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    Where Life Sets Sail

    Situated in the geographic center of Northwest Florida, Panama City is the largest city in between Pensacola and Tallahassee, and a popular destination for water sports. Its location on St. Andrew Bay offers first-class sailing conditions and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, and anglers can enjoy excellent fishing for trout, redfish, flounder and more. Charter fishing tours in St. Andrew Bay or nearby in the Gulf of Mexico are a good option for beginners or those who seek to improve their fishing skills.

    On land, Panama City is home to a thriving arts scene, including live music, annual festivals, and a new Panama City Mural Trail featuring the work of locally- and nationally-known artists. The Historic Downtown and St. Andrews neighborhoods are wonderfully walkable, each with its own distinct feel, locally-owned restaurants and bars, independent shops and boutiques, and historic buildings.

    Panama City is also home to some of the best oyster bars and seafood restaurants on the Gulf Coast; the Panama City Oyster Trail spans about a dozen stops across the city and offers oysters served every possible way: raw, baked, sauteed, fried, or char-grilled.

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    Budget Travel Lists

    24 safe budget getaways for spring

    According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, bookings are up by 46% compared to last year, with travelers opting to stay within 257 miles of home. Hotels and campgrounds are getting in on the action, with Hilton offering up to 20% off rates at certain properties and free night deals at Sun RV Resorts in Arizona, California and Texas when you book by March 7 and travel by March 31. If remote cabins or unique camping experiences are more your style, check Vacation Renter and RVC Outdoor Destinations for more off-the-beaten-path ideas. If you’re willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow health and safety protocols, spring might be a good time to venture out, especially with hotels and destinations doing all they can to keep employees and visitors safe. Here are 24 socially distanced trips you can drive to this spring, all under $200 a night. New York Save on a Finger Lakes stay at 1795 Acorn Inn, located near Canandaigua Lake about five hours from NYC. Mention the Winter Weekend Package to unlock nightly rates from $130, daily breakfast and a free third night when you book a two-night stay Thursday through Sunday by April 25. Pennsylvania Choose from cabins, cottages, yurts, bungalows, villas, RV and tent campsites and a 52-room lodge at Lake Raystown Resort, about 3.5 hours from Philadelphia or 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh. Bike or hike the 400-acre property’s scenic trails, visit the WildRiver Waterpark or Proud Mary Showboat and dine by the water at the Marina Café. Nightly rates start at $139 for bungalows and villas, $124 for cottages, $94 for cabins, $89 for lodge accommodations and $30 for tent campsites. Washington, D.C. The Cherry Blossom package at The Ven at Embassy Row includes a cherry blossom themed amenity, hand-painted postcards designed by a local artist, a commemorative lapel pin and a $15 rideshare app credit, with rates from $154 a night when you book and stay through April 30. Virginia Head to Southwest Virginia for fewer crowds and beautiful natural surroundings roughly 2.5 hours from Charlotte or six hours from DC. Bring your bike and take on the 35-mile Virginia Creeper trail, hike to the highest point in the state at Mount Rogers or see the wild ponies in Grayson Highland State Park. At The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum package includes breakfast for two and admission to the museum, from $194 a night. Nearby, rates at The Bristol Hotel, which makes its home in a restored 1925 landmark building, start at $139 a night. Near Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia, the Vacationing on the Clock package at Massanutten Resort comes with two complimentary cups of coffee, nightly rates from $195 and your choice of lift tickets or waterpark passes when you book and stay at least two nights Thursday through Sunday in a one-bedroom condo by March 7. South Carolina Visit Myrtle Beach, home to more than 60 miles of Atlantic beaches and 50 mini-golf courses. Stop by the LW Paul Living History Farm, stroll through Brookgreen Gardens or treat yourself to a private kayak tour with Black River Outdoors to enjoy the area from the water. Stay at Island Vista, where each room has a balcony overlooking the beach (from $87) or Hotel BLUE, home to South Carolina’s first swim-up pool bar (from $75). About 30 minutes from Charleston, Wild Dunes Resort, a Hyatt property in Island of Palms, offers plenty of outdoor space, tennis courts, a fancy 36-hole championship golf course and opportunities to fish or try stand-up paddleboarding. Rates start at $160 a night this spring. History buffs will love the Olde English District, located about an hour’s drive from Charlotte or Columbia, where you can learn about the area’s African American heritage and Revolutionary War history at a living history site, enjoy the great outdoors at Goodale State Park or get a bird’s eye view by sailplane with Bermuda High Soaring. Nightly rates at the charming East Main Guest House Bed and Breakfast in Rock Hill start at $129. Florida Celebrate Tampa’s Cuban heritage with a staycation at Hotel Haya, located on 7th Avenue in the heart of Ybor City. The Grab & Go Breakfast package, available from $174 a night, includes a homemade guava pastelito, a can of traditional con leche and fresh fruit. Between Pensacola and Panama City Beach, Hotel Effie Sandestin’s location within the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and proximity to Silver Sands Premium Outlets make it a great base for those in need of a round of golf or a shopping spree, with rates from $189 a night. In the Florida Keys, you’ll save 20% on weeknight vacation rentals or motel stays of at least two nights at Pelican RV Resort & Marina in Marathon (from $165) or Riptide RV Resort & Marina in Key Largo (from $150) when you book by April 30 and stay Sunday through Thursday by May 31. Mississippi Calling all Elvis fans: Whether you’re heading to Tupelo as part of a larger road trip from Memphis or Nashville or just enjoying the city’s history, music and foodie scene in its own right, there’s a lot to see here. Tour the King’s birthplace by bike, take a scenic drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway and camp lakeside at nearby Tombigbee State Park, with cabins from $60 a night and fully equipped vacation cottages from $75 a night. Texas Try a Texas Hill Country getaway or day trip this spring to see the wildflower bloom in March and April, enjoy Barbecue Month celebrations in May or spend time wandering charming towns like Fredericksburg, which celebrates its 175th birthday this year. Aviation enthusiasts will love the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, a quirky hotel built to resemble a 1940s WWII hangar (rooms from $149), while an hour away in Dripping Springs, Lucky Arrow Retreat offers luxury yurts and cabins (from $159–$199) next door to the Bell Springs Winery and Brewing Company. Families near Dallas can enjoy early access to the Hilton Anatole’s new JadeWaters waterpark, which will be open to hotel guests on weekends from April 30 to May 31 before opening fully on Memorial Day weekend. Packages offer a $50 daily credit or complimentary breakfast, from $169 a night. About 90 minutes from Dallas in East Texas, the Deer Lake Cabins Ranch Resort in Mount Vernon offers more than 800 acres of trails and lakes so you can really get back to nature. Spend your days hiking, fishing, feeding farm animals, horseback riding or cruising around on a UTV, and your nights at a cowboy cookout or on a hayride, with cottages from $189 a night. Ohio The Mohicans Treehouse Resort & Wedding Venue, roughly 90 minutes from Cleveland or Columbus, is offering discounts through March 16 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday treehouse stays. Use promo code BUDGET2021 to unlock $200 nightly rates for the Moonlight, White Oak, Little Red, Old Pine and The Nest treehouses and $250 rates for the Tin Shed, Silver Bullet, The View and El Castillo. In Columbus, check out the Chihuly collection at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, wander the historic German Village district, take on the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the country at Scioto Audubon Metropark and get some air along the 253-mile Scioto Mile. Springtime rates at Moxy Columbus Short North start at $91 a night, while the Work Anywhere Stay Pass package includes early 6 a.m. check-in, late 6 p.m. check-out, complimentary Wi-Fi and a $10 food and beverage credit. Illinois Those seeking a pet-friendly staycation should check out the Radisson Blu Chicago’s VIPup package, which includes a doggie bed, as well as a welcome toy, portable food and water bowls, gourmet treats, a food and drink mat and a waste bag dispenser, with rates from $149 a night. Wisconsin There’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had in Door County, just 45 minutes from Green Bay and two hours from Milwaukee. History buffs should head to the Heritage Village living history museum in Sturgeon Bay, which will be reopening in May, as well as the Door County Maritime Museum to learn about the area’s shipbuilding past. Stay at Eagle Harbor Inn, a charming bed and breakfast in Ephraim, with rates from $98 a night. Nearby, the Fox Cities area offers many outdoor attractions — head to High Cliff State Park near Lake Winnebago to hike one of the park’s seven historic trails or try your hand at making maple syrup in Bubolz Nature Preserve. Stay in Appleton and book the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa’s Winter Warmer package — you’ll get complimentary hot chocolate, two handcrafted stoneware coffee mugs, two mini bottles of Dr. McGillicuddy’s liqueur and a $50 credit toward dining or spa treatments, from $174 through March 31 — or the Girls’ Night on the Town package, which includes a bottle of wine and a $20 minibar credit (from $150). South Dakota The Badlands and Black Hills are full of scenic outdoor spaces worthy of a road trip, like Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, just to name a few. Visit Custer State Park to see the buffalo roam, then stay onsite at Custer State Park Resort, where you can save 20% and receive a $20 credit on two-night stays (or save 25% and receive a $25 credit) when you stay between April 26 and May 22 and mention the Stay and Save This Spring package. Rates for lodge and cabin rooms start at $140 a night. Colorado Those booking two weekend stays in Arrowhead, Bearclaw or Foxtail cabins at the River Run Resort in Granby will get one free weekend stay when they book and travel by March 28. Two-weekend packages start at $520 (which breaks down to $130 a night) and come with six free bowling games, plus you can add extra nights for 20% less if you want to stay longer. Back in Denver, The Curtis has a great package for groups who want to enjoy a safe getaway together. The Choose Your Adventure package lets up to 24 guests take over an entire floor — that’s 12 guest rooms at double occupancy — from $2,000 a night, which breaks down to about $166 per room or $83 per person. You’ll also get to book your choice of socially distanced adventures, like laser tag, a silent disco or murder mystery game night, among others. Washington For an epic outdoor escape with a luxury resort twist, head 90 minutes from Seattle to Suncadia Resort, a Hyatt property situated among more than 6,000 acres of beautiful mountain scenery in Cle Elum. Spend some time hiking or biking more than 40 miles of trails in Wenatchee Washington National Forest or trying your hand at archery or axe throwing, among other activities, with rates from $171 a night.


    Outdoor holiday celebrations around the United States

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and many parts of our country are feeling festive despite the pandemic. If you are still cautious, or on the fence, or simply prefer an outdoor experience, this list is for you! Here are a few places around the U.S. where you can get into the holiday spirit outdoors and admire holiday decorations and lights from walking paths. Here’s where to celebrate the holidays this year— remember to check out our private booking platform with discounted rates! Northeast New York City, New York The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit daily from from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm. New Hampshire The 2.5-mile drive-through light show at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon features 400 different lighting displays with snow-covered mountains in the background. Woodstock, Vermont Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at Billings Farm & Museum, where you can try your hand at candle dipping, watch traditional holiday cooking demonstrations, create your own gingerbread ornaments—or just head straight to the onsite Dairy Bar for cider donuts. Mid-Atlantic Maryland At Ocean City, Maryland's Winterfest of Lights guests can explore zillions of sparkling holiday lights, animated light displays, and a 50-foot holiday tree on display along a paved path in Northside Park. The Annmarie Sculpture Garden is transformed into an outdoor wonderland until January 1st with many light sculptures of wild animals, winter wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, and magical beings. Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia The White House isn’t the only place in the nation's capital that’s getting in on the holiday spirit. Civilians can enjoy the undeniable festive energy in the District through New Year’s Day by visiting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Menorah will be lit throughout Hanukkah. About 25 minutes away in Vienna, Virginia, celebrate the season at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights. Stroll the one-way half-mile path full of holiday lights and festive decorations, admire the Fountains of Lights and watch as the “sing to me” tree’s lights dance along with all your favorite holiday tunes. Timed tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are available on a limited basis. Roanoke, Virginia Treat yourselves to a lovely half-mile walk through the woods, toast marshmallows around the fire, shop for presents at the Artisan Christmas Market, donate canned goods to help others, meet Santa and his elves, and feast your eyes on more than 500,000 lights during the Illuminights Winter Walk of Lights at Explore Park. Purchase timed tickets online or by phone to access this event. Virginia Beach, Virginia Head to Virginia Beach for a unique beach-themed holiday lights display. At the Holiday Lights at the Beach, you’ll drive on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk that has been transformed into a nautical lights display, including a surfing Santa. Southeast Aiken, South Carolina Enjoy more than two miles of beautifully lit paths with over 100,000 lights and holiday decorations at Christmas in Hopelands Gardens. This year, the colorful displays will be lit up all December long to help keep spirits bright. The Christmas Craft show features handmade crafts and goodies made by talented artisans from across the Southeast. There is sure to be something for everyone’s style, taste, and budget. The Christmas Craft Show is also a great place to shop for your holiday gifts and décor. South Walton, Florida If you’re in the Florida panhandle, don’t miss 12 Nights of Lights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located about halfway between Pensacola and Panama City Beach in South Walton. Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas! This sparkling event will also be featured during our special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows each night! Houston, Texas The Space Center in Houston is hosting Galaxy Lights, a technological holiday celebration featuring kinetic light shows, choreographed light and music sequences, an interactive light pad, a large light tunnel and the chance to see a film about astronauts celebrating the holidays in space, among other themed attractions. Galaxy Lights requires its own tickets, which can be purchased online, and takes about 90 minutes to fully enjoy. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features an award-winning spectacle, set in the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The festival features over 5 million lights, and even include fireworks this year. Midwest Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Visit the Tree of Light, a 55-foot silver maple tree decked out in 30,000 lights near the River Walk in Wisconsin Dells. As the holiday season kicks off, Wisconsin Dells will deliver a little extra cheer again this year with one of the biggest and brightest displays of all. In the open-air located off the River Walk in downtown Wisconsin Dells, a towering 55-foot silver maple tree will showcase 30,000 dazzling points of light, making it the only – and we mean only – light display of its kind in the Midwest. Stroll along the River Walk and view additional lighting in the form of 70 holiday trees, all sponsored by area businesses. Indiana The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2 mile Drive-Through Family Christmas Light Adventure located inside Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy the largest campground holiday light show in North America and the only light show that tells a story in lights and storyboards! Create new family memories and family traditions this Christmas Season at the Santa Claus Land of Lights – Family Christmas Light Adventure! For more themed light displays cruise through The Christmas Lake Village Festival Lights. The gated community of Christmas Lake Village invites you to drive through nine miles of festive light displays! Awards for Judges’ Favorite, Kids’ Favorite, Reason for the Season, and Best Lights will be awarded to four homes. Cheyenne, Wyoming Celebrate the holiday season Western-style this year in Cheyenne, where you can get your letter to Santa stamped by an Elf and see the mail get picked up by a Pony Express rider, visit holiday horses at Santa’s Saloon and Stables, hear Cowboy Carolers sing and meet Mr. Claus by the fire at Kringle Ranch, part of an event by the Little America Hotel & Resort. Check the calendar for more Old West holiday festivities happening through December 31. West Sonoma County, California Cue that legendary piano music and celebrate trees of all shapes and sizes all December long at Windsor’s annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove. This year, more than 200 trees were decorated by neighborhood families, classes, small businesses and community groups for you to enjoy on a socially distanced stroll through Windsor Town Green. San Luis Obispo, California Don’t miss San Luis Obispo’s annual Light Up Downtown event, the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, they will feature the return of our annual Holiday Parade, Santa's House, and the Classic Carousel. Explore and celebrate local businesses and check out the lights, sights, and family fun in the Holiday Plaza! Nevada The Polar Express in Carson City, Nevada drive-through lights experience is operating until Christmas Eve. The brilliant light show will feature Santa, Mrs. Claus, and dozens of elves busy at work as they prepare for Christmas. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday pajamas and bring hot chocolate as they travel through the North Pole experience. Hawai’i Get into the Mele Kalikimaka spirit at the 25th anniversary of Kauai’s Festival of Lights. The displays use recycled and reclaimed materials at the Historic County Building park and can be enjoyed until New Year’s Day. Millions of colorful lights illuminate the park’s looming coconut palm trees wrapped in colorful lights as well as upcycled decorations including aluminum can flowers and water bottle butterflies. Arizona Make the best of the holidays at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The gardens offer a dash of holiday magic with 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias includes pre-recorded carols to enjoy during the experience. In Lake Havasu City experience London Bridge Resort's Festival of Lights—the Bridgewater Channel is lit up with over 500,000 lights that set the water aglow and spark the holiday spirit.


    Travel News: Coffee Tourism, Setting Fire to Socks, and Dancing at the Whitney

    From a Costa Rica coffee farm to one of NYC’s most storied art collections to the (literal) kickoff of flip-flop season, here's the latest trip-inspiring travel news: COFFEE TOURISM Starbucks just opened its Hacienda Alsacia Visitor Center, part of its Costa Rican coffee farm. Visitors can experience coffee-making first-hand (“from seedling, to roasting, to tasting”), including Starbucks’ commitment to eco-friendly, sustainable  “agronomy,” and the company’s Farmer Support Center. ( SETTING FIRE TO SOCKS On April 14, Panama City, FL, will celebrate the arrival of flip-flop season with its annual Burning of the Socks. Bring your socks to the marina and watch ’em go up in flames in a porcelain bathtub by the water. ( DANCING AT THE WHITNEY Artist Nick Mauss will present his first solo museum show in the U.S., at the Whitney, in New York City. Opening on March 16, the exhibit Transmissions “explores the reciprocal relationship of modernist ballet and the avant-garde in New York from the 1930s through the 1950s.” The twist? The exhibition will include daily dance performances in the Whitney’s eighth-floor Hurst Family Galleries. (

    Travel Tips

    Have You Booked Your Summer Vacation Rental Yet?

    Panama City is at it again—topping everyone’s summer vacation list. According to a recent study by TripAdvisor Rentals, the town, which boasts 27 miles of shoreline, takes top billing for most popular spot for a summer escape. Florida cities occupy four positions on the top-ten list based on data gathered on TripAdvisor bookings through March 28, 2017. It reflects rentals on properties for June, July, or August. Median July pricing is for two-bedroom rentals in a given destination. Beach destinations, to be sure, make up eight of the ten vacation spots. Ocean City, Maryland clocked in at number two with Destin, Florida; Myrtle Beach, North Carolina; Kissimmee, Florida; and Orlando coming up close behind. Rounding out the list are Alabama’s Gulf Shores; Virginia Beach; Davenport, Florida; and the increasingly popular North Myrtle Beach. Hotels, of course, are plentiful in each of those towns, but if you’re planning to take some serious downtime this summer, you’d be better served renting a house. After all, you can save money by eating in and if you’re traveling with a group, it’s an economical way to plan a long stay. More than half travelers in the Trip Advisor survey book their stay three to five months in advance, which means now’s the time to lock something in while there’s a decent amount of inventory available. And if you’re wondering just how worthwhile a vacation rental is, we’ll tell you that you can get a two-bedroom rental during July in perennially popular Panama City for around $1,843. Myrtle Beach has accommodations for about $1250 and quaint Davenport, Florida, has rentals for under $700. Condos that hover around $1000 for the week actually make Orlando an affordable choice for a family. 

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Great Islands You've Never Heard Of!

    What you'll find in this story: Island escapes, secluded vacations, unique vacation ideas, island getaways, islands in Australia, Panama, Scotland, the Azores, France, Mexico, Fiji, Croatia, Brazil and Japan Australia, Kangaroo Island When white men first set foot on the 1,738-square-mile island off the south coast of Australia, they were able to stroll up to kangaroos and club them for food (hence the island's name). Because there were no natural predators, the kangaroos didn't have the instinct to flee. Today, Kangaroo Island remains free of foxes and dingoes and serves as a sanctuary for hundreds of species of animals and birds. Koalas, kangaroos, sea lions, penguins, and wallabies can all be seen at close range. The wildlife is so spectacular that the unspoiled beaches, craggy rock formations, and eucalyptus forests get second billing. Kangaroo Island is a 30-minute flight from Adelaide (011-61/2-6393-5550,, $90 round trip), or 45 minutes by ferry from Cape Jervis (011-61/8-8202-8688,, $41). Rather than booking transportation and exploring on your own, it's smarter to buy a package that includes lodging and a tour. Many animal habitats aren't marked, and even from a moving vehicle a good guide can point out echidnas--small porcupine-like creatures--and other animals that you'd probably never see. Adventure Charters, one of the best operators, charges $610 for air from Adelaide, a full day of touring, one night and dinner at a top B&B, and a classic "barbie in the bush," with grilled fish under a canopy (011-61/8-8553-9119, Or try the Wayward Bus, which is geared more to backpackers and includes one night in a motel, meals, and two days of touring for $234 (011-61/8-8410-8833, --Margaret Borden Panama, Isla Bastimentos Blissfully lost in the Bocas del Toro region of northwestern Panama, Bastimentos comprises almost everything that's not underwater in a 51-square-mile marine preserve speckled with reefs. Just off adjacent Zapatilla Cay, ribbons of light ripple over 30-foot walls of coral. The four-mile stretch of Playa Larga serves as a critical nesting site for four species of sea turtles. Monkeys gambol in the rain forest, to a sound track of toucans and oropendolas. The region is particularly known for the tiny scarlet-vested poison dart frogs that hop around the forest floor. (They're harmless as long as you don't ingest the venom or allow it to enter an open wound.) Daily one-hour flights from Panama City land in Bocas, a funky seaside town that blends Caribe creole with Afro-Cuban patois (Aeroperlas, 011-507/315-7500,, from $60 each way). From there, grab a water taxi ($5) for the 10-minute trip to Bastimentos. Beaches and snorkeling sites are everywhere, and boatmen will take you to countless reefs for a couple of hours for around $15. Or negotiate for a ride to the Ngobe village, where curious children swarm visitors, local artisans sell tribal carvings, and guides lead hikes through the forest. At the end of the island opposite the pier is the ecoresort Al Natural, where a boat ride transfer, three meals a day, use of kayaks and snorkel gear, and a private cabana start at $75 a night per person (011-507/757-9004,, no credit cards). On a tiny island just off of Bastimentos, Coral Cay Cabins offers a similar package but with two meals a day and use of a wooden canoe (011-507/626-1919,, from $75 per person). --Jeff Hull Scotland, Isle of Harris The isles of Harris and Lewis--one landmass divided by a narrow isthmus and the vagaries of clan history--sit on the edge of the Atlantic abyss. Tip to tip, the land measures 60 miles, but driving from one end to the other on its twisting one-lane roads while dodging wayward sheep can take the better part of a day. The rugged granite ridges, humped green mountains, fishing villages, mysterious ancient ruins, and serene lochs are all somewhat de rigueur in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. It's Harris's sparkling sands and a sea as cobalt as the Caribbean that come as a brilliant surprise. The ferry ride from Skye takes about two hours (Caledonian MacBrayne,, round trip from $30, $148 with a car). Five miles south of the port at Tarbert, the Sandview House B&B stands above a long crescent of soft, sandy beach (6 Scarista, 011-44/1859-550212, from $96 double). The hosts' first language is Gaelic, as it is for most people in the area. All bedrooms have a view of the sea, and corncrakes--among the world's rarest, most secretive birds--occasionally strut by the window during breakfast. Wrap yourself in thick tweed and make way to the south of Harris, where the mountains and empty moorlands invite hikers. Stop in for tea, a plate of risotto, or a crock of scallops at the luxurious Rodel Hotel, built at land's end in the shadows of the 500-year-old St. Clement's Church (011-44/1859-520210,, rooms from $200, full meals about $50). Over on Lewis, the Standing Stones of Callanish--huge slabs arranged in the shape of a cross--would probably be as famous as Stonehenge if they were on the mainland. --J.H. The Azores, Faial For hundreds of years, ships have stopped in Horta, the main port of Faial, on their way between the New and Old Worlds. The seafarers left their mark, creating a giant collage of inscriptions and colorful paintings on the walls and sidewalks of the marina's jetty. (Bad luck reputedly follows any sailor who doesn't leave a mark in the port.) Yachts and fishing boats still pull into Faial regularly, but the nine islands of the Azores--an autonomous region of Portugal, in a warm climate 900 miles west of the mainland--also bring in Europeans attracted to the volcanic landscapes, black sand beaches, and peaceful vibe. Simple rooms with marina views and air-conditioning are usually less than $100 a night at Residencial São Francisco in Horta (Rua Conselheiro Medeiros, 011-351/292-200-980, SATA International flies direct from Boston to the island of São Miguel in the Azores, with continuing flights to Horta (800/762-9995,, from $908). The Peter Café Sport, serving sailors since 1918, is big on nautical memorabilia (Rua Tenente Valadim, 011-351/292-292-327, grilled ham, cheese, and pineapple sandwich $2). The cafe's museum houses a fascinating scrimshaw collection ($2). Faial's western end is a moonscape formed by a volcano eruption in the 1950s, where roofs still peek out from mounds of ash. The nearby Forest Park of Capelo is a nice swath of green with tables and chairs made of volcanic stone. It's perfect for picnics. After exploring Faial, try neighboring isles Pico and São Jorge, connected by ferries; they're known for their wine and cheese respectively (, $4--$17 each way). --Jeanine Barone France, Ile de la Barthelasse When Avignon's medieval popes needed a break from the hubbub of their walled city, they crossed a bridge to a bucolic retreat in the middle of the Rhone River. Centuries later, Ile de la Barthelasse and adjoining Ile de Piot--whose vineyards, vegetable gardens, and pear, apple, and cherry orchards cover more than half of their nearly three total square miles--still make for a wonderful getaway. The two river islands are crisscrossed by cobbled walkways, woodsy hiking trails, and rambling country roads. An old path along the river provides spectacular views of Avignon's ramparts and the St. Bénézet Bridge, both the subjects of Impressionist paintings. To reach the islands, pedal across the Daladier Bridge on a rental from Provence Bike (011-33/4-90-27-92-61,, from $13.50 per day) or hop on the free bus from Avignon's Porte de l'Oulle. Once there, you'll feel truly out in the country by mounting a horse at Centre Equestre d'Avignon (011-33/4-90-85-83-48,, from $3 per hour, reservations required). While away the hours in the riverfront bar/cafés or on the leafy terrace at Le Bercail (Chemin des Canotiers, 011-33/4-90-82-20-22, pizzas from $6), which looks straight across to Avignon's bluffs. Bed down in elegance at Auberge de la Treille (011-33/4-90-16-46-20,, rooms from $104), an 18th-century mansion. Splurge on the evening menu for the full glory of Provençal cuisine--foie gras, fish, cheeses, truffles, fresh fruit, and chocolates (prix fixe from $30). --David Lyon Mexico, Isla Holbox Less than 100 miles north of the giant resorts and rowdy revelers in Cancún lies an island that feels like it's on another continent. On Isla Holbox, the village square, or El Parque, consists of a basketball court where locals play pickup games and a few basic stores that would never be considered boutiques. Instead of cars, golf cart taxis quietly motor along sandy streets. The island has no nightclubs, high-rise hotels, cell phone service, or ATMs (bring pesos). The lack of distractions leaves you with plenty of time for walking on the beach, feasting on the freshest seviche, taking siestas, swimming in calm waters, and collecting seashells. Peek into the doorway of a sand-floored home and you're likely to catch someone napping in a hammock. It's hard not to succumb to the slow life. In the afternoons, amble over to the beachside cantina Discoteca Carioca's (no address or phone; like everything else on the island, it's easy to find) for guacamole and a michelada--a specialty that mixes lots of lime with beer and a shot of chili sauce. A kiosk in the square serves a perfectly crisp chicken torta (sandwich) for about $1.50. If you're feeling ambitious, rent a sea kayak or try to reel in a few yellowtail or bonitos on a deep-sea fishing excursion. There aren't outfitters per se, so arrange an outing through your hotel, or simply head down to the waterfront and haggle. During the summer months, a local skipper can also take you out to swim with 50-foot whale sharks. It may sound dangerous, but the sharks are actually harmless and friendly. To get to Holbox from the port of Chiquila, catch the 9 Hermanos Ferry for the half-hour ride (, $4). Depending on the season, $80 to $130 scores a thatched-roof palapa, with beds made of rough-hewn logs, and a breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit, at the Xaloc Resort (011-52/984-87-52160, --Melinda Page Fiji, Ovalau From 1852 to 1882, Levuka, a rowdy outpost for sailors and traders on the island of Ovalau, served as Fiji's capital. Today, the Fijian government and most tourists do their business on Viti Levu, leaving Ovalau quiet and empty. The clapboard storefronts along Levuka's main drag have survived largely intact from the colonial days. Instead of the rollicking saloons of yesteryear, they now house quiet dry-goods stores and a few restaurants, such as Whale's Tale (011-679/344-0235, fresh fish or pasta entrées $6). Another relic is the Royal Hotel, which opened in 1852 and is Fiji's oldest hotel (011-679/344-0024,, doubles from $18). The old South Pacific comes to life in the lounge, which has creaking rattan furniture, a snooker table, and giant tortoise shells hanging on the walls. Rooms are furnished simply, with a couple of cots, toilet, and shower. The four guest rooms at Levuka Homestay offer better accommodations, including air-conditioning, a shady deck, and a full breakfast (011-679/344-0777,, doubles from $65). Round trips from Suva, on Viti Levu, to Levuka start at $72 (Air Fiji, 011-679/331-3666, Ovalau lacks good swimming beaches, but the soft corals surrounding the island make for fine diving. Ovalau Watersports runs daily dives, as well as tours to Caqalai, a speck of an island with coral sand beaches 40 minutes away (011-679/344-0166,, two-tank dive $75, Caqalai tour $40). --M.B. Croatia, Korcula A jewel box that juts like a thumb from the main body of the island, Korcula's Old Town owes much of its architectural heritage to the 15th and 16th centuries, when it was part of the prosperous Republic of Venice. Narrow streets lined with medieval white-stone buildings spread out from the spire of St. Mark's Cathedral at the center of town. Encircling the densely packed city is a 14th-century wall; sapphire-blue waters surround the entire isle. Korcula is connected by ferry to the more popular towns of Split and Dubrovnik (Jadrolinija Ferries,, from $5). The boat drops you off in Vela Luka, on Korcula's western end. Buses bump along the spine of the island eastbound to Korcula Town, dipping past black cypress trees and terraced olive groves, with some hairpin turns along the way. On the harbor in Old Town is the Hotel Korcula, a Venetian palace with a loggia where you can have breakfast and look across the bay to the hills of the mainland (011-385/20-711-078, doubles from $67). A 10-minute bus ride away, the small fishing village of Lumbarda has the only sandy beaches on the island--at the end of a red dirt path that winds through vineyards that produce a crisp white wine called Grk. Enjoy a glass and dig into fresh grilled fish and octopus back in Korcula Town at Konoba Adio Mare (011-385/20-711-253, dinner for two $35). After dinner, go for a stroll through romantically lit Old Town. Pass by the city walls on the way to the harbor to watch the sky glow and slowly darken over the channel and the hillsides. --Sunshine Flint Brazil, Ilha Grande Rio's beaches sizzle, but when Brazilians want the escape that only an island can offer, they go to Ilha Grande. The 119-square-mile slice of paradise is home to 106 beaches, 500 full-time residents, and no cars (they're banned). Bring good walking shoes or be prepared to paddle a kayak, which are the only ways to find some of the best beaches and coves. Surfers are wowed by the waves at Lopes Mendes and other beaches, divers love the caverns and crystal clear waters in every direction, and hikers keep busy with scores of trails, such as the one that ascends 3,200 feet to the island's best lookout, Pico do Papagaio (Parrot's Peak). Until a decade ago, the only visitors to the island came in shackles. Ilha Grande served as a penal colony until 1994, so tourism is relatively new; there's little chance of finding resort chains renting wave runners. Abraão, the main hub, consists of a few souvenir shops and cafés. lists places to stay and covers the basics, including how to get to Angra dos Reis or Mangaratiba, the mainland ports that connect to Ilha Grande by two-hour ferry. The island's edges are dotted with inns, or pousadas--most quite inexpensive thanks to the strong U.S. dollar. The nine suites at Sagu Resort are decorated simply, with exposed wooden beams and white walls, and outside each guest room there's a porch with a hammock (011-55/24-3361-5660,, doubles from $80). The property overlooks the beach, and up a stone path you can kick back in the dreamy ofuro (hot tub). Abraão is a 15-minute walk away, but most everything you want is right at the resort, including kayak rentals, caipirinhas, fresh-caught fish, and tropical fruit picked from the garden. --Jessica Shaw Japan, Miyajima The Japanese say that their country has three most scenic spots: Amanohashidate, a sandbar that snakes across Miyazu Bay in the northern Kyoto Prefecture; Matsushima Bay, which is dotted with 260 tiny, pine-covered islands; and Miyajima, or "shrine island"--12 square miles dedicated to the three daughters of Susano-o-no-Mikoto, the Shinto god of the oceans. The island is so sacred that no one is supposed to give birth or die here; there are no maternity wards or cemeteries. Cutting trees is forbidden, and the forest provides sanctuary for dozens of bird species, as well as deer, which roam all over, and monkeys, which live atop 1,740-foot Mount Misen (reached by a two-hour hike from the pier or a 30-minute cable car ride). After a 10-minute ferry ride departing near Hiroshima, you're greeted by a 50-foot-tall red Torii gate that soars out of the water majestically, signifying entrance to the spiritual realm. Taira-no-Kiyomori, a 12th-century warlord, funded the construction of the main Itsukushima shrine--a collection of buildings on stilts over a cove--to provide repose for the souls of the war dead. A five-story pagoda, folklore museum, and aquarium are all minutes from the docks. Stop at a shop for momiji-manju--sponge cakes filled with sweet red bean paste, custard, or chocolate--or sit down at a restaurant for eel, oysters, or okonomiyaki, a vegetable and meat pancake. The island has several fine small inns, such as the Miyajima Hotel Makoto, where most rooms are equipped with tatami mats and futons (011-81/829-44-0070,, from $125). Or make Miyajima a day trip and stay in Hiroshima at the World Friendship Center, a B&B that arranges tours of the peace park and interviews with A-bomb survivors (8-10 Higashi Kannon-machi, 011-81/82-503-3191, from $34 per person). --Jeanette Hurt


    Location Scout: Inside 'Survivor'

    After eight years, we still can't get enough of the reality game show Survivor. We talked to the show's executive producer, Tom Shelly, about what he looks for when he scours the planet, bugs and all. "When it comes to our scariest wildlife moment, it's a tossup between the lions in Africa and Australia because of the snakes. King cobras are common and we saw quite a few of them. Australia has something like nine of the ten world's most deadly snakes." What makes a good Survivor location? What features do you look for? The big thing we look for is beauty. And we want a place to have a sense of isolation for the experience of the survivors, and for the audience. It should also conjure adventure. Is it getting harder to find remote locations? There aren't as many deserted islands as you'd think. You go to locations that look great. The problem is that they're already developed with houses and condos, because they're so beautiful. It's hard in general to find isolated places. How much has the wildlife altered the show? Depending on where we go, it's definitely a concern. In Kenya, it was very real. There were lions and water buffalo, which are extremely dangerous. We let them (Survivor contestants) know they're out there. We give them very specific instructions, but we don't do anything other than educate them. Snakes are very dangerous. Crocodiles are a very real thing in Guatemala. Right now, the contestants are on a lake that's filled with crocodiles. What, in your opinion, is the show's most outrageous/memorable moment?In the Pearl Islands, when we were about to maroon the survivors. As we were filming and bringing them on a boat from Panama City, we came across a group of humpback whales--they were so close! Seeing these whales breeching right off the side of the boat was amazing. We were with a guy who has sailed for years and he said he'd never seen anything like that. Then there was the time in Kenya at the Masai Mara filming survivors who won a challenge in a hot air balloon--they saw a lion catch a wildebeest. The opportunity to see something like that is so rare. What's the one thing no 'Survivor' should be without... Honestly? I would say a mindset: determination and being able to adapt. Being able to not get freaked out by the fact that you're in the middle of a jungle with noises, animals, creatures, and weather you've never experienced before. If you're able to adapt to that, you've got a huge advantage. Any hints on the next location? No! We reveal it at each season's finale. Survivor is on Thursdays at 8 P.M. EST on CBS.