With the official start of summer this Memorial Day weekend, are you looking for an out-of-the-ordinary summer escape, away from the crowds? Well...there are some great ones!
#10 - THE RIVIERA MAYA, YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO - The Riviera Maya offers a unique combination of ancient mysteries and modern luxury and natural wonders...along with some of the world's best beaches and perennial sunshine. Here, you can wander among the ruins of once-great Mayan civilizations such as Tulum; with over 60 well-preserved structures, it sits majestically overlooking the sea. Cobá is the highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, filled with ancient temples and surrounded by jungle. Then there's the spectacular underground river of Rio Secreto (Secret River). Astove Lodge offers some of the best fishing on Earth.(Courtesy Frontiers International Travel)My two favorite places to stay on the Mexican Riviera are the Hyatt Playa del Carmen, adjacent to the iconic Mamitas Beach and Playa del Carmen's famous 5th Avenue; and the Barceló Maya Beach Resort, which just finished an impressive $80 million renovation including swim-up suites, and sitting on a mile of white-sand beach.
#9 - ASTOVE LODGE, ASTOVE, SEYCHELLES - If you're looking for an exotic place away from the crowds, it's hard to beat the Seychelles, a group of islands off the coast of Africa that has so far avoided hordes of tourists. Frontiers International Travel can take you to Astove Lodge, a new luxury fishing destination in one of the best fishing grounds in the world.
Astove, just opened in February, on one of the most southerly islands in the Seychelles Group, which experienced international fishermen have known about for years. The new lodge on this remote coral island includes six en-suite single occupancy bedrooms, allowing lucky anglers a week of fishing a secluded atoll that's pretty much all to themselves.
#8 - EL PORTILLO, CHILE - While it's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, of course, it's winter in the Southern...and that means you can strap 'em up and hit the slopes!
Chile's central and southern regions are home to a wide variety of ski centers, one of them being El Portillo, just 2.5 hours from Santiago. Skiing, snow-boarding, ice skating, etc....it's all here. Now celebrating its 65th birthday, El Portillo is the oldest ski center in South America. The main base of the ski center is 9,350 feet above sea level. The highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, Mount Aconcagua, is next to the resort! And, happily, both the hotel and the ski area are located on the beautiful Inca Lagoon, where you're guaranteed a magnificent view no matter where you turn.
#7 - COSTA RICA ULTIMATE WILDLIFE ADVENTURE - Costa Rica is an outdoor adventurer's paradise! There are miles of unspoiled beaches to see, rainforests and
cloudforests to learn about, world-class whitewater rafting and canoeing, fiery volcanoes and hot springs, and heart-stopping encounters with exotic wildlife and colorful tropical birds at every turn. Nowhere else on earth is biological abundance and diversity more evident than in the Costa Rican rainforests. In fact, Costa Rica alone has more plant species than the whole of Europe, and a staggering diversity of exotic species that actually runs into the millions. A company called Wild Planet Adventures will take you here. And you'll have up-close-and-personal encounters with species such as Howler Monkeys, Three-Toed Sloths, Blue Morpho Butterflies, Poison Arrow Frogs, Parrots, and Hummingbirds - to name just a few.
#6 - THE MILESTONE HOTEL, LONDON, ENGLAND - Who says a getaway has to be in a rural place? What about an urban getaway? The Milestone Hotel is celebrating the
birth of the second royal baby with a special "Princess Charlotte" package, available from May 8-July 8.
This world-class hotel just happens to be located directly across from Kensington Palace, home to the royal baby (and her brother, Prince George). You'll spend your week in, fittingly, the William and Catherine Residence, which features two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a lounge with balcony overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens. And you'll enjoy one of the world's great Afternoon Teas.
#5 - PONOI RIVER RYABAGA CAMP, KOLA PENINSULA, RUSSIA - Over the past decade, the Ponoi River has evolved from a remote, relatively unknown waterway to being
recognized as one of the greatest Atlantic salmon rivers in the world. It's still remote. But now Frontier International takes visitors from all over the world to this fishing camp, in which 9,000 Atlantic salmon were caught (and released) last year. This year, Ryabaga Camp has upgraded its cabins with cabins for the single traveler, and upgrades in each. Located above the Arctic Circle, the Ponoi flows west to east, through uninhabited wilderness, for 270 miles before entering the Barents Sea. The camp is accessible only by helicopter. Here, there is no mining, deforestation, dams, netting, poaching or other human encroachment...so the salmon return in the same numbers as they have for thousands of years.
#4 - REGINA ISABELLA, ISCHIA, ITALY - The five-star Regina Isabella, on the island of Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is a top European thermal resort and spa. It offers one of Italy's most-renowned spas, Michelin-starred cuisine, and easy access to the beach. Which may be why it's been frequented by the Hollywood elite, members of royalty, world leaders and cultural icons. It was the filming site of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and it's the central hosting hotel for the annual Ischia International Film Festival. With 103 hot springs streaming out of Mount Epomeo, Ischia's been known for its thermal waters since the 8th Century BC. The island is a little sister to nearby Capri; it's a traditional Italian holiday island, with vineyards, fruit farms, honey bees and a major fishing industry. And hiking in the mountains of Ischia is a good reason to reward yourself afterward in the thermal baths!
#3 - BANFF TO JASPER MULTISPORT ADVENTURE, ALBERTA, CANADA - As you hike your way over Sentinel Pass, you'll be completely enveloped by the straight-out-of-National Geographic" majesty of the Canadian Rockies...the towering peaks, glistening glaciers, alpine lakes, boreal forests and huge blue sky. A company called Austin Adventures will take you on a trip combining luxury and mountain ranges where you and your fellow travelers are the only living souls in sight. You'll hike to the top of Athabasca Glacier alongside one of Canada's leading mountaineers. You'll tackle the Class III and IV whitewater rapids of the Kicking Horse River. You'll see wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep. You'll re-charge on the deck of your mountain chalet, while listening to the sounds of Baker Creek. You'll browse the beautiful shops and galleries in the alpine town of Banff. And you'll end every day with gourmet meals.
#2 - VINA VIK, MILLAHUE, CHILE - When you stay in one of the luxurious 22 suites here, you're in the middle of the word-renowned wine country of southern Chile. At
Vina Vik you can look out over the 11,000-acre Vik Vineyards, and the surrounding valleys, forests, and mountains...including the majestic Andes in the distance. Guests at the hotel have, of course, access to the vineyard's best wines, as well as a holistic wine spa offering unique wellness experiences. And they have access, as well, to a warm fire and the ever0-changing light of the Millahue Valley. When you relax, re-invigorate, and sample the fruit of the vines at Vina Vik, you'll know why the natives named it "Place of Gold."
And now, here's my pick for the best summer getaway on Earth...
#1 - ANGAMA MARA, KENYA - Angama Mara, set to open in June, is the newest luxury safari lodge in Kenya's famed Maasai Mara. High above a game reserve, on the site
where many of the scenes from "Out of Africa" were filmed, Angama Mara has two camps, each encompassing 15 tented - and luxurious - guest suites. This lodge will boast the most outstanding game viewing of the Mara Triangle. Angama Mara sits 1,000 feet above the Great Rift Valley where, every morning, hot air balloons sail past the 30-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling glass fronts of each tented suite. There's a fitness center; swimming pool; gallery of African art, clothing and jewelry; and a sun-filled studio where Maasai women create beautiful beaded items. The lodge will offer activities ranging from safari adventures to intimate picnics in the bush -- Out of Africa style, with champagne and cucumber sandwiches. If you're lucky enough to be here from June to October, you can witness one of the greatest adventures on Earth...the Great Migration, when two million wildebeests travel in a never-ending mass from the southern Serengeti northwards to the Mara in their quest for grass.
What are your great summer getaways? Do you agree with ours?