Oahu: When planning a vacation in Hawaii, the first step is to decide where to go. Each island is different, offering a choice of accommodation, activities and scenery. The most famous destination in Hawaii is Waikiki on the island of Oahu. It's home to numerous hotels and resorts, some right on the sandy shore and others a just a few blocks from it. Travelers come here for their honeymoon, on a family trip and to learn how to surf. The Royal Hawaiian is decorated all in pink. Because of its historic ambiance and romantic atmosphere, the hotel is especially popular with honeymooners. Next to the Royal Hawaiian is the 1,695-room Sheraton Waikiki which offers many rooms overlooking the ocean. If you are looking for a more secluded getaway, reserve a cottage at Turtle Bay on the north end of the island. The resort has two golf courses, a spa and a kid's club.
Known for its family-friendly attractions, its proximity to Baja Mexico and its gorgeous coastlines, San Diego makes a perfect Southern California escape. The oldest port on the West Coast, San Diego is home to such famous attractions as the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. In the heart of the city is Balboa Park, one of the finest urban parks in the country, home to numerous museums, gardens, galleries and theaters. Take advantage of this vacation spot's perpetually idyllic climate and stay outside: you can swim, surf, kayak, bicycle, in-line skate, golf, and more in California's second largest city. But it's not just about the endless beaches or Shamu the whale: San Diego also boasts a vibrant art scene and hopping nightlife. Go to the historic Gaslamp Quarter (so-called because of the gas lamps that lined the streets) to check out both the well-preserved Victorian architecture of many modern storefronts and an array of fashionable restaurants and bars. Since San Diego is just 16 miles from Mexico, be sure to sample some tasty Mexican fare while you're there.
The area of South County, Rhode Island, consists of more than just picturesque beaches where swimmers and sports enthusiasts can enjoy over 100 miles of coastline: The county also has tons of cultural offerings. With art showings, antique stores, and musical events in the works all year round, South County offers visitors cultural experiences paired with a breathtaking landscape. The area also isn’t short on great libations, and local breweries and wineries can be found on almost every corner. For visitors who want to experience the outdoors, sporting activities like biking, boating, golfing, and surfing are a great way to enjoy the county’s lovely scenery.
Some places just make you go ahhh, and these neighboring islands on the west coast of Florida are among them. Their endless white-sand beaches — many scattered with delicate sea shells — offer panoramic views of the clear, calm waters and golden sunsets of the Gulf of Mexico. Sanibel has a distinctly casual charm with small traditional beachfront motels, while Captiva is golf-cart-friendly, with legendary eatery The Bubble Room and the large South Seas Island Resort offering activities of all kinds.
With the emerald hills of Scotland at its back and the turquoise sea at its front, this serene five-room cottage hotel on the Isle of Lewis draws hikers, sailors, surfers, and divers. Reclaimed merbau hardwoods and bath products of local lavender and Hebridean seaweed bring the outside in. Guests gather by the lounge’s wood-burning fireplace or recap the day’s adventures over fig and walnut pudding at dinner.
Travelers looking for an authentic Maine experience need look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. A town that was once a retreat for the elite now offers affordable accommodations and activities at every price point. The free Island Explorer shuttle provides seasonal service to all three of the area’s public beaches. Tours and equipment rentals are available for a wide variety of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Abundant hiking and biking trails lead visitors along miles of scenic coastline. The perfect end to a perfect day is a lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor’s many restaurants.
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.
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.
Australia: Kewarra near Cairns offers a beautiful sandy bay, a garden filled with exotic birds and pristine rainforest surroundings. Thala Beach Lodge, also near Cairns, is a unique getaway with two pools, waterfalls, spas and grottos. Lizard Island has 24 secluded beaches, a freshwater swimming pool, snorkeling and scuba diving on its own coral reefs. Ask for a room right next to the ocean.
The Algarve is along Portugal’s southern coast and is a European favorite for holidays filled with sunshine and sand. The big city here is Faro, and Faro Airport is where you may fly into for this beach trip. Along the Algarve, you’ll find quiet villages, exciting party towns, and a little of everything in between. This is a great beach trip for travelers looking for authenticity and cultural experiences that go beyond just lounging in the sand. It’s a favorite spot among travelers from the UK and Northern Europe. Take a drive along the coast to see the beautiful cliffs, and make sure to check out Cabo de Sao Vincente, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, and Alte & Salir.