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Cayo Coco, an island just north of mainland Cuba, has some of the world’s most gorgeous beaches—think superfine white sand and shallow, clear water. It’s popular with European travelers seeking a sunny escape at one of the island’s beach-side resorts. Snorkeling and diving are fantastic.
Immortalized by Hemingway in “Islands in the Stream,” Cayo Guillermo is perched on Cuba’s north coast between the Bay of Dogs and the Atlantic. It is home to four all-inclusive resorts. Five miles of fine white sand and gorgeous, clear green waters, including the spectacular Playa Pilar, offer picture perfect sunning spots. Fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities beckon from more than six miles of coral reefs. Flamingos and many other birds live in its lagoons, forest and jungle.
Travelers come to this small island north of mainland Cuba to bask in the sun, swim in sparkling blue water, and be pampered at an all-inclusive resort. To explore Cuban culture, you’ll need to go farther afield (this is a planned resort development; employees are bused in), but if you’re simply looking for a stress-free tropical break, Cayo Santa Maria might be perfect for you.
Sharing its warm, lapping waters with its Gold Coast neighbors Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, Pompano Beach lives up to the promise in its name; miles of beach along the temperate Gulf Stream await the sun-thirsty traveler. Overhead Goodyear's Spirit of Innovation blimp patrols the blue skies. The surrounding area is home to enough links courses to keep an intrepid golfer very busy for weeks. Miami and Gold Coast attractions, sports and entertainment are all within easy access.
It’s not just for spring-breakers. Cancun, with its golden beaches and perfect climate, is the premiere coastal destination in Mexico. And while there is certainly a 365-day party available for college students, resorts cater well to families and to those seeking solitude. This Yucatan paradise is also the gateway to the ruins of Tulum and Chichén Itzá.
The Dominican Republic lies in the same waters as Cuba and Puerto Rico, taking up the eastern two-thirds of the island it shares with Haiti. Offering a lush interior with a mix of caves, Victorian gingerbread houses and the lore of pirates, plus 900 miles of coastline along its brim, island highlights include riding a cable car up Mount Isabel de Torres and basking on stunning Saona Island. Oh, and did we mention the D.R. is family-friendly, has just about perfect weather and is affordable?
Whistler, British Columbia, is a short trip from Vancouver by road or air. The stunning landscape, pedestrian-only Village and genuine, down-to-earth mountain culture make Whistler an unforgettable year-round destination. Winters provide reliable snow for skiing, snowboarding and Nordic sports while golf, mountain biking and hiking fill the warmer months. Festivals, spas, restaurants and bars combine with endless outdoor activities to make Whistler the ultimate place to escape and unwind.
<p>Madeira is a Portuguese island in the Atlantic, west of the Mediterranean. Madeira has many visitors each year, and has some great landscapes, gardens, flowers, and sublime tropical climate. </p><p>Madeira has a number of beaches scattered around its coastline. Among the more notable of these is Calheta which is one of the top resorts in Madeira. This beach has golden sands, crystal clear waters, and a marina. The beach is also good for a variety of water sports such as canoeing and windsurfing. Alternatively, at Lido there is a large and small outdoor seawater swimming pool, which also has direct sea access. Ponta Gorda also has similar outdoor seawater pools. For golf fans Madeira Island also has a few golf courses. At Funchal there is the Palheiro Golf Course, while the Santo da Serra overlooks the bay of Machico. </p>
Strongly influenced by the tribal culture of the Guanches (the original inhabitants), Tenerife was conquered by the Spanish 500 years ago. It's home to Mount Teide, Spain's tallest peak, and to the popular beach resort of Los Gigantes. Today visitors flock to Loro Park to see tropical birds, to Tenerife Zoo Monkey Park and to Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide's volcanic rock formations. Explore by car or with a "bono bus" ticket, which offers reductions on regular prices.
Welcoming, tolerant Gran Canaria offers a little something for everyone. Families flock to the water parks and beaches of Puerto Rico. Those seeking peaceful escape scamper to Mogan's quiet fishing villages. Gay visitors crowd the bars, restaurants and beaches of Playa del Ingles. Urban attractions are on offer in Las Palmas. Three highways open up the island for those with a rental car or a bus schedule. Prime sites to visit include Iglesia de San Juan Bautista de Arucas and Palmalitos zoo park.
The sun-drenched Canary Islands lie close to North Africa and have an exotic flavour of their own. Hundreds of volcanoes, rolling sand dunes, rich forests and rugged cliffs dapple these seven Atlantic gems. Catch a ferry to Lanzarote. Ride a camel through volcanic Timanfaya National Park. Take on Tenerife, home of Mount Teide, Spain's tallest peak. Romp Grand Canary's beaches or hike La Gomera's Garajonay National Park. More adventures await on tiny El Hierro, verdant La Palma and peaceful Fuerteventura.
If your kids are sick of the same old beach holiday you take every year, consider taking them to Lanzarote. There are great beaches, to be sure, but this UNESCO World Biosphere reserve has unique attractions and activities. We're talking camel rides on volcanoes (at Timanfaya National Park), or eating at a restaurant in a volcanic cave (at Jameos del Agua). Even the most jaded teens will be impressed.
The Algarve's sunny shores offer perfect escapes for all types, from those seeking the hot nightlife of flashy, energetic Lagos to those desiring secluded stays in rambling Sagres. Portugal's most southerly region offers historical attractions in former Moorish capital Silves and fascinating Tavira, great golf, fabulous beaches from Praia da Luz to Armacao de Pera, thermal springs at Caldas de Monchique, and miles of limestone caves and grottoes, cliffs and bays along its rugged coastline.