Lummi Island, Washington

Photo: jay8g [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: jay8g [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Fished, foraged, and farmed. If these three words get your taste buds salivating, it’s probably time for your next foodie escape. That usually means a trip to a gastronomic mecca—New York, New Orleans, or Sonoma. Not this time. Right now, all you need is a little island, a simple restaurant, and a beautiful view.

But first, you have to work up an appetite. Ride the ferry from Gooseberry Point, in northwestern Washington, to Lummi Island, in Puget Sound. It’s only a six-minute ride on the Whatcom Chief. The almost 10-square-mile island is home to a general store, a post office, a fire station, a few bed and breakfasts, and lots of quiet coves.

Hike to Lummi Peak, the highest point on the island. Huge Douglas firs give way to an amazing view of the San Juan Islands, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver in the distance. Bike around the seven-mile, loop road, passing the wooded cemetery and pine-lined bays. Search for sea glass at windswept Church Beach. You may spot a bald eagle flying overhead. Go reefnet fishing for wild sockeye salmon. Watch a local artist capture a picturesque scene on canvas. Pick up heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ market, if it’s Saturday. Warm up with a bowl of seafood chowder at the Beach Store Café. And stop at the Artisan Wine Gallery for a wine tasting. They sell perfectly paired cheese and chocolate, as well.

Photo: The Willows Inn

Photo: The Willows Inn

By late afternoon, you’re starting to think about tonight’s dinner. Drive to the Willows Inn, on the west side of the island. Your sunrise room in the attic has a slanted ceiling, an electric fireplace, and down bedding. Even during the summer months, it might get chilly once the sun sets. Pop into the Taproot Café to buy raw honey and pickled cherries. Stay to sip a Chuckanut Pilsner. Walk down to Sunset Beach to look for whales passing through the Rosario Strait. Then join the other dinner guest promptly at 6:30 p.m.

Chef Blaine Wetzel used to work at Noma, recently received the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year, and isn’t even 30 years old yet. Plus nearly everything he serves is from Lummi Island. The prix-fixe menu lists five courses. But first, there are snacks. They might include puffed fried halibut skin, a basket of radishes, or razor clams with horseradish snow. They’re paired with huckleberry and elderflower juice.

Then, like a choreographed dance, the larger plates start appearing. Pickled greens from the garden. Asparagus and peas from Nettles Farm. Sauvignon Blanc from the Walla Walla Valley. Local spot prawns and freshly caught salmon. The Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley probably had the longest journey to the table. Venison carpaccio and low-roasted lamb shoulder. And Lummi Island wildflowers with lemon verbena as the finale. You’re stuffed, happy, and ready to grab the next available reservation to do it all again.

La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

You arrived in Costa Rica with the best of intentions. Zip-lining, waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, and a Sky Trek were on your itinerary. You had it all planned out. Then you arrive at your hotel and see the view of the volcano from your suite, the pool, the restaurant—well, just about everywhere. Those active pursuits suddenly don’t seem as pressing.

You’re at Arenal Kioro, a hotel just north of La Fortuna de San Carlos in northwestern Costa Rica. The volcano from which you can’t look away: Arenal Volcano. It’s the most active volcano in the country, regularly erupting between 1968—when it destroyed the small town of Tabacón—and 2010. Ash and molten rock aren’t spewing from the crater right now, but plumes of smoke ensure volcanic activity could begin again at any time.

The morning begins with a cup of single-estate coffee on your terrace. The top of the volcano is covered by low-hanging clouds. Small droplets of water drip from the lush green leaves in front of you. A yellow-chested, keel-billed toucan flies right in front of your suite. You eat breakfast—gallo pinto, a rice-and-beans mixture that’s considered Costa Rica’s national dish—at a coral-stone table at Heliconia. You can’t pass up another cup of that delicious coffee either.

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

After breakfast, walk along Kioro, a stream that flows from Arenal Volcano National Park. Brightly colored butterflies guide you along the trail. You see ferns and laurels, orchids and heliconias, and an endangered Resplendent Quetzal along the way. White-headed capuchins chatter in the distance. And a little red-eyed tree frog makes you nervously jump. The top of the volcano is still shrouded with clouds.

Then relax during a coffee bliss body scrub or a mud massage at the nest-like Neidin Spa. The rustling leaves and the singing birds almost lull you to sleep. Sip fresh passion fruit juice at Orquídeas, the poolside café. The mist has finally stopped, and the humidity is rising. Feeling completely relaxed, you close your eyes—just for a few minutes. When you wake up, the clouds are gone. You have a perfect, uninterrupted view of Arenal Volcano. The base is bright green, while the ashy top looks like it might erupt at any moment. You almost wish it would.

Later, during dinner, you finally start to think about that itinerary. Tomorrow you’ll start exploring. You’ll climb the stone steps to La Fortuna Waterfall. You’ll tour a cacao plantation and taste chocolate. You’ll unwind with a hydro massage at the Titokú Hot Springs. And you’ll search for coatis, another quetzal, and more monkeys during a canopy tour. Just keep one eye on that volcano. It’s not dormant yet.

Europa Point, Gibraltar

Photo: AlexCurl at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Photo: AlexCurl at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

What’s mostly British, a little bit Spanish, and has views of Africa? It’s Gibraltar, home of a big rock, an extensive cave system, and Europe’s only wild monkeys. And that’s only the beginning.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and Andalusia, Spain. The Spanish still assert claims over the 2.3 square miles of land, even though Gibraltarians have been fiercely loyal to the British flag since the early 1700s. Fish and chips are more popular than jamón, the currency is called a pound, English is the preferred language, and the Union Jack proudly waves atop the Rock of Gibraltar.

Given its small size, you could explore all of Gibraltar by foot. But there are steep—very steep—hills. To reach the Rock of Gibraltar, you could climb the dangerous Mediterranean Steps. A better choice might be the Gibraltar Cable Car, an aerial tram that departs outside of the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. The Rock, a monolithic limestone promontory, reaches nearly 1,400 feet. It’s covered with a military base and a nature reserve, while the interior is full of tunnels and caves.

Photo: Paul Handley (original digital photograph) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Paul Handley (original digital photograph) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You can’t visit the military base, but you can wander through the nature reserve, where you’ll find olive and pine trees, Barbary partridges, and Barbary macaques, those famous monkeys. Then see St. Michael’s Cave, a natural grotto where Neolithic inhabitants once lives, and the Great Siege Tunnels, which acted as a defense system during wartime.

From high on the Rock, you can see the Moorish Castle, your next stop. The 14th-century, medieval castle housed a prison until a few years ago. Now you can explore the Tower of Homage, the Gate House, and the fortified walls. Then head to the eastern side of the peninsula, for a seaside lunch in Catalan Bay, a traditional fishing village, and a swim on Eastern Beach, the largest and sunniest stretch of sand in Gibraltar.

Eventually, you end up on Europa Point. Gibraltar’s southern tip is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. Stop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, a Roman Catholic Church that was once a mosque and a lighthouse. See the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque and the Europa Point Lighthouse. Watch the water for dolphins and whales. And stare across the Strait of Gibraltar at Morocco’s Rif mountains. No wonder the Spanish keep wanting to call this place their own. You do, too.

Isla Colón, Panama

Photo: JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

All you want is a quiet beach, a comfortable room, and someone to serve you meals—because no one wants to cook while on vacation. You don’t need a pool, with the ocean right in front of you. You don’t need a spa, since you’ll already be relaxed. You don’t even need to be near town, because you’re not looking to socialize. But these off-the-radar places are getting harder and harder to find.  Unless you go to the quiet, southwestern corner of the Caribbean.

Most people don’t consider Panama when thinking about the Caribbean. But Bocas del Toro, the northeastern section of the country that borders Costa Rica, definitely feels Caribbean. The islands were full of banana plantations until the 1950s. Rainforests have since reclaimed the land. Isla Colón, the main island, is full of clapboard houses, monkeys, sloths, and, most importantly, deserted beaches.

Bluff Beach is one of these deserted beaches. It’s about 20 minutes from Bocas Town, the region’s capital. Leatherback and green sea turtles lay their eggs here. Large starfish can be found in shallow pools of water. And Island Plantation, a small, Balinese-style hotel, sits right on the beach.

Photo: Island Plantation

Photo: Island Plantation

Island Plantation is an eco-friendly hotel. It uses solar energy, catches rainwater, and forgoes air conditioning, but you won’t even notice these things in your room, one of only five. You arrive to find a pillow-top king bed, a semi-open bathroom, a porch overlooking the sand, and fresh flowers. Wake up to eastern sunlight streaming into your room, howler monkeys barking outside, and tropical birds singing in the distance.

Most of the time, you would start planning your itinerary for the day. There’s no need here. Listen to the crashing waves from a hammock. Eat an omelet for breakfast on the terrace. Walk down the beach in search of seashells. Jump, splash, and float in the warm water. Eat a barefoot lunch at a brightly colored table in the sand at the Beach Bar. You can’t go wrong with the catch-of-the-day sandwich. Return to the hammock for a nap under the guise of reading. Walk next door for a Bocas Brewery Old Bank Pale Ale at the Bluff Beach Lounge. Then return to Island Plantation for a three-course, candlelit dinner.

You’ll repeat this non-itineary, or some variation of it, for the next few days. But you’ll never stray far from your deserted stretch of sand. There’s no need to when you’re this relaxed.

Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Photo: Acp [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Acp [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you sick of cookie-cutter experiences in the Caribbean? You know the drill. Board a shuttle at the airport, drive to a gated resort, and plop yourself on the beach for the rest of week. Though relaxing, you could be anywhere. It’s time for a change. This trip, you’re going to leave the resort, jump on a ferry, and explore a little island. Mayreau, here you come.

Mayreau, at 1.5 square miles, is the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines chain. The hilly island sits in between Union Island and the Tobago Cays. It was once owned by the French, and it was full of cotton fields and West African slaves. Today, only about 300 people live here. Electricity finally arrived in 2002. There’s one road, only a handful of cars, and no resorts. Instead, you’ll find roosters and goats, peaceful beaches and reggae bars, and stunning views. How quickly can you get there?

Unfortunately, not very fast. It’s a three-hour ferry ride from St. Vincent. Though if it were easy, the island wouldn’t still be a peaceful paradise. You dock at Saline Bay, a sheltered, crescent-shaped beach on the western side of the island. It’s named for the salt pond just to the east. Monkey Point, acacias and cacti, and iguanas and tortoises are to the south. Follow the single-lane road up Station Hill. Stop at Robert Righteous & De Youths Seafood Restaurant for an early lunch. Driftwood, seashells, and portraits of Bob Marley line the colorful building. Eat spicy jerk fish, drink a rum punch, and listen to a bongo jam session. You’re on island time now.

Photo: SVG Tourism Authority

Photo: SVG Tourism Authority

After lunch, continue heading up the hill to the island’s only village. An adorable brick-and-stone Catholic church, whose doors are always open, sits on the crest. From here, you can see the turquoise water that surrounds Mayreau, bobbing boats, the Tobago Cays, Canouan, and Union Island. This certainly beats your usual beach view.

Then start heading down toward the northern coast. Saltwhistle Bay, a 2.5-mile powdery beach, is lined with sea grape and palm trees. Sailboats anchor just offshore. And the nearby reef keeps the water calm, so you can snorkel among sea fans, green sea turtles, nurse sharks, and eagle rays. When you finally emerge from the water, you hear loud music coming from the right end of the beach. You wander over and find the “Last Bar Before the Jungle,” an unnamed bar that smells like ganja, serves strong rum, and encourages people to dance.

You may not finish your tour of Mayreau. You had planned to see Windward Careenage and Upper Bay on the windward side of the island. You had hoped to scuba dive in the Mayreau Garden and among the Puruni wreck from 1918. But now you’re laughing and dancing at a little beach bar. There’s nothing more Caribbean than that.

Moulvi Bazar, Bangladesh

Photo: DuSai Resort & Spa

Photo: DuSai Resort & Spa

Heading to South Asia? India and Sri Lanka are definitely on your list. Pakistan might have to wait, for obvious reasons. Plus you’re hoping to detour to the Maldives. But you’re forgetting one country: Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is often overlooked. The small country—it’s about the size of New York State—sits in between India, Myanmar, and the Bay of Bengal. It’s very densely populated, and it’s turbulent history—it was part of the British East India Company and East Pakistan until its independence; poverty, famine, and military coups followed—kept the hordes of tourists away.

Since the country became a democracy though, things have slowly gotten better. Especially in Sylhet, the northeastern region of Bangladesh. Indian rivers flow here, creating lush forests and wetlands that are ideal for growing bamboo, pineapple, cane, and citrus. Tea gardens, mosques, and temples dot the area. Migratory birds stop en route to the Himalayas from Siberia. And a new resort is luring people to Moulvi Bazar.

Photo: Tanweer Morshed (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Tanweer Morshed (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The DuSai Resort & Spa is a lakeside retreat 200 kilometers from Dhaka, the hectic capital. The resort’s buildings are modern, spacious, and blend in with their natural surroundings. Your calm room has Burma teak floors, an outdoor tub, and a terrace overlooking the gardens. You could just stay inside and be quite content. But the rest of the grounds are meant for relaxing, as well.

Finish the book you’ve been reading by the three-tiered pool, then sip a cocktail on a sunken water seat at the Pool Café. Go fishing in one of the ponds. Canoe across the lake. Book a Beauty of Siam package at the spa—it includes a jasmine rice body scrub and a Thai herbal compress facial. Walk through the forest on the circular trail. Drink a glass of chilled wine on the floating platform at the Forest Pub. Then eat dinner at the Tea Valley, which overlooks the lake, a rice field, and a tea plantation.

After not leaving the resort the first day, you’ll be ready to explore on the second. Watch tea leaves being picked by hand at the Mrittinga Tea Estate. Walk through Lawachara National Park, keeping an eye out for macaques, gibbons, and Indian giant squirrels. Visit Monipuri, a tribal village that produces bright cotton quilts. Hike deep into the rainforest to see the Ham Ham Waterfall. And ride a boat through yellow-and-green rice fields to watch the sun set in the wetlands. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and not at all what you expected. Bangladesh should no longer be overlooked.

Lviv, Ukraine

Photo: Mykola Swarnyk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Mykola Swarnyk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As anyone who reads or watches the news knows, Ukraine is a mess. The Euromaidan demonstrations began in Kiev in late 2013. Violent protests broke out over the election in early 2014. Armed Russian soldiers arrived. Then a passenger airplane was shot down last week. Now one of Eastern Europe’s most charming cities is empty. At least of tourists. Families fleeing the bloodshed in Eastern Ukraine are arriving in Lviv, and the city recently withdrew its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Lviv is known as the “little Paris of Ukraine.” It’s the largest city in Western Ukraine, and it sits near the Carpathian Mountains and the Polish border. Like the rest of the country, Lviv has a history of being occupied. The Poles, the Germans, and the Soviets all claimed the area. But unlike Eastern Ukraine, which is still closely connected to Russia, Western Ukraine feels very European.

You arrive in Lviv to find cobblestone streets, sprawling markets, lots of little coffee shops, and tiny chocolatiers. The architecture ranges from Rococo to Baroque to Renaissance to Gothic. And the churches are just as varied—everything from Ukrainian Orthodox to Russian Orthodox to Roman Catholic. No wonder it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Start in Lviv’s historic center. Rynok Square is full of fountains and statues of Greek gods. It’s surrounded by 3- and 4-story buildings, including the sandstone Black House and the Lviv History Museum, with its huge painting of the old walled city. Climb to the top of Town Hall’s tower for a bird’s-eye view of the square. Wander through Krakivsky Market, where babushkas sell pickled vegetables and varenykys (potato dumplings). Then find Kabinet Café for a strong cup of coffee. The café has antique sofas and book-lined walls, but you prefer to watch the crowd from an outside table.

In the afternoon, ride the tram to Lychakiv Cemetery. Its overgrown grounds and ornate tombstones feel like one of Paris’ Gothic graveyards. Visit the nearby Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. The open-air museum has farms, windmills, and churches depicting Ukrainian rural life. Do a tour and a tasting at the Lvivske Museum of Beer & Brewing. Ukraine’s oldest brewery will turn 300 years old next year. Return to the center of the city for an early opera performance at the Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Don’t miss the Mirror Hall inside.

End the evening by climbing the wooded Castle Hill. Little is left of the 14th-century stone fort, but you have an amazing, 360-degree view of the city as the sun sets. The rooftops glisten, the church steeples sparkle, and the mountains stand protectively in the background. Lviv, and the rest of Ukraine, will rebound. Hopefully in time for the 2026 Winter Olympics.