The Island of Hawaii (i.e., the Big Island) contains 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones — the only spot on the planet with so many condensed into one small region. Lush tropical terrain rules the green, wet, windward side of the island (see Akaka Falls and Waianuenue/Rainbow Falls), while more arid beauty is on display at Hapuna Beach Park. You can even enter an ice climate at the mystical summit of Mauna Kea volcano, as well as Lake Waiau, one of the highest lakes in the United States.
What’s most stunning in Bali — dazzling beaches like Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Jimbaran Bay? Ubud’s terraced rice fields, sacred forest and ancient monuments? Or the island’s 10,000 intricate temples, including Pura Empul (the one you bathe in) and Uluwatu sea temple? Experience all of the above and decide for yourself. The Land of the Gods also boasts a loveliness that is more than skin-deep, thanks to its warm people and ubiquitous, inclusive spirituality.
Which of these great locations would you recommend for a family with teenagers who like to dive and surf? We have been to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Tahiti. We are looking for a safe, yet different, cultural experience with exotic plants, fish and animals. We would prefer to stay in one villa, as opposed to multiple rooms in a hotel. We don’t mind if it is far away from Southern California. I realize this may be painful financially.
Described as the Philippines’ last frontier, Palawan boasts not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (don your dive gear), and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (climb in a canoe for a guided tour). Striking limestone formations like Ugong Rock and Karst Mountain Elephant Cave rise starkly from the rice fields of the interior. You can even find overwater bungalows on outlying islands, courtesy of El Nido Resorts.