As you make your island wish list for 2009, ISLANDS research editor Ashley Knaus suggests considering the following destinations of Langkawi, Corsica and even Tahiti. And any of these trips would make a terrific gift for a fellow island traveler. Tahiti especially is a must-do, with a must-book deadline approaching. (To read about ISLANDS' most recent trip to Tahiti, click here.)
Why Here - Serenity. Think tropical is just for the Caribbean? Think again. Langkawi Island -- the most developed island in the Langkawi archipelago, a bundle of 99 islands off the coast of Kedah in Peninsular Malaysia -- boasts year-round warm weather (average temps remain between 70 and 90 degrees). Enjoy limestone hills, beautiful beaches, hot springs, waterfalls, caves and great fishing.
When to Go - March. Travel between vacation and holiday seasons, when you can avoid the hustle and bustle and focus on finding your inner chi. Dive, snorkel, tour and spa when no one is around to say otherwise. You'll also be able to upgrade your accommodations, as prices for upscale resorts drop during this time.
What to Budget - $6,500 (seven nights, two people). You'll need about a week for scheduled tours and ample explore-on-your-own time. Pacific Holidays' $1,940-perperson package includes a Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore (SIN), Silk Air flight to Langkawi (LGK), hotel accommodations, transfers and tours. pacificholidaysinc.com
Why Here - Spring flowers. The blanket of wild flowers that flourish only during spring include pink butterfly orchids, white asphodel, French lavender, tassel hyacinths, cyclamen and violets. That beauty is set in an atmosphere with little visible effect from 200 years of French rule: Cultural touches across the island range from Baroque churches to Genoese fortresses to Tuscan style.
When to Go - April. Avoid high season, when many Europeans flock to the French island (mid-July to the end of August). Unlike the hot summer and snowy winters, spring is moderate, making it a perfect time to tackle parts of Corsica's most famous hike, the GR20.
What to Budget - $6,000 (five nights, two people). Fly aboard Air France from the U.S. to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Buses are on hand there for transfers to the Orly airport (ORY) for domestic flights. From Orly, fly to to Ajaccio, Corsica's main town, on the southwest side of the island. When budgeting, don't forget to factor in conversion rates and fees. airfrance.us
Why Here - Accessibility. It's relatively close, as far as South Pacific islands are concerned, yet with that famously faraway feel. There's no need to give a hard sell on Tahiti as a dream destination, but with pre-packaged deals and daily, nonstop flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tahiti's Faa'a Airport in just eight hours, this dream getaway is surprisingly doable.
When to Go - May. While the Society Islands are beautiful year-round, May actually starts Tahiti's winter (take the term "winter" lightly; average temps remain in the 80s), so humidity is low and rain is minimal.
What to Budget - $3,500 (five nights, one person). Air Tahiti Nui has six-day packages for about $2,000 per person, including round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tahiti, one night at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, four nights at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa, inter-island transfers and daily breakfast. For your total travel budget, add in airfare to L.A. if needed, meals (try Mayflower, Alfredo's, Te Honu Iti and Bali Hai) and activities (pearl dives and bike rentals are a must). Book by December 31. airtahitinui-usa.com/paradise