1. Okinawa, Japan
Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa is well-known for its sweeping beaches, coral reefs and marine life. One of the most iconic locations to visit is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium which houses manta rays, whale sharks and a huge assortment of fish. As mesmerising as the attraction is, it’s not advised to stay indoors too long in Okinawa. Travellers should certainly embrace the glorious nature outdoors, be it by trekking to Tadake Falls or driving to Cape Hedo, the meeting point of two oceans. Hop over to Kume Island for bird-watching, or perhaps Taketomi Island to discover traditional villages. Then complete the trip by shopping for Okinawan products at Makishi Market or branded goods at Ashibinaa Outlet Mall.
Best time to visit Okinawa: March to May or September to December. Avoid August as this is the peak typhoon season.
Where to stay in Okinawa: In Naha, Y’s CABIN&HOTEL Naha Kokusai Street has gender-segregated capsule rooms as well as Japanese-style rooms with twin beds. Another economical option would be White Terrace Tsuboya, an aparthotel where rooms come with a kitchenette and terrace.
2. Gold Coast, Australia
With affordable flight connections, Gold Coast is a great addition to the list of short holiday destinations from Singapore. This city on Australia’s east coast is famous for its theme parks such as Seaworld, Wet’n’Wild, Warner Bros. Movie World, and also the massive Dreamworld. After the excitement of thrill rides and themed attractions, you should certainly wind down along Gold Coast’s finest beaches. Wildlife fanatics can go ahead to cuddle a koala or get up close with a kangaroo at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, while history lovers can dive into the past at Gold Coast Hinterland Historical Museum. Want more ideas? Join a whale-watching cruise, catch live music at Miami Marketta, or hit the walking tracks at Tamborine Mountain National Park. The possibilities are endless!
Best time to visit Gold Coast: April to May for good temperatures and low likelihood of rain.
Where to stay in Gold Coast: Check into The Island Gold Coast or voco Gold Coast for Instagram-worthy rooms tucked in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Also, consider the value-for-money Meriton Suites Broadbeach for spacious apartments with leisure facilities.
3. Kathmandu, Nepal
Travellers who are keen to explore the wonders of Nepal inevitably find themselves in the country’s capital city, Kathmandu. Just don’t be so quick to leave because Kathmandu is surely an attraction in itself. Start your day by wandering around Durbar Square to bask in its old-world charm before disappearing into the narrow alleys of the Old City. Religious sites to visit include Pashupatinath Temple, Kopan Monastery and Swayambhunath, also known as the “Monkey Temple”. Be sure to walk along the Old Freak Street to glimpse into the hippie days, and don’t forget to spend a night out in the bars and restaurants along the bustling streets of Thamel.
Best time to visit Kathmandu: October and November would be most suitable for trekkers. Avoid June to August as this is the monsoon season in Nepal.
Where to stay in Kathmandu: Kathmandu has a wealth of highly-rated hotels that won’t break your bank. Look into Hotel Jampa, Oasis Kathmandu Hotel and Maya Boutique Hotel. For a more local feel and homely touch, The Life Story Guest House in Patan would fit the bill.
4. The Maldives
The Maldives has long held a reputation of being a honeymoon destination. However, it certainly has much to offer families, friends and even solo adventurers. While you can splurge on private pool villas and pamper yourself with rose petal baths and sunset cruises, it’s also possible to stay in a nondescript hotel and travel on a shoestring budget. Most travellers would fly into the capital, Male, and then hop on the pre-arranged transport to their accommodation of choice. From there, activities like parasailing, snorkelling and diving beckon.
Best time to visit the Maldives: The dry season runs from December to April. The wet season, which is accompanied by winds and rain, stretches from May to November.
Where to stay in the Maldives: For that once-in-a-lifetime quintessential overwater villa experience, book a stay in Meeru Island Resort & Spa or the indulgent Hurawalhi Island Resort. Hoping to tackle the Maldives on the cheap? Then bunk into Thundi Guest House on Fulidhoo Island or Hathaa Beach Maldives in Hulhumale, near Male.
5. Busan, Korea
Often overshadowed by Seoul, Busan really deserves to capture more limelight. This city offers marvellous seaside views along Taejongdae Resort Park, mouthwatering seafood at Jagalchi Fish Market, and fantastic shopping in Gukje Market and Shinsegae Centum City. Another must-visit attraction is Haedong Yonggungsa, a Buddhist temple built in 1376 along the gorgeous coast. Gamcheon Culture Village is also a delight to explore with its colourful houses and artistic murals. Let’s not forget the beaches – both Haeundae Beach and Gwangalli Beach are worthy of your time.
Best time to visit Busan: The most pleasant weather in Busan falls in April, May, October and November.
Where to stay in Busan: If you’d like to stay within walking distance of the attractions in Nampo, you can’t go wrong with K-Guesthouse Premium Nampo 1. In Haeundae, the highly raved Good Day Mate makes a top choice. Budget travellers who enjoy a hostel environment should check out K 79 Guesthouse and Mozzihostel Busan Station.
Published on May 2017 and updated on March 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.