Majorca is full of tourists — mostly British — who flock of the sun-drenched Spanish island in the Balearic Sea for its high-rise hotels, social beach scene and techno-fueled nightlife. Visit specific portions of the island and you’ll certainly find all those. But a vacation on Majorca can be completely different from that experience too.
Instead of staying in a high-rise hotels, travelers can book a villa online — there are all sorts to choose from, many surprisingly affordable.
Instead of the packed beaches, check out the old quarter of the Majorcan capital of Palma. Its medieval architecture and maze of cobblestone lanes ooze history — and are surprisingly unvisited.
And instead of the techno nightlife, take a more classical music approach and follow in the footsteps of Chopin.
Off the coast of Iceland there’s one particular island upon which is built a single, solitary house. It is a house that looks like the sort the Dursleys could have hidden Harry Potter for his 11th birthday.
Over the years, photos of this house — some snapped from airplanes, most from boats — have circulated around various blogs. And as people have glimpsed the digital images of the abode’s stark setting and seemingly impossible seclusion, internet gossip about the place has mounted.
So, let’s start by dispensing with some misconceptions. Here’s some of what the house is not:
It is not located on Iceland’s third largest island. It was not a gift by the government of Iceland to its most famous pop star, Bjork. The house is not a hoax created using PhotoShop. And it is not inhabited by a secretive billionaire, nor by a religious hermit, nor by a paranoid recluse intent on surviving a coming zombie apocalypse.
In fact, technically, it is not a house at all.
Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand
Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.
Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:
Bora Bora has only 29 square kilometers of land. Yet, incredibly, the French Polynesian island has 9 outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts. That gives Bora Bora a OCLR/KM (outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts per square kilometer) value of .31, which is surely the highest of any island in the world.
Each of Bora Bora’s nine outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts has its merits. A stay at each is also somewhere between expensive and exorbitant, especially once you account for the cost of food, activities and local transportation, all of which is pricey even before tacking on the 14% national tax. That makes choosing the optimum resort key. And, of course, if you are staying for your honeymoon you want to get it right.
For this overview, we’re listing Bora Bora’s OCLRs in the order of overall resort quality as we judge it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the first resort on our list is the best fit with what you are seeking for your particular trip. Also, while reading our comparison, keep in mind that all these resorts have overwater bungalows. All have service that exceeds that of a typical luxury hotel. And all are set in stunning locations, Bora Bora offering nothing but. In those ways, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices:
There may be as many as three million (!) oil rigs and platforms scattered throughout the world’s waters. A decent percentage of them—no one seems to know the exact figure—have already been abandon or fallen into misuse. And as underwater oil fields start to dry up and as people implement alternatives to fossil fuels (we hope) many more oil rigs will be rendered useless.
So what should we do with all these discarded drilling platforms?
Here’s a cool idea: Turn them into hotels.
Spot Cool Stuff first visited Koh Panyee on a trip to Thailand a few years after the story of the YouTube video below takes place. “Koh” in Thai means “island.” But Koh Panyee is an island more in name than reality. The place is more accurately be described as a floating village, built around steep karst mounds and upon bits of rock that stick out from the sea. To walk around the inhabited areas of Panyee—the inhabited areas being virtually the only parts of the “island” one can walk around—is like exploring a scene from Waterworld come to life (minus Kevin Costner).
Most vacationers flying into Cancun International Airport head directly to the glamorous shopping, high-rise beach resorts, bustling nightlife and trafficked-filled streets found in Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. But there’s a nearby destination that include none of that—but so much more.
On Isla Holbox, an island north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the shopping consists of a few shacks peddling jewelry, sandals, beer and the like. The island’s handful of hotels are small and don’t rise much higher than palm trees. The nightlife revolves around quiet beach bars where barefoot patrons are as likely to sit on swings or hammocks as they are on seats. As for the traffic, the island has no cars. However, we’ve been told that on occasion two of the island’s golf cart taxis meet up at an intersection.
Now, now, NOW!
Our captain is yelling while gesturing to us to hurry overboard. Overcome by his sense of urgency, we jump flippers first off our boat into warm Caribbean waters. There’s a second of disorientation. Then the water bubbles created by our fall dissipate and the view out of our snorkel mask clears. And what a view it is: the wide open mouth of the world’s largest fish heading directly towards us.
We are swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Isla Holbox, Mexico. Our trip was all arranged using Pay With Points, available through American Express Travel. Our challenge from American Express: to turn 150,000 Membership Rewards Points into a trip for two with WOW factor.
Being underwater, staring directly into the enormous mouth of a whale shark an arm’s length away—that’s a memory-making travel experience with no shortage of WOW.