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October 05, 2012

Hotel Spotlight: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Aerial view of Amelia Island Plantation Resort (Visit Florida)

This well-regarded resort in Northeastern Florida underwent a change of ownership several years ago, yet the measure of Amelia Island Plantation Resort's quality is that it remains an excellent destination resort regardless of which brand logo hangs over the moss-shaded reception center. The reason? Spread over 1,350 acres of oceanfront real estate, threaded throughout with miles of biking and walking trails, the resort and its amenities blend into a landscape that immediately puts you at ease. The beach never feels crowded, and several on-property pools allow you to mix it up. (Note that the property is in the midst of continuing upgrades that mean the main pool and beach club facility will be closed until spring 2013; the resort has waived its daily resort fee for guests and upped activities and recreation equipment on the beach.) First-class tennis and golf facilities offer other recreation aplenty, while families will appreciate the nature programs and wildlife center. A variety of accommodations are available, from standard hotel lodging to self-catering villas and apartments. Before booking, be sure to check the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort's website for seasonal packages with discounts on activities such as spa treatments, golf, and dining. Our one knock on this resort, as with many others, is the expense of resort dining (including its more casual market and deli). To hold down costs significantly, make a run to the nearby Harris Teeter to stock up on groceries for meals in one of the self-catering units.

For more of the world's most stunning destination resorts, check out's Best Resorts & Lodges Guide.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation · Places to Stay

September 26, 2012

Virginia Beach: An Off-Season Travel Guide

Virginia Beach's King Neptune statue (Mark Atkinson) and turtle at Virginia Aquarium (courtesy, Virginia Beach CVB)

A summer trip to Virginia Beach can be maddening if you happen to hit the traffic that clogs the I-95 corridor south of Washington, D.C., and as you close in on the Chesapeake Bay through the snarl of Hampton Roads and Norfolk. Of course, the sunny delights of Virginia Beach's pristine stretch of sand and its festive boardwalk quickly wash away the lingering effects of a long day in the car, but for a totally refreshing take on this popular resort town, now's the time to make the trip. Here's our guide to the best of Virginia Beach in the off-season.

Rip the Boardwalk
Virginia Beach's three-mile boardwalk is the obvious centerpiece of all that happens here throughout the year, lined with hotels, restaurants, fairground rides, and historic attractions like the Old Coast Guard Station. Recently renovated, the boardwalk is broad and nicely landscaped, with a dedicated two-lane trail for bikes and surreys. However, in summer, there's no escaping a steady blitz of rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers, and even errant bikers on the pedestrian portion of the boardwalk. Naturally, without the crowds, you'll get to enjoy even more of this pleasant oceanfront stretch to yourself, not to mention easy access to more crowd-free sand than you'll know what to do with.

Continue reading "Virginia Beach: An Off-Season Travel Guide" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation

April 18, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Armchair Daydreaming from the Shores of the Caribbean Sea

By awayblog

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Tulum and the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (Rich Baum)

Believed by archaeologists to be a Mayan fort constructed to guard the coastline, Tulum's perch overlooking the Caribbean Sea along Mexico's easterly Yucatan Peninsula is certainly more than just eye candy. But for today's invading hordes—tourists flocking to the popular beach resorts of Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and Cozumel to the north—this may just be one of the region's defining photo ops. Snapped by reader Rich Baum of Fair Oaks, California, this evocative composition scooped the prize in our March call for your most inspirational Caribbean photographs. Thanks to everyone who shared their amazing pictures of beaches, sunsets, volcanic peaks, wildlife, and more from throughout the Caribbean region's medley of islands and mainland outposts.

Got a once-in-a-lifetime photo that captures your most inspirational national-park experience? Share it in our April photo contest for your chance to win over $1,000 in prizes, including fabulous outdoor gear and two nights at Zion National Park Lodge.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Exotic Escapes · Travel Photography

January 13, 2012

Honeymoon Destinations for Celebrities... and the Rest of Us

By Kate Chandler

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Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Check Facebook, Twitter, or whatever your social media poison is anytime between Christmas and Valentine's Day, and the news feed is likely to be smattered with engagement announcements. Maybe you just had a relationship status change of your own? If so, then know this: having a wedding is fun, but the honeymoon is by far the best part of getting married. Planning on blowing some serious cash? Check out these favorite honeymoon escapes of the stars (and though most of these marriages are now defunct, the resorts are still fabulous).

The Caribbean, and really the beach in general, is a perennial favorite of honeymooners. Cap Juluca, on the island of Anguilla, gets most of the A-list love, and rightly so. Every room (and villa) on the property is beachfront, so you're guaranteed to enjoy your complimentary continental breakfast, delivered daily to your room, with an ocean view. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards honeymooned here, as did Courteney Cox and David Arquette (who also spent time at La Samanna on St. Martin, just an island-hop away).

More recently, however, Viceroy Anguilla lured honeymooners Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr. Their $4,500-per-night villa was complete with a private pool, cabana, and butler. Also in the Caribbean, Parrot Cay on the Turks and Caicos islands was the site of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's wedding, plus the honeymoon spot for Eva Longoria and Tony Parker. Rooms start at $544 a night.'s Anguilla Travel Guide's Turks and Caicos Travel Guide

Continue reading "Honeymoon Destinations for Celebrities... and the Rest of Us" »

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January 10, 2012

Cheat Sheet of the Best Beaches for 2012

By awayblog

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Dead Sea,Jordan(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Dead Sea, Jordan (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Sure, time may seem to stand still when you're relaxing on the pearl-white powder of an exotic beach, a cold drink in hand and the sound of the waves lulling you into a blissful afternoon nap. But time does indeed march on, which leaves only so many hours for the sand-and-surf exploration you crave. That's why we've put together a cheat sheet of the best beaches for 2012. So pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, and then head to one of these sand-strewn hot spots:

For the searching-for-a-salve spiritual traveler: Dead Sea, Jordan
Jordan's made a huge push recently to attract tourists, making this relatively small desert country the hottest ticket in the Middle East. Hope floats—and so will you—on the famed Dead Sea, so salty that you'll find yourself effortlessly bobbing along when lying on your back. In addition to super-buoyancy powers, the magnesium, sodium, potassium, bromine, and other minerals in the water, along with the black mud on the shoreline, are reputed to ease a host of ailments, from dry skin and arthritis to allergies and stress. The best beaches in the area belong to hotels; you can buy a day pass to enjoy the resort amenities and gain access to an experience of biblical proportion.

Let the Dead Sea Lift Your Spirits: A Travel How-To

For the end-of-the-world enthusiast: Placencia, Belize
With the Maya calendar turning a new leaf in December 2012—and plenty of conjecture that it's the end of the world as we know it—people around the globe are watching for interpretation from indigenous Maya communities, many of which are scattered in the southern part of Belize. Get a dose of beach time with your Mayan culture just north of these villages in Placencia, a laid-back town with some 16 miles of white sands and turquoise waters. Snorkelers and divers will be particularly pleased with the offerings here, with easy access to the world's second-largest barrier reef. If it is the end of our days, at least you'll go out on a vacation high note.'s Placencia Travel Guide

Continue reading "Cheat Sheet of the Best Beaches for 2012" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Trip Ideas

November 14, 2011

The Best Places to Get Naked on the Road

A Google search on "nude travel" nets over 100 million results. That's a lot of flesh, so to speak, and while I'd rather not spend too long contemplating visions of sunburned boomers drinking mai-tais and comparing depleted 401k's, it did make me ponder the best possibilities for unpacking your birthday suit while traveling.

Dive Right In: Kurokawamachi, Japan

Onsen in Kurokawa, Kumamoto (david McKelvey/Flickr)

The venerable Japanese onsen—literally, "hot bath"—is the perfect place to wallow in the refinement of Japanese life. Traditionally fed by hot natural springs, the best of these baths are located in some beautiful outdoor spot framed by a babbling brook and rustling mountain foliage, so harmonious that you'll barely notice the exposed male and female flesh around you. Join families, couples, and travelers as they soothe away the aches of their day; some of the more famous baths in Japan even include simian bathers, though my favorites are adjacent to tiny ryokan in the picture-postcard town of Kurokawa, a traditional onsen resort on the slopes of still-smoking Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Continue reading "The Best Places to Get Naked on the Road" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Beach Vacation · Exotic Escapes · Trip Ideas

August 29, 2011

See Migrating Whale Sharks—At a Discount

The big migration: A whale shark as it passes through the waters off Cancun (Villa del Parmar)

Villa del Palmar Cancun just announced a $500 reduction in their annual Whale Shark Adventure Package, which runs through this September.  For $1,598, you get five days and four nights at this plush resort, along with easy access to the migrating whale sharks. Personally, we think swimming with those massive fish is reason enough to drop everything and head south. But the resort sweetens the deal with a cache of other options, like two 50-minute massages, round-trip airport transfers, use of all non-motorized water and land toys, and more. All meals, snacks, and premium-brand alcoholic beverages are covered, and up to two children under 12 stay and eat for free when with their parents.

Editor's Note: An earlier draft referred to whale sharks as "mammals". They are, in fact, fish; their name refers to their massive size.  Thanks to ND Buffington

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Cheap All-Inclusive Trips · Cheap Trip Ideas · Scuba & Snorkeling · Travel Deals

April 07, 2011

Top Summer Beach Vacations: Family, Affordable, and Active

By Kate Chandler

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Sayulita beach
Sayulita Beach, Mexico (apasciuto\Flickr) 

Beaches are a little bit like pizza. Even when they're "bad," they're still pretty good. And now that spring is officially here, it's time for some sun and sand...wherever you can get it. If you have the time and the funds, we suggest the following beach vacations.

Best Family Beach: Sayulita, Mexico 
This safe, laid-back beach town is full of hip North American and European families, with friendly locals, too. Here, you and the kids can get back to basics. Every evening both local and gringo kids congregate in the town square to eat ice cream and play games.'s Sayulita Beach Travel Guide
More Family-Friendly Beaches

Best Active Beach Vacation Spot: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Known for its Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that once hosted the Ryder Cup, Kiawah Island, a half-hour drive from Charleston, features a ten-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline and a flat interior shaded by live oaks and magnolia trees draped in Spanish moss. Beyond the five golf courses, other activities include deep-sea fishing, kayaking through the marsh in search of mink and osprey, and biking the trails to spot gators. Stay at the swanky Kiawah Island Resort and you can add tennis to the list of activities.'s Kiawah Island Beach Travel Guide
More Active Beach Vacations

Continue reading "Top Summer Beach Vacations: Family, Affordable, and Active" »

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March 04, 2011

Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations

By Lacy Morris

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It's OK to Judge this Book by Its Cover: Hamosa Beach, Maui (Chris Cheadle)

Each year, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition hits newsstands with a thud, its photogenic content radiating beauty and emptying our checkbooks. And I'm not talking about the women (though they are beautiful). From the low-lying Maldives and the eco-chic digs in Nicaragua to the down-home charm of our own BBQ-centric Memphis, SI's gang has traveled to some of the most picturesque locales in the world to capture that perfect shot. This year was no different, with even a cold-weather backdrop making the cut for a second year in a row. Take a closer look at the 2011 destinations and get inspired for your next cashing in of saved vacation days. Now if only we were all six-foot models or world-renowned photographers and could get paid to travel...

Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Like most private islands, Peters offers a limited amount of accommodation. Only 55 rooms occupy this 1,800-acre dreamland, where pampering is the name of the game. It's as if the pearly gates swing open and God himself reaches down from heaven to massage your beach-weary muscles... and that will be $200, please. If you have the cash (and you most likely do if you are considering staying here), book the Falcon's Nest, the bee's-knees of this exquisitely lavish island. Perched at the utmost point (so that you can look down upon the cheapskate minions below), this rentable estate has more rooms than most of our houses do. Amenities set amongst the three separate residences: six suites, seven bathrooms, three half-baths, two kitchens, a master suite with its own foyer, infinity-edge pool, and media room. And with all of this to keep up with, no one would expect you to do it alone. After handing over the plastic, your own personal staff comes to greet you, including a chef, housekeeper, and a chauffeur-driven vehicle.

Photo Gallery: British Virgin Islands

Laguna Beach, California
Made (even more) famous with those über-popular high schoolers on the hit MTV show Laguna Beach (if you don't know what I'm talking about just ask the next person you see wearing a Bieber shirt, and if you don't know who Bieber is, just give up), this sunny, laidback town has green hillsides charging up behind an idyllic coast where sand and surf are king. With a hip, downtown scene and sunsets just as majestic as they are frequent, it's no wonder artsy types flock here. An hour's drive from L.A., Laguna Beach was the only continental U.S.-based destination on the SI list this year.

Laguna Beach Travel Guide

Continue reading "Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Exotic Escapes · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

January 18, 2011

Five Culinary Highlights of Barbados

(Kendra Bailey Morris)

Winter is clearly in full swing (in most parts of the country). If it isn't snowing, it's sleeting, and all of this cold and ice has many of us (myself included) craving an empty beach chair perched on a warm, sandy beach where we can pass away a quiet afternoon with tropical drink in hand.

The good news is, this fantasy may not be as unreachable as you might think. The island of Barbados, with its pristine azure waters, 3,000 hours of annual sunshine, 1,500 rum shops, and amazing traditional Bajan cooking (think the freshest fish, macaroni pie, and Cou-Cou, a cornmeal and okra combo) is a brief three-hour flight from Miami.

So, why not treat yourself to a little taste of the islands, and while you're there, don't miss out on these five must-dos.

1. Eat a Flying-Fish Sandwich
Flying fish was recently declared the National Dish of Barbados along with Cou-Cou. This acrobatic fish earned its name because it can literally break out of the water and "fly" distances of up to 100 yards. Flying fish can be found on a variety of menus, from chalkboards outside the local roadside fish shack where traditional "cutters" (sandwiches made with salt bread) are sold for a few Bahamain dollars, to the fancy faux-leather fold-out menus found in many fine-dining establishments which dot the island.

Continue reading "Five Culinary Highlights of Barbados" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Culinary Travel · Food and Drink · Holidays, Events, & Festivals

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