6 Under-the-Radar Alternatives to Overblown Travel Spots

Because it’s still possible to have new, undiscovered travel experiences.

The view at Mukul Beach, Golf Spa

Have you been to Tulum? No? You might be the only person on earth. When a place gets “discovered,” it loses that magical quality that made it worth traveling to to begin with. Here are alternatives to some of the world’s hottest vacation spots—places that will make you think twice before sharing your secret.

• • •

The New Costa Rica

Nicaragua

After decades of political unrest, the Nicaraguan government is investing in infrastructure while preserving the local charm. (How far off the grid can Costa Rica be now that its fourth Starbucks opened in March?)

Ash boarding down Cerro Negro

Where to stay: New York City restaurateur Jean-Marc Houmard and collaborator Yvan Cussigh opened Tribal Hotel (from $125 a night), which features a lush orchid garden and a mosaic-tiled pool, in a former artisan co-op in Granada. The Inn at Rancho Santana (from $249 a night) rests on 2,700 acres of shoreline. The Mukul resort (from $500 a night) has a cigar sommelier and rooms with views of the Pacific.

What to do: Ash boarding, a new extreme sport, sends you zooming down Cerro Negro, a 2,400-foot-high active volcano—on a thin wood or metal board. U.S.-based Austin Adventures includes the activity on trips (from $2,498 per person).

• • •

The New Croatia

Herdade da Comporta, Portugal

Croatia’s beaches are overrun. Herdade da Comporta, a strip of coastal villages an hour outside Lisbon, is where natives unwind.

The pool at Sublime Comporta

Where to stay: The luxury-hotel group Aman hopes to open its resort within the year, but a crop of modern villas are available now, including the Sublime Comporta(from $237 a night), a 14-bedroom guesthouse, and 3 Bicas ($11,000 a week), a pine-tree-rimmed retreat.

What to do: Chill out on beaches and eat at fish shacks (try the fish soup at Praia do Peixe).

• • •

The New Iceland

The Lofoten Islands

Yes, part of Iceland’s appeal is its proximity to the East Coast. But when even the director of the Icelandic Tourist Board says the country has too many visitors, it’s time to go elsewhere. The Lofoten Islands are in a far-flung corner of the world—a flight from Oslo to the Norwegian village of Evenes followed by an hour-long drive—but that’s what makes it an adventure.

A rendering of Snhetta’s Lofoten Opera Hotel

Where to stay: The Scandinavian design firm Snhetta is building a spectacular serpentine-shaped hotel jutting out of the mountains. But for now, stay in restored fishermen’s lodgings at Eliassen Rorbuer (from $133 a night).

What to do: Chase the Northern Lights between September and March, or soak up 24 hours of sunlight and kayak with orcas in the summertime (rentals start at about $50 a day).

• • •

Hot Spots in the Making

The New Napa Valley?

Loudoun County, Virginia

What it still needs: Hotels, restaurants

What it has: Wineries. Loudoun’s rolling hills are home to more than 40. Winery 32 (above), which opened last July, is known for a killer Chambourcin.

The New Martha’s Vineyard?

Lummi Island, Washington

What it still needs: Cachet, vacationing presidents

What it has: BBs, whale watching, and beaches. And Noma-trained chef Blaine Wetzel (above), who has made Lummi a must-go for foodies with the Willows Inn(from $125 a night).

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