[CORSICA, FRANCE] — Smack in the middle of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea are two big islands, Sardinia and Corsica. Almost like twins, ripped apart, both jut out of the sea like breeching whales, with huge mountains in the middle and some of the best beaches in all of Europe, if not the world, ringing their rocking shores. Corsica is a magical adventure land, with an infinite amount of sporty things to do. Hiking. Climbing. Canyoning. Snorkeling. Sailing. Boating. Or just sit on the beach. The middle is spiked with enormous shark-toothed mountains, some as high as the Alps, often dotted with snow year-round. It’s only 200km long, but with a wild spread of geography that would rival entire countries 100x its size. And we’re talking
[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — It’s 3pm, the day after Christmas. It’s 82 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze gently flapping the white canvas awnings, fanning the cool shade underneath. The place is packed, everyone’s knee-to-knee. Cool pitchers of Clerico — the local Uruguayan version of a white sangria — are flowing past above the heads of the crowd, headed toward an antsy, thirsty table. There’s a DJ tucked in the back, but affecting moods in the front; like the breeze, causing everyone to gently sway along with him in a cool, mellow vibe. The smell of woodsmoke wafts out onto the beach. The best smell there is. Large wood cutting boards burdened with a grilled whole smiling fish swim by, browned at the edges, flaky
[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — Another great hotel in Cascais, is the Villa Italia, just outside of the town, and right along the rock coast. Within walking distance, it is a perfect location to serve as your base of operations for exploration all along the Lisbon coast. For some reason unbeknownst to me, they upgraded me…and not to just a suite, but the entire $3,000/night penthouse! A two bedroom, several thousand sf sprawling series of rooms at the top of the hotel, with it’s own hot tub overlooking the pool, ocean and the coming and going boats. Thank you! Everyone was supremely nice and amazingly helpful and attentive. The pool is what makes the whole hotel. The perfect place to come back for a post-hike/post-beach dip
[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — About a half-hour outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great little beach town along the coast and the perfect base to explore the entire Lisbon coast. You can rent a car or the commuter train from Lisbon can drop you right smack in the middle of the town and the beach. It’s not the most picture-perfect place — a lot of English pubs and shops selling tat catering to package tours from England — but certainly has many charms. The best of which is its location, easy to ride a bike or taxi out to the killer Guincho beach or shoot up to Sintra, about 40 minutes away in the inland mountains. the in-town beaches aren’t the best, more convenient than pretty, but
(Trancoso, Brazil) — Bahia is where it’s at. Miles and miles of the most amazing beaches you’ve ever seen. Not clogged with people, just pristine sand, amazingly green water and lots and lots of perfect strolling. Trancoso is in the center of it all. You should go here. I’m not the only one. Check out these great articles from Conde Nast Traveler (which ranked it in the 15 Best Places to See Now, Vogue and Travel & Leisure for details.
(Trancoso, Brazil) — This really is a great hotel, but also one of the most expensive. You can get a bungalow by the beach (but not really on the beach) or they have nice rooms set farther back in the property. (check out the aerial view below). For about half the money, I’d recommend the regular rooms, each part of a four suite out buildings. Rooms are spotless, well designed and comfortable. All are open shuttered, so a mosquito net is a must, lest you get eaten alive. I had an unusual swarm of junebugs hit a couple of nights, sounds like pounding hail on the bathroom windows, with thousands trying crawl through the cracks. Turn the light off, the faucet roar stops, turn it
[POSITANO, ITALY] — This is my second favorite place in Positano. It’s a hoof to get down the steps from the main road, but when you’re there, you are just clinging to the side of the cliff. It really doesn’t suck. Very nice people, exceptional rooms. Can’t go wrong. Expensive, but worth every penny, especially if you splurge for one of the rooms that has this shower overlooking the sea. It’s a great hotel with super sweet people that run it and that combination is why even all the barking dogs on TripAdvisor rank this puppy 5 out of 5 stars. You know you’re doing something right when you have a four star hotel pulling down five stars. Albergo MiraMare website
(Costa Smeralda, Sardinia) — You won’t hear much about the Hotel Pitrizza, but a few people have. As part of a trio of Luxury Collection hotels scattered around the tip of Costa Smeralda development, it might be the most exclusive. With just a handful of rooms, extremely understated architecture and extremely private bungalows, it’s long been a secret hideaway from celebrities and titans, far from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. But its “rustic simplicity” design was intended from the start to blend in to the natural beauty of the Costa Smeralda, small bungalows built of rock, with low-slung landscaped roofs that make the view from every room unobstructed. Its a really cool visual trick and add even more to the privacy and seclusion. It
Porto Cervo, Sardinia) — The Hotel Cala di Volpe is consistently voted one of the world’s top-rated (and most expensive) hotels. Incredible architecture, great restaurants and incomparable people watching. When you see pics of stars on vacation in Sardinia, they are usually staying here. It’s a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel, so you know it’s good. Great beach that a launch takes you to around the bay. The waters and beaches of Sardinia are the best Italy….none of those pebble-strewn beaches, pure, pure sand, ice blue water…you can see clear to the bottom. The architecture is really something unusual: James Bond meets Planet of the Apes. Kindofa Arcosanti in the sand. They actually filmed a James Bond movie here.