- Published on Friday, 17 January 2014 14:31
- Written by Edward Miskie
HAPPY NEW YEAR GIANTS!
Here’s to new goals, bigger dreams, and MORE TRAVEL!!
First off, I’d like to thank you for following us through our TALL travels since we debuted last June. The feedback has been wonderful and we hope you continue reaching out to us. In 2013, we took you all around the U.S. from coast to coast, exploring the beauties and wonders in our own backyard and even gave you a glimpse of what cruising outside of the 50 states is like. This year Traveling Tall is spanning the globe, helping you explore travel-worthy GIANT lands both near and far.
Like any industry insider, one of the major perks of being a travel agent is being privy to all the behind-the-scenes info regarding “what’s hot” in travel: hotel brands, airlines, cruises, attractions, etc., or as today’s kids say, what’s “trending.” My fellow GIANTS, whether you’re an adventure seeker, foodie, wino, or family man, I’m excited to share the following inside information about some of the hottest places which should be on your radar for your TALL travels in 2014!
Douro River Valley, Portugal
The wine region of Portugal’s Douro River Valley has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and it’s not hard to see why: The River Valley has lots of castles and monasteries and other historical sites to explore along the waterway. For you TALL wine connoisseurs, the valley also has plenty of vineyards with some of the world’s most popular wines. Winemaking in this region dates back 2,000 years—in fact, both Port wine and Portugal were named after the city of Porto on the Douro. In Porto, art and architecture fans will want to explore the city’s Baroque churches and an iron bridge built by Gustave Eiffel. The Serralves Museum specializes in international contemporary art in an edgy minimalist building. Porto also has an excellent Museum of Modern Art. Throw in a slew of bustling riverfront cafes and restaurants and the city also offers great local cuisine and nightlife.
To the tourist who only knows Cancun, Riviera Maya, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, Puebla is literally a whole new world. Although with the average Mexican being 5’4" us GIANTS might might get some more stares than usual, but it’s worth the trip. It has a lot of character with its graffiti murals, live bull fights, and its famous mole poblano (mixture of chocolate and chilies). It is a must for anyone’s visit to Mexico. Tiny colonial streets are flanked with candy stores, clothing shops and taco stands. If you’re a food lover like this GIANT, its outdoor markets will definitely appeal to you, offering outdoor markets containing everything from candied peaches to peanuts to grasshoppers with chilies and garlic, and there are at least three indoor food markets that sell everything from chicken doused in mole, to cemitas - fat sandwiches stuffed with meat, avocado and Oaxaca cheese. One of the other great landmarks in Puebla is the active Popocatepetl Volcano. In the evenings it is easy to see the heavy cloud of smoke that hangs over the mouth of the volcano. As the sun sets behind it, it’s even more magnificent (pictured).
Nicaragua, Central America
Nicaragua is quickly gaining steam as one of the best destinations in Central America. The GIANT inside scoop is that the destination will be home to a new Wyndham Hotels and Resorts property by the end of 2014. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts plans to set up shop in the country within the next two years. Both hotels are expected to be located in Managua, the nation’s capital. But surfing - and adventure travel in general - is the main reason this hot spot will continue to make a great Central American vacation. The beaches of Nicaragua, especially those on the country’s Pacific coast, are known for impressive surf, some of the tallest waves and unexploited beauty. The most popular destination for surfers is a 37-mile stretch of beaches called San Juan del Sur (pictured). This region on the southwest coast of the country was a stop on the Quiksilver Crossing in 2003, a worldwide quest in search of “the perfect wave.” Maderas, a secluded beach beloved by locals and visitors alike, is one of the surfing community’s best-kept secrets.
There’s a new international Riviera sweeping the globe, and it’s found off the southern coast of China. Hainan Island is the smallest province in China. The most well-known city on the island is Sanya, For the GIANT who loves luxury, Sanya is home to a string of ultra-high-end hotels. Some of these resorts include Anantara Sanya Resort & Spa (pictured), Raffles Hainan, Mandarin Oriental, Banyan Tree and InterContinental Resort. In 2016, Kerzner International Holdings will bring its famous Atlantis product to Sanya as well. The massive resort will have an Aquaventure Waterpark, exotic marine exhibits and dining experiences. According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, Hainan is on track to become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations by 2021.
With cities full of bustling energy and endless plains that serve as a highway for the magnificent Great Migration of wildebeest and zebras, Tanzania is emerging from its shell as a hidden African gem to become a major tourism destination. A safari in the Serengeti should be on every traveler’s bucket list - it's certainly on mine, and the Singita hotels offer top-notch luxury in the most remote parts of the country. There is even an option for mobile camping in the plains. Tanzania has invested heavily in tourism over the past few years. The country’s hospitality scene is also booming, with significant interest from major brands: In December 2012, following a rebrand and an extensive upgrade, Four Seasons made its debut in Tanzania with the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti (www.fourseasons.com). Right around the same time, Singita Mara River Tented Camp (pictured, www.singita.com) opened in the Lamai Triangle, the northernmost tip of the Serengeti National Park. . With its spacious rooms, open-air terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, king-sized beds (many with a protective zip-up net), every GIANT will feel like King of the Plains. The camp is a contemporary take on the classic East African safari, and has tents surrounded by 98,000 acres of untouched wilderness.
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Aside from the convenience for many U.S. travelers who don’t have a passport, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix (pictured) offers a romantic setting with its white-sand beaches, blue waters and charming towns that have retained their 18th-century architectural treasures. The latter includes Fort Christiansvaern, Estate Whim Plantation Museum and Spratt Hall. It also has reefs and wrecks for divers to explore including Buck Island, one of only three underwater national monuments in the U.S. There is championship golf, St. George Village Botanical Gardens, St. Croix Heritage Trail and Cruzan Rum Distillery. St. Croix recently saw a romance tourism increase as a result of the February 11, 2013 airing of ABC’s hit romance The Bachelor set in St. Croix. In January 2012, Divi Carina Bay All Inclusive Beach Resort & Casino (www.divicarina.com/divicarina) became the first all-inclusive resort on St. Croix. Small enough to be intimiate, but big enough to make any “Man of Height” feel comfortable. Amenities include four restaurants, four bars, two swimming pools, tennis courts, a watersports center, an activities coordinator, spa, fitness center and Internet access, as well as a casino.
Samana, Dominican Republic
When travel agents first started to get invited down to Samana, about five years ago, it was then an unknown island in the northeast of the Dominican Republic, but by Spring 2011, several impressive resorts had turned Samana into an attractive proposition for American travelers. One place to keep on your radar is the El Portillo Beach Club (www.elportillobeachclub.com). Although most of the 156 apartments will be entered in a rental pool, they are not expected to be ready for booking until Spring/Summer 2014. Of the more than 42 acres of land for the project, 23 were set apart for the El Portillo Airport, and the remaining 19 constitute a stretch of nearly a quarter mile of beachfront. A fresh-water spring flows from the mountains to the sea, creating a lagoon that serves as the centerpiece of the project. There will be three types of designs to choose from: Beach Villas, Beach Island, and Beach Lagoon, all with terrific views of the water, with the Beach Villas being the most spacious. The common areas will include a Beach Club with a swimming pool, a spa, a restaurant, bars, a deli, water sports and a children’s playground. A nearby farm will offer horseback riding for adults and children (pictured); and don't' worry, the horses are big enough where your feet won’t dragging on the ground. There are also tennis courts, bicycle trails and more. It’s not just the resorts, however, that make Samana poised to emerge big time. The island is also close to the popular Puerto Plata, that JetBlue Airways launched direct flights from JFK in New York to the four-year-old Juan Bosch Airport in Samana one year ago. The island has already drawn wealthy Dominicans, Europeans and Canadians.
Curacao is the latest Caribbean island to feel the positive ramifications of being featured on The Bachelorette in 2012 as scores and scores of U.S. honeymooners have been making their way there in 2013. In fact, popular all-inclusive chain AMResorts opened a new resort in Curacao in December of 2012 in the form of the Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino (www.sunscaperesorts.com/curacao). Previously, Princess Beach Resort and Casino Curacao - a member of the Lionstone family of hotels - Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino received modifications to bring the property up to the brand’s standards. Renovations included guest rooms, new decor in the five restaurants and spa, as well as enhancements to the theater, ballroom, wedding chapel and fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment for your ThereAreGiants at the Gym selfies. Another resort that is sure to impress in Curacao is the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort (www.santabarbararesortcuracao.com), formerly known as Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina. It opened under the new name in January. As the latest installment to join the Benchmark Hospitality International family, a partner of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, the resort is the focal point of the 1,500-acre Santa Barbara Plantation community. The 350-room beachfront resort features Old Quarry by Pete Dye, the island’s only 18-hole championship golf course (pictured); Atabei Spa, an eco-friendly holistic retreat inspired by the island’s ancient traditions and rituals, as well as a full-service marina. Just 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, the island of Curacao offers an eclectic mix of history and culture. With a Dutch influence and European flair, the island is known for its sophistication, ecotourism and pristine diving conditions.