General Question

girlofscience's avatar

Vacation suggestions (that fulfill many specific requests)?

Asked by girlofscience (7477 points ) January 22nd, 2012

Hi world travelers!

My husband and I (Americans) have not traveled nearly as much as we’d like (we’ve never left North America), but that’s about to change. We plan to vacation in a new, interesting place each year, and Real Vacation #1 is scheduled for the second week of April!

We would like to venture somewhere new, but not too, too far. My husband has some flight anxiety and has not taken any long flights, so he’d like to build up his tolerance slowly. (He’d like to experience a ~6–10-hour flight before going all the way across the globe.)

We have already looked into many places that fit our specifications, but without biasing you, we’d like to know what you might suggest, based on what we’re looking for:

- Not in North America. We want to try somewhere new. Central America is acceptable.
– Not a Caribbean island. We want somewhere more interesting than a place with a bunch of American tourists on a nice beach. I’ve already been to a bunch of Caribbean islands anyway.
– Must have a great beach, though. We’re only interested in coastal locations for this vacation.
– Less than 10 hours of total flying time from North Carolina.
– Interesting culture different than that of the US. We’re not planning to do a lot of “touristy” stuff. We would rather interact with the people and experience the local culture.
– Good food and alcohol and easy access to both!
– Great beach weather in April.

So suggest away! Name the place, and tell us why the beaches, culture, and food are unforgettable.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions! If we end up choosing a place you suggest, I will be happy to send you photos after our trip!

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18 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Do you have any strong feelings regarding culture (i.e., looking for something relatively familiar vs. very unfamiliar) or regarding urban/developed areas vs. more off the beaten path?

girlofscience's avatar

@nikipedia: Would definitely prefer something not familiar. In between “relatively familiar” to “very unfamiliar” would okay, and “very unfamiliar” is okay. “Relatively familiar” is less preferred.

Open to both urban/developed areas as well as places more off the beaten path, provided the latter doesn’t cause major inconveniences in terms of getting there and getting good food and alcohol.

zenvelo's avatar

Sounds like Belize or Costa Rica would fit your bill. I have a friend who lives in Belize, she loves it. And I have been wanting to go to Costa Rica, a lot of friends say it’s like Mexico was in the 70s.

digitalimpression's avatar

Puerto Vallarta is one of the coolest places I have ever visited. It is roughly a 3 hour flight from North Carolina. It has a lot of beach area, so you will be able to find one that suits your purposes. If you leave the beach area and wander farther inland you will find a whole lot of culture, restaurants, and a diverse selection of bars and night clubs.

The temperature in April averages about 75 degrees.

Whether you want to witness a real live bullfight, ride a zip-line through the jungle or just relax at a resort on a private beach.. pv’s got a lot to offer. I can’t wait to go back.

Sunny2's avatar

Puerto Rico. If you go shopping and take the bus to and from your hotel, on the return trip you are served free pina coladas. There are great beaches. People are friendly. Food is interesting but not scary. Look into it.
May I suggest you make a list of all the places you would like to go and then rank the places by how difficult it would be to be there. Do the places that require a lot of walking, trekking or climbing first. We made that list too late in our lives and we were too old for Borneo when we got there.

jonsblond's avatar

My sister’s boyfriend is from El Salvador and they vacationed there recently. I’m not quite sure where they stayed but the pictures she posted on Facebook were absolutely gorgeous and it sounds like something you might enjoy. Something different than the typical Mexico or Costa Rica vacation.

Here is a list of beach hotels that might help if you are interested. Here is her personal photo from the resort she stayed at. This was the room they stayed in. If you are intrigued I can find out the exact location for you.

Pandora's avatar

Take a cruise. You’ll meet a large variety of people and you can choose to either not get off the boat or stay on the boat. You can also either go to events planned on the ship or just lay about the pool or get a massage, or hit the gym or just eat, drink and socialize. The great thing is if you get a buzz from all the drinking, you don’t have to worry about driving home. :)

jazmina88's avatar

Greece or Italy. Do you have your passports

JLeslie's avatar

April limits possible locations for good beach weather. Central America is a good suggesstion this time of year, Costa Rica has good reviews, I have never been there.

If you could push it out into May or June there would be many more choices in Europe. Italy, French Riviera, Spain, but April can be too cool to really enjoy the beach, even in Greece I think?

I think a cruise is a fantastic suggestion for you. There are cruises out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale that go to Belize and Honduras, all in one trip, and you don’t have to think much once on ship. Plus, you can spend a couple days in Miami, which is like being in another country if you have never been there. South Beach is a lot of fun for a couple of days, many Latin Americans and Europeans. The beach near eigth street has many topless bathers, lots of foreign langauge being spoke around you and a very festive mood, beautiful beach.

girlofscience's avatar

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

Nothing really new here yet—we’ve already looked into most of the suggested options, so others, feel free to keep them coming. We are focusing our efforts around Central and South America. Since I’ve already looked into all of the places, a little more explanation as to why they are great would be helpful.

To those who suggested a cruise, I’m not sure why you thought this would be a good idea for us. Based on our specifications, it seems like exactly what we’re not looking for. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, but a goal of this vacation is to explore a new part of the world and experience a new culture. I mentioned not wanting to go to the Caribbean because it’s largely uninteresting and just involves a bunch of Americans on pretty beaches. Being stuck on a boat with a bunch of Americans seems even more likely to inhibit our cultural exploration. Additionally, as mentioned, my husband would like to build up his flying tolerance by taking a little bit of a longer flight this time, so the cruise wouldn’t help with that either.

I’m not hating on cruises in general. I’ve been on cruises and found them to be perfectly enjoyable for their purposes. My husband and I will probably go on a cruise again some day. I just don’t understand why anyone would think a cruise would fit the bill at all for my requests for this particular vacation.

JLeslie's avatar

@girlofscience How about Ecuador and the Galapagos?

JLeslie's avatar

I thought cruise, because you can hit several foreign countries in one vacation. Beach in general is not very “interesting” although I personally love a beach vacation, so don’t get me wrong. If you want culture and history that is typically away from the beach. Beach is for rest, relaxation, and not very intellectually stimulating usually. Beaches tend to cater to tourists, and all tourists tend to be similar, whether they are American or not. I guess maybe you want something off the beaten path for beaches? More secluded? Or, is how populated the place is not a factor?

Are you going during Holy Week? Holy Week in Latin America is a big deal, many businesses are closed down all week, big vacation time, especially for people who are not Catholic, but the Catholics also vacation heavily during this time. Many schools in MX for instance are off for two weeks before Easter, probably other Latin American countries also. It is Spring Break on steroids, except it will be families vacationing, rather than just teenagers.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Consider Hawaiian Islands slower pace on Kauai and Hawaii ( Big Island ). Honolulu is a metropolitan area but lots to do. Total time could be 15 to 20 hours BUT broken up into 3 to 6 hour legs.

EverRose11's avatar

I would say somewhere in Mexico to start perhaps there are so many am zing beach resort area’s that you can if you so choose stay near and there are so many local out of the way back street little hole in the wall restaurants you can discover, you will I promise feel far from the maddening crowd of the regular tourist’s. Than of course there is always Belize or Costa Rica. I do not remember if you mentioned where it is that you live. Anyway where ever it is you decide to travel embrace it totally , I envy you having a great travel partner,

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know if language is a factor for you to feel out of the country. I only mention it because Belize is English speaking (many people don’t know) and most of Mexico is bilingual in the tourist areas, everyone will speak English to you. Plus, I am assuming you don’t want to go to MX since you said you have travelled North America already.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I’d go with Belize or Costa Rica as well. Lovely beaches, tropical environment.
If you eventually work your way up to a 13 hour or more flight, go to Taiwan!
I ended up there randomly with friends 2 years ago and the beaches in Hualien and on the way to Toroko Natl. park are fabulous! They rival Hawaii and I was amazed that I never even thought of Taiwan, ( formerly known as Formosa ) as a vacation destination.

Pandora's avatar

I suggested a cruise because you made it sound like you only want to meet people and don’t care for touristy spots. Well unless you are going camping (which will usually involve a lack of people) in the woods, that is the least likely touristy spots. So is going to any 3rd world country but then you don’t want to go far, and you have excluded the carribean islands. Hawaii is part of the northern americas and you don’t want that. There are a few countries in South America that would be fine in the touristy areas but the non typical touristy areas can be risky for Americans and you have to know the languages to navigate around them. Unlike Europe, English is not always typically taught to those furthest from tourist areas, nor are you always going to find people there who would trust americans. I guess if you want adventure you could try traveling down the Amazon river but no doubt it will be an adventure set with tourist in mind.
You could try Germany. Very friendly. Pretty sites to see. Many speak english, and plenty of public transportation if you feel like going it alone. Probably a 10 hour flight straight from NC.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora Germany in April is too cold for the beach in my opinion. I mentioned southern Spain and France, but April isn’t reliable for beach weather even there.

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