Best (Secluded) Beaches You Need To Visit This Holiday Season

Give a gift to yourself with a getaway from holiday stress.

The holiday season is always a mixed bag of emotions. You're excited to spend time with friends and family, everything you've ever wanted is on sale and begging to be bought, and for decorators 'tis the season to break out fresh-smelling boughs of pine and cinnamon-scented pine cones. However, after being thrust into a whirlwind of festive holiday shindigs and holiday music (how much Michael Bublé can one person reasonably stomach without going certifiably insane?) you may feel the need to get away from it all.

Happily, there are thousands of destinations worldwide with secluded, palm tree-studded beaches and clear blue waves where you can rest up and recharge. The tricky part is choosing which one to visit.

Eagle Bay Beach and Playa Juanillo, Dominican Republic

Colonial Tour and Travel

Punta Cana has already cemented its status as a tourist trap for vacationers looking for sunny beaches and golf resorts in a country where their dollars go further, but the Dominican Republic has many other delightful natural wonders for those looking for a little less expat action. Check out Bahia de las Aguilas (Eagle Bay Beach) for some breathtaking beauty in a secluded, virtually tourist-free location. Located on the southwestern coast in Pedernales inside Jaragua National Park, Eagle Bay is one of the most pristine beaches you'll find in the DR. Laze about on the white sand or go snorkeling, but remember to bring your own food and drinks—it is inside a national park, after all.

Playa Juanillo is a tranquil, boho beach in Cap Cana, just 15 minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport. While it's not as isolated as Eagle Bay Beach, it's still pretty dead during the week and only picks up on weekends (when most of the events are held). If you're feeling peckish, try the only (yes, only) restaurant on the beach, Jaunillo Beach Food and Drinks, or make sure to pack some snacks to enjoy while gazing at the crystal clear water.

Playa Delfines, Mexico

Tan bonito!

It may not have the silky, fine-grained sand of some of its northern cousins, but Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach) does have exquisite views that won't be overrun by the tourists who flock to the more built-up beaches in Cancun. No hotels or restaurants border El Mirador (The Lookout), as the beach is known locally, yet it's still dotted with palapas (thatched roof hut umbrellas) and has well-maintained bathrooms. Watch the rolling surf gently lapping the shore or try your hand at hanging ten (or, you know, clutching the surfboard for dear life and using it as a boogie board to glide into the shore).

Playa Barrigona, Costa Rica

Ford Quarterman

Warning: getting to this beach is no easy feat, but the reward far outweighs the effort to journey there. While many Costa Rican beaches are jam-packed with tourists guzzling local beers and soaking up Costa Rica's intoxicating rays, Playa Barrigona remains unspoiled and sublime, thanks to its natural barriers to access. Verdant foliage ascends the towering cliffs that flank this idyllic natural wonder, and there's even a waterfall that descends onto the beach. Yes, that's right. As if it couldn't get any more perfect, there's a gushing waterfall that spills onto the beach's fine-grained shores. Mel Gibson attempted to buy the beach (celebrities, right?) but settled for building a ridiculous, 500-acre retreat in the mountains above it. Incidentally, this $30-million estate is now up for grabs.

Little Tybee Island, Georgia

Tucked away near the quaint coastal community of Tybee Beach is a nature preserve called Little Tybee Island. While it may not be 80 degrees in December like other tropical locales, it's still a beautiful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It's a tiny slice of heaven accessible only by boat or other aquatic vehicles like kayaks or jet-skies. This virgin preserve is home to multiple bird species that frequent its salt marshes, beaches, and dunes, and there are camping options available for those who enjoy falling asleep to the lulling sounds of peaceful waves. Just 18 miles from Savannah, Little Tybee Island is ideal for a solo picnic or even a social gathering for friends or relatives. Tybee Island Charters will cook up and serve a gourmet sunset picnic for six or more people on a private beach on the island. Dean Martin had it right when he crooned, "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina"—but exploring this unspoiled Georgian island certainly gives its southern neighbors a run for their money, even if you're not sporting a bikini.

Playa Porto Mari, Curaçao

If your only knowledge of Curaçao is of that funky blue liquor that gives tropical drinks their azure hue, you're missing out on a hidden gem. Located at the bottom of the Caribbean—practically within spitting distance of Venezuela—this former Dutch colony combines charming European architecture with stunning aquamarine water and ivory-colored sand. While the government maintains that there are 38 official beaches in Curaçao, there are many more intimate pockets of shoreline dotted along the eastern and northern coasts. Playa Porto Mari is one of the quieter beaches, though it's rare to find a "party beach" on this diverse island. You can snorkel, dive, or simply relax with your favorite book or magazine. With everything you need at arm's length (food, a bar, toilets, and showers) you may be tempted to spend your entire vacation here.

Playita El Faro, Isla Iguana, Panama

Named for its chief residents, black iguanas, Isla Iguana is a beach-lover's (and crowd-hater's) paradise. Mangrove trees fringe the beaches of this lush island, providing an exquisite backdrop to the shockingly white sand and aquamarine water. If you're the type who burns easily or who enjoys the comfort of a cushy beach chair, just make sure you come prepared with provisions, an umbrella, and your own seating—because all you'll find on this secluded shore is what Mother Nature created thousands of years ago.

Next time you find yourself one holiday song away from breathing into a paper bag, take a minute to pause and seriously consider planning a vacation to one of these serene beach getaways—because taking care of yourself is the greatest gift you could ever receive.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker