An overused travel cliché says that the toughest places to reach are often the most rewarding. This cannot be truer in the case of Ofu Island in the remote US territory of American Samoa. One of mother nature’s finest pieces of work, touchdown on the beachside runway in Ofu signals the start of the weekly rush hour – as locals greet relatives returning from the main island with a big smile, government workers change shifts, and a few lucky tourists begin the vacation of a lifetime. On the menu? Jungle covered peaks hiding rare coconut crabs under the canopy, sleepy villages waking up only for Sunday church service, and a beach worthy of an Oscar – if only ‘The Academy’ would be aware of its existence.
It’s all about doubling your pleasure when you go to this private Brazilian spot, and no, we aren’t talking about a threesome post-Carnival. This private island is actually two islands connected by a bridge. Two houses, two decks, two times the fun. The property is on Ilha Grande, a 15-minute crossing by boat from Portogalo and two hours from Rio. The main house rocks four bedrooms, the smaller house two, and there are five canoes on site for all of your paddling needs.
Experience the stunning underwater world of diving in Key West. The blue waters surrounding the Southernmost City offer world-class wreck diving. On May 27, 2009, the U.S.N.S. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef in 140 feet of water, seven miles off Key West. The Vandenberg is the second largest ship purposely sunk as an artificial reef. It is now the southern anchor of the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. Learn more about diving the Vandenberg!
My first visit to this spectacular island was on a surprise birthday trip where I was literally blindfolded until the point when we boarded the ferry. After about an hour on the water, I was transferred to a tiny boat that would slowly drift us toward this tiny island — I had no idea where I was, only that I was somewhere off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, floating toward a slice of paradise. You’ll instantly fall in love with this remote island if you’re looking to unplug and get some much-needed peace and quiet. There are no roads, which means there are no big hotels and restaurants, and all you’ll find are private beachfront bungalows with little mom-and-pop restaurants. In fact, there are only a few places on the island that offer Wi-Fi at all and sometimes the signal is out completely. People come to this island to get away from it all, so it’s the perfect place for your next budget-friendly romantic getaway. You’ll find top-notch scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, fishing and the chance to swim at night with bioluminescent plankton, then wake up in the morning to white sandy beaches and dip your toes in the shimmering, unclouded water. What are you waiting for?
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Swim Slowly! Exhaustion is a common problem for first time snorkelers. Swimming takes a good bit of energy. The trick with snorkeling is to stay relaxed and calm. You can wipe yourself out quickly if you are not careful. Only swim at a speed that allows you to breathe slowly and easily through your snorkel. Your snorkel does limit your breath, so keep your activity level at a pace that does not demand heavy breathing. Your fins will make it much easier. Learn to just float without effort. Only swim rapidly if necessary for safety.
I awoke at six when the babies in nearby tents did, and then again, at seven, when the heat became too much to bear. Exhausted and frazzled, I walked to breakfast. At the next table, a trio of kids excitedly debated where to start their day. It was nice to see how happy T.I. made them. But for me, sitting in the “open air” plaza beneath a completely sealed dome felt like waiting out a significant delay at the airport. Polishing off some bacon, I realized I actually wasn’t beholden to air traffic controllers or freak storms. I could spend the twenty-four hours I’d planned to, but I could also leave. With a spring in my step, I took the long way back to my tent, pausing for one last look at the sea. I felt happier than I had the entire stay. I could have gotten one of the most coveted beach chairs under a palm tree in the sand. Instead, I settled the bill I’d racked up on my faceless money watch and breezed through the turnstile.
Which of these great locations would you recommend for a family with teenagers who like to dive and surf? We have been to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Tahiti. We are looking for a safe, yet different, cultural experience with exotic plants, fish and animals. We would prefer to stay in one villa, as opposed to multiple rooms in a hotel. We don’t mind if it is far away from Southern California. I realize this may be painful financially.
Fury allows service animals only. A service animal is any dog that has been trained to perform tasks to benefit an individual. The work performed must be directly related to the individuals disability. According the ADA service animals for emotional support, therapy, comfort or companionship are not considered service animals.
Fins- We always recommend renting fins, especially when swimming long distances. I used to be a huge cheapskate when it came to renting fins but trust me, they do make a difference. Rent fins that are not too tight but also not too loose. When swimming with fins, be mindful that you don’t kick and knock over any corals. Check if your fins fit properly- ill fitting fins can make or break your snorkeling experience.
When the (real) sun disappeared behind a cloud, I figured I should keep exploring. I considered a chicken Caesar salad at the nearby restaurant Palm Beach but decided to go a bit further afield. In the jungle, I found butterflies in mesh tents slurping from orange and pineapple slices and thatched huts with educational placards hiding electric equipment. Nature sounds piped through speakers, but the hundreds of varieties of tropical fauna weren’t plastic. I hope those aren’t real, I thought, wincing as I wound around the pathways to get a better look at a bunch of flamingos.
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