Escape To The Islands

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Summer is coming to an end in the Rim Country, so now is the time to plan a winter escape to an island paradise. There are lots of lush destinations to choose from, so pick up some brochures and start your dreaming.

What do you look for when considering the perfect vacation islands? Some think of great beaches, others just want a superior get-away while some desire tropical weather, quiet, and plenty of sun. There are many around the world that will fill the bill. You simply have to study information, look at a map, check airfares and hotel rates and perhaps consult a travel professional and then make your choices. Do you want to stay rather close to home or do you want some exotic far away destination? It’s really up to you and your budget. I’ll suggest some beautiful islands you may wish to consider for your next escape.

Hawaii’s islands are a favorite of many. My personal two favorites in the group are Kauai and Maui. Both are lush and tropical, offer some of the finest beaches in the world and have some of the best hotels, resorts and golf courses available almost anywhere. On these islands you can rent a car and drive for your sightseeing. You can be as independent as you wish. Since Hawaii is a state, you don’t have to be concerned about the food and water. Everything is about 20 percent more expensive than prices on the mainland, but it all has to be shipped in from various locations. Inter-island airfares are not that expensive and if you home on one island, you can take day trips to some of the others in the Hawaiian group. Again, you can rent cars to sightsee or book tours.

You’ll find that Kauai is not as developed as some of the other islands and there is not as much variety. There is little traffic, no lines and no noise. The local people are friendly and willing to give directions or recommend a nice place to have lunch. There are spectacular sights to see on Kauai including Waimea Canyon, which in some ways rivals the Grand Canyon. You will want to visit Wailua, Poipu Beach and visit the little town of Lihue, which will be your entry point by air. Be sure to take a helicopter tour around the sights of Napali Coast State Park and take the camera for some spectacular photography. Of all the islands, Kauai is my personal favorite. It gets a lot of rain, so take your rain gear. It is known as the Garden Isle and after a visit you will understand why. You can golf, horseback ride, go surfing and take time to relax in the sun on the beach.

Maui is more densely populated, but offers more to do. A car rental is a must, permitting you to visit the many points of interest and it also allows complete independence. Again, there are fine beaches to enjoy, wonderful seafood restaurants, interesting shops, and an extinct volcano to visit. Some of the best hotels and resorts are located here. Take your pick.

Golfers love this island for its fine choice of courses and come back year after year to play. You can take whale viewing boat trips at certain times of year, which is fascinating and there are opportunities to go sailing. From the mainland there are also direct flights. Plan a meal at Mala, located in the Wailea Beach Marriott and oceanside in Lahaina.

Some of the most beautiful islands in the world are in French Polynesia. I suggest for ease of sightseeing you book a cruise on the Paul Gauguin. This cruise ship is one of the highest ranked small luxury cruise ships in the world. It is 513 ft. in length, 19,200 Gross Tons and carries only 332 guests. The food is near gourmet and the service is very good. On many sailing dates you can get free roundtrip air from Los Angeles to Tahiti. The ship is very modern; features all rooms and suites with outside views and many have balconies. This is a five-star ship that will definitely please you. The itineraries last from seven to 11 days and include the best of the French Polynesian group.

You land in the capital, Papeete and board the ship sailing for seven days to Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora, Moorea and return to Papeete. Some of the island stops are for two days, with the ship as your hotel. I have personally never seen a more beautiful group of islands in the world. The ship will offer selected sightseeing tours of interest to you. You can phone Paul Gauguin Cruises at: 1-800-848-6172 and request a brochure and more information.

How about the Caribbean? St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is hard to beat. Not far from the maddening crowds of St. Thomas with all the cruise ship traffic, a short ferry ride takes you to tranquil St. John. Here are some of the most beautiful bays for swimming to be found in the area. Half the island is forested state park. It is quiet, restful, and tropical and off the beaten tourist track. If you want action, take the ferry to St. Thomas about 45 minutes away. Extra fine resort hotels are located on St. John, in fact, some of the best in the Caribbean.

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An island escape offers adventures not readily available to those of us in the Grand Canyon State.

Check out Caneel Bay Resort’s seven beaches. Not much to do except relax, swim and take it easy — this is a real get-away destination. There is good air service to the U.S. Virgin Islands from almost anywhere on the mainland. What is nice is you are still in a U.S. possession.

New Zealand is two islands located in the far South Pacific. A 13-1/2-hour plane ride will fly you from Los Angeles to the capital of Auckland. This city has now over a million in population and built at the sea on hills much like San Francisco. If I were younger, this is probably where I would reside. The people are very friendly, the food is very good, the water is fine and everywhere is clean, clean, and clean. The two islands stretch north and south over a distance of 1,100 miles. You are usually quite close to the sea from wherever you are in New Zealand and there is so much to see and do. The scenery varies from semi-tropical in the north to more like Washington State like in the south. Small towns and cities dot the islands with beautiful landscapes of rolling green hills in the north to the Southern Alps on the South Island. Major motion picture films are made here that supposedly are set in Europe.

Don’t be afraid of the long flight, its over before you know it. Air New Zealand and Qantas will take good care of you.

How about the dream island of Bali? This is quite different than many locations you may have visited in the past. It now boasts 17 “hot list” hotels and has reigned as one of the more favorite islands in Asia for more than 20 years. Not only is the landscape dramatic with rice fields occupying some of the island that look as though you are on a movie set they are so unusual to the westerner, but you have the mountains, tropical scenery, fascinating peoples and beaches that are romantic and special. The food will be Indonesian and quite different from any other cuisine you may have enjoyed in the past. This is a get-acquainted location for you to explore the countryside, the customs and people. Bali is a true “dream” island for some and may be for you. Again, it’s a long plane ride, but worth the trip in my opinion. It lives up to its reputation!

Ever considered the Maldives? The 1,192 islands of Asia’s smallest country encompass plenty top-notch hotels and stunning beaches. The best are found on Boa, North Ari, and North Male atolls, where colorful reef creatures and live coral provide plenty of photo opportunities, especially from the glass-hulled kayaks of the W. Retreat & Spa and the underwater treatment rooms at the Huvafen Fushi. Here is supreme beauty, private life style and pampering like you may have never experienced before. Yes, it’s another long plane ride, but a truly different vacation.

Bermuda has been on the favorite islands list for many — mostly living in the eastern portion of our nation. It is located in the southern Atlantic Ocean some 700 miles from New York. It is a short flight from eastern cities, but my favorite way of travel there is by cruise ship operating out of New York City or Boston.

These Bermuda cruises are usually seven days. It takes a day-and-a-half to reach Bermuda and then you dock downtown and are in the middle of all the action of shopping duty free, nightclubs, and transportation around the island. The ship is your hotel. You can sightsee by water taxi and city busses.

It’s inexpensive, friendly and interesting.

Many of the buildings are painted pink and in some ways is the color trademark of Bermuda. The summers are very nice with mild temperatures and winters being slightly cooler with highs in the 60s. Your cruise ship will spend three-and-a-half days at the island and then return to the U.S. east coast. Your travel professional will be pleased to assist you with information and brochures about the cruise lines that travel there.

The Greek islands are also a favorite of many. Go online and examine some of these jewels. The people are interesting, the towns fascinating and the food and entertainment is purely Greek — of course. A Greek island cruise is another way to see the area without the hassle of crowds in ferries and aircraft between islands. There are charming resort hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout. While in Greece, be sure to spend a couple days in Athens to visit the important sights of antiquity and an evening at a Greek nightclub.

I could name a hundred more islands you would enjoy, but perhaps this will do for now. Wherever you visit, have a ball.

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