A friend of mine recently got back from Hawaii. I commented in his blog that Hawaii has a vibe that makes you feel lighter. It’s like the drag of gravity abates. You breathe easier. Your shoulders relax, moving away from your ears. The air smells better, and food tastes better.
“It makes you happy to be alive,” he replied to my message. Yes, it sure does.
That inspired me to make a list of some places that will make you happy to be alive. Feel free to add yours in the comments
Cairns, Australia – I was shocked when I arrived in Cairns. It’s far smaller than I expected, with a laid-back attitude (even the airport rental car agents are friendly). It seemed to be all beaches flanked by mountains jutting out of the coastline. It’s also a great starting point to visit a lot of cool areas, like Port Douglas and the Atherton Tablelands. Like coffee? This is the gateway to Australia’s coffee plantations. Also, there’s lots of good hiking. And some thing called the Great Barrier Reef – you may have heard of it.
Waitomo, New Zealand – This is just hours from Auckland. It’s very small and very rural – and so relaxing that you can slip into a coma. Which is what you’ll be ready for if you choose to hit the multitude of limestone caves in the area, where you can scope out the famous glow worms. When you can hear sheep and pigs outside your hotel, you know you’ve really gotten away from it all.
Monteverde, Costa Rica - Incredible views. Awesome hikes. No traffic lights. Cool wild coatis and giant purple hummingbirds. Incredible coffee. The gentle mist/rain known as pelo de gato. That all adds up to a ludicrously relaxing place. It’s also becoming famous for its yoga retreats. Getting there is a bear, because the roads are kidney-battering nightmares. Don’t drive there yourself – get a shuttle. Stay a few days to make the battering drive worth it!
Hawaii - There’s a reason this is paradise to so many people. You can carp about the high prices and crowds in Honolulu, but you simply can’t take away the natural beauty, the incredible beaches and the spectacular seafood. If you’re crowd-averse, there’s always Kauai. You will work your camera into a frenzy no matter where you go. You can go as hard or as easy as you want – there’s definitely a Hawaii for everyone. And have you noticed how many of my places grow highly regarded coffee? Hmm …
Seattle, Washington – Okay, Seattle doesn’t grow it’s own coffee. But it sure roasts, grinds and brews it like few others. I’m not much of a city guy, yet I love Seattle. It’s the most-courteous and affable large city in the United States, hands down. Even the drivers are nice to pedestrians and cyclists. You’ll get dizzy trying to pick where to have coffee or meals. And outdoor explorers won’t have a hard time finding someplace to get away from it all.