Moose, Wyoming

Photo: Grand Teton Lodge Company & Flagg Ranch Company

Photo: Grand Teton Lodge Company & Flagg Ranch Company

You consider yourself a nature lover. You enjoy hiking and kayaking. You go swimming in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter. While getting lost on a winding dirt road doesn’t scare you. But there’s one thing you can’t do. Camp. After an exhausting day outside, you need a cozy bed and a good meal. No sleeping bags, outhouses, or campfires. But sometimes that makes traveling to national parks a little bit tricky.

That’s why the Jenny Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park is perfect for you. The lodge is rustic, charming, and very comfortable. Your log cabin is set up with a pine bed, a handmade quilt over a down comforter, and a wood-burning stove. Rocking chairs sit on the porch. They overlook a wildflower-filled meadow, towering pines, and, in the distance, the granite Teton spires.

Grand Teton National Park is in northwestern Wyoming, an area known for its protected land, abundant wildlife, and jaw-dropping landscape. The Tetons are 12 glacier-carved summits; Grand Teton is the tallest of them all. The park, which includes the Teton Range and six glacial lakes, was established in 1929. It’s smaller and less popular than nearby Yellowstone National Park. Though it’s up to you to decide which is more beautiful.

Photo: I, Michael Gäbler [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: I, Michael Gäbler [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

After a cowboy’s breakfast, which includes corned buffalo hash, you’re off for the day. Go rafting down the Snake River. Beavers are busy building dams along the side streams. A herd of bison graze along a hillside. Then a bald eagle swoops overhead, as if on command. Depart from the Colter Bay Marina and cruise around Jackson Lake in the middle of the day. You see Mount Moran and osprey during lunch on Elk Island.

Then go horseback riding on a mare who seems just as excited as you to hit the trail. Pass trumpeter swans nesting by Christian Pond. Take in the amazing views from Emma Matilda Lake. Watch two moose feeding on willows by the swamps at Oxbow Bend. And since the trout seem to be biting either early or late in the day right now, go fly fishing before sunset. You just miss a brown trout, but end up catching a big cutthroat instead.

Back at the lodge, you shower in your stonework-filled bathroom. You listen to the crickets start to chirp as you get dressed. You sip a glass of California Zinfandel by the stone fireplace in the main lodge. Then you choose between cumin-dusted lamb loin and buffalo tenderloin as your entrée for your five-course dinner with the Tetons in the background. You can still be a nature lover without roughing it.

Sitra, Bahrain

Photo: Al Bander Hotel & Resort

Photo: Al Bander Hotel & Resort

Bahrain is supposed to be the next big travel destination. First, the kingdom was named the Arab Capital of Culture in 2012. Then “the island of golden smiles” became the Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013. While modern beach resorts, with views of the Persian Gulf, keep popping up. But protests and deaths, stemming from the Arab Spring uprisings, continue to be an issue. Is this Middle Eastern country ready to be considered a must-visit place?

The Al Bander Hotel & Resort certainly hopes you think so. The resort is located on Sitra, an island in between the Persian Gulf and Tubli Bay. It was once full of farms, freshwater springs, mangrove forests, and fishermen. It’s largely developed—some would say overdeveloped—now.

But the resort, which sits on the southern tip of the island, is gorgeous. The rooms are minimal, airy, and stylish. The ones called chalets have secluded patios and private plunge pools, while the terraces on the cabanas have water views in every direction. The meandering pool is the largest on the island, and the gulf’s aqua water laps against the golden-sand beach.

Plus there is plenty to keep you occupied. Ride a boat into the gulf to go scuba diving or fishing. Kneeboard or canoe in the calm lagoon. Relax at the adults-only section of the pool. Play tennis, squash, or join a class. Yoga and salsa dancing are the most-popular options. Eat prawns, crab, or lobster from the Arabian Sea one night at the Fish Market, and join the open-air barbecue, shawarma, and shisha the next. Then go bowling, sip a cocktail at the Boatyard Bar, and listen to the waves lap against the shore after dinner.

So are you convinced? Will Bahrain starting luring tourists the way Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and even Doha have recently? And, if so, will you start planning a trip to Sitra?

Keel Point, British Virgin Islands

Photo: Walker Mangum.Nwmangum at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Walker Mangum.Nwmangum at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

You’ve been sitting on a deserted beach all morning. Your own deserted beach. You like the sound of that. There aren’t many places you can claim as your own these days. Sure, maybe you can round a bend and not see anyone for a few minutes. But it’s usually interrupted by a jogger or a barking dog chasing a ball. Not this time. In the last few hours, you’ve only seen a pair of pink flamingoes, a few dark-moving spots under the water, and a boat far enough offshore that you couldn’t see the crew. This stretch of powdery sand is all yours.

You’re on Anegada, the second largest, but the least populated, of the British Virgin Islands. The 15-square-mile island is called the “drowned land.” Unlike the other islands in the volcanic archipelago, it’s flat and made of coral and limestone. Salt ponds fill the western side of the island, and Horseshoe Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Caribbean, surrounds it. The reef makes it hard to navigate around Anegada; more than 300 ships have wrecked offshore. That’s why you have a beach all to yourself.

To reach this deserted beach, you rode a ferry north from Virgin Gorda. After docking at Settling Point, you passed feral cattle, donkeys, and goats on your way to The Settlement. Most of the population, less than 200 people, live in the only town. A post office, a medical clinic, and a bakery are in The Village, the center of town. The Walls, a stone barricade, used to enclose the farming area where maize and sweet potatoes grew. And fishing boats bob offshore in Lower Bay.

Photo: ScubaBear68 (Flickr: Anegada - Loblolly and Salt Ponds - 09) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: ScubaBear68 (Flickr: Anegada – Loblolly and Salt Ponds – 09) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

From The Settlement, you went north, passing the tiny airport, the Anegada Rock Iguana Headstart Facility (a breeding ground for Anegada ground iguanas), and salt ponds surrounded by cacti. Plus one gorgeous beach after another.

Then you arrived at Keel Point and the Anegada Beach Club. This recently renovated resort is your home for the week. Your king suite is simple but spotless. It overlooks the island’s only pool. Yoga and Pilates are offered at sunrise and sunset. Hammocks sway between palm trees. The bar and grill, which has a sand floor, is made from trees downed in a hurricane. They’ll add lobster to anything from a BLT to a pizza. And kiteboards, kayaks, and bikes are ready for you to go exploring.

But exploring will have to wait. You found your deserted beach, and you’re not about to give it up. With a chair, an umbrella, and plenty of reading material, you’re all set until the sun starts to go down . . . or someone dares to interrupt you.

 

Sumba, Indonesia

Photo: Nihiwatu

Photo: Nihiwatu

Bali, Lombok, Raja Ampat, Komodo National Park . . .  your Indonesian wish list is endless. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful islands and white-sand beaches. But your travel decision isn’t going to get any easier. In fact, it’s only going to become more and more difficult. Especially once you’re introduced to Sumba.

Sumba is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands in eastern Indonesia. It’s twice the size of popular Bali and full of limestone hills and sweet-smelling sandalwood. The Portuguese arrived in 1522, and the Dutch later colonized the island in the mid-18th century. But traditional tribal life still hasn’t disappeared. Wooden houses have pointed roofs made of alang-alang grass. Men wear conventional sarongs and turbans. While it isn’t surprising to see them walking around with swords. Needless to say, Sumba is not overdeveloped.

Which is why you’re surprised by the pure luxury at Nihiwatu. To reach the resort, you flew to Tambolaka, drove into the Rijewa mountain range, passed teak and mahogany plantations, crossed through the thick deciduous forest and valleys of rice fields, and, finally, caught a glimpse of the Indian Ocean. Nihiwatu sits “on the edge of wildness” and a two-and-a-half-kilometer beach.

Photo: Nihiwatu

Photo: Nihiwatu

You move into—that’s right, you’ve already decided you aren’t leaving—your villa, which is decorated with rattan furniture and a bamboo bed. Sliding glass doors open to the terrace, which has a plunge pool and a panoramic view of the turquoise water. You’re tempted to hole up in the stunning villa, but there’s a surfboard with your name on it.

Nihiwatu’s west coast location makes it the ideal place to catch the swells that develop during Southern Ocean storms. The surf season lasts through October, so you’ve arrived at the perfect time. Plus, only ten surfers a day—that’s right, less than a dozen people each day—get to ride the monstrous waves. Today, you’re one of them.

After spending the day in the water, you’re exhausted. Returning to Nihiwatu, you stop at Menara Bale for afternoon tea and warm banana bread. You jump in your plunge pool and stare at the amazing view. Then you accidentally fall asleep on a really comfortable daybed. You’re awoken by a golden sunset and the smell of grilling fish in the distance. The chef at Ombak, the sandy floored restaurant, is inspired by the garden and the catch of the day. You devour your dinner, sip a cocktail at the Boathouse, and watch the stars appear around the fire pit. It’s only your first day on the island, and you’re already in love with Sumba.

Santa Marta, Colombia

Photo: Hotel Boutique Don Pepe

Photo: Hotel Boutique Don Pepe

Colombia’s comeback continues. It started with Cartagena, which remained relatively unscathed during the country’s years of civil unrest. It expanded to the islands, because everyone was itching to return to them anyway. Now, it’s Santa Marta’s turn.

Santa Marta, in the northeastern Magdalena Province, is Colombia’s oldest city. It was founded, on the land of the Tairona people, in 1525 by a Spanish conquistador. The protected bay was an ideal place to establish a port. The colonial city thrived, and, eventually, the nearby beaches turned it into a tourist town. The drug wars halted tourism, though, and the city all but shut down. But people are now returning to the new marina, the fascinating historical sites, the nearby national park, and, of course, those beaches.

You’re staying in the heart of the colonial city at the adorable Hotel Boutique Don Pepe. You’re welcomed with iced lemonade, a nice treat in the humidity. The air is thick without a sea breeze right now. Your mostly white room has exposed brick and a jacuzzi, though the living space extends well beyond your walls. A central courtyard has a small pool and lots of shady spots, while the rooftop has another jacuzzi, as well as hammocks and daybeds in which to relax.

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

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

From the hotel, you’re steps away from the marina, museums, and parks. Walk through the narrow streets to Simón Bolívar Park, the main square where the first settlement was built in the 16th century. Tour the Gold Museum. The old customs house displays artifacts from ancient Tairona culture. See the whitewashed Santa Marta Cathedral, the oldest church in Colombia, with its marble altar and stone portico. Buy coconut water in the Park of the Newlyweds. The market square was built in 1830. It’s now filled with fragrant flowers and old men playing board games, and it’s surrounded by tapas bars and jazz clubs. Vallenato music is drifting from an open window.

Then go outside of the city center to explore the lush grounds of the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. The estate is famous for being the location where military leader Simón Bolívar died in 1830. It now houses a museum, a botanical garden, and giant iguanas. Head back toward the coast. In Rodadero, you find the best beach, open-air markets, waterfront restaurants, and the Sea Aquarium and Museum, where dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles live in pools with sea access.

Tomorrow, you’ll hike through the tropical rainforest to Quebrada Valencia, a waterfall and natural whirlpools near cocoa plantations. Then you’ll explore Tayrona National Natural Park to see mantled howlers, montane solitary eagles, and miles of deserted beaches. Eventually, you’ll leave the coast and head into the snowcapped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. But right now, you need to escape the heat. It’s time to pick a tapas bar and listen to the drumbeat of cumbia music. You might even be dancing by the time the sun sets.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is having a moment. Long overlooked for Sydney, the capital of Victoria is now considered one of the world’s most livable cities. It’s full of Victorian buildings, tree-lined streets, a rabid café culture, and immigrants from around the globe. Museums, concert halls, galleries, and sporting events thrive here. New restaurants are luring chefs from steadfast Michelin destinations. And you no longer have to stay in the Central Business District (CBD) during your visit.

Photo: Lyall Hotel

Photo: Lyall Hotel

South Yarra is one of Melbourne’s trendiest neighborhoods. Hip shops and restaurants line Chapel Street and Toorak Road. The Yarra River and the Royal Botanic Gardens are only a few blocks away. While the Lyall Hotel and Spa is the ideal place to overcome your jet lag. The hotel is sleek, sophisticated, and focused on your comfort. A cozy fireplace invites you into the library. A gallery on each floor feels like your own private art collection. You decompress in the steam room, and then have a massage, at the spa. The relaxation continues in your suite, where a velour bathrobe and a heated bathroom floor await. Plus the Lyall Champagne Bar, which features live jazz and cranberry champagne cocktails, is the perfect place to begin—or end—the evening.

Photo: Art Series Hotel Group

Photo: Art Series Hotel Group

Looking for something a little more bohemian and a little less polished? Prahran is right next to South Yarra, but the area is more eclectic. The Prahran Market is a smaller version of Melbourne’s famous Queen Victoria Market. Antiques and vintage clothing are sold at the bohemian Chapel Street Bazaar. Hipsters drink flat whites at Greville Street’s coffee shops. While the black-and-white rooms at The Cullen Hotel are full of bright, contemporary artwork by Aussie artist Adam Cullen. Gaze at the Melbourne skyline from your balcony. Rent a Smart car or a Dutch-style Lekker Bike to explore. Eat dumplings in the Chinese garden at HuTong Dumpling Bar or a Reuben sandwich on the deck of the New York-style Gramercy Bistro. Then ride the train into the city—you’re only five minutes from Flinders Street Station.

Photo: Melbourne Pub Group

Photo: Melbourne Pub Group

Prefer to be near the beach? If so, you need to book a hotel room in St.Kilda. This waterfront neighbor has gone through many incarnations. First, sea-view mansions were built in the 19th century. Then it became a Coney Island-style playground in the early 20th century. A red-light district, and then a thriving art scene, followed. It’s now popular for its waterfront promenade, Acland Street cake shops, and, of course, the beach. The Prince is just a few steps away from Catani Gardens and the harbor. The Deck, a timber terrace with olive trees and an indoor pool, overlooks Port Phillip Bay. Minimal, neutral rooms have lots of natural light. Circa serves coal-roasted squid and wagyu hanger steak. While the Prince Bandroom has been hosting live music for more than 60 years. You’ll feel right at home once you have a Victoria Bitter in your hand.

Melbourne—which you quickly learned is pronounced “Mel-bin”—has everything you want in a city. You’ve slept in boutique hotels, eaten amazing meals, explored interesting neighborhoods, and fallen in love with the laid-back lifestyle. Plus there’s that addicting accent. So isn’t it time you start looking at real estate instead of hotel rooms?

Scilly Cay, Anguilla

Photo: Christian Gomez

Photo: Christian Gomez

Ready for lunch? All you need to do is go to the dock in Island Harbor and wave your arms like a madman. Then wait. In a few minutes, a blue-and-white boat comes slicing across the harbor. The captain pulls up to the pier, helps you climb aboard, and, within minutes, you’re gliding by the anchored boats in the bay. Your destination—and lunch—is only five minutes away.

You’re on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. The British Overseas Territory is known for its tax-haven status, boat races, and 33 beaches. You arrived at Blowing Point this morning on a ferry from St. Martin. You drove through The Valley, the little capital city. You visited the Wallblake House (a restored plantation) and the Heritage Collection Museum (with artifacts from the Amerindians who first inhabited the island). You climbed Crocus Hill to see the remains of the Old Court House on the highest point of the island. And you relaxed on Shoal Bay East, a perfect, two-mile stretch of white sand. Now you’re ready for a late lunch on Scilly Cay.

Scilly Cay (it sounds like “silly key”) is a coral island off Anguilla’s northern coast. Snorkelers follow brightly colored fish just off the powdery beach. Pelicans dive head first into the water to catch the fast-moving fish. Calypso music and the smell of grilling fish drift between the palm trees. And a restaurant sits in the middle of the small island.

Photo: Christian Gomez

Photo: Christian Gomez

Scilly Cay is open on Wednesdays and Sundays for lunch. The restaurant is decorated with white conch shells. Tables and beach chairs litter the sand. Lobsters are stored in a natural tide pool. Rhum punch is constantly flowing. And since there is no electricity, all of the food is grilled.

The menu is simple. You have four choices: red snapper, crayfish, lobster, or chicken. You’re on island time, so regardless of what you select, it’s going to take a while. But no worries. After placing your order, float in the bath-like water, snorkel with sea turtles, and order your first rhum punch. You’re gazing across the water at Anguilla when your food arrives. The mountain of seafood is served with pasta salad, fresh fruit, and warm garlic bread. Another rhum punch is on its way. And lobster juice is already running down your chin. If only every lunch could be this satisfying.