The largest and least-visited nation in Central America begs to be explored in 2017. While broadening flight routes are opening Nicaragua up to the world, for now, the country’s gorgeous colonial cities and picture-perfect beaches remain some of the most unspoiled in the region.
For adventure travellers, Nicaragua offers the best of Central America for a fraction of the costs you’ll find in neighbouring countries. Sloth-spotting in dense rainforests, epic surfing trips, remote eco retreats and excursions to nineteen different volcanoes are just a few of the intrepid activities you’ll find in “Costa Rica without the crowds”.
Until now, many visitors have been kept at bay by Nicaragua’s reputation as dangerous – something that is simply no longer valid. The same travel precautions should be taken here as elsewhere in Central and South America, but you’ll generally find Nicaraguans to be overwhelmingly kind, hospitable and welcoming.
This country is so much more than the usual suspects: Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos. Try Copper Canyon instead, a larger and arguably more beautiful canyon than the Grand Canyon.
The southern jungles are loaded with Mayan temples. Colonial cities remain packed with pastel-coloured buildings and Spanish architecture. The food changes from state to state. Mexico City is cosmopolitan, European, and decidedly Latin.
And then there's Tulum. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the perennial spring breakers' favourite, Cancun, the Mexican town of Tulum has become a popular travel destination with celebrities and the fashion elite.
With white sands and beautifully clear waters, top-notch restaurants and beach clubs, and activities that range from swimming in stunning cenotes to visiting preserved Mayan ruins, it's clear to see why Tulum ends up on so many bucket lists.
While cashed-up honeymooners will always want to head to Bora Bora or Moorea, there's more to French Polynesia than those famously romantic – and famously expensive – locales. In 2017, set a course for the out-islands, to places like Rangiroa in the Tuamoto Islands, which is an almost-uninhabited paradise, or the Marquesas, where it's as much about adventure as romance.
If you're lucky enough to be in the main island of Tahiti at the right time, check out the Billabong Pro surf tournament at Teahupo'o, known as the world's "heaviest" wave.
Just make sure you take your Bora Bora travel bag!
With annual visitor numbers barely reaching a million, it’s safe to say the world has yet to discover Bolivia. Make 2017 the year you explore one of South America’s most overlooked destinations.
Trekking through the astounding biodiversity of the Bolivian Amazon, blazing through the surreal salt flats of Salar de Uyuni or climbing craggy mountains blanketed in snow – all these unforgettable experiences come crowdless and remarkably cheap.
October also marks fifty years since the death of national hero Che Guevara, whose last steps can be retraced along the “Che Trail”.But if there’s one thing not to miss in 2017, it’s the rising tide of La Paz’s wrestling Cholitas.
This is a movement through which Aboriginal women have taken back a once derogatory term in the name of self-empowerment, battling against gender roles, discrimination and male machismo one thespian match at a time.While on the whole you’ll find a renewed sense of vigour driven by growing national prosperity, keep in mind that Bolivia has faced some serious droughts as of late. It’s important to travel in as sustainable a way as possible, and there’s a plethora of eco-friendly initiatives to help minimise your footprint.
Clockwise from top left:
At Saint Luke we're all about capturing the holiday spirit to get you in the mood for rum in your glass and sand between your toes! As the nights start to draw in and the temperature drops, we've decided to share with you some of our favourite London based tropical rum bars to keep your spirits high and your whistles wet.
The Rum Kitchen is a Caribbean eatery that bends the rules. Focusing on Caribbean beach shack drinks with travel inspired flavours, these guys bring the Caribbean good life to London. Now with three locations in Notting Hill, Brixton and Carnaby Street - you're never far from a mojito. Their Notting Hill venue has just had a revamp with the downstairs basement club transformed into a cocktail lounge. They’ve also bumped up their rum collection to 200 rare bottles which has made the shortlist of trade mag Imbibe's Rum List of The Year.
Located down a little alleyway just off Deptford High Street, spread over two railway arches underneath the platforms of Deptford rail station, Buster Mantis is a small independent family business, whose owners have lived between Jamaica and London for the last 60 years. Buster Mantis takes its name from the first prime minister of Jamaica, Sir Alexander Bustamante, who was instrumental in establishing the country's independence. We can recommend the rum punch!
According to Burlock, their name originates from the prohibition era when Rum Runners used a twine and hemp packaging nicknamed "Burlock" to move their rum. Nowadays, it's the name given to this central London based shabby chic rum bar. Burlock is home to an eclectic mix of antique furniture, mismatched wallpaper, and several tattooed staff with their 200 different Caribbean rums behind the counter. It's an intimate place, with a Havana style barber shop in the corner, where you can sip your rum from a retro dryer chair.
All three Cottons bars are oozing in exotic and colourful Caribbean vibes, with tropical beach and jungle murals adorning the walls of two of the three venues. Their Camden branch is home to the biggest selection of rum in the UK with over 300 varieties to work your way through. It's all very no-fuss, with simple tin chairs, fairy lights and wooden floorboard walls. If it wasn't for the chilly London climate, you could believe you're pitched up in a road-side Caribbean booze shack.
This hidden tiki basement bar on Portobello Road is like walking into a 70s living room, with wood panel walls, patterned rugs and shabby curtains. With one of the best rum line ups in town, their cocktail list is outrageous and flamboyantly tiki — expect lots of umbrellas and drinks served in coconuts & pineapples.
1. Manebí Espadrilles, €85
2. Love Brand Stripey Swim Shorts, £110
3. Anderson's Woven Belt, £58
4. Taylor Morris Sunglasses, £150
5. Frescobol Carioca Beach Bats, £150
6. Clifton Fourth Panama Hat, £130
7. Saint Luke Tortola Bag, £125
(Nos 1, 2, 4 & 6 also available at by Rory Portobello pop up until end of July 2016)
1. Castaner Wedge Espadrilles, £114
2. Zozishine x DODO BAR OR Eye Ring, £28
3. Realisation Ozzie Dress, $170
4. Lucy Williams x Missoma Horn Necklace, £129
5. Kiini Crochet Bikini, £225
6. Eugenia Kim Beach Hat, £360
7. Saint Luke St Anton Bag, £125
(No. 2 is also available at by Rory Portobello pop up until end of July 2016)
We've teamed up with the awesome guys at i-escape to offer you the chance to win one of our St Ives short haul bags and a luxury beach escape at our favourite hotel in St Ives, the Boskerris. Perched on a hillside just above Carbis Bay's white-sand beach, the Boskerris is a contemporary, boutique hotel with a laid back Mediterranean style.
Perfectly located on the outskirts of the foodie hub of St Ives, this hotel has super stylish interiors and big views of ocean and headland. It’s a family affair – friendly, welcoming, a great little base. Best of all, the wide, decked terrace is dotted with cushion-piled sofas where you can sit back and gaze across the bay - and the whole place is infused with the famous Cornish light that has inspired generations of artists.
From the left, clockwise:
1. Maison Desillusion T-Shirt, €40
2. Saint Luke i-phone case, £20
3. Frescobol Carioca linen beach towel, £120
4. Orlebar Brown flip flops, £35
5. Smythson currency wallet, £185
6. Armor Lux Aviron striped t-shirt, £55
7. Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, £113
8. Paul Smith bracelet, £160
9. Jack Black sunscreen, £15.50
10. Paul Smith swimshorts, £95
11. Frescbol Carioca Trancoso beach bats, £150
12. Saint Luke Lucia travel-bag, £125
When we're planning trips, i-escape is one of our favourite guides to help us find the most exciting, beautiful and unusual places to stay all around the world.
This week, we were lucky enough to catch up with co-founder Laila Ram who shared her hot tips for the best places to visit in 2016...
I’ve been to Sri Lanka countless times and will never tire of exploring new unspoilt corners of this beautiful country. Brand new in December 2015, my top tip for nature lovers, yogis and anyone looking for a bit of peace and pampering is Tri, on the banks of Koggala Lake. This luxe eco retreat has top-notch yoga facilities, a fantastic spa and a truly stunning setting where monitors wallow in the lake and kingfishers swoop low over the water. It’s tranquil and refreshingly remote yet the beach is only 15 minutes away.
Small yet perfectly formed, Malta is surrounded by sparkling azure seas, pretty coves, sea pools and some of the best dive sites in Europe. On land there are historic spots aplenty to explore, from fortified towns to citadels built by the Knights of St John and spectacular prehistoric sites.
Stay at Valletta Vintage – an amazing townhouse conversion filled with classic furniture and a regularly changing selection of art by local talents. Each of the 3 bedrooms has a private roof terrace with jaw-dropping views across the bay and Fort St Elmos.
The lure of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is strong for many and a new wave of flights from London has made the hop to Iceland even easier. What better spot to wait expectantly for a light show than a glass-walled bar overlooking a rugged landscape of moss-covered lava fields, geysers and steaming rivers? Scandi-chic Ion Hotel has just that, as well as a sauna and an outdoor hot pool for soaking muscles tired from glacier hiking, ice climbing and rafting.
The beautiful beaches and clear blue seas of Greece have everlasting appeal, but if you want to escape the busy islands my top tip is the Peloponnese. There’s something for everyone here, from breath-taking gorges filled with pretty spring flowers, pine-backed sands, frescoed chapels, Byzantine cities and the ancient site of Olympia (where the Olympic Games were founded).
Hidden within a beachside olive grove, these pretty stone cottages are just a hop, skip and jump from the clear waters. Meals are a real treat – grilled meats and fish with aromatic herbs served at pretty tables under the olive trees.
New direct BA flights from Gatwick to San Jose start in May this year, meaning this Central American paradise will be reachable in just over 11 hours. Despite being only two-thirds the size of Scotland, a phenomenal amount of diversity is packed into this small area: rainforests, live volcanoes and beautiful stretches of yellow sand.
Nestled amongst all this natural beauty are some wonderfully chic small hotels, including The Harmony Hotel on the Nicoya Peninsula which has a fab 1950s Hawaiian resort feel. I love the modern rooms with their private patios and outdoor showers, the organic food and sunrise yoga on the 6km surf beach.
From the left, clockwise:
1. Mara Hoffman one piece, $226
2. Yosuzi Hat from Salt Resort Wear, £260
3. Sunnylife inflatable watermelon, $79.95 AUD
4. Sophie Anderson clutch bag, £225
5. Sensi Studio fringed minidress, $435
6. Marte Frisnes tassle bracelet, £250
7. Elina Linardaki pompom sandals, $265
8. Dodo Bar Or dress, £225
9. Mr Boho sunglasses, €69
10. SAINT LUKE Kitts bag, £125
In Panama's northeastern corner—a one-hour flight from either Panama City or San José in Costa Rica—is a sanctuary where the main mode of transportation is a wooden motorboat, dolphins swim through crystalline waters, and dockside restaurants serve the local fishermen’s catch of the day.
Super colourful and utterly Caribbean, this town of clapboard houses was built by the United Fruit Company back in the early 20th century. Today, Bocas del Toro is home to an eclectic community of West Indians, Latinos and resident gringos, with a friendly atmosphere that rubs off on all visitors. In fact, travellers to this island town have a reputation for cancelling future plans – it’s an easy place to get stuck and an even easier place to stay.
Bocas Town, the archipelago’s main village, is equal parts rickety and charming, with tin-roofed wooden houses converted into colorful boutiques, guesthouses, and restaurants. And while Bocas isn’t losing its ruggedness anytime soon, a new hotel is likely to redefine tourism there, so visit sooner than later.
If you're lucky enough to get there, here are a few recommendations from us:
Surfing the Islands of Bocas del Toro is truly a world-class experience. The Caribbean Sea offers warm, crystal blue-green water and swells that can be enjoyed whether you're a seasoned veterans or a total beginner. The key surfing season is from December to March, when storms deliver waves around 4-12 feet.
Bocas itself has a smaller wave season from May through July when smaller 3-8 feet waves can be enjoyed. Most of the breaks in the area are coral reefs but there are some beach breaks. The most accessible spots are on Isla Colon, Isla Carenero, and Isla Bastimentos. For the experienced and adventurous surfers, boat charters can be a great way to travel a few hours to breaks for a ride you won't forget. Many of these secret spots offer excellent waves with just you and your friends in the line up.
Quite an unusual resort, this ecolodge consists solely of 9 overwater bungalows stretched off a deserted section of the island, offering a pretty convincing alternative to those who want to stay in an overwater bungalow without having to go to Bora Bora.
A welcome break from the hectic party life of Bocas, it's secluded location is a big part of its appeal, and the clear water beneath the bungalows is a novelty rarely found outside of the South Pacific of the Maldives. Each handsomely crafted cabin is built upon stilts which support a wooden frame over the water and covered by a palm leaf roof - an unforgettable habitat congruent with the native communities of the region - rustic but in a beautiful setting.