Sure, you love Fairfield. Who doesn’t? But sometimes you still want to stretch your legs and take in a new vista. To help you figure out where to go, we asked travel-savvy Fairfielders to pick a few hot spots (and added a few of our own). We discovered trips that are sure to satisfy your cravings for heart-racing adventure, mouthwatering cuisine, mind-enriching arts, hand-waving partying and a soul-soothing break from it all. Grab your keys or pack your passport—it’s time to make a getaway!
Rincon, Puerto Rico
Pack fast-drying shorts, a t-shirt, athletic shoes, and suntan lotion.
It’s in the United States, it’s only four hours by air from New York—and it feels like a world away from Fairfield. Rincon, Puerto Rico, on the west side of the island, is an adventure-lover’s paradise. From caving to ziplining, surfing to hiking through the rain forest, there’s hardly a heart-pounding activity that can’t be found here. On the coast of Rincon, the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea, and that mishmash of water makes for an incredible collection of water sports. When the winds are up, the surfing is among the best around. When the water is calm, adventurers take to snorkeling, paddle boarding, parasailing and kayaking.
Justine and Chris Fellows, of Fairfield, tried a little bit of everything when they and their two daughters explored Rincon last year. The fun-loving family set the tone for their trip by downloading an Amazing Race travel kit based on the TV adventure show of the same name. “We reenacted the show with different clues each day,” Justine says. “There were envelopes with clues and everything.” They started by asking crew members on their Jet Blue flight to give the girls their first clue, and by the time the family returned home they’d had a season’s worth of fun. “We went ziplining, snorkeling in the mangroves and my daughter did her first scuba,” Justine says.
They also explored the tropical rain forest, the Batey del Cemí, about two hours from Rincon. Adventure companies offer all sorts of eco-tours, from mountain biking to rappelling to exploring the beautifully creepy bioluminescent bay by kayak at night. At Sandy Beach, the water’s so warm surfers don’t need a wet suit. One note about Rincon–the elements often make the waves either perfect for surfing or for snorkeling, rarely both. If you have time and flexibility and don’t have to reserve a tour in advance, ask the locals how they plan to spend the day in the water and do the same.
If you’d rather be in a boat than in the water itself, there are few places better than Rincon for deep-sea fishing. ESPN called western Puerto Rico the third best place in the world to catch blue marlin, and wahoo and Mahimahi are not far behind. When too much adventure gets the best of you, kick back on a sunset cruise, order up a rum punch and watch the dolphins and sea turtles frolic around your boat.
All this and you don’t need a passport, there are good flight options for getting there, and English is widely spoken. The main tourism spots are along the north shore from San Juan going east and wrapping around to the southeast end, where Vieques is just offshore. Rincon is off the beaten path, which has its own appeal.
Northern India and Nepal
Indulge your big romantic and channel your inner big-game hunter.
Adventurers, treasure-hunters and explorers, fly in to Delhi, where just maneuvering your way around the city is an adventure. Rickshaws, pedicabs, taxis and tour buses dodge monkeys and motorcycles through labyrinths of narrow streets. Once you explore the elaborate mosques, museums and bazaars, make your way to the Taj Mahal in Agra. The train ride takes about three hours (reserve your ticket before you even get to India and spring for first class). If you’re driving, get a guide rather than trying to navigate some bone-crunching route on your own.
Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal, a huge and beautiful white marble mausoleum, built as a resting place for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. It is possible to explore this perfectly symmetrical monument to love and testament to grief without having to share the place with more than 10,000 visitors a day. Arrive at sunrise, before the buses arrive. Explore the gardens and the reflecting pools and the verses from the Koran, inlaid in onyx. Hightail it out of there by 7:30 a.m. to avoid the throngs, but return before the sun sets. The place will be thick with visitors but the setting sun’s light and shadows underscore the passion of the grief-stricken Shah.
Next, search for big cats. India has the most Bengal tigers in the world. Three options: Safari through Bandhavgarh National Park, which includes jungles, hills, forests and meadows that are home to all types of cats, including cheetahs and leopards, as well as hyenas, wolves, birds and more; journey through Ranthambore National Park, where tigers roam through the jungles; or safari through Kanha National Park, the famous game sanctuary immortalized by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Channel your inner big game hunter and stay overnight in a luxury tent.
Then head for Nepal and its largest city, Kathmandu. This is the launching spot for incredible trekking, climbing and mountain- biking adventures on one of the highest mountains on earth. Romp through rhododendron forests and hot springs. Scale the terraced mountainscape. Explore rural villages, glaciers and waterfalls. You don’t need to hoof it, either. Many adventurers opt for whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and paragliding.
Pacific Northwest and Vancouver
Keep it real with market strolls and fresh artisan menu choices.
Local and sustainable eating might be the latest buzz phrases in the foodie world, but in the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver locavores have been eating and buying seasonable fare since before there was even such a term for lifestyle. More than 500 food carts in dozens of “Pods” throughout Portland, Oregon, offer international dishes. Seattle’s Pike Place Market serves up everything from farm food to gourmet goodies nearly around the clock. And foodie tours abound in Vancouver, featuring farm-to-fork, sea-to-fork and vineyard-to-glass goodness.
Portland’s temperate climate, lively farmers’ markets and urban vibe make the northwestern city an attractive landing spot for adventurous chefs. Foodies from everywhere have taken notice, filling up on fine fare without the stuffy pretentiousness. Whether it’s tamales in banana leaves from La Jarochita; fried noodles with pork, mixed vegetables and a fried egg from Samurai Bento; or puffy, smoky pizza topped with clams and greens and cooked in a wood-fired oven from Tastebud, food from carts and market stands is arguably the best in the country. When you’re ready for a break, head to Paley’s Place for organic and sustainable gourmet fare. Just be sure to reserve a table before you get there.
It’s about a three-hour drive from Portland to Seattle, where locals have been shopping at Pike Place Market since 1907. Back then, farmers brought over goods by the wagonful and locals came to buy it fresh. These days, more than eighty-five farmers fill nine acres, alongside microbrewers and sixty-one restaurants. It’s tough to single out a favorite.
Next, make your way to British Columbia. Board the Amtrak train or hop a ferry, seaplane, or high-speed catamaran to Victoria, an old city restored to its nineteenth-century charm. Then head to Vancouver for gustatory gifts from the sea, farms and vineyards. A must: Edible Canada at the Market’s Granville Island Market Tour—Alberta bison meatballs, octopus, pork plates from local farms with heritage breeds. Perfect accompanied by local Syrahs and chardonnays. Or try Edible Canada’s Gourmet Kayaking Weekend; you’ll paddle through the Gulf Islands, enjoy fine wine and gourmet food and top off the evening with Bourbon Marshmallow S’mores.
Read about all 10 destinations in the May/June 2013 issue of Fairfield Living magazine.