Goa, India
The essential guide to Goa: the fascinating seaside state of India
Where the Indian subcontinent meets the warm Arabian Sea, nestled subtly between the relative behemoth states of Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the south and east, you’ll find India’s gorgeously laid-back, sometimes a little cheeky, and utterly fascinating smallest state: Goa.   It is a meeting place in so many more ways than mere geography. It is where the western ways and architecture of the Portuguese and British have fused with everyday Indian life; where history and ancient culture is melded with modern traditions such as meeting for sundowners on the sand; where generations-old recipes are transformed into on-trend eats and world-famous dishes; and where its famed coastline of beach upon beach forms a golden thread, tying it all together. [caption id="attachment_46121" align="alignnone" width="600"] How many perfect sunsets can you get?[/caption] History The irresistible scent of spices (and subsequent riches) lured the Portuguese across the seas around 1500AD, leading to an astonishing 450-odd years of colonisation under Portuguese rule, interrupted only by brief British occupation from 1799 to 1813, and only finally ended in 1961. During the height of Portuguese influence, Goa would have more closely resembled Lisbon, or perhaps Brazil or Macau, than it would its Indian sisters Mumbai or Delhi.   [caption id="attachment_46122" align="alignnone" width="600"] Oozing with history[/caption]   Now that Goa is safe back in the arms of Mother India, its European personality has blended quite uniquely with the countless other influences that have been thrown into this fabulous cultural crossroads. In any day, you might tour the 15th-century Basilica of Bom Jesus (housing the remains of St Francis Xavier, no less), munch on the local bhali-pau (bread roll and curry), shop a hippie market in Anjuna and then dance the night away in what is rated the sixth-best nightlife capital of the world. Don’t miss a heritage walk of the charming Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, and a visit to the state’s oldest fort at remarkable Reis Magos. Beach Every kilometre of Goan coastline meets the sea in spectacular fashion, with almost entirely uninterrupted beach in many sections. This article may tell you about Goa three ways, but the truth is, Goa interprets beach life about a thousand ways: whether you’re looking for a weathered hammock under a palm tree or perfectly swept sands fronting five stars of resort luxury, you’ll find it in (beach) spades. Spiritual seekers come for the sunrise yoga and meditation retreats; Insta-influencers adore the perfection of the beachside bungalows of Turtle Hill, or Brangelina’s favourite flop at Elsewhere in Mandrem; history buffs fall in love with the wonderfully preserved treasures of Ponda and Old Goa, the inspiring temples and mosques such as Mangeshi Temple and 450-year-old Shri Mangesh, Bollywood-famous Chapora Fort and the must-see Fort Aguada, and stay in the opulently converted fort at Fort Tiracol. But then everyone seems to end up, sooner or later, on the beaches themselves. The ‘queen of beaches’, Calangute Beach, is an endless parade of watersports, shopping, eateries, and unbeatable people-watching. Baga Beach is similarly non-stop, while Anjuna Beach adds a hippie vibe and some particularly sensational market shopping. For the perfect quiet, tucked-away oasis of your dreams, try Ashwem or Arossim beaches – the latter has a couple of beach shacks with cold beer, great seafood and killer views as you watch the sun sink into the waves. [caption id="attachment_46123" align="alignnone" width="600"] Go on, dip your toes in![/caption] Food Forget everything you think you know about Indian food and fall in love all over again with the gastronomic marvels of Goa. It was spices that made Goa the mixing pot it is today, and it’s spices that manage to bring together Indian ingredients with Portuguese traditions, Catholic cuisines with Hindi necessities, and make it all sing.   Fish and seafood are everywhere, befitting this coastal location and also pleasing both Hindi and Catholic sensibilities. However, the Portuguese wine that has flavoured their own cuisine for centuries has morphed into more sensible options here in India, with fermented coconut toddy (vinegar), Portuguese acrid lime, peppercorns and the southern Indian staple, tamarind, all adding a very particular tartness and depth of flavour in its place. You’ll also find a range of local sausage specialties, and a delicious obsession with cashews and cashew paste flavouring local dishes from corner holes-in-the-wall through to five-star kitchens.   [caption id="attachment_46124" align="alignnone" width="600"] Never have a bad meal again[/caption]   For top-shelf, occasion dining, the global-but-exotic menu at Go With the Flow in Baga is always a solid recommend, or pour on the Portuguese charm at The Verandah, Alfama or Nostalgia. On the other hand, put at least a mealtime or more aside to experience the famous Goan fish thali served at most beach shacks up and down the coastline. Follow the crowds to the best ones – they always know.  
Eat up!
Hawai‘i Foodie Guide: 7 Hawaiian dishes to try (and where to try them)
From Lau Lau to shaved ice. This is the essential list of Hawaiian dishes you need to try! Fried shrimp Ultra-fresh shrimp (prawns to us Aussies) show up on menus across the Hawaiian Islands, but arguably the favourite crustacean-based dish is fried shrimp. The true quality of a plate of fried shrimp comes from the amount of buttery garlic sauce that comes with it; the more the better.   Try it at: Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp Truck on the North Shore of O‘ahu. Malasadas Introduced by the Portuguese when they came to Hawai‘i in the 19th century, this doughnut without a hole is golden brown on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and coated with sugar.   Try it at: Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu, O‘ahu, which has been making these sweet doughy balls since 1953 leonardshawaii.com Lomi Lomi This salad is a traditional side dish, made from cured salted salmon chunks, fresh tomato and sweet Maui onions that are combined, or massaged (lomi lomi means massage in Hawaiian), to meld the flavours. [caption id="attachment_45874" align="alignnone" width="600"] A incredibly mouthwatering, fresh dish you HAVE to try[/caption] Try it at: Umekes in Kona, Island of Hawai‘i. umekesrestaurants.com Plate lunch Mix and match it however you like; the Hawaiian plate lunch is two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and entrée – usually kalua pig, chicken lau lau (wrapped in taro leaves) or lomi lomi salmon. Can’t choose? Get a mixed plate and sample everything! [caption id="attachment_45876" align="alignnone" width="600"] A little something for everyone...[/caption] Try it at: Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina on Maui, which serves up incredible ocean views with its traditional plate lunches alohamixedplate.com Lau Lau This dish is considered to be soul food in Hawai‘i, so beloved it is. Meaning ‘leaf, leaf’ in Hawaiian, the name refers to the traditional process of wrapping meat (usually pork or salted fish) in taro leaves (luau) and then steaming it (wrapped in a ti leaf, which can withstand high cooking temperatures). It is now used to refer to the dish itself, which is usually served with a side of rice. [caption id="attachment_45877" align="alignnone" width="1024"] You'll never be hungry![/caption] Try it at: Highway Inn, O‘ahu, has been serving up Hawaiian food since 1947  myhighwayinn.com Kalua pig The main attraction at any luau and a component of the plate lunch, kalua pig is cooked in an imu (underground oven) for several hours resulting in smoky, succulent meat.   Try it at: Poi By The Pound on Maui poibythepound.com Shave Ice This frozen confection differs from a snow cone, which is made of crushed ice; shave ice soaks up the syrup better creating a fluffier texture. It was brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Japanese sugar plantation workers in the mid 19th century, and it is a huge hit all over the state.   Try it at: Wailua Shave Ice on Kaua‘i wailuashaveice.com    
Poke Bowl.
Hawai‘i foodie guide: culinary experiences in the Aloha State
Think Hawai'i is all about surfing and beaches?  Think again, Hawai'i is the capital of food cool with cocktails plenty and quality local produce. In high spirits With a tropical climate that lends itself to a sundowner or two, these distilleries are brewing up something great.   It was the Polynesians who initially brought sugar cane to Hawai‘i, and the first sugar mill was established in Lāna‘i in the early 1800s; commercial cane fields were established at the town of Koloa on Kaua‘i in 1835. Since then the crop has been used to make everyone’s favourite island tipple, rum.   Even if you’re not a rum-lover, a visit to the Koloa Rum Tasting Room and Company Store at the historic Kilohana Plantation in Lihue will set you on the path to appreciation. Koloa’s rums are premium, single-batch, made using the kind of sustainable practices that are fast becoming the standard for businesses across all of the Islands of Hawai‘i. [caption id="attachment_45869" align="alignnone" width="320"] You won't want to miss a tasting session at the popular Koloa Rum Tasting Room[/caption] Meanwhile, on the island of O‘ahu, Manulele Distillers at Kunia has a farm-to-bottle philosophy when it comes to producing its celebrated Kō Hana Agricole Rum.   The heirloom varieties of sugar cane (kō in Hawaiian) used to produce its small batch, single variety white, barrel-aged and cask strength rums are all hand-harvested before being pressed for juice and distilled with care. The resulting spirits, considered to be some of the best pure cane rums in the world (many mass-produced rums are made with molasses, a by-product of sugar production), are presented in sleek cube bottles with glass stoppers and hand-numbered on site.   Hawai‘i’s abundant sugar cane is not just utilised to produce rum; on the island of Maui, sustainable, select harvested organic sugar cane is combined with deep ocean mineral water, sourced some 900 metres below the Kona Coast off the Island of Hawai‘i, to produce a uniquely Hawaiian vodka, Ocean Vodka. The water used is purified and desalinated through a natural filtration method that ensures it retains its rich mineral content, while no GMOs or pesticides are used. The bottles resemble antique glass fishing floats.   From paddock to plate With a growing focus on utilising sustainable farming practices, as well as its abundant natural resources, Hawai‘i has earnt a reputation as a destination creating quality food and drinks from its deliciously fresh produce. [caption id="attachment_45870" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hawai'i's famous Farmer's Markets.[/caption] This kind of attention to detail and respect for the environment is encapsulated in places like O’o Farm, located at 1066 metres on the slopes of Haleakala in the upcountry farming community of Kula on Maui. The passion project of surfing buddies Louis Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert, who purchased the land here in 2000 with a citrus and stone fruit orchard and a few coffee trees attached, O’o Farms is now a thriving ‘no-till’ farm growing Hawaiian coffee, fruit trees, garden vegetables and greenhouse tomatoes, flowers and herbs. [caption id="attachment_45872" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hawai'i is earning a growing reputation for its quality produce[/caption] Given the cornerstone of Hawai‘i’s unique cuisine is island-fresh local produce and ingredients, it should come as no surprise that there is also no shortage of farmers’ markets to visit. Some of the best on offer include Hilo Farmers Market on the Island of Hawai‘i (Wednesday and Saturdays, 6am – 4pm); KCC Farmers Market across from Diamond Head in Waikiki (Saturdays 7.30am – 11am) or Hale‘iwa Farmers Market on the North Shore (Thursdays, 2pm – 6pm); Kaua‘i Culinary Market at Poipu on Kaua‘i (Wednesday, 3.30pm – 6pm); and Maui’s Upcountry Farmers Market in Pukalani (Saturdays, 7am – 11am).   The best way to see (and taste) the traditions and practices of farming on Hawai‘i first-hand is on one of the many farm tours available across the Hawaiian Islands at places like the Surfing Goat Dairy in lower Kula on Maui, which supplies its award-winning cheeses to restaurants across the island, and Big Island Bees on the Island of Hawai‘i, where you can take a beekeeping tour and join in on opening a bee hive. And for the sweet toothed, Garden Island Chocolate on Kaua‘i produces organic dark chocolate (85 per cent cacao) which you can sample on its guided chocolate tour.   Another way to experience Hawai‘i’s paddock to plate ethos is on a rambling culinary home tour, which gives an irresistible taste of the island lifestyle. Home Tours Hawai‘i on the Island of Hawai‘i offers its guests the chance to enjoy a progressive 3-course ‘farm to fork’ brunch using fresh ingredients and prepared in private homes. What is poke? [caption id="attachment_45871" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous poke bowl - A crowd favourite and a must-try when you're in Hawai'i[/caption] One of the most delicious culinary exports from Hawai‘i food exports is poke (‘to slice’ in Hawaiian), which originated when local fishermen seasoned off-cuts and ate them as a snack. Traditionally served as an appetiser or main dish (the cubed fish is seasoned with salt, soy and sesame oil and mixed with Maui onion, ground candlenut and algae), it has evolved into a popular salad served with accompaniments ranging from avocado to coleslaw to rice. Caffeine culture Hawai‘i has a reputation for growing great coffee beans. Coffee arrived in Hawai‘i in 1817 and after a few years of patchy success at growing, plants were successfully introduced onto the Island of Hawai‘i in 1828, with the first commercial operation starting up in Koloa on Kaua‘i in 1836.   As sugar cane became less profitable many farmers started growing coffee beans instead; now more of Hawai‘is farmers grow coffee than any other crop across Kaua‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i and Island of Hawai‘i. So it’s not surprising that there are some serious brews to be had; here a few coffee spots to hit up for a heart starter on your next visit. The essential go-to's Little Fish Coffee Poipu and Hanapepe, Kaua‘i Order hand-brewed coffee using organic Hawaiian beans and feast on dishes constructed of locally grown produce. littlefishcoffee.com   Akamai Coffee Co. Maui Housed in a light, airy space in Kihei, the coffee here follows a seed-to-cup process, serving up 100 per cent locally roasted Maui beans. akamaicoffee.com Island Vintage Coffee - Waikiki and the North Shore, O‘ahu With three cafes on O‘ahu, this consistently good coffee, made with Kona beans, is a must. islandvintagecoffee.com   Kaya’s at Kona Island of Hawai‘i The best organic Kona beans are used in its brews, including the coffee ice cubes in the iced version. kona123.com/kayas.html
Chilled out in Hawai'i
Hawai’i Foodie Guide: Flavours of the Hawaiian Islands
Explore the unique cuisine that reflects a rich cultural history and idyllic tropical lifestyle.  Experience the flavours of the Hawaiian Islands with our Hawai'i Foodie Guide... Using only the stars to navigate, Polynesians arrived on the Hawaiian Islands in their outriggers some 1500 years ago. And while the islands were lush and mountainous with cool, fresh water, these voyagers found little more than fish, seaweed, berries, for food. As they settled the islands, they planted sugar cane, fruits and vegetables such as coconuts, sweet potato and banana, and raised pigs and chickens. With these staple ingredients, early Hawaiian cooking comprised of dishes such as poi (a thick paste made from taro root); poke (raw fish seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and seaweed); haupia (sweet coconut milk and Polynesian arrowroot); and lau lau (pork wrapped in taro leaves) cooked in an imu (underground oven).   When Westerners arrived in the 18th century, they brought with them other foods such as pineapple, coffee and cattle; and when sugar cultivation hit its peak the following century, workers flooded in from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Portugal, introducing their flavours to the region. So, the Hawai‘i’s cuisine that we know today was born from a medley of cultural influences. Unique dishes such as Saimin (a Chinese noodle soup), Spam Musubi (essentially Spam sushi, with sticky rice and seaweed), and Malasadas (Portuguese doughnut) became local favourites.   In 1991, 12 chefs established ‘Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine’, a culinary movement where they partnered with local farmers to showcase and utilise the best of Hawai‘i’s produce and created a contemporary cuisine that blended fresh Hawaiian ingredients with flavours from around the world. Today, this philosophy continues as the Hawai‘i’s food scene thrives, with many restaurants touting menus focused on Hawaiian flavours. [caption id="attachment_45867" align="alignnone" width="600"] Giovanni's paved the way for the thriving food truck scene on O'ahu's North Shore[/caption] Street food is growing in popularity with roadside stalls and food trucks serving local delicacies made fresh to order. The laid-back town of Hale‘iwa on O‘ahu’s North Shore is ground zero for food truck cuisine, where trailblazer Giovanni’s, which started serving fried shrimp out of a converted 1953 bread truck in 1993, has been joined by trucks serving up everything from Hawai‘i’s comfort food to burgers to acai bowls. Cafes are making really good coffee that Australians will enjoy, and there’s a burgeoning brewery and distillery scene. [caption id="attachment_45866" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cruising the food trucks of O'ahu's laid-back North Shore is a culinary treat![/caption] An ever increasing number of Hawai‘i-based chefs are serving up noteworthy food using locally sourced produce in worth-going-out-of-your-way-for restaurants. One such chef is Hilo native Mark Pomaski at Moon and Turtle, where the constantly changing menu (sometimes daily) inventively makes the most of local seasonal produce and ingredients including ocean-to-plate (or sea-to-service) seafood.   Food festivals Kapalua Wine and Food Festival Maui – June Located at the beachfront Kapalua Resort on Maui, partake in cooking classes, wine and food pairings, winemaker dinners, and evening galas hosted by winemakers and prominent chefs from Hawai‘i and across the globe. kapaluawineandfoodfestival.com The Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival The Island of Hawai‘i, Maui and O‘ahu – October More than 150 international masterchefs, culinary experts, winemakers and mixologists converge over three islands for three weeks of events, including wine tastings, pool parties, cooking classes for kids, and food and wine pairings. The event raises money for sustainability, culinary programs and agriculture, so while you’re indulging, you’re also doing good. hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com Kaua‘i Chocolate & Coffee Festival Kaua‘i – October The historic town of Hanapepe comes to life with farm tours, workshops and Q&As with growers and experts, live entertainment and the best part, sampling glorious chocolate and coffee. Kaua‘ichocolateandcoffeefestival.com   Kona Coffee Cultural Festival Island of Hawai‘i – November Celebrating and preserving Kona’s 200-year-old coffee heritage, this festival includes farm experiences and coffee picking, barista training, beer, wine and coffee pairing, latte art competitions, as well as art exhibits, concerts and parades. konacoffeefest.com
Hyatt Regency Bali
Treat yourself (and the whole family) at this dreamy Balinese resort
Your ultimate blissful Bali getaway, with newly renovated rooms, a quiet beach, kids’ club, and beachfront eatery! Whether you want to spend your entire time chilling out by the pool or catching up with friends in one of the bars, the classic Balinese resort that is Hyatt Regency Bali has plenty of space and opportunities for you to completely recharge; it’s the perfect tropical escape. Originally built on a coconut plantation, the resort is blessed with the widest beachfront in the region and has the largest garden on the island. Families will enjoy the laid-back Sanur vibe, while couples will revel in its romantic, old-school charm. With 363 newly renovated rooms and facilities, the resort is eminently comfortable while at the same time retaining an authentic Balinese feel. [caption id="attachment_44994" align="alignnone" width="600"] Welcome to relaxation[/caption] Need to know Location The Hyatt Regency Bali is right on the main street of Sanur with 500 metres of beachfront and Bali’s top destinations close by: Seminyak is 45 minutes away and Ubud just an hour. Eat: The hotel has two restaurants: Omang Omang with its all-day dining, and Pizzaria by the beach. Outside the hotel you can enjoy hundreds of cafes, restaurants and bars. Play: Though most people come to Sanur to relax, there are plenty of options for turning your mild a little bit wilder. Beach clubs are within 10 minutes of the hotel, and bars with live music or sports are a quick walk away – plus you’ll find chilled-out yoga studios as well as hip boutiques and salons. Within the hotel, guests can swim in one of three pools, mingle at the Beach Bar or get pampered in the lavish spa. Top Tips The hotel’s renowned, established garden makes a fabulous backdrop for family or romantic portraits. Book a photo session with a local photographer and snap some of your best Insta shots ever. The garden is home to about 500 species of flora and fauna, and trees from the old garden of Bali Hyatt have been restored and given a new home. Head to the spa to try a watsu (water shiatsu) treatment – essentially a massage on water! Sindhu market offers a glimpse of local life. A wet market by day and food market by night, Sindhu is Sanur’s unofficial melting pot. Located 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel, the market opens from 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm.   The resort is accepting bookings from 20 December 2018. Find out more at hyattregencybali.com
Westin Maldives
A whole new sea of tranquillity in the Maldives
The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve. There is a new wave of wellbeing on the tropical archipelago oasis of the Maldives with the opening of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort and its brand new combination of 70 amazing overwater and island villas and suites. The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve and takes inspiration from the ‘shape of the water’, the marine life of the Atoll and the elements of water, sun and wind. It has been designed to maximise environmental sustainability whilst providing a supremely luxurious and tranquil Maldivian escape. [caption id="attachment_44983" align="alignnone" width="600"] Over water bungalow, yes please![/caption] Need to know Location: Being nestled on this beautiful coral island in the Biosphere Reserve gives guests of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort uninterrupted ocean and pristine turquoise lagoon views. From the atoll’s most desirable locale, guests are in close proximity to landmarks such as the Hanifaru Bay, known for the largest gathering of manta rays globally. This is a whole new level of tranquillity. [caption id="attachment_44984" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nothing like being able to see the ocean through the lounge room floor![/caption] Eat The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort presents three unique dining experiences. The Pearl is the resort’s specialty restaurant famed for exquisite Japanese cuisine with exceptional ocean views. The all-day dining experience at Island Kitchen stays true to the Westin brand’s Eat Well credo through a balanced menu combining Chinese, Indian and Maldivian fare. At Hawker, guests can sample authentic Asian street food with a live kitchen in a casual bustling atmosphere. Adjacent to the Library and overlooking the azure blue Indian Ocean, Sunset Bar is a relaxed lounge serving tapas and wonderfully imagined cocktails. [caption id="attachment_44985" align="alignnone" width="600"] Stay in complete luxury with paradise at your doorstep[/caption] To learn more call +960 660 4444 or visit westin.com/maldivesmiriandhoo
Bali grass
The ultimate five-day Lombok itinerary
What to do and where to explore on Bali’s neighbouring island Bali has long been a much-loved holiday destination for Australians – it’s practically a rite of passage. And while record numbers of Aussies are still basking in Bali’s warm waters, an increasing amount of visitors are now travelling to Bali’s less-visited sister, the stunning island of Lombok. Like the rest of Bali, Lombok offers lush landscapes, tasty culinary dishes, unique cultural experiences and its fair share of adventure, but this beautiful island also boasts almost-deserted beaches, epic surfing breaks and hidden waterfalls as well. It goes without saying that to really explore Lombok you need two to three weeks, but if you’ve only got the best part of one week, here’s one of the best ways to spend it: Day 1 Once you fly into Lombok from Bali, head to the beautiful coastal area of Mandalika Beach, just 30 minutes to the south. Once a hidden mecca for surfers, now this pristine coastal paradise that is only six minutes from popular Kuta Beach (not to be confused with Bali’s Kuta Beach) is home to watersports of all kinds, modern hotels and hip cafes serving up local treats. It’s the perfect place to start your holiday (cocktail in hand). After checking into your hotel, take the afternoon to hike to the top of nearby Merese Hill above Batu Payung beach to see an impressive panorama of Lombok as well as a beautiful sunset. The walk itself will take roughly about an hour from Mandalika or you can hop on a moped and then it’s just a quick 15- to 20-minute walk from the car park to the top. [caption id="attachment_44790" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll never want to leave after seeing these jaw-dropping sunsets[/caption] Day 2 Today is beach day! Mandalika Beach is perfectly located near some of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches, so hiring a moped or catching a taxi to each one makes for a stunning day by the sea. If you love surfing and fishing, head to Gerupuk Beach or if you’re after peace and quiet, try relaxing at Serenting Beach. For lunch, make your way to beautiful Tanjung Aan Beach for freshly made Nasi Goreng and a swim on a near-deserted beach, before heading back to Mandalika Beach for dinner. Day 3 Say goodbye to Lombok’s south coast and travel a couple of hours up to Lombok’s main tourist area of Senggigi. On the way, take a short detour to the spectacular Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu waterfalls, centred around swimming holes below. The 20-metre-high waterfalls cascade through rugged rocky outcrops covered in moss creating a cool retreat from Lombok’s beaches. When you’ve cooled down with a swim, head to your hotel in Senggigi, around 90 minutes’ drive away. Situated on wide open beaches and backed by jungle-covered mountains, Senggigi is a great place to enjoy a day of shopping, before watching the sunset over the water as you eat dinner and head out to a bar. [caption id="attachment_44791" align="alignnone" width="600"] So many activities to keep even the most adventurous traveller occupied[/caption] Day 4 After an early breakfast and a swim, take a local day trip north to the famous Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. Known for incredibly rich tropical marine biodiversity, the three islands of the Gilis each have a no-car policy and white sandy postcard-worthy beaches. For scuba divers, dive in and explore the sunken ship at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach on Gili Trawangan. Or you could meet the local turtles and even swim with them. Or you could just snorkel right off the beach (why not?). You’ll find that the pace of life on the Gili Islands is slow… and that’s just how the locals like it. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing day in the sun. Overnight in Senggigi. Day 5 Get up bright and early to hop on a half-day trip cycling through some of Lombok’s beautiful terraced rice fields – most of which date back to the time of Balinese colonisation. As you explore the beautiful rice fields on two wheels, you’ll visit small villages along the way and learn about local customs and culture. You might even try homemade local delicacies. Spend the afternoon back in Senggigi relaxing on the beach, before watching the sunset and listening to late-night live music in the local bars: an ideal way to end your holiday. [caption id="attachment_44789" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience a few nights staying in a beach hut[/caption] Where to stay: Lombok has a range of accommodation including five-star resorts and hotels as well as affordable surf huts and beach hostels to choose from. How to get there: There are regular daily flights between Australia and Denpasar, Indonesia, and there are daily flights between Denpasar and Lombok International Airport (LOP). Local airlines that fly to Lombok from Bali include Garuda, Lion Air, SilkAir and Trans Nusa.   Planning a holiday to Indonesia? For further info on Lombok and the surrounding areas, check out www.indonesia.travel
7 reasons why Fiji really is paradise
The islands of Fiji are a perennial favourite with Australian holidaymakers, who are lured back time and time again by the sybaritic pleasure of this Pacific nation. And as if the beaches and the smiling, welcoming people aren’t reason enough to head there (again), here are a few extra reasons why Fiji is paradise on Earth.
Explore Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches
Don’t forget to pack your swimmers! Here we reveal the best beaches in Vietnam. Nha Trang Known as the Vietnamese Riviera, Nha Trang - a busy beach area in the Khanh Hoa province - is renowned for its six-mile stretch of white-sand beach, clear waters and popular party boat cruises.   As well as being home to Vietnam's first certified dive centre (Rainbow Divers) and subsequently many soft coral reefs and caves to explore underwater, beach bums can also try wakeboarding, kite surfing and banana boat rides.   Meanwhile for the land lubbers among us, there are plenty of resorts and bars near City Beach that make a mean beachside cocktail.   But if you’d rather forgo the buzzing crowds here, travel 34 kilometres north to Doc Let Beach. It’s just as blindingly beautiful as Nha Trang, but without the hordes of other travellers who know they’re onto a good thing. Phu Quoc Island Located in the Gulf of Thailand off Vietnam’s south-west coast, Phu Quoc is actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, being just 18 kilometres from Kampot province.   Famed for allegedly having the whitest sand in the country and some of the best sunsets around, it is undoubtedly one of Vietnam’s most picturesque islands. [caption id="attachment_46293" align="alignleft" width="600"] Sunbeds under tropical palms on beautiful Bai Sao beach on Phu Quoc island[/caption] There’s many idyllic beaches here to get your sun-and-sea fix, each with its own character. Some of the best here include Long Beach, Ong Lan Beach and Bai Sao.   With an uprising of mid-range to budget beach resorts now sprinkling the island, it’s on its way to becoming a total beach resort destination. Con Dao Islands Look up ‘idyllic’ in the dictionary and you’ll likely find this place. Largely protected from tourism due to its remote location, about 230 kilometres south of Ho Chi Minh City, the Con Dao archipelago hides some of the most peaceful and untouched beaches in Vietnam.   Made up of 16 mountainous islands and islets – the largest being Con Son – you can expect to find a selection of uber-private, absolute beachfront resorts here to lap up a Vietnam beach holiday in unadulterated luxury.   Among our favourite beaches though is Dat Doc Beach, where guests at Six Senses Con Dao can access a private stretch all to themselves. How’s that for a seriously five-star stay? Mui Ne  Just 220 kilometres east of Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne is a charming fishing village cum tourist favourite.   Characterised by its rolling sand dunes, serene water, swaying palm trees and warm beach-going weather for most the year, many claim this to be Vietnam’s number one beach.   Ideal territory for windsurfing and kite surfing, it’s also not a bad setting for a seaside massage.   Once you get bored of the beach scene (if that’s even possible), there’s a growing string of restaurants, boutique shops and resorts nearby. Ho Coc A quaint seaside village roughly 125 kilometres southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Coc boasts one long sweeping stretch of fine sandy beach.   Featuring pristine waters and the occasional boulder plonked along its peaceful shoreline, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities here.   To make the most of the serene surrounds, come during the week and beat the weekend crowds who daytrip here from larger centres.   It’s also worthy checking out the nearby hot springs and rainforest.
Seven reasons you deserve a break from everyday life (and how you can get it)
Need a break away from everyday life? Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay has you sorted. Here are seven reasons to fly there now.
100 tips, tricks and hacks from travel insiders – beaches and islands
Is there anything not tantalising about idyllic islands and beaches? Here are the tips to know before planning your next trip...
6 must see tropical treasures of Samoa that won’t stay a secret for much longer
Samoa is the ultimate paradise island full of tropical wonders and luckily remains relatively untouched. Head off to explore the Pacific gem before it gets too crowded, and be sure to include these places on your itinerary.   Samoa, a nation made up of two main islands in the Pacific Ocean, is the definition of a tropical escape. The destinations are gorgeous, the people are sweet and the vibe is chilled. Under 130,000 people visit the small island nation each year, as opposed to the almost 800,000 who jet off to Fiji.   So, if you’re the type of person who likes a little more room around you on the beach, an incredibly local experience in a diner and pure peace and quite everywhere you go, then Samoa is for you. But get in quick, because the islands are only getting busier!   Now, before you screenshot the below list of hidden treasures across the main islands of Savai’i and Upolu, just remember a few things 1.You need a car to get around – as there aren’t that many hire cars on the island we recommend pre-booking 2.Don’t rely on the internet – sharpen up those map reading skills 3.It’s all about cash, cash, cash – fill up those pockets   [caption id="attachment_42809" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Falealupo Western Tip, Savai’i[/caption] Afu Aau waterfall, Savai’i Living up to its tropical nature, Samoa is full of spectacular waterfalls that provide for the most refreshing mid-day dips. Along with Togitogiga, Afu Aau is one of the most popular dipping destinations on the islands, and rightly so. The spring water is so clear and crisp that it will probably be a minute or two before you immerse yourself fully, but once you do, you’ll float in it for hours. You’ll be stopped at a fale (thatched hut) on the dirt road leading to the waterfall and asked to pay the $5 tala (approximately $2.50) fee. Sacred Heart church, Savai’i Samoans put strong value in religion and family. Located in Safotu village, Sacred Heart is one of the largest churches on the island of Savai’i that also serves as a school. Its vibrant nature is exactly that of the beautiful Samoan people. There is no entry fee to have a look around but note that during school hours you aren’t able to enter the grounds. Falealupo western tip, Savai’i Among many things, one great aspect of travelling around the island of Savai’i is that there is a very low chance you’ll ever get lost. There is only one main road that gets you around the island and all your pit stops are along this road.   Once you start to reach the western tip of Savai’i, your route escapes into thick, luscious rainforest that truly ignites your visual senses. Along the road you’ll pass the Se’eti Beach Fales which are a must-pit-stop for a quick dip and tan, before you jump back and continue along the incredible route. If you fall in love with the pit stop however, don’t worry you can actually stay in the fales overnight! Lefagaoali’i village pools, Savai’i Ever wanted to take a dip in a rock pool without having fifty people chatting and splashing around you? The Lefagaoali’i village pools in Savai’i are the perfect park spot for uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. They are like no other rock pools you’ve ever experienced and much of the time, they’ll be all yours to enjoy! Entry is $10 tala per vehicle and $2 tala per person for a dip. Just note there are separate female and male pools. Aganoa Black Sand Beach, Upolu A long, open stretch of soft sand on the coast of the Pacific, with not a soul in sight? Yes please! Aganoa Black Sand Beach tickles your curiosity and doesn’t disappoint once you arrive. The sand is really black and the beach is really magnificent.   The best bit though; in the late afternoon you’ll usually get the whole beach to yourself. You’ll be greeted by villagers under a fale at the start of the dirt road that leads to the beach. Entry fee is $10 tala per vehicle. Tu Sua Ocean Trench, Upolu There are no words to describe this wonder of the world. Tu Sua Ocean Trench is quickly starting to make waves in the world of Instagram, and rightly so. Once you build up the courage to climb down the wooden ladder on the side of the trench, you’ll never want to leave this place.   Make sure you get there early to avoid a crowd and get a good photo. Entry is $20 tala per person and it is so damn worth it!

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