Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation. For some, it’s the opportunity to do nothing but relax, read a book, soak up some sun, and throw away the cares of the world. Others enjoy an on-the-go holiday, with enough fun and excitement to fill the hours from early morning until late at night. Others prefer a sightseeing trip, filled with history and culture.
Luckily, there are enough wonderful vacation destinations worldwide to satisfy every kind of traveler. Some destinations have developed a reputation for being the most fun, or the most relaxing, or even the most artsy and cultural. Many travel experts, magazines, and travel companies often compile lists of the world’s most popular vacation spots. While the lists may vary, several places consistently appear on the Top 10 lists. Peruse our list of vacation favorites to find the one that best fits your travel personality.
For many, the ultimate vacation is time spent relaxing on the sand with a sparkling blue sea stretched out before your eyes. Other beach-lovers can’t wait to jump on a surfboard, jet ski, boat, or any other sort of watercraft for a fun day in the sun. Regardless of why you go, beaches remain among the most-visited vacation destinations. Here are some of the favorites.
- St. Lucia – One of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is located at the midway point of this Eastern Caribbean chain, between Martinique and St. Vincent, and north of Barbados. This small island came to the attention of the world in the 1990s and its tourism industry has grown in leaps and bounds. However, it still maintains a wonderful small-island ambience. Bordered by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you’ll find everything here from golf courses to rainforests and plenty of beaches.
- Hawaii – The beaches in the 50th U.S. state are so plentiful that it’s hard to choose just one. Furthermore, Hawaii’s beaches are diverse; some are romantic, others are family-oriented, and still others are ideal for surfers. Among the most popular are famous Waikiki Beach and the North Shore beaches of Oahu, Ka’anapali or Lahaina Beaches on Maui, Honaunau Bay on the Big Island, and Poipu Beach on the Garden Isle of Kauai.
- Cancun – This eastern Mexican town on the Gulf of Mexico was created specifically for the tourism industry. Hand-picked by the Mexican president to increase tourism, development began in the 1970s and word quickly spread of this wonderful new Mexican paradise. Cancun is still widely popular 30 years later and attracts millions each year, arriving either by plane or cruise ship. Though some think Cancun is getting crowded, it’s still one of the highest rated beaches in the Northern Hemisphere.
If you’re more of a winter sports lover than a beachcomber, you’ll want to go where the snow is! The possibilities are many, from the Rockies of North America to the beautiful European Alps and beyond.
- Vail/Aspen, Colorado – These are two of the most popular ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies and have long been rivals in competing for the attention of skiers, especially the rich and famous. However, if these are too rich for your blood, try one of the other wonderful Rockies ski areas like Snowmass, Steamboat Springs, or Breckenridge.
- Whistler, British Columbia – Scheduled to be host to the skiing events at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Whistler and neighboring Blackcomb are phenomenal. With more than 200 trails and plenty of room for snowboarders and extreme skiers, this is a winter enthusiast’s dream. Add to it a quaint village and you’ve got the quintessential mountain resort.
- Chamonix, France and other alpine resorts – Chamonix is the most famous ski town in France and is especially ideal for advanced and expert skiers. The village is darling and the crowd international. For more varied levels of skiing, try Zermatt in Switzerland, Cortina in the Italian Dolomites, or The Arlberg in Austria.
Theme Park Vacations
For millions each year, vacation means a visit to one of the world’s great theme parks, or perhaps several at one time. Of course, one in particular stands out from the crowd.
- Walt Disney World, Florida – The most popular vacation destination in the world is this wonderful theme park/resort that all started with a mouse and one man’s vision to create a fantasy vacation world. Disney World really is the ideal vacation destination. Everything is at your fingertips, and from the time you arrive, there’s really no need to leave the complex. Aside from Disney’s four wonderful and diverse theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom), there are hotels for all budgets, incredible dining experiences, water sports, golf, shopping, and a myriad of other entertainment possibilities, including the fabulous Cirque du Soleil. Furthermore, everyone loves Disney World, from little ones to senior citizens. Many adults whose kids are grown return again and again, experiencing the park in different ways than they did with their children.
- Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure (California), Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Resort Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort – Disney fun isn’t just confined to Orlando, Florida. All the Disney resorts remain incredibly popular vacation spots and are ideal for all ages.
If beaches, mountains, and noisy theme parks aren’t your thing, perhaps you prefer a trip to a major city or other destination where you can enjoy a combination of activities. Here’s a list of some of the top picks.
- Las Vegas – One of the most-visited cities in the U.S., Las Vegas is a playground for adults who enjoy glitz, glamour, and gambling. The hotels are posh, the shows over-the-top, the shopping top-notch, and the gaming opportunities endless. When you get tired of the bright lights, you can make a side trip to nearby Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon.
- New York City – “The Big Apple” aka “The City that Never Sleeps” is another top vacation destination for city lovers. Head to Manhattan for the best in Broadway Theater, five-star restaurants, historic landmarks, and the most fascinating people in the world! Not for people who don’t enjoy crowds, NYC is one of the world’s most fascinating urban areas.
- Tuscany – Quickly climbing the charts as one of the world’s top holiday spots, the Tuscan region of Italy is known for its picturesque villages, fine wineries, excellent food, and friendly people. Bicycle tours are especially popular here. Or stay in a villa and take Italian cooking lessons from a trained chef. Bellissimo!
- New Zealand – Touted as even more beautiful than neighboring Australia, New Zealand is another one of those destinations where the tourism industry has grown in leaps and bounds throughout the last decade. Long recognized as an adventure vacation destination, visitors flock here for not only the incredible scenery but also to enjoy such pursuits as trekking, rafting, diving, and – of course – bungee jumping. The wonderful thing about New Zealand is that the weather’s nearly perfect year round, so you can visit any time.