Saturday, February 6, 2010

Five best things: Places to visit

Once again, there’s a theme here: Four of my five favorite places are on the water. This could be because, as a landlubber, I don’t really need to go to other places that are high and dry. Or maybe I view coastal places more romantically because I’m near the ocean so rarely. Or perhaps I need to move to the coast.
5. Nassau, Bahamas. Technically, the Bahamas are in the Atlantic and not the Caribbean, but the islands provide the same sort of weather and vibe, with a distinctly British flavor. A British crown colony from 1718 to 1973 and still a member of the Commonwealth, the Bahamas also hosted Blackbeard the pirate and got caught up in the American Revolutionary War. Today, Nassau is an interesting mix of British and Caribbean influences and is a great town for walking. (Last time we were there we walked from a zoo and garden outside of town back to the city, stopping along the way for conch fritters.) Nearby there are beautiful beaches and resorts, but Nassau also retains its historical charms despite being a major tourist destination.

4. Costa Rica. Having been there only once, this is based as much on a notion as actual experience. But we were completely enthralled by our visit there, by Costa Rica’s friendly and warm people and its indescribable beauty. In the space of a few dozen miles the topography rises from sea level to more than 10,000 feet, and some of the volcanic mountains are still adding on. Central America’s oldest democracy, it has no standing army and caught on to eco-tourism very early. In our short visit we saw dozens of exotic animals, including monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, and all manner of lizards and birds.

3. Zihuatanejo, Mexico. I often fantasize about retiring to a certain place, and the two non-American places I think about most often are Costa Rica and Zihuatanejo. “Z” is a small fishing village not far north of Acapulco but, as the brochures say, a world away. It has benefited by the development of Ixtapa 10 miles north, where all the modern resorts have gone. Z, on the other hand, has retained its fishing village nature and the hotels there are all low-rise that don’t destroy the place’s natural beauty. It gets its share of cruise ship traffic, but the people don’t go crazy trying to grab your money. There’s no Hard Rock Café or other ugly tourist restaurants – just small indoor-outdoor restaurants and markets, reliably fake Cuban cigar shops and a fleet of small fishing boats.

2. Cannon Beach, Oregon. Wonderfully, classically romantic, Cannon Beach is an art town on Oregon’s northern coast surrounded by green hills and mountains to the east and the dramatic Oregon coastline and Pacific Ocean to the west. Large monolithic “haystack” rocks dot the shallows near the beach and Oregon’s laws disallowing development of the beaches has left Cannon Beach’s coastline unspoiled. The town is large enough to have some great restaurants and, as an art colony, is full of great galleries and a handful of bookstores. Of course, it has its share of tourist shops, but they don’t spoil the experience.

1. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I caught my first glimpse of Yellowstone and the Tetons when I was 11 and we were moving from the Indiana prairies to the Utah mountain valleys. Now I live on the edge of this region, known by the environmental types as the “Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.” My long-suffering wife knows I could visit Yellowstone or Grand Teton every weekend of the spring, summer and fall and not tire of it. I asked Kathleen to marry me on the banks of a side channel of the Snake River as the sun set behind the Tetons to the west. I have taken pictures of moose, elk, bear, antelope, coyote, bison and bald eagles here (but have yet to capture the elusive gray wolf). The area is both beautiful and intriguing, with Yellowstone’s waterfalls and thermal features, from geysers to multi-colored hot pot springs. I feel very sad for anyone who hasn’t seen all of this.
Runners-up, in no particular order: Camden, Maine; Hong Kong, China; Guangzhou, China; Charleston, S.C.; Stowe, Vermont; Stockbridge, Massachusetts; San Francisco; Costa Maya, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Carmel, California; Napa Valley, California; San Antonio, Texas; Savannah, Georgia; Galena, Illinois; Chicago; Seattle; Portland; Boston; Big Sur, California; Cooperstown and the Catskills, New York; Olympic Peninsula, Washington; Banff, Alberta, Canada; Ketchikan, Alaska; anywhere in Hawaii; Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington; Ponte Vedra, Florida; anywhere in the Caribbean; and the following national parks: Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Great Smoky Mountain, Canyonlands, Arches, Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Crater Lake, Redwood, Olympic, Acadia, and Saguaro.

And finally, my bucket list: The Everglades, Florida Keys, Cuba, Iguazu Falls, New Zealand, Australia, U.K. and Ireland, select places in Europe, Denali, Copper Canyon, more of Costa Rica, Polynesia, and North Dakota (only state I’ve not visited).


  1. Wow. I want to come here. And I want to have an experience here. I will encourage my family to visit your place soon. Thank you so much for letting us know this one. Anyway Not convinced? Find out more best place to travel here.

  2. I have not visited any of these locations which are described by you. By reading your article, I am attracted to visit all of them. And I hope that I can visit them. Thanks you for making me aware for these beautiful locations. I am waiting for more stuff by you.

  3. These are beautiful and nature locations of the world. The pictures you have shared in this blog, are so attractive and unforgettable to watch

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