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

Tonga

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

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.