Visit Arawak Key to see how the locals live and grab a fresh fish lunch. Join one of the Dolphin Encounters tours to see the sea lions and observe the city from the water, or to go play with docile stingrays in the Stingray City Park. You will notice the ramparts of the old British Fort Charlotte that has never seen a battle. For a bit of solitude, spend some time at the heavenly Blue Lagoon Island. Find things to do.
Where to stay: To see the rainforest and its many colorful bird species, stay in an eco-lodge or go on a day tour with a local guide. The Cuffie River Nature Retreat, a reasonably priced eco-lodge located on the edge of the rainforest, offers a variety of nature tours including birding walks and visits to secluded waterfalls and natural pools. If you’d prefer to stay near the beach, try the intimate Hummingbird Hotel.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks don’t actually end at the Virginia state line. Sandbridge, 25 minutes south of Virginia Beach, sits at the northern tip of the OBX, where you’ll find a tiny residential community with a couple of restaurants, an outfitter for kayaking, and a chic condo next to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. Bring a bike so you can explore the refuge and the state park (which lacks an access road). sandbridgebeachva.com
Don’t Miss: Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where you’ll lose yourself in the massive sand dunes. Take a sunset hike to the top of the ridge or try your hand at hang-gliding; the soft sand is a forgiving landing pad, and defying gravity is a local tradition (the Wright brothers took flight in nearby Kitty Hawk). Alternatively, take to two wheels and check out the terrain on a rented bike.
Maui is nicknamed "The Magic Isle," and with good reason. In addition to its famous beaches (Kaanapali, Wailea and Makena to name a few), this Hawaiian island is home to Haleakala (a surreal volcanic crater that's 10,023 feet above sea level), Molokini (a crescent-shaped offshore lava formation offering superb snorkeling, Upcountry (a lush area with historic cowboy towns and lavender farms) and Hana (a remote spot perched on black-lava landscape and accessible solely via the twisting, turning Hana Highway). Add in humpback whales (from November to March), spinner dolphins and a half dozen golf courses and Maui has something for everyone.
Flagler Beach prides itself on its laidback retro vibe. Casual beachfront restaurants and coffee shops set the tone for a relaxing vacation in this Atlantic Coast town. Even the local winery is on the beach. Residents and visitors have free access to the municipal fishing pier and more than 6 miles of sandy shoreline. Nature lovers can hike the Coastal Strand Trail to get an up-close look at the local ecosystem. Visiting the local art galleries and gift shops are a great way to while away an afternoon before heading back to the beach for an evening cocktail and live entertainment. Things to Do in Flagler Beach
The National Park Service typically posts lifeguards here from Memorial Day to Labor Day, along with chair and umbrella rentals (you’ll find a restroom and cold-water showers too). The ferry has a snack bar, but most folks bring a small cooler (you must pack out what you bring in). On the island’s west end, explore Fort Massachusetts, which dates to 1866.
Maui: For those who like dry sunny weather, the resorts of West Maui offer plenty of activities. Kapalua has three beautiful bays, three golf courses, tennis, spas and other activities for guests of all ages. Makena Resort is located on a more secluded spot, surrounded by scenic views. If you are looking for a place that will let you get away from it all, try the quiet town of Hana on East Maui. The only luxury resort in town, Travassa Hana, has a relaxing spa and a restaurant that serves dishes made from organic ingredients. Visitors can spend their days relaxing on the tropical Hamoa Beach.