These days, travelers will tell you that Tahiti is no longer a dream. True, it has an international airport, and smart hotels rise within sight of the coral reef. I have seen the changes over the years, yet the island is still beautiful and still rises suddenly green to the cloud-touched mountaintops. At least from the sea, before you come too close, you can still see Tahiti as Paul Gauguin saw it— in all its extravagance and romance—when he voyaged there from France to paint.
Described as the Philippines’ last frontier, Palawan boasts not one but two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (don your dive gear), and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park (climb in a canoe for a guided tour). Striking limestone formations like Ugong Rock and Karst Mountain Elephant Cave rise starkly from the rice fields of the interior. You can even find overwater bungalows on outlying islands, courtesy of El Nido Resorts.
Word History: It may seem hard to believe, but Latin aqua, "water," is related to island, which originally meant "watery land." Aqua comes almost unchanged from Indo-European *akwā-, "water." *Akwā- became *ahwō- in Germanic by Grimm's Law and other sound changes. To this was built the adjective *ahwjō-, "watery." This then became *awwjō- or *auwi-, which in pre-English became *ēaj-, and finally ēg or īeg in Old English. Island, spelled iland, first appears in Old English in King Alfred's translation of Boethius about ad 888; the spellings igland and ealond appear in contemporary documents. The s in island is due to a mistaken etymology, confusing the etymologically correct English iland with French isle. Isle comes ultimately from Latin īnsula "island," a component of paenīnsula, "almost-island," whence our peninsula.
The so-called pearl of the French Caribbean, Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped archipelago of five main islands where volcanoes tower and 200-plus beaches come in shades from black and white to red and pink. Basse-Terre’s tropical forest and the bay of Grand-Cul-de-Sac Marin were declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993. From there, island-hop to discover Grande-Anse beach on Les Saintes; Marie-Galante’s rum estates (and old-fashioned oxcarts); and La Desirade’s 900-foot plateau.
The Seychelles’ towering beach boulders are a mainstay on computer desktops, but they’re more than merely aesthetic — they also fascinate geologists, who have identified the Seychelles as the only mid-ocean islands formed of granite. Other superlatives: The archipelago is the oldest on the planet, and it has the cleanest air. Naturally, celebrities flock here; if you want to vacation a la British royalty, stay on North Island, where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their 2011 honeymoon.
The joy is to watch how these islands are transformed by changing distances, by sunlight, by clouds. On some, there is a sliver of beach, just enough from which to swim; others are edged with little villages built on boards, the houses tied together. All are tropical paradises: Koh Phi Phi, Koh He, Koh Racha, Koh Surin, Koh Dok Mai, to name some of the favorites. Koh Phuket serves as a good jumping-off point. After being devastated by the 2004 tsunami, these islands have made a comeback.
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If you're sightseeing, you may only be after a basic hotel, but its location will be crucial to you. Hotels.com gives you detailed maps of the Newark area and each landmark and transportation option to allow you to book the cheapest hotel in Newark nearest the attractions you actually care about. You can even search outside the city and find budget hotels across New Jersey.
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