The controlled wildness of Sanibel, Captiva islands

Michael Billheimer hands me a jar of strawberry preserves as I leave his Lighthouse Cafe. "It's just a little taste of our island for you to take home," he said. Now THAT'S hospitality. The Lighthouse Cafe on Periwinkle Way on Sanibel Island is reputedly home to the best whole wheat blueberry pancakes in Southwest Florida. The cafe is small and cozy, and every available wall space is clad with framed photos or drawings of lighthouses from around the world, most of them sent by fulfilled customers. Just down the road, and by the beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico, is the beacon of Sanibel, an authentic lighthouse - a landmark since 1884 when the entire island was a nature preserve.


The big paddle along Kauai's coast

The outfitter calls this the "Everest of sea kayaking," but as I paddle through a sea cave on the Na Pali coast of Kauai I quickly realize the day's peak experience will have nothing to do with a high mountain.


Off the grid in Taos, N.M.

With today's information onslaught, smartphone appendages and retail profiling, getting off the grid may seem like a uniquely 21st century desire. But the northern New Mexico town of Taos has been a go-to physical and spiritual oasis for people looking to escape since the early 1900s.

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