It’s best to have something fabulous in mind for when the travel dam actually, finally bursts…
By Doug Wallace
The hour of escaping the border is approaching. Revenge travel is trending, a treat for putting up with locking down for so long. Have you thought about where late fall and winter will see you sitting on a beach somewhere, twirling your umbrella drink? While some islands are still shuttered for safety, others have their shingles out, ready to welcome those with their health papers in order, with no quarantine on arrival. Here is a little circular sunny route to get you motivated.
Turks and Caicos
Quiet and shy, the Turks and Caicos Islands, tucked just below the Bahamas, nets you amazing beaches to loll about on under tropical savannah skies. Even though it has been inhabited for centuries, the population is sparse – perfect for more private peace and quiet.
Grand Turk, and the capital Cockburn Town, is the historic, cultural and financial heart of the islands, where your itinerary will include more than a few history lessons and tall tales – have fun determining which is which. And while outdoor adventure also needs to be on the list, the hip action is all in Providenciales on the Caicos side. “Provo” is one of the Caribbean’s top beach destinations, with dozens of pit stops to pop into – make a point of changing hotels at least once to enjoy a change of scenery. Grace Bay is a hub for the well-heeled, as are Northwest Point and Long Bay, which is favoured by the kiteboarders.
Turks and Caicos also presents an excellent chance for off-the-radar ecoadventure romps, with dozens of islands and cays delivering marshes and mangroves, and all the wildlife that goes with them. As you will most likely visit between December and April, make a point to commune with the migrating humpback whales, which wander by the islands on their way to the Dominican Republic.
Antigua and Barbuda
A distinctly British tinge washes over the twin-island paradise of Antigua and Barbuda. More than 150 kilometres of coastline beckon with 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. English Harbour is the yachting hub, home of Nelson’s Dockyard and other historic sites, many of them nautical in nature. Sailors plan their visits to coincide with both Antigua Sailing Week and the Yacht Regatta in April, but the real party is the annual Carnival at the end of July, celebrating the emancipation of slaves with a 10-day splash.
Antigua is a big hiking island, a pandemic-friendly pastime. Easy routes include the three-kilometre Jones Valley Trail, netting sea views, an Instagram-worthy set of ruins and access to other paths. Wailing’s Dam is a well-worn picnic route, with other paths leading to some of the island’s more iconic sites, including Signal Hill and Falmouth Harbour.
While the luxury-leaning Jumba Bay Resort and Galley Bay Resort & Spa are haute havens, your best bets are the smaller boutique hotels and guest apartments, where you can get a bit closer to the island’s real culture.
A 15-minute flight away, the celebrity hideaway of Barbuda is on the rebound since being clobbered by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island is famous for both its 28-kilometre stretch of pink-sand beach and for one of the world’s largest frigate bird sanctuaries. Strap on a snorkel and hit the reefs – but keep an eye out for Ashanti.
The islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao lie just north of Venezuela, where their Dutch roots and European vibe lend them an LGBTQ-friendly flavour. In fact, Curaçao Pride festivities each September include a speech by the prime minister, something we hope other Caribbean nations are monitoring.
Curaçao’s capital city of Willemstad is continually upgrading its once-derelict neighbourhoods into hip little enclaves of arts and culture, including the town’s safe and walkable Pietermaai District. It is a hotbed of cool cocktail bars, high-end dining, music and art. Architecture eye candy here and throughout town is a thrill, with Art Deco buildings and colonial mansions getting a new lease on life as boutique hotels, brasseries and galleries.
Prime digs include Baoase Luxury Resort in Steenrijk with its sumptuous Balinese aura and the Santa Barbara Plantation community in the island’s east end, a hacienda-style resort with a buffered beach zone and an 18-hole golf course.
When you’re done with the major sites – including Museum Kurá Hulanda and its incredible African collection – beach-hop your way through Curaçao’s 35 beaches, dipping into the nooks and crannies, swimming with wild turtles (and pigs!) and snorkelling the coral reefs.
It’s not just a pit stop on the way to the Galapagos. With ecoadventure travel trending in a major way, mainland Ecuador is worth considering for the sheer variety of environments to explore, as you can embrace both the Andes and the Amazon.
Small-group tours are worth considering for visiting Ecuador, as this will get you into places that aren’t on the tourist radar, including the ecolodges in Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rainforest, accessible only by motorized canoe. This is where you can visit local communities, learn about their way of life, sample the food and simply be at one with the jungle and the mangroves – not to mention the green parrots, sleepy bats and not-actually-vicious piranhas.
A trip up the winding highways to the highlands yields volcanic vistas, Indigenous realism and misty forest. The city of Otavalo is in a lake region known for its textiles, where visitors can poke about the largest outdoor market in South America. Spend a night at 200-year-old Hacienda Pinsaqui nearby.
More geothermal activity awaits in the spa town of (appropriately named) Baños in south-central Ecuador, best known for its adventure sports – paragliding, canyoneering, zip lining and more. Spring for a massage at one of the spas, or pop into the local mineral baths for $2.
The first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage, Costa Rica is warm and welcoming. Beach-bumming is the order of the day – a plethora of beach towns along the country’s Pacific coast are full-on surf boards, burly beards, beach bars, water sports and condo rentals.
With one-quarter of the country comprising protected conservation areas, Costa Rica is a hiker’s paradise, filled with ecological, geological and zoological elements to discover through 29 national parks, 19 wildlife refuges and eight biosphere reserves. Hang out with critters like raccoon-like coatis, white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, white-tailed deer and migrating turtles.
Treat yourself to a few days in Kardashian-approved Papagayo, a lush peninsula of protected parkland jutting out into the Gulf of Papagayo. This is where all the posh villa rentals and high-end hotels are concentrated – and it’s a 30-minute drive from the region’s international airport.
Can we have an extra line or a rule separating this last graf: it’s separate/not part of the Ecuador section
As travel rules tend to change with the wind, check local listings on the protocols and protections in place before heading to the airport. Read the Canadian government sites for suggestions and tips. Research like crazy, because that will make your revenge-taking all the more sweet.
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource and podcast TravelRight.Today.