Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Phuket’s beaches are world-renowned and tourists flock from across the globe to visit the famous beaches at Patong, Karon, and Kata. So much so that many people complain these beaches have lost their charm. They say Phuket can no longer claim to be an idyllic tropical island getaway.

The beaches are too crowded. Sun loungers line the entire length of the beaches, sometimes in rows three or four deep. Jet skis, banana boats and parasail boats plough through the water while vendors ply their wares up and down the beach. They say Phuket is finished as an island getaway destination and only caters to the party crowd.

These people have not spent enough time exploring Phuket. There are more than 40 beaches around Phuket Island and there is something to suit all tastes. If you want a beach with good holiday facilities but not too crowded then Nai Harn, Kamala, Surin, Bang Tao and Nai Yang all have good hotels and restaurants yet do not draw big crowds. If you really want to get away from the crowds then Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches in the north of the island are usually very quiet.

Still all these beaches are well known in Phuket and firmly in the tourist travel guides. In this article, we will look at some beaches that still remain undiscovered to most tourists. We will not even include Laem Sing or Yanui in this list. They are both charming beaches but they have become well known and usually have plenty of visitors. Some of the following beaches are not even known to many of Phuket’s residents. These are Phuket’s secret beaches.

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Banana Beach

This beautiful beach is in the northern half of Phuket between Bang Tao Beach and Nai Thon Beach. It is a lovely two-hundred meter strip of sand, studded with rocks in the middle and ringed with trees. It is a good swimming beach and there is some great snorkeling. There is no accommodation and just a single beach restaurant with a handful of sun loungers at the southern end.

There are usually only a handful of visitors at this beach. The majority of them arrive by longtail boat from other beaches but in fact, you can see the beach from the coast road above and there is a trail down.

Pansea Beach

Right at the northern end of Bang Tao Beach is beautiful and peaceful Pansea Beach. There are two up-market resorts here yet the location retains its refreshing tranquility. Just offshore is Kala Island (or Kata Island depending who you believe) which shelters the shallow bay from waves so it is always calm. The waters are too shallow for swimming and when the tide is out you can walk to the island. It is a great beach for paddling and ideal for children to play. There are no refreshments here so it is a good idea to bring a picnic.

Pon Beach

This secluded little beach is in the headland north of Patong. The locals know it as Nai Yair Beach. It is amazing how few people find this beach considering it is located so close to the hordes at Patong. There is nothing here but a couple of rural shacks and a few grazing cows. It is a sandy beach but not good for swimming due to the rocky seabed. There is some good snorkeling.

There are usually a couple of locals renting sun loungers and selling refreshments. They can also provide you with a small barbecue to cook your own. There may be a small charge for crossing the private land to reach the beach.

Paradise Beach

In the headland south of Patong, there are two beautiful beaches that remain relatively unspoiled. They are not as undiscovered as the other beaches we mention on this list but still a break from the heaving masses at Patong. The first is Paradise Beach. Right at the tip of the headland, you can reach it by road (track) or boat.

It is a beautiful beach with overhanging trees. There is no accommodation but there is a restaurant and there are plenty of sun loungers. The beach is not the best for bathing due to the rocky seabed close to shore but there is some excellent snorkeling. There are usually plenty of people around but still it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Freedom Beach

You can only reach this stunning beach by boat. It is in the headland south of Patong all the way around and back towards the Karon Beach side. Still it is well worth the boat ride with fantastic bathing and snorkeling.

There are a couple of restaurants and plenty of sun loungers under the trees. The locals take great care of the beach and it is always pristine. Plenty of people do make this a day trip from Patong but the beach is never crowded and again it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Nui Beach

This beach is most known for how difficult it is to reach by land. Located between Kata and Nai Harn, the only way to reach it by land is down a two-kilometer dirt track that is almost impossible to traverse in a car. You can just about do it on a motorbike but it is better to walk or let one of the locals take you down on their ATV for a small fee.

It is also known as the most expensive beach in Phuket because you have to cross private land to reach it and they charge 250 baht for the privilege. This fee does get you a sun lounger and drink. When you do arrive, it is a beautiful secluded spot with good swimming and snorkeling. There is a rustic restaurant overlooking the beach but no accommodation. It is never crowded.

Ao Sane Beach

This beach is in the headland at the north end of Nai Harn Beach. You need to go through Le Meridian Phuket Yacht Club’s car park to reach it but they do not stop you. There is a restaurant here and some budget bungalows by the beach. There are usually a few people around but it is never busy.

It is actually a series of three small beaches split by little rocky headlands. None of them is good for swimming due to rocks and corals close to shore. There is some excellent snorkeling.

Laemka Beach

This little beach is at the southern end of Phuket between Rawai and Friendship Beach. It is not signposted and a little difficult to find but a beautiful spot. The Evason Resort and a small bungalow resort are nearby but still the beach remains quiet. It is one of the few southern beaches where you can have a swim and there are nice views out to the southern islands.

Ao Yon Beach

Nestled deep into Cape Panwa is Ao Yon Beach. This is the best beach on the southern side of Phuket. Although it is well developed with residential property, there are no hotels or restaurants by this beach. It is home to Phuket Yacht Club and there are always plenty of boats moored in the bay. It is a beautiful stretch of sand and a good bathing beach. It is usually very quiet and a real getaway.

Places to Visit in Fiji Islands

Places to Visit in Fiji Islands

Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mi) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. Its closest neighbours are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, the Samoas and France’s Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and Tuvalu to the north.

Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited, and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The farthest island is Ono-i-Lau. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 860,000. The capital, Suva on Viti Levu, serves as Fiji’s principal port. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu’s coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres like Nadi (tourism) or Lautoka (sugar cane industry). Viti Levu’s interior is sparsely inhabited due to its terrain.

Sun-drenched beaches, turquoise lagoons, swaying palm trees – Fiji supplies all the classic images of paradise. No wonder, then, that every year thousands of travellers come to this South Pacific archipelago for the ultimate island escape. With over three hundred islands to choose from, Fiji is an amazingly versatile destination. Whether you’re after a luxury honeymoon retreat, a lively backpacker island or a family-friendly resort you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also find a warm, hospitable people, an intriguing blend of Melanesians, Polynesians and Indians.

Places to Visit in Fiji Islands

With a reliable tropical climate, a good tourist infrastructure, English as its main language and no jabs or pills to worry about, travelling in Fiji is as easy as it gets. As the hub of South Pacific tourism, the country attracts over half a million visitors a year, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, its largest “neighbours” lying over 2000km southeast. Of the northern hemisphere travellers who arrive, many are backpackers from Europe or surfers and scuba divers from North America.

While it can be tempting to spend your whole time in Fiji sunbathing and sipping cocktails from coconuts, there are plenty of activities to lure you away from the beach. Within a ten-minute boat ride of most resorts you can find yourself snorkelling with dolphins and manta rays or scuba diving at pristine coral reefs. In addition, at the exposed edges of the reefs are some of the world’s finest and most consistent surfing breaks. Nature lovers are also spoilt for choice, both underwater and on dry land, and wildlife-spotting opportunities are plentiful, whether you’re seeking turtles, exotic birds or 3m-long tiger sharks.

Away from the resorts is another Fiji waiting to be discovered: a land of stunning mountains, rainforests and remote villages. Here you’ll find fantastically hospitable Fijians living a similar lifestyle to their tribal ancestors. Staying a night or two at a village homestay will give you an authentic insight into ethnic Fijian culture as well as the chance to sample yaqona or kava, the national drink.

Fiji is also home to a large Indian community and their influence is seen in the delicious Indian food served in almost every town, Bollywood films showing in the cinema and vibrant Hindu festivals celebrated throughout the year. While Fiji is not renowned for its towns or cities, three are definitely worth taking the time to explore: quaint, colonial-era Levuka, yachting hotspot Savusavu, and Suva, the lively capital city and the best place to party in the South Pacific.

However long you spend in the country you’ll notice an unhurried, good-humoured lifestyle. This is the essence of Fiji Time – an attitude that can be both inspiring and infuriating. Away from the highly organized upmarket resorts, life runs at a different pace; bus and ferry timetables serve more as guidelines and a simple meeting in a village can last for days. It’s best to leave your inner control freak at home – you never know, you may come back a calmer person.

All About Famous Tahitian Dances

One of the most widely recognized images of the islands is the world famous Tahitian dance. The ‘ote’a (sometimes written as otea) is a traditional dance from Tahiti, where the dancers, standing in several rows, execute figures. This dance, easily recognized by its fast hip-shaking and grass skirts, is often confused with the Hawaiian hula, a generally slower more graceful dance which focuses more on the hands and storytelling than the hips.

The ʻōteʻa is one of the few dances which existed in pre-European times as a male dance. On the other hand, the hura (Tahitian vernacular for hula), a dance for women, has disappeared, and the couple’s dance ‘upa’upa is likewise gone but may have reemerged as the tamure. Nowadays, the ʻōteʻa can be danced by men (ʻōteʻa tāne), by women (ʻōteʻa vahine), or by both genders (ʻōteʻa ʻāmui = united ʻō.).

All About Famous Tahitian Dances

The dance is with music only, drums, but no singing. The drum can be one of the types of the tōʻere, a laying log of wood with a longitudinal slit, which is struck by one or two sticks. Or it can be the pahu, the ancient Tahitian standing drum covered with a shark skin and struck by the hands or with sticks. The rhythm from the tōʻere is fast, from the pahu it is slower. A smaller drum, the faʻatete, can be used.

The dancers make gestures, reenacting daily occupations of life. For the men the themes can be chosen from warfare or sailing, and then they may use spears or paddles.

For women the themes are closer to home or from nature: combing their hair or the flight of a butterfly, for example. More elaborate themes can be chosen, for example, one where the dancers end up in a map of Tahiti, highlighting important places. In a proper ʻōteʻa the story of the theme should pervade the whole dance.

The group dance called ‘Aparima is often performed with the dancers dressed in pareo and maro. There are two types of ʻaparima: the ʻaparima hīmene (sung handdance) and the ʻaparima vāvā (silent handdance), the latter being performed with music only and no singing. Newer dances include the hivinau and the pa’o’a.

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

An insider’s guide to Jamaica, featuring the island’s best hotels, restaurants, bars, attractions and things to do, including how to travel there and around. By James Henderson, Telegraph Travel’s Jamaica expert. Click on the tabs below for the best beaches, including the top spots to stay stay, eat and drink.

Why go?

Jamaica is the liveliest, most captivating and most compelling island in the English-speaking Caribbean – and among the most beautiful too. It has the beaches and the hotels, but Jamaica also has more depth, with culture in its history, art and of course its music. The Caribbean experience is stronger here – Jamaica takes familiar strains from around the Caribbean and amplifies them.

When to go

The best time to visit is when the weather is at its worst and coldest in the UK, between mid-December and mid-April (the official winter season). In Jamaica this is also the driest part of the year. However, prices are at their highest then, so you may want to consider the shoulder season, up until July, when hotel prices reduce by as much as a third and the weather is not that different. The summer months are hot and sometimes muggy. You may want to avoid September and October because of the risk of hurricanes and November because it is the rainy season.

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

Know before you go

Flight time

London to Jamaica takes between nine and 10 hours.

Currency

The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar, or ‘J’, which floats on the international exchange (currently £1 = J$175 approx). However, many people use the US dollar (hotel bills are quoted in this currency). You should check the rate and make the calculations to see what exchange rate you are being offered.

Local laws and etiquette

Personal safety is an issue in several islands around the Caribbean. Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach nor in a car. Do not walk in remote areas in the main towns nor on remote beaches, certainly not at night. If in doubt ask your hotel reception what they do. Largely speaking the Jamaicans are charming and if you stop to ask them advice or directions they are delighted to help. Be careful when you are approached, however – consider what you would do at home if approached by someone you didn’t know – and act in a similar manner.

Climate of the Pacific Islands

Climate of the Pacific Islands

One feature of oceanic islands which distinguishes them from continents and from many of the continental islands is the climate. The great body of water which surrounds oceanic islands never becomes so warm and never so cold as the land on and near continents.

Therefore the temperature of the air over the open ocean and around and over the oceanic islands does not rise so high or fall so low. For the same reason the winter and summer temperatures are not very far apart, and the climate does not differ much from month to month. Places in Mexico in the same latitude as Hawaii and places in Australia in the same latitude as Rapa have cold winters and hot summers.

Temperature

The average annual temperature of nearly all the Pacific oceanic islands is 70 degrees. Only in a region extending west from Fiji does the average reach 80 degrees, and only in the Aleutian Islands and in the islands lying south of New Zealand are the winters uncomfortably cold.

Winds

Because of the vast stretches of water over which they may blow without interruption, the winds of the Pacific are more regular and uniform than are the winds in any other part of the world. These winds blow in different directions in different parts of the Pacific. In the belt of ocean lying approximately between the parallel of latitude 3 degrees north, which runs through Midway Island, and the parallel of latitude 60 degrees north, near the Bering Sea, the winds come generally from the west and are known as ” westerly winds.”

From latitude 30 degrees north to near the equator the winds come from the northeast. For more than three hundred days in the year they blow so regularly and evenly that they have been called northeast trade winds (trade is the English form of an old word trod, which means path). Along the equator the winds blow feebly, generally from the east. From near the equator to latitude 30 degrees south are the southeast trade winds, and still farther south is the belt of strong westerly winds known to sailors as the “roaring forties.”

In the two trade-wind belts, the winds sometimes blow from a direction opposite to their usual course, bringing with them the kind of weather known in Hawaii as “Kona storms.” Sometimes the winds become hurricanes or typhoons. Most of these hurricanes occur in the region between the Marshall Islands and China and west and southwest of Samoa — in Micronesia, Melanesia-and farther west in the Indian Ocean.

But they sometimes occur in the winter months in Polynesia and are then very destructive. The houses may be torn down and. the trees broken and uprooted. The hurricane winds and the high waves which come with them have swept some low coral islands bare of trees, buildings, and men and have sunk the canoes along the shores. These winds and the ocean currents made by the winds have aided boats in sailing in some direoctions and hindered them in sailing in other directions.

Balinese Dances and Dancers

Balinese Dances and Dancers

Balinese dances is a very ancient dance tradition that is part of the religious and artistic expression among the Balinese people of Bali island, Indonesia. Balinese dance is dynamic, angular and intensely expressive. Balinese dancers express the stories of dance-drama through the bodily gestures including gestures of fingers, hands, head and eyes.

There is a great richness of dance forms and styles in Bali; and particularly notable are those ritualistic dance dramas which involve Rangda, the witch, and the great beast Barong. Most of dances in Bali are connected to Hindu rituals, such as the Sanghyang Dedari sacred dance than invoked hyang spirits that believed to possess the dancers in trance state during the performance. Other Balinese dances are not linked to religious rituals and created for certain purposes, such as Pendet welcoming dance and Joged dance that is social dance for entertainment purpose.

During the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage convention in 29 November to 4 December 2015 in Windhoek, Namibia, UNESCO recognizes three genres of traditional dance in Bali, Indonesia, as Intangible cultural heritage. The three genres includes Wali (sacred dances), Bebali (semi-sacred dances) and Balih-balihan (dances for entertainment purposes). The Balinese dance has been proposed since 2011,[3] and officially recognized in 2015.

The three genres are represented by nine dances, which describes its function and living tradition in Balinese community, they are:

Wali Sacred Dances

Rejang (Klungkung District). Sacred ceremonial dance by a young women in traditional ceremonial dress,

Sanghyang Dedari (Karangasem District). Sacred trance dance to counteract negative supernatural forces. Performed by two young girls.

Baris Upacara (Bangli District) religious dances conveying heroic spirit danced by even numbers of male dancers.

Bebali Semi sacred Dances

Topeng Sidhakarya/Topeng Pajegan (Tabanan District). Performed by masked dancers to neutralize the evil spirits.

Gambuh dance drama (Gianyar District). Formerly royal theatrical performance, now accompaniment to ceremonies, by 25-40 dancers.

Wayang Wong dance drama (Buleleng District). Combines dance, epic drama and music.

Balih-balihan Entertainment Dances

Legong Kraton (Denpasar City). Exquisitely beautiful dance by 2 or 3 girls. Developed from Sanghyang Dedari, and Gambuh.

Joged Bumbung (Jembrana District). A popular social dance by couples, during harvest season or on important days.

Barong Ket “Kuntisraya” (Badung District). Represents a fight between two mythological characters, Barong in the form of a lion symbolizing goodness and Rangda, an evil witch.

Ulun Danu Temple in Bali

Ulun Danu Temple in Bali

Bali Golden TourBali Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a temple dedicated to the goddess of the lake is Ida Batari Dewi Ulun Danu on the edge of a huge crater. The dominant shrines are Meru’s (pagodas) dedicated to the lake goddess and the gods of Mount Batur and Mount Gunung Agung, the largest volcano in Bali. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu.

The sight and cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands have made the lake and this temple a favourite sightseeing and recreational spot as well as a frequently photographed site. Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, literally ‘the source temple of Lake Beratan’, is easily the island’s most iconic sanctuary sharing the scenic qualities with the seaside temples of Uluwatu Temple and Tanah Lot Temple. The smooth reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base creates a unique floating impression, while the mountain range of the Bedugul region encircling the lake provides the temple with a scenic backdrop.

INSIDE 2 ULUN DANU TEMPLE | LAKE TEMPLE | Bali Golden TourUlun Danu Beratan Temple mostly called as a Ulun Danu Temple but not to be confused with Ulun Danu Batur Temple, which is on the rim of the caldera at Batur Lake. It is especially important for the Balinese. Only here can you get holy water of a particular variety. The water is collected from the lake itself, directly in front of the temple. Visitors have to wear a sash and not go near. Bathing is forbidden.

The lake is the ultimate source of water for the rivers and springs that irrigate central Bali. It is therefore of the utmost importance. The temple priests say that the lake is fed by springs located at each of the wind directions. Each of the springs is the origin of water for that particular region of central Bali. So, farmers from North Bali collect their holy water from the northern spring of the lake and so on.

Ulun Danu Temple lies by the western banks of Lake Bratan in the Bedugul Highlands at a level of 1239m, is one of the most picturesque and most photographed temples in Bali. Ulun Danu is inside the caldera of the now extinct volcano Gunung Catur. It is one of the main sources of irrigation in the Balinese highlands, and so the temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the lake goddess.

Bali: Path to Happiness

Bali: Path to Happiness

Everyone in Bali smiles. Big, broad, beaming smiles. And all that’s necessary to evoke it is eye contact. Even when they may be preoccupied with weaving their scooters through traffic or carrying a heavy, flailing pig across the road, you only have to hint at a smile from your own lips and the response is immediate and electrifying.

“Transport?” queried a smiling young man on a sidewalk in Ubud, an artsy town in the south-eastern hills. It’s a frequent offer on the streets of nearly every town in Bali. Everyone with a car will offer you a ride for a small price. You may say “no thank you” seven times on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. But what’s heart-warming is that you will always receive an enthusiastic “Welcome!” in response.

As one of Indonesia’s luxury destinations, Bali is a truly service-oriented society and economy. Away from the resorts on the coast, there is less commercial zeal and more genuine friendliness. Culturally, Bali differs from other Indonesian islands, and indeed is an exception in this predominantly Muslim country with its Hindu-Buddhist history. It is this history that shapes the Balinese approach to life and the Balinese landscape.

Exploring the surroundings of Ubud on bike is perhaps the best way to take in the beautiful landscape, with all its rice terraces, temples, villages and cackling roosters. I signed up for a daytrip with Arung from Bali Moon Group. We began with a morning stop at an eclectic orchard growing everything from mangosteen, papaya and peanuts to cacao, coffee beans and tea leaves. Arung also introduced us to salak, a fruit with a brown, snake-scaled skin that looks like a nut inside and tastes like mixture of apple and pear.

Bali: Path to Happiness

After an invigorating ginger tea we were driven up to the edge of Mount Batur. The mountain bikes were unloaded and we were ready to start off downhill back towards Ubud. Arung had assured us back in the office that it was “all downhill”, but some of us were taken aback by how steep downhill can be. And the road was just a rocky path. One of the English girls on the excursion already wanted to make use of the trailing van service that carried our backpacks, but was persuaded to stick with it since it would get easier.

Our reward, when it began to level out, was a school full of excited children running towards the road to greet us. Six and seven year old boys were exploding with excitement, seemingly overwhelmed by such an unexpected visit from strangers. “Hallo! Hallo!” they squealed, vying to make eye contact with any one of the cyclists and jumping for high-fives. Wide-eyed awe and giggles rippled through the crowd as our group responded to their eagerness. It felt like the Tour de France. A few boys ran with the bikes until they were out-paced or came to the end of the village.

We cycled along rice paddies, many of them flocked by ducks feeding on leftover grains. In the rolling countryside I could hear the lovely sound of bamboo music and wind chimes everywhere. We passed through several more villages, all laid out on a sloping north-south axis and flanked by walled enclosures that are the typical Balinese. Each had an elaborately carved gateway and immediately behind it a wall, the aling-aling, to keep floating evil spirits from sweeping in through the open gateway.

In one village an old man on a moped scooted up beside me to ride tandem and indulge in conversation. His smile was wide, his questions direct. “Where you from? Where you stay? Where you go?” He exudes a pride in managing dialogue with a foreigner and brushes off the cajoling of youngsters. As we neared the open countryside he veered off back into his village and signalled his final sentence with a wave,”The Balinese people welcome you. Good time.”

Everyone, just everyone, genuinely wants to have contact and wish you well. When we came to the end of our cycle we were invited into a family home. The residential compound had sleeping pavilions for extended family members, a fountain in the middle, a temple and a low table for us to share dinner. A typical Indonesian meal is a selection of hot and cold plates, with spicy meats, peanut sauces and sautéed vegetables. Everyone was exhausted from the combination of heat and pedalling, and completely ready to feast on the buffet.

One special day at La Palma, Canary Islands

One special day at La Palma, Canary Islands

As though it were caught floating halfway away from the Iberian peninsula of Europe towards South America and became lodged off the coast of western Africa, La Palma has something of each continent in its soul. The steepest island in the world at only 16 miles wide and 8000 feet high, La Palma also has enormous ecological diversity and a historic significance dating to 1492.

That was the year that the first Spaniard, Alfonso Fernández de Lugo, landed on La Palma. The island soon became a stopping ground for crews heading west to the New World. For Columbus it was a necessary stop-over for rest and supplies. The capital Santa Cruz grew to become one of the three most important ports in the Hispanic world. It also saw the departure of thousands of immigrants to South America, such as Cuba where the islanders set up tobacco plantations.

When we visited Santa Cruz we found a pleasant and relaxed city. It’s tidy and tiny with old colonial buildings. There are white churches accented with dark volcanic stone and quaint houses decorated with colorful wooden balconies. There’s a replica of Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria at the end of the Plaza de la Alameda, a delightful square shaded with old laurel trees.

It’s the island’s laurel trees that today make up Los Tilos, a protected biospheric reserve north of Santa Cruz. The name, Los Tilos, is derived from the Spanish word for smelly, since laurels stink when felled.

One special day at La Palma, Canary Islands

We joined a guided trek through Los Tilos and were astonished by the diversity of its greenery. Our guide Ilonka from Natour-Trekking explained that there are more than 2000 forms of vegetation and 70 plants unique to La Palma. The hills are a tapestry of fig trees, orange trees, palm trees, banana crops, vineyards, pines, laurels and dragon trees, a tree found only on the islands of the middle Atlantic and which can grow to be centuries old.

“Banana’s are boozers,” explains Ilonka as we stop at a banana orchard in San Andres y Sauces, another colonial village with cobbled streets and narrow alleys. “One kilo of bananas needs 1000 litres of water.” So avocados, which are much less demanding of the island’s water supplies, are slowly replacing banana farming.

For now the island is covered by huge patches of banana land, with the gigantic leaves swaying in the wind. Some of the fields are covered in plastic to prevent the heavy leaves from bruising the bananas, but as a local restaurateur tells us, bananas cultivated in this way are less tasty.

And taste, it turns out, is a specialty here. We encountered our tastiest treats during our hikes on the western side of the island, known as the sunnier side. As we approached a small almond farm the farmer’s wife appeared with satchels of roasted, sugared almonds for us to buy. At Tazacorte, a genteel village with bright, arty street furniture, we drank sugar cane juice pressed through an old-fashioned hand-mill. It gave us that extra kick needed to climb the cliff for a panoramic view.

The goats we saw roaming the northwestern hills produced the best delight of all: goat cheese roasted over pine-brush and topped with a typical Canary Islands sauce called mojo verde. The crushed coriander and garlic sauce combines tantalizingly with the smoky flavour. La Palma’s goat cheese is so fine because of the very diversity of greens the goats can freely graze.

These pampered goats also have spectacular views of the island’s most majestic feature, the Caldera de Tarubiente. This snowy peak is an extinct 5-mile wide crater and the climax of the volcano trail that runs along the north-south spine of the island. The western winds cause clouds to pour over this ridge like milk spilling in slow motion. From here you can also see the tips of the other Canary islands Tenerife and La Gomera.

After all the trekking and fantastic sea views, we were ready for a day at the beach. At Los Cancajos, near Santa Cruz, the sand is very black from the volcanic explosions that formed the island. The lava-rich soil is also the reason for La Palma’s quality wine. With a bottle of malvasia—the wine that was once noted by Shakespeare—and anise-seeded bread, we enjoyed the view of Santa Cruz’s miniature skyline from the warm beach.

Very few ships still dock at Santa Cruz. There are ferries from the Spanish mainland and some afternoon day-trippers from the other Canary islands. All this means that it’s a pretty peaceful place. It‘s the rich history, food and colors—from the black sand beaches to its white peaks and the green in between—that gives La Palma its unique flair.

Acapulco: The Beach Is There!

Acapulco: The Beach Is There!

Mexico’s first great resort destination, Acapulco is a stunningly beautiful city located around a bay on the Pacific Ocean, with miles of easily-accessible beaches. It’s truly in the tropics, with palm trees and other exotic plants everywhere. Views across the bay are gorgeous, the sunsets are legendary, and the city lights at night are lovely from every vantage point.

What to do? Swimming (but note that some beaches have rough surf and undertows), working on your tan, eating and drinking at the wide variety of restaurants and clubs… and staying up late (or all night) to go dancing at the discos. Scuba diving, fishing, boating, and other water sports are available, as are golf courses and tennis courts. The shopping is great fun, though don’t expect the best bargains in Mexico in this tourist-oriented city. Famous divers jump off extremely high cliffs into the sea at La Quebrada… that’s something to watch, not to do! Most of all, Acapulco is a place to relax.

I’ve been to Acapulco both as a child and as an adult. Of course, the city has changed a lot; the quaint little motel just a block from the beach where we stayed when I was a kid is long gone, replaced with newer, taller buildings.

I adored the city as a child, and I continue to like its natural beauty and its beaches. Though it is now a huge city and very tourist-oriented, I still think Acapulco is an outstanding place for a beach vacation. The glittering celebrities are more likely to go to the newer resorts — Cancun and others that were small towns or fishing ports when Acapulco was the rising star.

If you explore the central market and other places away from the obvious main tourist areas, you can get a real connection with the people. Many of the tourists nowadays are Mexican, and you can chat with them on the beach. Don’t speak Spanish? No problem! Smiles go a long way, and many Mexicans know some English.

The weather in Acapulco is very nice all winter, hot and humid in the summer. Good thing the beach is there!