Three Perfect Days: Island of Hawaii
Story by Nicholas DeRenzo | Photography by Daeja Fallas | Hemispheres, February 2018
They don't call Hawaii “The Big Island" for nothing. At 4,028 square miles, it is more than twice the size of all its archipelago-mates combined, comprising tropical rainforests, black-sand beaches, barren deserts, and even snowcapped volcanoes. Along with being the chain's (and the country's) largest island, Hawaii is also, in geological terms, its youngest. It's like a brash teenager, constantly growing and changing and flaunting its youth. This isn't a process measured in millennial increments, either—it's a pyrotechnic display of cracking earth and oozing lava. But what else would you expect from the home of Pele, the feared and fickle goddess of fire?
We should probably stop first and ask Pele's permission." It's early morning in MacKenzie State Recreation Area, a park of ironwood trees and volcanic cliffs on Hawaii's quiet eastern coast. I'm here with Mark Frost, who owns the Kipuka guesthouse, where I'm staying; his dog, Cosmo; and his friend Kanani Aton. Before we enter the forest, Aton pauses to chant a passage from an ancient saga. “I love when we ask permission," she says, “because then things just unfold beautifully."
As we bounce across spongy pine needles, Aton points out medicinal fruits, ferns that she weaves into leis, and lava alcoves that were once believed to house pixie-like Menehune. Like the rest of the island, the area is perpetually being reshaped by lava, a danger that's quite a boon for tourism. “You know that saying, 'If you build it, they will come'?" Aton asks. “Well, Pele's building, and they're all coming!"
A sustainable bamboo guesthouse at Kipuka
After an hour of exploring, we return to Kipuka, four off-the-grid bamboo houses built in a palm garden with more than 5,000 trees from 350 species. Frost brews me coffee with beans from Ka'u, a burgeoning coffee destination on the island's southern flank. Enlivened, I head out for a drive up the coast.
This island is two-faced: The windward Hilo side, where I've started my trip, is all mist and rain, lush jungles and crashing waterfalls; the leeward Kona side is white-sand beaches and sun and big resorts. About an hour after my start, I'm driving into Hilo, the island's biggest town, at about 50,000 residents, and one of America's wettest, with nearly 200 inches of rain per year. The onetime sugarcane center feels a bit like a Wild West boomtown or some tropical Twin Peaks.
"The landscape drains of color and turns to black as we fly over miles of hardened lava."
I stop at the 110-year-old Suisan Fish Market for poke, the local dish of raw marinated fish that's having a moment on the mainland, and order a heaping mixed plate—marlin, salmon, ahi, and hamachi—topped with umami-rich furikake. I make sure to save room for a shave ice at Wilson's by the Bay. The friendly woman behind the counter packs vanilla ice cream into a paper cone and tops it with a softball-size mound of ice, fresh-shaved by a vintage contraption, plus coconut, lilikoi (passion fruit), and li hing mui (salty dried plum) syrups. Outside, an old man solemnly wishes me good luck, but I still end up licking syrup off my forearm.
Next, I'll be exploring the island from a different perspective, with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. I check in at Hilo's pint-size airport, where I'm asked to step onto a scale like a piece of luggage (maybe I didn't need that shave ice) to ensure inflight weight distribution. On the chopper, to a soundtrack of Enya and the Jurassic Park theme, we dart around like a dragonfly, buzzing up the Hamakua Coast, past waterfalls carving troughs through fertile valleys, and then south, over neat grids of macadamia trees.
Poke at Suisan Fish Market
The landscape drains of color and turns to black as we fly over miles of hardened lava. We keep our eyes peeled for new breakouts, like kids on a road trip playing the license plate game. Lava is slow, but it's no laughing matter: This flow swallowed up the village of Kalapana less than three decades ago, incinerating everything in its path and forming acres of new land. The grand finale is the Kamokuna ocean entry, where red-hot lava pours into the sea, kicking up great plumes of steam. Some visitors choose to approach the area on boats, or even by foot or bike, but I'm happy to keep a healthy distance. After all, on New Year's Eve 2016, about 17 football fields' worth of newly formed land came crashing down into the Pacific.
Back in Hilo, I stop into Sig Zane Designs to browse the collection of upscale aloha shirts while entertaining thoughts of growing a Magnum, P.I. mustache. I'm also thinking about dinner, which is at Moon and Turtle, the passion project of Hilo-born chef Mark Pomaski, who worked as a sushi chef at New York's Nobu Fifty Seven, and his wife, Soni.
The King's Pond at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
“I love the combo of high and low," Pomaski says. “I want to elevate the humble soul food dish and bring the avant-garde back down to earth." I order seared beef tataki dressed with a tapenade made from mushrooms grown up the coast, plus a meaty collar of local hapu'upu'u sea bass, flash-fried and served with a savory ponzu garlic butter. The highlight is raw kanpachi (yellowtail), dressed with extra virgin olive oil, chili pepper water, and soy sauce that's been smoked with kiawe (Hawaiian mesquite). “Chili pepper water and soy sauce are like salt and pepper here," Pomaski says. “This is like my childhood and my adulthood on a plate."
I finish up with a custardy slice of lilikoi pie from the nearby Papa'a Palaoa Bakery, and begin the hourlong drive back to Kipuka. The roads are dark, with nothing but the distant glow of lava to guide me home.
Poke, Please—And Hold The Accent Mark
Centuries before Western contact, Hawaiians were dressing chopped reef fish with sea salt, limu (edible algae), and roasted kukui nuts—local flavorings still found in markets across the island. By the late 1800s, ahi had emerged as a tastier go-to base, and poke (Hawaiian for “to cut crosswise into pieces") became a symbol of the changing face of Hawaii: Westerners added onions and chili peppers, Asian workers brought soy sauce and sesame oil, and 21st-century Americans added the unnecessary accent mark you see on the mainland.
The Roast With The Most
Thanks to near-perfect growing conditions, Kona coffee is one of the most prized and expensive varieties on the planet. At the UCC Kona Coffee Estate, which is owned by one of Japan's largest coffee companies, you can tour a working plantation and roast your own beans. Bonus: They'll even print your proud face right on the label.
My body is still on mainland time, which comes in handy as many of Hawaii's most memorable experiences happen before sunrise. A case in point is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located an hour's drive west of Kipuka, where I awake to a chorus of invasive coqui frogs outside my window.
It's still dark when I arrive at the park, which takes its plural name from Mauna Loa, the planet's largest shield volcano, and Kilauea, one of its most active. In the pitch-black visitor center parking lot, I meet Tours by Locals guide Scott Wiggers. He ushers me to a point overlooking the Halema'uma'u Crater, where a lava lake flickers red and spits up mini molten geysers. There are only five or six other visitors, so it's silent except for the rumbling and hissing of roiling lava. “This is my favorite time to visit the park," Wiggers whispers. “We practically have it all to ourselves."
As the sun rises, we climb into a truck and head off to see the park's greatest hits, including the Thurston Lava Tube, a subway tunnel–size cave through which lava once flowed, and the Kilauea Iki Overlook, which offers views of a crater that produced 1,900-foot molten fountains during an eruption in 1959. That's about 100 feet higher than One World Trade Center.
We pull over and walk to a series of steam vents, formed when rainwater gets trapped in the porous rock and superheated, and warm our hands in a plume of fog (it's surprisingly chilly out here). “It smells just like boiling pasta," Wiggers says with a laugh. He bends down and rummages around for a few seconds, and then picks up a strand of glass. Lava from the crater gets caught in the wind, stretched, and spun like cotton candy, landing all throughout the park. “This is called Pele's hair," Wiggers says as he drops the glass back onto the ground. If you've ever seen the Brady Bunch Hawaiian vacation episode, you know it'd be bad luck to pocket anything from the park. (Plus, it's a federal offense.)
A lava lake at Halema'uma'u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
We continue along Chain of Craters Road, which is flanked on either side by endless expanses of hardened lava. “You'll notice two types," says Wiggers as we trek over a crunchy lava field. “Pahoehoe, the hotter lava, is flat and easy to walk on." To me, it looks like a pan of overcooked brownies. “A'a is chunky and impossible to walk on." More like a bulldozed pile of Oreo chunks.
As we drive, mongooses and pheasants dart across the road, but I'm on the lookout for the state bird, the nene. In the early 1950s, this cousin of the Canada goose was close to extinction, with only about 30 birds left (it didn't help that the old Volcano House hotel used to have them on the menu), but a captive breeding program has returned their numbers to about 2,500. I'm happy to check them off my bird-nerd bucket list after I spot a pair foraging by the side of the road.
I say goodbye to Wiggers and head to Volcano Village for lunch at Ohelo Café, where I order pan-seared ono—the Hawaiian name, meaning “good to eat," for the game fish wahoo. Southwest of here, the landscape changes, opening up into the Ka'u Desert, which is deprived of vegetation by Mauna Loa's rain shadow, the only precipitation being acid rain caused by volcanic gases. I skirt the coast, pulling over to dip my toes at Punalu'u black-sand beach, where green sea turtles bob in the surf, munching algae from the rocks.
Lifeguards at Punalu'u black-sand beach
Fifteen minutes down the road, I reach Punalu'u Bake Shop, America's southernmost bakery (in these parts, everything is America's southernmost something) for pillowy taro sweetbread and fried malasadas, doughnuts brought to the island by 19th-century Portuguese sugar workers. I drive past the U.S.'s southernmost point (it's all ocean from here to Antarctica) and start to head up the coast, past hillside coffee farms.
Soon, I'm emerging on the island's resort-rich Kona side and pulling into the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, which is known for its manta ray–related activities. The wildlife viewing started as a happy accident: A spotlight shining from the hotel's seafront restaurant attracted light-loving plankton, which in turn caused hungry mantas to turn up in droves. Now adventurous types meet at sunset on a nearby dock for a Fair Wind Cruises night snorkel with these balletic behemoths. They're harmless (no teeth, no barbs), but they are intimidatingly large, with wingspans of up to 14 feet.
"My body is still on mainland time, which comes in handy as many of Hawaii's most memorable experiences happen before sunrise."
Our boat, the Hula Kai, putters out a few hundred yards as our guide rattles off the rays we might encounter—Sugar Ray, Darth Ray-der, Big Bertha—each identified by its unique markings. Snorkels and fins on, we plunk into the water and line up along a floating platform, our feet buoyed by foam floaties, which makes us look like rows of Supermen in flight. Lights on the bottom of the platform draw a cosmos of phytoplankton, which in turn attract zooplankton—a catch-all term for minuscule, sea monkey–like creatures—and the mantas turn all of the above into a buffet.
A manta ray in the dark water off the Kona-Kohala coast
We wait five minutes, 10 minutes, lulled into a meditative state by passing fish. Suddenly, the peace is broken by a chorus of snorkel-muffled screams, whimpers, oohs, and aahs. People, it seems, have varying responses to Volkswagen-size sea creatures. Below me, an immense manta is gliding upward. It flips onto its back, skimming inches from my mask, scooping up plankton with its gaping mouth. For the next half hour, we watch rays loop in and out of the light, snacking on bucketfuls of microscopic critters.
Staying afloat in bobbing waves is a surprisingly effective core workout, and it leaves me tuckered out. Back on dry land, I grab a quick dinner of kalua pork potstickers, hearts of palm salad, and a much-needed mai tai at the Sheraton's Rays on the Bay, then head straight to bed, drifting off as waves crash on the lava rocks outside my window. Tomorrow will be a big day.
Trail Guide: Tips from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park public affairs specialist Jessica Ferracane
- “Get to Jaggar Museum before sunrise. When no one is around, you can sometimes hear the rumbling of rocks exploding as the lava lake rises and falls."'
- “Remember to dress in layers—it's much colder at 4,000 feet than you think, despite the proximity to molten rock!"
- “The Kilauea Iki Trail blows my mind. My favorite section is where molten rock drained back into the vent and piled up like clumps of black satin bedsheets."
Hawaii vacations conjure images of sunbathing and tiki drinks, but mine is shaping up differently. I know this because it's 1:45 a.m. and I'm getting dressed in the dark. I'm about to be picked up by the tour company Hawaii Forest & Trail to witness sunrise on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that's so tall it's been known to see snow in the middle of summer. At 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state; measured from the ocean floor, it tops out at about 32,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain in the world. (Everest rises 29,029 feet above sea level but rests atop a plateau—which many Hawaiians think is a bit like measuring a basketball player's height while he sits on his teammate's shoulders.)
Accompanied by our cheerful guide, Kim Nichols, we exit the van at 9,200 feet to adjust to the altitude before making the final ascent—a doozy for the human body even if you're not hiking. Far from the city lights, the stars are shockingly bright. We zip into our parkas and look up to see Orion and the Pleiades, the hazy swath of the Milky Way, the reddish pinpoint of Mars. Satellites whiz by, along with the occasional meteor. Just as Venus—the morning star—peers over the horizon, we squeeze back into the van and head to the summit.
A green sea turtle crawls onto shore
A short, bumpy nap later, I awake on the mountaintop, surrounded on all sides by massive telescopes. We jump out to catch the first rays of sun gilding the horizon. We're above the cloudline, so the sun seems to emerge out of the ether, like a scoop of orange sherbet melting in reverse.
Nichols reminds us to take it easy. Oxygen levels are low up here; anything faster than a slow crawl will leave you gasping.“Your body is redirecting resources to vital organs," she says, meaning motor skills, eyesight, and speech will take a back seat. “We call it 'the two-mai-tai effect.'" I mumble a garbled question, and she responds, “See!" I can't be sure if my incoherence is due to a lack of oxygen or a lack of caffeine. The return-trip nap, as the van bounces downwards, is possibly the best I've ever had.“I wander along a path that skirts the beach, watching Pacific golden plovers dart in and out of the surf."
Back in Kailua-Kona, I drive a rental up the sunny Kona-Kohala coast, then drop off my bags at the luxe Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Still a bit groggy, I head north for breakfast/lunch/last-night's-dinner in the village of Waimea. This is cowboy country, the land of the paniolos, who came from California and Mexico in the 1800s to tend cattle. (The name might be derived from the Spanish for handkerchief, pañuelo, or it could be a version of español.) At Village Burger, an unassuming strip mall spot, I order my hamburger rare, served with Swiss cheese, tomato marmalade, and 60-minute onions. Perfect.
I drive farther up the Kohala Mountain Road, a picturesque route that zigzags through cattle pastures. A few miles past a towering roadside statue of Kamehameha the Great, the founder of the Kingdom of Hawaii, I pull into a lot overlooking Pololu Valley. A guy selling freshly cracked coconuts is telling tourists he has the best corner office in America. I can't argue. His patch looks down on palm-smothered valleys and cliffs, which billow out toward the horizon like a green curtain. I hear that the real treasure is on the valley floor, so I grab a coconut and brave a series of slippery switchbacks to a secluded black-sand beach, where I lie back and take in the oddly relaxing sound of waves battering the shore.
More relaxation is in store for me back at the Four Seasons, in its extravagant pools: sipping cocktails from the swim-up bar at the Palm Grove Pool; wading in the Ocean Pool, which is protected from the waves by a lava-rock breakwater; and snorkeling with a spotted eagle ray and 4,000 tropical fish in King's Pond, a 1.8-million-gallon aquarium.
Later, at the hotel's chic 'Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, I sit at the sushi counter next to executive chef Thomas Bellec, who was born and raised in Brittany. Despite the distance, Bellec sees a kinship between Hawaii and coastal France. “I didn't even know how to walk yet, and I knew how to eat oysters," he says. “Everything here is related to the ocean. I feel like I'm back home."
They take the locally sourced thing seriously here. “We're raising our own oysters," Bellec says, “in a pond on the 15th hole of our golf course." We start our meal with buttery Molokai sweet potato bread and hummus made from 'ulu, or breadfruit, one of the staple “canoe plants" brought to Hawaii by Polynesian wayfinders. Next up is a flurry of fresh seafood, in the form of delicately dressed sashimis and sushis. Kanpachi is served seared with a slick of truffled ponzu. Local abalone is poached in dashi with a miso-mustard aioli and served on the half shell (a play on oysters Rockefeller). One standout is a twist on the classic loco moco, a hearty staple traditionally consisting of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, brown gravy, and a fried egg. Here, tuna tartare sits atop sushi rice and is paired with a quail egg, a squid ink tuille, and sweet kabayaki gravy. The sake pairings—and the fact that I've been awake for what feels like a week—have me ready to try out those crisp white sheets in my room.
I wander back along a path that skirts the beach, watching koleas, or Pacific golden plovers, dart in and out of the surf. These little waders don't look like much, but they're partly responsible for the discovery of the Hawaiian islands. Nearly a millennium ago, Polynesians watched these migratory birds come and go, charting their courses and mapping the entire Pacific before setting out on outrigger canoes and using the constellations to land on these shores. I may not be as coordinated as these birds (who travel 3,000 miles to their arctic breeding grounds every year) or those ancient voyagers, but the lesson is clear: Hawaii has a gravitational pull, and I'm sure I'll be brought back into its orbit soon.
Where To Stay
Kapoho, on the island's secluded eastern tip, is a haven for off-the-grid types. Here, set among more than 5,000 rare and exotic palms, Mark Frost built four sustainable bamboo guesthouses. If you can tear yourself away from the hammocks and the saltwater pool, the property is minutes from teeming tidepools and geothermally heated pond.
Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
Perched on jagged lava cliffs, this 508-room hotel features all the perks—hula lessons, waterslides—you'd expect from a big Kona resort. What sets it apart are thoughtful design touches by the king of the aloha shirt, Sig Zane, who created staff uniforms, textiles, and art for the property.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Sure, you know about the seven pools, the Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course, and the outdoor lava-rock showers. But the greatest amenity here is the Ka'upulehu Cultural Center, run by “Uncle" Earl Kamakaonaona Regidor, where you can take ukulele lessons, learn how to make leis, or brush up on Hawaiian phrases.
Around the web
Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to MEL (Melbourne) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.
20. Spot Giant Pandas in China
In 2016, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and China would like to keep it that way. This year, the country plans to consolidate the creatures' known habitats into one unified national park system spanning nearly 10,500 square miles across Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces—about the size, in total, of Massachusetts. —Nicholas DeRenzo
19. Follow in James Bond's Footsteps in Jamaica
When No Time to Die hits theaters on April 8, it marks a number of returns for the James Bond franchise. The 25th chapter in the Bond saga is the first to come out since 2015's Spectre; it's Daniel Craig's fifth go-round as 007, after rumors the actor was set to move on; and it's the first time the series has filmed in Jamaica since 1973's Live and Let Die. The Caribbean island has always had a special place in Bond lore: It was the location of one of creator Ian Fleming's homes, GoldenEye (which is now a resort), and the setting for the first 007 movie, 1962's Dr. No. Looking to live like a super-spy? You don't need a license to kill—just a ride to Port Antonio, where you can check out filming locations such as San San Beach and colonial West Street. Remember to keep your tux pressed and your Aston Martin on the left side of the road. —Justin Goldman
18. See the Future of Architecture in Venice
Every other year, Venice hosts the art world's best and brightest during its celebrated Biennale. But the party doesn't stop during off years, when the Architecture Biennale takes place. This year, curator Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, has tasked participants with finding design solutions for political divides and economic inequality; the result, on display from May to November, is the intriguing show How Will We Live Together? —Nicholas DeRenzo
17. Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday in Bonn
Catch a Beethoven concerto in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate the hometown hero's big 2-5-0.
16. Eat Your Way Through Slovenia
When Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was named the World's Best Female Chef in 2017, food lovers began to wonder: Do we need to pay attention to Slovenia? The answer, it turns out, is definitely yes. This March, the tiny Balkan nation about two hours east of Venice gets its own Michelin Guide. —Nicholas DeRenzo
15. Star- (and Sun-) Gaze in Patagonia
Come December 13 and 14, there will be no better spot for sky-watchers than northern Patagonia, which welcomes both the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a total solar eclipse within 24 hours. —Nicholas DeRenzo
14. Explore Miami's Game-Changing New Park
About 70,000 commuters use Miami's Metrorail each day, and city planners aim to turn the unused space beneath its tracks into an exciting new public space, a 10-mile linear park aptly named The Underline. Luckily, the Magic City is in good hands: The project is being helmed by James Corner Field Operations, the geniuses behind New York's High Line. “Both projects share similarities in their overarching goals," says principal designer Isabel Castilla, “to convert a leftover infrastructural space into a public space that connects neighborhoods, generates community, and encourages urban regeneration." When finished, Miami's park will be about seven times as long as its Big Apple counterpart. The first half-mile leg, set to open this June, is the Brickell Backyard, which includes an outdoor gym, a butterfly garden, a dog park, and gaming tables that call to mind the dominoes matches you'll find nearby in Little Havana. “We envision the Underline dramatically changing the way people in Miami engage with public space," Castilla says. —Nicholas DeRenzo
13. Kick Off the NFL in Las Vegas
Former Raiders owner Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby." His son, Mark Davis, the team's current owner, is more likely to be shouting “Vegas, baby!" Swingers-style, as his team becomes Sin City's first NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders. After years of threats and lawsuits, the Raiders have finally left Oakland, and this summer they're landing just across the highway from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion domed stadium that will also host the UNLV football team, the next two Pac-12 championship games, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Construction is slated to be finished July 31, just in time for the NFL preseason—and just in time to lure football fans from the sportsbooks to the grandstand. —Justin Goldman
12. Celebrate the Suffragettes in Washington D.C.
All eyes are on the ballot box this year, but the electorate would look quite different if not for the 19th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this August. Many D.C. institutions, such as the National Archives Museum and the Library of Congress, are honoring the decades-long struggle for women's suffrage with exhibits. In particular, the National Museum of American History unveils Sarah J. Eddy's portrait of Susan B. Anthony this March, before putting on a 'zine-inspired show on girlhood and youth social movements this June. —Nicholas DeRenzo
11. Go for a Ride Through Mexico City
If you want to get somewhere quickly in Mexico City, try going by bicycle. During peak traffic, bikes average faster speeds than cars or public transportation—which might explain why ridership has gone up almost 50 percent since 2007. And riding on two wheels is getting safer and easier. In 2019, the city announced plans to invest $10 million (more than it had spent in the last six years combined) into the construction of about 50 miles of new paths and lanes. Now, you can cycle on a two-mile separated path along the Paseo de la Reforma, from Colonia Juárez and Roma to Chapultepec Park and Polanco. Future plans include a route along the National Canal between Coyoacán (where Frida Kahlo once lived) and Xochimilco (with its floating flower farms). “The goal is to finish the six-year [presidential] term with 600 kilometers of bike infrastructure," says Roberto Mendoza of the city's Secretariat of Mobility. Time to start pedaling. —Naomi Tomky
10. Consider the Mayflower's Legacy in Massachusetts and Abroad
Before they came to America in 1620, the religious separatists now known as the Pilgrims lived in England and the Netherlands. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing will be commemorated not only by those nations but also by a fourth: The Wampanoag, the confederation of tribes that live in New England and whose role in this world-changing event has been at best left out and at worst distorted.
“We're challenging the myths and stereotypes," says Aquinnah Wampanoag author Linda Coombs, a board member of Plymouth 400, Inc., which is planning cultural events such
as an Ancestors Walk to honor the native villages pushed aside by settlers, as well as
an indigenous history conference and powwow (plus an $11 million restoration of the replica Mayflower II).
Kerri Helme, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation and cultural programs manager at Plimoth Plantation, says that “people want to hear the whole story." She notes that it's a commonly held belief that the Pilgrims were welcomed by the natives, when in fact their first encounter was violent, since the English had been stealing the Wampanoags' food.
“The Wampanoag are key players in all of this," says Charles Hackett, CEO of Mayflower 400 in the U.K. “It's a whole other aspect of this history." In England, a Mayflower trail will connect Pilgrim sites in towns such as Southampton and Plymouth, and in Leiden, the Dutch town where the Pilgrims took refuge before embarking for the New World, the ethnology museum will run an exhibit about the natives.
“The most important thing for us, as the Wampanoag people," says Paula Peters, a former Wampanoag council member, “is to be acknowledged as a vital tribe comprised of people that, in spite of everything that's happened, are still here." —Jon Marcus
9. Discover Lille's Design Scene
Previous World Design Capitals have included major cultural hubs such as Helsinki and Seoul, so it came as a shock when Lille, France's 10th-largest city, beat Sydney for this year's title. Judges cited Lille's use of design to improve its citizens' lives; get a taste for yourself at spots like La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, a gallery in a former Art Deco swim center. —Nicholas DeRenzo
8. See Stellar Space in Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture
Rio de Janeiro is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and mountains, but the Cidade Maravilhosa's man-made structures are as eye-catching as its natural features. For that reason, UNESCO recently designated Rio its first World Capital of Architecture, honoring a city that boasts such landmarks as the stained glass–domed Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, the fairy-tale Ilha Fiscal palace, and the uber-modern Niterói Contemporary Art Museum.
"Rio is an old city by New World standards, having been founded in the mid–16th century," says architectural photographer Andrew Prokos, who took this shot. "So the city has many layers of architectural styles, from Colonial and Rococo to Art Nouveau, Modernist, Brutalist, and contemporary." In the case of this museum, which was designed by perhaps Brazil's greatest architect, Pritzker Prize winner Oscar Niemeyer, Prokos was intrigued by how the 24-year-old building interacts with its surroundings. "The upward slope of the museum complements the slope of the Pão de Açúcar across the bay," he says, "so the two are speaking to each other from across the water." – Tom Smyth
7. Join the Avengers at Disneyland
This summer, Disney California Adventure unveils its Marvel-themed Avengers Campus, with a new Spider-Man attraction, followed later by an Ant-Man restaurant and a ride through Wakanda. If the hype surrounding last year's debut of Disney+ is any indication, Comic-Con types are going to lose their fanboy (and -girl) minds. —Nicholas DeRenzo
6. Listen to Jazz in Cape Town
Cape Town's natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but there's a hidden gem beyond the mountains, beaches, and seas: music. Much as jazz was born from America's diverse peoples, Cape jazz combines the traditions and practices of the city's multiethnic population, creating genres such as goema (named after a type of hand drum) and marabi (a keyboard style that arose in the townships). Cape Town has hosted an International Jazz Festival for
20 years (the 21st edition is this March 27–28), and now UNESCO is giving the Mother City its musical due by naming it the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event—which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert, and is the climax of Jazz Appreciation Month—is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz." During the dark days of slavery and apartheid, music became an outlet through which repressed people could express their struggle for freedom. What better way to mark a quarter century of democracy here than with a celebration of that most free style of music? —Struan Douglas
5. Take a Walk Around England
Many hikers love walking around England—but how many can say that they've truly walked around England? When it's completed, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed seaside trail in the world, completely circumnavigating the coastline, from the fishing villages of Cornwall and the beaches of Nothumberland to the limestone arches of the Jurassic Coast and the sandy dunes of Norfolk. Much of the trail is already waymarked (the 630-mile South West Coast Path is particularly challenging and beautiful), with new legs set to open throughout the year. If you want to cross the whole thing off your bucket list, be warned that it's no walk in the park: At around 2,795 miles, the completed route is 605 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail and about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. —Nicholas DeRenzo
4. Get Refreshed in the Israeli Desert
Six Senses resorts are known for restorative retreats in places like Fiji, Bali, and the Maldives. For its latest location, the wellness-minded brand is heading to a more unexpected locale: the Arava Valley, in the far south of Israel. Opening this spring, the Six Senses Shaharut will offer overnight camel camping, off-roading in the surrounding desert, and restaurants serving food grown in the resort's gardens or sourced from nearby kibbutzim. While the valley is said to be near King Solomon's copper mines, the Six Senses is sure to strike gold. —Nicholas DeRenzo
3. Say konnichiwa on July 24 at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which plays host for the first time since 1964.
The Japanese capital plays host for the first time since 1964. This year, softball and baseball will return after being absent since 2008, and four new sports—karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding—will be added to the competition for the first time. Say konnichiwa at the opening ceremonies on July 24, which will be held at renowned architect Kengo Kuma's New National Stadium. – Nicholas DeRenzo
2. Score Tickets to Euro 2020
Still feeling World Cup withdrawal? Get your “football" fix at the UEFA European Championship. From June 12 to July 12, 24 qualifying national teams will play games in stadiums from Bilbao to Baku, culminating in the semi-finals and final at London's hallowed Wembley Stadium. Will World Cup champion France bring home another trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal repeat its 2016 Euro win? Will the tortured English national team finally get its first title? Or will an upstart—like Greece in 2004—shock the world? —Justin Goldman
1. Soak Up Some Culture in Galway
Galway has long been called “the cultural heart of Ireland," so it's no surprise that this bohemian city on the country's wild west coast was named a 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Rijeka, Croatia). The title puts a spotlight on the city (population 80,000) and County Galway, where more than 1,900 events will take place throughout the year. Things kick off in February with a seven-night opening ceremony featuring a fiery (literally) choreographed celebration starring a cast of 2,020 singing-and-drumming locals in Eyre Square. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance for Galway," says Paul Fahy, a county native and the artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival (July 13–26). “It's a huge pressure. There's a heightened sense of expectation from audiences, not just from here but from all over the world." Art lovers will no doubt enjoy Kari Kola's illuminating work Savage Beauty, which will wash the Connemara mountains in green light to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, or the Druid Theatre Company's countywide tour of some of the best 20th-century one-act Irish plays. Visitors would also be wise to explore the rugged beauty of Connemara on a day trip with the charismatic Mairtin Óg Lally of Lally Tours, and to eat their way across town with Galway Food Tours. But beware, says Fahy: “Galway has a reputation as a place people came to 20 years ago for a weekend and never left." —Ellen Carpenter