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Kona Archives - Air Canada Vacations

22 Dec

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Top 15 Destinations to Visit in 2015

December 22, 2014 | By |

Wondering what the world has in store for you in 2015? With a new year, comes new resolutions. And with new resolutions, comes the need for new experiences. This upcoming year, make your new experiences about seeing new places, eating new food, meeting new people. Not sure where to start? From luxury destinations to foodie favourites, these top 15 destinations should give you a very good glimpse at what 2015 holds for you.

1) Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas

The hustle and bustle of Nassau never gets old. As both a popular cruise ship port and the commercial hub of the Bahamas, this city has an undeniable pulse. Bay Street is particularly bustling, with its myriad duty-free shops, restaurants and the famous Nassau Straw Market. In 2015, the buzz will be around the opening of Baha Mar, the biggest project to be undertaken in the Bahamas since Atlantis. In addition to 2,200 luxury rooms, this new mega resort will house a Vegas-style casino and approximately 40 restaurants.

2) Saint Lucia

Who knew there was such a thing as a drive-in volcanic crater? Whether you knew of its existence or not, you should know that Saint Lucia has one. It’s called La Soufrière Volanco (or Sulfur Springs) and you can drive up to its crater to witness it emit steam and sulphur. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, you can even have a warm sulphuric mud bath (though you should be warned that as much as it softens the skin, its rotten egg smell may not be well received by your nose). If first-time experiences are what you’re after in 2015, then this may be something to add to your wish list.

3) Osaka, Japan

In 2015, you may want to familiarize yourself with the expression kuidore (Japanese for “to eat yourself bankrupt”). Osaka’s food scene is booming and if you have appetite to spare, then you may want to sample Osakan fare. Takoyaki (octopus balls), Kushikatsu (a deep-fried meat or vegetable skewer) and Okonomiyaki (pork- or seafood-filled pancakes) are among street food favourites. And don’t forget to check out the multiple Michelin-star restaurants scattered around the city.

4) Turks & Caicos

Marina at Blue Haven Turks and Caicos

Marina at Blue Haven Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos is all about luxury – world-class hotels, spas, golf courses. In the last couple of years, it has undergone even more development in the luxury department. In 2015, make sure to check out some of Providenciales’ newest boutique hotels, including the all-suite Beach House Turks & Caicos and the Blue Haven Turks & Caicos, which has its very own marina!

5) Panama

Panama City Skyline

Panama is a country of stark contrasts: it is highly industrialized on the one hand, yet an eco-friendly haven on the other. If you’re looking for a city pulse similar to Miami, Panama City has got it: its abundant high-rises, dining and nightlife are why it has been dubbed the “Miami of the South.” If nature is more your thing, you can hike through the national parks of Coiba and Darien, awe at the cloud forests of Chiriqui or check out the Panama Canal.

6) Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Pura Vida (literally translated as “Pure Life” in English) is probably the most commonly used expression in Costa Rica. While its uses are varied, the meaning is universal: life is beautiful and you should know it. And if there is any place in the world where you can see Mother Nature’s beauty on full display, it has got to be Costa Rica. This is a country with some of the richest flora and fauna in the world, impeccably fresh produce and amazing vistas. If you have not yet had the chance to visit this mecca of natural beauty, make sure to add it to your 2015 bucket list.

7) Hawaii

Kauai Hawaii

If island hopping is on your travel wish list for the new year, then Hawaii should definitely be on your radar. The Hawaiian Islands have got it all: Visit Kaui for some history, Oahu for action-packed Honolulu, Maui for its culinary delights or the Big Island for its volcanic sights. See more Hawaii Highlights.

8) Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Milan is currently in full swing, preparing to host one of the world’s main events of the new year: Expo 2015. The theme of the exposition is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” and will take place from May 1 to October 31, 2015. It will feature more than 60 custom-built pavilions and the city is currently planning special exhibitions and the opening of new museums for the event.

9) Curaçao

Curacao diving

In 2015, Curaçao will celebrate 5 years of its semi-independence as an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its Dutch influences are nevertheless visible on the island – in the colonial architecture of Willemstad, the local specialties at MarsheBieuw (also called Old Market) and in the local patois called Papiamento. Besides it cultural diversity, Curaçao has over 40 world-class dive spots – see our top 5 here!

10) Grenada

Spice Mas Festival Grenada

Also known as “Spice Island,” Grenada is one of the world’s largest producers of nutmeg and mace. Spice is not Grenada’s only gem though; this island is abundant in other natural riches like its beaches, the Annandale Falls, the beaches at Morne Rouge Bay and Grand Anse, and the flora and fauna of Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve. In 2015, get a taste of the island by attending the Spice Mas Festival, Grenada’s colourful carnival that features music, parading and masquerading.

11) Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Move over Riviera Maya, it’s time for Riviera Nayarit to shine. This 320-kilometre stretch of Pacific coastline is definitely a quieter alternative to its Caribbean-sided counterpart. You can golf in one of two Jack Nicklaus golf courses in Punta Mita, surf in Sayulita or relax in the peaceful town of San Blas. Riviera Nayarit will be seeing a significant amount of touristic development in the coming years, so go visit before the crowds swarm in!

12) St. Kitts

St Kitts Sea Turtle

St. Kitts may be small, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked when planning your 2015 travels. This little island has plenty of history, which is visible in the capital city of Basseterre. It also has plenty of natural habitat to explore, from its rainforests to its coral reef systems like Sandy Point and Turtle Bar. See our Top 5 Things to See in St. Kitts for more ideas.

13) Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has had a mini tourism boom in the last few years and its number of lodgings is estimated to be in the triple digits by mid-2015. In addition to its desert scenery, 10,000-foot mountains and evening spas, the city is now also home to the Architecture and Design Center, launched in late 2014 to preserve the city’s desert modernism movement.

14) Barbados

Foodies, there is one thing you should know for 2015: The food scene is absolutely blossoming in Barbados. Having just celebrated its 5th edition this past November, the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival has become a culinary success. In addition to wine and rum tastings, it features cooking demonstrations by international celebrity chefs such as Mark McEwan, Marcus Samuelsson and Anne Burrell. Stay tuned for the 2015 program.

15) Chile

Patagonia, Chile

It’s never too late to visit the end of the earth. After making a stop in the capital city of Santiago (which, by the way, has opened a number of new museums and art galleries in the last few years), most travellers will either head to the Atacama Desert or to trek through the bare, rigged landscapes of Patagonia (a.k.a “the end of the earth”). Another must for a 2015 trip to Chile is its brand new wine and food festival, which will take place in late September.

21 Nov

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Hawaii Highlights for the First-Time Traveller

November 21, 2014 | By |

Aloha Hawaii! Pristine beaches, active volcanoes, quaint towns… Hawaii seems to have it all. So where to begin exploring this series of islands? What makes each island different? Whether you want to island hop or stick to one island only, a look at some of Hawaii’s highlights will certainly help. Here is a look at some of the best ofs on 4 of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Kauai: The Oldest of the Hawaiian Islands

Hanapepe: When visiting the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s only fitting to explore its history and culture – both present in the small town of Hanapepe. Historic plantation-style buildings, shops and art galleries abound here. The town’s charm is so palpable that it is often used as the setting for Hollywood films, like Lilo and Stitch and The Thornbirds.

Old Koloa Town is another must-see for history buffs; this town helped shape the sugar cane industry in the 1800s. It’s accessible via the Maluhia Road Tree Tunnel, a stretch of road lined with eucalyptus trees that were planted over a century ago.

The great outdoors: Kauai, deeply rooted in the environment, has outdoor spots that beg to be explored as well. In addition to hitting up Kauai’s beaches, you can visit remote waterfalls and kayak along the Wailua River, hike through the Waimea Canyon and cruise along the scenic Napali Coast.

Oahu: The “Heart of Hawaii”

Surfing: Located on Honolulu’s south shore, Waikiki Beach’s calm waters set the tone for a first-time surfing lesson. The North Shore’s bigger waves are perfect for more seasoned surfers.

Pearl Harbor: The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan is what brought the United States into World War II. This US naval base is now a designated National Historic Landmark with a total of 5 memorial sites.

Leahi Peak (Diamond Head): If hiking and taking in coastal views are on your Hawaii to dos, then reaching the top of Leahi Peak is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Waikiki and Honolulu are visible from here.

Maui: Foodie Favourite and Tropical Paradise

Lahaina: Hawaii regional cuisine is the pièce de resistance in Lahaina, a Maui hotspot. Known as farm-to-table cuisine, this type of fare combines local specialties like seafood with international influences. This town is also a great place to witness a luau, a traditional Hawaiian feast with eating, drinking and Polynesian dancing.

Kula: Many of the ingredients used in Hawaii regional cuisine come from the produce farms of Kula. Besides taking a farm tour, you can also visit the Kula Botanical Gardens.

Natural beauty: Maui’s food is not its only highlight – there are lots of natural sights to take in too. Head to Iao Valley State Park to see the famed Iao Needle, a protruding green-mantled volcanic rock that looks like, you guessed it – a needle.  Haleakala National Park, with its numerous hiking trails, is also an ideal location to see natural wonders like the Nene, an endangered species of Hawaiian goose.

Hawaii, the Big Island: Adventure Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park definitely deserves a visit if you’re heading to the Big Island. It is home to 2 volcanoes: Maunaloa and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. In addition to hiking volcanic craters, you can visit the on-site museum or snap photos of some petroglyphs (lava rock carvings).

Sailing the Kona Coast: Several boat tours depart from Historic Kailua Village and Hilo. Diving with manta rays, whale watching, scuba diving and fishing excursions are also possible from Honokohau Harbor and Kawaihae Harbor.

Horseback riding in Waimea: Experience the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) lifestyle by horseback riding through Waimea. Head along the waterfall trails of Waipio Valley or make your way towards Kealakekua Bay to cap off your day with a quick swim.

 

Want to discover more Hawaii highlights? Check out our section on Hawaii travel.