7 Things to Do in Staten Island, New York

By Liza Weisstuch
March 19, 2019
Gardens with building
New York City's other island borough is a destination for food, drink, culture, and more greenspace than anywhere else in the city.


Staten Island is commonly referred to as New York's "overlooked" borough, often drawing visitors who are primarily interested in the scenic free ferry ride, which departs every 30 minutes from the ferry terminal in lower Manhattan and provides superior photo opportunities of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. We, however, see it more as a local gem, a bastion of incredible Sri Lankan food, which is hard to come by in the other boroughs, small cultural centers and museums, and more green space than anywhere else in New York City. We rounded up a few things to do when you spend a day on this urban island.

1. A Warm Welcome

Memorial-Staten-Island-Ferry-Terminal-St-George.jpg?mtime=20190318121343#asset:105193(Manon Ringuette/Dreamstime)

Like so many other places in New York City, St. George, the neighborhood that starts at the ferry terminal, is in the throes of a massive building boom. The core of the project is Empire Outlets, a sweeping mall with many familiar designer stores. With its direct sightline to the Financial District, the terminal area is also the site of Postcards (pictured above), a poignant 9/11 memorial that was completed in 2004. The names of 263 Staten Islanders who were killed in the 9/11 attack and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are marked on individual profile silhouettes built into the flat white freestanding cement walls that stretch into the sky, designed to look like postcards blowing in the wind, carrying messages to loved ones. An adjacent memorial pays tribute to the 73 local first responders who died in the aftermath.

The ferry terminal is an easy walk to the waterfront Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees, the New York Yankees’ minor league team. Tickets to games where you just might spot tomorrow’s MVP start around $12, view of the Manhattan skyline included.

2. Sri Lankan Nation

Marked by a mural of majestic elephants along the side of the building, Lakruwana, a Sri Lankan restaurant (lakruwana.com) about a mile from the ferry terminal (a lovely waterside walk) feels like it was transplanted from the Sri Lankan countryside. And in a way, it is. Owner and expat Lakruwana Wijesinghe went to his homeland to buy nearly everything to design the restaurant, from the bamboo-and-stone-wall panels to the ornate wood door and Buddha statues, not to mention the clay pots and water cups. Lakruwana met his wife, Jayantha, on the Staten Island ferry and they run the business together: He oversees the front of the house and she helms the kitchen, turning out dishes defined by curry paste, mustard seed, ginger, coriander, and cumin. Weekend brunch is a buffet that presents a spectrum of flavors and heat. Regardless of what day you visit, though, order the signature lampreis from the menu. This banana-leaf-wrapped mixture of curried rice, eggplant, bananas, and soft cashews is so aromatic that the smell will linger in your mind for days.

Lakruwana is one of several Sri Lankan restaurants on Staten Island, which is home to about 5,000 Sri Lankans, the largest population outside the South Asian country. There are more eateries nearby, sitting alongside markets that sell coconut vinegar, banana blossoms and other imported goods. There's also the Sri Lankan Arts & Cultural Museum (srilankanmuseny.org), a compact space down the street from Lakruwana showcasing masks, furniture, statues, and more, founded and run by the Wijesinghes' daughter. The community as a whole is so distinctive that Anthony Bourdain delved into it on his show No Reservations.

3. See a Show in a Historic Theater (or Just Take a Tour)

In 1929, as Herbert Hoover moved into the White House, Popeye made his comic strip debut, Ernest Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms, and Picasso and Dali were painting their masterpieces. Despite the devastating stock-market crash, it was a big year for the arts, and New York was no exception. Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art opened to the public, and further south across the water, the St. George Theatre (stgeorgetheatre.com) became a glamorous destination with an ornate interior and domed ceiling, designed by Nestor Castro, who was responsible for the interiors of many Times Square theaters. Films and live vaudeville shows drew crowds until Vaudeville fell out of fashion, but it remained a movie house through the 1970s, when it ultimately fell into disrepair. After a local initiative, however, it was restored to its over-the-top baroque glory, complete with velvet seats, a stained-glass chandelier, tiled fountains, and much more. It reopened in 2004, and today it hosts first-run movies, art films, and national touring acts. Everyone from Diana Ross to Lee Ann Womack to the Jonas Brothers have graced the stage. Tours of this architectural tour de force are available by appointment.

4. Staten Island Beer Takes the Spotlight

These days it seems like it’s hard to go more than a few miles in any given urban landscape without coming across a brewery, and Staten Island is no exception. Flagship Brewing Company (flagshipbrewery.nyc), for one, offers $5 brewery tours on Saturdays,tasting flight included, and the taproom is open Tuesdays through Sundays. With barrels holding up the bar, communal tables, and a taxidermied deer watching the scene like a sentinel, its warm vibe is hard to resist.

In 2017, a group of homebrewers opened Kills Boro Brewing Co. (killsboro.com) in the back of Craft House, a barbecue restaurant that was already known for its extensive craft-beer menu. Since its launch, Kills Boro has made a name for itself with creative beers, like Midnight Snack, an oatmeal porter conditioned on toasted coconut, and the Gimme Gimme Kiwi Strawberry, a sour ale with kiwi, strawberry, and vanilla beans. A broad window affords guests a view of the grand copper kettles and the brewing process in action.

5. Explore the Parks of the "Greenest Borough"


Staten Island has more green space than any other borough in New York, with 9,300 acres of federal, state, and city parkland. Running and biking trails, tranquil ponds, playgrounds, promenades, meadows, beaches, and even a historic fort can be found throughout. The roster is too extensive to list, but if you only have a day, your best bet is to hit Snug Harbor Cultural Center (snug-harbor.org), which was founded in 1831 when a Manhattan hospital for aged Marines relocated here. Today, the 83-acre park is home to five landmark Greek Revival buildings that house galleries featuring modern and historical art exhibits, as well as the Staten Island Children’s Museum and the lush Staten Island Botanical Garden. As further proof of why Staten Island is referred to as the greenest borough, consider Snug Harbor’s 2.5-acre heirloom heritage farm, which supplies high-end Manhattan restaurants like Per Se and sells its bounty to locals at a weekly seasonal farm stand.

6. To the Lighthouse

Before digital navigation tools were the norm, the Lighthouse Depot Administrative Building was the center of operations for American lighthouses and headquarters for equipment and supplies. The circa-1869 building, located by the St. George Ferry Terminal, is now home to the National Lighthouse Museum (lighthousemuseum.org), where displays detail the history of these architectural marvels and the key players in along the way, including George Washington, who signed an act that put lighthouses under federal control. Don’t miss the tremendous glass-egg-like light-reflective lens that lighthouse keepers needed to clean constantly. While light bulbs and LED lights play a big role in guiding boats in modern times, these feats of physics are still in use today.

7. Visit a Treasure Trove of Himalayan Art

From the front, the modest house that sits at the top of Lighthouse Hill overlooking Staten Island’s north shore doesn’t look like much. There’s a stone wall that extends around the property. Its simple appearance belies the rich story of its beginnings. Jacques Marchais, an Ohio native who came to New York in the 1920s in the hopes of becoming an actress, was part-socialite, part-eccentric, and part-art-collector. She was, as the story goes, a fiery independent spirit and her home was being built in the 1930s, she would pick up the architect in her big, fancy car and drive through the island to gather stones, which were used to construct the wall. Her home which is designed like a Tibetan monastery, is the first example of Himalayan style architecture in the United States. But it only hints at her all-consuming obsession with Himalayan and Tibetan art, and while she never traveled to the far east, she accumulated one of the earliest collection of art from the region. It’s all on display at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art (tibetanmuseum.org), which she opened as a gallery in 1938 to showcase her extensive assortment of artwork, carved wood furniture, statues, and sculptures. Today, the two-building museum is the largest collection of Himalayan art in the United States. It’s a tranquil spot and a gorgeous refuge, especially in the warmer months when you can sit outside on the monastery-style patio that Jacques designed. It overlooks a pond and a landscape dense with blossoming trees.

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Budget Travel Lists

8 Excellent American Wine Regions You Need to Know

Sure, Napa and Sonoma are America’s best-known (and most highly visited) wine-producing regions—but the Golden State isn’t the only place to seek out spectacular juice. Serious winemaking aimed at your swirling and sipping scrutiny is happening all over the United States. And while some of these spots might be better known for, say, potatoes, barbecue, or chili peppers, it might surprise you to learn that they're home to bountiful vineyards. Here are eight great wine-producing regions where passionate winemakers and the resulting liquid of the gods are well worth the trek. 1. Snake River Valley, Idaho About a half-hour’s drive from bustling Boise, Idaho’s Snake River Valley wine region in the southwestern Idaho has become a popular spot to set down vines due to its rich volcanic soil. (Fun fact: Idaho has several active, sleeping volcanoes, best observed in the 53,500 acres of hardened, basaltic lava flow fields and volcanic formations of Craters of the Moon national park.) Don’t miss Huston Vineyards (hustonvineyards.com), in Caldwell, where the floral-and-plum perfumed malbec is a stand-out. But if you’re looking for a tasting room with a view, about three miles south, the bright, zippy Riesling from Ste. Chappelle Winery (stechapelle.com) is nearly as refreshing as the breezes atop Winery Hill, which delivers sweeping vistas of the vineyards and the rolling Snake River below. 2. Southeastern New Hampshire Just over the Massachusetts border on the southeastern side of the Granite state lies the highest concentration of New Hampshire’s 25—and counting—wineries, known for everything from traditional wine-grape varieties to thoughtful takes on orchard and berry fruit-based wines and ciders. Make your base camp in pretty Portsmouth (a good choice is the boutique circa-1881 charm of the Hotel Portsmouth near Market Square), and head out to LaBelle Winery (labellewinerynh.com) in nearby Amherst, where owner Amy LaBelle takes wine and food pairing seriously at her three-acre winery and bistro. Another must-visit is Flag Hill Winery and Distillery (flaghill.com), which sources its grapes (and grains) from its 100-acre-plus estate. 3. Albuquerque, New Mexico Spanish priests planted grapes in New Mexican soil a solid century and change before they hit California, but it wasn’t until a French Champagne maker named Gilbert Gruet set down vines near Albuquerque in the mid-'80s that New Mexico caught the attention of the wine cognoscenti. Grapevines like to struggle a bit, and the arid, sunny, super high-altitude terrain of New Mexico has made it one of the best spots for sparkling, as evidenced by Gruet’s national success. Now, nearly 40 years later, nearby newcomers like Sheehan Winery (sheehanwinery.com) are broadening the playing field with reds that offer the kind of deep, inky extraction that any Napa cab fan would love. 4. Eastern Long Island This 100-mile skinny strip of land might be famed for its Hamptons glitz, but the 209 square miles of vineyards split between the island’s North and South Forks (liwines.com) offer spectacular sipping with seaside views of the Atlantic and Long Island Sound. Although the area is best known for its way with the mighty merlot grape, it’s nearly impossible to resist the summery allure of rose here. Producers like Wolffer Estate Vineyard (wolffer.com) and Kontokosta (kontokostawinery.com) provide two of the most beautiful tasting rooms with sigh-worthy views (the former of their vast acreage of manicured vines; the latter of the Long Island Sound), but grabbing a stool at an intimate spot like Peconic Cellar Door (peconiccellardoor.com) will likely afford you a one-on-one with owner-winemakers Robin Epperson-McCarthy of Saltbird Cellars and Allie Shaper of As/If Wines and Brooklyn Oenology. (Do not miss her skin-fermented white, “Broken Land,” made from gewürztraminer and pinot gris.) 5. Central Vermont The deeper you get into Vermont, the more you’ll notice something is missing: billboards. There are none, because the state banned them along roadsides. All you see for hours on end are towering hemlock, pine, and ash trees. This verdant landscape is also home to some exciting pioneer-driven winemaking, like La Garagista (lagaragista.com), owned by grape-whisperer and winemaker Deirdre Heekin. Heekin and HER husband, Caleb Barber, grow and work exclusively with French-American hybrid grapes (a combo of traditional European grapes, like cabernet sauvignon, and native American varieties), which they’ve dubbed alpine wines for the cold climate the grapes endure here, a mere 160 miles south of Montreal. Lincoln Peak (lincolnpeakvineyard.com) in New Haven and Shelburne Vineyard in Shelburne, both nearby, are also worth the visit. And make sure to nab a copy of the Vermont Cheese Trail map, which includes nearly 50 artisan cheesemakers, for stops in between. 6. Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan Courtesy L. Mawby Vineyards/Michael PoehlmanThe 20-plus wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula, a broad, ragged land mass jutting into Lake Michigan, are part of the oldest wine trail in the state (lpwines.com), formed in the early 1980s, where whites and sparkling wines are the order of the day. For the latter, a must is L. Mawby Vineyards (lmowby.com), where owner Larry Mawby is as well known for his irreverent wine names as he is for the excellent bubbles within the bottles. Sitting at one of the highest points in the area is Rove Estate (roveestate.com), where winemaker and owner Creighton Gallagher focuses mostly on aromatic white grape varieties like gewürztraminer and pinot gris, but his elegant cool-climate reds aren’t to be overlooked. 7. Hill Country, Texas (Courtesy Texas Hill Country Wineries)When European grape varieties were nearly wiped out by a nasty vineyard pest in the late 1800s, it was Texas rootstock that saved the day, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Texas wine started to find its groove. With the sweet little German-influenced town of Fredericksburg at its heart, the Hill Country wine region (texaswinetrail.com) is home to heat-loving grapes like Viognier, Marsanne, Tannat, and Mourvedre, which thrive in the loamy-clay soils of the Edwards Plateau. Stand-out spots: Pedernales (pedernalescellars.com) winemaker and co-owner David Kulkhen makes kick-ass Tempranillo (and hey, you’re in the heart of barbecue country here—what grows together, goes together), and newbie Southold Farm & Cellar’s modern tasting room mirrors the forward-thinking sensibilities of talented winemaker Regan Meader, especially in his petillant natural-style sangiovese or his grape skin–fermented picpoul. 8. Northwestern New Jersey It’s not called the Garden State for nothing, and yet New Jersey may be one of the most under-the-radar wine spots on the eastern seaboard. The wineries of the neighboring Hunterdon and Warren Hills AVAs may be among those poised to change that, though. Producers like Alba Vineyards in Milford are showing finesse with pinot noir and chardonnay, and Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown has made its mark with aromatic varieties like gewürztraminer.

Budget Travel Lists

Visiting Mexico: 8 Things Every Traveler Should Know

Mexico has topped many news feeds lately. But this is not a political story. Rather, it’s a story about the abundant reasons why Mexico should top many travelers’ to-do lists. For starters, Mexico is vast—its land measures about the same as the western third of the continental U.S. It’s comprised of 32 states (one of which is Mexico City, technically a “federal entity” not a state); and just like each American state, each one has its own character and landmarks. As many visitors already know, Mexico is home to incredible beaches and resorts. But its cities rival those gorgeous recreational hotspots, thanks to rich urban culture, unforgettable gastronomy, iconic architecture, public markets, verdant parks, and more. Mexico’s diverse landscapes stretch from high plains of the Sierra Madre mountain system, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea. Within those terrains is heritage so deep it’s considered one of the world’s five “cradles of civilization,” dating back to 8000 B.C. Over those pre-European millennia, the advanced cultures of Mesoamerica, including the Maya, Aztec, and Teotihuacan, built cities whose pyramids and other marvelous structures still stand today. The choices for how best to enjoy Mexico’s diverse destinations are plentiful, and entirely up to your travel predilections. But as you plan your visit, here are a few tips to keep in mind for a vacation that’s truly magnifico. 1. Arriving in Mexico Major airports are usually seamless for international arrivals, and even easier for domestic travel. Generally, customs lines in cities like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta move quickly; while in Mexico City, they’re fast and almost exclusively employ electronic kiosks for foreign arrivals to scan passports (and fingerprints, just like foreign travelers arriving in the U.S.). The most important thing to know is that, as a visitor, a Mexican customs agent will stamp your passport and return it to you with a thin slip of paper called a “tourist permit.” You won’t need it every day of your stay, but it’s required to exit Mexico. The smart move is to keep it tucked into your passport, which should then be tucked away in your hotel safe or other secure spot, so that it’s ready for your airline to collect prior to boarding your departure flight. If you lose it, expect to pay a fine. 2. Currency The exchange rate for pesos remains favorable for most currencies, around five U.S. cents for one peso. It’s probably one of the best reasons to visit Mexico. Yet many businesses accept the U.S. dollar. Resist the temptation to pay with dollars either in cash or credit card, since it’s almost certainly a less-favorable exchange rate. Upon arrival in Mexico, just hit a bank’s ATM to withdraw pesos; then traverse the city with only the amount you might need, leaving the rest in your hotel safe. (And FYI, the symbol for pesos is “MXN$”—not a unique peso symbol. Yes it’s confusing, but now you know!) 3. Affordable Mexico Overall, traveling in Mexico is pleasantly inexpensive for international visitors. There are so many ways to eat well and pay little, from cafés to markets to polished restaurants. Affordability also applies to independent shops selling handmade goods, museums, taxis and transit, and hotels (whether boutique or global chains). On the other hand, there are plenty of worthwhile places to splurge, including world-class restaurants and luxury lodging. The smart move is simply to figure out your total trip budget, then plan how best to divvy up and maximize your peso spending. 4. Travelers’ Safety View of Santa Prisca church in Taxco, Mexico (Ulita/Dreamstime) Sensational news might have you imagining that the whole of Mexico is a dangerous jungle. Such rich storytelling abounds, and it is unfortunate. Because if we’re generalizing, it should be about how wonderfully warm, friendly, and decidedly civilized Mexico and its people are. In terms of real safety, however, we should wisely apply the same level of caution towards a trip here that we would for any other locale. Stick to the usual safety rules: Be alert; don’t walk around with flashy valuables; carry only the cash and cards you’ll need; politely decline street hawkers; and stick to well-lit, well-traveled areas. 5. Food & Drink There is one stereotype about Mexico that tends to ring true: Don’t drink the water. Public tap water isn’t filtered to a degree that’s safe for most people to consume. So only drink, cook, wash food, and brush your teeth with bottled water. Avoid salads and street food that’s raw and possibly washed with tap water, and if you’re ordering a delicious juice from a store or vendor, watch closely that if any water is added, it’s from a bottle (preferably one you’ve seen and heard opened), not a pitcher. The exception is if you’re at a reliable resort or hotel with its own water-filtration system—those are consistently effective and safe. Plus guaranteed-filtered water is a far more eco-friendly way to stay hydrated than overusing little plastic bottles. As for street food or those other delicious antojitos (aka snacks, which include tacos, tortas, and tostados), don’t be shy—enjoy them, because they’re usually delicioso. Just look for stands that appear popular with diners, avoid consuming anything raw/washed (no lettuce; but squeezable limes and salsas are usually fine), and be sure the meat or veggie filling has been fully grilled. 6. Spanish vs. English You’ll find that in most hotels and fine restaurants, English is commonly spoken. But it’s worth the smiles you’ll get to practice even basic Spanish with Mexican folks, from taxi drivers and museum clerks; to hotel workers and bartenders. In fact, English isn’t so common that you’ll have a choice—so keep your translation app or Spanish dictionary handy. 7. Traffic Along with being a huge country geographically, Mexico also has a massive population of about 130 million, making it the world’s 10th-largest nation. And sometimes, when you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll feel like every last one of them is in a vehicle heading the same direction as you. In this situation, remember two things: Traffic here always seems to steadily creep along, and you will get there eventually. So budget extra travel time to ensure punctuality for reservations. Hot tip: If you’re in a city with Uber (which is increasingly common in Mexico), use it instead of a regular cab. That way you’ll ride at a pre-set rate, rather than on a taxi meter that keeps clicking up even in slow traffic. 8. What to Wear Relax on the beaches in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Lunamarina/Dreamstime) While coastal areas are sure to be warm even in winter, on the high plains, you’ll need to pack for the actual season. After all, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, and many other major (non-coastal) cities are thousands of feet high in elevation, making it plenty chilly, especially at night. So wear layers, and don’t forget to pack your jacket.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Spectacular Things to Do in Baja California, Mexico

Contrary to its name, Baja California is not actually located in California—it's Mexico’s twelfth-largest state. Filled with a heady mix of mountain ranges, beaches, countryside, deserts, and cities, this laid-back peninsula extends from the southernmost point of California into the Pacific Ocean and is just 17 miles from downtown San Diego. Though it's known primarily for Cabo, the A-list and spring-break destination brimming with lavish hotels and hard-partying tequila bars, Baja offers something for everyone. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Sea of Cortez on the east, water lovers will find a full range of activities, from sport fishing to scuba diving to whale watching. The Mediterranean climate and rich soil also support a thriving wine and culinary scene, and there are plenty of hiking trails and camping spots for those looking to spend time in the outdoors. We rounded up a few things to do in this magical and diverse locale. 1. Swim With the Fishes The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, separates Baja from the Mexican mainland. One of the most diverse seas in the world, it's home to over 800 marine species. Though swimming is chillier in the winter months, it’s the perfect time to book a whale-watching trip to see the gray, blue, and even humpback whales making their way to the Arctic—and don’t forget the sea lions and dolphins. Anglers should look into a sailing charter for a chance to nab billfish, snapper, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and grouper—and think about making a stop at one of the many small beaches to fly-fish for roosterfish. For those who want to look at fish instead of catch them, there are many types of boat tours to choose from, allowing snorkelers and divers to commune with the stunning underwater display of colorful marine life and fauna. And you can add kayaking and beach-hopping to round out the adventure. 2. Make It a Family Affair Want to enjoy all the fun and adventure Baja has to offer and still relax with your family? The Hyatt Ziva (hyatt.com), an affordable, all-inclusive hotel perched on the Pacific side of the peninsula, is the perfect home base. A heated pool with a kid-friendly swim-up bar as well as daily activities, like soccer, basketball, and ping pong, keep the kids engaged. Meanwhile, water-based adult exercise classes offset last night's flowing margaritas. There's also an adults-only pool in case you want to sneak in some quiet time, and because everything is contained within the resort—including five restaurants, snack bars, a Teens Club with games and hangout space and the Kidz Club with a small waterpark and counselors—you can stay worry-free as the kids explore, eat, and drink. The beach is clean and expansive, with plenty of sofas and lounge chairs to relax on, but the undercurrent is strong, so swimming isn’t allowed. However, if you’re visiting during whale season, you might catch a glimpse of these stunning creatures from the sand. The staff is helpful and friendly and the food is excellent, especially the overly abundant breakfast buffet, which includes Mexica entrees and pastries, and made-to-order quesadillas. Ready to venture out? The excursion desk will help you choose your journeys. 3. Hit the Wine Trail (Adeliepenguin/Dreamstime)When it comes to West Coast wine, Napa and Sonoma usually get the accolades. But the Valle de Guadalupe, just a 90-minute drive south of the California border, offers a premium, yet low-key and affordable, wine-tasting experience. More than 150 wineries now dot the region, which is green and lush and probably best visited on a weekday—away from the day-tripping crowds. Though wine-tasting is the focus, with a climate similar to a drier Rioja and a blend made from a mixture of French, Spanish, and Italian grapes grown in granite-rich soils, you won’t be disappointed with the seasonal dining and boutique hotels and inns. Stop by Adobe Guadalupe (adobeguadalupe.com) for its cabernet sauvignon and merlot house blends, not to mention pomegranates and olives straight from the property’s trees, then stay in one of six guest rooms named for archangels. You can also take a dip in the pool, go horseback riding, and taste the house olive oil. Though you won’t find many white varietals in this region, the winery Finca la Carrodilla (fincalacarrodilla.mx) offers a crisp, organic chenin blanc, which you can sip in its rooftop garden. The region's dining options are diverse: You can splurge on a five-course meal at Corazón de Tierra (corazondetierra.com), grab a taco from the Troika food truck (facebook.com/TroikaValle), or enjoy a picnic-style meal overlooking the El Mogor winery at Deckman’s (deckmans.com), the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Baja. 4. Chill, Surf, Shop, Eat, Repeat in Todos Santos This tiny town north of Cabo San Lucas is Baja’s answer to Tulum. A sleepy, eco-chic hideaway in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, the town has been dubbed a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government—honored for its natural beauty, cultural richness, and hospitality. Most people, however, know it as the home of Hotel California. Surfers come from far and wide to ride the point breaks in San Pedrito Point and La Pastora, though newbies might consider a local surf camp like Mario Surf School (mariosurfschool.com) and stay close to Los Cerritos beach. Families can enjoy the calmer Playa Las Palmas for swimming and collecting shells. Plus there’s plenty on offer in the lively town, where art galleries, local crafts, and shops abound. Hungry? Baja-style fish tacos should not be missed at the La Copa Cocina at the Todos Santos Inn (todossantosinn.com), and can be enjoyed on the garden patio or inside the more stylish Iguana Lounge. 5. Don’t Miss “The Snorter” Head 20 miles south of Ensenada on a twisty, panoramic road to witness the spectacular marine geyser, La Bufadora. (Bufar is Spanish for “snort.”) The second-largest blowhole in America, created by sucking ocean waves and air into an underwater cave, the geyser is located on the tip of the Punta Banda peninsula and gushes every minute or so—sometimes even multiple times a minute. Watch and listen to the thunderous waterspout from an 80-foot observation ledge, though do keep in mind that it sometimes shoots more than 100 feet above sea level. Guided tours are available and usually include a dramatic telling of the local legend of a baby whale who, stuck in the cave, is doomed to spew water out its blowhole for all eternity. Not the most uplifting story, but this natural treasure is not to be missed. 6. Take a Hike Need a break from the sun, sand, and surf? Head to the Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir mountain region for clean, clear air and Pichaco del Diablo, the highest peak in Baja at 10,154 feet. With more than 140 species of plants, a fir-tree forest, and plenty of fauna to ogle, like muledeer and bighorn sheep, you can hike several marked trails, including the six-mile round-trip to El Altar. In 2002, five endangered California condors were reintroduced to the park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the 28—out of 410 worldwide—that live there now. Come for the hiking, stay for the stars, which can be seen clearly at the park’s Observatorio Astronómico Nacional. Here you can look through three high-powered deep-space telescopes and get a tour inside this working observatory. Campsites are available to rent at the park entrance, but if glamping is more your speed, check out the four cabins near the ranger station. Another option: Reserve a small adobe cottage in the park with Baja Dark Skies (bajadarkaskies.wordpress.com) or book a room at the Rancho Meling (ranchomeling.com), a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch at the base of the mountain. 7. Rub Shoulders with the Stars (Sorin Colac/Dreamstime)Yes, it’s overrun with spring-breakers and other vacationers much of the time, but no trip to Baja is complete without a visit to the southernmost point of Cabo. For celebrity sightings, hit the Corridor, the remote, 20-mile stretch between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Take a drive to view the stunning, cavernous coastline—brimming with small khaki mountains, oceans, golf courses, and private villas, then stop at the Cape, a Thompson Hotel (thompsonhotels.com), for peaceful vistas and a sunset cocktail at the rooftop bar. Dinner should be reserved (weeks ahead, if possible) at Flora’s Field Kitchen at Flora Farms (flora-farms.com), a farm-to-table oasis of organic vegetation and a 150-acre ranch, hidden up a dirt lane past San Jose del Cabo marina. In addition to potential star-spotting and beer crafted at Flora’s Brewery, you’ll feast on seasonal dishes and 15 different types of pizza. Then, if you can muster the energy, hit the town in Cabo San Lucas, which is known for its rows of bars and clubs, including the Van Halen-helmed tequila-centric Cabo Wabo Cantina (cabowabocantina.com), where you can catch live acoustic music every night.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Most Relaxing Spas in America

Need a little R&R? Say no more! We’ve scoured the country to find the 10 most relaxing spas in the U.S. If you’re ready to unwind, pack a bag and head to one of these sanctuaries. 1. Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, FL (Courtesy @acqualinaresort/Instagram)Take in breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean from one of the 98 impeccable guest rooms at this five-star resort and spa located on 4.5 beachfront acres in Sunny Isles Beach, Miami (one of our favorite cities for foodie adventures and more). Enjoy a soak in one of the resort’s three oceanfront swimming pools before retreating indoors to the property’s world-class, 20,000-square-foot spa. Its signature spa treatments include a full-body massage using hot volcanic stones, a hot salt stone massage, and a detoxifying body wrap and advanced body massage that targets cellulite, fluid retention, and skin tonicity. The spa also has a Finnish sauna, a crystal steam room, and a shower room with cool Arctic and warm Caribbean mists. 2. Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, TX Built on a secluded lakefront, this sprawling Texas getaway is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a luxury resort with waterfront views. The resort offers more than 100 spa treatments and services, from seaweed body wraps and collagen-boosting facials to Thai massages and acupuncture. Guests can also enjoy any of the resort’s wide range of activities that are included in their stay such as a Mediterranean cooking class, outdoor yoga session, or canyon preserve hike. 3. Auberge du Soleil in Napa, CA Budget Travelers have always loved California wine country. Secluded inside a terraced, sun-kissed hillside amid 33-acres of heritage olive and oak trees, this Napa Valley resort has a spa surrounded by sweeping views of the wine country. Its “best of Auberge facial” uses advanced ingredients rich in marine collagen, powerful antioxidants, and exfoliating enzymes to provide immediate firming and facial contour results. Traveling with your significant other? Get a joint full-body exfoliation using crushed grape seeds, followed by a fragrant bath for two in a private garden where you’ll enjoy fresh fruit and wine before receiving side-by-side scalp and foot treatments, followed by full-body massages. 4. Encore spa at Wynn resort and casino in Las Vegas Sin City tops many traveler’s must-see list. This hotel spa may just be the definition of opulence. Featuring designer treatment rooms, the Wynn’s Encore spa sets a tranquil mood with glowing gold lanterns, life-size Buddhas, and blossoming orchids. For a relaxing full-body treatment order the Good Luck Ritual, which combines a custom massage, invigorating peppermint foot treatment, ultra-moisturizing hand therapy, and botanical scalp treatment. Have tired, achy feet? The Encore Foot Surrender will revitalize them by incorporating the use of steamed herbal poultices, reflex point therapy and a cooling peppermint foot treatment. 5. Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel in New York City This Japanese-inspired wellness center is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Lanterns that softly illuminate the heated swimming pool set a soft ambience that will put your mind at ease. Consider getting the Bamboo Glow, a bamboo and lemongrass body scrub followed by a private shower with yuzu sea algae wash, a mint mineral bath, and a 60-minute, moisture-binding massage infused with bergamot, vetiver, and wild, Japanese lime. Spa guests also enjoy complimentary tea and dried fruits. 6. The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, PA A two-hour drive from New York City, this resort’s luxurious spa draws guests with its selection of creative body treatments, massages, facials, and salon services. Enjoy a soak in the facility’s activity pool with floor to ceiling windows, surrounded by nature, before retiring to one of the 27 treatment rooms for a European deep cleansing facial, Swedish magnesium massage, or Thai bodywork—a technique that uses stretching, point therapy, and breath work to create a sense of balance throughout the body. In addition, the spa specializes in pre-natal treatments that focus on rehydrating skin and promoting circulation. 7. Mii Amo in Sedona, AZ You’ll fall under Sedona’s spell at this ultra-private spa retreat nestled in a red-rock canyon that’s sacred to Native Americans. Guests can choose from a 3-, 4- or 7-night all-inclusive program that includes scheduled fitness classes, lectures, and two spa services per day. Opt for one of its indigenous-inspired therapies, such as the Soul Seeker treatment, where a master therapist uses guided imagery, energy soul journeying, emotional release, and breath work to help you achieve heightened awareness. 8. Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, WI Tucked in a pine forest on the scenic outskirts of Wisconsin Dells, this resort’s spa is the perfect spot to disconnect and enjoy spa treatments that blend ancient wisdom with modern wellness techniques. Guests can choose from a wide range of spa treatments, including a coffee bean firming body wrap, exfoliating wrinkle reduction facial, or warm oil scalp massage. Also, the indoor bathhouse features an essential oil-infused hot pool with hydro jets, a cool plunge pool that improves circulation, a rainfall shower, and a steam room with aromas of rose and sandalwood. 9. Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, NM (Courtesy @sunrisespringsnm/Instagram)With 70 tranquil acres of gardens, walking paths, and a scenic high desert landscape, this Santa Fe resort attracts guests from around the world to its wellness spa, which offers the best of Eastern and Western therapies. One of the spa’s cutting-edge treatments is a CBD full-body massage therapy that uses CBD oils and products grown and processed in Colorado to release tension in sore muscles and reduce inflammation in joints. The spa also offers—among many treatments—a facial that uses hot herbal towels and wild-crafted local herbs to gently soothe and tone skin. 10. The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY Founded in 1869, this Hudson Valley destination serves up skin and body treatments in a 30,000-square-foot eco-friendly spa, which includes 16 treatment rooms, relaxation verandas, solarium, 60-foot long indoor heated pool, and outdoor heated mineral pool. The spa offers more than 80 unique treatments, including a deep-heat massage with arnica oil helps calm the nerves and provides relief to over-used muscles. A nice bonus: both men’s and women’s changing rooms have a eucalyptus steam room and dry rock sauna.