DESTINATIONS • May 2018
Ditch the parents! Skip-generational travel is on the up, with grandparents sweeping their grandchildren away for no-holds-barred dream holidays. Travel writer Marie-France Roy scouts out the destinations that’ll enthral both young and mature generations
With infrastructure geared towards tourism, Thailand is set up for travellers of all ages. For a relaxing beach break, settle on the pastoral island of Koh Yao Yai in the Andaman Sea, where a handful of low-key resorts provide azure pools, beachfront rooms and a whole host of sea sports. Relax on one of several beaches (Loh Paret offers all-day swimming) with a view of limestone cliffs, or take a boat trip to go snorkelling alongside the nearby islands. Active gen-gap families can kayak through the mangrove forests of Pak Klong, and trek through coconut plantations to the iconic Koh Yao Yai viewpoint. For delicious Thai seafood, sample the rock lobsters at Baan Rim Nam near the pier.
Belgium’s eclectic and unassuming capital seems designed for the young at heart. Walk along the six-kilometre Comic Strip Route past giant cartoon murals, and – if you really love comics – check out the museum dedicated to them at Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée. A must-see is the Unesco Heritage Site Grand-Place, home to ornate guildhalls and oodles of cobbled charm. From here, take a short walk to see what the Manneken Pis statue is wearing that day (the rebellious bronze is frequently dressed up by city officials). For fantastic museums with an all-ages appeal, try the Museum of Musical Instruments and the Magritte Museum, home to the mind-boggling art of René Magritte. Finally, sit down to warming dishes of cordon bleu pork in mushroom sauce with Belgian frites, and let the grandchildren splurge on the city’s famous chocolates.
Costa Rica has been welcoming eco-tourists for decades. Take a guided hike through the misty Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to learn all about the flora and fauna that reside in this biodiverse playground, and try spotting the elusive quetzal highland bird. Activities can be as exciting or tame as you desire, from an aerial tram ride through the treetops, a zip-lining adventure over waterfalls and volcanos, or something less daring, like a tour around the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and Monteverde Cheese Factory. Round up your trip with a stay near one of the beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula: Playa Hermosa, Playa Carrillo and Playa Samara all enjoy calm waters, perfect for young swimmers.
San Francisco packs visual appeal for both the bright-eyed and old pros with its iconic streetcars, brightly painted Victorian houses, Golden Gate Bridge and rollercoaster streets. It’s located on a peninsula, so explore the glittering sea views from Golden Gate Park, visit the kid-friendly Exploratorium and watch the sea lions basking lazily at Pier 39. When hunger strikes, sample local treats at the historic Ferry Building, now a public marketplace housing gourmet goodies and small-scale cafés. Or you can try sharing dim sum in North America’s largest Chinatown. Got a sweet tooth to satisfy? Check out the famous Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, and the Cheesecake Factory on Union Square.
New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty offers thrilling sights and activities for all ages. For those memorable underwater moments, swim with dolphins and snorkel off the superb beaches east of Mt Maunganui before heading south to meet the endangered kiwi of Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Then there’s the bubbling mud pools, coloured lakes and geysers to be found at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland or Waimangu Volcanic Valley; perfect for families, they both involve an easy hike with stunning results. This area is also rich in Maori heritage, featuring concerts and traditional hangi feasts. Fans of another NZ favourite, Lord of the Rings, can tour the Hobbiton movie set, while the buried village of Te Wairoa delivers the very real relics of a town destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera.