Derek Freal

Derek Freal

" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!

Multi-colored volcanic lakes. Haunted resorts. The world's largest mud volcano. The world's most elaborate funerals. An abandoned chicken church and other abandoned structures. Yes, this is Indonesia Off The Beaten Path.

When I arrived in Indonesia for the first time ever, I assumed one month would be long enough to see all there was worth seeing. HA! How wrong I was. Here it is many years later and I'm still finding new places to travel in Indonesia.

Indonesia is one of those countries where for every one place you visit, you learn of two more places that you have to visit. You're never done. There is always more.

Unfortunately most visitors stick to the same overcrowded sights and miss out on all the amazing, offbeat and unique sights and activities just around the corner from popular tourist destinations. My job is to keep you from doing just that. So save this list! The next time you find yourself in Indonesia, make sure to visit at least a couple of this unique, offbeat destinations:

The World's Largest Mud Volcano

  Not far from Suarabya

In May of 2006 a drilling accident in Sidoarjo resulted in the formation of a mud volcano. Mud has been flowing out ever since, swallowing up everything nearby. Ten years later and the mud is still flowing, the victims have only been compensated a fraction of what they were promised, and the drilling company has weaseled its way out of all responsibility. What remains has turned into a one-of-a-kind off the beaten path attraction.

The manmade Sidoarjo Mud Volcano totally screwed things up for the people of that town. Surprisingly few people know about it though. That's why it is one of the unique, quirky and off the beaten path things to do in Surabaya, Indonesia
More photos can be found on Inside Other Places

You won't find any signs or entrance lines, but you may find locals who will charge you a few rupiah to see the sights or to be your motorcycle tour guide. As long as they don't ask for something completely unreasonable, just go for it -- they need it more than you in this case.

  Sidoarjo is located 25km south of Suarabya and the mud volcano is located on the south side of town near the river. It's pretty hard to miss. This is what it looks like from above:

Aerial view of the Sidoarjo Mud Volcano as well as the damage to surrounding residents and roads

Although mud flow has dropped from 100,000 cubic metres per day to less than 10,000m3/day, scientists estimate that it could continue erupting for another 20-30 years.

The Abandoned Chicken Church

  Not far from Yogyakarta

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

Move over Borobodur, you've got some competition! Another place of worship has risen up past the jungle treetops just 2 kilometres away. The story begins in 1989 when an elderly man visiting his wife's family in Magelang was struck with a "vision from God" that told him to build a church atop this particular hill. So he bought 3,000 square metres of land on Rhema Hill and built this omnistic (open to all religions) church shaped like a chicken. (Or as he called it, a Dove.) The church finally opened its doors for a few years in the mid-1990s but it wasn't long before money dried up and the property was abandoned. Designed to look like a dove, the church so much resembles a chicken that it is known to the locals as Gereja Ayam ("Chicken Church").

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Given the Chicken Church's prominent location atop a hill just a couple kilometres further down Jalan Raya Borobordur past Borobordur, it's not too hard to find. However if you get lost, just ask any local, "Dimana Geraja Ayam?" ("Where is the Chicken Church?") Oh and dress accordingly as it does require a short hike through the brush and up the hill.

The Tri-Colored Lakes

  Not far from Komodo National Park

The tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Kelimutu Volcano has a good reputation with tourists of Indonesia who make it as far East as Flores and Komodo National Park. However few outside of this niche group have ever heard of Kelimutu Volcano, also known as the Tri-Colored Lakes. The mountaintop is home to three crater lakes of three different colors! The westernmost lake, Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People), is blue, Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) in the middle is green, and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is red. Of course their colors have been known to vary slightly, which researchers assume is from fluctuations in the gases from the volcano.

Aerial view of the three-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia
Aerial view of the tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu via Michael Day

The Tri-Colored lakes of Kelimutu were not discovered until 1915 and the last official eruption was in 1968. However water in the lakes was boiling for several days back in 2005 and again 2013. As geologists worry that the next eruption could destroy the tri-colored lakes, research there is ongoing.

  Given everything, I recommend visiting sooner rather than later. And staying one night nearby so that you can catch the sunrise from Kelimutu.

Like what you're reading?     More Offbeat Travel Guides

Witness A Tana Toraja Funeral Ceremony

  Far from everything. In Sulawesi

A Torajan funeral can last for weeks! Definitely one of the unique and one of a kind offbeat destinations in Indonesia
via Arian Zwegers

The funeral ceremonies of the Toraja people are certainly not off the beaten path anymore -- they've been covered by journalists, photographers, researchers, bloggers and cultural preservationists before. Many, many times before. However no list of unique and offbeat activities in Indonesia would be complete without mentioning them.

In Toraja culture, a funeral is more a celebration of life than a mourning of death. The most extravagent event in their entire lives is, ironically, their funeral. They are elaborate affairs that can last for weeks and cost a fortune. People in Tana Toraja work and save their entire life not for their future, but for their funeral. Sometimes funerals are even delayed for years after the deceased has passed in order to give the family time to raise the remainder of the money necessary for these grand events. During this time in limbo the body will wait patiently inside the family home, waiting for its burial....up on a cliffside.

In Tana Toraja the deceased are
via Arian Zwegers

Yes, rather than bury their deceased in the ground, Torajans place them inside of a wooden coffin and hang it up on a cliffside. Sometimes these are just propped on the side of the rock wall. Occasionally childrens' coffins are just suspended by rope. However if the family is wealthy enough, they will carve out a miniature cave in the rockface with enough room for several family members. A handcarved wooden effigy is then placed outside and facing away, to watch out over the land and protect the deceased.

Nusa Penida Island: Like Bali Was 40 Years Ago

  Not far from Bali

Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

In between Bali and Lombok lies a small little island known as Nusa Penida. It is a pristine paradise, home to several small villages, plenty of deserted beaches, and only one hotel and one bungalow complex. Nusa Pendia is Bali's Hidden Paradise. Thanks to minimal tourim the traditional way of life still exists here. It's like Bali was 40 years ago.

Come here for a few days to escape the tourists and the touts. Rent a motorcycle and explore the island. It actually takes several days to cover every road, village and beach. Up north you'll find countless seaweed farms that are a photographer's dream. There is even a Buddhist temple inside of a cave! Even as I type this, I'm still wearing the bracelet I got from the priest during my blessing there back in 2014.

Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia
Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida

  Don't miss Tanglad, the mountaintop village of Nusa Penida. It is known throughout Indonesia for its colorful tenun fabric, which is still handmade to this day. Learn more here.

The Controversial Equator Monument

  Not far from Pontianak, Kalimantan

The Pontianak Equator Monument is not actually on the equator. That is why it is one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.
via Stefan Krasowski

While most of the Indonesian archipelago lies south of the equator, this invisible line cuts Kalimantan in half. Just a few kilometres north of the town of Pontianak lies a monument that is supposedly on top of the equator. Or was. Much like the fake equator monument in Ecuador, GPS has since revealed that this location of this monument is not on the real equator. Another small marking has been erected a slight distance away that is supposed to signify where the equator has "moved" too, but this too is debated. Regardless, the monument still stands and is definitely worth stopping by for a photo opportunity if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

The Abandoned Beach Resort

  Not far from Denpasar, Bali

The abandoned Beach Bountry Club Bungalows on Gili Meno are one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.

As a result of the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002, international tourism temporarily stopped and the Beach Bounty Club Bungalows never officially opened. These 26 luxury bungalows and their grounds have ever since remained quietly stuck in time as nature gradually takes back over. Located on the southwest coast of Gili Meno, they are not hard to find. Most likely you will have the entire place yourself. Ferries are available from Lombok or fast boats from Bali -- at both Sanur Beach and Padangbai.

  There is another abandoned resort located on Bali that suffered a similar fate in 2002 before it could ever open its doors. Located on the mountainside near Bedugal Lake lies the Taman Rekreasi Bedugul, also known as the Ghost Palace Hotel, this place is far creepier than the Beach Bounty Bungalows.

Of course these are but a fraction of all the amazing things to do in Indonesia. Take my advice and definitely book the longest trip possible. And no matter where you decide to visit, check out Traveloka.com for cheap hotels throughout Indonesia.

  Know of any other quirky or off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     Indonesia Archives

Planning a visit to London? After booking your flight and picking the perfect London hotel, the next item on the list is figuring out where to dine in this British metropolis. London is packed with everything from expensive, swanky restaurants to ultra-affordable, no-frills street vendors. The great thing about this city is that whether you dine in luxury or while just lounging on a park bench, you can enjoy some truly delicious food.

But what should you eat while you're there? You'll be bombarded with international cuisine options and hearty English dishes everywhere you turn. Tantalizing smells will waft from street carts, cafes and restaurants alike, all of which make it more difficult to decide what to eat. But on a limited jaunt in this city, you'll want to make your menu selections carefully. It's important to enjoy the traditional flavors this city serves up without missing out on some of the more exotic offerings.

To help travelers make the most of every meal in London, we've put together this hassle-free guide to the city's best dishes. Use this menu to make sure you don't miss out on the incredible flavors that London has to offer during your visit.

Top foods to try in London infographic

  This article was originally published on IHG on May 9th, 2016.

Singapore is a small island city-state, which means that it quickly gets boring for uninformed travelers. Three days in Singapore, and you have literally done it all — or so you might think.

But the next time you find yourself passing through Lion City, drop your bags off at a nice hotel in the best part of Singapore and then knock a few of these offbeat activities off your travel bucket list:

Explore Pulau Ubin, the Last Kampung

Pekan Quarry on Pulau Ubin, one of the offbeat things to do in Singapore

Singapore is a sprawling metropolis — at least the main island is. However, up north, next to Malaysia, lies the smaller island of Pulau Ubin. Known as the Last Kampung of Singapore, this island is the only place you can still see the traditional village houses of the past. Only around 100 residents remain today, surrounded by lush flora and diverse fauna. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore and quiet beaches to relax on. Definitely a nice retreat from the city life in Singapore!

Haw Par Villa, the Hellish Theme Park

Haw Par Villa is an intriguing and bizarre religious theme park that has become a strange tourist attraction. It is one of the many offbeat things to do in Singapore

Dating back to 1937, Haw Par Villa has earned itself a reputation as Singapore's most bizarre tourist attraction and religious theme park. Originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, it was built by two brothers, the same duo who created Tiger Balm rub. The park was designed to teach Chinese mythology, but over the years it has evolved into an over-the-top collection of over 1,000 multicolored statues and giant dioramas depicting various — and often gory — scenes from Chinese history, folklore, and legends. Haw Par Villa might not be off the beaten path anymore, but Singapore doesn’t get any stranger than this!

G-MAX Reverse Bungy, 5 Gs of 360-Degree Fun

The G-MAX reserve bungy is a wild ride and one of the cool, quirky things to do in Singapore

Located right on Clarke Quay, this is one activity that every visitor to Singapore has seen but few ever try. The G-MAX reverse bungy is like nothing else you have ever experienced. Strap yourself in, and get ready. After being slingshot up in the air, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr, riders bounce and fly around in what G-MAX politely refers to as a "swing" — ha! This experience is so uncommon that I recommend having someone else film your ride. Besides, at 45 SGD, it's the cost of two drinks in Clarke Quay — and definitely more worth it.

Selfie Coffee, Where the Name Says It All

Selfie Coffee prints a proto of you on the foam of your coffee. Just one of many the offbeat things to do in Singapore

To make a long story short, a Taiwanese company developed a machine that prints photos onto coffee foam. Of course, the next logical step is to use this for selfies instead of trippy designs. If you don't mind paying a hefty premium for your coffee and waiting a few extra minutes (yes, even longer than usual), you just might be a perfect fit for Selfie Coffee. And where else in Singapore would it be located than the hipster hotspot that is Haji Lane?

Visit Kranji, the Fabled Singapore Countryside

Leave the cement jungle behind and head out to Kanji, one of many the offbeat things to do in Singapore
The road to Kanji at sunset

Up in the northeastern corner of Singapore lies Kranji, the Singapore countryside that many tourists do not even realize exists. Yes, there is a part of the main island that isn't a cement jungle! Here the jungle is still thick, and small farms are scattered among it. The biggest and best-known is Bollywood Veggies and its Poison Ivy Bistro, which serves what is arguably the freshest food in all of Singapore. There are also several nearby parks and nature reserves worth exploring, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir Park, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Get out and explore the countryside of Kanji, one of the offbeat things to do in Singapore

Beyond just greenery and fresh foods, Kranji also has plenty more to offer. Horse racing takes place every Friday and Sunday at the Singapore Turf Club, conveniently located right next to the Kranji MRT Station. The Kranji War Memorial pays homage to all the fallen soldiers from all the nations who helped defend Singapore from the Japanese during World War II.

Singapore may be small, but the harder you look, the more you find. What other offbeat and quirky sights or activities would you recommend?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     Singapore Blog Archives

  flickr // Kai Lehmann   Wild Singapore   Walter Lim   Schristia   Lin Hoe Goh   Kurt Siang

With an official slogan of "Like No Place Else," Palm Springs sets the bar high for itself. Thankfully, this glistening jewel in the desert never disappoints. From hip hotspots to fine dining, with luxurious spas and world-class golfing, Palm Springs has something to cater to everyone. There are hotels in Palm Springs for all types of travelers.

For the Discerning Traveler

Won't sleep on anything with a thread count of less than 400? Well, then the Movie Colony Hotel is the place to be. This mid-century hotel has a long and rich history, with stars such as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra having stayed here in the past. Movie Colony Hotel was designed by the renowned Swiss architect Albert Frey, father of the "desert minimalism" style. Opt for either a traditional room or poolside townhouse. Just keep in mind that all guests here must be 21 or over.

For the Romantic Getaway

Just the two of you looking to go somewhere for the weekend? Check out the Ingleside Inn. This boutique hotel has 30 lavish, sumptuously designed rooms that instantly make guests feel right at home. The hotel's meticulously manicured grounds and stunning interior design will leave you speechless. Weddings happen here on a regular basis, including several celebrity weddings over the years. Even Frank Sinatra and Barbara had their pre-wedding dinner at the Inn's famous restaurant, Melvyn’s Restaurant.

For the Action Lover

Theatres and museums. Live music and art exhibits. World-class shopping and plenty of nightlife options. This is downtown Palm Springs. And for those who want a hotel just a couple of minutes' walk away from the action so they don't miss a beat, look no further than the Garden Vista Hotel. The 124 rooms and suites are spacious and come with a refrigerator, microwave, and flat screen television. Of course, with so many amazing things to do nearby, don't expect to spend much time in the room.

Downtown Palm Springs, heart of the action
Downtown Palm Springs. Photo by Prayitno via flickr

For the "Less is More" Traveler

Not a fan of massive hotel chains or sprawling, expansive grounds? Like staying places where the employees actually remember your name? Then the place for you is the Avanti Hotel. With only 10 individually designed studios and suites, this hotel makes guests part of an exclusive minority. Although small, the Avanti is one of the nicest hotels in town. Rooms are stocked with modern furniture and appliances, including flat screen televisions and wi-fi. Private patios, kitchenettes (available in most but not all suites), and in-room massage options further make this little star shine.

For the Quiet, Peaceful Traveler

If all you want out of this vacation is to find a peaceful hotel that will cater to your every whim, head on over to the Andreas Hotel & Spa, a local landmark that is over 80 years old. Its plush and cozy suites come with exquisite marble and stone bathrooms, as well as all the modern amenities one needs to be comfortable. The rooms so quiet you would never imagine that you were located right in the heart of downtown. The hotel also has a spa, pool, jacuzzi, and large courtyard. Definitely a great place to unwind for a day or four!

  Featured photo via flickr // Chris Goldberg

The beauty of having a boat is the travel freedom it provides. Not just short cruises and day trips, but also longer, more exciting adventures. And while Sydney is a great place to call home, the Harbour is a bit busy. So the next time you feel like taking your boat our for a spin, head to one of these destinations:

Broken Bay-Hawkesbury

Over millennia the waters of the Hawkesbury River have carved out a deep, intricate and expansive collection of waterways. With so many small nooks and cranies to explore here there is no reason to ever visit the same exact spot twice. Feel the need to go ashore? No worries, there are plenty of small marinas and safe anchor points, as well as several National Parks to explore. For that reason no matter how often I cruise up to Hawkesbury, I am still never bored by it.

Port Stevens

Newcastle is for newbies. The real boating fun lies just north, at Port Stevens, one of the most boater-friendly regions on the entire coast. Ramps and moorings are everywhere, as are sights and activities (both water- and land-based). Islands and coves also abound here and are just begging to be explore. However the area's real claim to fame is Myall Lake and the Myall Lakes National Park, located further upriver. Definitely not one to miss out on.

Clarence River (aka Big River)

The beauty of the aptly-nicknamed Big River is that your fun doesn't stop a few kilometres upstream....it just keeps on going and going! Even 150km upstream there massive gorges, cliffs and underwater sinkholes. This region is home to some of the best produce and largest prawns in the country. Just make sure you have plenty of time to explore because after one glimpse, you'll be in no rush to return to the chaotic Harbour.

Illawarra

The attraction with Illawarra is not the rivers but the coastline and numerous bays. From Lake Illawarra on down to Jervis Bay (the boaters' jewel of the region) there are tons of water-based activities and sights to explore. Scattered throughout the region are a variety of small towns and villages for you to go ashore and rest a night (or three). Did I mention that since there is no more commercial net fishing here, this has become one of the best recreational fishing areas on the eastern coast of Australia.

Unfortunately, at some point you are going to have to return home to Sydney and return to a land-based lifestyle, at least briefly. Just don't forget to stow your boat properly -- and make sure to have a good custom boat covers to ensure that your baby stays in perfect shape for her next grand adventure. Happy boating!

Travelers that want to find a combination of beauty, history, hospitality, and sunshine need to consider visiting the South. The South has something for everyone. Whether you want a taste of bourbon in Kentucky or to relax by the water in Maryland, there is a southern city that matches your needs. Check out the 5 southern cities below that have something to offer its visitors.

Lexington, KY

Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World” and is one of the most popular cities in Kentucky. One of the must-see’s in Lexington is the Kentucky Horse Park, where you can explore a 1,200 acre facility that features museums, art exhibits, and of course, a variety of horse breeds. If you like gambling, you can bet on horse races on grounds like the Keeneland Race Course. While a lot of the popular attractions involve horses, there are non-horse activities worth checking out if you visit Lexington. One of my favorites is taking a tasting tour at a local distillery. For instance, you can try a taste of Kentucky at one of the bourbon distilleries, like the Wild Turkey or Four Roses.

Lafayette, LA

If you are travelling through Louisiana, you need to stop by Cajun country and stay a few nights in Lafayette. Lafayette is a vibrant city that offers a nice combination of “country” with city-life. You can spend the day visiting Avery Island, where you can see the Tobasco factory, a bird sanctuary, and exotic animals in Jungle Gardens. After a busy day of exploring, go enjoy the local cuisine at one of the many Cajun and Creole restaurants. Want to enjoy the nightlife? Check out the bars and clubs on Jefferson Street. If you need to find a place to stay near the action, consider Studio 6 which is only a few blocks from the action.

Kissimmee, FL

The Sunshine State is a popular travel destination in the South. One of my favorite cities to visit is located in the heart of the state in Kissimmee, Florida. For budget travelers, you have to check out the $20 million dollar local park project, the Kissimmee Lakefront Park. You can rent pavilions, go boating, fishing, BBQ, hiking, and other low-cost outdoor activities. The real reason most people stay in Kissimmee is because of its close proximity to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can stay at an affordable Kissimmee hotel like the Vacation Village that is only about 10 minutes away from Disney World.

Norcross, GA

For travelers that enjoy getting off-the-beaten path, Norcross will be worth considering. It’s cleverly tagged “a place to imagine” because of its blend of art, music, cuisine, and history. Take a stroll down the historic downtown and stop into the Crossing Steak House for a cocktail. The real benefit to staying in Norcross is that you can find an affordable hotel and still be just a few minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Salisbury, MD

Salisbury is a fun city in southeastern Maryland that offers its visitors a variety of activities. If you want a quiet place to relax, the 11 acre park on Schumaker Pond is just the spot. Grab a nice book, blanket, and a few snacks, and you can decompress in the serenity of the park. Another local favorite is the Salisbury Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free and they provide guided tours. If you are looking for a versatile city to spend a few days while traveling through Maryland, you should consider staying in Salisbury.

  This post was originally published on TravelrMag on April 11th, 2016.
  Featured photo by Shawn Harquail via Flickr

The OC of the East Coast is Ocean City, Maryland, a popular year-round vacation destination for families or anyone who needs a break but doesn't have time to deal with long flights.

A Home on The Boardwalk

If you crave being in the heart of the action, look no further than Harrison Hall Hotel. Located right on the boardwalk, this hotel more resembles a classical style home than a hotel — not just in looks but also in feeling. From the minute you step inside, that homey sense of comfort and relaxation sets in. A quiet front porch with rocking chairs makes it perfect for relaxing the day away or gazing out upon the action of the boardwalk. Or step out the back for direct access to a private section of the OC beach. Anything else you could need, from shopping to dining or drinking, is located just a few minutes' walk away.

Go with a Classic

Known for its wide front porch and wooden rocking chairs, Plim Plaza is one of the most well-known of the boardwalk hotels. It is also one of the most affordable, making it perfect for the budget-conscious traveler. Rooms come standard with a refrigerator, cable television, and free HBO. A pool, three jacuzzis, and four different restaurants are all located on site. Of course, there is also the beach as well, not to mention a multitude of shopping and dining options just footsteps away. All this and an affordable price is exactly why Plim Plaza is a favorite of Ocean City visitors.

Go Big or Go Home

One of the largest boardwalk hotels is the massive Tidelands Caribbean Hotel. With multiple buildings and even a large rooftop pool, this relatively new hotel has quickly become quite popular. A variety of room layouts and suite options — all of which have kitchenettes, cable television, and Wi-Fi — make Tidelands a great choice for both families and groups of friends.

Scenes from the Ocean City Boardwalk
Photo by Lee Cannon via Flickr

From the Boardwalk to the Bay

The boardwalk is great by day, but if you don't want to be sleeping there at night too, check out the Sea Bay Hotel. Located right off the Coastal Highway near the Ocean City Expressway, this hotel has a slightly more laid back feel than those surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk. Two pools are on site, tennis courts are across the street, and the beach is just a one minute away. What more do you need?

Explore the North

Located farther up the island just a couple of miles from the Maryland-Delaware border is the massive Princess Royale Hotel & Conference Center. It occupies an entire beachfront block between 91st and 92nd streets and is the ideal destination for those who want it all. Beach access. Indoor heated pool. Video game arcade. Oceanfront restaurant and lounge. Spacious condominiums. Guests of the Princess Royale often find themselves spending all their time at the resort instead of out around town.

  Photo by small_realm via Flickr

Kailua-Kona is the jewel of West Hawaii. This breathtaking tropical paradise is on the leeward side of the island and as such receives much less wind and rain. As a result, it's a great place for scuba diving or practicing your surfing skills before tackling the tougher waves on the eastern shore. But where to stay in Kailua-Kona? That depends on what you plan on doing while you're there.

Location is Everything

Want to be right in the center of Kailua-Kona and have everything you need mere footsteps away? Look no further than Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel. Situated right in the center of the bay, Uncle Billy's offers both rooms with a view and ground-floor suites with direct access to Hale Halawai Park. The massive Kona Inn Shopping Village is located right across the street and can satisfy almost all your shopping needs. Beyond that, Uncle Billy's is surrounded by water-based sights and activities, ample restaurant and bar options, tons of shopping, and, of course, the best cultural events.

Stay Cliffside

The cliffs of Kona Bay, Big Island, Hawaii
The cliffs of Kona Bay. Photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr

Perched on the cliff edges 1 mile south of Kona Town lies Aston Royal Sea Cliff, one of the most beautiful properties in the area. With spacious suites that include a full kitchen with all the appliances and utensils, as well as a washer and dryer, this is the perfect choice for guests planning a longer stay, families, or other large groups. Two pools on site enable you to enjoy a salt-free swim while basking in the tropical sun and enjoying the magnificent view.

Bigger & Better

Bigger isn't always better, but in the case of Royal Kona Resort, nothing could be more accurate. This massive resort has been one of the area's premiere accommodation options since 1968 and now consists of three huge oceanfront buildings with nearly 450 rooms, sprawling grounds, multiple pools (including a kids' pool), tennis courts, and a fitness center. Located just a short 10-minute walk from the town center, Royal Kona Resort is close to the action but not too close.

Save a Few Dollars

Don't plan on spending much time in the hotel room? Then don't waste any more money than necessary when paying for lodging. Kona Seaside Hotel is one of the cheapest hotels in the Kailua-Kona area, and you won't have to sacrifice on service or cleanliness just to stay to budget. The hotel has a large pool and even owns the Splashers Grill next door, which means you can have delicious dishes and thirst-quenching drinks delivered poolside.

  Featured photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr.

Planning your summer vacation already? Check out these up-and-coming destinations.

The Biloxi Lighthouse, Mississippi
The Biloxi Lighthouse by Ipung Zan via Flickr

Biloxi, Mississippi

The beachfront city of Biloxi is a popular summer destination for people looking to enjoy the gulf. Water-based activities such as fishing are some of the biggest pastimes of the area. In fact, every 4th of July the city holds the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, which draws crowds in excess of 50,000 people. Nearly all the hotels in town are located on or near the water, and because gambling is legal in Biloxi, most have casinos as well.

Charlotte, North Carolina skyline as seen from the Central Ave. bridge over Independence Blvd
Charlotte, North Carolina skyline by James Willamor via Flickr

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is the largest and most well-known city in North Carolina. Home to nearly 3 million people, there is no shortage of sights, activities, museums, theme parks, festivals, and excitement to keep visitors of all ages and interests amused. Plus, all the sports fans will be excited to hear that not only does Charlotte have a team for every major sport, it is also the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Sunset over Deer's Head in Salisbury, Maryland
Sunset on the grounds of Deer's Head in Salisbury, Maryland by Eric B Walker via Flickr

Salisbury, Maryland

Salisbury is a small city at the head of Wicomico River in southeastern Maryland. It is a peaceful, unassuming town that is perfect for a family weekend getaway or a quiet pit stop on an American road trip. Venues like the Salisbury Zoo, Coco's Funhouse, Pemberton Historical Park, and the Wicomico County Youth & Civic Center are perfect for the entire family. Other places, such as the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, are geared more toward older guests. When it comes to lodging, the Hampton Inn Salisbury is the only one you should consider. Not only does it have a central location, but it's also the highest-rated hotel in town!

Main Street in College Park, Georgia
Main Street in College Park, Georgia by Robert S Donovan via Flickr

College Park, Georgia

Contrary to the name, there is no college in the small, charming southern town of College Park; the building that was a college many years ago is now city hall. Despite having a population of only 14,000, the city has over 850 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an intriguing destination for anyone interested in the historical side of Georgia. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, College Park is home of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport. As such, there is no shortage of hotels and restaurants in town.

Sunset over Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky
Sunset over Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky by Scott Smithson via Flickr

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is Kentucky's largest city and one of the most popular year-round destinations for out-of-state visitors thanks to its abundance of things to see, do, and eat. Baseball fans will immediately recognize the city because it is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the iconic baseball bat. However, the city is also the home of the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center, among others. Plus, just outside of town are countless parks, trails, lakes, and rivers offering a seemingly never-ending amount of outdoor activities. If you've got an entire family to keep happy or just want to pack as many diverse activities as possible into one trip, definitely put Louisville on your list of destinations this summer!

Nestled between the Great Salt Lake and the snow-covered peaks of the Wasatch Range is Salt Lake City, one of the most popular cities in all the state of Utah. It has outdoor activities and adventures, breathtaking scenery, delicious food, hip neighborhoods, historic buildings, and impressive architecture. There is truly something here for everyone. The only question now is where to stay. Those traveling with their favorite furry companions will be happy to know that all these hotels are pet-friendly.

Classy But Cheap

If you want to stay in a fancy hotel without breaking the bank, check out the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City, a Kimpton Hotel. Kimpton properties are known for exceptional service, and the Hotel Monaco holds true to that standard. Plush, spacious rooms and designer toiletries ensure you have a comfortable stay. An on-site health center and complimentary breakfast keep you feeling your best.

Crazy Unique!

Regardless of the city, always seek out the quirky, offbeat, and unique hotels. It just makes the trip more interesting. The Anniversary Inn - 5th South takes the cake as Salt Lake City's craziest and coolest boutique hotel! Rooms here have elaborate decorations in over thirty themes, including The Wild West, Jungle Safari, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, Romeo And Juliet, Sultan's Palace, and Mysteries of Egypt, just to name a few. It's perfect for a romantic retreat.

A Familiar Face

Everyone knows the Hyatt name. If you feel most comfortable with a name brand hotel, then the Hyatt Place Salt Lake City/Downtown/The Gateway is for you. Rooms here are surprisingly spacious, and the sleek modern design places a heavy emphasis on dark hardwoods contrasted with light colors. Most of the facilities are open 24/7, including the fitness center, business center, and restaurant. The Hyatt Place is next to The Gateway, Salt Lake City's premiere establishment for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

For the Budget Savvy

Visitors who plan on using their hotel room only for sleep might as well save a few dollars and opt for the Royal Garden Inn. Rooms are spacious but have a minimalist design. Wooden furnishings and quilted bed covers give them a distinctly rustic Utah charm. WiFi is free and the hotel boasts one of the largest outdoor pools in Salt Lake City. Since you won't be spending much time in your room, it helps to know that several key Salt Lake attractions, including Temple Square, are just a few minutes walk away.

Step Back in Time

No hotel in Salt Lake City has more old-world charm than The Peery Hotel. Rooms here don't just have a historic feel. They are actually furnished with antique furniture and vintage light fixtures for an authentic experience. Of course, the hotel did not forget to include the most important modern conveniences, including TempurPedic beds, flat screen TVs, and of course, free WiFi throughout the property. Located in the heart of downtown, there is plenty to occupy your time within just a few minutes walk.

  Featured photo by countylemonade via Flickr.

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