Recipe for Success
Rhapsody

Recipe for success

By The Hub team , January 20, 2017

Story by Ellen Carpenter | Photography by Kyle RM Johnson | Rhapsody, December 2016

In the wake of Hurricane Odile, Los Cabos has reinvented itself as a culinary hot spot

Los Cabos has long reigned as Mexico's top luxury beach destination, pampering guests with over-the-top spa treatments, butler service, and infinity pools galore. But over the past year, it has started to earn a new reputation as the country's fine dining capital.

When Hurricane Odile swept across Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo two years ago, it destroyed resorts, littered pristine beaches with debris, and ripped the roof right off the airport. Within a year, most of the resorts and restaurants had reopened, more glorious than ever, but they didn't just rebuild; they reimagined. And food took center stage in this process. “There's Cabo before the hurricane," says Alex Branch, the chef de cuisine at Manta, which opened at The Cape in June 2015, “and Cabo after the hurricane." He couldn't be more right. Gone is the Cabo Wabo reputation of tequila shots and enchiladas. Gone is the interest in celebrity chefs without any ties to the country. Gone is the trend toward all-inclusives. Suddenly, contemporary and creative Mexican restaurants are popping up everywhere, with Mexican chefs at the helm. Here are five eateries that are helping to define post-Odile Cabo.

Manta

When asked what kind of food they make at Manta, chef de cuisine Alex Branch instead says what they don't make: “We don't do Mexican food for Americans," he says as he presents me a plate of two chocolate clam shells served atop a bed of ice and filled with a mix of clams, cucumber, habanero, and onion in a yuzu sauce, crowned with a sliver of avocado and a perfectly sized sprig of cilantro. No, this is not stereotypical Mexican fare, but it is the kind of creative, fresh food you'd expect from chef-owner Enrique Olvera, who also runs Mexico City's Pujol, No. 5 on the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants list, and Cosme, one of the hardest reservations to get in New York City. He opened Manta in 2015, after a decade of vacationing in Los Cabos with his family. “I've always wanted a restaurant like this in Los Cabos," Olvera says. “I always felt there needed to be a lighter, more contemporary Mexican approach."

Chocolate clams at MantaChocolate clams at Manta


Chef de cuisine Alex BranchChef de cuisine Alex Branch

Situated in The Cape, an equally contemporary (and very sexy) hotel overlooking El Arco, Manta offers a menu that beautifully reflects the light and airy magic of Los Cabos. There are more than 20 plates to mix and match to make your own tasting menu, and because I'm the indecisive type, I let chef Branch, a gregarious Mexico City native, choose for me: meltingly tender octopus anticucho served with a rich chorizo and dark-beer mayo; a jewel-like salad of tomato, watermelon, and raspberry with a hibiscus chamoy dressing; black miso lingcod tacos served in handmade flour tortillas with just the right amount of chew. “We want you to try a whole bunch of different stuff on the menu, but we don't want you leaving feeling like you need to take a nap," says Branch, who runs the kitchen (Olvera visits regularly and changes the menu every time he comes).

Though every table in the restaurant offers a prime view of the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows, the best seat is at the kitchen bar, with your back to the glorious sunset behind you. There, sip a glass of chardonnay from the Parras Valley, and watch the meticulous prep cooks carefully slice avocados to top sashimi and plate seafood tostadas so enticing you'll end up ordering one for yourself. You won't regret it.

Flora's Field Kitchen

You may think you're lost as you drive slowly along the pothole-filled dirt road to Flora Farm. How, you think, could there possibly be a farm out here in the desert? But then, after one more turn, you see it: an oasis of green … and an abundance of cool young vacationers in Illesteva sunglasses angling for a seat at one of the picnic tables in the bustling outdoor dining area, where they can have an epic brunch of wood-fired pizzas and lemon ricotta pancakes and drink a pelo de perro—hair of the dog—Bloody Mary made with fresh tomato juice and topped with a kale leaf, pickles, carrots, and a slice of beet.

Patrick and Gloria Greene have owned this 10-acre farm since 1996, but it didn't become the Los Cabos dining hot spot until a few years ago, when they added the restaurant, Flora's Field Kitchen. Last year, Guillermo Tellez, a veteran of Charlie Trotter's, took over the kitchen along with his wife, Leslie, the pastry chef. The majority of the produce comes from the farm, and the meats come from the Greenes' 150-acre ranch, just 20 miles away, which humanely raises cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits.

A farmhand at work A farmhand at work "Mango trees bow heavily with ripe fruit, purple eggplants beg to be plucked from their vines, and bees circle papayas ready to fall."


The pelo de perro Bloody MaryThe pelo de perro Bloody Mary

After polishing off my huevos rancheros and half of my son's cinnamon roll, I head off on a farm tour with Dulce Perea, a manager at the restaurant. Mango trees bow heavily with ripe fruit, purple eggplants beg to be plucked from their vines, and bees circle papayas ready to fall. At Flora's Field Kitchen, Perea explains, there's no pressure to make typical Mexican cuisine—the chefs just want to do the produce justice. “People don't come here and say, 'Ooh I love the Cabo food!' because we don't have a certain cuisine," she says. “So that's what makes it easier to combine this and that and take advantage of all the things that we have."

Perea gives my 3-year-old son, Calder, some food to feed the turtles that are doing laps around a pond, while I watch other kids run around a small playground, as their parents drink margaritas and talk in the shade. The scene is like something out of a blissful vacation guide—and I'm grateful I get to experience it for myself.

El Farallon

It's difficult to imagine a more romantic setting than El Farallon, which is precariously perched on a cliff over the Pacific, with waves crashing dramatically on the rocks right below the candlelit tables (or on them, if it's a particularly windy night). The Resort at Pedregal has been a Los Cabos standby since 2009, but after the hurricane, the hotel rethought this dining space and made it even more irresistible by adding a Champagne terrace. This is not just a gimmick to entice men with diamond rings hidden in their pockets (though, admittedly, this is a great place to propose); Champagne is a serious subject here, and there are 30 available by the bottle and 17 by the glass. For a unique twist, the wines are paired with salts, which naturalize the minerals in the bubbly. On one particularly windy night, I meet executive chef Gustavo Pinet on the terrace, and he implores me to put a few crystals of black lava salt on my tongue and then take a sip of a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. Suddenly, it's sweeter and smoother, even better than before—which I know is hard to believe.

The cliffside dining terraceThe cliffside dining terrace

The food at El Farallon is just as impressive. The focus is seafood caught that day, and seeing an abundance of it on ice at the front of the restaurant makes you realize how blessed Los Cabos is in its location. “The fish, the clams, the mussels, it's all coming from Baja California," Pinet tells me. “We're very lucky."

As are diners. A set ocean-to-table menu means you don't have to worry about choosing from all those fish you spied up front and can instead sit back and listen to a guitarist play Spanish-inflected acoustic covers of Madonna songs while you watch the hypnotic waves. I start with a creamy yet surprisingly light crab chowder, followed by a trio of appetizers: a tuna ceviche with caviar lime, cucumber, red onion, and an aji amarillo sauce; a beet and spinach salad with an orange and papantla vinaigrette; and crispy calamari with a fresh tomato sauce. Then comes the main attraction: a beautiful and bountiful medley of grilled totoaba, lobster, shrimp, red snapper, sea bass, and scallops served with family-style sides like marinated mushrooms, grilled asparagus, and corn with epazote mayonnaise. It's so simple, yet perfectly executed. Each bite of seafood tastes pure, just lightly kissed by fire and smoke. This is the kind of meal to linger over, to savor each bite. And if a wave does crash over your table, not to worry: The waiter will bring you a plush towel to dry off—and you'll have a story to tell.

Toro

One bite into a grilled avocado at Toro will have you regretting all the years you spent not eating grilled avocados. This one, at Richard Sandoval's oceanfront restaurant, comes filled with a tomato-corn salsa, the black grill marks on the avocado lending just the right amount of smoke to the whole appetizer. It's a marker of all the dishes served at Toro (and there are a lot; this menu is extensive): They're utterly addictive.

A Toro server checks his notesA Toro server checks his notes

Richard Sandoval is known as the father of modern Mexican cuisine. He has more than 40 restaurants, stretching from Denver to Dubai (I've eaten at three of them in New York City alone), but Cabo San Lucas's Toro, which opened in August 2015, feels unique—partly because, unlike at Sandoval's place in, say, Scottsdale, you know all the seafood you're eating is as local as it gets, and because the space is so striking and thoughtfully designed. Studio Arthur Casas, a São Paulo–based architecture firm, aimed to blend a typical Mexican courtyard with this seaside setting, and the results are beyond Instagram–worthy. A massive square wraparound ceviche bar is the perfect place to have a pisco-based prickly pear chilcano cocktail and watch the chefs prepare your hamachi tiradito with aguachile sauce and sour apple. Locally crafted ceramic vases are illuminated on the shelving that lines the perimeter, giving the space an equally rustic and modern vibe. The front dining room, with its matching wood-planked ceiling and floors, looks out onto the palm trees dotting the sand and the ocean just beyond.

Tuna and hamachi sashimi at ToroTuna and hamachi sashimi at Toro

The setting is all the better when paired with dishes like smoked swordfish and guacamole with plantain chips, tuna tacos in purple corn tortillas with a tangy carrot-ginger salsa, crab and shrimp enchiladas in a subtly sweet tomato sauce, and—my favorite—a miso barbecue escolar fish served with pickled onions and an aioli made using the peppery Japanese spice blend togarashi. Executive chef César Cervantes has led the kitchen since the restaurant opened in 2015, and he takes great pride in his work. “Cabo is a small city, but step by step the kitchens are getting better and better," he tells me while I dig into an astoundingly delicious sweet-corn pudding topped with praline and caramel and surrounded by a decadent moat of eggnog. “And I think right now this is one of the best restaurants in Cabo." Cheers to that.

Café des Artistes

A dramatic stairwell leading to the restaurantA dramatic stairwell leading to the restaurant

The chefs at the elegant Café des Artistes, in the new JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, all wear bright white toques that stretch nearly two feet high. This kind of stately dress is perfectly emblematic of the food they cook: Every dish is a true work of art, in appearance and taste. My appetizer of soft-shell crab more resembles a refined Jackson Pollock than something edible. Frenzied rings of honey vinaigrette and balsamic vinegar encircle the crab, which is topped with a delicate salad of shaved orange and watercress; a shower of pecans, sunflower seeds, and tiny magenta edible flowers adds color and texture. I take a photo and then a bite, feeling guilty for ruining such a masterpiece. But only briefly: I clean the plate, greedily swiping the crisp, salty crab and sweet orange through the honey and vinegar.

A fiery sautéA fiery sauté

This Café des Artistes, chef-owner Thierry Blouet's second location, opened last November. Blouet, who was born in Puerto Rico and studied in Mexico and France, has run the original restaurant in Puerto Vallarta for 25 years, and the new iteration features a menu combining some of his all-time best dishes with new items created to reflect the cuisine of Los Cabos. It looks like white-tablecloth French fare, but it tastes utterly Mexican. “It's not really fusion," says Mario Rodriguez, the executive chef, fine dining. “We're taking Mexican flavors and preparing the food with French techniques." He and the rest of the team—including Pablo Vivanco, the executive sous chef, and Iván Tapia, the head sommelier—sit with me in the restaurant's lounge before dinner service begins and tell me about their experience in Mexican kitchens and their take on the food scene in Los Cabos. “This is not fast cuisine," Tapia says. “I think that's the new concept of Cabo and San José: to make elaborate dishes for people to enjoy and bring another kind of customer here. We want to take away that idea that Mexico is only beer and nachos."

I do have a few tortilla chips this evening, but they're handmade and accompany a gorgeous grilled lobster tail bathed in a garlic-caper sauce. My husband, Chris, and Calder join me for dinner, just as the sun is starting to dip into the Pacific. Chris devours the zarandeado fish of the day, a firm totoaba served enchilada-style with a spicy tomato sauce and pineapple foam, while Calder surprises us by happily eating the tuna tiradito and stealing half of my lobster. The couple at the table next to us are celebrating their anniversary, and the waiters toast them with a sparkler-topped dessert that has Calder gawking in envy. Five minutes later, our immensely friendly server, Omar, comes bearing our own sparkler-topped cheesecake, and my son's face lights up, literally and figuratively. “We're celebrating your first time here," Omar says. And definitely not our last.


United Journey

How traveling changed the course of our future

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…Mark Twain knew this, and anyone who travels and gets out of their comfort zone understands this same concept.

This is one of the reasons we love to travel — our perceptions and stereotypes are constantly being challenged. This is also probably why we've built a business that requires us to travel regularly — we create street art pieces in cities around the world.

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But we weren't always like this. Our love of travel first began when our Mom took us backpacking through Europe for a month. At the time, we were both young teenagers who had never been out of the country. We carefully planned our outfits and fit them into one backpack each. Mom carried our Rick Steve's travel guide and off we went. We stayed in shabby hotels across the United Kingdom, France and Spain, visiting every museum we could find, eating every baguette, croissant and paella dish we could get our hands on, and loving every second of it.

We've been addicted to travel ever since.

Kelsey sketches at a street cafe in Paris Kelsey sketches at a street cafe in Paris

I (Kelsey) fell so in love with London on that trip that I grew determined to study there. Fast forward to years later when I graduated from Richmond University in London. That trip changed the course of my life because I learned about and experienced street art during my studies in London. Courtney fell so in love with Paris that she learned French and graduated with a degree in comparative literature from the American University of Paris. That first trip changed the course of our lives forever and opened our eyes to how massive the world was. I don't think our Mom could have given us a better gift than that first trip abroad.

As adults who travel constantly we feel like a MileagePlus® membership is another important piece of the equation and something we've benefitted from tremendously over the years. The various United Club℠ locations are little refuges we escape to in busy and overwhelming airports. Being able to board early, getting upgraded and having nice flight attendants on long haul flights really can mean the difference between arriving well rested and having a good trip, or arriving tired and having a rough trip.

At the end of the day a company is all about the people in it and the kindness we have experienced on United flights has been wonderful. I remember once on a flight, one of our captains wrote a personal note thanking each passenger flying in United First® class for traveling on United. On another, a flight the attendant saw I was not feeling well and hunted down an Airborne (vitamin pack) for me. Still another flight attendant asked about my art (I was sketching on the plane) and when I explained what I do they committed to buying my coloring book. It's these connections that really make flying United so memorable for myself and my sister.

So if you're looking to give your child a gift, take them traveling. And if you're looking for a present for yourself, sign up to enjoy the benefits of a MileagePlus Membership. You won't regret either.

Join MileagePlus to start earning miles from the world's most rewarding loyalty program℠ and share your story with #UnitedJourney.

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United and Special Olympics

Taking inclusion to new heights

Our shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world — and no organization better embodies that principle than Special Olympics.

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Welcome day brings employees and Special Olympics athletes together

By Matt Adams , July 13, 2018

As part of the weekend's festivities, our CEO, Oscar Munoz, joined a group of employees and retirees in greeting nearly 700 arriving athletes, coaches and volunteers at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport (SEA), as well as hundreds more at local light rail stations, all of which were decorated with our Special Olympics superhero campaign banners.

Oscar also had the honor of giving Special Olympics athlete Nikki Jones her first in person look at her superhero alter ego Lane Lightning, a moment that was captured on the video below.

Introducing a more personalized experience on united.com

By Gladys Roman , July 13, 2018

Our united.com homepage is getting some big enhancements. Yesterday, we announced the launch of the new site, which will offer a more modern, user-friendly design, allowing users a more personalized digital experience.

Each one of our customers is unique and has different needs for his or her travel, and personalizing our digital offerings is just another step toward giving our customers the experience and the products that they ask for, said Digital Products and Analytics VP Praveen Sharma. "Our goal with this new homepage is to provide customers with a more seamless experience."

The new website will provide personalized content based on a customer's MileagePlus® status as well as upcoming, current or prior trips. It will also include a new display that will be fully responsive for optimal viewing on desktop and mobile devices. Later this year, the site will include a travel section that will provide customers with curated content from destinations United serves.

We began rolling out the new homepage in April and continued expanding it to more users while we added more functionality throughout the phased rollout. The site will be live to all customers in early August.

These efforts are part of our commitment to improve our customers' travel experience through every step of their journey. Earlier this year, we updated our mobile website, adding a more optimized display, additional flexibility to adjust flights throughout the site, Japanese language translations and more.

Our new homepage will also appear on our mobile website, creating a more seamless experience when customers are managing travel and bookings across multiple devices.

United Journey

Transcending borders and languages in Tanzania

By The Hub team

Story and photos by Davis Paul

I have been very fortunate to travel the world telling stories with a camera for the last decade. Being a United MileagePlus® member for many of those years has absolutely opened the world and eased my ability to get around. And, it enabled me to authentically document the way in which different people and cultures do life, which has now become an obsession. How can you make someone feel what you witnessed despite not being there?

Dirt road in Tanzania

The world is full of amazing stories and incredible lessons that can transcend borders and languages. I believe every location is uniquely beautiful on it's own, we just need to see it for what it is and not in comparison to others. Bangladesh can be just as beautiful as Tahiti if we remove expectation and appreciate the uniqueness each location has to offer.

However, of all the trips I have ever taken, out of every project I have embarked on, from X Games to Real Madrid, there is one that hit me in a very different way. That was my trip to Tanzania to work on the border of Burundi out of two Refugee Camps. I was contracted to help train and build soccer programs within the camp as well as create content that would provide impactful insight into the circumstances taking place throughout the region as well as to connect the outside world with these amazing people fighting for their lives. I had zero preparation for the trip, having only booked my flight a week in advance. I had never traveled to Africa, let alone a refugee camp that couldn't be more difficult to get to. In fact, it was roughly 38 hours of travel by myself including having an 8 hour drive on something that barely resembled a road. Because it was so last minute, I actually wasn't able to secure a driver to take me to the town of Kibondo which meant once I landed, I had to find any local with a car who would be willing to take me the distance. Luckily, I found a man named Frankie who had a Toyota Corolla which consequently broke down within the first hour of our journey.

Group of kids in Burundi, Tanzania

Once I arrived, I had never witnessed life in this manner. Hundreds of thousands of refugees all piled together within 2 square miles. Mud huts, tarps, tents, anything and everything to sustain life was being used. Almost everyone in this camp had lost a loved one to violence yet I had never seen so much hope and joy. It completely changed my perspective on life to live amongst these people for 3 weeks. I ate with them everyday in the camp, eating the local food with my hands. To hear their stories, to see how they live and to dream with them on the brighter future they all hope exists was truly humbling. I'll never forget the lessons I learned within this camp and from these people — their love and optimism despite having experienced unimaginable tragedy was uplifting. When I asked if there was one message I could bring back to the United States, they simply would say, "we just want people to know we exist". I hope that my time and efforts there at least provided that. Although I tried to make the biggest impact I could while there, it is safe to say I was the one impacted the most and I will be forever grateful for that. I just hope I can help in half of the way they helped me.

Davis Paul pictured in Tanzania

I'm never sure where the next story will exist, but I can guarantee you'll find me on the ground, always laughing with a camera in hand. Traveling is a gift that allows us insight into both our differences and similarities, and the more you travel, the more you realize we all share in the same struggles, same hopes and same dreams. I believe that despite bad things happening, the world is full of good — we just need to seek it in every situation.

Join MileagePlus to start earning miles from the world's most rewarding loyalty program℠ and share your story with #UnitedJourney.

How to experience the best of Prague in 3 days

By Nick Harper

Every bit as historic, as beautiful and as culturally enriching as the European heavyweights of Paris, London or Rome, Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic has emerged over recent decades to be a jewel in the continent's crown.

The city escaped significant bomb damage during World War II and its historic center remains magnificently intact, with a maze of cobbled lanes, quiet courtyards, chic cafés and ancient chapels just waiting to be discovered. To see enough of the city, we suggest visiting for at least three days.

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Getting into the city

Upon arrival, regular and reliable buses and trains will get you into the center of the city within 20 minutes. Unless you're heading outside of Prague, you shouldn't need to rent a car. The center of Prague is compact and easily to explore on foot, with excellent and cheap trams, buses and the subway if you don't want to walk.

Where to stay

Central Prague is broken down into 10 districts, with most visitors staying in Prague 1, the heart of the city. Here you have two good options: The Old Town or the Lesser Town – linked by Prague's most celebrated landmark, the Charles Bridge. The Old Town is at the heart of everything, full of historical sites, bars and restaurants but can be overpriced and often considered 'touristy' as a result. The Lesser Town is still close to the heart of everything but with a more tranquil atmosphere that's particularly good for families.

Old Town in Prague

What to see

There's too much to see in a single visit, however, one of the absolute essentials has to be Prague Castle, which is literally unmissable. The largest castle complex in the world, it dates back to the 9th century and is also home to the presidential palace, the vast St. Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane — an original 16th-century street of tiny cottages that was home to Franz Kafka. The lookout tower of St. Vitus Cathedral gives you a bird's eye view of the city, as does Petrin Lookout Tower at the top of Petrin Hill, which climbs 206 feet to look down on the city.

From there head to the Old Town Square, which is the medieval center of Prague, surrounded by cobbled streets awash with cafes and restaurants. It's home to the Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock, the Rococo Kinsky Palace and the stunning Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn. If you visit in December, it also hosts the city's largest Christmas market.

Also close by, Klementinum is a series of historic buildings worth visiting just to see what is arguably the most beautiful library in the world. If you're looking for a world-class collection of historical artifacts, minerals and zoological specimens, the National Museum ticks all of the boxes. It's located at the top of Wenceslas Square, which is not actually a square but a boulevard – and one of Prague's most popular shopping streets.

Kampa Island is a great alternative to the National Museum. Literally an island located beneath Charles Bridge, you'll find the museum of modern art, The John Lennon Wall and giant, slightly unnerving sculptures of crawling babies. Speaking of Charles Bridge, it is one of Prague's most popular and photographed sites for good reason. You'll no doubt use it to cross the Vltava River, but for the best photographs, visit at dawn, before the crowds arrive.

And if all this walking gets to be too much, see the city from a different perspective, floating gently down the Vltava on a river cruise.

River Vltava in Prague

Where to eat

Restaurants to suit every taste and budget dot the center of Prague. Great breakfast options include Coffee Room, Mezi Srnky and the always-popular Café Savoy, which is also great for lunch or dinner.

In a city full of carnivores, the Real Meat Society's porchetta sandwich is a lunchtime highlight, Dish is a stylish little burger joint full of fashionable people, while Lokál Dlouhááá offers a beer hall feel and Czech classics of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings washed down with beer.

The city's only two Michelin-starred restaurants are Field and La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, the latter creating modern takes on old Czech recipes using the highest quality local produce. Both restaurants require a reservation. Highly recommended 'Bib Gourmand' restaurants within easy reach of Charles Bridge include Sansho, Divinis and Maso A Kobliha, where the salty caramel pie may elicit happy tears.

Prague skyline at sunrise

Where to drink

In the number one beer-drinking nation on the planet, the locals refer to it as 'Liquid bread.' Prague is home to many of the nation's finest bars and ale houses, many of which brew their own beers. Two of the most historic are U Zlateho Tygra, which President Clinton visited in 1994, and U Cerneho Vola, which stands in the shadow of the castle. Letná Beer Garden offers an outdoor setting where you can enjoy a beer and views of the Old Town below.

And keep an eye out for 'tankovna' – tank pubs – where the beer is not pasteurized, as most beers have to be to be transported around the globe. In tank pubs such as U Pinkasu, the beer is probably the freshest you'll ever taste. But if pilsner is not your preference, head to Hemingway Bar, one of the world's finest cocktail bars. You may have to wait in line as it is a popular with both locals and tourists alike, but it's well worth the wait.

When to go

Prague is the warmest and busiest during the summer months, from April until October and peak season starts in July through August. The longer nights of spring and summer will give you more time to explore, while the celebrated Beer Festival fills the city's Letná Park in May. Spring and autumn are generally quieter and can be less costly than the summer months. If you can cope with the colder temperatures and darker days, winter is a magical time to be in the city.

Getting there

United, together with many of its Star Alliance partner airlines, offers service from multiple cities in the U.S. to Prague. To explore all that Prague has to offer and to book your trip, visit united.com or use the United app.

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The 10 best beach vacation destinations in Europe

By The Hub team

These spots offer the perfect beach day with a side of art, history and nightlife.

Europe is home to some of the world's most-celebrated seas — the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Aegean — and its cultural mosaic makes it a top choice for beach lovers looking to mix sun, fun, art, history and nightlife. Windsurf in the morning, visit ancient ruins in the afternoon, shop for the season's hottest beachwear before enjoying sunset cocktails and then partying until dawn. Sound good? Read on to discover the 10 best beach vacation destinations in Europe.

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Mykonos, Greece

Few places do charm and decadence better than Mykonos. This sunny Greek island's calling cards are almost-anything-goes beaches (expect plenty of skin), Instagram-worthy Cycladic architecture (whitewashed buildings with brightly hued shutters and cascading flower boxes), 16th-century windmills (a must-see at sunset) and legendary discos and dance clubs in Mykonos Town. As for the beaches, check out Ornos Bay for pretty views and excellent windsurfing, chic Psarou for celebrity spotting and Paradise and Super Paradise for hedonistic sun-worshipping and dancing until sunrise.

Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca, Spain Mallorca, Spain | Shutterstock

This beautiful Mediterranean oasis, the largest of the Balearic Islands located off the east coast of Spain, is a hot spot for northern Europeans, who flock here in summer to enjoy long days of sunshine and fresh air. Once you get beyond the urban sprawl of the capital, Palma, mountainous, bay-fringed Mallorca delivers some of the region's most amazing azure water and soft-sand beaches — there are more than 250, from popular 3½-mile Playa de Muro to secluded Cala Mesquida. The view from the water is pretty incredible, too: centuries-old hilltop villages constructed of golden stone backed by peaceful olive groves and vineyards.

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar, CroatiaHvar, Croatia | Shutterstock

In between swimming, sunning and windsurfing, visitors to this summer-resort island, located in the Adriatic off of Croatia's coast near Split, can tour a 13th-century fortress and cathedral, go wine tasting (if you haven't tried Croatian wine, you should) and in June and July, inhale the heavenly aroma of lavender, which grows in abundance here. Hvar's beaches are known for their intense scenic beauty — many are set in serene bays surrounded by cliffs and pine forests — and tempting options include Dubovica, Zavala and Ivan Dolac.

Saint-Malo, France

Saint-Malo, FranceSaint-Malo, France | Shutterstock

If it's seaside drama you seek, consider Saint-Malo, a walled city in France's Brittany region where the cobblestone medieval streets of Old Town are surrounded by a series of sandy beaches, some of which are only walkable at low tide and offer access to rocky islands (timetables tell you when to visit). When the tide's high, tour the Cathedral of Saint-Vincent (constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries) and the city's landmark fortress with its four round towers. Or you can always kick back and relax on Plage du Sillon, a vast beach that stretches for almost 2 miles along the English Channel.

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza, SpainIbiza, Spain | Shutterstock

It helps to be young to enjoy the 24/7 frenzy that is Ibiza — the wildest isle in the Med thanks to its world-famous clubs blasting dance music. Should you be awake when the sun's shining, top activities on Ibiza, which is also one of Spain's Balearic Islands, include music festivals, beach-going (Cala D'Hort has a view of the distinctive Es Vedra rock formation or hop over to neighboring island Formentera, known for its white sand) and scuba diving, since visibility here is superb.

Sicily, Italy

Sicily, ItalySicily, Italy | Shutterstock

If you're a fan of old-school destinations — scenic, slow-paced and filled with tradition — you can't go wrong with Sicily. This Italian island, the largest in the Mediterranean, is home to stunning beaches, yummy treats such as ricotta-filled cannoli and meat-filled rice balls called arancini (both invented here) and ancient Greek and Roman ruins dating back several millennia. It also boasts Europe's most active volcano: Mt Etna. Book a beach resort for maximum access to sun and sand, or stay in charming hilltop Taormina and day trip to beaches such as Isola Bella or Giardini Naxos.

The Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve, PortugalThe Algarve, Portugal | Shutterstock

The hot Iberian sun shines along the southern coast of Portugal 300 days a year — and in summer, the region receives very little rain — so it's no surprise that the Algarve ranks among the top beach destinations in Europe. It's also incredibly pretty and quite affordable, with a variety of hotels, rental apartments and homes located in cities and villages stretching from Sagres in the east to Villa Real in the west. In between are more than 150 beaches, with Praia da Falésia near Albufeira, Praia da Camilo near Lagos and Praia da Marinha near Lagoa featuring photogenic limestone cliffs.

Crete, Greece

Crete, GreeceCrete, Greece | Shutterstock

As Greek Isles beaches go, Crete has some of the best. But Greece's largest island is also its most geologically diverse — so beaches here range from sweeping and tranquil to compact and crowded. For the former, head to Balos Lagoon near Kissamos on the west coast or Elafonisi Beach, also in western Crete, with its pink sand. For the latter, there's Vai Beach near Sitia in the northeast, which is backed by Europe's largest natural palm grove, and Matala Beach on the south coast, where you can follow your swim with a seafood lunch at a local taverna.

Cornwall, England

Cornwall, EnglandCornwall, England | Shutterstock

There are hundreds of beaches along this rugged peninsula on the Atlantic in southwest England, some ideal for surfing, others for beachcombing and others for seaside shopping and dining. It's all incredibly wild and moody, the kind of setting that's equally inspiring to artists and adventure-lovers. For pure visual delight, it's hard to beat the beaches around St. Ives, especially Porthmeor, while Kynance Cove seduces at first sight with its unblemished natural beauty. Add in fishing villages such as Mevagissey and Polperro and you'll discover how Cornwall charms visitors with a raw authenticity that's ever harder to find these days.

Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia, ItalySardinia, Italy | Shutterstock

On this vast Italian island, the second largest in the Mediterranean, it's possible to be a jetsetter or a backpacker, to step back in time while strolling tiny villages or channel the 21st-century while sunning on a modern mega-yacht, to visit ancient temples or enjoy the latest youth-enhancing spa treatment. Long celebrated for its talcum-soft beaches and clear aquamarine water, Sardinia's alluring Costa Smeralda has been a summer hot spot since the mid-1960s. Yet the island also has a harsh interior landscape that has shaped the local mindset and cuisine (fava beans, sheep's milk cheese and lamb with artichokes compete with seafood and pasta on many menus). But it's Sardinia's coastal beauty that has made it envied the world over.


This article was written by Donna Heiderstadt from Islands and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Rising tide of Special Olympics lifts employee's daughter

By Matt Adams , July 10, 2018

A dark green wave rises and crests, spilling over into a froth of white foam as it picks up steam and propels Alissa DiDomenico toward the shores of Fernandina Beach, north of Jacksonville, Florida. With her arms outstretched, Alissa kneels on her surfboard, eyes focused in concentration, and shifts her weight with the momentum, settling in for the ride as the water flattens over the hot sand.

Alissa's father, United's Jacksonville International Airport General Manager Paul DiDomenico, watches from nearby as she comes to a stop. Hopping to her feet, Alissa flashes a wide grin at her dad then turns, her board under one arm, and paddles back out to do it again.

It's late June, and Alissa, 18, is in the thick of competition season as she seeks to represent Nassau County at the Special Olympics Florida State Surfing Championship in Cocoa Beach this September. If she's successful, it will be her fourth consecutive state finals appearance, where she was a gold medalist in 2016 (the contest was cancelled in 2017 because of Hurricane Irma). Paul, a native Midwesterner more comfortable in the snow than in the sand, is nevertheless a fixture at all of Alissa's events and weekend practices, joined by his wife, Marta, in the cheering section.

The water is Alissa's sanctuary, the place where she feels most at home, like "a little mermaid," Paul says. Pool therapy helped her build her strength when she was young, and by the time she began riding waves in 2014 she was already an accomplished swimmer. When Nassau County Special Olympics introduced surfing, Paul encouraged her to give it a try and Alissa was immediately hooked, drawn to the speed and grace inherent to the sport.

Alissa and her dad at one of the surf competitions.

Apart from bringing her enjoyment, swimming and surfing have also had a transformative effect on Alissa as a person, helping to draw her out of her shell. She's on the autism spectrum and has difficulties speaking, but the look on her face when she's in the water says more than words ever could. Without Special Olympics, Alissa – and countless other children – wouldn't have these kinds of experiences, which is why Paul is so glad to see United expand its partnership with the organization, which includes flying nearly 700 athletes to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle and sponsoring the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago.

I see it as an opportunity for her to step out and do something that's out of the ordinary, but also ordinary at the same time, because every kid plays sports, says Paul. "This is her opportunity to play and socialize."

As the morning session draws to an end, Alissa bobs in the water on her surfboard. A line of waves swell as they near the shoreline and she readies herself in a crouch. Before she can find her balance, though, her feet are swept out from under her, sending Alissa splashing into the Atlantic.

In an instant she's back on her board, waiting for the next set of waves to roll in, and with them, her next chance. Before long, she's gliding toward the beach once more, exhausted but happy, in a way that looks effortless. Competitions and medals are the farthest thing from Alissa's mind as Paul meets her with open arms, her smile matched only by his. In that moment, she's already won all there is to win.

Brazil’s big three: Rio, São Paulo & Salvador

By Bob Cooper

Brazil is nearly as large, populous and diverse as the United States. So where does a tourist begin? In the U.S., the answer might be to visit New York City, Chicago and L.A., each with its own personality. In Brazil, the best answer is Rio de Janeiro for its festive vitality, São Paulo for its cosmopolitan culture and Salvador for its history and beaches.

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro at sunset

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Rio de Janeiro

The world came to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics and left with a big grin. The energy of the city, the splendor of the beaches and the spirit of the people — including a passion for sports — made the games the global success story of the year.

From the Lapa district's samba clubs to the beaches, Rio de Janeiro is a colorful city where the party never ends. Copacabana Beach's two miles of sand are routinely packed with tourists and locals alike while adjacent Ipanema Beach is more sedate, located alongside the Ipanema and Leblon neighborhoods' upscale shopping streets and restaurants. Two steep, iconic mountains tower over the city, letting you see it all from high above. Take a gondola ride to climb to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, or a cog train to ascend up to Corcovado Mountain's 130-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer statue.

Estaiada Bridge in Sao Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo

With 12 million people, São Paulo is the Western Hemisphere's most populous city, boasting more residents than New York City and even Mexico City. But that's not the only reason to visit. It's a must-see global city because of what the diverse, relatively affluent population has built — many of South America's finest museums, architecture, culture and more.

Several museums are found in the old city center. Walking distance apart are a neoclassical Brazilian art museum (The Pina), a neo-Byzantine cathedral and a Belle-Epoque covered marketplace. Elsewhere in the city are the São Paulo Museum of Art, boasting the largest collection of Western art in the Southern Hemisphere, and Museu Paulista, a colossal history museum surrounded by Versailles-inspired gardens at the University of Sao Paulo. Every Saturday, live samba music is played in many of the city's bars, but the place to experience this is at Bar Samba in Vila Madalena. And when you're hungry, it's good to know the restaurants are the best in Brazil, especially in the Jardins district. Among them are countless sushi spots and pizzerias, thanks to a vast population of Japanese and Italian immigrants and descendants.

Salvador

Among the major cities on Brazil's northern coast, none offer as much to visitors as Salvador, the original capital city of Brazil. This city of three million has stunning beaches, superb restaurants and bars, plus an historic city center (Pelourinho — a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site) that dates to the 16th-century dawn of the city.

Similar to Rio, almost everything worth experiencing in Salvador is on the water or close by, starting with beaches on the Bay of All Saints and Atlantic Ocean — ideal for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. Also found near the shore is the Elevador Lacerda (the world's first elevator—now a tourist attraction) and many museums devoted to South American, modern and decorative art. Also found in the Old City nearby are more museums, six cobblestone squares and a 17th-century cathedral. Many of Salvador's restaurants serve Afro-Brazilian food, a relic of the city's past.

Practicalities

All three of these Brazilian cities are closer to the equator than Miami, so expect balmy year-round temperatures that almost always hover in the seventies and eighties. The only months to avoid are the rainy season: December to February in Rio and Sao Paulo; April to June in Salvador. Transportation in all three cities is easy via Uber, buses and subways. Don't bother with pricey taxis or rental cars. And while in Brazil, be sure to try the national beverages — Brazilian coffee by day, caipirinhas by night.

If you go

United Airlines offers flights to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo from numerous U.S. cities, including nonstop flights from Houston Intercontinental to Rio de Janeiro and nonstop flights from Chicago O'Hare, Houston Intercontinental, New York/Newark and Washington Dulles to São Paulo. Salvador is served by Star Alliance partner Avianca Brasil, with frequent flights from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. You can also get to any of these three cities via one of our partner airlines, Azul Brazilian Airlines. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your hotel room. In addition, before you go make sure to submit the proper documentation to receive a tourist visa. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Brazilian adventure.

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