There’s nothing that beats the thrill of discovery on vacation: The remote waterfall, the picturesque cobblestone street, or the hidden beach that feels like it’s all your own. When we stumbled upon these nine spots on our travels, we experienced the aha moment that comes when you find something truly special. We’ll admit that we’re not the first travelers to experience these beautiful places — but then Columbus didn’t really discover America, right? So go ahead: Take a peek at our favorite hidden spots, and find out where to stay to discover them for yourself.
Discover: Opaekaa Falls, Kauai, Hawaii
Cascading down into a hidden pool, this waterfall is easily one of the island’s most accessible major waterfalls. Located on a north branch of the Wailua River, Opaeka’a Falls is named for rolling shrimp that used to be present in the water. The falls can easily be seen from an overlook off of Kuamo’o Road — walk across the road from the lookout point and up the hill for another great vantage point.
At this 118-unit high-end family-friendly condo resort, the beautifully decorated one- and two-bedroom suites are among the most luxurious in Kauai. A family-friendly pool and full kitchens make The Outrigger Waipouli appealing to vacationers who value high-quality rooms in a quiet atmosphere.
Discover: Floyd’s Pelican Bar, Jamaica
This is as unique of an experience as it gets. You have to take a small boat to get to this rickety shack on the ocean, where you’ll be treated to fresh, tasty fish cooked in front of you over hot coals. And the name is no coincidence: You can spot pelicans diving into the water around the bar for their own meal.
Stay: Jake’s, South Coast
With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake’s is a member of Island Outpost, Jamaica’s trendiest hotel group. Guests come to unplug — there’s no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. The black-sand beaches aren’t Jamaica’s most impressive, but the Driftwood Spa, on-site painting and yoga classes, and excellent food make this a particular favorite.
Discover: Waimea Canyon, Kauai
The 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon is the largest canyon in the Pacific, and one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful natural wonders on any of the Hawaiian islands.
Stay: Whaler’s Cove, Kauai
If you like the beautiful views at Waimea Canyon State Park, you’ll love Whaler’s Cove, which offers stunning views of the Pacific from the balconies of all 39 of its luxury condo units. It’s a 50-minute drive away (but that’s about as close as you can stay).
Discover: 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, Dominican Republic
The beautiful Damajagua River is surrounded by lush jungle, and tours of the waterfalls begin with a hike to the river’s 7th, 12th, or 27th waterfall. The guides don’t always mention ahead of time that you can’t hike back: You’ll have to jump off, or slide down, each waterfall to return.
You can drive, or take a tour, to the Damajagua Falls from any resort in Puerto Plata, Sosua, or Cabarete. But we think these 11 eco-friendly bungalows make an appropriate home base for taking in the country’s natural wonders. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, daily yoga and Pilates classes, and a fabulous spa. It’s quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that’s the point.
Discover: Acorn Street, Boston
Okay, okay, we’re definitely not the first ones out of the gate here: Acorn Street is reputedly one of the most photographed streets in America. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s incredibly picturesque, and that strolling down it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
A 60-room hotel with exquisite service, a genteel but easy-going vibe, and a beautiful location in residential Beacon Hill, Fifteen Beacon blends historic New England elegance with modern, minimalist design and hi-tech amenities. It’s within easy walking distance of Acorn Street, and the neighborhood’s other charming spots.
Discover: Alto Vista Chapel, Aruba
This quaint 1950s chapel in northern Aruba was built on the site of the country’s first Catholic church, dating to 1750. With its remote, cacti-covered landscape and backdrop of blue sea, it’s the perfect place for quiet contemplation.
A comfortable, modern getaway for families with a great pool, gym, spa, and casino, the Marriott Resort is fancier than its only neighbors, the Marriott Surf Club and the Marriott Ocean Club. It’s a bit farther from the action than most Aruban resorts, which means it’s closer to Aruba’s northern countryside, but a long walk away from reasonably priced food.
Discover: Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Arenal is Costa Rica’s most active volcano: Visitors can still view lava flows and minor tephra eruptions. Trails within the national park go through lava fields from prior eruptions, and the lush forests are rich with wildlife, including howler monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and parrots. Outside of the park, make sure not to miss out on the area’s numerous natural hot springs.
Arenal Kioro Suites and Spa takes full advantage of its natural setting: The rooms, restaurants, and pool all offer stunning views of Arenal Volcano. Big suites all come with large Jacuzzis and two terraces, and there are natural hot springs on-site in seven waterfall-connected pools.
Discover: Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica
This remote beach is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the world. It’s surrounded by dense foliage and low-hung vines, and the calm, shallow water is bath-water warm. The lush, mountainous setting makes it feel more exotic than other beaches in the Caribbean.
Stay: Geejam, Port Antonio
The Geejam is made up of only five private, high-tech cottages on the lush (rainy) foothills of Port Antonio. The setting is gorgeous, the service is extraordinary, and Frenchman’s Cove is only 10 minutes away. Quiet isolation it has; a pool, spa facilities, and direct beach access it does not.
Discover: Hana Highway, Maui
Hana Highway on Maui’s undeveloped Eastern Coast is the island’s most scenic drive, dotted with waterfalls, hidden beaches, and natural pools. It’s the perfect place to get lost among Maui’s natural wonders — but be careful not to get lost in the literal sense: The highway is notoriously difficult to navigate, with some 600 turns and 57 one-lane bridges.
Stay: Hotel Hana-Maui
To truly experience Maui’s lush, secluded east coast, consider staying at the Hotel Hana-Maui, which delivers rustic luxury overlooking Hana Bay. It offers incredible service, a top spa, excellent food, a long list of stuff to do, and only 77 rooms on acres of uncrowded property. The rooms are large, clean, sleekly furnished — and stripped of TVs, clocks, and radios.
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