be your first stop. Grab a cup of white bean chili, a mug of warm red wine, a slice of authentic apple strudel with hand-whipped cream and take a seat in the sun to experience Aspen’s best patio atmosphere. At Aspen Highlands, Cloud Nine’s deck turns into a Euro disco. At Snowmass Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers ski-in/ ski-out sushi at Nest and a vodka bar steps from the pool. For something more posh and quintessentially Aspen, suss out the orange umbrellas of The Little Nell’s pop-up champagne bar, The Oasis, located mid-slope on Aspen Mountain. Once there, raise a glass of Veuve Clicquot and toast the fact that right here, right now, this is the best that Aspen gets. 

Aspen Year Round

Must-Try Restaurants in Aspen

Spring Café: Start your day out right with a hearty and healthy breakfast, including energy packed smoothies. Warm up with a chai latté made with their homemade nut milk.
Ajax Tavern: An Aspen icon for decades, Ajax Tavern’s open deck at the base of Aspen Mountain is a must. Order the restaurant’s famous double burger served with truffle fries and kick back as local bands offer a live soundtrack to the end of your day on the slopes.
Burlingame Cabin: Once a sheepherder’s cabin, the Burlingame is a short snowcat ride away from Snowmass Village, but thanks to its secluded location tucked among an aspen grove, it seems a world apart. The menu is decidedly cowboy with barbecue pork, fresh chili and mac and cheese served family-style. Local storytellers and musicians entertain guests throughout.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro: Book an outside table for the last seating of the day at this mid-mountain institution at Aspen Highlands. When you book the reservation, order the raclette, a melted cheese that you can slather over baked potatoes or air-dried beef. That way it’s ready as soon as you sit down. The extensive wine list and unmatched views of the iconic Maroon Bells mountains will keep you occupied until ski patrol signals last call.  
David Burke Kitchen: The celebrity chef opened a spinoff of his eponymous New York City restaurant in downtown Aspen that features locally sourced dry-aged meats (think elk, venison, wild boar) and a seasonal menu.
Richard Brasseries & Liquor Bar/Bia Hoi Southeast Asian Street Food: A Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” Tim Goodell from Los Angeles has partnered with Related Colorado to open two new restaurants in Snowmass Village this winter. Ricard Brasserie serves classic French fare such as prime steak tartare, oysters and house-made charcuterie. Bia Hoi’s draw is an extensive drink menu that puts a Colorado spin on tropical cocktails thanks to AJAX spirits and beers from local distillers and brewers.

Aspen’s Must-Do List from a Vacation Advisor 

Shopping: Downtown Aspen is the Madison Avenue of the Rockies—and arguably the chicest shopping town between Chicago and Las Vegas— due to its cluster of upscale boutiques. Find the latest from Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and more among local faves such as Goruch.
Spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis offers customized treatments.

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

July 30, 2019

Advancements in technology are making travel more enjoyable by the year. Here’s a list of must-have gadgets for your next vacation that you didn’t even know you needed.

Power Ball

Take your party anywhere you go. Harmon Kardon’s Onyx ($499) is a volleyball-sized speaker that delivers a sensory tour de force. Camouflaged under its cloth-covered grill are four drivers pumping out crisp audio, backed by two, 3-inch woofers for deep base and a pair of 3/4-inch tweeters for clear high-frequency sound. Grab its stainless steel handle and move it where you want, then connect it wirelessly to the music on your iPhone or Android phone for eight hours of nonstop beats. Helping matters is the Onyx’s secret sauce, a so leather backside that adds richness to the sound—and produces a speaker that’s as much a high-end showpiece as it is a complete sound system. 

The Travel Gadgets You Need on Your Next Adventure

Immerse Yourself

Thankfully, Aëdle, maker of the premium VK-1 Headphones ($380), opted for understated elegance and luxury, not DJ bling. The on-ear cups are loaded with 40-millimeter drivers and high-end transducers made of a titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnet, wrapped in ultraso, lambskin cushions. The exterior is fashioned from brushed, aircra-grade aluminum, and the headband is formfitting liquid silicon wrapped in supple lambskin. Looks aside, the VK-1’s true beauty shines when the music’s on. Pouring out dark, velvety tones alongside crystal clear mid-range notes, these headphones are designed for music’s most discerning fans. Bonus: The VK-1’s high-quality touch extends to its audio cable; the aramid fiber-wrapped cord houses a microphone for use with a smartphone. 

The Whole Picture 

From the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to the front rows of Fashion Week, there are many places where you’ve wished you could soak in the surroundings and commit the details to memory forever. But photos, regardless of the resolution, rarely cut it—the crop of the image always cuts out the magic. But the slim RICOH Theta ($399) captures every angle by taking spherical 360-degree snaps using a pair of convex lenses on both the front and back of the device. Shoot and store up to 1,200 JPEG images with the camera, then wirelessly download your images to iOS devices via an embedded Wi-Fi transmitter, or upload files to a PC through its microUSB port, which doubles as a charger for the camera’s battery. Once the image is transferred to a Facebook, Tumbler or Twitter feed, viewers anywhere can zoom in and out, look up, down, and all around the image. Your friends and family may not be able to accompany you on your trips, but when they see your photos, they’ll feel like they were there.

Cinema Buff

Super 16 film is the stock of choice for indie and documentary filmmakers, and if you want your memories to look as good as their silver screen features, you should use it too in the form of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera ($995). Call it the digital camera answer to shooting in Super 16, albeit one that tips the scales at less than a pound thanks to a lightweight and durable magnesium alloy frame that’s, yes, small enough to fit in a front pocket. For lenses, the Pocket Cinema accepts the industry’s Micro Four Thirds lenses, allowing cinematographers to use a huge array of existing film hardware on this digital shooter. And by capturing video on SD cards, the camera makes it easy to offload clips to your laptop on the fly. No computer? The Blackmagic’s 3.5-inch screen on the camera’s rear makes it easy to see which clips will make the cut on your highlight reel

Sharp Shooter 

While the Sony DEV50 Digital Recording Binoculars ($1,999) look like something out of Star Wars, there’s no science fiction going on inside. Instead it’s stuffed with some of the most cuttingedge imaging technology on the planet. As a pair of binoculars, these lenses are capable of up to 25x magnification, making them ideal range scanners on safaribeach or mountains. But what makes them truly out of sight are two image sensors that allow these binos to shoot 20 megapixel photos, and a pair of high-speed processors that record 1080p HD video in 2-D and, incredibly, in 3-D as well. Assembling images from both the le and right lenses, the DEV-50’s 3-D movies spring to life when viewed through the lenses. A micro-HDMI output lets you move the show to HDTVs. Sony does all this while also cramming image stabilization and auto-focus into the binoculars’ splash-and-dust-resistant housing to produce a svelte 1.6-pound unit that can admirably replace your digital camera with the bulky zoom lens. 

The Best Golf Courses from Around the World

best-golf-courses-around-the-world

The Best Golf Courses from Around the World

July 30, 2019

Some of the most beautiful places in the world are golf courses. These well-manicured, natural landscapes are destinations in and of themselves. But if golfers are looking for the best places in the world to tee off, these six courses have been designed by professionals to provide the best experience possible.

Master architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. created the concept of a “heroic” hole, differentiated from “strategic” or “penal” design as something between the two. Jones defined such a hole as one that demands a heroic carry or gamble for the better player to get in position for a birdie (or eagle), but one that leaves an option for the lesser player to take the safe route. Jones’ ultimate expression of a heroic hole is his 481-yard, par-54th at Dorado Beach Resort’s East Course.  Recently given a facelift by Jones’ oldest son, Bobby, the 4th has returned to its 50-year-old glory days when Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret helped capture the 1961 Canada (now World) Cup Matches there and when Jack Nicklaus called it, “one of the 10 best holes in the world.” With a drive that flirts with a lake on the left, an approach that tangles with tall coconut palms and another lake on the right, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoning behind the green, the risk/reward 4th lives up to the hype. 

In 1960, the man developing the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Laurance S. Rockefeller (yes, of those Rockefellers) prowled the dark lava landscape he had in mind for his resort’s golf course alongside the dean of modern architecture, Robert Trent Jones Sr. As Rockefeller surveyed the cactus-flecked, desert-like terrain, he asked Jones if a golf course could be built. After some experimenting, Jones answered in the affirmative. The mudrock (volcanic stone) could be crushed and was actually quite porous. It could indeed be used as a soil base. The discovery allowed nearly a dozen courses to be built on the Kohala Coast over the next 40 years. The best of them, however, remains the original at Mauna Kea. Inspirato offers lodging within the Hualalai resort community, which possesses two of the Big Island’s best lava-lined courses and is near more oceanside fairway splendor at Mauna Lani. Still, it’s Mauna Kea, just to the north, that tops them all, partly for its rugged, hilly, 7,370- yard journey; partly for its renovated greens and deepened bunkers, the work performed in 2008 by Trent Jones’ son, Rees; but mostly for its jaw-dropping, gargantuan par-3 3rd hole. Stretching 272 yards from its tiny, isolated back tee set into 5,000-year-old black lava rock, this unparalleled one-shotter demands a career shot over crashing Pacific surf to a huge green ringed with a necklace of bunkers. Nearly 50 years ago, in December 1964, Jack Nicklaus downed top rivals Arnold Palmer and Gary Player over four rounds in the nationally televised Big Three match. Afterwards Nicklaus called Mauna Kea, “the most fun golf course I’ve ever played.” Jack, I can tell you that it’s still really fun.

Hilton Head has beckoned vacationers since 1960 or so, but it wasn’t until 1969 that it took its exalted place among golf destinations. It was all due to Harbour Town, where Jack Nicklaus, serving as co-designer with Pete Dye, made his first foray into big-time course architecture. The PGA Tour staged a November event in 1969 and both tournament and course were judged roaring successes. It didn’t hurt that another future designer, Arnold Palmer, won that first event with a hard fought, 1-under-par total. Situated 15 minutes away from Inspirato’s Hilton Head property, Harbour Town is a bewitching brew of dark lagoons, flat, narrow fairways framed by moss-festooned live oaks, tiny greens and bunkers shored with railroad ties. The emphasis here is on strategy and placement, which explains why brilliant ball strikers such as Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart won here twice each and why Davis Love III owns five trophies from the Heritage Classic. To win, all of them had to survive the fabled 472-yard, par-4 18th, one of golf ’s “must-play” holes. To the left are the breeze-fueled salt marshes of Calibogue (pronounced “Cali-bogey”) Sound. To the right, trees, condos and out of bounds. In the distance looms Harbour Town’s most enduring symbol, a candy cane-striped lighthouse, along with a luxury boat-filled marina. Spring in the low country is a special time of the year, and a round at Harbour Town is a perfect a way to experience it.

Promotional hyperbole may have influenced Cabo del Sol’s designer, Jack Nicklaus, to trumpet its closing trio as “the three finest finishing holes in golf,” but after you’ve played them, it’s hard to argue with the Golden Bear. The Scottsdale-by-the-sea setting at the southern tip of Baja, within 10 miles of more than a dozen Inspirato residences, combines cactus, mountain and ocean in a delightful—and slightly surreal—package. This 1994 seaside/desert design features newly redone back-to-back par-3s along the Sea of Cortez on the front nine and the aforementioned finish that sandwiches two demanding, dramatic par-4s around the unforgettable 178-yard, par3 17th. From a clifftop tee, the 17th calls for an all-or-nothing shot over a wave-splashed sandy cove and rugged rock outcroppings, with cactus-covered hills and the turquoise-blue sea forming a compelling backdrop. A fistful of the world’s elite golfers have trod the fairways, including Hall-of-Famer Raymond Floyd, who won the PGA Tour’s Senior Slam here in 1995. Dr. Gil Morgan broke Floyd’s course record when he captured the Senior Slam in 1998, on rounds of 66-68, beating Hale Irwin by six shots. However, locals still talk about April 12, 1996, when Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino dueled in a televised Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match. With highs in March averaging 75 degrees and lows only in the 60s, frost is the last thing you’ll encounter this spring. An icy margarita might be the first though—ordered on the Courtyard Bar at the Clubhouse’s terrace overlooking the sea.

An explosion of heralded golf courses has turned the Dominican Republic from a one-trick golf pony (Casa de Campo’s wonderful Teeth of the Dog course) into a paradise of seaside links. Among the most remarkable of the recent designs is Tom Fazio’s Corales Golf Course at Punta Cana Resort & Club. The mostly private Corales course is accessible to guests of the Punta Cana Resort (including Inspirato members) and community residents, who include designers Oscar de la Renta and Bunny Williams and singer Julio Iglesias. Stylish bunkers, mature palms, scattered lakes and a closing trio of jaw-dropping holes along the sea are highlights. As superb as Corales is, the nearby Punta Espada Golf Club at Cap Cana is even more spectacular. This 2006 Jack Nicklaus design incorporates oceanfront bluffs, beaches and jungle in its memorable 7,400-yard journey through a slice of Domincan Republic teeming with wildlife, from an iguana-filled cave to the left of the first fairway to native roosters that strut around like they own the place. What most crow about, however, is Punta Espada’s 13th hole, a beautiful brute of 250 yards that plays directly over the Caribbean Sea. Mortals can utilize a short-right bailout area—but you didn’t fly this far to lay up—and neither did Fred Couples who not only conquered the 13th, but the other 17 holes as well, when he beat out Corey Pavin to win a Champions Tour event at Cap Cana in 2010. See if you can do the same.  

As iconic images in golf go, none so perfectly captures the agony of defeat as Bernhard Langer’s anguished grimace at the 1991 Ryder Cup. Amid suffocating pressure, the German star had just missed a 6-foot putt on the final green at Kiawah’s Ocean Course to hand the U.S. team victory in the fabled “War by the Shore” match. Not so glum was Rory McIlroy, who manhandled this notoriously difficult Pete Dye design at the 2012 PGA Championship, romping to an eight-shot win over the best in the world. Whether you match Rory’s final-round score of 66, or shoot 106, your emotions will likely run more to Rory-like glee, rather than Langer-like misery—purely for the setting alone. Filled with tranquil low country charm amid live oaks, wavy golden grasses and strong sea breezes, Kiawah’s Ocean course is lovely, but lethal. A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and undulating greens pair with 7,356 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. Dye’s masterpiece was the fourth course at Kiawah and was finished specifically to host the Ryder Cup. While Dye has softened the greens and their surrounds over the years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always retreat to the Ryder Cup Bar at the clubhouse, overlooking the Atlantic and regroup.