Our innate relationship to water goes far deeper than economics, food, or proximity. Human fetuses still have “gill-slit” structures in their early stages of development, and we spend our first nine months of life immersed in the “watery” environment of our mother’s womb. The human body as a whole is almost the same density as water, which allows us to float. In its mineral composition, the water in our cells is comparable to that found in the sea.”
-Wallace J. Nichols (Salon)
1. Comino Island, Malta: Blue Lagoon
While I wasn’t overly impressed with Malta in general, our trip to Comino Island blue me away. You won’t find much space on the small beach area- it will be filled with tourists. But that’s not the part that matters! Grab your snorkeling gear and swim around the crystal clear water. You won’t know whether you’re in a pool or the ocean. You can swim out to little land masses surrounding the island and explore their wonders. If you want more of a thrill, you can go tubing from speedboats waiting nearby.
Whenever people ask me the most beautiful place I’ve been, I always put Croatia at the top of the list. In Europe, the cats out of the bag. Croatia is a popular vacation destination for the whole EU. But for whatever reason, word hasn’t quite made it over to the States. Well, I’m breaking the silence! Croatia is home to incredible beaches and landscapes. While you’re inland, you can’t miss Plitvice Lakes.
The unique part about this park is that it houses a chain of 16 lakes that are each connected by waterfalls. I went here in the dead of winter and it was still the most incredible place I’ve ever been. Some of the waterfalls were frozen in their tracks while others were so powerful that the cold weather meant nothing to their strong flow. You can walk through this UNESCO World Heritage site spanning over 73,000 acres via a boardwalk that takes you directly over the rushing waters. There are typically 1 million visitors per year, and for good reason! Winter or summer, rain or shine, you will be awe-struck by this natural wonder.
The Blue Grotto in Capri is very famous and full of tourists in peak season. However, this is one of those unique places that earns its popularity. When we made our way to the boat tour, the grotto was ultimately closed for the day due to rough seas. Still, the tour was worth our time because you are shown the Faraglioni, three giant rock formations jutting out of the deep ocean. If the grotto is open for you, you will be taken in small wooden boats through the cavern. While the cave is dark above you, the seawater is lit up from the sunlight allowing you to see an illuminated, deep blue color.
4. Mexico: Xcaret
Xcaret’s underground river is a natural wonder within a touristy park. It feels a bit strange that the channel has been encapsulated in a paid, sort-of theme park, but regardless, it is well worth a visit. You put on a life jacket and glide effortlessly through the river channel, deep in a ravine. The walls rise up around you with lush green and sunlight, then all of a sudden you enter a cave and you’re floating through total darkness. It continues on like this, leisurely taking in the nature around you, then feeling the thrill of night swimming while in the short caves. This is a truly a unique experience, and only an hour away from the ever popular city of Cancun.
5. Keys, FL: Islamorada Sandbar
The Keys are a string of tropical islands connected to the tip of Florida by a single highway. These islands are small and surrounded by incredible clear, blue water. Because of their beauty, the islands are a popular tourist destination in the U.S., but they are rather unknown to foreigners. I grew up in Florida and visited here every summer, seeing each Key. The most famous is the last island nearest to Cuba, known as Key West. However, I would recommend Islamorada instead. Here you can scuba dive at the Alligator Reef Lighthouse, rich in sea life. You can also kayak through the mangrove channels with manatees beneath you. If you want to take it easy, you can park your boat at the sandbar in the middle of the ocean, tie a raft to the stern, and then relax with a beer in hand, chatting up other sandbar-goers. It’s like an exclusive party!
If you’re feeling adventurous, then Silfra is your place. Diving in the Silfra fissure is an incredibly unique experience because you will be swimming between the Eurasian and North American continents, or essentially two places at once. The water here is especially beautiful because it is as clear as air. It’s actually glacier water filtered by a nearby volcano, and we were told it’s the cleanest water in the world to drink. Tyler and I dove here (and froze our asses off) but it was worth it! There isn’t much life here beyond plants, so maybe you’ll feel like you’re in a very cold swimming pool.
7. Canada: Peyto Lake
Canada is one of the most beautiful places in the world with its Rocky Mountains and fluorescent blue lakes. It feels like an impossible task choosing which glacier lake to prioritize because they are all worth your time. Moraine Lake has gained traction amongst tourists, and of course, I agree that it is a picturesque little lake. However, if you have time for only one lake, I suggest you skip the hoards of tourist buses at Moraine and opt for Peyto instead. Peyto Lake is so special. When you walk to the viewpoint you’ll find layers stacked upon layers of mountains. The lake itself is shaped like a beautiful blue wolf and set in a deep valley. There is nothing else like it in this world!
8. Ibiza, Spain: Es Vedra
Ibiza is known as the party island, but if you can manage to wake up before 3pm, then you absolutely must sunbathe at some the island’s best beaches. Es Vedra can satisfy both your need to sweat out your hangover and give you the thrill you seek while on vacation. The cove (or cala in Spanish) in front of this rock formation is a nice place to sit and relax. When we went, there was a guy renting out his boat with a hand control motor. I almost crashed us onto the shore, but after a few minutes of practice, we drove our little boat through the center of Es Vedra (the rock formations) and to the left. When you follow the land to the left you’ll find calm, crystal waters where you can snorkel all day. I can promise you will be completely alone in this paradise!
9. New Zealand: Everywhere
If you throw a stone blindly in New Zealand, chances are high that it will fall into an incredible lake. If it doesn’t, I assure you it will fall somewhere else equally beautiful. I couldn’t, in good conscience, limit you to one specific spot. So I’m just going to list a few that should blow anyone’s mind: Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Kaikoura (ocean), Milford Sound (fjord), Lake Matheson, Mirror Lakes, etc. Wherever you go in the South Island, you won’t be disappointed.
10. Oahu, Hawaii: Cockroach Cove
Don’t let the name fool you, cockroach cove is nothing like the bug it takes its name from. In this small beach area, you will find intense crashing waves and interesting rock formations. If you are the energetic type, you can jump off the side of the rock ledge into the water and carefully float there as the strong waves wash you in and out of the shoreline. This spot won’t be crowded with tourists like Waikiki, so you can relax local style. Just don’t forget your pineapple float!