Beyond The Beach: 4 Islands You Need To Check Out

Thursday, August 11, 2011

This “Beach Week” thing has gotten a little out of control. Matt brought someone’s Chihuahua to work and they’ve been wearing matching Hawaiian shirts for two weeks now, Jenna purposely burnt herself at the tanning bed to prep for some kind of destination post, and Luke has been the shirtless dude passed out in the corner of the breakroom for the last few days. Although the shenanigans aren’t that alarming — it’s actually par for the week around here — it’s the fact that there isn’t a grain of sand within miles of these characters that seems odd. It led to a random thought: beaches may be only half of the lure to . . . beaches.

They seem to be the hook — the opening act that reels you in to the rest of the show. Chilling on a beach for a few weeks is often what the doctor ordered, but the intangibles are what create the experience. I started sifting through various sites in an attempt to develop this thought, when I came across a Budget Travel article on the best islands in the world. Islands, not beaches. The beach descriptions are buried farther down the text. That isn’t to say the beaches should be passed by, but it’s actually the opposite: The beaches are the feeders to the other incredible attractions.

In Bali, for example, the beaches are world-renown, but it’s the spirituality of the island that draws out the traveler in us all. I would head to Mount Agung, and the three Hindu temples at the Besakih, an area that sees regular processions of locals up the volcano’s flanks. Then head to the fine white and black sand of the beaches for some surfing, scuba diving or just plain lounging.

Over 2,000 years of Greek, Roman and Turkish visitors were drawn to the volcanic island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, because of the therapeutic hot springs found there. Before heading to the coast, pamper yourself with massages and mud wraps from one of the 22 thermo-mineral pools sitting near the beachside spas.

But, if self-indulgence isn’t your thing, head to Penang, the capitol of Malaysia’s cultural food scene. Choose one of the Georgetown street vendors if you must, but make sure you get to the Ayer Itam marketplace. They’re selling the best in fusion cuisine. Grab either lor bak (deep-fried marinated minced pork served with a chili sauce); lok-lok (skewered seafood, meats, and vegetables); or ikan bakar (grilled or barbecued fish marinated in spices and coconut milk, wrapped inside banana leaves, and grilled over hot coals).

Of course, you can always “pull a Luke” and head to Key West, Florida. This island utopia is hallowed ground for Jimmy Buffett, his loyal Parrotheads and the philosophy of Margaritaville. Be sure to hit up the “Duval Crawl,” a group of bars housed in early 20th-century buildings that line Duval Street.

And rest assured, if you end up shirtless and passed out in the corner of The Expeditioner’s breakroom, we’ll take good care of you (and we’ll be sure to write a post about you, too).

[Photo of Tahah Lot, Bali by Mikaku/Flickr]

By Jon Wick


About the Author

Jon lives in Butte, Montana, spending most of his time on skis or bikes; sometimes both. He began travel writing while teaching in Korea and is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Technical Communication at Montana Tech. Jon has begun writing his first book, The Story of Will, whose movie rights are still (very) available. Catch more of Jon at (@ExpedJon)

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