Category Archives for "South America"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in South America.

Pink Sands – Harbour Island, Eleuthera Island Croup, Bahamas

A Pastel Village on a Gorgeous Beach

As the Bahamas’ first capital, before Nassau, Harbour Island is rich in history, but today it is best known for the 3-mile-long cover of pale pink sand. It’s a private fantasy beach with water as clear as a swimming pool, rimmed by the classic seashell-pink-and- white Bahamian cottages of the Pink Sands Hotel.

Spread out over 16 green acres, the Pink Sands, once a venerable and slightly stodgy favorite of old-money families, has been transformed into a glamorous destination for a younger, more international, and decid­edly cooler crowd. The elegant informality of the place is deliberately, deceptively unas­suming, in keeping with the personality of Harbour Island, an offshore cay of Eleuthera.

Lacy gingerbread houses and white picket fences remind some visitors of Nantucket, but don’t think stuffy: There’s fun and whimsy in Pink Sands’ strong pastels and chic decor, and the restaurant’s Caribbean-Asian cuisine is one of the most exciting in the far-flung Out Islands.

Dolphin Dive – Little Bahama Banks, Bahamas

Enchanting Creatures, Face-to-Face

There’s a magical place northeast of Grand Bahama Island where a pod of wild spotted dolphins congregates regularly—without the enticement of food or reward—to play and swim and interact with people, apparently more charmed by their human playmates than fearful.

There’s no way to predict exactly when or where they’ll show up, so you’ll have to team up with a reputable operator who’s familiar with the dolphins, their habitat, and their habits. Captain Scott of Dream Team is the most expe­rienced, having photographed, identified, and named more than a hundred dolphins.

They’re not sideshow performers or pets, yet Scott seems to have an uncanny intuition for finding them, and treats them like old friends. His 65-foot live-aboard, the Dream Too, scores an 85 percent success rate, sometimes with several encounters a day, lasting from a few emotional moments to a couple of adrenaline-packed hours.

The water over the Little Bahama Banks—shallow, calm, and with excellent visibility—is perfect for non­diving snorkelers and swimmers, who can enjoy themselves here even after the dolphins get bored and disappear.

The Compleat Angler – Alice Town, Bimini, Bahamas

A Shrine to Hemingway and Big-Game Fishing

Ponce de Leon discovered Bimini in 1513, but Papa Hemingway put it on the map, immortalizing Alice Town in Islands in the Stream. The author lived in the Compleat Angler hotel in the 1930s before building the Blue Marlin Cottage next door (now a private home).

His spirit still lives on in yellowed photos, memorabilia, and a bar made from Prohibition-era rum kegs, where visitors young and old gather nightly to toss back Goombay Smashers and Bahama Mamas while discussing what’s on everybody’s mind: blue marlin, sword­fish, wahoo, tuna, and barracuda.

Bimini’s sportfishing is still the best in the world (Hemingway’s best catch was a 785-pound mako shark), and the island is suffused with the legendary sportsman’s mystique. The Compleat Angler has thirteen guest rooms upstairs— including one where Hemingway penned parts of To Have and Have Not in 1937—but you’re not likely to get any shut-eye before the calypso band downstairs packs up for the night.

Compass Point – Love Beach, New Providence Island, Bahamas

Cottages in the Carnival Colors of Junkanoo

The kaleidoscopic, Crayola colors of Compass Point’s trendy cabanas and clapboard cottages evoke Junkanoo, the Afro-Bahamian carnival, and lend a playful theme-park-for-adults spirit to an island known more for Nassau’s casinos, mammoth resorts, and cruise-ship travelers.

Compass Point’s cot­tages offer hints of Nassau’s bustle, but have more of an outer islands vibe, with their own sandy cove offering privacy and access to justly famous Love Beach, located just steps away.

For one of the island’s best eating experiences, guests need merely brush off the sand and amble to the hotel’s alfresco restaurant, one of the few in Nassau with an ocean view. Compass Point’s visually lively, upbeat spirit is evident in its Bahamian-Californian cuisine as well, a cut­ting-edge fusion that produces winners like maki rolls (made with queen conch, mango, and cucumber) or roast lobster tail seasoned with Thai herbs. It’s the in spot for diners to watch the sun’s nightly performance, and each other.

Andros Island – Bahamas

World-Class Reef-Diving and Bonefishing in Florida’s Backyard

Much of Andros, the Bahamas’ largest island, is uninhabited, connected by a series of shallow canals and cays called “bights”—Andros is, in fact, mostly water. Aside from the occasional tourist, most visitors here are divers or fishermen.

At 142 miles, Andros’s barrier reef is the third longest in the world after those in Australia and Belize, with a wall that begins around 70 feet from shore and plunges 6,000 feet to a narrow underwater canyon known as the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO).

A unique system of more than fifty blue holes, as these watery caves are called (first made famous by Jacques Cousteau), offers endless opportunities to explore in tun­nels filled with shipwrecks and sea life.

All this is just 1 mile offshore from the Bahamas’ oldest dive resort, the comfortable, family-run Small Hope Bay Hotel. If you don’t know how to dive or snorkel, they’ll teach you at your own pace and at no extra cost, but non diving guests are just as happy flopping into the inviting hammocks positioned here and there among the tall coconut palms.

No one puts on airs at this easygoing beachfront colony—no one even puts on shoes very often, except perhaps at dinner, a hearty, con­vivial affair that might include fresh conch fritters and chowder, lobster, and hot home-baked johnny bread.

If you’d rather catch your own seafood, Andros’s gin-clear waters are the bonefishing capital of the world, with large numbers of trophy-size bonefish (often topping 12 pounds) providing some of the most exciting light-tackle fishing there is. It’s not hard to find a specialist to help you perfect your saltwater angling technique and to guide you to the vast flats in and around the bights, where you’ll often be the only one in sight.

Antigua Sailing Week and Curtain Bluff – English Harbour and Vicinity, Antigua, Lesser Antilles

A Nautical Kentucky Derby and a Top-Drawer Resort

In 1784, a young Horatio Nelson arrived in Antigua, home base for the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. He’d still recognize the landlocked harbor—its restored dockyard, now a national park, is one of few British Georgian-style naval dockyards left in the world, and still serving sailing vessels.

Once a year, the yachting world descends on this otherwise quiet outpost for a kind of Henley Royal Regatta, Caribbean-style. Some 200 boats from 25 countries show up for a week’s worth of serious racing and beautiful-people­ watching, filling English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard with blue-blooded sailors, curious landlubbers, and a fair share of pomp and cir­cumstance. Look for the seventeen stately pillars, originally supports for a very large loft where sails were repaired, and a number of colonial naval buildings that are now used as galleries, saloons, shops, and inns.

The unofficial headquarters for the sailing week hubbub, and the architectural center-piece of the Dockyard, is the Admiral’s Inn, a Georgian brick building dating back to 1788. Known as the Ads, it’s the island’s most inter­esting historic hotel, housed in a former engi­neers’ office and pitch and tar store, wearing the ambience of an old ship.

The well-tanned yachting crowd comes here to cool off in the shady terrace bar/restaurant, from which they can keep an eye on their multimillion-dollar craft. The food is first rate, as is the Joiner’s Loft upstairs, the nicest and largest of the inn’s dozen or so rooms, with a view of the busy harbor.

If you want a quiet retreat from the scene, the Curtain Bluff resort, about 3 miles west, occupies one of the prettiest spots in Antigua, flanked by two beaches. Pounding surf on the windward side lulls guests to sleep at night, while the lagoon-smooth leeward beach serves as the launching place for the hotel’s host of water activities.

Amid impeccably manicured grounds lush with orchids and palms, spacious suites climb the headland bluff step-fashion, culminating with the Terrace Room, whose size and views offer royal accommodations. A genteel, old- money, country-club air prevails; well-heeled return guests don’t count their pennies or calo­ries.

Exceptionally fine food, a stellar wine cellar, and dancing under the stars create a cel­ebratory mood. And if the island is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s foremost tennis enclaves, it is in no small part due to Curtain Bluffs inimitable founder and hands-on owner, Howard Hulford, who sponsors and hosts the prestigious Antigua Tennis Week every May.

Shoal Bay and Gorgeous Scilly Cay – Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

A Beach Among Beaches, and a Full-Scale Party on a Desert Island

Anguilla is a flat, scrubby island that’s light on interior scenery, but its confectionery 12-mile perimeter has some of the most picture-perfect white-sand beaches anywhere. These have conspired with incredibly clear water and undisturbed reefs to make Anguilla a favorite haunt for beach-and-a-book sun seekers looking for the Caribbean’s least-developed islands.

Among Anguilla’s thirty-some beaches, Shoal Bay ranks as anyone’s dream. Although your footprints won’t be the only ones left in the sand, partic­ularly in the high season or on weekends, escapists need merely walk a few feet into the diamond-clear water to submerge themselves in another world, where schools of iridescent fish and magnificent coral gardens are the only crowds to contend with.

Should hunger strike, Uncle Ernie’s is the archetypal shanty beach bar, where a beer and barbecued chicken, ribs, or catch of the day doesn’t get any better—unless it’s Sunday afternoon, when an island band manages to enhance the flavor.

For a more full-on party atmosphere, head out to Gorgeous Scilly Cay, which is on its own coral-sand islet. This popular watering hole/beach-shack restaurant can really get wound up on weekends, when day-trippers from St. Martin descend and a local band warms up; on weekdays it’s more like a Robinson Crusoe fantasy.

King Gorgeous (a.k.a. owner Eudoxie Wallace) entertains swim suited diners with tall tales and powerfully delicious rum punches while preparing an alfresco feast of simple grilled lobster or cray­fish marinated in his secret and justly legendary curry-based sauce. Most diners come for the better part of the day, snorkeling and swimming before and after lunch.

The ballfield-size cay now accommodates a helipad for the St. Martin set, but from Anguilla you can take King Gorgeous’s ready-when-you-are motor launch. Just stand at the pier at Island Harbour and wave, and someone will be by to fetch you.

Cap Juluca and the Malliouhana Hotel – Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

Swank Luxury Oases and an 18th-Century Great House

Maybe it is the special clarity of the light that heightens the mirage effect of Cap Juluca’s Moorish turrets, arches, and domes. Like a sensual Saharan casbah nestled within 179 flowering acres near Anguilla’s southernmost point, and braced by a magical, mile-long curve of sugary white sand—one of the island’s most beautiful—the ultraromantic hotel Cap Juluca employs an artist’s palette of intense primary colors: green gardens, white­washed villas draped in brilliant bougainvillea, and everywhere the deep azure sea and sky.

It can be almost too much for the winter-weary eyes of newly arrived guests. The oversized rooms are minimally but exotically appointed; many have enormous bathrooms with tubs for two and adjoining private sunning patios. Be sure to head out for dinner at the hotel’s acclaimed Pimm’s Restaurant, the only time and place guests wear anything more elaborate than a swimsuit and a suntan. At sunset Cap Juluca is the most glamorous vision west of Fez.

Not far to the north, the bluff-top Malliouhana Hotel boasts exquisite decor; a two-to- one staff-to-guest ratio; attentive, hands-on involvement by the gracious father and son British owners; and, perhaps most signifi­cantly, one of the most extensive wine lists in the western hemisphere, with 25,000 bottles and 1,500 selections, including more than 60 varieties of Champagne.

The dining pavilion sits above the gorgeous sweep of Meads Bay and faces west for unequaled sunset viewing. The kitchen and menu are supervised and designed by the acclaimed Paris-based chef Michel Rostang. The classic French cuisine with an island accent is a marvel, particu­larly when one considers it is created on an unspoiled island where traffic lights are still a fairly new concept.

Farther north, in the area known as the Valley, Koal Keel is a romantic alternative to Anguilla’s beachfront eateries. The open-air restaurant can be found in what used to be the garden of a sultry, sensual, and breezy 1780 plantation house, now beautifully restored. It’s one of the oldest and prettiest West Indian homes on the island, with cool, heavy stone walls providing the theatrical backdrop to your meal, aglow with candlelight and the pal­pable aura of centuries past.

This hillside charmer has created its own interpretation of delicious Euro-Caribbean cuisine. Try ginger- barbecued lamb, scrumptious lobster crepes, or delicate callaloo soup made with chard, coconut milk, and crab. Even if you drop in just for tea, you’ll be hooked.

Cidade Alta – Salvador da Bahia

Proud Heart and Soul of an Afro-Brazilian City

The Pelourinho district, the architectural enclave and highlight of Salvador’s hilltop Cidade Alta (Upper City), has been reclaimed, restored, and transformed into the cultural heart of a city long famous for the richness of its Afro-Brazilian heritage and colonial history.

A wealth based on the unseemly but lucrative importation of African slaves peaked in the early 18th century when most of Pelourinho’s remarkable gold-drenched Baroque churches were completed.

They are some of South America’s most outstanding, clustered around what is now Pelourinho Square, whose name means “the pillory” or “whipping post” (one of the myriad reminders of the city’s historical and emotional ties to Africa and slavery).

The home of Salvador’s affluent European descendants until the beginning of the 20th century Pelourinho then descended into squalor and physical collapse.

But a massive restoration begun in 1992 secured its return as a haunt of poets and artists and a showplace for Bahian craftsmanship. Easter egg-colored landmark buildings now house a number of minor but interesting museums, art galleries, and caffes and restaurants.

When Casa da Gamboa, Salvador’s most famous restaurant, opened a branch in Pelourinho, it further established the neighborhood’s role as a cultural and culinary outpost.

There are some large international beachside hotels, but they don’t come close to the character and architectural flavor of the Hotel Catharina Paraguacu, a pink colonial mansion with rooftop beach that’s just Pelhourino.

What: site, restaurant, hotel.
Casa da Gamboa: Rua Joao de Deus 32. Tel 55/71′-336-1549, fax 55/71-321-3393.
Cost: dinner $18.
When: lunch and dinner Mon-Sat; Sun, lunch only.
Hotel Catharina Paraguacu: Rua Joao Gomes 128. Tel/fax 55/71-247-1488.
Cost: doubles $81 (low season), $99 (high season).
Best Times: Nov-Jan.

Easter Island

Island of a Thousand Mysteries

A tiny windswept piece of land called Rapa Nui continues to captivate and mystify a curious world long after its “discovery” by the Dutch West India Company in 1722, on Easter Sunday.

Surrounded by a million square miles of Pacific Ocean, it’s the world’s most remote inhabited island–over 1,200 miles from its nearest populated neighbor, Pitcairn lsland.

Called the “Navelof the World” by early settlers, Easter Island is an ancient open-air 50-square-mile museum of natural history home to some of archaeology’s most valuable treasures.

It is most often identified today with its famous moai, more than 600 huge, eerie, elongated stone figures that stare eyeless at the distant horizon. Many are 30 to 50 feet tall and weigh up to 250 tons.

They were carved from the island’s volcanic tufa, transported for miles, then raised onto great stone altars called ahu.

Believed to date from somewhere between the 9th and 17th centuries A.D., these silent figures are best viewed outdoors in all their primitive splendor at Ahu Tongariki, the largest excavated and restored religious monument in Polynesia.

Were they conceived and carved by Polynesian people who first landed on the island around A.D. 500, or by pre-Incan stone carvers from Peru? The answer remains elusive.

What: island.

Where: 2,350 miles/3,781 km west of Santiago, Chile, 4 1/2 hours by air on flights that typically continue on to Tahiti. It can also be reached by some cruise lines.

How: TCS Expeditions in the U.S. organizes all-day trip that includes Santiago, with guest lecturers who are experts on the prehistory of the island; tel 800-727-7477 or 206-727-7300, fax 206-727-7309;

Cost: $4,990 per person, double occupancy, all-inclusive, land only.

When: Jan departures only. A shorter 4-day stay leaving weekly from Santiago year-round can be arranged in the U.S. through Maxim Tours, tel 800-655-0222 or 973-984-9068, fax 973-984-5383;;

Cost: from $284 per person, all-inclusive, land only.

Best times: Nov-Mar.

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