#nzgirlhacks: 5 Hot Destinations That Won’t Be On Your Bucket List But Should Be!

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I am so super excited right now! I have just booked a 7-night luxury SUP yoga (paddleboard) and acroyoga retreat this year in May and June in Tulum, Mexico. It’s going to be ah-may-zing!!

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And to be clear, I am no yogi! I only recently experienced both these fab yoga practices at Wanderlust for the first time this February. There, my fab SUP yoga instructor, Kat, told me about her beach retreat and BAM, I’m on board (no pun intended).

So, despite having never been there, Tulum is on my list of hot destinations, along with four other amazing places and experiences that – like me – you may not have considered before. And make sure you read below to discover our best #nzgirlhack for epic, cheap holidays ever!

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1. Yoga Retreat in Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Qintana Roo is everything I want in a winter break: sun, surf and culture. It has white sand beaches, warm azure blue waters, breathtaking 13th century Mayan archaeological ruins along the Mexican Caribbean coast, and an accessible national park and cute township I can bike around. Plus, it’s easy to explore deep in the jungle visiting the magical Cenotes Sac Actun to swim, snorkel or cave dive in the exquisite waters of the Riviera Maya. So while I am going there to get my yoga on, I’m also planning my beach bum and siesta time too. Some rooms even have hammocks designed for exactly that!

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Tulum is also only a few hours drive from the infamous ancient Mayan archaeological sites of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, one of the 7 Seven Wonders of the Modern World, which is undoubtedly on your list already! Plus it’s just a 3-hour bus ride (or 2-hour taxi) to the majestic Lake Bacalar. There’s so much to do in Tulum, I don’t think leaving is going to be easy! Getting there, however, is easy via LAX and only a 90-minute shuttle from Cancun airport. But, if you’re like me, you’re going to need help to figure out the timings of flights and transfers so I have legit got my Flight Centre guy Andy on the job (I tried it myself but it was just too hard). No doubt I’ll keep you posted!

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2. Surfing in Arugum Bay, Sri Lanka

By far and away my best holiday ever was learning to surf with the Safa Surf School at Elephant Rock, Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka. I had been to Sri Lanka previously to build a house in Negombo north of Colombo for Habitat for Humanity but nothing prepared me for the magic of the east coast of this incredible island. Arugam Bay was decimated by the tragic tsunami of 2004, which killed 35,000 people. But you wouldn’t know it given the locals are so generous, light-hearted and welcoming.

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And, true story, the street dogs of Arugam Bay are treasured citizens. Following the tsunami they helped rescue hundreds of people stranded by the waters, barking until they could be rescued, some even helping drag people or bodies to shore. You don’t have to go far to hear a first-hand account of that bittersweet moment between animal and man.

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3. Luxury Living at Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawai’i

If you’re looking for a luxury escape with just the right amount of activity and adventure then the Hilton Waikoloa Village is a must for your list – it’s definitely on mine! My neighbour, a skater bloke, couldn’t stop gushing about his stay and he’s about as far away from a luxury escape kinda guy I could imagine. On site at the 64 acre Hilton (with 1,200 rooms), there’s a dolphin sanctuary, sharks (netted off), a monorail and boats running through it, a private bay, lagoons to paddleboard and kayak on, snorkelling with the endangered Hawaiian Green Turtles, a full sized golf course and a lawn mini golf course, plus everything you’d expect from a five star hotel stay. In his words, it’s “mind-blowing,” and he told me they didn’t even leave the site for two days.

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But when they finally ventured out into the vast Island of Hawai’i, they visited the incredible dormant volcanoes of Maunakea and Mauna Loa, and told me it’s easy to drive around the island in a day. Hawai’i is packed full of history too – most infamous for being the final resting place of Captain Cook, in Kealakekua Bay, where he was killed on Valentine’s Day in 1779, which is now an historical walk with a monument to signify the place. Getting to Hawai’i from Honolulu is just a short 50-minute domestic flight to one of two airports on the big island, so if Honolulu is on your list, add the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

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4. Being Royal at the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, India

If you want even more luxury and to feel like a king or queen for a day, the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur is the place to do it. Just look at these photos! And I say a day, because with the standard twin bedroom costing around $500-1000 per night depending on the season, a day might be all your budget can stretch to. But it’s the perfect respite amid the dusty hustle and bustle of India.

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My friend stayed there last year during his 5-week India trip and his advice is this:

Stick to spirits for drinks because wine is too expensive. Otherwise it's normal western prices for food, like $25-$35 for a main but it's all served on Versace plates with silverware. All the music is live. You can splash out with rooms, but the basic room with a lake view offers best value for money.

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Great news too, if you know when you’re going to India, you can grab an early bird room price, saving up to $100 per night on twin rooms. Oh, and of course if you’re adopting a “you-only-live-once” policy for 2017, you could book the Shambhu Prakash Suite for a mere $7000 a night… hey, why not live a little?

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5. Sleeping in The Stars at Natura Vive Skylodge Adventure Suites, Peru

This place intrigues me and scares the ba-jay-sus out of me in equal measure. It’s the very freaky, once-in-a-lifetime accommodation experience in Peru that, by all accounts, will blow your mind! I heard about this when one of the gals in the office, Kelsey booked for it. She’s travelling in Peru right now and will be at the Skylodge Adventure Suites any day (I’ll be stalking her pictures on that one!). In a nutshell, for about $600 a night you can sleep, eat and do all your life duties on the side if a mountain overlooking the Sacred Valley of Cuzco in Peru.

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To get there, you’re collected at Cusco City and driven to Pachar where you then climb the 400 metres up, or do the “intrepid trail” through ziplining. Once you’re there you arrive to a stunning 300 degree view in your 24 ft. long, 8 ft. high capsule. The suites are made of aerospace aluminium with weather resistant polycarbonate, and contain four beds (one of which is kingsize), a dining area and a bathroom (which you can read about here).

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Plus… guests are served gourmet meals, plus wine and a full, fancy breakfast! Not sure if I’ll get there anytime soon, but wow, just wow! Take a look at their Facebook pics, here.

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How to Get There For Waaaaaay Less

There are so, so many more places to add to your #travelgoals, such as Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia (pictured below), which is said to be like Great Barrier Reef to the power of 100, Lake Lovatnet in Stryn, Norway (pictured below), which might even challenge our own Queenstown for breathtaking scenery, and even grabbing a Qantas flight flying over Antartica (pictured above), not even kidding!

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But with all our travel hopes and dreams, how can we even do a couple of things on this list? Well, hold onto your hairpiece, ’cause this is a legit #nzgirlhack you’re going to love!

Last year I was asked to give the new Flight Centre MasterCard a flex, so over Christmas and New Year I have been putting it through its paces (and yes, I paid it off when the first statement arrived!). And the joy of it is you earn Flight Centre Rewards as you go – just spend as normal using your Flight Centre  MasterCard and then redeem your Rewards on any services offered by Flight Centre – flights, accommodation, tours, car hires – you name it! It’s 1 Reward earned for every $100 spent, or earn double Rewards for Flight Centre purchases.

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Plus it has a buy now pay later option when you book your flights, accommodation, etc in store at Flight Centre. So yep, that last minute shopping trip with the gals to Melbourne that you didn’t think was possible, totally is.

I put my flight-booking skills to the test, too, and searched for my own Auckland to LAX to Cancun flights and couldn't juggle them to be cheaper than what Flight Centre was offering. So it's a no-brainer, right?

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I put my flight-booking skills to the test, too, and searched for my own Auckland to LAX to Cancun flights and couldn’t juggle them to be cheaper than what Flight Centre was offering. So it’s a no-brainer, right?

So yep, this is tried and tested by me and I am already stoked! You can be a smart cookie, too, and do things like pay for all your bills on your Flight Centre MasterCard and earn Flight Centre Rewards that way. All adds up, right? But do pay off your card every pay day. It’s a discipline your future self will thank you for!

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Belinda has a thirst for life that just won’t quit. She’s crazy in love with writing and discovering new things to share, from fashion, beauty, style, to food, lifestyle and #nzgirlhacks.