Traveling sober for the first time-- where should we go?
November 8, 2011 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Seeking sunny vacation destinations (and specific hotel and sights recommendations) for a young-ish couple in recovery. It's our first time traveling since we have been clean and sober, and we'd like to find a place where we can be comfortable.

My husband and I are both four years clean and sober. We met after we got clean, and we've put together a pretty nice life. Neither of us has had a vacation in over seven years, and we're trying to figure out where to go during the rare time we can get away from our business, sometime in April or May of 2012.

We want to go somewhere warm/tropical (we live near the 60th parallel and will be coming out of a harsh northern winter). We want the trip to be a combination of relaxation and seeing the region, wherever we go. The relaxation is going to be the tough part, because while we've figured out how to navigate a fair bit of life in sobriety, we haven't quite figured out how to relax.

We'd like to find a location that is tropical, has beaches, and has stuff to go see and do and look at (especially seeing local fauna and landscapes). We were originally thinking Thailand or Indonesia, but are also open to places like the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and places in Mexico that might suit us but of which we aren't aware. We would both have a really tough time in the common beach destinations in Mexico as we both have some pretty terrible associations with those places.

I'm looking for recommendations of specific places for a young-ish couple (late 20s/early 30s) to go where there isn't a heavy emphasis on alcohol, but where we can get away and have a great deal of private time in a beautiful setting, with little day-adventures available. We're okay in restaurants (him moreso than me) and are definitely interested in great food, but I'm hoping there is a place where we can be outside, in the sun, and just comfortable-- no in-your-face drinking/partying, etc. I'm not concerned about relapse for either of us-- that's our job, not yours-- it's that I want to find a place where we're able to relax without constant overt triggers. And a place that has things to see that are possibly National Geographic-worthy. His one stipulation is that he would like to stay in a nice hotel rather than one off the beaten path, but we are both the type of traveler who learns enough of the basic language of wherever we're going so that we can interact with the locals with respect.

We definitely do not want any sort of package vacation, nor are we interested in hanging out with groups of people in recovery or going to meetings abroad. We really just want it to be us, something we plan together and do alone. For the sake of this question, let's just assume/pretend that price is not a concern, and that we have 8-10 days to spend. We have both traveled quite a bit but neither of us has ever done so sober.

Any specific recommendations you can make-- countries/cities/towns, hotels, sights, out-of-the-way beaches, etc.-- would be much appreciated. We're trying to get the big-picture destination nailed down so that we can begin planning all the details, which should help keep us sane through the coming winter!
posted by mireille to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
You might consider St. John, in the US Virgin Islands. Nice and quiet, beautiful beaches and some decent food to be had. The beach snorkeling in Cinnamon Bay (where there is also a neat cabin-oriented campground, if you're so inclined) was magnificent. You have to fly into St. Thomas (which is great for shopping, I guess, but I can take it or leave it) and take a short ferry ride over. Much of the area is national park land, so it's largely undeveloped and unspoilt.

The nicest luxury-type hotel, I think, is Caneel Bay.
posted by jquinby at 5:51 PM on November 8, 2011

Since you're going pre-hurricane season, investigate Dominica, the island nobody ever heard of. Gorgeous, tropical, isolated, above all relaxing, and a trip back in time. Incorporate other Caribbean isles on your trip out or back for a day or two and you get it all.

If you have trouble relaxing when you go on a trip or vacation, schedule a massage or spa session immediately upon arrival. It will stop you instantly in your tracks, separate and decompress you from the outside world, and allow you to enjoy the whole visit at a much more relaxed pace. You will get a lot more value from your trip.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:08 PM on November 8, 2011

I went to Ahmedabad and Vadodara, in Gujarat, India, for a wedding. The whole state is dry. Ordinarily I'm very fond of my wine, but everything else was so amazing that I barely even noticed. It's so ingrained in the culture that it's not even considered worthy of comment unless you look like a thirsty backpacker who might be looking to party. Neither of the cities is great for relaxing, but there are beach resorts and national parks that I hear are just astounding and wish we'd had time to see.

The House of MG is beautiful. Not unwind-on-the-beach beautiful; intense-historical beautiful.
posted by gingerest at 6:48 PM on November 8, 2011

Let me suggest Queensland in Australia, if you can afford the airfare. The food's great, the landscape's amazing above and below the waterline, there are your pick of National Parks and rainforest, there's a huge industry in boutique hotels and the koalas are probably the least interesting local fauna. Even in April and May it'll still be warm, especially further north towards Cairns and Townsville.

Avoid the tourist strips on the Gold Coast where the dickheads from my State go north to party, and you'll have a great holiday.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:51 PM on November 8, 2011

For Thailand, I would suggest Railay Beach at Krabi. It is only accessible by boat.

I would suggest staying on the west beach - not only is it more beautiful than the east, several of the hotels do not serve alcohol as they are Muslim owned (I think Sand Sea Resort and Railay Village Hotel, but not Railay Bay Resort). This means you don't get so much of the drinking party stuff.

The hotels at Railay have all gone pretty upmarket, so you can definitely find a nice one; a number have pools.

West Railay is a beautiful beach to sit on and watch the sunset, or walk around to the Phranang Cave Beach - spectacular limestone cliff cave over hanging the water, great for swimming. Plenty of day trips through local karst type scenery (think Halong Bay sort of things) - snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, island hopping - you can visit Koh Phi Phi where "The Beach" was filmed. Popular for rock climbing too, if you are into it. You would definitely be able to find some nature-type tours (e.g. mangroves) and possibly cooking schools (probably back on the mainland at Ao Nang or Krabi town).

Plenty of seafood, Thai food.

Have a look at this wikipedia page for a fabulous panorama view of West Railay beach.
posted by AnnaRat at 11:22 PM on November 8, 2011

I'd like to throw in a suggestion of Fiji it is almost impossible not to relax in Fiji as the whole country seems to run on Fiji time which I love. It is a beautiful place to visit, with everything from posh resorts to more budget conscious accommodations and I always find the people so super friendly. Also while they are used to tourists it is not a super crazy touristy spot and the beaches, snorkeling and food are amazing.
posted by wwax at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2011

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