Restaurants With Spectacular Views
Savings-minded travelers may not always be able to spring for the loftiest hillside hotels, but a single meal at a spectacularly situated restaurant can be a worthy splurge. From glacial peaks to ancient rain forests—even an underwater dining room in the Indian Ocean—we've rounded up 11 unforgettable places to pick up a fork.
1. CHEZ MANU
The untamed Andes from the southern-most city in the world.
You might not expect to find world-class French food in a frontier city that's more or less at the ends of the earth—which makes Chez Manu an even more pleasant surprise. Set on a hill about a mile north of Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego and the southern-most city in the world, the restaurant first impresses visitors with its remarkable perspective on Beagle Channel and the daily parade of icebreakers and ocean liners departing for the Great Southern Sea and Antarctica. And then there's the food. Naturally, fish figures prominently—particularly cold-water species from the bay, such as black hake, salmon, and herring, to which expat chef Emmanuel Herbin applies his own suitably French twists (seasoning with anise and herbs, say). Also worth a try: Herbin's takes on Patagonian lamb and Fuegian rabbit, served in an aged mustard sauce.
Best Deal Centolla (king crab) is abundant here, and preparations such as centolla gratinada "Chez Manu" come in well below splurge territory ($24). 2135 Fernando Luís Martial Ave., Ushuaia, Argentina, 011-54/2901-432-253, chezmanu.com, entrées from $15.
2. JULAYMBA RESTAURANT
Primordial paradise in the midst of the jungle.
Consider it a total-immersion meal. Part of the Daintree EcoLodge & Spa in northern Queensland, Julaymba Restaurant brings travelers right to the heart of the world's oldest rain forest. The 40-seat restaurant's terrace juts out over an ancient freshwater lagoon while tangled vines drape from the canopy above. From every direction, diners hear the sounds of some 430 species of birds, plus tree frogs, wild turkeys, and wallabies thumping through the brush. But it isn't just the soundtrack that's authentic here—the distinctly Aussie menu incorporates pepper berries, wattle seeds, and other native foods used by the local aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people, many of whom work in the restaurant. Make like a local, and order either the smoked crocodile or the kangaroo steak.
Best Deal The lunch-only fish-and-chips special—it's made with local, line-caught barramundi and chips ($17). Daintree EcoLodge & Spa, 20 Daintree Rd., Daintree, Australia, 011-61/7-4098-6100, daintree-ecolodge.com.au, entrées from $29.
Over-the-top architecture in the world's most outrageous city.
For all the glamour, glitz, and grandeur that have come to define Dubai (or at least its skyscrapers), Pierchic stands out for being just the opposite: understated, low-slung, and thoroughly vernacular in its architectural style. Its wooden beams blend right in with the simple, 500-foot jetty that connects the over-water dining room to Jumeirah Beach and provides enough distance to take in the man-made Palm Jumeirah Island and the full height of Burj Al Arab's 1,000-foot-tall glass sail. Despite the restaurant's waterfront location, much of its top-notch seafood is imported from around the world: butter-poached Canadian lobster, Tsarskaya oysters, and organic Irish salmon confit.
Best Deal The seafood lover's degustation menu, which includes an appetizer, an intermediate and a main course, and a dessert ($43). The menu changes daily, but expect options such as brown shrimp panna cotta, pan-fried oyster, and crème brûlée. Served daily from 1–3 p.m. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, 011-971/4-366-6730, jumeirah.com, entrées from $27.
Scuba views from beneath the ocean.
It's like dinner theater for the dive set—and there's not a bad seat in the house. Ithaa is located 16 feet below the surface of the Indian Ocean. Its tunnel shape and glass walls reveal a breathtaking seascape of unspoiled coral atolls, schools of parrot fish, and giant stingrays to 12 lucky diners. The menu is rich with decadent dishes like caviar, line-caught reef fish and rock lobster, but if you'd rather not look out the window for your ordering inspiration, seared veal tenderloin and button-mushroom soup make for suitable substitutions. And while the four-course lunch menu is undoubtedly a splurge, it's still cheaper than getting certified to scuba. Note that tables can only be reserved two weeks in advance.
Best Deal An 11 a.m. daily cocktail hour opens up the space to curious travelers who can't quite justify the cost of a meal (though the cocktail event itself is a splurge at $55 per person). Conrad Maldives hotel, Rangali Island, Maldives, 011-960/668-0629, conradhotels1.hilton.com, six-course dinner from $320 per person.
5. BOSCO BAR
A view of the country's most famous gilded square.
Of the nine restaurants, bars, and cafes within the upscale, three-story GUM department store in Red Square, Bosco Bar hits a rare sweet spot: There is a bona fide social scene, plus impressive sightlines and prices you can actually stomach. While the shopping center itself draws wealthy Muscovites browsing Hermès, Cartier, and Armani, savvy travelers stake out seats in the 1970s-inspired bar on the square, where they can see Lenin's mausoleum, the Kremlin, and St. Basil's Cathedral all at once. The menu, like the space itself, straddles the new/old divide, with inventive salads (quail with beets and roasted foie gras; smoked salmon, arugula, and potato) and traditional favorites such as beef Stroganoff and borscht.
Best Deal Red Square, red soup: A bowl of borscht goes for $16. GUM Department Store, 3 Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 011-7/495-627-3703, bosco.ru/en, entrées from $11.
A lofty view of a sparkling metropolis.
The 63-story OUB Centre, on Singapore's version of Wall Street, is crowned by 1-Altitude, a three-level venue that offers the best views in the city—plus main-course-quality bar snacks such as wood-fired pizzas, satay platters (spicy Thai beef, chicken, and pork), and Turkish flat bread with dips. The cocktails run the gamut from classic (mojito) to creative (The Narcissist is a tempting combination of Russian Standard vodka muddled with peach, freshly squeezed lime, and rosemary-infused raspberries). The year-old hotspot is always buzzing with young Singaporean professionals, who are keen to kick back after a day's work and survey the skyline, Marina Bay, and the army of container ships plowing through the South China Sea beyond.
Best Deal Good selection of affordable New World wines, from $13 a glass (cocktails start at $16). OUB Centre, One Raffles Pl., 63rd level, Singapore, 011-65/6438-0410, 1-altitude.com, pizzas from $20.
Alpine splendor overlooking Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn.
Talk about making the rounds. Patrons of Kuklos, a futuristic, glass-walled restaurant in the Bernese Alps, don't have to choose between scoping out Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc, or the Matterhorn during their meals. All they have to do is be patient. Every 90 minutes, the circular second-floor dining room makes a full 360-degree rotation, revealing new spans of snowcapped scenery all the while. The menu skews traditional—with Gruyère-and-vacherin fondue and rösti, a Swiss riff on a potato pancake—and the dress code is casual, for a clientele of mostly skiers and mountaineers. What's more, even getting to the restaurant is an experience: Diners access the mountaintop by way of a 10-minute cable-car ride from the town of Leysin, nearly 2,600 feet below.
Best Deal The "panorama gourmand" package covers round-trip gondola fare (normally $26 per person) and a three-course meal ($80) for two for $160—a savings of $52.1854 Leysin, Switzerland, 011-41/24-494-3141, teleleysin.ch/en, entrées from $25.
8. ROCKY POINT RESTAURANT
The most scenic coastline in America.
America's most scenic route presents mile after mile of picturesque vistas—for everyone but the driver, who's focused on navigating the Pacific Coast Highway's notoriously twisty path. The perfect reward for playing chauffeur? A seat on the oceanfront patio at Rocky Point Restaurant, roughly halfway between Big Sur and Carmel. From any of the 15 casual, wooden outdoor tables, guests can soak up views of coastal mountains and rock-strewn shoreline—and, if they're lucky, spot dolphins, sea lions, otters, and whales in the waters beyond. Hearty dishes such as prime rib, New York strip, and swordfish steak—all cooked over a mesquite-fired grill—provide suitable fuel for the next leg of the journey.
Best Deal The four-course early-bird special costs less than most dinner entrées and will keep you in your seat through sunset ($22). Served Sun.–Fri., 5–6 p.m. 36700 Hwy. 1, Carmel, Calif., 831/624-2933, rocky-point.com, entrées from $24.
New York, U.S.
America's most celebrated skyline.
It's a fact: Searching out the most expansive views of the Manhattan skyline requires leaving the island itself—which the devoted clientele of Alma, a three-level Brooklyn dining institution, have been doing since the restaurant opened in 2002. Seeing the Statue of Liberty, too? That's just a bonus. Regulars know to show up early—in the spring and summer there's a no-reservations policy for the 50-seat rooftop garden. Standouts on the nouvelle Mexican menu include a pork-stuffed chile relleno and tangy chilaquiles in tomato sauce, both of which are also available in the main, second-floor dining room—sans the view.
Best Deal Arguably, the sights are best seen in daylight—which works for your wallet, too. The average brunch dish (say, a pollo adasa torta with roasted tomatoes and greens) costs half as much as comparable dinner options ($8.50). 187 Columbia St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 718/643-5400, almarestaurant.com, entrées from $16.
10. VIEW HOTEL
Iconic buttes and majestic spires.
"Monument Valley is the place where God put the West," remarked John Wayne, who helped put the valley on moviegoers' maps by filming Stagecoach there in 1938. Seventy-plus years later, the landscape is just as cinematic, as the folks behind the 95-room View Hotel well know. The on-site restaurant takes full advantage of its location amid the valley's majestic spires: A large bay window overlooks East and West Mitten Buttes, so named for their resemblance to the woolly hand warmers, and natural light floods the space all day. Ambitious early birds can watch the sunrise from one of the few tables lined up along the window (the restaurant opens at 7 a.m.). But arriving later has its benefits, too—like tasting Chef MacNeal Crank's updated takes on his grandmother's traditional Navajo recipes, such as fry-bread tacos or red chile posole, rich with buttery hominy.
Best Deal The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet ($6). Monument Valley Tribal Park, U.S. Hwy. 160 and 163, Monument Valley, Utah, 435/727-5555, monumentvalleyview.com, entrées from $12.
11. BOUCAN RESTAURANT
St. Lucia, West Indies
Tropical treasure from the heart of a chocolate plantation.
Calling all chocolate lovers: Boucan Restaurant might just be your dream come true. Every last item on the menu incorporates some form of cocoa, from a green salad tossed in white chocolate dressing to sautéed prawns with chocolate tapenade and, of course, desserts: a chocolate tart, cacao crème brûlée, and espresso-and-dark-chocolate mousse, to name a few. It's a fitting theme for the brainchild of two British chocolatiers who opened the restaurant (along with the 14-room Hotel Chocolat) in February 2011 on the site of St. Lucia's oldest cocoa plantation, established in 1745. Even dreamier than the indulgent dishes? The jungle-draped views of the Piton Mountains, lush, twin-peaked mountains that rise almost 2,600 feet above sea level on the volcanic island's southern coast.
Best Deal Every dinner reservation from now until December 1, 2011, comes with a complimentary cocktail from a menu that includes chocolate daiquiris, cacao Bellinis, and cacao-pulp martinis (a $10 value). Hotel Chocolat, Rabot Estate, Soufrière, St. Lucia, West Indies, 011-758/457-1624, thehotelchocolat.com, entrées from $15.
5 Credit Cards Every Traveler Should Consider
You and your credit card have been through a lot together. You used it to buy your new laptop and your vacation to France, to pay the electricity bill and support your weekly Whole Foods habit. There have been good times, of course, like when your card provided insurance for your rental car. But ask yourself, what has it really done for you lately? Hiked its Annual Percentage Rate, added mysterious fees, punished you for 'foreign transactions' on your trip to Mexico? It's time to put your spending power into a credit card program that values—and rewards—your wanderlust. Citi Gold/AAdvantage Visa Signature Card Best for: domestic travelers who often fly to the same destinationSo you visit your grandmother twice a year in Cincinnati and fly home to Santa Barbara on all major holidays? This Visa card features a 'Reduced Mileage Awards' program that allows cardholders to fly to select AA destinations for 7,500 fewer miles on a round-trip ticket. If you spend just $750 on the card in the first four months, American Airlines will award you 25,000 bonus miles, enough for a domestic round-trip flight. You'll earn one AAdvantage mile for every dollar spent, and there are no blackout dates for travel on American Airlines or their American Eagle and American Connection domestic carriers. Annual fee after first year - $50. Chase Sapphire Preferred Best for: globetrottersLet's say it together now: no foreign transaction fees. That means you won't be charged extra for using your card anywhere overseas, a crucial benefit for international travelers. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also lets you turn your points into miles with a 1:1 exchange into United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Korean Air, and British Airways, or other travel programs like Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. The introductory offer is tempting: spend $3,000 in the first three months and you'll earn 40,000 miles, roughly $500 towards travel rewards. Annual fee after first year - $95 Starwood Preferred Guest/American Express Best for: hotel connoisseurs and travelers to Latin AmericaAlways wanted to stay at the W Barcelona or the St. Regis New York? Starpoints earned on this card can be redeemed at over 1,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries. The first time you use your card, you'll earn 10,000 Starpoints, enough for a free night at a 4-star property. You can also transfer your Starpoints on a 1:1 basis into more than 30 frequent flier programs. Travelers to Central and South America win especially big with this card—Starpoints are instantly doubled if you transfer them into LAN's frequent flier program. Annual fee after first year - $65 American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card Best for: big spendersDo you put more than $2,000 a month on your credit card? This program will triple your points when you buy a plane ticket and double your points when you spend on gas and groceries. Because the annual fee is on the steep side, this card is a much better deal if you rack up a lot of charges on your card each month. Your earned points never expire; use them on any airline, anytime, by reserving a flight through American Express Travel, or transfer them into your preferred frequent flyer program—points can also be redeemed for retail and dining gift cards. Annual fee after first year - $175 United MileagePlus Explorer Card Best for: United frequent flyersIn addition to giving you two miles per dollar spent on United Airlines tickets, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card offers cardholders a free checked bag on any flight in the system (United charges $25 for the first checked bag, saving you up to $100 on baggage fees for a round-trip flight since this benefit is also extended to one companion on the same reservation), and a 30,000-mile bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Miles will never expire as long as your account remains active, and cardholders can book award travel on any United Airlines flight at any time. You'll also get two free United Club passes per year (a $100 value) and enjoy priority boarding on all flights operated by United. Annual fee after first year - $95
Nonstop Caribbean Map: Fly Right to the Beach
TRAVEL TIPDirect vs. Nonstop: Be careful when booking. Direct flights aren't the same thing as nonstop flights, and they may stop en route to your destination. (A single flight number can cover several flights.) One long layover in Atlanta and you won't make that mistake again. Note: This tool was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
Meet Your New Favorite Beach Town: Montauk, N.Y.
Sian Gordon's yoga studio, Love. A Yoga Space, is not your average meditation spot (yoga classes from $18). To start with, there's a 10-foot-tall graffiti mural by Yale art student Carlos Enrique Martinez covering one wall while the floor is painted bright turquoise. The color is meant to evoke the Caribbean Sea, and its visual impact is undeniable—even under all the suntanned surfers, young mothers, and surprisingly flexible older men in their ashtanga, Iyengar, vinyasa, and anusara classes. "We wanted something alive and bright that made you feel awake," says Gordon, on why she decided to give the traditionally sedate yoga studio a good jolt. "Every yoga studio I'd ever been in made me feel sleepy." See photos of Montauk's Main Street and beaches. Funny, that's what people used to say about Gordon's adopted hometown: Montauk. The 17-square-mile spit of land bordered by Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean seems designed to weed out the uncommitted. It's the eastern-most point of New York State, a wild bit of nature beyond 110 miles of New York City suburbs and tony Long Island summer communities, a journey that can take as long as four hours by car on peak summer weekends. "Everyone who comes out to Montauk has to slog through the traffic. They have to earn it," says Jeff Schwarz, Gordon's partner in the yoga business and the chef at the newly revamped Crow's Nest restaurant (4 Old West Lake Dr., 631/668-2077, lemon pasta $19). "But that moment when you see the ocean for the first time, you feel like you've been set free." Like his yoga space, Montauk has been going through something of a personality transplant. In the past few years, half a dozen high-profile projects have sprouted up in this former fishing village, the last holdout among the ritzy, citified beach towns of eastern Long Island. The buzziest—and perhaps most divisive—is the Surf Lodge, a Southern California- and Hawaii-themed hotel designed by Robert McKinley, with its sunken living room, basket chairs, continuous loop of surf films on a projector screen, and see-and-be-seen Sunday afternoon parties. Ruschmeyer's, a second McKinley hotel (and hotspot-in-the-making), opened here just last month. What distinguishes Montauk from so many gentrification-by-the-sea stories is the relative seamlessness of the transition. Sure, some of the old-timers complain that the flashy new neighbors are changing the place by the minute. (And don't get them started on the flood of high-heeled day-trippers!) The influx of cash has prompted some older businesses, such as the waterfront East Deck motel and the Montauket hotel, a beloved 1950s fishing lodge and bar, to put themselves on the block. But most folks say that the changes are working with the area's assets, not against them. "Montauk was always this hidden gem," says Marcia "Mars" Ostarello, a Montauk summer resident who opened the fuchsia Montaco food truck last July, where she serves fresh fish tacos on blue corn tortillas to surfers (and those who watch them) at Ditch Plains Beach. "But there weren't a lot of things to do at night. You'd just go to a friend's place to have a barbecue. It's new to think, Let's make a dinner reservation." One reason most Montaukers haven't gotten their board shorts in a twist is that their town has been here before and survived. In the precrash 1920s, the rich and famous flocked to the Tudor-style Montauk Manor resort, built by Carl Fisher, the visionary developer responsible for Miami Beach. Then, when Andy Warhol bought a compound in the '70s, friends including Lee Radziwill and Jackie Kennedy came out and made headlines. So what if today Mike D. from the Beastie Boys is standing in line at Ostarello's taco truck? "I'd rather see Montauk fixed up than run down," says Catherine Foley, co-owner with her husband, Stuart, of the surf shop Air and Speed. "We just appreciate and enjoy all the different people who are coming out now. New people bring new interests and enthusiasm." It also helps that Montauk has some inherent buffers against runaway growth. Of the town's 17 square miles, roughly 40 percent is state or county parkland, which can't be developed. That means most new development hinges on renovation rather than construction—leaving all the more room for travelers to take advantage of deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, stand-up paddle-boarding, and picnics on the miles of broad, sandy beaches backed by rocky cliffs. There's also something of a go-with-the-flow vibe to the town. The Foleys are a prime example. Stuart moved here when he was 18 and ran commercial-fishing boats for 25 years, including a five-year period when he and Catherine operated both the fishing business and the surf shop. As the balance of industry in town has shifted from a primarily fishing-based economy toward tourism (with a strong surfing slant), so have the Foleys. Last year, they even launched their own surf-themed apparel line, also called Air and Speed. Of course, change does bring trade-offs to a place whose charm was always derived from its tight-knit, working-class community and its sleepy pace. Catherine remembers taking a photo of her son Michael, now 27, at Ditch Plains Beach more than two decades ago. "There he was in his little board shorts, and no one was behind him! That would never, ever be the case at Ditch now," she says. "There would be a hundred people in the background." A crowded beach is one thing; crowded restaurants are another—and all the better for swapping opinions with strangers about who makes the village's best lobster roll, the unofficial signature sandwich of Montauk. On any summer afternoon, East End lifers, seasonal residents, and tourists alike sit elbow to elbow on the patio of the Westlake Clam & Chowder House in the Westlake marina, a happy coexistence made possible by the harmonizing powers of just-caught seafood and sunny, open-air dining (352 West Lake Dr., 631/668-6252, one dozen clams $13). A similar camaraderie is common at Inlet Seafood, a split-level dockside restaurant that Foley opened in 2006 with five other commercial fisherman (sushi from $6). There, the catch of the day is grilled, fried, sautéed, or carved into sushi just a few feet from where it was hauled out of the boat. And even the newly arrived big-city chefs quickly learn that the best burger in town is at the Shagwong Restaurant, a family-run watering hole that's been a mainstay on Main Street since 1927 (burger from $15). The new-wave culinary love goes both ways: At Schwarz's gig running the Crow's Nest's new kitchen, he brings mealtime variety to a community that's subsisted on fresh but fairly standard fare for years with his "Montauk-meets-Mediterranean" menu of North African-inspired meze, organic chicken kebabs, and lemon pasta. His partner in that venture is Sean MacPherson (of the Bowery Hotel and Ye Waverly Inn in New York City), who renovated the Crow's Nest's 14 guest rooms, all of which overlook Lake Montauk and make their public debut this summer. Another reimagined motor lodge nearby is the 26-room Solé East Beach motel, complete with vintage bathroom fixtures, flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and retro, lime-green doors (double rooms from $169). Guests can rent cruiser bikes, an essential amenity in a town that requires parking permits for all beach lots (which cost a whopping $375 annually for nonresidents). They can also take full advantage of the swimming pool, gardens, and beach-volleyball court at the hotel's pricier sister property, Solé East Resort, one mile away. "I see it all as a positive," says Perry Duryea III, who heads up one of Montauk's oldest commercial fishing businesses and the restaurant Duryea's Lobster Deck (lobster roll from $20). "We are kind of the end of the line. People see Montauk as the next frontier—perhaps, the last frontier. SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 10 Beach Products You Never Knew You Needed 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 12 Most Beautiful Lakes 10 Coolest Small Towns in America Secret Hotels of Paris
13 Best Places in the U.S. for Wildlife Viewing
As many of our patriotic songs point out, the United States is home to a wide variety of natural habitats—from purple mountains to fruited plains and redwood forests, all tucked in between a couple of shining seas. Thanks to this diversity, it’s also home to a dazzling array of wildlife, many of which have found refuge in our protected national parks. Every year, close to 70 million visitors head out into the parks to revel in the scenery and try to get the perfect photos of a sleepy-eyed alligator, majestic bison, or even a mama grizzly. Here are our top animals to spot—on land, in the air, and in water—along with tips on how to best capture the moment on film. See the animals in the parks. COYOTES: ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colorado The misunderstood coyote finds safe haven in these high-altitude Colorado meadows Talk about a bad rep: Smart, resourceful, and adaptable, these wild canines have historically been the target of farmers and ranchers who view them as a threat to livestock. The campaign hasn't really worked, though, since the coyote continues to thrive in both urban and wilderness areas, especially this peak-filled park about an hour north of Boulder. Coyotes are roughly the size of dogs, so you may be tempted to get up close. Don't. Rangers have been forced to kill coyotes that have displayed threatening behavior after taking food from humans. THE PERFECT SPOT: Though they can be spotted throughout the park, coyotes appear to prefer open meadows and pine woodlands. The aptly named Coyote Valley Trail—an easy, handicap-accessible one-mile loop along the Colorado River in Kawuneeche Valley—is a particularly rewarding spot to search for these wily animals. THE PHOTO TIP: While active throughout the day, coyotes are best spotted here early in the morning or around sunset—the perfect lighting for flash-free photography. ELEPHANT SEALS: CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, California The largest colonies of elephant seals gather off the coast of California The northern elephant seal is one of four types of pinnipeds (or "fin-footed" mammals) commonly found in Southern California—others include harbor seals, northern fur seals, and California sea lions. The five isolated islands that make up this national park are home to one of the largest gatherings of these mammals on the planet, with over 50,000 northern elephant seals alone breeding here each year. These unique animals get their name from the long, almosttrunk-like protrusions on males’ faces that are used to make a low, rumbling sound during mating rituals. THE PERFECT SPOT: You can find northern elephant seals on many beaches on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, but the real seal mother lode requires a little extra work. Hiking to Point Bennett on the western tip of San Miguel Island is intense (it's a 15 mile round-trip hike trek), but well worth it. As you come over the Point's rise about halfway through, you'll spot thousands of honking elephant seals camped out on the beach. THE PHOTO TIP: To avoid the glare that can occur when shooting around reflective surfaces like water—or the seals’ glistening, wet bodies—don’t use a flash directly on those areas. Try focusing on a darker part of the scene to prevent overexposure. FRENCH ANGELFISH: VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, St. John, Virgin Islands Stunning, multi-colored French angelfish often swim in pairs along the park's shallow reef trails With its striking gold-scale-flecked black body, white chin, bright yellow iris, and blue face, the French angelfish stands out in a crowd. Native to the western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, the fish tend to hang out in pairs, usually around shallow reefs. They are among the more common residents of the Virgin Islands National Park waters, along with barracuda, blue tangs, butterflyfish, and Nassau grouper. THE PERFECT SPOT: Virgin Islands National Park is home to some of the world's first underwater sign-marked snorkel trails, many of which are fairly shallow and ideal for beginners. For example, the self-guided trail in Trunk Bay, on the northwest shore of St. John, is in protected waters 15 feet deep or less, and is an ideal place to begin your search for the angelfish. THE PHOTO TIP: Obviously, tip one for snorkeling photography is to use an underwater camera or protective covering. Once you've got the right equipment, snag a good shot by getting as close as possible to your fishy subject without using a zoom; this ensures you'll best capture the fish's colors and avoid lots of blue water rings. In addition, using a flash tends to illuminate any particles in the water, creating unwanted spots on the image. BLACK BEARS: GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Tennessee and North Carolina Spot American Black Bears in the largest protected habitat in the eastern U.S. Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, this massive, mountain- and forest-filled national park houses the largest protected American black bear habitat in the eastern U.S. As a result, the furry mammals—which are a bit smaller and more tolerant of humans than their grizzly cousins— are the official symbol of the park. It's estimated that about 1,500 bears currently live here; that comes out to about two bears per square mile. THE PERFECT SPOT: Black bears wander about all day long, especially in or around the edges of forests. Many hang out around the Cades Cove area, an easily accessible valley surrounded by an 11-mile loop road. THE PHOTO TIP: Note that it's illegal to willfully approach within 150 feet, or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, and that violation of this federal regulation can result in fines or arrest. Bring along a telephoto lens and a tripod. Without something to steady your camera, any small movement will create a blur when shooting at such long distances. ALLIGATORS AND CROCODILES: EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FloridaThe only area in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist side-by-side The subtropical wetlands that make up Florida’s Everglades National Park are the only environment in the world where 'gators and crocs live together in harmony, so you’ll need to learn how to tell them apart. Check the face: The alligator has a broad snout, the crocodile a narrow one. And if you can see the large fourth tooth on the bottom when the jaw is closed, you’re looking at a crocodile. THE PERFECT SPOT: The best places to spy sunning alligators, particularly in the winter, are along the Anhinga Trail in the Royal Palm section of the park and along the Shark Valley loop off the Tamiami Trail. Plenty of crocodiles hang out in the saltwater of the Flamingo area, located near Florida Bay at the southern extreme of the park. THE PHOTO TIP: For the best shots of either slow-moving creature, focus on the eyes. If the animal is too much in the shade for the eye to stand out—as is often the case with the darker-skinned alligator—add a flash. Remember that while the creatures might look sleepy, they can move—and snap—very quickly, so keep a healthy distance and obviously don't feed or poke them. MOUNTAIN LIONS: BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas The mighty, solitary mountain lion is the king of the Texas desert The majestic mountain lion—also known as the cougar, panther, or puma regionally—is different from its African cousins in that it lacks a furry mane and a loud roar. But this fierce predator is no slouch! In this desert and mountain park in southwest Texas along the Rio Grande, the mountain lion is the definite lord of the manor—a top predator that feasts on deer, javelina, and other herbivores and keeps the whole ecosystem in check. THE PERFECT SPOT: Mountain lions roam throughout the park, including the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains, where they sometimes follow hiking trails. Each year there are about 150 sightings of the elusive wild cats, most of which occur along roadways and sometimes hiking trails, often around dawn or dusk. THE PHOTO TIP: Mountain lion sightings are rarer than sightings of the other animals on this list. If you do see one, you'll want to snap fast. Bring a high-res, auto-focus point-and-shoot—you won’t have time to be fumbling with lenses. You may have more luck snagging a photo of mountain lion tracks: Keep a look out for the distinctive four-toed paw prints which, unlike those of bears or coyotes, don't have a claw mark in front of each toe pad. ROOSEVELT ELK: OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WashingtonThe largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt Elk roams this park in the Pacific Northwest Named for Theodore Roosevelt, father of the American national parks system, the largest of the North American elk subspecies can be identified by its dark brown head and pale brown body; males also have light brown antlers. President Roosevelt actually had a direct hand in creating the Mt. Olympus National Monument in 1909 to protect the elk living on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The area, which officially became a national park in 1938 (under the second President Roosevelt), is a wildly diverse landscape that includes temperate rainforests, sandy beaches, and glaciers. THE PERFECT SPOT: Head to the lowland Hoh Rain Forest, on the western side of the park, where elk like to graze for ferns, shrubs, and lichens grasses. THE PHOTO TIP: These elk tend to stay in herds of about 20, so you've got an excellent chance of getting a group shot with a wide-angle lens. If you do spot one that's alone or in a pair, those are most likely males. PRONGHORN: WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, South DakotaIndigenous pronghorn wander the South Dakota plains Below ground, Wind Cave National Park shelters the fifth longest cave system in the world, with more than 136 miles of underground passages that have actually been mapped. Above these maze-like formations is a rich prairie ecosystem that plays home to the rare pronghorn—commonly known as the “pronghorn antelope” although it doesn’t technically classify as one. Labeled endangered in the 1920s, the pronghorn can reach speeds of up to 60 mph, making it the fastest land mammal in North America. THE PERFECT SPOT: These beauties can be spotted all over the park, but one of the easiest places to find them is the area immediately around the Elk Mountain campground. Chances are you won’t even have to wander far from your sleeping bag to see one. THE PHOTO TIP: Remember that pronghorn have excellent senses of hearing, smell, and sight—and run extremely quickly—so take pictures from afar. If your shutter happens to scare them into a sprint, pan your camera in time with the pronghorn while you click. This technique will often yield an interesting effect: an in-focus animal on a blurred background. PRAIRIE DOGS: BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, South Dakota Check out a thriving prairie dog town out in the South Dakota Badlands The Badlands is one of the most fossil-rich spots on the planet; its imposing layered rock formations have yielded the remains of massive ancient rhinoceroses, camels, and even dinosaurs. Now, the stars of the show are much smaller—and decidedly cuter. The highly social prairie dog lives in underground colonies, or "towns," that can include as many as 26 family members. THE PERFECT SPOT: Prairie dogs can be spotted along the park's main loop road. Just listen for the distinctive barking warning call that gave them their canine name. A particularly populated area is Roberts Prairie Dog Town, located five miles west of the Pinnacles entrance along Sage Creek Rim Road. THE PHOTO TIP: You may feel the urge to get up close and personal to snap that perfect prairie dog portrait—after all, they’re so furry and cuddly--but resist the impulse. These critters are extremely territorial and can deliver a painful bite if threatened. BISON: YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho Spot majestic bison in one of America's most iconic parks Considered the largest land mammal in the United States, the American bison—also called the American buffalo—typically weighs in at 1,000-1,800 pounds, with some males tipping the scales at 2,000 pounds. The area now housing Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the continental U.S. where bison have continually lived since prehistoric times. Though the population dipped severely in the early-1900s, the park now has a healthy bison population that fluctuates between 2,300 and 4,500. THE PERFECT SPOT: Bison are often on the move and are seen in different areas of the park during different seasons. Since they eat mostly grasses, like wheat grass or blue grama, look for verdant fields for the best group shot opportunities. Check out the Lamar and Hayden Valleys; spots along the Madison, Firehole, and Gibbon Rivers; and in Gibbon Meadow. THE PHOTO TIP: Female bison give birth to one calf every year, usually in April or May, so visit in the spring if you want baby photos. Note that while bison may appear docile and slow, they can charge at up to 30 mph. Visitors are gored every year because they venture too near the animals when taking photos, so keep your distance. BALD AND GOLDEN EAGLES: DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska Both bald and golden eagles soar through Alaska's famous Denali Park Located in the heart of Alaska, Denali National Park contains the country’s highest point, Mount McKinley (Denali means “the high one” in the local Athabaskan language). The sprawling park is also home to two of the country’s most majestic birds of prey: the bald eagle and the no-less-striking golden eagle. Though there are more bald eagles in the northernmost state than in the lower forty-nine combined, the golden eagle is far more common here. In these parts, goldens outnumber balds by 70 percent. THE PERFECT SPOT: Bald eagles can be spotted on the south side of the Alaska Range, especially near water sources like lakes and streams. Golden eagles, which are migratory, can best be seen mid-March through September, before they head south for the winter. They usually build their nests on cliffs or rock outcroppings. THE PHOTO TIP: To best capture a soaring bird in flight, use an SLR camera and set it to continuous focus. As you follow the moving object, your camera will automatically refocus on your subject. Keep clicking, and there’s a good chance one of your shots will be a winner. MOUNTAIN GOATS: GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MontanaThe stunning (and massive) all-white mountain goat is the official symbol of this Montana park Located on Montana’s northern border with Canada, Glacier National Park is a particularly rugged expanse of snow-capped peaks and untouched alpine meadows. With six mountains over 10,000 feet high, the area is a perfect habitat for the shaggy, white mountain goat. Weighing in at almost 300 pounds, the horned and bearded animal navigates the rocky terrain thanks to hooves that are embedded with excellent traction pads and sharp, slip-preventing dewclaws. THE PERFECT SPOT: Some of the best spots for catching mountain goats in summer and early fall include the appropriately titled Goat Lick Overlook along U.S. Highway 2 near Essex, and Logan Pass on the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. THE PHOTO TIP: Photographing white objects, like mountain goats, can often lead to overexposure; too much light gets let into your camera’s sensor, making the object appear washed out. To avoid this common mistake, make sure to focus directly on the goat. On a point-and-shoot, hold down your shutter halfway, point at the white object, allow it to focus, and then snap your shot. Your backgrounds may end up appear slightly darker, but the portrait subject will look its best. BATS: MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK, Kentucky A variety of now-endangered bat species have flown around this Kentucky park's dark caves and forests for millions of years This unique national park has forests, rivers, and the world's longest discovered system of underground caves and caverns. At present, about 350 miles and five levels of below-ground passageways have been surveyed, but it's thought that there are hundreds of miles more to be explored. Naturally, these dark, damp caves and waterways are favorites of bats—gray, red, and brown varietals call the park home. THE PERFECT SPOT: While red bats can be spotted in the forest and rarely head underground, most of the other bat species keep mainly to the caves during the day. About 12 species live in Mammoth Cave, the park's largest cavern, though they can be quite difficult to spot. Bats tend to also roost at cave entrances and in trees, so keep a look out at those spots at dusk. THE PHOTO TIP: Since you're most likely to spot the flying creatures at dusk or after, set your camera's ISO to around 600-800 to allow in more light. If you're inside the caves—some of which have lighting— don't use a flash. Use a tripod for the best (read: non-blurry) pictures. SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 4 Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage 10 Best Affordable Beach Hotels 26 Stunning Ireland Photos 25 Most Photographed Places on Earth World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools