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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, Annual Travel Guide  
Sleep When You're Dead

In the meantime, here are six action-packed escapes to keep you up and running

By Stephanie Gregory

Bitter End Yacht Club
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
PARADISE DEFINED: Staying here is like taking a sailing vacation without the cramped sleeping quarters. Set amid cactus and bougainvillea on a hilltop overlooking an eight-square-mile protected reef on Virgin Gorda's northeast side, the Bitter End is a party-by-night, get-out-on-the-water-by-day kind of place. Choose a beachfront villa with a wraparound veranda or a hillside suite with harbor views.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: On-site you'll find a fleet of more than 100 watercraft to play with: ocean kayaks, sailboards, motorized Boston Whaler dinghies, J-24 sailboats. The half-day sailing course will teach you enough to navigate a Rhodes 19 through the tiny islands and protected deepwater anchorages; you can also sign up for the three-and-a-half day intensive course.

FARTHER AFIELD: The Bitter End is accessible only by boat; a free shuttle takes you to Gun Creek, where the roads begin. From there, make the 1.5-mile hike up 1,500-foot Gorda Peak, where you can see clear to St. John and St. Thomas. Or rent a Freedom 30, crewed or not, for a multiday sail. Kilbrides Diving (800-932-4286) offers two-tank dives ($85) or a resort course ($95); the PADI certification course is $350 per person for a group of three or more.

PRICE: Doubles cost $400–$800 per night depending on the season, including all meals and unlimited use of the Club's fleet. Contact 800-872-2392; www.beyc.com.


Costa Azul Adventure Resort
PARADISE DEFINED: Thirty miles north of Puerto Vallarta, laid-back Costa Azul is long on charm, seclusion, and space, and short on all the annoyances—like bullhorn-blaring tour directors—you'd normally associate with an all-inclusive vacation. There are nine casitas, three condos, and 24 suites strung up a hillside overlooking the ocean, but we suggest the Villa Mar, a three-bedroom beach house with its own swimming pool.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: Take a snorkeling tour to the Marieta Islands, where you'll see blue-footed boobies above water and giant manta rays below. Or head out on a boat trip in search of humpback and gray whales (February to March), take surfing lessons, mountain bike along a gnarly singletrack route, or go horseback riding on the beach.

FARTHER AFIELD: Sign up at the front desk for a deep-sea fishing charter for wahoo, dorado, marlin, and tuna, or book a scuba lesson.

PRICE: Doubles are $75–$95 per night in 2000, $120–$160 in 2001 (room only). The adventure package costs $98 per person per night in 2000, $118–$136 in 2001, and includes an ocean-view suite (some have kitchen-ettes), all meals, and drinks, as well as guided hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, surfing, and sailing excursions. Villa Mar costs $300 per night, plus a daily activity fee of $80 per adult, $62 per child aged 6 to 10. Call 800-365-7613; www.costaazul.com.


Kona Village Resort
Big Island, Hawaii
PARADISE DEFINED: The 125 thatch-roofed hales on 82 acres of what was once an ancient fishing village take advantage of a long, deserted stretch of white-sand beach on the Big Island's Kona-Kohala Coast. There are no televisions, radios, clocks, or telephones—just kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, and outrigger canoeing to distract you.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: Black- and white-sand beaches and a bay full of reef fish, porpoises, and green sea turtles are steps away. Kids love the petroglyph tours of the carved volcanic rock on the site of the fishing village of Ka'upulehu. Check out the two new massage hales set atop the 1801 lava flow; and don't miss the island's longest-running luau.

FARTHER AFIELD: Cruise the Kohala Coast on a catamaran snorkeling tour, take a scuba lesson, charter a deep-sea fishing yacht, or arrange a helicopter tour, all available for an extra charge through the activities desk. Then go mountain biking along the Kohala Mountain Road (Hawaii 250) or do some hard-core hiking in the uninhabited Waimanu Valley.

PRICE: Hales cost $480–$825 per night for two, including all meals, airport transfers, and all tennis, volleyball, sailing, kayaking, and snorkeling as well as use of the sauna and fitness facilities. Call 800-367-5290; www.konavillage.com.


Mata Chica Beach Resort
Ambergris Caye, Belize
PARADISE DEFINED: Five miles up the coast of Ambergris Caye from San Pedro and accessible only by plane or boat, Mata Chica is a hip outpost created by refugees from L.A. and is endowed with natural wonders that can't be replicated in the Dreamworks backlot. Its 14 casitas sit on a beach with white sand so fine it's almost impossible to brush off—all the more reason to get off the beach towel and into the turquoise water.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: Swim, sun, and snorkel on the private beach shaded by coconut palms, or head out on one of the resort's kayaks or sailboards.

FARTHER AFIELD: Check out the Hol Chan Marine Reserve seven miles away, where you can swim with nurse sharks, stingrays, and groupers. Scuba dive in Belize's famed 412-foot-deep Blue Hole in the center of nearby Lighthouse Reef Atoll; take a river trip by motor skiff to nearby Mayan ruins; or go deep-sea fishing for marlin and sailfish.

PRICE: Casitas cost $145–$275 per night for two people. Luxury villas with two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and housekeeper are $390–$550 per night. Call 011-501-21-3010 or fax 011-501-21-3012; www.matachica.com.


Petit Byahaut
St. Vincent, The Grenadines
PARADISE DEFINED: Accessible only by water, Petit Byahaut is simultaneously high-end and rustic, offering five screened tents with roof decks on 56 acres, freshwater showers, solar reading lights, beachside hammocks, and healthy meals made with ingredients from the resort's garden.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: Sea kayak the coastline, scuba or snorkel amid sponges and coral, take the resort's Sunfish out for a sail, or explore the bat caves along the 120-foot cliffs on the north point of the bay.

FARTHER AFIELD: A short boat ride followed by a two-hour drive and a two-hour hike get you to the top of 4,000-foot La Soufrière volcano. Shorter hiking options include trips to Trinity and Baleine Falls or into St. Vincent's jungly 10,000-acre parrot reserve. Hop over to Bequia or the Tobago Cays on a chartered sailboat or cruising yacht.

PRICE: Five-night packages cost $1,950 per couple, including all meals, airport transfers, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Call 784-457-7008; www.outahere.com/petitbyahaut.


Club Med Turkoise
Turks and Caicos
PARADISE DEFINED: Be sure to pack your Palm Pilot. With activities scheduled from 8 a.m. to midnight, you're going to need to HotSync your travel partner's itinerary. Established back in 1984 as the first bona fide resort on Providenciales, the 70-acre property on stunning Grace Bay still offers some of the same old dated perks—like a-free-tequila-shot-for-every-Corona bar specials. But with everything but golf and diving included in the price, the resort remains a spectacular deal. Plus, with an international reputation as the Club Med chain's most sociable property—guests at other hotels on Provo actually buy passes to come here for the entertainment and nightlife—Turkoise is the spot to be.

OUT THE FRONT DOOR: Tennis, waterskiing, water aerobics, snorkeling, windsurfing, and catamaran sailing are all available on-site. Or you can sign up for the famous Circus Workshop and learn to swing from a trapeze.

FARTHER AFIELD: The resort offers scuba lessons, certification courses, and dive itineraries that include trips to swim with schooling eagle rays, sharks, and manta rays along the walls off West Caicos. There are also powerboat tours to the limestone caves of Middle Caicos and sailboat excursions to deserted beaches on the Provo cays.

PRICE: Doubles cost $1,000 to $1,500 per person for a seven-night stay, including all meals and accompanying beverages, and on-site sports. The minimum age is 18. Call 800-258-2633; www.clubmed.com.  End of story


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