Thursday, December 2, 2010
Tropical Destinations, no passport required.
"Kauai is the scenic star of many films, including “Jurassic Park,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At Land’s End,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “South Pacific.” Take an adrenalin-pumping helicopter ride to see rugged terrain not easily accessible on foot. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters will fly you over Mana Waiapuna (the waterfall in “Jurassic Park”), Waimea Canyon, the knife-sharp Na Pali Coast and Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest places on Earth (450-500 inches of rainfall annually). When your heart stops pounding like a T. rex thumping through the forest, relax on the beach. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (also known as “Dr. Beach”) named Hanalei Bay Beach the No. 1 beach of 2009."
"John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at mile marker 102.5 on U.S. 1 is a must for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Snorkeling tours typically go to reefs three to eight miles offshore, where the depth ranges from five to 15 feet. Look for blue-and-yellow parrotfish, but don’t worry about sharks; they are mostly nocturnal. If you’d prefer to swim with “Flipper,” head on over to Theater of the Sea at mile marker 84.5 in Islamorada. Then drive on down to Key West and explore Ernest Hemingway’s home, where you can marvel at the descendants of his beloved cats; many of them have six toes."
St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands
"Thousands of cruise-ship passengers a day pour into Charlotte Amalie, which is a huge draw for people who love duty-free shopping. Outside the bustling capital, the highlights include the St. Thomas Sky Ride, a gondola ride that leads to sweeping views over the island; Estate St. Peter Greathouse & Botanical Gardens; the Gallery Camille Pissarro, birthplace of the Impressionist painter; and miles of white-sand beaches."
St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands
"St. Croix is 40 miles south of St. Thomas and St. John, and a more relaxed attitude prevails. This island is home to Christiansted National Historic Site, which has five preserved historic structures and interprets the Danish economy and way of life that existed there from 1733 to 1917. Other island highlights include Buck Island Reef National Monument, a coral reef ecosystem that’s home to the hawksbill turtle. History buffs may wish to visit Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. Salt River Bay was the landing site of Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the New World in 1493."