Hello, gorgeous! From dazzling Sicily to shimmering South Padre Island, our well-traveled staff’s choices for most spectacular setting may surprise you. Tomek is from Poland, and he found paradise in the Texan tropics. Travis hails from the Lone Star State, and his mind was blown in the mountains of Spain. Peep the other eight spots where HomeAway staffers achieved Insta-glory, and if you’re game, share your own pretty pics with us!
Lucia Ceccolini, Writer
Thanks to its combo of cultural and natural beauty, Sicily leads off our list of prettiest places. Palermo is a jewel. Dazzling with Arabic, Norman, and Christian art and history, it’s been named the Italian Capital of Culture for 2018. But seaside is just as terrific, with Favignana and San Vito Lo Capo boasting golden-sand beaches and sparkling azure waters to rival those of the Caribbean. The ancient Theatre of Taormina, with its spectacular views, wows travelers time and again, while Baroque cities like Noto and Ragusa Ibla are the very definition of splendor. With so much beauty to explore, Sicily deserves at least a two-week trip!
Cadien Adams, Writer
Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” is the most remote of the entire archipelago, and possibly the most magical place in the world. Kauai’s North Shore especially shines. A canvas of dramatic jungle flora and fauna interspersed with Insta-ready waterfalls is an amazing backdrop from which to marvel at the breathtaking views of the Pacific in general and spots like Hanalei Bay in particular. The town of Hanalei is a charming outpost that maintains its naturally easy vibe and authenticity despite having been “discovered” by the celebrity set. Kauai also boasts incredible land preserves like Limahuli Gardens, aimed at retaining the islanders’ ancient sustainable living practices.
Travis Sandoval, Video Producer
A charming fusion of Spanish and Arabic cultures, Granada also boasts an eclectic mix of architectural styles from Moorish palaces to Gothic churches. Located between some of Spain’s most majestic mountains and the Mediterranean, Granada caters to diverse interests. Locals joke that it’s the one place where you can spend the morning on the ski slopes and the afternoon on a sunny beach. Stay in Albayzín, the oldest neighborhood in the city, and get lost wandering through narrow streets. You’ll also enjoy an incredible view of the Alhambra, a medieval complex that includes lush gardens, palaces, and a fortress.
Lee Houck, Editorial Director
Across Lake Washington from the grunge and granola that is Seattle sits the lakeside gem of Kirkland. Thanks to generous rainfall (and more sun than Seattle), Kirkland boasts spectacular landscapes both cultivated and wild. Public parks, gardens, and open green spaces are dotted with whimsical sculptures by regional and national artists. With its local performing arts center, the Kirkland Art Center and galleries, and summer concerts at Kirkland Marina Park (not to mention the annual docking of the pirate ships), Kirkland is a haven for artists and aficionados alike. And stunning views of the Seattle skyline and sunsets over the lake will dazzle everyone.
Michelle Friedrichs, Writer
A must-see in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The name of the bay translates loosely to “descending dragon.” It’s lined with over 1,600 islands and islets made of limestone, many boasting quirky names based on their shape. Rent a kayak or junk boat or book an overnight cruise to take in the natural beauty of this hidden tropical treasure. You’ll find grottos and caves to explore on the larger islands along with floating fishing villages scattered throughout the bay.
Kiley Vorreiter, Producer
A four-season destination well known for Keystone and Copper Mountain ski resorts, Summit County is also home to mountain towns like Silverthorne, Frisco, and Dillon. Sans snow, these destinations are primed for summer fun! At the center of the action is Lake Dillon, a sparkling five-square-mile freshwater reservoir favored by water sports enthusiasts, with canoeing and kayaking, boating, and paddle boarding just a few of the options. Off the water, hike or bike along the lake for views of the spectacular scenery.
Caroline Costello, Writer
One of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods (settled in 1630), Beacon Hill boasts narrow cobblestone streets, original gas-lit streetlamps, and historical rowhouses, collectively painting a beautiful, centuries-old cityscape. A walk through this incredibly well-preserved yet magically timeworn neighborhood feels like a retreat to a bygone era. Tiny, twisty streets harbor charming hidden gardens. Ivy curls up elegant Greek Revival brownstones that have housed senators, poets, and scholars. And beautiful old doors abound—from crooked wooden cellar hatchways to grand Federal entrances framed by multi-pane glass.
Maria Martinez, Writer
Another of our favorites designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (1996), Porto gets props for its ability to surprise and delight. Located on the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal, the small city is best known for port wine. But It’s also the perfectly sized city for sightseeing, as you’ll find stunning monuments and churches co-located with contemporary buildings from architects like Siza Vieira, Souto Moura, or Rem Koolhaas. Along the riverbank, seek out Porto’s charming historic center where you can enjoy bacalhau (cod) with a glass of vinho verde (sparkling white wine).
Tomek Baginski, Producer
Often touted as the best spring break beach in Texas, South Padre Island (SPI) offers beachgoers over 30 miles of sparkling white sand and emerald waters. But this little strip of tropical Texas is more than just a seasonal destination for students. It’s also a favorite of vacationing families and a nature lover’s paradise. Attractions include Sea Turtle, Inc., a conservation organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles, as well as the SPI Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center and the SPI Birding and Nature Center, each nestled into the island’s natural splendor. Soak up the scenery along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail before hitting one of the beautiful beaches.
Virginie Viguie, Writer
Wrapping up our list of prettiest places, we return to Italy and yet another UNESCO World Heritage site (1997): Cinque Terre. Perched along the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre (five towns) is a string of five fishing villages dating from the early medieval period: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The villages can be reached by train or by an ancient system of footpaths. Trekkers should prepare for lots of stairs, but dramatic ocean views (Insta-alert!) along the way will keep you motivated. That, and stops for gelato in the impossibly cute villages, welcoming villagers, and limoncello tastings while climbing the stairs.