With a new year comes new travel goals. Some of us aim to explore obscure European cities in the hope of discovering a hidden gem. For others, it means unwinding on tropical shores a little closer to home.
Whatever your travel goals, TripAdvisor’s annual 'Destinations on the Rise' list is a good place to start your planning. Each year, TripAdvisor shines a light on the destinations that saw the biggest increase in positive reviews, searches and bookings around the world.
Here are five of this year’s top 10 destinations on the rise, and insider tips to help you kickstart your research.
1. Ishigaki, Japan
Perfect for: Nature lovers looking for a unique tropical escape.
Tropical serenity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Japan. But venture south of the bustling cities of Tokyo and Osaka on the island of Honshu, and you’ll discover a sprawling archipelago with views to rival any tropical destination in the world.
Ishigaki Island takes the top spot on TripAdvisor’s Destinations on the Rise list. With turquoise waters, abundant marine wildlife, white-sand beaches and a network of breathtaking hiking trails, it’s easy to see why.
Ishigaki is part of the Yaeyama Island group in the Okinawa prefecture, which is renowned for its unique cuisine and cultural influences from both Japan and Taiwan, all set against a picturesque tropical backdrop. Tourism to Ishigaki has accelerated since the island’s first airport opened in 2013, with flights from Tokyo taking a little over three hours.
Keep in mind
Ishigaki’s tropical waters may be alluring, but strong currents, jellyfish and passing boats make many beaches treacherous for swimmers. For example, the popular Kabira Bay is officially off-limits to swimmers due to boat traffic and jellyfish, and the isolated Yonehara Beach has claimed several lives due to rip currents.
Other popular beaches, like Sukuji, have nets to protect swimmers from jellyfish and safe shallow waters. If you’re unsure about which beaches are suitable for swimming, ask at your hotel reception.
2. Kapaa, Hawaii
Perfect for: A true Hawaiian getaway without the high-rise hotels of Waikiki.
Northwest of Oahu (Hawaii’s premier tourist destination) lies the laid-back island of Kauai. You won’t find the fast food chains and cheap souvenirs of Waikiki on Kauai, but you will find stunning tropical rainforests and towering volcanic cliffs that give way to secluded shores.
The town of Kapaa lies on the East Side of Kauai, which is affectionately known as the ‘Coconut Coast’ because of its countless palm groves. Kapaa might be a secluded slice of Hawaii, but it also has its fair share of attractions outside of the water. For example, the Hindu Monastery on Kauai is a serene experience and the Sleeping Giant Trail provides a stunning view of the coastline.
Keep in mind
Undoubtedly Kauai’s main drawcard is its pristine natural beauty (they don’t call it the ‘Garden Island’ for nothing). Some of the best ways to experience its many natural attractions are with arranged tours, like those offered by Kayak Wailua. Make sure you research any tours you’re interested in on websites like TripAdvisor, and book with a trustworthy, licensed operator.
3. Nairobi, Kenya
Perfect for: Exploring the wildlife of the savanna, and the sights and sounds of modern Africa.
Known as the ‘safari capital of Africa’, Nairobi has long been a popular launching point for wildlife lovers. However, the city itself has developed into one of Africa’s largest, most well-resourced and popular destinations.
With fascinating museums, quirky restaurants and lively bars, Nairobi will appeal to anyone interested in what modern Africa has to offer. However, its premier attraction remains the safari tours into Nairobi National Park, just beyond the city centre.
Keep in mind
Tourism has been a central part of the Kenyan economy for decades, and unfortunately, not all of it has been sustainable for local residents or wildlife. For example, many popular tours of local Maasai villages have only benefited tour companies and have left the villagers themselves with no support.
Responsible Travel recommends that you be extremely careful when visiting these villages to ensure any money you leave (through donations or buying crafts) actually goes to the local Maasai people. Again, research is your best friend to find ethical tours.
4. Halifax, Canada
Perfect for: Lovers of arts, culture, pubs and clubs.
Halifax boasts more pubs and clubs per capita than just about anywhere in Canada, so it’s fitting that the city's most famous brewmaster was also the mayor. Alexander Keith’s original 1820 brewery remains in operation, and is just one of the countless drinking and dining attractions that delight travellers from around the globe.
Keep in mind
Temperatures in Halifax and the Nova Scotia district can be bitterly cold in the winter months (December to February). You can expect daytime lows of -6 Celsius, so it’s crucial that you check the weather when packing your bags.
5. Gdansk, Poland
Perfect for: History buffs and architecture enthusiasts.
When it comes to architectural beauty, the Polish city of Gdansk rivals anywhere in Europe. Its riverside cafes, gothic churches and grand courtyards make it a comfortable and exciting option for those looking to explore Eastern Europe.
Keep in mind
As in much of Eastern Europe, opportunistic thieves have been known to target tourists in Gdansk. One common travel scam in the city involves men who claim to help you find a parking spot, then loiter around your car and demand payment for ‘looking after it’ while you were gone. Always make sure you take precautions to avoid pickpockets.
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