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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Huahine, French Polynesia.
Why you need to visit Huahine, French Polynesia – now
Welcome to South Pacific gem, Huahine in French Polynesia. Where is it and how to get there Huahine is approximately 180 kilometres north-west of Tahiti. Fly to Tahiti with Air Tahiti Nui for approximately $1400 (airtahitinui.com.au) then take a 35-minute flight from $300 return with Air Tahiti (airtahiti.com) Why we love it Huahine is Bora Bora without the tourists… or the $2000-per-night hotel tariffs. Most visitors stopover here on flights to Bora Bora from Papeete; when I visited I was the only tourist who got off the plane. Huahine has one of the smallest populations of French Polynesia’s Society Islands and very little development; although there are several high-end accommodation options. It is the kind of paradise you imagine in Bora Bora: massive jungle-covered mountains roll straight down onto dozens of empty white beaches and a lagoon surrounded entirely by coral reef. Although it is known as the quiet island, there’s still plenty to do. Hire a moped or jeep and explore Huahine’s two islands, Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) and Iti (Little Huahine), which are connected by a bridge. There’s evidence of Huahine’s 1500-year-history throughout the island. There’s Polynesian temples by the roadside – even human skulls if you look hard enough (I found one). There are half-day tours by 4WD, canoe cruises, kayak tours, sailing charters and some of Polynesia’s best surf breaks. There are also tiny villages with rustic bars serving ice-cold beer and fish straight off the fishing boats. Very little English is spoken so be prepared for isolation if your high school French is rusty. You can’t miss Canter a horse along a deserted tropical beach. La Petite Ferme offer two-hour and full-day rides, call +689 6882 98. When to go Avoid summer when heavy rain is prevalent; any time between April and November is best. Where to stay Stay on the shores of a lake in Huahine’s lush interior at the Matai La Pita Village from $320 per night. huahine.hotelmaitai.com   More info: www.TahitiTourisme.com.au
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Five reasons Tahiti is officially heaven on earth
The results are in... and Tahiti's got it in the bag... French Polynesia, as Tahiti is officially known, is flung across an immense stretch of the South Pacific Ocean, so vast that if the French territory was superimposed with a map of Europe it would reach from Russia to the UK.   A beguiling blend of Tahitian and French culture exists right across the country’s 118 islands and atolls. Residents speak French and Tahitian, serve French cuisine along with Polynesian specialties, and resorts incorporate European refinements with laid back South Pacific style. [caption id="attachment_851" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Bora Bora Pearl Resort and Spa[/caption] This intriguing mixture of tropical island culture and French sophistication comes together to form the ideal holiday destination. 1. Unrivalled natural beauty As well as offering its own distinct personality and breathtaking backdrop, each island is home to an intricate natural tapestry and vibrant underwater world teeming with marine life and rhythmical reefs that rise and fall to a natural, island beat. Tahiti’s charm lies not only her in unrivalled beauty, but also in her versatility. Visitors can swim in a turquoise wonderland, whale watch in pristine waters, quad-bike along forested ridge lines, cruise on luxury yachts, indulge in a spa experience, savour wine from a tropical vineyard, shop for a Tahitian pearl, surf one of the world’s best-known breaks or simply relax and do absolutely nothing. 2. It's the perfect place to honeymoon Home to the main island of Tahiti are the ultimate honeymoon destinations of Bora Bora and Moorea – the Society Islands are the best known of Tahiti’s five archipelagos. [caption id="attachment_844" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora.[/caption] Separated into the Leeward and Windward groups, the 15 main islands of the archipelago offer jagged volcanic peaks, electric blue lagoons and an entrancing underwater world.   Nowhere in the world are the colours more vibrant, the waters warmer and the people friendlier.   Tahiti Nui is the largest island in French Polynesia and home to the capital Papeete, the entry point for international visitors. 3. There's more to do than you think An exterior fringed with hotels, museums and the endless lapping of the South Pacific combines with a heart of natural beauty.  Fast-flowing streams meet steep-sided valleys, and soaring volcanic peaks rise into the tropical sky high above lush rainforests of ancient trees that hold centuries of secrets and history in their mossy bark. [caption id="attachment_848" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Stand up Paddle Boarding lessons.[/caption] Also home tahiti trademark over water bungalows, volcanic peaks and palm-fringed lagoons, Moorea is a haven of relaxation and romance. A year-round tropical climate and picture perfect vistas greet visitors throughout the Society Islands.   Hire a scooter, bike or canoe for some great adventure on the charming Garden of Eden island of Huahine, rock Tahiti’s cradle of culture on Raiatea and let the scents of vanilla seduce on Tahaa.   From heavenly beaches with champagne sand and fragrant tropical flowers to iridescent lagoons fringed with soothing palm trees, it’s no wonder Tahiti and her islands offer some of the most coveted holidaying in the world. 4. The food! Sample Polynesian culture and food in this historic port city where some streets resemble a distant suburb of Paris. As in France, it is easy to find creperies, boulangeries, sandwich shops and pizza places, while local supermarkets stock pate, baguettes, cheeses and plenty of French wine. [caption id="attachment_852" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Four Seasons Bora Bora at Sunset.[/caption] A seafood restaurant called Bloody Mary’s has become as famous as the island’s picture perfect blue lagoon. Established in 1976 by Polish immigrant Baron George Van Dangle, the huge thatched hut with its sand floor and coconut-stump stools has a menu of freshly-caught fish described to diners in several different languages.   An impressive roster of celebrities, immortalised on two boards at the entrance, have helped make Bloody Mary’s an integral part of the Bora Bora Experience.   On lush and beautiful Moorea, just half an hour by ferry from Tahiti, a road that hugs the coast is flanked by resorts, hotels and tiny communities offering everything guests need. Some restaurants are located in truly stunning locations where visitors can dine while soaking up million-dollar views. 5. You'll never find more luxurious dwellings [caption id="attachment_850" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Arriving on the Four Seasons transfer boat from the airport[/caption] Bora Bora – The Pearl of The Pacific – is undoubtedly the most famous of Tahiti’s Society Island sand deservedly considered one of the most romantic islands in the world. This breathtakingly beautiful island is located just a short 50-minute flight from the main island of Tahiti. Luxurious overwater bungalows, which have become synonymous with Bora Bora, ring the luminous blue lagoon offering the ultimate in indulgence. [caption id="attachment_854" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora at sunset[/caption] Designed in Polynesian style, the bungalows feature an outstanding level of comfort in a picturesque setting, with special glass panels offering a view to the lagoon floor. The bungalows also provide an ideal platform to watch an unforgettable Polynesian sunset or enjoy an intimate stargazing experience unlike any other. [caption id="attachment_855" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora with Mt Otemanu in the background[/caption] Details Getting There Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand both fly twice weekly via Auckland to Tahiti. Staying There For  most luxurious and comfortable stay, stay with Elegant Resorts and Villas. More Information For more information on Tahiti and Her Islands, visit the Tahiti Tourisme website.
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Five Southern California hot spots locals want to keep a secret
If you’re looking for a true taste of the golden-tinged, palm-fringed good life, it’s hard to beat Southern California. Here, you’ll discover perfect stretches of coastline, unique cuisine, an incredible range of cultural attractions and influences, non-stop nightlife and – most importantly – the intangible, laidback SoCal vibe that imbues this sought-after, sunbathed region with a special kind of magic. Let the good times roll. [caption id="attachment_40758" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Time to tick surfing off your bucket list in So Cal[/caption] Witness West Hollywood’s cool factor Ironically, the best way to tap into true LA-style cool is to technically leave it – heading instead to West Hollywood, a tiny (approximately five square-kilometres) city perfectly located in the heart of Los Angeles. Founded in 1984 to protect its unique social fabric (think LGBTQ activists, senior citizens and Russian immigrants), West Hollywood’s compact nature and status as ‘most walkable city in California’ mean there’s something cool around every corner. What you can't miss... West Hollywood’s original cultural eclecticism pulsates through today’s lively scene of Instagrammable rooftop bars (don’t miss the SkyBar at the Mondrian LA), mash-up clubs (think ‘opium den vibe meets karaoke lounge’ at Blind Dragon, or ‘retro jazz club meets intimate restaurant’ at The Nice Guy), and super-chic boutiques.   The Design District boasts luxe retailers, concept stores, art galleries and world-class restaurants and bars (E.P & L.P is an Aussie-owned hot-to-trot-spot, dishing up modern Asian dishes against a backdrop of neon signage and rooftop views). Meanwhile, recent hotel openings and refurbs – the new, sleek and glamorous La Peer; Le Montrose Suite Hotel, set for a 2018 rebranding to Montrose West Hollywood; or The Jeremy West Hollywood’s eco-luxe reinvention as 1 West Hollywood – are also keeping things cutting-edge. [caption id="attachment_40757" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Kick your feet up in the shinshine by the ocean[/caption] Ride the Huntington Beach wave Surf City USA™ is calling, and you’d be mad not to answer. Huntington Beach is the place to tap into SoCal’s famously chilled surf culture, with a reliably sunny outlook and a host of ways to get your beach fix along this stunning stretch of coastline.   Hit the picturesque pier and Main Street for retro-chic mementos, or flex the credit card at one of the excellent shopping hubs offering everything from vintage to high-street fashion (try Pacific City, which also hosts artisanal markets and pop-up events). Nature-lovers can lose themselves in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which has eight kilometres of walking trails from which to spot its almost 200 regular bird species, and another 116 species that use the wetlands as a migration stopover. What you can't miss... Huntington Beach also offers up a feast for foodies, including the weekly Surf City Nights Farmers’ Market showcasing the freshest fruits of the local land (not to mention a weekly night fair). Indulge in fresh ocean delicacies at Ways & Means Oyster House; try the famed lobster rolls at Slapfish; or kick back with cocktails and ocean views at The Bungalow. Of course, the simplest things are often the best – think toasted marshmallows over a beach bonfire to make your own s’mores, as the sun sets on another perfect day by the Pacific Ocean. Get more animated at Disneyland Resort Sure, it’s established itself firmly as the Happiest Place on Earth. Now Disneyland Resort is bringing some of the most-loved animated characters of modern times to join the fun. Starting 13 April 2018 until 3 September 2018, Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure Park will play host to Pixar Fest, a celebration of all things Pixar – think Woody and co. from Toy Story; the loveable ruffians of Monsters Inc., and the accidental adventurers of Up.   Mum and dad, rest assured – you may have had these movies on repeat at home, but this is an entirely new experience! Pixar Fest helps celebrate the beauty of friendship – central to each of these films – in true Disney fashion. Don’t miss the new ‘Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular’ and the ‘Paint the Night Parade’.   Don’t fret if you aren’t here for the festival dates – you can still get your Pixar fix long after 3 September. The former Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure Park will get a brand new look as the new and permanent Pixar Pier; four new Pixar-themed neighbourhoods are filled with characters from Inside Out and Toy Story; plus, our favourite superhero family is making California Screamin’ more incredible with the high-speed action of the Incredicoaster!   Pixar Pier opens 23 June 2018 and adds to existing Pixar attractions and entertainment available throughout Disneyland Resort, including Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland Park, and the five-hectare Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park.  Did someone say ‘non-stop fun’? [caption id="attachment_40756" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Palm springs is more than palm trees and model 's by the pool[/caption] Lose yourself in Greater Palm Springs It’s one of those places you feel like you’ve been, if only in your dreams: those iconic palm trees, perfect pools populated by margarita-sipping glamazons, and achingly cool mid-century modern architecture.   A visit to Greater Palm Springs brings all this to life, and more. It may flood social media feeds each April when the celebs, boho-beauties and bands of the moment hit the Coachella music festival, but with nine desert resort cities in the region – from Palm Springs itself to the old-world charm of La Quinta; and the authentic Mexican cuisine of Coachella, to the wellness retreats built around natural hot springs in Desert Hot Springs – there’s a lot more to this chilled-out destination. What you can't miss... The dramatic desert landscapes and mountainous scenery play host to stunning weather. With 350 days of sunshine a year, Greater Palm Springs couldn’t be better for getting out and exploring – whether that means teeing off on one of the destination’s 120 picture-perfect golf courses, immersing yourself in the Palm Springs Art Museum, or taking a day trip to the world-famous Joshua Tree National Park. This oasis in the desert is all about getting off-grid and indulging your heart’s desires in an extraordinary setting. San Diego – something for everyone Its reputation as ‘America’s Finest City’ is a major hint: San Diego’s like that charming, funny all-rounder from high school who was good at everything from art, to history, to sports (and probably a whiz in the kitchen, too). This city’s got it all going on.   Families can knock themselves out across an enviable range of attractions: from the world-unto-itself of Balboa Park (host to the San Diego Zoo, Air and Space Museum, and Natural History Museum amidst other cultural centres, all set amongst beautiful gardens) to SeaWorld, where the new Ocean Explorer realm features four new rides and new animal encounters alongside the park’s renowned roster of exhibits and performances. What you can't miss... Foodies will be scrambling to get around the smorgasbord of incredible food on offer here. There’s the dozens of farmers’ markets and global cuisine markets (from Korean to Middle Eastern to Mexican), to San Diego’s signature Cali-Baja cuisine (try Galaxy Taco for gourmet inventiveness in laidback taco format), and high-end dining with a laidback vibe (Herb & Wood, George’s at the Cove). Then, of course, there’s the surf, the spa scene, nine amazing arts districts, the shopping… is there anything this city can’t do?
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