Off the beaten track… Vacations in South America

The ideal beach getaway tends to bring to mind the famous Ipanema Beach in Brazil, whose beauty has long been immortalized by the Grammy award winning song “Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”).

But don’t limit your choices! The entire sunny continent of South America offers an inexhaustible selection of lovely beaches complete with accommodation, leisure activities, shopping and food. Here are five beach vacation hot spots we picked based on reviews from beach lovers and seasoned traveller, each with a different flavour.

El Valle, Choco, Bahia Solano, Colombia

El Valle is an entire Beach town with lots of huge beaches and rainforest nature walks in the vicinity. One can enjoy surfing, scuba-diving (the area has a rich biodiversity of tropical sea creatures), canopying down the River Valle, dolphin watching or basking against the backdrop of harmonious melody of exotic sounds by birds, crickets and howling insects among giant trees in the rainforests. September to December is the season where you can watch majestic turtles come up to the beaches to nest. There are vegetable markets, fashion shops, cafes and bars should you wish to take a break from the sunny sands.

There is a variety of eco lodges; basic cabins with simple amenities that allow you to integrate with nature and budget hotels. Among these, Humpback Turtle is a popular beach hostel that tourists highly recommend.

Further information on travel in Colombia: http://www.colombia.travel/en/

Dominical Beach, Dominical, Costa Rica

An uncut diamond would aptly describe Dominical. This beach village is lined with dirt roads, beach palms and mangroves. But its turquoise green waters and fiery gold sunsets makes the sleepy little province sparkle, along with the verdant green hills that border it.
The currents are strong and it is not advisable for children and those who are not strong swimmers to swim in the sea, though the beach is a surfer’s heaven for this reason. If the little one wants a swim, consider heading to the refreshing Poza Azul Waterfall a stone’s throw away from Dominical. You can swim in the crystalline waters, while looking out for colourful birds like parrots and toucans in the surrounding trees.
At the end of the day, you can retire among Dominical’s numerous beach shacks that offer great food and music. Tortilla Flats is one of the most highly regarded, being an all-in-one surfer hotel with a seaside restaurant and entertainment.

Further information on travel in Dominical: http://www.anywherecostarica.com/destinations/dominical-costa-rica

Porto da Barra, Salvador, Brazil

A busy and relaxing vacation may sound like a paradox, but you get it at Porto da Barra, an exciting and happening beach where there is always something fun happening to watch or participate in. Entertainers peddle their craft to amused fans on the beach, fishing boats bring in the day’s catch, traders hawk everything from sun cream to hammocks to chairs to freshly baked shrimps coated in cheese. You can haggle to get a good bargain.

The warm sea water is often so clear you can look down to see your toes. Try swimming at sunset. The sinking sun is so magnificent you are virtually swimming in liquid gold when the placid sea reflects the brilliant sunrays.

There are bars and restaurants on the beach, as well as little hotels in the vicinity.

Further information on travel in Salvador: http://www.salvadorcentral.com/TheBeachScene.htm

Paradise Beach (Rajska plaza), Rab, Croatia

Paradise Beach does live up to its name. A picturesque beach with very fine sand, crystal clear warm sea water that can go up to 28°C in the warmer summer months, and a green pine forest lining the edge of the beach offering protection and shade, it is indeed a lovely beach where one finds oneself lulled into relaxation mode without a care in the world. So much so that Paradise Beach was said to be the birthplace of modern skinny dipping, where in 1936, King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson took pleasure in swimming in the lukewarm waters in their birthday suits, and the locals followed suit.

These days, Paradise Beach is more family-friendly; shallow even half a kilometre out, the sea is perfect for young children, elderly, the less mobile and beginner swimmers. Clothing is still optional, but given how crowded it can be during peak periods, you may prefer to keep your clothes on. Sports fanatics will love this beach as there’s a large sports centre nearby offering a huge variety of land and aqua sports facilities ranging from tennis, football, basketball, water slides etc.

There is a wide selection of accommodation in Rab, ranging from premium hotels to budget hostels.

Further information on travel in Croatia: http://www.croatia-beaches.com/family/rab_paradisebeach_beach.htm

Necochea, Buenos Aires, Argentina

If the thought of straying too far away from urbanisation unsettles you, Necochea might be the choice for you. Necochea has a 74km long stretch of beautiful sandy beaches that you can spend all day and more exploring. Meanwhile, high rise buildings loom behind this stretch.

Recommended areas to visit include Costa Bonita, Bahía de los Vientos, Las Grutas, Quequén Beaches and the downtown beaches, the Quequén Lighthouse and the interesting fossils in Punta Caballido. Water sports are popular activities, and you can find locals and holiday makers indulging in some more vigorous sports like wind surfing, jet skiing, sailing, diving, and rowing.

The central part is filled with restaurants, stalls and beach accommodation. However, there are also undeveloped spots in the west area surrounded by sand dunes if you want to get away from the holiday-making masses and run your own treasure hunt.

As Necochea is a busy city home to all kinds of events, especially sports events, you will not have to worry about accommodation, which is widely available in various types.

Further information on getting to Necochea: http://www.argentina.travel/en/meetings/necochea/4140

Tip: For more information and reviews about accommodation in the above-mentioned areas, check out tripadvisor.com

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine


Distinguishing Fact & Fiction Online

The borderless nature of the World Wide Web makes it an infinite treasury of information, plenty of which are freely provided by experts and professionals. The internet has become the first source many of us turn to when we seek solutions and ideas, ranging from tips on handcrafted gifts to remedies for health problems.

However, just about anyone with a computer and internet access can publish information online for free, which means that some far from credible information can easily make their way into our search results. It is crucial to understand that not everything online is accurate, and to learn how to filter out misleading information.

Reference multiple sources

Do not stop at the first link on your list of search results. Instead, check facts against multiple reliable references. A dependable factual or news piece should:
– Provide references to other sources
– Contain well-organised information
– Be sensibly and subjectively written
– Be free of typographical and grammar errors

The popularity of wikis makes it all the more important to assess the reliability of information on the web. A wiki is a website allowing users to modify content via a web browser. Some wikis are moderated by experts on the wiki’s subject. Some are free for all. Due to their vulnerability to abuse, colleges and institutions around the world do not recognise wikis as credible references. Nevertheless, if a wiki article possesses the above-mentioned traits, it is still relevant for personal reference.

Photographs and videos on the web are not absolute truth as they can be easily altered.

Check the authorship

News and information websites by experts and professionals would usually contain the author’s credentials and contact information. If in doubt, always contact the author before accepting their information at face value.

Websites with .gov or .edu extensions are generally regarded to be authoritative as typically only government and educational entities are allowed to use such domains.

Know the purpose of the website

Websites do not exist solely to provide information. They have a myriad of uses, including but not limited to self-expression, sales, experiments and generating online revenue. Articles meant to promote the sale of a product, also known as advertorials, may contain impartial information. Watch out for excessive pop-up advertisements and huge, multi-coloured fonts. Good websites do not need these gimmicks to bug readers into giving their attention.

Find out when it was last updated

The timeliness of information is critical for articles about current developments, especially technology and health where new discoveries are made everyday. Just as outdated medical knowledge is detrimental to the treatment of a patient, it is also unfavourable for your research paper and knowledge.

The internet is a powerful research tool, but not the answer to all questions. Personally consulting a professional is still the most dependable option when critical information is needed.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine