Travel

Starting in Seattle, Find Your Compass

These four exotic destinations are well worth the trip

Take surf lessons at the Kaimana Beach Surf Shop.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Seattle magazine.

Seattleites are intrepid by nature, seeking escape away from the well-worn path. Places that are artistic, culinary, adventurous and a bit bohemian call to us. Snowbirds fly south for the sun’s rays, while surfers head west for winter swells. Powder addicts set their course due north, while national park enthusiasts gallop to the east. Whichever direction your travel compass points, these four destinations will satisfy the craving.

To the north: Tales of a hidden, picturesque mountain village emerged in the past decade from southeastern British Columbia, a place with endless powder runs, bountiful food and a buzzing après-ski scene. Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains on the banks of the Columbia River, Revelstoke has become an ideal outdoor getaway, a quaint Victorian town at the foot of a major winter sports resort. The setting is so gorgeous the town has served as a frequent backdrop for Hallmark Channel’s wildly popular holiday movies.

Revelstoke Mountain resort in British Columbia features the longest vertical descent of any ski resort in North America.

Royce Sihlis

For outdoor enthusiasts, “Revy” is one massive playground. Opened in 2007, Revelstoke Mountain Resort boasts the longest drop in North America, a thigh-shredding 5,620 feet of lift-served vertical. The mountain also entices winter athletes with the longest ski run on the continent — The Last Spike — a staggering 9.4 miles of groomed intermediate piste. For experts, Revelstoke is known for record snowfall and steep runs on challenging terrain.

Set up base camp at the The Explorers Society Hotel, the town’s first boutique lodging. Owners Rebekah and Stephen Jenkins left the Seattle tech industry to create this hip, design-forward stay in a smoothly refurbished 1911 brick building. With only nine rooms, the hotel prides itself on offering each guest personalized service. Sore muscles will crave the Finnish sauna and hot tub after a long day on the mountain. On-site restaurant Quartermaster serves up French-inspired fare from acclaimed local chef Olivier Dutil.

As with many mountain towns, the locals are young, fun and eclectic. Throw an axe, scarf down grub from local food trucks and then cheer on the local junior hockey team. Or go bowling in a snow and skate shop while sipping Molsons at The Cabin, then sample local sips at downtown distilleries and microbreweries. Old School Eatery offers upscale comfort food on the site of the old schoolhouse, and the Village Idiot and Last Drop Pub provide the warm cheery après ski.

To the south: Todos Santos is a whisper among travelers in the know, a village in Baja California known for its killer surf and authentic small-town Spanish architecture. Just one hour north of Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos’ flavorful food awaits with drink, friendly locals and warm Pacific waters to wash it down. Yogis, vegan vibes and boho-chic attire fill this Pueblo Magico.

To do Todos Santos right, you’ll want access to a mirrored pool with an ocean view and a swimming beach, so check in to Hotel San Cristóbal Baja. The property is an exquisitely designed oasis from Austin’s hip Bunkhouse Group. The linens, bathrobes, outdoor pillows and aesthetic are all seamlessly connected. Restaurant Benno serves delectable breakfasts, with Bloody Marias and micheladas flowing all morning, and dinner every night. The pool bar serves the cervezas and skinny margaritas guests crave, along with to-die-for chips and guacamole. The elegant tienda features only hand-crafted items from Mexico.

Hotel San Cristóbal offers great access to a swimming beach and hiking trails.

Nick Simonite

On-site activities include yoga, sound bath meditation and massage. Hike the bluff above Punta Lobos for epic views or grab a complimentary bike from the front desk and pedal the peaceful five-mile dedicated path into town. Swim with the locals (and resident pelicans) at the beach, or just relax in the pool. Sunsets are mystical at San Cristóbal — if you pay close attention, you just might witness the elusive green flash.

For a tiny hamlet that measures roughly five blocks by three blocks, Todos Santos packs a punch, with numerous shopping, dining, and drinking options. Have lunch at DUM, an agri-collective with farm-to-fork meals and a refreshing swimming pool for diners. The patio at Los Adobes is a blissful hangout, or just yield to Tequila’s Sunrise — the shrimp-stuffed chile relleno is divine and the margaritas really are the best in town.

Stop in at El Tecolote Libros for well-curated new and used paperbacks, from Mexican novelist and essayist Carlos Fuentes that’s always been on the list to an endless array of English-language beach reads. Owner Kate Lewis keeps the store stocked during high season, and gives helpful suggestions on local literature. Then check out the glamorous threads at Nomad Chic and Saguaro boutiques.

Enjoy a sundowner at Santoro or Sky Lounge before heading to Jazamango for a scrumptious dinner. Nosh with locals at Tiki Santos for tacos or Bahia for seafood. If there’s live music happening at Jardin Alquimia, don’t miss it. The people-watching is addicting as gringos from Silver Lake to Seattle try to outduel each other with gypset chic.

To the east: Jackson, Wyo., is a gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It is also a snow globe version of a cowboy town with an aspirational lifestyle many city slickers crave. Western lore greets visitors immediately, from the antler arch at town square to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar to Jackson Hole’s Old Time Photos. However, Jackson is much more than just its storybook image — it has culinary destinations, mountain adventures and an authentic side.

Hotel Jackson in Wyoming is just steps away from shops, galleries and restaurants.

Courtesy of Hotel Jackson

Jackson Hotel begins with a story about a Volkswagen Westfalia van, a desire to see Yellowstone National Park and a good deed. Jim Darwiche broke down in Jackson and immediately fell in love with the town, the people and the deer grazing in the yards. Instead of a bill for his van repairs, VandeWater Hardware told him it was on them. The rest is history, as they say. Darwiche moved to Jackson to be a part of the hospitality industry and a part of the community.

Today, Jackson Hotel is run by son Sadek Darwiche, who carries the past into the present. Local art galleries provide paintings and sculptures to adorn the property, while the well-curated Sacajawea Library maintains an unrivaled collection of western heritage literature and art. This is a luxury abode from top to bottom, so bring the Lucchese boots and Stetsons. Visitors can enjoy the award-winning FIGS restaurant with Lebanese flavors and Mediterranean flair, then sip craft cocktails by the two-story wood-burning fireplace. 

There’s nothing quite like local recommendations for where to eat, and family-run Jackson Hotel has its personal favorites. Breakfast at Nora’s Fish Creek Inn is a staple set in a historical cabin along a lazy creek in nearby Wilson. Pearl Street Market has all the sandwiches, charcuterie and cheese plates to fuel up for cross-country ski adventures. Then toast the end of a perfect day with a cocktail at Glorietta Trattoria.

For added adventure, Jackson Hotel offers an elk refuge sleigh ride with a biologist and wildlife manager, a guided snowshoe tour of Grand Teton National Park and a dogsled ride in partnership with Call of the WYld. Close out the trip by spending time at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the nation’s only museum dedicated to wildlife art, which fittingly overlooks the National Elk Refuge.

To the west: Hawaii’s magic comes from its people, their rich history and the natural beauty of its islands. Seattle and Hawaii have a long history of travel and personal connection. This year, Hawaiians welcome back tourists with a warm “aloha” after the pandemic with a new perspective. Hawaiians hope visitors arrive with an open mind, knowledge of the culture, respect for the environment and a happy heart. They in turn will say “mahalo” (thanks).

For true “lani,” stay at Kaimana Beach Hotel on the sands of the iconic Gold Coast in Waikiki. This boutique hotel has been completely renovated — the warm breezes of a ’60s surf vibe waft throughout the rooms. Chic but comfortable, the corner rooms extend with wrap-around balconies offering Diamond Head and Pacific Ocean views. The Kaimana Club Pass includes Hawaiian cultural classes like hula, weaving and lei making, plus yoga, surf rentals and Beach Club services. For brunch, frolic under the shade of a banyan tree at Hau Tree restaurant. Order a Return of Tricky Nick’s Dastardly Daiquiri; the two-per-person limit is there for a reason but alluring all the same.

Enjoy a 1944 Mai Tai.

Courtesy of Kaimana Beach Hotel

More historic and cultural explorations await curious travelers. Downtown, Iolani Palace was the official residence of King Kalākaua and Queen Lili’uokalani, a national historic landmark and the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. The guided tours are excellent —the Fashion Fit for Royalty and the White Glove Tour are favorites. For the best way to understand Hawaiian history, tour the Bishop Museum in Honolulu’s historic Kalihi district.

To experience an Oahu caught in time take a side trip to the famed North Shore — it’s legit. Surf tournaments, the old “paniolo” (cowboy) town of Haleiwa, roadside shaved ice — not much changes on this remote corner of the island. Visit the world-renowned Polynesian Cultural Center for the most authentic Hawaiian luau on the island, and Climbworks Keana Farms for zipline tours and agrotourism. Each gives visitors more reasons to stay, enjoy and learn.

Any visit to Hawaii can be made richer and more personal by incorporating voluntourism. The Mālama Hawaii Program, a collaboration between participating hotel and community organizations, opens doors to Hawaiian culture and the environment. “Mālama” means “to care for or tend,” and this program allows visitors to make a deeper connection to Hawaii and its people.

The Mālama Uka Experience starts with a UTV vehicle ride into Kaʻaʻawa Valley to plant a native koa tree following native protocols. Or join the Mālama Kai Experience, a hands-on visit to the beautiful Moliʻi Fishpond, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and used continuously for 800 years for food production.

 

Natalie and Greg have written for Travel + Leisure, Fathom, Food52 in addition to Seattle magazine. They’ve been to 117 countries combined. Inbetween trips they live in a houseboat on Seattle’s Lake Union.

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