Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Safety Tips for Global Travel Vacations

By Chris Robertson

If you're planning a trip abroad, you're probably concerned about travel safety. Global travel and vacations do pose a risk whether you're traveling alone or with your family. Here are some simple travel safety tips you can follow without adding a lot of stress during your trip.

Resort or Hotel Safety

Be sure the area where you plan to stay is not a high-crime area. Check with several hotels in the area and ask what the crime level is in the neighborhood. When staying at a remote luxury resort, be sure you know how to phone the local medical dispatchers or police in case of an emergency. You might be 20 miles out of town and a desk clerk might not be available to assist you when needed, so prepare in advance just in case.

When exiting your hotel room or the hotel lobby into the parking lot, check your surroundings for suspicious persons. Keep your money, credit cards and traveler checks hidden away in a safe place. Avoid carrying a purse or handbag openly. If the hotel provides a safe in your room, use it for valuables and money as well.

If traveling with children, never leave them alone or allow them to wander around the hotel. Predators look for children who are alone and can easily capture them and drag them into a room without your knowledge.

Make Copies

It's important to make copies of all important documents before leaving. In global travel and vacations, there are usually many papers to keep up with such as licenses, passports, birth certificates, and insurance documents. You should even copy your credit cards (front and back). Leave these copies with someone you trust.

Health Safety

When traveling to Europe, Asia, Africa, India, or any other country, there may be health issues you should know about in advance. Some countries require vaccination shots before crossing the border. Check with your local health department as well as the country's regulations to find out what (if any) health risks exist.

It's also a good idea to take out a travel insurance policy in case you need hospital or doctor treatment while away.

Understand the Laws

When traveling to another country, it's good to understand the local laws before you arrive. Ignorance is no excuse. If you plan to rent a vehicle while away, learn the road laws and what the signs mean so you'll be prepared to drive.

Create an Itinerary

Before you leave, create an itinerary of your travel plans and give a copy to a loved one so someone will know your travel schedule in case of emergencies.

Avoid Travel Scams

If seeking travel information online, beware of scams. If you're new to travel booking, you can sign on with an experienced travel company that knows the ins and outs of travel. These companies can often get better rates for you on luxury beach resorts, golf resorts and hotels, holiday cruises, and so forth. Whether you're skiing in the Swiss Alps or visiting the sandy beaches of Greece, you'll save time and money. Some companies will even allow you to sell their services and earn an extra income. If you love global travel and vacations, it can be an exciting "work at home" business!

Plan ahead for safety, but don't forget to have fun on your vacation!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Discover Pisa

Of all towns in Tuscany, Pisa can be reached best, because it owns the only international airport of the region, the Aeroporto Galileo Galilei. It is directly connected to the major Tuscan cities like Florence, Pontedera, Empoli, Montecatini Terme, Pistoia, Lucca or Prato via train. To reach the city cente of Pisa, just take a stop train or the CPT (Pisa Transport Company) bus no. 3, that departs the airport every 20 minutes.

Pisa's main train station is located at the southern edge of the city centre, a 30 minutes walk away from the Piazza dei Miracoli. Regular buses run from here to all quarters stopping also at the main sights. If you don't have to carry heavy luggage it's a nice walk down to the Arno river (following the pedestrian area - northward) and then up the Via Santa Maria (stroling through the historical centre) till you reach the famous Leaning Tower.

Coming from the highway Pisa is always waymarked very well. If you enter the city from the west, you will recognize the Piazza dei Miracolis's silhouette very soon (it's really overwhelming). Parking space is very limited inside the inner city. Best is to ask your hotel about best parking facilities nearby.

History and Culture
Pisa's origins remain uncertain even to this day; some theories say the city is of Greek origin, however the city was most probably founded by the Ligurians or Etruscans. During the Roman Empire Pisa became a privileged center due to the excellent disembarkation possibilities offered by its port, to such an extent that the port was expanded and restructured during Octavian's reign. Following the end of the Roman Empire, Pisa remained a port city of great importance for the Goths, Longobards and the Carolingi.

The city's political zenith came late in the eleventh century with a series of victories over the Saracens : the Pisans brought back from Arab cultures long-forgotten ideas of science, architecture and philosophy. Decline set in with defeat by the Genoese in 1284, followed by the silting-up of Pisa's harbour. From 1406 the city was governed by Florence, whose Medici rulers re-established the University of Pisa, one of the intellectual forcing houses of the Renaissance; Galileo was one of the teachers there. Subsequent centuries saw Pisa fade into provinciality until the 19th century, when the Grand Dukes of Lorena began the indispensable reclamation works. In 1810, Napoleon founded the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, which to this day continues to be renowned as a school of excellence in Italy and abroad. In the 20th century Pisa once again began to flourish, thanks to the development of its university, trade, industry and, in more recent times, its fame among tourists worldwide.

Churches and Museums
Campo dei Miracoli
One of the most famous and admired squares in the world, it was requested by the city government at a time when Pisa was at its most splendid. It is formed by a complex of four buildings, constructed by the most genial architects of that era in a uniquely recognizable Pisan Romanesque style, which sees alternating rows of white and greenish-gray stone.

The heart of the Campo dei Miracoli is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral, entitled to St. Mary. This is a five-naved basilica with a three-naved transept. It was begun in 1064 by the architect Buscheto and is the originator of the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style in architecture. The mosaics of the interior show a strong Byzantine influence, while the pointed arches point to Muslim influences. The interior forms a Latin cross, divided into five naves by heavy granite columns. The sight is incredible, thanks to the geometric decorations of polychrome marble and the seventeenth-century coffered ceiling. The original decorations were almost all destroyed during the fire of 1595. A masterpiece of Italian Gothic sculpture from the fourteenth-century remains, the beautiful Giovanni Pisano pulpit, as well as the apse mosaic.

The Leaning Tower
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or bell tower, of the cathedral of Pisa. It is situated behind the Cathedral and it is the third structure in Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli (field of Miracles). The tower is famous for its noticeable lean. It was intended to stand vertically, to serve as a bell tower, but began leaning soon after construction started in 1173. The tower based on a project by Bonanno Pisano was completed in the 14th century. The round tower is composed of a base with blind arches supporting six loggia tiers that culminate in an elegant bell chamber.The ground already began to show signs of subsidence in 1185 which caused the works to come to a halt for almost a century.

The Baptistery
The Baptistery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, stands opposite the west end of the Duomo. The round Romanesque building was begun in the mid 12th century on the construction of a new baptistery, which blends well with the cathedral in terms of position, size, materials and style. It was built in Romanesque style by an architect known as Deotisalvi (“God Save You”). Construction lasted until the end of the fourteenth-century and included the work of various architects, explaining the Romanesque and Gothic mix in the monument. The shape of the baptistery had to evoke that of the Holy Sepulcher. In the 12th century, Nicola and Giovanni Pisano changed the original building, completing it with a crown of arches and pinnacles. Inside, one can admire the beautiful baptismal font and, near the altar, the pulpit, the work of the great Nicola Pisano.

Santa Maria della Spina
Santa Maria della Spina is a small Gothic church. The church, erected in 1230, was originally known as Santa Maria di Pontenovo: the new name of Spina derives from the presence of a thorn allegedly part of the crown dressed by Christ on the Cross, brought here in 1333. In 1871 the church was dismantled and rebuilt on a higher level due to dangerous inflitration of water from the Arno river. The church is covered in dual-colored marble rows and decorated with elegant spires, tympanums and tabernacles. The rich sculpture decoration was carried out by important fourteenth-century Pisan sculptors. Inside, one finds the statue of Andrea Pisano.

Cathedral Museum; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
East of the Piazza del Duomo is the Cathedral Museum (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo), with art of the buildings situated in the Piazza and the valuable treasury including embroideries, tombs, silver church objects, sculpture and pictures.

San Matteo National Museum
The Benedictine Convent of San Matteo (dissolved 1866) now houses the Museo Nazionale (National Museum). The main part of the collection centers on sculpture and pictures of the Tuscan schools from the 12th century to the 15th century. Of particular interest are the sculptures from various churches in Pisa, brought here to preserve them from increasing environmental pollution and replaced by copies in their original positions. The statues by Giovanni Pisano come from the baptistery, the famous “Madonna del Latte” (c. 1340) from the Church of Santa Maria della Spina. Painting is represented by a number of 12th and 13th century crucifixes, panel-paintings by Simone Martini, Giovanni di Nicola, Benozzo Gozzoli and others, and examples of book illumination.

Museum of Ancient Ships in Pisa
In 1998, during the works carried out in the area around Pisa San Rossore Station, the remains of the ancient port in Pisa were brought to light. At a depth of circa 5 meters, an impressive series of wrecks placed one on top of the other emerged, dating from between the end of the Hellenistic Period and the Late Roman Period. The Permanent Exhibition of Ancient Ships will be hosted in the ancient Medicei Arsenals, on Lungarno Simonelli. Currently, the exhibition is closed due to restructuring work on the arsenals and the restoration of the ships. Opening is scheduled by the end of 2006.

Historical buildings and monuments
The Camposanto Monumentale
Was founded in 1277 and completed in 1464. This cemetery is a cloister of vast galleries around the central area, which according to legend contains the "holy soil” from Palestine brought here by Pisan crusaders. Towards the middle of the fifteenth century, the Camposanto contained one of the largest painting series of its time: the walls were entirely covered in frescos, however they were destroyed following ally bombings during the Second World War.

Botanic Garden
To the south of the Campo dei Mirácoli, between Via Roma and Via Porta Buozzi, lies the Orto Botánico (Botanic Garden), originally laid out in 1543 by Cosimo de' Medici. It is now associated with the University; in the center of the gardens is the Botanical Institute. Here plants from many different climatic zones flourish, either in the open air or in the various greenhouses.

Piazza dei Cavalieri
The Knights' Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri) is located at the same place as the forum of the antique Portus Pisanus, as Pisa was called in Roman times. This square was the political centre in medieval Pisa, where the Pisans used to discuss their problems or celebrate their victories. Also on this square, the emissary of Florence proclaimed the end of the independence of Pisa in 1406. The square was rebuilt in renaissance style by Giorgio Vasari, the famous architect of the grand duke Cosimo I de Medici of Florence. The main building on the square is Palazzo della Carovana, the palace of the Knights of St. Stephan. It was modernised in renaissance style by Giorgio Vasari. The awesome façade is decorated with sgraffiti, equally by Vasari, and contains two niches with busts of grand dukes of Tuscany. It now houses the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. In front of the palace stands the large statue of Cosimo I de Medici. In the other corner of the square stands the Palazzo dell' Orologio.

The “Lungarni” Quays.
For centuries these quays were the heart of the city. Until the nineteenth century they were covered with piers and docks. These were later destroyed to reinforce the banks. The “Lungarni” are presented as a succession of beautiful noble buildings, interrupted by five bridges that unite the city. Mezzo Bridge, the most central, hosts the Game of the Bridge each June. You can admire some of the remarkable buildings while walking along the river. On Lungarno Mediceo: Palazzo Schiff, Palazzo Concioni and Palazzo Toscanelli; on Lungarno Pacinotti: Palazzo Agostani Venerosi, which hosts the age-old Caffé dell'Ussero; on Lungarno Galileo Galilei: Palazzo Lanfranchi, seat of the Municipality, Palazzo da Scorno, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo Gambacorti, in Pisan Gothic style.

The Mural by Keith Haring
Keith Haring (1958 - 1990) was a young American artist who was known worldwide for his "Subway Drawings”. Pisa's mural, measuring 180 meters, can be found on a wall in the Sant'Antonio Convent near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It is Haring's only work to have been planned from the beginning as a permanent work and is entitled: “Tuttomondo”. The thirty characters featured in the mural move in a blend of metaphor that represents harmony and peace around the world.

San Ranieri Historical Regatta - 17th June.
Pisa celebrates its patron saint in a regatta with each boat containing eight oarsmen representing the four areas of the city: St. Martino, St. Antonio, St. Maria and St. Francesco. The competition is held on the Arno along an upstream stretch of 2 km. The night before, the famous Luminara of San Ranieri is held in which thousands of candles are hung from the buildings by creating a spectacle of rare beauty. Thousands of locals crowd along the Arno to see the fireworks at midnight.

Gioco del Ponte. The last Sunday of June sees the renewal of the challenge between the two banks of the Arno: Tramontana and Mezzogiorno. On Mezzo Bridge, the 6 teams from each hamlet challenge each other by pushing a heavy, 70 ton cart on a 50 meter rail over its opponent’s line.

Palio of the Ancient Marine Republic, September 2006.
Since 1955 this race commemorates the ancient rivalry between the marine cities of Medieval times which dominated the Mediterranean: Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice. The boats are identical with eight oarsmen each. They only differ in color and emblems. The race takes place each year in one of the four cities and 2006 will be Pisa’s turn to hold the race.

The International Festival of Holy Music.
Piazza dei Miracoli, from 14/09/2005 to 29/10/2005. The International Festival of Holy Music takes place in the cathedral and is the most important event of its kind in Italy. It presents important compositions in holy music performed by the best Italian and international symphonies and choirs.

Pisa Vini, last weekend of November.
The exhibition, which is held in the Convent of Santa Croce is dedicated to the production of white and red wines from the province of Pisa. A rich and complete exhibition on local wine production and everything it entails: tastings, accompaniment with traditional cuisine and the promotion of Pisan gourmet products.

Volterra A.D. 1398, last week of August.
A unique occasion to immerse oneself in the magical atmosphere of the Medieval, in one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany: Volterra. The best manifestation is the “Giornata di Festa nell’Anno Domini 1398”: from dawn till dusk the historic center is reconstructed to appear as the medieval city in 1398 with markets, craftsmen, musicians, jewelers, commoners and nobles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Are The Best Beaches In Italy?

By Enrico Forte

SUMMARY: In Italy the best period for a summer vacation goes from May to the end of September. Here you'll discover what are the top places for your summer holidays.

For your summer holidays in Italy, the best region is Sicily, here the temperature of the sea to swim all the year. The coast is much varied, there sable beaches and reefs...start analyze them from Palermo.

The beach of Mondello
Mondello is one of the well known summer place of Italy, it's close to Palermo the biggest city of Sicily. In addiction to its wonderful sea, Mondello is an ancient fishermen village famous for its summer sport and food events. It's full of good pizzeria, restaurants and fast food.

The beach of Taormina
Taormina is the pearl of the Mediterranean, it's a medieval village. Its beach is the small bay of Mazzarò, full of sea caves and natural marine reserve like the Isola Bella, a little island connected to the mainland by a little sand beach.

The beach of San Vito lo Capo
The beach is in the western coast of Sicily in the city of Trapani, where there is the natural reserve of "Zingaro". It is famous for the presence of "tonnare" (ancient tool to fish the tuna).

The south coast of the Sicily is formed by sand beaches, reefs and capes. In the south side of the island there is a little treasure: The Island of Currents

The Island of the Currents is a small rocks island, very similar to the African coast. It's the southern tip of Europe.

Vendicari in Syracuse
Vendicari is a natural paradise between the cities of Noto and Scicli(UNESCO patrimony). Here it's possible to visit turtles that deposit eggs and a lot of birds.

In the oriental coast there is the beach of Catania...the Playa and the volcanic reef of Acicastello and Acitrezza.

The beaches of Ragusa
In Ragusa there are in particular 4 sable beaches with limpid waters: Marina di Ragusa, Marina di Modica, Pozzallo and Sampieri.

Capo D'Orlando in Messina
The coast from Messina is characterized by the reef of Saint Gregorio, with view of the Aeolian Islands, and Tindari.

Cefalu is a little village between Palermo and Capo D' Orlando. Here there are sable beaches for approximately 1,5 km. It's advised to do windsurf, visit the fishermen and the historical centers with a boat tour.

Useful tips to get a better summer vacation:

  • The best periods are the months of June and September. August and July are crowded
  • I some beach it's possible to pay for 10€ for entrance and cabin.
  • Many beaches have their bars and restaurants (a bit expensive but good)
  • Parking cost is 2€ a day
  • The safeguard is available from 8:00 AM to 18:30 PM
  • Don't swim over 200 meters from the coast
  • “Topless” is allowed only is some beaches
  • The coast guard number in Italy is 117
  • The red flag on the beach means danger cause bad conditions of weather

Friday, May 11, 2007

Top 10 things to see and do in Chiang Mai Thailand

By Andy Barrows

In light of its optimal location as a gateway into the Northern provinces of Thailand, along with its small-town feel complemented by the perks of being in a major city, Chiang Mai's appeal as a travel destination is truly impressive. Handicrafts, adventure sports and trekking, and provincial food are all in full supply, always provided with a smile and often at amazing prices.

Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park has Thailand's largest peak, at more than 8,000 feet. It's located to the south of Chiang Mai, and much of its wildlife is uniquely allocated only to this region. Visitors come for a cool weather retreat and to camp and watch the wildlife. Locals will tell you that it's a welcome relief from the smoggy city air. Tours from Chiang Mai to this park are recommended.

Wat Phratat Doi Suthep
Anytime you meet a Chiang Mai local, they'll undoubtedly ask you if you've visited Doi Suthep yet. It's a hallmark of any trip to the city, and the views from the summit are spectacular. Climb the 300-step flight of stairs or take a lift to see the restored 14th century chedi which hides sacred relics, and stroll around the marble courtyard. One of Thailand’s most important temples!

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Open every night from dusk until midnight, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar has achieved legendary status worldwide for its sheer volume and low prices. At the centre of all Chiang Mai maps, it's located on Chang Klan road and stays open every evening until midnight. Products you'll find here include silver, antiques, jewellery and every kind of knock-off designer item you could want. Many of the Chiang Mai hotels are conveniently located here.

Thai massage and spas
You'll have no problem finding a place to get a massage or a beauty treatment in Chiang Mai. Hotels even offer spas in house now. Everywhere you go, you will see signs inviting you to relax for a foot massage, whole body massage or spa treatment. The quality and price vary quite a bit depending on where you go, and some of the best values can be found by word of mouth or by simply sizing up the location and facility before you commit yourself. When in Thailand this is one good value activity you must try.

A trip to Mae Sa
Mae Sa is well-known for its seven-tiered waterfall as well as for the variety of tourist attractions and performances that are put on in the area. Visitors can ride elephants at the highly popular Mae Sa Elephant Camp, and the star performers even stage a football match for spectators. There's a monkey show, a snake farm and a dog show here as well. Taxis and tuk-tuks can be chartered for the 30-minute drive. Follow any tourist maps of Chiang Mai northwards out of the city. Your hotels concierge can arrange the trip.

The Old City
A walking or biking tour of the Old City allows more intimate connections with the living remnants of Chiang Mai's rich history. Wat Chedi Luang is the most important temple in the city and it contains the great chedi that was once brought down by an earthquake in the 16th century; Wat Phrasingh is made in a classic, Northern Thai style; and Wat Chiang Mai is made completely of teak wood. Portions of the Old City wall have been restored, specifically at the gates and corners, and the entire moat remains since its creation 700 years ago. It’s certainly more pleasant than strolling in Bangkok.

Most visitors to Chiang Mai will embark on some sort of trekking adventure. Countless tour guide operators can organise a package for you and trips last anywhere from a full day to several nights, with accommodation provided by intermittent hill tribe villages. These journeys are pieced together with segments of shuttling, hiking, rafting and riding (usually on elephants). It's one of the best ways to get out into the countryside for a new perspective. Certainly a change to get of the Chiang Mai tourist map.

Courses and training
Whether you're a seasoned professional or only a beginner, Chiang Mai offers a wealth of classes and training in a variety of fields. The most popular courses are in Thai cooking, Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) and Thai massage. The social climate in Chiang Mai is conducive to staying for a while, and many visitors choose to take a class while they get to know the city better. These are popular when visiting Thailand.

Adventure sports
After the chaos of Bangkok Cravers of adventures sports will not be disappointed in Chiang Mai. Rock climbers can hone their skills on the outdoor wall next to the Night Bazaar before heading out to Crazy Horse Buttress. There's also the opportunity for white -rafting and mountain biking up Doi Suthep. Some lower-key action can be found at the go-kart tracks.

Chiang Mai Zoo
The Chiang Mai Zoo is a great place to spend some time, not only in light of its 6,000 plus animals, but also because of its position on Doi Suthep Mountain where you'll catch some great views of the city. Some of the animals include gibbons, elephants and two pandas on loan from China. The latter have participated in several city festivals and are often featured in newspaper articles and other media.

Don’t forget to book you Chiang Mai hotels well in advance in the busy season.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Exmouth and the Coral Coast

By Jenny Brewer

This region of Western Australia, from Exmouth down to past Geraldton, encompasses some of the bluest, most beautiful national parks in the world. It is known not only for the natural attractions on the land but the aquatic under water world drawing visitors from all over the globe.

The wildlife is diverse and awe inspiring, with giant whale sharks, friendly dolphins, turtles, whales and manta rays some of the more common residents. It is perfect for your driving adventure, with plenty of camping spots and ideal hideaways to stop and enjoy the views.

Exploring Exmouth is a dream coming true for marine lovers. There is fantastic snorkelling and diving here, with brilliant coral colours, and every type of fish imaginable. It is the crystal clear waters that attract so many visitors. Although this region is remote, it is well worth the effort to stay and enjoy the attractions.

There is so much to see close to town. Drive to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse for some incredible views. The Muiron Islands are fantastic for a day trip with plenty of birdlife and diving spots. South from town is the Charles Knife Canyon, which rewards you with amazing views of the Exmouth Gulf and surrounding gorges. If you head to the Thomas Carter Lookout you can see the endless stretches of the great marine park. Further down is brilliant Turquoise Bay, an ideal destination for a day trip and picnic lunch.

The Cape Range National Park is only thirty minutes drive inland, with amazing gorges, an abundance of wildflowers and incredible scenery. It is worth a day trip at least to see this unique part of the state, and enjoy some of the bushwalking trails. There are wilderness tours that leave from Exmouth, which will take you to places only accessible by four wheel drive. This is some of the most incredible landscapes you could see in Australia, and being so close to the coast it is an ideal holiday spot.

Another attraction is the Ningaloo Reef which basically is right in front of you as you step off the beach. There are glass bottom boat tours for those who want to see the reef in style. For the more adventurous you can't miss the chance to scuba dive, or why not join a special tour swimming with the local whale shark? Although this is the world's biggest fish it is still safe enough to get up close and personal. This reef is a fisherman's paradise, with plenty of game fishing available, or enough isolated spots along the coastline to set up for the day.

With all the activity it is nice to return to civilization for some comfort, and there are plenty of restaurants, shops and cafés to choose from in the heart of Exmouth. There is a wide range of accommodation available, with the Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort a popular choice. It has a massive pool, play gym, and even an aquarium.

Further down the coast, Monkey Mia is known for its friendly bottle nosed dolphins, which swim to the shallows of Shark Bay to play with the families that come to visit, an experience you could never forget. This is a pristine, beautiful part of world heritage coastline, with so much wildlife, picnic spots and bays to visit and enjoy.

There is plenty of accommodation here, with The Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort a great base for exploring the surrounding natural attractions. For the water lover, travel north to nearby Denham for some great fishing, boating, beach activities and water skiing.

Geraldton is one of the last main stops, which is also an excellent base to see attractions such as the Abrolhos Islands, Chapman Valley and the Live Lobster Factory. With panoramic ocean views, miles of beach, wineries and delicate wildflowers at your doorstep it is worth a longer stay.

This entire region is magnificent, with the shimmering blue waters of the Ningaloo Reef a wonderful contrast to the neighbouring national parks. If you opt for driving from Perth to Exmouth you will be enriched by the incredible coastlines, friendly locals and stunning scenery. This is an ideal location for a driving holiday, with everything you need at your doorstep, and nothing but open space and natural beauty before you.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Top 5 Beaches in the World

By William Brister

The lure of the bronze sun, vast azure skies and the endless blue-green oceans on a tropical paradise beach resort make for a perfect holiday destination. With hundreds of beautiful beaches to choose from, some have been given the distinction of being the best beaches in the world. Some of these resorts are listed below.

1) Ka’anapali, Hawaii

One of the most populated, popular best beaches in Maui, Hawaii, Ka’napali is a paradise on earth. It is located in West Maui, two miles north of the historic whaling town of Lahaina and is surrounded by numerous elegant hotels and condominiums. The beach is three miles long and is full of fun-filled activities where you can snorkel, windsurf, jet-ski, parasail and even kayak. It is divided into two separate long stretches by a massive 300 foot cinder cone Pu’u Keka’ known as the Black Rock. The rock divides the sand into two and swimmers find themselves bathing in deep water. The rugged lava coastline around the Rock is also an outstanding snorkeling spot, one of the best on the island. Swimming in the crystal clear waters is safe throughout the year but best outside the season of high winter surfs.

2) Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

With 60 miles of pristine beach, Myrtle Beach water sports and Myrtle Beach fishing are the finest among the different beaches in America. Besides lazing and tanning in the tropical sun, the soft wide beach provides ample opportunities for swimming, surfing, parasailing, shell collecting and volleyball.

Although your fun begins at the beach, the best attraction always, there is plenty more to do at Myrtle Beach. Besides beautiful beaches, it has delectable food, amusement parks, variety of shopping malls, lively nightlife and adventure sports. With hundreds of attractions, both indoors and outdoors, Myrtle Beach offers fun and excitement for all ages to enjoy.

This beautiful beach resort has more than 100 professional golf courses, a NASCAR sanctioned track, minor league baseball as well as tennis. You can take a deep sea fishing adventure from eight different piers or fish the backwaters and creeks all the way from Little River to Pawley’s Island on the South Carolina coast. Moreover, there is a wildlife sanctuary where you are likely to spot alligators and deer combined with several boat tours to give you a real feel of the place.

3) Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is truly known as the vacation haven of the 21st century with gorgeous beaches of white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Having started off as a fishing village of only 120 people, Cancun is now a bustling beach resort with a population of half a million and a tourist onslaught of more than two million a year. One of Mexico’s popular and best beaches it features world class resorts, hotels, clubs and malls. It offers something for people of all ages whether it an all-day fun at the beach or an isolated, tranquil island. It is close to Miami and has a number of activities to choose from like parachuting, jet-skiing, scuba-diving and golf. Topless bathing is an accepted activity in and around the surrounding areas of Cancun.

With striking modern hotels along the beach front and a lively nightlife, it is a fantastic getaway for the weary traveler. It encloses a huge lagoon, with water on both sides. Also, much of the Yucatan is easily accessible from here. There are two quite separate parts to Cancún: the zona commercial downtown which houses the shopping and residential centre and the zona hotelera - a string of hotels and tourist amenities around the Cancún Island. This is a narrow strip of sandy beach connected to the mainland at each end by causeways.

4) Montego Bay, Jamaica

Montego Bay is known for its long sandy stretch of bay with miles of coral reef and some of the most beautiful and best beaches in the world. Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second largest city and rests between the gently sloping hills of Bogue, Kempshot and Salem. It extends approximately ten miles from the suburban rich area of Reading at its western edge to the plush villas and resort hotels of Ironshore and Rose Hall to the east.

Montego Bay is made up of two distinct parts – The Gloucester Avenue now called the Hip Strip and the city proper or the downtown.

All along the coastline are beautiful luxury hotels with three main public beaches which offer all amenities and several water sports. For a quieter and tranquil atmosphere you can head to the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean Beach Park, east of the town of Ironshore.

Montego Bay offers a wide variety of entertainment and sporting activities. From fun on the beach to the delicious food served at the waterfront, white water rafting and adventure sports, catamaran rides and fishing charters, it has it all.

5) Phuket, Thailand

Sand between your toes, stunning tropical sunsets, cold drink in your hand and warm blue inviting seas – this is picture perfect Phuket. This island is known for its silky soft beaches, superb oriental hospitality and great value accommodation. You can go diving in the Andaman Sea, golfing at championship courses or indulge in exciting eco-adventures in the tropical forest of Phuket. Take an exhilarating speedboat trip to surrounding islands or a serene cruise around mystical Phang Nga Bay, or simply enjoy Phuket’s vibrant nightlife in Patong Beach.

Known as the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket is a large island in the Indian Ocean. The surrounding waters contain much varied marine life and the town is known for its quaint Sino-Portuguese architecture. It is a very attractive island for sightseeing with lovely seashores and forested hillsides.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Top 10 things to do and see in Krabi Thailand

By Andy Burrows

With so many activities that are perfect for the whole family to enjoy, Krabi has framed itself as a laid-back resort destination where the emphasis falls on comfort and relaxation instead of on high-energy parties. The natural landscape is accentuated by limestone outcroppings known as karsts that pop up all over the countryside. With abundant plant life and beautiful coral reefs, there's plenty to explore while you're staying here.

Exploring the archipelago
One of the most remarkable ways to experience the limestone rock formations and spectacular beaches is to take a daytrip from one island to another. Many tour guides offer organised daytrips to the highlights of the archipelago, which are worth it and a chance to break away from the crowds of the mainland resort. For the more independent explorer, sea kayaks can be rented for trips out to some of the nearest small islands. A boat day trip to Phi Phi is a must too!

Than Bok Khorani National Park
If you have a tent and would like a place to set up camp, consider heading out to Than Bok Khorani National Park, a secluded place with no concrete accommodation but an abundance of plant species culminating in a very picturesque pond surrounded by gardenias and apocynaceae. The park also boasts several limestone caves and some lovely mangrove forests. Many visit on a day trip from Phuket.

Rock climbing
Many rock climbing outfitters in Krabi also give lessons at various skill levels to help you improve your rock climbing abilities. The limestone cliffs and unique stone formations have helped Krabi carve out a global reputation among rock climbing circles. Ton Sai is the first stop for most climbers, as it’s the most frequented climbed spot in the area. Other climbing outings to more secluded areas are easily arranged with the help of climbing outfitters.

Koh Lanta Marine National Park
The sea gypsies, or Chai Leh, still live and work on the island of Koh Lanta—now a marine national park. For centuries they have practiced their own form of spirit worship and spoken their own distinct language. This island also has the region's standard fare of beautiful beaches, unique rock formations and stunning coral reefs for exploration. Some of the rainforest on this island is virtually untouched and remains protected. Visitors can rent bungalows and stay a while. It’s also connected to Phi Phi island by ferry.

Shell Fossil Cemetery
Thirty five million years ago, the site of Ban Laem Pho Cape was an enormous freshwater swamp that hosted millions of small snails. The remains of these creatures formed a fossilised composite that has grown almost 16 inches thick. This huge slab has become one of Krabi's most popular attractions and can be reached via a 10-mile drive from the town of Krabi.

Krabi nightlife
Ao Nang Beach resort area is the primary tourist hub of Krabi, with Krabi Town itself not offering a whole lot to out-of-towners except for a glimpse of everyday life for the locals. While not quite as exciting as Phuket, in the resort area you'll find bars and restaurants whose doors remain open past midnight, though you'll be hard-pressed to find any exhilarating parties or discotheques. Instead, this is a more family-oriented holiday spot with some nice restaurants and a relaxed, quiet atmosphere.

Scuba diving
The official diving season in Krabi is from November to Mach, though the conditions are hospitable all year round and divers are here at every time of the year. Snorkelling is also a great way to get a view of the coral reefs. Diving companies on the mainland can get you certified as a diver and will also arrange diving trips out to all of the best reefs in the surrounding area. The diving at Phi Phi is especially good.

Bikes can be rented in the Ao Nang resort area, and a cycling loop that heads out of town guides cyclist through the limestone rock formations that dot the landscape. The road curves through old villages and groves of coconut trees, and riders can stretch this spectacular route into as much as 15 or 20 miles of biking.

Railay Beach
Railay Beach may be the region's most unique coastal area, with its crescent shaped coastline that's cut off from the mainland by huge outcroppings of rock. Only accessible by boat, you can charter a vessel to drop you off for a daytrip to Phra Nang, a sacred enshrined cave, or for an overnight stay in one of the resorts that lay claim to these peaceful beaches. Even the beaches at Phuket don’t even compete!

Daytrip to Wat Tham Seua
Wat Tham Seua is the largest temple in Krabi, and its name means Tiger Cave Temple. It's literally tucked into the limestone cliffs of Ao Luk Thanu mountain range, and the Buddhist monks that live and worship here do so in the caves themselves. The highlight of this temple is 'Buddha's footprint', located at the summit of a 1,272-step climb, a point that affords wonderful views of the countryside spreading in every direction.