Hotel Review: Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat

Hotel Review: Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat

Overview: If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging.

Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat
Yelapa
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
+52-322 209-5246
losnaranjos5@gmail.com

When I learned that a retreat I was interested in took place at the edge of the jungle in Yelapa, Mexico, I was hesitant to go. Cabins without walls? Mosquitos? Possibly snakes? No thank you. But looking at photos of Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat gave me some peace of mind. The rooms were wall-less, but they were surrounded by beautiful flora. After gaining reassurance that the chances of seeing snakes were low, I decided to go.

I flew to the Puerto Vallarta airport, caught a cab to Los Muertos beach, then rode a water taxi to Yelapa. I was reassured to see tourists on the boat with shirts reading “Yelapa.” So this wasn’t the middle of nowhere. On the shore, there were restaurants and people sitting on the beach, where Los Naranjos’s owner and his dog met me to bring me to the “eco hotel.” As we left the beach, a dog bared its teeth, people passed by on horses, and we waded through a pond. We also passed a little store where I bought conditioner for my hair. We were still within civilization.

los naranjos jungle retreat treehouse

When we got there, I entered an (also wall-less) common room with a kitchen, a hammock, and cushioned benches. The dining tables were just outside. Then, the owner showed me to my room, which was up a ladder and had a thatched roof. Inside was a table and three beds covered by mosquito nets. Not exactly luxurious, but I wouldn’t be roughing it either. I got the only full-sized bed in the room (the others were twin-sized), and while the mattress was firm, I could sink into it a bit. The blanket was thin but warm, and the pillows were comfy. There were two lights hanging from the ceiling, a fan, and an electrical outlet by my bed.

The closest bathroom was up another ladder, with two toilet stalls, two showers, and two sinks. There weren’t any problems with the bathroom, though one quirk was that you had to throw the toilet paper in the trash. The staff explained that anything that gets flushed down the toilet has to be dug up from underground, since Los Naranjos tries to minimize its impact on the environment.

los naranjos jungle retreat treetops

There was a WiFi connection, but it wasn’t quick enough to get anything done. It took several minutes just to load my emails. There were a few cafes nearby with slightly faster WiFi, but none were adequate for fast-paced work. If I had to send an email, my best bet was to use my phone. The data connection was decent decent enough to do this but not to use my personal hotspot. Lesson learned: Don’t try to get work done in Yelapa.

My first night in Los Naranjos was rough. Even with my earplugs in, I heard roosters (which, it turns out, make noise all night), howling dogs, and music from a nearby house. Every time one of my roommates walked, the ground slightly shook. I woke up many times throughout the night and got up in the morning with a sore back. But my second night was better: My ears were getting used to the jungle already. The only remaining annoyance was having to navigate through the dark (and I do mean dark — I needed a flashlight) to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The mosquito net protected my bed, but I got my share of bites during the day. Thankfully, I didn’t see any snakes.

The surrounding village was adorable, with little Mexican shops and restaurants owned by local families, the beach a 15 minute walk away, and a hiking trail leading to a waterfall. I had all my meals at Los Naranjos, though. They were a delicious mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs from chickens on the resort grounds, and fish caught from a nearby river.

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging. Personally, I enjoyed jogging past wild dogs in the morning and seeing the stars at night, but I was counting down the days until I got a quiet room and private bathroom again.

 

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Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Stay in a Castle Hotel in Ireland

Stay in a Castle Hotel in Ireland

Castle Hotel Stays – Ireland

Did you ever dream of being a princess? Or a king? I would have been happy to be Lady So-and-so of Thus-and-such, but I’m generally pretty happy with the life I have. But if you want to pretend you’re royalty and have a staff at your beck and call, there are plenty of places you can stay in a castle hotel, and few places do it better than Ireland. Many many castles in Ireland have been converted to hotels and resorts, and each offers something special.

On my recent trip to Ireland, there were lots of travel bloggers in Killarney for the TBEX blogging conference, and before and after the conference a few of them managed to stay in some sweet castle hotels. I asked them for their thoughts about the castles they stayed in, and they share their experiences (and photos) below.

 

KILKEA CASTLE

–Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel

We visited numerous castles during our 10 days in the Emerald Isle, but Kilkea Castle (located in County Kildare between Athy and Tullow) was easily our favorite. The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland, Kilkea was built by Sir Walter de Riddlesford in 1180. After his granddaughter married Maurice Fitzgerald, the 3rd baron of Offaly, Kilkea Castle remained in the Fitzgerald family for over 700 years.
Kilkea Castle - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Kilkea Castle (Photo Credit: Green Global Travel)

The castle has been operated as a hotel since the 1960s, but was put on the market in 2010. It was purchased by American builder Jay Cashman, who spent four years renovating it into a 5-star resort that includes multiple immaculate gardens, a golf course, three restaurants, and facilities for fishing and archery.
Owl experience at Kilkea Castle Hotel

Mary holds an owl! (Photo Credit: Green Global Travel)

We were honored to stay in their Ernest Shackleton Suite (named after Kildare’s famous explorer) several weeks before the resort opened to the public, and it was as posh and luxurious as any medieval castle could possibly hope to be. We’ve traveled all over the world, and Kilkea Castle ranks among our favorite places we’ve ever stayed!

 

KNAPPOGUE CASTLE

-Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations
Knappogue Castle Hotel in Ireland

Knappogue Castle (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations)

While any castle stay will make you feel like royalty, staying in your own private castle instantly turns you into the queen (or king) of your domain. At Knappogue Castle in County Clare your family members (or group) are the only overnight guests in the castle apartments. Rooms are furnished with a mix of antique and contemporary comforts, and the modern kitchen has everything you will need to create meals to feed your crew. Don’t wish to cook? Each morning your fairy godmothers arrive to fix an Irish breakfast to power you through a day of exploring. And each evening (from April thru October) the dining room downstairs hosts a medieval banquet featuring delicious dinner and entertainment. As the only guests, the castle is yours to explore – no tours are offered here – to treat as your home… if only for a few days.
The Drawing Room at Knappogue Castle Hotel in Ireland

The Drawing Room at Knappogue Castle (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations)

CASTLE LESLIE

-Julie and Charles McCool, McCool Travel

Castle Leslie in Glaslough Ireland

Castle Leslie in Glaslough Ireland (Photo Credit: Julie McCool, McCoolTravel.com)

Castle Leslie welcomes guests to a perfect balance of relaxed and historic luxury, on a family estate that dates from the 1660s. Rooms in the castle are spacious and comfortable, with quirky Victorian bathrooms and a strict no TV policy. The Lodge offers more modern rooms (with TVs) overlooking stables that draw equestrians from all over the world. Novice riders (like us) can take a “gentle hack” through the estate’s beautiful grounds, followed by dinner in the award-winning restaurant, and time to kick back and savor castle life.

The Blue Room at Castle Leslie

The Blue Room at Castle Leslie (Photo Credit: Julie McCool, McCoolTravel.com)

ASHFORD CASTLE

-Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations
Ashford Castle - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Ashford Castle (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted: Ireland Family Vacations)

Consistently voted one of the top hotels in the world, Ashford Castle in County Mayo is a fairytale. From the moment you are allowed through the gated entrance by a dapper man in top hat and livery, to the moment you depart the marbled lobby, every bit of your stay is magical. Rooms are lavishly furnished and special treats await younger guests. The grounds at Ashford Castle are extensive and on-site activities include falconry, boating, shooting, golf, and a zip line. Rooms in the castle are expensive, and both the clientele and the spectacular service reflect this. If you wish to visit when the castle is truly kid-focused, plan a Halloween stay when the castle becomes a Wizarding School! Send your little witches and wizards with their capable instructors and enjoy 6 hours of couple time. It’s magical for everyone!
Ashford Castle Junior Suite by Jody Halsted - Castle Hotels in Ireland

A Junior Suite at Ashford Castle (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations)

GREGANS  CASTLE

 -Sher, travel photographer blogging at Sher She Goes
Gregans Castle - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Gregans Castle (Photo Credit: Sher from SherSheGoes.com)

Gregans Castle Hotel is the ultimate Irish country house for food and luxury. Although no longer a castle in the traditional sense (only the 15th century round tower remains from the original structure), the Georgian-style manor house has stunning views of Galway Bay and the unique Burren landscape. The hotel has won numerous awards for its innovative cooking and the bedrooms are stunningly decorated with antiques, cozy fireplaces and eclectic art. Make sure to stay here if you’re interested in visiting the Cliffs of Moher or love food – Gregans is located on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Burren Food Trail.

LOUGH ESKE CASTLE

-Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations
Lough Eske by Day - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Lough Eske by Day (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations)

Few know that Lough Eske Castle in County Donegal was a mere shell before it was lovingly restored just 10 years ago. Now ranking as one of the top hotels in the world, guest can expect a warm cead mile failte from the staff, the majority of whom are local to the area. Rooms at Lough Eske Castle are luxurious and spacious, with connecting rooms for families well thought-out. As castle stays go, this is one of the most affordable in Ireland and you’ll meet a wide variety of people. Located on the shores of Lough Eske, the grounds are a wonderful maze of walking paths; a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the luxury of an Irish castle vacation.

Lough Eske by Day - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Lough Eske by Night (Photo Credit: Jody Halsted of Ireland Family Vacations)

BARBERSTOWN CASTLE HOTEL

–Sonja Holverson, Outbounding
Barberstown Castle Hotel lounge lobby by Sonja Holverson - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Barberstown Castle Hotel lounge lobby (Photo Credit: Sonja Holverson, Outbounding)

When one imagines staying in a 12th century Irish Castle thoughts of cold rugged stones, towers crowned by turrets, ghosts and dungeons most often come to mind. However, when one arrives at the entrance to the Barberstown Castle Hotel Kildare, a warm welcome is waiting inside a pristine white Victorian and Elizabethan blended luxury town house including conservatory windows along with two lion statues on each side of the entry step. A spacious uniquely decorated lobby lounge area opens out onto a lovely terrace which leads to 20 acres of gardens. The reception is discreetly placed on the left as you enter.

Barberstown Castle Hotel and Country House - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Barberstown Castle Hotel and Country House (Photo Credit: Sonja Holverson, Outbounding)

If you find yourself lost in the corridors and nooks and crannies looking for the dining room you will encounter elegant antiques and décor of days long past. You may even run face to face into a full body suit of armor around the next corner.

Despite the formality of the long French-influenced multi-course evening dinner in the opulent Barton Rooms Restaurant with pedagogical descriptions for each delicious course, the waiters are also appropriately down-to-earth Irish: friendly and loads of fun. Other dining choices are the Elizabethan Room and the Medieval Banqueting Hall.
This privately-owned Castle Hotel and Country House is the only one in Ireland that has earned 4 stars. Furthermore, it is unique in its harmonious historical blending with the Elizabethan era and Victorian era country house and the Medieval castle with its own historical epoch décor. All in all, a delightful and eclectic elegant and comfortable accommodation.
The Barberstown Castle Hotel easily handles conferences and large parties, weddings and the perfect weekend Irish castle stay for those with little time as it’s only 30 minutes from the centre of Dublin in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.
Barberstown Castle Hotel and Country House entrance by night - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Barberstown Castle Hotel and Country House (Photo Credit: Sonja Holverson, Outbounding)

DROMOLAND CASTLE HOTEL

by Paige Conner Totaro
I was very fortunate to spend a few nights hosted by Dromoland Castle.The staff at Dromoland Castle Hotel is deferential and service-focused. Rooms are spacious, meals are scrumptious, formal rooms are warm and welcoming despite their grand proportions. The sprawling property offers not only the obvious golf and spa, but also archery, clay pigeon shooting, pony and trap (horse and carriage) rides, fishing, hiking the grounds, and my favorite: falconry.
Dromoland Castle by WHAT BOUNDARIES TRAVEL- Castle Hotels in Ireland

Dromoland Castle (Photo Credit: Cheryl and Lisa of What Boundaries Travel (whatboundariestravel.com))

There has been a castle on the site since the 11th Century, but the present building, in all its ivy-covered limestone and turreted glory, was completed in 1835. In 1962, the property was renovated and opened as the luxury Dromoland Castle Hotel.

Dromoland Castle facade covered by red ivy with a cloudy blue sky above - Castle Hotels in Ireland

Dromoland Castle (Photo Credit: Cheryl and Lisa of What Boundaries Travel (whatboundariestravel.com))

Cheryl and Lisa of What Boundaries Travel were entranced by Dromoland Castle. “We held our breath as the wooded driveway turned and the castle came into view. It was a fairytale setting of falcons, livery and ivy shrouded towers. Inside was even more spectacular. The drawing room beckoned us to step inside and let time retrace her steps. A magical experience!”

Freelance travel writer Victoria Hart witnessed a VIP arrival during her visit. “Dromoland Castle is an example of living history,” she said. “So often we experience history through a museum or by visiting ruins. It is refreshing to see a place with over 1000 years of history still being used and enjoyed by people who admire the majestic landscape that first attracted its creators and respect the historical events that transformed it into the place it is today. The level of service is still fit for royalty, and an experience I will always cherish.”

Dromoland Castle Arrival - Castle Hotels in Ireland

A VIP arrival at Dromoland Castle features a staff lineup and bagpipes. (Photo Credit: Victoria Hart)

The castle’s location, about 15 minutes drive from Shannon Airport, makes it a great first or last (or entire!) stay for your Ireland trip.

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Please note: most of the bloggers featured in this article were hosted by the castle hotels they have written about. They all offer their honest opinions of their stays. But how could you not love staying in a castle?
Go Ape in Northern Virginia

Go Ape in Northern Virginia

Go Ape in Northern Virginia

For years we’ve been looking for a place to go ape in Northern Virginia – a place to climb trees, inch across hanging bridges, and swing from the branches. You know, just like the apes do.

Finally, Go Ape has opened at the South Run Park in Springfield, Virginia. I recently took my daughter and her friend to try it out. Do I even need to say that we had a blast? We had a blast. ​

When you arrive and check in (15 minutes early, please!) you’ll be fitted with a safety harness that you’ll wear through the entire course. After an introduction and a safety presentation, you’ll try out a couple of stations that are close to the ground under supervision of the staff, to make sure you understand the basics.

Once you’re done with that, you’re on your own to try any of the series of platforms and bridges and ziplines. Of course, there are staffers all around to help if you get stuck, which is more of a psychological issue than a physical one. The park is designed around safety, and it’s virtually impossible to get physically stuck, but if you’re afraid of heights or if you have a panic attack in the middle of a bridge, staff members are on hand to talk you through it, and if need be, they will come and help you down. But tha happen because you will love it and it feels very very safe.

Allow 2-3 hours to complete all the activities.

Requirements for Go Ape

For the Junior Course, which has 20 obstacles and 2 ziplines, with a maximum platform height of 27 feet, there’s no age limit, but you must be 3’3″ to participate.

For the Adult Course, you must be 10 years old AND 4’7″.

What to Wear

Wear closed toe shoes that are flat, and flat-bottomed. Grippy hiking shoes with a chunky tread are not the best option, because you won’t be able to feel your way along the rope bridges and obstacles as well.

Wear slim-fitting shorts or pants, or leggings. Looser clothing can get caught as you go through.


Have a harness or zippered pocket for your phone or camera, or just leave it on the ground while you’re in the trees. If you bring a GoPro, use the chest harness, as some of the other placements might interfere with the safety lines.

Our Experience at Go Ape

As captured in our Instagram Story:

Our Recommendations

We recommend wearing some kind of gloves, especially for the ziplines. Despite our best efforts – and we were really, really talented with the zip lines, believe me – two of the three of us ended up with nasty blisters.

Dudes – be careful on the Tarzan swing. I’m not sure exactly how you should prepare for it, but every male I saw on this one experienced a very uncomfortable crotch squeeze that kind of rained on the adrenaline rush of the swing itself.

We were guests of Go Ape in August 2017.

 

Mid-Atlantic Cities with the Best Outdoor Adventure

Mid-Atlantic Cities with the Best Outdoor Adventure

Some of the links in this post have been sponsored by Skyscanner.

Sometimes you just need an outdoor adventure. Climb some rocks. Swing from the treetops. Bike down a mountain. Kayak class 3 and 4 rapids, either natural or manmade. You might think of the American West for these things but rest assured, these outdoor adventure cities on the East Coast have you covered, too.

 

Richmond

Richmond’s James River has been treasured for its beauty for centuries, but the current century has seen a rise in interest of a different kind.

It’s rare to find a city with class three and four rapids where you can kayak so close to the city center. In fact, you can pull your kayak out of the water and walk straight to a brewery or one of Richmond’s great restaurants in just minutes.

Richmond is Outside magazine's Best Town Ever

Named Best Town Ever by Outside magazine, Richmond’s outdoor adventures are no longer a secret.

In the middle of the river, Belle Isle offers rock climbing on its natural walls and boulders, with the city skyline in the background. The yearly Dominion Riverrock festival draws expert climbers from around the country to nearby Brown’s Island.

The James River Park system offers trails for hiking, running, and mountain biking on both sides of the river in the center of the city.

Virginia Capital Trail

Road bikers will love the Virginia Capital Trail, which connects Virginia’s past and present capitals of Jamestown and Richmond along a scenic 52 mile paved route. Experience 400 years of history along one of the first inland routes in North America without having to dodge motor traffic.

Richmond hotels range from the basic to the luxurious. Try the Quirk Hotel for a modern boutique feel, and the greatest gift shop ever.

 

Charlottesville

The mountain roads around Charlottesville are challenging, but the views of the mountains, valley, and countryside make the effort worth it. The city was designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, and the Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile ubran wilderness trail that circles the city.

Nearby Massanutten Resort offers skiing in winter, but summer may be even more exciting on its slopes.

Mountain biking at Massanutten Bike Park

Photo credit: Massanutten Resort

 

Opened in 2016, Massanutten Bike Park carries riders up the mountain on chairlifts fitted with easy-loading bike carriers. Beginners start on the gentle lower grades (after a safety conscious lesson), while advanced riders start at the top with steeper grades, banked turns, and jumps. Cross country bikers can explore the Western Slope of the park, offering 30 miles of trails through 3000 undeveloped acres of woodland.

 

Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina has a reputation as a pretty sterile city. But just 25 minutes from downtown, the U.S. National Whitewater Center hosts a variety of land and water activities for professional athletes and amateurs alike. Dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles and developing environmental stewardship, the USNWC is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river.

rock climbing wall over deep water pool

The U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Deep Water Solo Climbing Complex

But don’t let the name fool you. The Center offers more than just whitewater activities. Rockclimbing walls, zipline canopy tours, controlled jumps, ropes courses, and 30+ miles of mountain biking trails cover the Center’s 1300 acres. And there are flat water activities, too. Those looking for less of an adrenaline rush can cruise the flat water by kayaking or stand up paddleboarding.

You can pay for a single activity, or buy a day pass to try them all. The Center is dedicated to outdoor education, so they offer classes and training in a variety of areas. Check their website for a current calendar.

Looking for places to stay in Charlotte? I am fond of the Aloft Hotel Ballantyne, but it’s on the far side of the city. There’s also an Aloft in the Charlotte city center. The closest hotel to the Whitewater Center is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

 

Asheville

The mountain town of Asheville attracts outdoor lovers for its woods and rivers and trails, and everyone else for its artisan charm and the palatial Biltmore Estate nearby.

The great outdoors looms large, and adventure travelers can find many outlets for their adrenaline fix. From the peak to peak zipline at Navitat Canopy Adventures’ Blue Ridge Experience, where a nearly-mile-long course features tandem “racing-style” ziplines, to the whitewater paddleboarding at Wai Mauna, everything is just a little bit more intense in this ladi-back city.

Mountain bikers will want to check out Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures, which offers private guided rides of all levels of difficulty.

You can also try “bellyaking,” a sport invented in Asheville that uses belly-down, face-first kayaks in the whitewater.

Bellyaking on the French Broad River

Photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com

If all that doesn’t satisfy, maybe you’d like to hop on the Mountains to Sea Trail, a 1,000 mile trail from the Smokey Mountains to the North Carolina Coast. Or maybe you’d rather take a different kind of trail, hitting the many craft breweries and restaurants in the area.

Pick up a copy of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, which is based in Asheville, try not to be distracted by their acronym when you check out the BRO Events Calendar for outdoors and cultural events.

 

Washington, DC

For all its automobile traffic, Washington DC is a surprisingly wonderful place for cyclists. The city encourages bike commuters to help alleviate the far too frequent gridlock. There are dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, and a vibrant bike share program. The major tourist destinations are in the flattest part of the city, and there are trails all around the National Mall that welcome cyclists.

The bike trails in and around DC have been legendary for years. Rock Creek Park is a green slash through Northwest Washington with several miles closed to auto traffic on Sundays. The George Washington Memorial trail goes all the way from Roosevelt Island in DC to Mount Vernon, the home of the first president of the United States. Going the opposite direction, the C&O Canal trail runs 185 miles north past Harper’s Ferry to Cumberland, Maryland. From there you can join the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and ride all the way to Pittsburgh!

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.


What Is the Best Florida Beach for YOU?

What Is the Best Florida Beach for YOU?

Some of the links in this post have been sponsored by Skyscanner.

Want to know what the best Florida beach for you is? What beaches do you think of when you think of Florida? Miami is the first one for just about everyone, but what you think of next might betray your age.

If you think Fort Lauderdale, you were probably a college kid in the 70s or early 80s, when spring breakers headed there by the thousands, but before the city passed laws trying to cut down on the mayhem spring breakers brought to the city.

If you think Daytona, you might be a child of the 80s or 90s. The restrictions in Fort Lauderdale pushed the crowds north to Daytona, where the invading hordes grew even bigger. Spring break was so big in Daytona that MTV moved their entire broadcast operation there for several years in a row.

If you think Panama City Beach, you are younger still. The current “home” for spring breakers in Florida welcomes even more people than either Daytona or Fort Lauderdale ever did. While those cities have embraced a more family friendly vibe, Panama City now welcomes more than 500,000 college students every year for spring break festivities.

But we are beyond that kind of spring break, aren’t we, readers? And frankly, I don’t care how old you are. I’m going to tell you about some Florida beaches that offer more than just cheap hotel rooms and lax ID-checkers so we can all go have some grown-up fun in Florida!

There’s a beach for just about every type of person in Florida. Even if you’re an “anywhere but a beach” type person, I think I might even have one for you.

If you love searching for treasures on the beach…

Sanibel Island

Photo Credit: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel/www.FortMyersSanibel.com

The beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel offer some of the best shelling you can find anywhere in the world. Bring your water shoes, because those shells are hard on the feet, but bring a bag for collecting some of the loveliest specimens you can find in the US.

The island of Sanibel offers laid back luxury, but you can also find less expensive places to rent if you plan far in advance. You can often find Fort Myers hotel deals if Sanibel is booked.

If you love having a beach to yourself…

Navarre Beach FL

Photo Credit: Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office

Florida’s panhandle is home to white powder beaches and gentle green/blue surf, but Navarre Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore may be the most extreme examples. And because the beaches are protected as a National Seashore, the only thing missing is something you won’t miss: hordes of people.

The barrier island offers miles of unspoiled beaches, a quiet but busy fishing pier, and a marine park and sea turtle conservation center. If you like a natural setting, this is the Florida beach for you.

If you are all about the surfing…

New Smyrna Beach

Photo Credit: New Smyrna Beach Area CVB

The Atlantic Coast beaches are where you’ll find the surf… most of the time. For the most consistent surf, head to New Smyrna Beach, where rock ledges off the coast create reliable surf breaks at the Ponce Inlet.

Where there’s surf, there are surfers, and New Smyrna Beach is full of them, giving the town a classic surf city vibe. If you’re new to the sport, head to one of the local surf shops – which are frequented more by actual surfers than by tourists looking for t-shirts – for lessons and board rentals.

If you prefer to watch, you might enjoy Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill which is all about surfing. They show surfing videos from around the world on their video screens, and display surfboards on the ceiling.They pay homage to surf locales around the world with their global menu, too.

If you like to mix a little culture with your beach time…

Loews Don CeSar

Photo Credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

Imagine strolling along the beach in the morning, and taking in world-class collections of art in the afternoon, and going to the symphony in the evening. Yes, you can do that in Miami, but over on the Gulf Coast, there’s a beach with gentler waves calling your name. Just across the bay from Tampa, St. Pete Beach is home to some of the nicest beaches in the country.  But for culture vultures, the city of St. Petersburg a short drive inland offers the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mahaffey Theater, home of the Florida Orchestra. And for foodies, the 20,000 square foot Locale Market offers regional produce.

The legendary Don CeSar beachfront hotel is a classic of old Florida style that has recently been renovated.

If you just really love Miami…

I mean, Miami is still pretty nice. There are some great places to stay in Miami, too. But if you want to find the best Florida beach for you, dig a little deeper to find the perfect match.

What's the perfect Florida beach for you?

Where to Get Your Mid-Century Modern Fix on Vacation

Where to Get Your Mid-Century Modern Fix on Vacation

Some of the links in this post are sponsored by Skyscanner.

If you love teak wood, simple lines, and pops of color, why not satisfy your mid-century modern fix while on vacation? Whether you prefer the sleek lines of International Style city skyscrapers, the integration with nature of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the the kitschy 50s resort style, you can find it in its original or restored glory around the country.

The destinations below have loads of examples of mid-century architecture and design to explore, and places to stay that reflect the style of the 1950s.

Palm Springs

The desert oasis of Palm Springs has been treasured since it’s first inhabitants, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, arrived 2000 years ago. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was an exclusive playground for Hollywood’s stars. After World War II, when the Indians who had been granted moat of the land in the area were finally permitted to sell their land for a profit, there was a development boom just as a new modern style of architecture took hold.

The gorgeous mid-century architecture has been reclaimed and revitalized without going too far into the realm of kitsch. You can find residential and commercial gems by John Lautner and Donald Wexler and Richard Neutra’s iconic Kauffman House via a self-drive tour or guided tour.

For places to stay in Palm Springs, try The Parker, a mid-century resort that once belonged to Gene Autry, or the recently renovated L’Horizon, where you can live like one-time guest Marilyn Monroe. If you prefer a rental, try Vacation Palm Springs.

Wildwood


The east coast version of Palm Springs lies on the Atlantic Ocean, but residents only recently thought to capitalize on the kitschy “Googie” architecture that flourished there in the 1950s and 60s. As a result, many of the mid-century hotels have been demolished in favor of more contemporary developments in the popular resort town.

Today, though, the city promotes it’s “Doo Wop” architecture as a tourist destination, along with its classic New Jersey boardwalk. The bright neon, the courtyard pools, and the over-the-top colors are now celebrated even as modern development grows up around it. The city is promoting other mid-century and vintage events throughout the year to bring travelers to the area in the off-season.

For places to stay in Wildwood, try the Bel Air Hotel or the Caribbean, both relatively well-preserved examples of the Doo Wop style.

Pittsburgh

Three of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations, including his masterpiece of Usonian architecture, Fallingwater, are within a couple of hours of Pittsburgh. If Fallingwater is the critical favorite, Kentuck Knob is the sentimental second for its warm woods, cool stone and walls of glass overlooking nature and and the Youghiogheny River below.

You can even stay in one of Wright’s creations at Polymath Park Resort in the Laurel Highlands. Set among wooded trails, the Duncan House features many of Wright’s signature elements – warm wood, built-in cabinetry, natural stone and neutral colors make the home feel like a part of the woods.

For places to stay in Pittsburgh, try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco or the Ace Hotel in a former YMCA building downtown.

Chicago

Chicago offers a full menu of 20th century American architectural styles, and the Chicago architecture tour by boat is not to be missed.

One midcentury building you will not miss is Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina Center (pictured above), whose poured concrete curves are a direct reaction to the sharp angles of the stark International Style skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe (though Goldberg was a student and a fan of Mies).

If you’re a Frank Llloyd Wright fan, Chicago is where you will find the highest concentration of his buildings, including Unity Temple, the Robie House, the Rookery, and his own home and studio. Many tours are available by foot, by bike, and by motor through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

For places to stay in Chicago, try the Langham, a five-star hotel housed in a skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, or the Park Hyatt, with a subtle midcentury style.

Do you have favorite mid-century modern destinations in these cities or others that we’ve missed here? Let me know in the comments below.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.