On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:One thing that is surprisingly easy in the Bahamas is waking up early. Rising with the sun is the best way to get the most out of your day, with a morning stroll or swim along the beach, followed by a relaxing ocean-side breakfast. After your morning meal, head to the Pelican Cays National Park, it’s an underwater nature reserve that provides ideal Bahamian views from under the water. Snorkel and take in the coral and marine life for an hour, then get on top of the water and see the Bahamas by boat or ferry.
The Abaco Islands are an ideal base and starting point for your island-hopping adventure, then off to Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco. If you have options, check out Hope Town on the beautiful island of Elbow Cay and the spectacularly long beach at Great Guana. Here you’ll find water-focused activities from fishing excursions to simply searching for sand dollars on local sandbars.
If you’re itching to see more, you can always hop a puddle jumper via BahamasAir from Nassau to Eleuthra, featuring a wealth of dramatic land and rock formations such as the Glass Window Bridge, The Cow & The Bull, Hatchet Bay Cave and Ocean Hole.
Nothing closes a Bahamian day like bookending it by watching the sunset, which is best enjoyed while sitting next to a beach bonfire. We love Fernandez Bay Village on the unspoiled shores of nearby Cat Island.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Shopping in the Bahamas runs the gamut, from purchasing conch shells at a local’s charming makeshift booth on the dock to exceptionally artistic souvenirs at ‘Mixed Media’, the boutique at the National Art Gallery in Nassau. On the same island, you can find the remarkable limestone Queen Anne’s Staircase, walk up the 65 hand-carved steps and explore the nearby curio shops and independently owned galleries. The shops seem to invite you inside to get lost amongst their wares of original and whimsically conceived ceramics, jewelry and artwork.
Other interesting and more far-flung spots include Vernon’s Grocery on Great Abaco Island, with its award-winning key lime pies, fresh-out-of-the-oven Bahamian-style bread, and a vast array of enticing Bahama spices, as well as Sandpiper Arts and Crafts on Great Exuma Island — a truly unique and atypical gift shop offering antique photos and better than average tropical clothing.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:The Bahamas are a family-friendly hot spot, with a wide range of all-inclusive cruises and packages to keep kids entertained. It’s also simple to put together your own action-packed itinerary in the Bahamas. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do with tots in tow.
1. Meet the Pirates of Nassau. One of the more fascinating aspects of the Bahamas’ past involves the illustrious career of pirates on the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries, and this museum presents the fabled history in an interesting and educational way that’s fit for the whole family.
2. Cruise over to Disney’s Castaway Cay. Disney Cruise Lines unveiled their two latest ocean liners in the last two years, each custom-built with families in mind. An exclusive stop for cruise passengers traveling to the Bahamas is Castaway Cay, an island privately owned by the company and offering loads of activities for children of all ages.
3. Swim with dolphins. The Dolphin Experience on Grand Bahama Island as well as Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay are some of the premier sites for swim-with-dolphins excursions, with programs tailored for the little ones and ranging from ‘shallow water interactions’ to ‘deep water swims’.
4. Visit the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo. When it comes to local animals, it’s not all about sea life in the Bahamas—this amazing attraction is different from most zoos because these land animals roam freely. Kids will also have a chance to interact more intimately with the animals, as hand feeding is allowed in some areas.
5. Explore the Hermitage on Cat Island. One of the more secluded of the Bahama Islands, Cat Island features this gorgeous and historic site built by a monk just after World War II, filled with precipices and outcroppings just waiting to be explored by the little ones
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Most of the premier activities in the Bahamas involve the Atlantic Ocean — from lounging on a schooner to bouncing on the waves on a jet ski, water-lovers will be in their element. Of course, there’s no need to actually get wet — those who prefer relaxing on the beach have literally thousands of beaches to choose from, where sunbathing is the only task at hand. Last but certainly not least, inland life in the Bahamas offers endless activities for those wishing to stroll, shop, explore and of course, eat. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ top five things to see and do in the Bahamas.
1. Lounge on the beach. With over 3,000 islands and keys making up this Caribbean destination, there is surely a beach tailor-made for each and every traveler’s tastes. If you’re staying at a big resort like Atlantis and the beaches are crowded, try walking in the surf in either direction, and odds are you’ll find a stretch of secluded sand all your own. From the pink sand beaches of Harbour Island to the ‘sugary’ soft sands of Cable Beach, there is no shortage of space for the number one Caribbean activity – soaking in the sun and diving into the deep crystal blue seas.
2. Go snorkeling or scuba diving. The Bahamas still boasts some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring coral reefs in the world, teeming with marine life visible just below the surface. There are many ways to get out on (and under) the water, but the snorkeling and diving off Abacos and Andros Islands is among the best, thanks to the shipwrecks (and even a submerged train) in view in relatively shallow waters.
3. Hit the slot machines. After a day of sun and surf, it’s nice to have a night out at the casinos on Paradise Island and at Cable Beach. As the perfect accompaniment, order a few rum cocktails—they are delicious.
4. Meet the marine life. Atlantis Resort offers an absolutely incredible world-renowned aquarium experience — whether you’re staying at the resort or not. Dolphin meets as well as ‘shark dives’ throughout the islands offer amazing ways to swim right along with the local underwater sea life.
5. Join the party. Junkanoo is the name of the national Bahamian festival — sort of an African Mardi Gras meets Carnival parade — that is held every Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day. This is a must-see, if your trip falls outside these dates. Head to the Junkanoo Expo at Prince George Wharf on Nassau Island to catch a glimpse of the colorful, handmade costumes and floats (not to mention the high-energy Junkanoo drum beats) that make the festival world famous.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Tel Aviv is truly a 24-hour destination. Here night owls ease their way into the evening over late, languid dinners, then either enjoy a quiet drink at one of the city’s laid-back lounges that stay open until the wee hours of the morning, or head to a thumping nightclub that jams until sunrise.
Café Suzanna, located on Shabazi Street, is a favorite of Forbes Travel Guide’s editors and has one of the nicest — and largest — outdoor terraces in town. This convivial neighborhood mainstay stays open until 2 a.m. every night, while the gorgeous rooftop bar is open until 1 a.m. This is also a great place to sop up early-evening overindulgence with delicious late-night snacks.
Although it’s a chain, coffee bar Aroma, which has branches popping up around the States, is a far superior alternative to Starbucks. Most locations in Tel Aviv are open 24 hours a day and offer free Wi-Fi for paying customers – perfect for a late-night catch-up on emails. The chai latte here is delicious, as are the alfajores (South American-style sandwich cookies made of soft shortbread with a dulce de leche filling).
Other recommended late-night hotspots include Silon on King George Street and the wildly popular Nanutchka on Lilinblum Street, but take a short walk in any popular nightlife area and you’re bound to stumble upon a number of other appealing options as well.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:When it comes to shopping in Tel Aviv, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors feel that Israeli-made products are definitely the way to go. Two products in particular worth seeking out are cosmetics derived from the famously mineral-rich Dead Sea to the south of the city, as well as sandals from Naot, which manufactures its famous footwear at a historic kibbutz factory to the north in the lush Galilee region.
For Dead Sea cosmetics, many feel that Minus 417 has set the new standard in spa-grade creams, masks and anti-aging products, while Ahava is another similarly renowned brand offering top-of-the-line skincare lotions and hand creams. Naot, famous for its sandals’ durability and comfort, offers a wide variety of open-toed styles – and since most Tel Aviv locals never wear anything other than sandals, you know you’re getting heavily tested, trusted goods.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Aside from the always fresh ingredients, the brilliance of Tel Aviv’s food is found in the diverse flavors of local dishes deliciously balanced between and influenced by Jewish and Middle Eastern staples. Don’t leave without trying Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best food experiences in Tel Aviv:
1. Juice Stands. Found on virtually every other street corner and usually detectable by an orange façade and an overflowing cornucopia of pomegranates, prickly pears and other exotic fruits, Tel Aviv juice stands are notorious oases of nutritious, refreshing flavors. One of our favorite stands is located at the intersection of Dizengoff Street and Sderot Ben Gurion; there’s also a fantastic sandwich bar just across the street.
2. Sabich. This Iraqi-Jewish eggplant sandwich could almost be considered the “other” falafel and is every bit as tasty. It’s served with hard-boiled egg, fried eggplant and spicy condiments such as amba, a sauce made from mangos and pickles. Look for sabich stands near the entrance of Carmel Market; Shawarma Sheinkin, located right on the corner of Allenby and King George Streets, makes an especially good sabich.
3. Dairy. Sometimes earning its own dietary classification for religious Jews, dairy products in Tel Aviv are top notch and almost always produced locally. Establishments like Yotvata Ba’Ir, a dairy kibbutz with a popular outpost restaurant on the Tayelet, celebrate the land’s bounty of milk and cheese with big portions of dairy and vegetarian food – if you’re looking for a break from the schnitzel and shawarma, this is a good place to do it.
4. Max Brenner. Many people probably don’t realize that that delicious hot chocolate served at Max Brenner outposts around the world actually comes from Israel. Brenner launched his chocolate empire out of Ra’anana, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and branches within the city limits still offer some of the best and most-original chocolate creations on the planet.
5. Watermelon with Feta. For a truly authentic Tel Aviv food experience, order this popular, unexpectedly toothsome combination at Banana Beach or just about any other of the city’s beachside cafés. Watermelon and feta cheese may not sound like complimentary foods, but you’ll be surprised as just how refreshing this combination is, particularly on hot days.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Much like in Spain and Italy, activity at the height of a Tel Aviv summer day tends to be low, which means nightlife here doesn’t really begin ramping up until 10 p.m. or so. With that in mind, follow the locals’ lead by having your dinner late – there’ll be plenty of time to party later on in the evening. The city’s top bars and clubs regularly host popular international DJs and host hip art exhibitions, and it’s fairly common to see people lining up around the block to get into a hot new venue, even at 4 a.m. on a Wednesday.
You’ll have plenty of options for quiet drinks or late-night partying, but Forbes Travel Guide’s editors think some of the best nightlife experiences in Tel Aviv can be found at Lima Lima, a fun, gay-friendly (but not exclusively so) nightclub that welcomes a mixed, trendy crowd, as well as the late-night mainstay Cat and Dog Club, located in the central Carlebach area. Florentin, a lively neighborhood in the southern part of the city, is a refreshingly alternative hub of nocturnal activity, with rows of trendy bars and pubs along Vital Street worth checking out. Wild street parties are also held here on New Year’s Eve, Purim (the Jewish equivalent to Halloween, in the spring) and Israeli Independence Day.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:There’s a lot of sightseeing to squeeze into one day in Tel Aviv, so Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend first figuring out how you largely want to get around the city. If you’re traveling with an Israeli or someone who knows a little Hebrew, a sheirut is a fun and adventurous way to get around town like a local. These communal minivan taxis travel pre-determined routes, usually along major thoroughfares, and as people board and disembark they hand money back and forth to each other to pay the driver. If not, Tel Aviv is a perfect walking city, with its relatively narrow layout never straying too far from the beach.
A nice jumping-off point for the day is the wide promenade along Rothschild Boulevard where you’ll find Independence Hall, the building where the Statehood of Israel was declared in 1948. (It’s now a museum and historical monument). After your visit, grab a coffee and light snack at artsy-bohemian Café 12 just a few doors down.
If the hipster-alternative scene is your thing, from Café 12 take a short walk over to the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, where the small network of streets is ideal for wandering and window shopping. Aside from some very cute wine bars, the area is also the epicenter of Tel Aviv’s substantial gelato craze, with some establishments offering well over 30 flavors of frozen yogurt, ice cream and sorbet. (Anita on Shabazi Street is a community favorite.) Neve Tzedek is also home to the world-famous Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, an arts and theater hub of southern Tel Aviv marked by its water fountains and sprawling courtyards.
Next make your way to the old city of Jaffa, where the winding streets, named for the signs of the Zodiac, hide many craft and curio shops selling Judaica and other original and artistic wares. Make sure to stop at the Shuk Hapishpeshim (literally “flea market”) to browse everything from retro furniture to handmade wooden tchotchkes.
A truly remarkable pit stop on the way back to your hotel is the Nalagaat Center, which houses a theater, restaurant and café all operated by deaf and/or blind locals. The Nalagaat Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble delivers a truly unique, interactive theatrical experience focused on the notion of communication. Throughout the course of their show “Not By Bread Alone,” the performers “tell” their stories while baking bread, which the audience is then welcome to enjoy onstage with the cast.
There are also two good options for snacks or dinner at the Nalagaat Center. Café Kapish, which has a small menu of alcoholic drinks, juices and desserts, is run exclusively by a deaf and hearing-impaired staff, while the excellent BlackOut restaurant joins the ranks of similar establishments in Paris, Berlin and New York where blind waiters serve diners in a pitch-black atmosphere.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Tel Aviv has no shortage of shopping opportunities that can keep you browsing (and buying) all day long. Forbes Travel Guide’s editors feel that Sheinkin Street – sometimes called the “Greenwich Village of Tel Aviv” – and the major commercial artery of Dizengoff Street both offer some of the city’s best shopping, with countless clothing boutiques lined up one after the other stocked with interesting fashions that are not quite European and not quite American, but somewhere in between.
Kikar Hamedina, a plaza lined with both upscale international brands you’re used to back home as well as some of the fancier domestic boutiques, is the place to go for more designer fashions. For funkier options try the jewelry boutiques in Neve Tzedek, like Ayala Bar on Shabazi Street, or the up-and-coming shops on Bograshov Street in the center of town.
Aside from chic boutiques, Shuk Ha’Carmel (The Carmel Market) and the adjacent Nachalat Benyamin pedestrian mall make up a bustling mercantile center, with local artists and craftspeople selling original jewelry, decorations, clothing and more. Look for the clock designer selling “melted” license-plate and liquor-bottle clocks that are straight out of a Dali painting.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Being both a beach town and a busy cultural hub, Tel Aviv naturally attracts families looking for a little relaxation, often as part of a larger trip around Israel. From a day at the beach to a day at the park, these are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do with kids in Tel Aviv:
1. Play at the Beach. The best family-friendly areas in the city are located right along the center of the Tayelet, from the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers all the way down to the Dan Panorama Tel Aviv Hotel. While sunbathing, swimming and playing in the sand are the top activities, you’re never too far from any of the hotel restaurants, cafés or beachside vendors.
2. Play at Park Hayarkon. An expansive city park popular with locals and built around the Hayarkon River in the northern part of the city, this is an excellent alternative to the beach. Here you’ll find activities and attractions for the whole family, including boat and bike rentals, an aviary, various courts for everything from soccer to baseball, and playgrounds for children ages 2 and up.
3. Enjoy Your Hotel. The Renaissance Tel Aviv Hotel and Hilton Tel Aviv are particularly family-friendly hotels, both offering lifeguarded swimming pools and easy access to the beach. The beachfront Dan Accadia Herzliya has planned activities for kids and teenagers on the weekends, with more mid-week activities for young kids all summer long.
4. Visit Luna Park. A wonderful amusement park featuring over 30 rides for children of all ages, Luna Park is another great alternative to the beach – and at under $25 per person, it’s an economical one, too.
5. Spot Wildlife at Ramat Gan Safari. Located in neighboring Ramat Gan, this African-themed zoo features the largest collection of animals in this part of the world, with many of them wandering freely throughout the park. You can drive through the grounds, rent a golf cart or hop on the safari mini-train or bus.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:From lounging on an urban beach that hints at the best of Miami to ambling around an old stone city, these are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do in Tel Aviv.
1. Tayelet. From the recently developed Namal (port) area in the northern part of town all the way down to the ancient port city of Jaffa, the Tayelet — or the beachfront promenade and beach itself — is one of the many things that make Tel Aviv such a special place. Reminding us somewhat of Miami Beach but still unmistakably Mediterranean, the city’s urban beach is blessed with cotton-soft sand, soothing waves, well-maintained paths for biking, blading and walking and countless beachside restaurants, bars and cafés as far as the eye can see.
2. HaTachana Complex. With its eclectic collection of upscale shops, restaurants and cafés, this newly converted train station is the latest talk of the town. Featuring inspired architectural design and a charming open-air ambience, HaTachana is built for wandering around its many twists and turns and, of course, for browsing and tasting along the way.
3. Jaffa. An ancient stone city that hangs like a precipice over the crystal Mediterranean waters, this area has become a famed artist colony and eccentric marketplace. The elevated Old City offers beautiful views of both the ocean and the Tel Aviv skyline sprawling to the north, with mosque turrets and ficus trees offering subtle Middle Eastern accents. This is another area perfectly fit for wandering to your heart’s content.
4. Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv. Another reason Tel Aviv is often dubbed the “Miami of the Middle East” is its noteworthy architecture influenced by the Bauhaus school. In fact, Tel Aviv features the most Bauhaus-style buildings in the world, most of them built in the 1930s by Jewish refugees from Germany. This picturesque area, known as The White City, was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, while the center itself is chock full of historical tidbits; the gift shop is also excellent. Make the most of your visit by joining a guided tour of the area.
5. Palmach Museum. A truly unique historical museum covering the underground military history of Israel’s initial defense and inception, the Palmach is laid out in several underground chambers and available to visitors by appointment only. This museum offers a multimedia experience like no other, including scale models and actors.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:Understandably, the preference most of the time is to forge your own path while traveling. But the enormous wealth of history and information lurking behind practically every stone in Jerusalem makes the need for a knowledgeable tour guide of utmost importance. Finding the right guide, who can mix passion, academia and fun into a great day out and about in the city, can be the key to a wonderful trip here. Ideally, choose a tour that will take you through all the different quarters of the Old City, as well as neighboring areas, thereby getting a sense of the multi-faceted cultures that have existed side-by-side here for countless years.
Specifically, tours conducted by guides from Emek Shaveh — an organization of archeologists and community activists — available within the City of David reveal new areas that are being excavated, with many artifacts and clues to the ancient way of life, all in the context of the modern day Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:There is a wealth of beautiful things to bring home from Jerusalem, from pottery to jewelry to any number of religious-themed gifts: Crosses, menorahs, rosary beads, artwork and more. A particular favorite is the hand-painted ceramic work at the Sandrouni Armenian Ceramic Center in the Christian quarter of the Old City, just inside the New Gate. The bowls, ceramic pomegranates, plates and more are all meticulously patterned and a beauty to behold.
A favorite ornament, held sacred as a good luck charm in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, is a hamsa (the Arabic word for five). It depicts the palm and five fingers of a hand, but also resembles the profile of a dove. The symbol meant to evoke peace, completeness, and protection is available on sale everywhere, in a variety of materials from silver to wood to tile.
On September 17, 2012Dan Heching answered the question:You’ll find the cuisine in Jerusalem shares many similarities with that of other major cities in this Mediterranean region. Though there’s no shortage of good food here in Jerusalem, but these are five food experiences that Forbes Travel Guide editors think you shouldn’t miss:
1. Falafel. The single most iconic delicacy in Israel, falafel in pita is truly a taste of Israel. Most often served with tahini (sesame sauce), hummus and Israeli salad (diced cucumbers and tomatoes), these mashed and fried chickpea balls are on virtually every menu, and are even good at the stands and stalls on the streets or in restaurants like Moshiko. If you like a little extra kick, try the spicy harif sauce; the red sauce is mild hot and the green is hot hot!
2. Prickly Pears. Perhaps the most characteristic fruit of Israel is the prickly pear (or ‘sabra’ in Hebrew), which metaphorically refers to the thick and often prickly outer layer of this country’s people, but always leading to a warm and flavor-filled heart. These fruits are bountiful at markets like Mahane Yehuda.
3. Schnitzel. Grilled, breaded cutlets, known as schnitzel, were originally a European delicacy made with pork or veal. Here they’ve perfected a kosher version with chicken in Israel. In a sandwich at Pinati, with hummus or just on its own, this is a light but still absolutely delicious choice for lunch or dinner.
4. Shawarma. Served in pita bread like falafel, shawarma is the Arab-Israeli answer to the doner kabob of Turkey. The spiced roasted meat — often lamb — is cut off a vertical skewer and wrapped in a pita along with sauce, tomatoes and onions. At an institution like Manah vaChetzi, it’s a mouthwatering sandwich treat for any meat lover.
5. Halva. A dessert delicacy traditionally made of sesame, halva is perfected at Halva Kingdom on Ets Hayim Street within the Mahane Yehuda market. You’ll find 20 flavors of halva or more, from pistachio and hazelnut to chocolate and raspberry. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you sample a few before making a choice.