Fantastic New Year’s Eve destinations
December 29, 2009 ·
A couple million people will hit Brazil’s Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro as the final minutes of 2009 are counted down, ready for a mix of spiritual observances, fireworks and full-tilt partying.
Thousands of miles away, a much more low-key style of New Year’s revelry will be happening on a tiny island off the coast of Belize, where visitors might dine on shrimp and sip on beer as they gaze out into the Caribbean Sea from their rented bungalow.
The world traveler has plenty of options when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve, and while some are big-city, headline-grabbing bashes, others are less publicized. For those wanting to make a last-minute escape or are already planning for 2011, we asked two travel experts to pick what they thought were great New Year’s Eve destinations, big or small.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker, an island about a 45-minute water-taxi ride from Belize City, offers “the antithesis to the beer-soaked blowout,” said AnneLise Sorensen, who has written and contributed to travel guides for DK Eyewitness Travel and Fodor’s, among other companies.
It’s a perfect spot for people who want to relax their way into the new year in warm weather without spending a fortune, Sorensen said. The caye — off the Central American nation’s coast — is known as a “backpacker isle” because of well-priced accommodations. While visitors can find hotels there, they also can rent their own thatched cabana starting at $50 U.S. a night, she said.
Its neighbor Ambergris Caye is more renowned, but Caye Caulker “is smaller and a little more authentic, and you get more interaction with the locals there,” said Sorensen, who also contributes travel segments on the New York City TV channel New York Nonstop.
The caye sits on the second-longest barrier reef in the world, making it a great spot for snorkeling and diving. After hitting the water, visitors can spend New Year’s Eve taking in reggae music on an island where “chilling out is a way of life,” she said.
“Dinner might be shrimp kabobs from the grill, and as night falls, you can walk over to … the north end, where there’s an outdoor bar where you can sit with your feet in the Caribbean Sea,” Sorensen said.
The capital of Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America, is a normally sleepy town that wakes up in a big way on New Year’s Eve, according to Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet.
People gather in the city’s center to see who can create the longest ribbon of fireworks. Individual firecrackers are strung together; a chain of 100 might last 10 seconds after they’re lit, and some chains can last for minutes.
“Everybody crowds in the city’s center to hear the roar of the fireworks. Afterward, it’s a sea of red paper,” Reid said.
One thing going for Paramaribo is it’s culturally and religiously diverse, and inhabitants “famously get along,” Reid said. Many languages besides the official Dutch are spoken, as people from all over the world have come to live there.
“A big selling point is that it’s a place without tension” despite cultural differences, Reid said.