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Whether it's family-friendly New York City, Thailand's; backpacker paradise or the cultural charms of Houston, next year's top vacation sites are ripe for the pickin'


December 30, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE FORT WORTH
STAR-TELEGRAM. All Rights Reserved. 

Vacation destinations aren't like party frocks; you don't hear that someone went to Ibiza and think, "But, oh, that's so 1999." Still, there is such a thing as buzz in the travel world. New hotels and attractions, revitalized historical monuments or entertainment districts, emerging tourism industries, bargain deals, even being used as a movie set or vacation spot by the rich and famous - any factor can cause a location to stand out from the pack.

We asked some travel writers and industry insiders for their picks for the hot destinations of 2002. Some choices are surprising. Some are rediscovered old standbys. A couple you might barely recognize. But eachone has a compelling reason for you to go there next year - or at least to dream about it.

Hot family destination: New York City

Texas Urban: Houston

Texas Rural: Big Bend Country

European destination: Vienna, Austria

National Park: Glacier National Park, Montana

Island/Beach: Puerto Rico

Selected by: James Badham, editor in chief of Islands magazine, which covers the estimated 500,000 islands of the world

Why: Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, salsa dancing, mojitos, Nuevo Latino cuisine - "All things Latin seem to be really big, and Puerto Rico is really at the center of it," Badham says. And while it may feel exotic, remember Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory; novice travelers may be relieved that it's easy to find the conveniences of home, plus people who speak English.

What to do: Puerto Rico is more than just beautiful beaches - though we'll get to those in a minute. San Juan, the capital, offers shopping, colonial architecture, great restaurants and night life, including discos where you can practice your salsa moves, or at least enjoy watching local experts, and casinos for the gamblers. For beach visits, Badham likes the small island of Culebra, which can be done as a day trip from San Juan; a short boat ride deposits visitors on a sugar-white, largely undeveloped beach, perfect for lounging and swimming.

Where to stay: Puerto Rico has enjoyed a huge boom in hotel construction and renovation over the past few years. The Hyatt Cerromar and Hyatt Dorado resorts have just completed total renovations; the upscale hotels share 1,000 acres and full amenities such as pools, restaurants, tennis courts, golf courses and spas. The Sol Melia chain plans to open a 900-room complex, Puerto Rico's first all-inclusive resort, in late 2002. But Puerto Rico also has a growing network of paradores or country inns, with charming rustic settings on the beach, in small villages or even on coffee plantations, and rates as low as $50 per night.

Details:; (800) 866-7827.

Backpacker spot: The Thailand/ Vietnam/Laos route

Honorable mention: Central America, especially Belize and Guatemala, where backpackers can trek and see ancient architecture and tiny villages; they can also stay in humble but clean lodgings and eat heartily for dollars a day.

Gay-friendly destination: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Honorable mention: Capetown, South Africa: "The Clifton Beach area is very hot; a lot of rich, gay Americans are buying property there, and a huge gay American influx is going there in December, January, February, which is their summer. It's a very beach-oriented, very attractive, fun spot."

High-roller resort: Mahakua resort, Colima, Mexico

Historic/cultural destination: Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

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