Help me decide where to go for a month of relaxation
January 19, 2014 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to take a month of holiday in May or June, and want to find a cheap remote destination anywhere in the world where I can rent a small place and just hang out and read books and unwind. My perfect day there would be lounging around in a hammock/garden/isolated beach, reading, drinking a cappuccino and eating bread and cheese. Maybe I'd go for a little walk. Please give me your suggestions for destinations, including specific rental options if you have any.

I don't want to spend a lot of money -- either on the airfare (from California) or on food/lodging/etc. once I get there. And I don't want to stay in a hotel or high-rise or bed-and-breakfast -- ideally I'd be in a cabin-type thing, or maybe at some kind of retreat facility. I am unilingual and want to be able to be lazy, and so I'd like a destination where the people speak at least some English.

Things I like: the ocean. Black sand beaches. The desert. Waterfalls, forests, glaciers, lakes. Hot springs and other geothermal stuff. Scandinavia. Moderate-to-warm temperatures. Buddhists. In general I like religious facilities as long as they don't care that I'm not personally religious. Most types of food, maybe especially Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Access to the internet. Lodging that is clean and simple. For reference: in the past I've really enjoyed time I spent in Kyoto, Ko Pha Ngan, Iceland, Pula, Isla Mujeres, Haifa, New Zealand and Easter Island.

Things I don't like: Crowds of people, especially package tour type tourists. Strong sun. Air and noise pollution. Scorpions and big insects. Ruins. Festivals. Hostels. Touts and begging and scams. I also don't want to be anywhere where as a woman I'll face an unusually high level of harassment or constraint.

Thanks in advance for any ideas :-)
posted by Susan PG to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
I'd pick somewhere in southern Mexico or Central America. There's lots of choice depending on whether you're set on a beachy environment, and how deeply on a budget you are vs. wanting a more "all mod cons" kind of experience. You could do anything from somewhere laid back on the Mayan Riviera to Costa Rica to Nicaragua or Honduras. If you're willing to be more inland, Oaxaca or Chiapas might be a good idea, or Antigua, Guatemala.
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 PM on January 19, 2014

Best answer: How about Rarotonga, Cook Islands? Here are a couple of links, 1,2,3.
The only criteria it doesn't hit is moderate sun, it can be hot but May is a cooler month.
You would fly from LAX on Air New Zealand.
I can recommend a quiet inexpensive place across the road from a beach (one bedroom with kitchen), the Daydreamer. Whatever accommodations you look at, if you are staying for a month, contact them to see if they will cut you a deal (the Daydreamer did but they have new owners)
Because of a stronger US dollar, you can live cheaper especially with a kitchen.
The island is small and easy to travel either by bus or rented scooter.
It's quieter on the southside of the island, but the capital of Avarua is by no means loud or noisy.
posted by Snazzy67 at 10:17 PM on January 19, 2014

posted by Ideefixe at 11:16 PM on January 19, 2014

Best answer: Better than Rarotonga for a quiet retreat is Atiu, another island in the same group. Airfares from Rarotonga cost about $300, but accommodation on Atiu is cheaper than Rarotonga by quite a lot. I stayed recently at Kopeka Lodge, where for $60 a night (NZ, so about maybe $40 US) you get a lovely (rustic) two-bedroom cottage in the forest with a large garden full of mango trees and other fruit. The owner doesn't live on site, so you are by yourself, but he has a wonderfully friendly caretaker woman who comes by to check on you, and is more than happy to stay in the next door cottage if you are lonely :) She kept bringing me local produce and home cooked meals too, so I spent like a total of $10 on food the whole week I was on the island.

Rarotonga has way better food, though - nice cafes and restaurants. And great snorkelling and so on. Atiu is more the quiet retreat type.
posted by lollusc at 11:30 PM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, and Atiu has like a total of about 5 tourists at any given time, so it's really really nice and quiet.
posted by lollusc at 11:31 PM on January 19, 2014

Best answer: If I wanted to get away, but stay on budget, I would choose Lago de Atitlán in Guatemala. It's a huge lake surrounded by volcanoes and highland Mayan villages. It's tropical, but high enough in elevation that the weather is cool. Each village has it's own character; some have just a few houses for rent, while others have been taken over by more new age types.

With a little more effort, the Lycian coast in Turkey is a wonder. Think of what the small towns in the Riviera might have been like before the jet-setters came and conquered.

Yelapa and Sayulita, both near Puerto Vallarta, have enough tourists so that there is a basic infrastructure, but not so much that they've been taken over.

edit: for a month, I'd choose Turkey. There are fascinating ruins nearby, and cities a few hours away if you need a break.
posted by kanewai at 1:00 AM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: There are some really wonderful, specific ideas here -- thank you, this is exactly what I'm looking for. Please give more if you have them -- this is really useful.
posted by Susan PG at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2014

Palisade, CO.

Colorado wine country on the Western slope along the Colorado River.

I visited last September on the occasion of my brother's birthday and now I won't shut up about it.

Incredible breathtaking landscape dotted with little winerys with inexpensive fruit wines, primarily peach and apricot. But also some really fantastic Cabernet Francs and port wines. Go hiking, go rafting, mountain biking or just soak in a nearby hot springs in the mountains. Go fishing or pan for gold because why not.

All the relaxation and fun of a California wine country retreat without the massive crowds and at a fraction of the cost.
posted by j03 at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anegada in the British Birgin Islands is great. It's a low flat coral island, maybe 300 locals living there. Maybe 100 tourists at a time. May/June is low season, so a long term rental could be negotiated for cheap. The water and beaches are among the best in the world. Lots of beach cottages for rent, but we love Keel Point Cottages. Also nice is Anegada Beach Cottages.

I loved Bukit Luwang in Sumatra. The further up the river you go, the better. Orangutans strolling down the river, wild peacocks flying overhead, the mist rising out of the jungle.

Dominica is a real hidden gem. Lush like you dream about. Rivers, black sand beaches, waterfalls, hot springs, a great trail running the length of the island, friendliest locals in the Caribbean.

Cappadocia in Turkey is great. I could stare at that view for a month.

One of my personal Shangri La's is Monteverde in Costa Rica, but I love cloud rainforest.

Boquette in Panama is a great ex-pat town. Rainforest and mountain views with all the amenities of modern living. Cafes and restaurants, Internet, transportation.

If you liked Koh Phang Nga (sp?) check out Koh Tao.

Cuba, too. There's a parallel economy to the tourist one. Get off the package tour trail and you'll find a great, authentic, and safe experience. It has everything, white sand beaches, rainforest, culture, history.
posted by karst at 7:06 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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