Make your next hot-weather escape full of nature and adventure in Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Australia or Vietnam.
Globe reporter Carrie Tait discovered a feeling of home in Castara Bay on Tobago Island.
Tait experienced some of Tobago’s Caribbean treats which are only accessible by boat. She recommends you watch the sun set at Pigeon Point, then, as the sky darkens, set off on a kayak tour toward Bon Accord Lagoon.
The same area hosts two of Tobago’s daytime delights: the Nylon Pool and No Man’s Land. Charter a boat or jump on a tour – they range from rickety wooden affairs to gleaming white cruising yachts – and putter out for an afternoon around the Buccoo Reef. The Nylon Pool is an area of the sea, between Buccoo and Pigeon Point, where the bottom is white-coral sand and the water is clear. Turtles, stingrays and other marine critters are easy to spot gliding through the shallow waters: The water is only about a metre deep.
IF YOU GO
Caribbean Airlines flies direct from Toronto to Trinidad’s Port of Spain. From there, fly to Tobago or take a ferry.
Castara Retreats has 17 units embracing rustic luxury. Its cabins are built into a mountainside, overlooking the bay. The units have their own kitchens, as well as private indoor and outdoor seating. Castara Retreats has a restaurant as well as massage and yoga facilities. For details and pricing, visit castararetreats.com.
And if you step on a sea urchin? The spines must be removed, carefully, they are fragile. Your hotel will insist on calling the paramedics, who will insist on taking you in an ambulance to the hospital. Physicians will bloody your foot to extract the shattered pieces of the spines, inject a painkiller into your backside, and write a prescription to ward off infection. Everyone will boast about Trinidad and Tobago’s free health care. Place a vinegar compress on the spots where the calcified spines pierced the skin to dissolve rogue bits. You’ll be fine. Trust me.
Read more about Carrie Tait’s trip to Trinidad and Tobago.
Globe editor Lara Pingue visited Nayara Bocas del Toro, a luxury adults-only resort in Panama’s northwest province of Bocas del Toro.
The Bali-inspired getaway sits alone on the tiny private island of Frangipani, about an hour by plane from Panama City and a world away for visitors looking to escape the grind of everyday life.
This off-the-grid resort is beautiful, yes, but its true magic is its ability to make you surrender to it, to believe for a short time that the minor inconveniences of the world outside don’t exist.
IF YOU GO
Villas at Nayara Bocas del Toro resort start at around $1,500 a night. To explore more of the surrounding islands, guests can book a private captain for off-site scuba diving or to spend a day in “Bocas Town,” as locals call the province’s lively capital. nayarabocasdeltoro.com
From Panama City, flights to Bocas del Toro international airport (BOC) are about 60 minutes. The hotel can arrange ground transportation to the dock, where a 20-minute boat ride will take you directly to the resort.
Travellers should be aware of ongoing protests in the country. Review the Government of Canada travel advisories before departure.
Read more about Lara Pingue’s stay in Panama.
Doug Wallace discovered a laid-back vibe and great restaurants at Noosa Heads, a resort enclave on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
Noosa, which sits at the top of the Sunshine Coast, about two hours north of Brisbane, is often referred to as the Relaxation Capital of Australia.
Rather than a whirlwind tour, visitors here curb their obsession with time and give their road trips a more leisurely pace, connecting with the people, the diverse nature and the satisfying culinary culture – this is a foodie paradise for sure.
Many visitors come for the food alone. The appeal goes beyond fresh seafood and local produce from a fertile interior: Several celebrity chefs have opened award-winning destination eateries, lured by the upscale demographic and the agreeable, surf-chic lifestyle.
IF YOU GO
Daily, non-stop Air Canada flights from Vancouver have a flight time of about 14 hours to Brisbane. Noosa Heads is a two-hour drive north.
Renovations to the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort on chic Hastings Street are taking it higher up the five-star ladder. The adjacent Noosa Beach House restaurant, now helmed by chef Bret Cameron, is a total Sunshine Coast food experience. sofitelnoosapacificresort.com.au
Creative Tours showcases exactly what tourists want to do in the Noosa region, such as farm-to-fork food tours, a land-sea-air tour, a gourmet food trail and an after-dark distillery tour. creativetours.com.au
Right on the beach, Sails Restaurant Noosa is the town’s classic dining experience, with a nice view of Laguna Bay and one of Australia’s biggest wine cellars. sailsnoosa.com.au
Drop by for happy hour at Noosa Heads Distillery for a whisky, gin or vodka tasting adventure on the patio. This is one of the Sunshine Coast’s first craft distilleries. noosaheadsdistillery.com
The town of Eumundi southwest of Noosa Heads makes a great day trip. It’s noted for the Eumundi Markets, an outdoor shopfest that supports local artisans, growers, makers and bakers. Overnight visitors can check into the HOLA boutique hotel. eumundimarkets.com.au, holaeumundi.com.au
Read more about Doug Wallace’s trip to Queensland.
In Vietnam, Todd Babiak and his family learned a lot about other cultures and themselves as they surfed, hiked and connected on their last family vacation before their oldest leaves home.
They wanted culture and history, heat, superb food and access to beautiful beaches, writes Babiak. Vietnam wasn’t a difficult choice, deciding to visit Da Nang and Hoi An in the north of the country.
In Da Nang, a youthful and fast-growing city famous for its beaches, seafood, surrounding mountains and complex history they stayed at Pullman Da Nang, on a relatively quiet part of the spectacularly long beach. It is within walking distance of the action at the nearby An Bang Beach, which is more suited to parties and fishing adventures.
In Hoi An they stayed at the Bay Resort Hoi An, across the bridge from the market, and walked incessantly past and through the gorgeous architecture and, at night, an informal festival of coloured lanterns and live music. The stroll from the hotel to the ancient town was always an olfactory adventure, variations on diesel exhaust, raw fish in 30 C, incense, sewer, barbecued meat, durian and wet cilantro.
Read more about Todd Babiak’s trip to Vietnam.