All over the world, there are perfect tropical paradises within the reach of beach-seeking travelers. Many destinations are well known - and just as many are well off the beaten path. Discover a place which may be your next dream destination, or learn about others which may have been beyond your realm of imagination...

Monday, November 21, 2005


Malo e lelei - Welcome to Tonga! This ancient kingdom, which boasts traditional Polynesian tropical beauty, is located in the heart of the South Pacific, east of Fiji and south of Samoa. It is the only country in the pacific that has not been colonized by Europeans. There are four island groups, which include the Niuas, Vava’u, Ha’apai and Tongatapu. The islands lie on a volcanic ridge known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. Towering volcanoes once dominated the landscape, but as they sank into the sea coral polyps gradually built the islands existing today.

Tongatapu, which is the main island and is home to the capital of Nuku'alofa, thirves with traditional Tongan customs and culture. Tongans are known to be welcoming, relaxed and generally happy people. Food is an important aspect of the culture, and the islands have an impressive array of restaurants serving Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Polynesian foods as well as traditional Tongan dishes such as cajun seared tuna, mahi-mahi drizzled with lime and coconut, smoked marlin pate, and wahoo steak with fresh tropical salsa. Religion is also important to native Tongans, and Sundays are regarded as the day of the Sabbath which is declared forever sacred in the Tongan Constitution. Therefore, many restaurants and shops are closed on Sundays, yet this makes it a perfect day to relax on the beach.

The average temperature on Tonga is 80 degrees, and the island receives quite less rain than other islands in the South Pacific. Tonga, which means “south,” is farther south from the equator than other surrounding islands. There are many fun activities to do on the island, including diving, fishing, kayaking, sailing, surfing, trekking and whale watching. There are also sea-taxis on the island which interest me, which are available for fishing, sightseeing, deserted island trips, as well as general transportation within the islands.

Tonga, which is known to be “home to the friendly islanders” is easily accessible by Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, and Polynesian Airlines. I would suggest traveling to Tonga as an extension to another trip in the South Pacific (since it is relatively far from here). If you are already in the vacinity, Tonga sounds like a fantastic place for a romantic, relaxing or enjoyable holiday. For more information, please consult Tonga’s very informative official website.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Mallorca is an island off of Spain, just south of Barcelona and slightly east of Ibiza. The island boasts an astonishing average of 300 days of sunshine every year, which makes it a wonderful destination for sun-loving tourists. Mallorca offers many interesting attractions for tourists, as well as beautiful beaches, marvelous scenery and the richest Spanish culture of all the surrounding islands. Many famous celebrities even have secluded homes on the hillsides of the beautiful island.

Palma is the capital and has a wide range of things to see. The top tourist attractions include isolated hilltop monasteries and castles, particularly Palma’s dramatic seafront cathedral called La Seu, which was built in the 14th century and reportedly took 300 years to build. Almudaina Palace is also in the capital city, and is a formal royal residence which dates back almost 700 years. The medieval Capuchin Monastery and Roman ruins near the Moorish city of Aloudia are also highly sought after tourist destinations. Finally, there are many art galleries, including Museu d'Art Espanyol Contemporani, which features works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali.

If you prefer physical activity, Mallorca has an excellent selection of watersports, golf courses, excursions in glass-bottomed boats, vast underground caves to discover, marshes full of wildlife which attracts many birdwatchers, and some truly stunning mountains which can be enjoyed by foot or bicycle. The main mountain range on Mallorca is the Serra de Tramuntana, which has breathtaking views and stretches the entire length of the north coast.

Mallorca’s nightlife is legendary, as it is on its sister island, Ibiza. This tends to attract a young crowd, and thus there are many restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightclubs to cater to these tourists. Lots of visitors also enjoy visiting the other surrounding islands for easy day trips. As far as transportation to and from Mallorca, ferries are readily available from the Spanish mainland. If you are interested in learning more about the exciting and lively Spanish culture of Mallorca, surf through Mallorca Online.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fernando de Noronha Archipelago

As per request, this week’s post is featuring a South American destination which is called Fernando de Noronha Archipelago. The 21 islands, which were formed by the mountain peaks of a volcanic cordillera, are off the coast of Brazil approximately 4 degrees from the equator! The main island, Fernando de Noronha, is the only island which is inhabited - by only 2,100 people. All of the others, the “secondaries,” are mainly frequented by scientists and troubadours.

The islands are absolutely gorgeous, as you can see in the pictures. The beaches and scenery are so breathtaking that I think this may be my favorite destination so far. The western side of Fernando de Noronha faces Brazil, and borders the “inside sea.” The inside sea is home to 10 beaches and two bays. The other side faces the “outside sea,” hosting four beaches, a creek, and shallow natural swimming pools formed by rocks.

There are more than 60 different places to stay (hotels and lodging houses), which is very surprising considering the small population of the island. The lodging is whimsically classified on the island’s official website as 1, 2, or 3 dolphins (3 being the highest rated). The archipelago’s tourism department also helps plan tours and activities for its visitors, including diving trips, surfing the tubular waves, kayak guided tours, and hikes – particularly in the National Marine Reserve of Fernando de Noronha, (tourists can only be accompanied by accredited guides, as the purposes of the Reserve are to strictly protect and preserve the fauna, flora and the remaining natural resources). But best of all, there are boat tours which are organized by local companies, and are one of the greatest ways to fully take advantage of some of the most beautiful parts of the archipelago.

I can say personally that I have fallen in love with this destination. I had never heard of it until I started researching, and it is certainly well off the beaten path. If you are interested in learning more and seeing some exquisite pictures, visit the official website.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cape (Cabo) Verde Islands

The Cape (Cabo) Verde islands are an archipelago located in the Northern Atlantic Ocean to the west of Senegal. There are 9 main islands, including St. Antao, St. Vicente, St. Nicolau, Sal, Boavista, Maio, Santiago, Fogo and Brava. The islands were discovered an colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and became a trading center for African slaves. The islands sought independence in 1975, and now its inhabitants are of both Portuguese and African descents. The islands have a tropical, temperate climate and tend to have warm, dry summers. The rainy season is during August, September and October, and from year to year and island to island the rainfall is quite unpredictable.

The islands are an exciting vacation destination for the seafood lover, and many travel to the islands because there is fine seafood abound including abundant shellfish – lobsters, various kinds of crabs – and permanent species of fish such as the dory, the sawfish, the victor fish, the moray and the grouper. Some specialty dishes of the region include “Arroz de cabidela de marisco à dadal," which is a special shellfish dish made with rice, and "guisado de percebes" or grilled lobster. There are also many migratory aquatic species in the waters surrounding the islands such as the tuna, dolphins, whales, sperm whales and killer whales. Interestingly, there are turtles which are considered endangered species in the rest of the world yet lay their eggs on the beaches of Cape Verde, as the islands happen to be the preferred habitat for the different species.

As far as culture, the islands are rich in local handicrafts (which make great souvenirs), local food and drink, dancing and rituals, and cultural events such as Carnaval (which has Portuguese and Brazilian roots). There are also long, sandy beaches with many tourist complexes which offer instructional water sport activities, and volcanoes to discover by foot and automobile. Finally, tourists interested in nightlife can explore many of the island’s spirited discotheques. There is clearly a ton to do on these islands, and if you are interested in more information, check out Cape Verde Islands.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Réunion Island

Réunion Island, which is about the size of Rhode Island, is part of the Mascarene archipelago in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar. Unlike the Seychelles to the North, the island is governed by the French constitution and legal system. Thus, French is the official language while Creole is also widely spoken. Formed by a volcano, the island is home to Salazies Mountain, an extinct volcano in the west, and by the Grand Brulé mountain in the east, where the Piton de la Fournaise – an active volcano - is situated. Due to its challenging landscape and terrain, the island is known to attract adventure seekers and hikers who can discover the many places which are accessible only by foot or helicopter. The island offers some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere, including jagged mountain peaks, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and an active volcano.

The outdoor activities on Réunion Island are endless. Adventure seekers can participate in canyoning, which challenges you to abseil down rugged gorges and cliffs into water holes or lagoons below. Tourists can also go paragliding, mountain biking, diving, rafting, water-skiing, snorkeling and swimming.

There are tons of events on the island, and many tourists tend to plan their trips accordingly around them. Some include Festival de Court-Métrage, Festival des Plantes et du Terroir, Grand Prix Départemental des Métiers d’Arts, and Foire Internationale des Mascareignes. Rental cars are readily available on the island for tourists to get from here to there, and tourists can even take direct flights to the island from Paris and all major European cities! For more information about the island, feel free to check out Réunion's official website.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Easter Island

Easter Island is an extraordinary and intriguing place to travel. Located between Tahiti and Chile, the island is one of the most isolated places on earth and is best known for giant stone monoliths known as Moai, that dot the coastline (as you can see in the pictures). These structures facing the sea were carved by the island's indigenous inhabitants, called Rapa Nui, who are said to be Polynesians who emigrated from the Marquesas Islands or Mangareva dating back to 300 A.D.

Unfortunately, approximately 10,000 years ago the island’s population exceeded the capabilities of its ecosystem and there was social destruction – including cannibalism. In this destruction, most of the Moai were torn down, and in fact the ones that are displayed on the island at the present time are thanks to efforts by archeologists. Tourists can also see indigenous petroglyphs (rock carvings), as well as traditional wood carvings, tapa (barkcloth) crafts, tattooing, string figures, dance and music.

Besides the fascinating, rich culture of the island, visitors can also enjoy common vacation activities including scuba diving (where one can see caves, walls, and unique coral and fish), surfing (most commonly at Caleta Hanga Roa and Ahu Tahai) as well as hiking. Horseback riding is also very common on the island and relatively inexpensive.

Finally, a really interesting tourist event seems to be Tapati Rapa Nui, which is a carnival that runs in late January. The event features tons of fun activities, such as traditional dancing, horse and canoe races, traditional dancing, body painting, statue carving and shell-necklace-stringing competitions. If this sounds fun to you, LanChile Airlines can ensure that you get to the island during the high season courtesy of Boeing 767 flights from Tahiti and Santiago, Chile (and there are direct flights to Santiago from major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York). Consult the island’s homepage for more information about this very interesting destination!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cook Islands

If you want to go somewhere exotic and a bit different, explore the exquisite untouched beauty of the French Polynesian Cook Islands. With history dating back to 800AD, the first settlers on the island were part of the great Polynesian migration. Located in the South Pacific, these 15 islands offer a traveler peace and quiet and really exciting culture.

As you can see in the picture, the Cook Islands house their visitors in tiny bungalows suspended over the sea, and there are no high-rise hotels in sight which makes the island a very interesting place to stay for adventurous tourists. Each of the 15 islands offers something special, and lack the usual clichés associated with the South Seas. Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands, has two main roads: one leads to the beaches and villages, and the other winds through fields of bananas, taro and pawpaw. The island of Manihiki is famous for a deep lagoon which is farmed for cultured black pearls. Atiu is famous for its bird population, and supports one of the largest colonies of red-tailed tropic birds. Pukapuka is another interesting island, and what sets it apart from the rest is a substantially different dialect, a special island craft of fantastic woven mats, and passion for Kirikiti (the game of cricket of Samoan origin).

The Cook Islands are extremely culture rich. Cook Islanders are considered among the finest Polynesian singers and dancers and awards come often in international contests. The island language, Maori, has 14 consonants which have many similarities to English. Natives are also avid sports players and fans, and while on the islands a visitor can attend many sporting events and competitions. Examples include the Tumutevarovaro Games, which include competitions in rugby, netball, soccer and volleyball, or the Rarotonga International Triathlon which attracts participants from all over the world.

In all, there is a lot to do as a tourist on any one of the Cook Islands, and one can be sure that the vacation will be slightly out of the ordinary. But do not think that the islands are not accessible from this part of the world – both Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue fly passengers to the islands quite frequently. To conduct a little more research about the islands and perhaps put it on your wish list, check out Cook Islands Tourism.