If your 2016 resolutions include learning something new, these hotels and destinations can help. From teaching you how to take better photos to butcher a whole hog, these classes will engage you, help make the most of your vacation, and send you home with a brand new skill — so that's one resolution you can cross off the list.
In addition to the thrill of catching a perfect wave, surfing offers a host of health benefits, from cardiovascular fitness to strengthened core, leg, and shoulder muscles. Learn to surf — or take your game to the next level — in the place that started it all: named after the Olympic swimmer credited with popularizing the ancient Hawaiian "exercise" of surfing, Oahu's Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon sits off Waikiki Beach, adjacent to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Hotel guests can take beginner and intermediate lessons in either the five-acre saltwater lagoon or the Pacific Ocean (private lessons $160 an hour; group classes for ages 10 and up are $100 for 2 hours, and are offered four times a day.)
Meanwhile, over in the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Barbados is said to have the Caribbean's most consistent waves, with year-round waters ideal for enthusiasts of all levels. Surfer Melanie Pitcher, owner of Barbados Surf Trips, can connect visitors to the right instructors and private or group classes, then take you on an island tour of her favorite hidden surf spots.
2. Taking Better Photos
As Instagram addicts know, pictures today are worth more than a thousand words—they often take the place of words altogether. To help improve your shooting skills, hotels around the world offer expert-led photography experiences. The just-opened Hotel Taconic in Vermont has partnered with award-winning local shutterbug Lee Jorgensen to lead excursions to Equinox Mountain, where he will offer instruction on getting the perfect shots — on both DLSRs and iPhones — in one of the state's most beautiful locations (starting at $90 per hour).
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Following a popular photo trip to Antarctica last year, Exclusive Resorts has once again engaged National Geographic photographer Ralph Hopkins to lead a photo-focused trip—this time to the Galapagos, where he will teach you how to capture the islands' unique flora and wildlife (September 17–26, 2016).
Meanwhile, on Sicily's Bay of Mazzarò, just below the postcard-perfect town of Taormina, guests of Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea can book a Food Photo experience that is part market visit and cooking class, part lesson on how to best plate, style, and photograph food — useful skills, considering social media's obsession with what everyone is eating (prices vary).
Want to cultivate your green thumb? Whether you live in an apartment or on acres of land, it's possible to grow things to use in your kitchen — you just have to know how to work the soil you have. Located in the heart of Tuscany, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco's vegetable 2-hour gardening class — operated out of its La Canonica Cooking School and limited to six participants — is led by the on-staff ortolano, or market gardener, who will reveal how best to sow seeds, how and when to water, and how to work seasonally.
On the Caribbean island of Anguilla, CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa features an on-site hydroponic farm growing everything from kale, tomatoes, and eggplant to herbs like parsley, mint, lavender, and chervil. Dr. Howard Resh, who oversees the farm production, can teach guests the basics of hydroponic farming and gardening, including tips on the best conditions to grow certain types of produce.
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If your gardening skills get so strong that you end the season with extra bounty, a hotel can help with that, too: Omni Bedford Springs' canning class lets guests pick veggies from the on-site garden, then teaches them how to can and preserve products for use throughout the year.
Disconnected, centered, focused, zoned-out—whatever you call it, sometimes it's important just to be quiet. Learn the basics of meditation with a guided lesson at Napa Valley's Solage Calistoga, in which the instructor might incorporate fresh herbs (to engage the senses of touch and smell) and Tibetan singing bowls to encourage relaxation.
Reconnecting with nature can also help quiet the mind, reengage the inner self, and even improve health. Near Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Sandos Caracol Eco Resort's Path of the Senses experience includes a barefoot and blindfolded guided jungle walk to encourage introspection and positive thoughts, while Forest Bathing—offered at hotels like L'Auberge de Sedona in Arizona and The Mayflower Grace in Connecticut—takes you to the forest for a series of contemplative activities, from journaling to targeted meditation.
To read the rest of "10 new skills you can learn while traveling," visit Fodors.com.
- by Sandra Raman