I have so many places on my travel wish list that I often find myself having difficulty deciding where I should go next. I am constantly asking myself “Which will have more wildlife?” “Which will be most cost effective?” “Which will be most convenient?” “Which will be most ‘me’?” If you are in this same situation and are looking to head towards a tropical paradise, then you have come to the right place! This post is designed to help readers decide which tropical paradise will be the best fit for the vacation they are hoping for. No worries, whether you are looking for a peaceful getaway, an adventurous trek or want to land somewhere in the middle, there is something for everyone.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
‘Pros’ of visiting Tamarindo
Tamarindo, Costa Rica is convenient for vacationers traveling from the U.S. and is cost effective in terms of airfare. You can fly from most major cities in the United States to San Jose, Costa Rica for around $300.00. You can then fly from San Jose to Tamarindo for about $50.00. Other options are to take a private shuttle (Greyline or Interbus) or take the public bus from San Jose to Tamarindo. Flying is is the most cost effective and quickest mode to get to Tamarindo, however, when I visited I opted to take a private shuttle which took around 5 hours.
In Tamarindo you will have the opportunity to see leatherback sea turtles nesting at Playa Grande. Leatherback sea turtles are the worlds largest sea turtle and Play Grande is apparently ‘the place’ to see them.
Other ‘pros’ to visiting Tamarindo include:
Surfing- I surfed on the main beach. It is a good place for beginners who are hoping to learn. Since I’ve surfed before, I just rented a board from a guy on the beach for pretty cheap, but there are plenty of surf shops if you want to get lessons.
Visiting Nicaragua- My friend and I were able to take a day tour to Nicaragua while in Tamarindo. We were picked up directly from our hostel at 4am and went on an all inclusive tour for the day.
Proximity/accessibility to the rainforest & volcano- The same buses/shuttles mentioned above can take you to the rainforest. We visited the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna where we trekked through the rainforest to see the volcano, hiked to a waterfall and zip-lined through the rainforest canopy. Zip-lining was terrifying and amazing at the same time. We opted to stay in La Fortuna for a few days so that we could have both the beach and rainforest experience. We were even able to see some monkeys, a sloth and a tarantula on one of our hikes!
‘Cons’ of visiting Tamarindo
Although getting to Tamarindo is relatively inexpensive, Costa Rica is quite expensive. Meals, excursions and accommodations do add up. I remember being unpleasantly surprised at the end of my trip when I checked my bank statements.
Tamarindo can get very touristy. This offers visitors lots of options for tours and excursions, but if you are looking for a more pristine, local feel where you can walk out the door and feel as though you are immersed in the culture, then this is not the place for you.
The water in Tamarindo cannot compete. The water is not as clear, not as blue and not as warm in Tamarindo compared to the other vacation spots on this list. Also, the snorkeling was a bust. We saw one starfish and that is about it. Not to mention, the water was freezing!
‘Pros’ of visiting Oahu
This one is pretty self explanatory, but is still worth mentioning. Hawaii is a part of the United States so you don’t need a passport, the US Dollar is the currency and English is the primary language spoken. This makes it much easier to get around the island.
The water! The water! The water! The water on Oahu is a dazzling, clear blue. It is also nice and warm which makes Oahu a great place to swim and participate in water sports. I went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay State Park and I would highly recommend it. The snorkeling was amazing! There is a magnificent reef that has plenty of fish and sea turtles to swim with. It costs $7.50 to enter the park and you can ride the public bus for only $2.50. The trip lasts around 45 minutes from Honolulu, but it is worth it for the inexpensive fare (a shuttle is offered through the park, but is much more expensive). Snorkel gear can be rented from the state park for $20.00, but you should check to see if your hostel/hotel has some gear they can loan you or bring your own mask and snorkel from home. Note: The park is closed on Tuesdays. Check out Hanauma Bay State Park’s website for more information.
Surfing, scuba diving and Kayaking are all offered on Oahu. I learned to surf here and I’ve done it ever since. I did not scuba dive while I was in Hawaii because I was not yet certified. However, I have heard great things and would like to go back and dive there. I went kayaking to the renowned Mokulua Islands with a group through our hostel, but you could rent kayaks and go on your own. The kayaking trip was incredible. We kayaked alongside sea turtles and got to swim in Queen’s Bath on the island. I would definitely do this kayaking trip again if I was given the chance. Note: This kayaking trip would be okay for beginners; I had never kayaked before this day.
There are so many beautiful beaches on Oahu. We took a day tour to different beaches with our hostel and then rented a jeep and drove around the whole island ourselves. We visited Lanikai Beach, Sunset Beach and Kualoa Regional Park to name a few. Check out this site to learn about all of the awesome beaches on Oahu.
‘Cons’ of Visiting Oahu:
It’s far and it’s expensive, plain and simple.
It is a looong flight to Hawaii especially if you are traveling from the Eastern part of the United States or Europe. This means you risk the possibility of jet lag. I wasn’t too jet lagged during my trip, however I did fall asleep every night at about 9pm. Further, Hawaii may not be the right destination for you if you only have a few days set aside for vacation as it takes quite some time to travel there. You might not want to waste 2 full days of your coveted vacation on planes and in airports.
Another drawback of Hawaii is how expensive everything is. Food, drinks, excursions, however there are some ways to avoid spending too much. We were able to use the public bus system, eat peanut butter and jelly and make friends with some locals who were willing to take us around.
Oahu can also be quite touristy. So be prepared to almost always have other vacationers around.
‘Pros’of visiting Boracay, Philippines
Boracay is an international tourist destination and thus has a pretty happening party life. So if you are looking to go out to bars and clubs that are steps from the beach, then look no farther.
Boracay is pretty inexpensive once you get there. We were able to rent a private “sail boat” to sail us around the entire island. This was arguably my favorite activity of the whole trip. We also signed up for an all inclusive day trip to a private island. This included all of the food/drinks that we wanted and the island had kayaks, snorkeling gear and a place to cliff jump.
I heard that the scuba diving in Boracay was awesome from my traveling companions. Unfortunately, I was too ill to join them. Although I don’t have a first hand recommendation about diving in Boracay, my friends are pretty legit and I trust their good reviews.
The water and beaches in Boracay are beautiful!
‘Cons’ of visiting Boracay, Philippines
Although I listed the ‘party life’ has a pro to visiting Boracay, I want to mention that I would consider this a con as well. The island is very touristy and partying has become a main focus of the tourist industry there. Personally, I prefer a more peaceful or adventure focused vacation versus a vacation full of partying.
I got water/food poisoning when vacationing in Boracay. This is not a reason to cross Boracay off the list, however, this is a reason to take caution when eating and drinking on the island. I believe that I became ill after eating fried ice cream from a street vendor…so don’t do that.
Boracay is a long way from home…be prepared for possible jet lag. We flew into Manila, then on to Kalibo for about $50.00. From Kalibo we took a bus to Caticlan then took the banca boat to Boracay Island. If you are traveling from the US or Europe, you will want to make sure you have enough time to spend on the actual island versus traveling. Note: Before traveling from the U.S. make sure that your passport does not expire within the next 6 months or you may not be able to enter the country. This happened to one of my traveling companions. Her passport was NOT expired, but would expire within 6 months and she was not allowed to board the plane.
Tofo Beach, Mozambique
‘Pros’ of visiting Tofo Beach, Mozambique
WHALE SHARKS. I swam with whale sharks! This was probably the best thing I have gotten to do while traveling. Enough said.
The scuba diving in Tofo is great. I saw some wildlife that I have never seen before while diving. I liked it so much that I changed my plans and dove twice during our short trip. Although I didn’t see any, Manta Rays are known to be seen while diving in Tofo. The water is warm enough to swim in, but it is not bath water hot like other tropical destinations.
Tofo is not super touristy and I like it. The beaches were not too crowded and we were able to make friends with the locals.
‘Cons’ of visiting Tofo Beach, Mozambique
While the beach in Tofo is beautiful, it is not as stunning as some of the other beaches on this list. The sand is not as white and the water is not as clear blue.
Tofo Beach is a small town. It was not easy to get everything that we needed while in Tofo. We were not able to walk down to the local supermarket and pick up things that we had forgotten. So when traveling to Tofo be prepared.
You need a tourist visa to enter Mozambique. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. You also need to provide proof of accommodation and a round trip ticket. The United States recommends that tourists obtain a visa prior to their trip to Mozambique, however Mozambique Immigration may issue tourist visas at country points of entry. I did not get my visa ahead of time. It was approved at the airport when we landed in Mozambique, however it seems like applying ahead of time would be the best decision.
Tumon Beach, Guam, USA
‘Pros’ of visiting Guam
Guam is a U.S. Territory so English is the official language and the U.S. Dollar is the official currency. Although Guam is a U.S. Territory, it has a unique culture that not many people know about. When you travel to Guam it is like being let in on a well kept secret because it is not a typical travel destination for most people (unless you are from Japan). Guam is a more regular tourist destination for people living in Japan. There are several large/fancy hotels on the island that cater towards the Japanese tourist industry.
Guam’s beaches are stunning. The water is clear, bright blue and extremely warm. Impressive coral reefs filled with marine wildlife are accessible from the shore, thus the snorkeling is AMAZING. The best part is that you don’t need a tour guide or a boat.
I learned to scuba dive in Guam. The diving here is unbelievable. Not only are there coral reefs to dive, but there is a Japanese war plane wreck and two ship wrecks ON TOP OF EACH OTHER from the two world wars. The best part is that you can dive without a wetsuit even at 85 ft. I was able to dive the war plane wreck and it was awesome.
‘Cons’ of visiting Guam
Guam is basically in the middle of nowhere. Well not nowhere, but it is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Many people do not even know where Guam is located. This being said, Guam is remote and expensive to travel to.
There is no comprehensive public transportation system. Don’t get me wrong…there are buses, but they are slow, unreliable and few and far between. Guam does have taxis, but they are expensive. The best bet is to rent a car when vacationing on Guam.