I absolutely love writing this blog post each year. Throughout the year I think about what experiences and places might make this list. And when it’s time to write – it’s a fun walk down memory lane as I reminisce about the previous year of travel. Maybe I can inspire you to travel to some of these places. I know for a fact several of my followers traveled to Malta this past year. Malta was last year’s winner of our favorite country! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best (and a few duds too) from our year of travel; the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023.
Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023
I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “seventh annual” travel awards 2023! We are now well into our eighth year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure. What a remarkable ride it has been. Not sure exactly what year nine will bring…but it’s already open for discussion.
We have had a wonderful year of travel; both long stays and short, independent travel and guided. The list includes; Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada, Bonaire, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia. The states included Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington DC.
So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. By the way see our First Annual, Second Annual, Third Annual, Fourth Annual Fifth Annual and Sixth Annual awards by clicking on the links. Each one special in its own way.
Destinations – 14 Countries and 8 USA States
Favorite Country – Australia
We spent the last two and a half months of 2023 in the amazing country of Australia. It’s our second visit to Australia since we started the Grand Adventure in 2016. The first time we spent three weeks. Oh but there is so very much to see in this amazing country and even two months didn’t cover it all. We loved Brisbane and spent four weeks in our Aussie Nest, the caravan we took more than 2400 miles. Also, Melbourne was incredible and then an entire month in Hobart enjoying the beauty of Tasmania. If you haven’t been to Australia…it’s time!
Favorite City – Melbourne and Honorable Mention Hong Kong
Unlike most years, 2023 included several big cities. Not on purpose really, it just worked out that way. We loved Mexico City, La Paz Bolivia, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC, New York City, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Melbourne. But, if we must – and we must – our choice for favorite is a tie. Beautiful Melbourne is a place I could go back and spend a few months. Astonishing Hong Kong was sparkling clean and HUGE, delicious and just a wonderful surprise.
Cutest Town – Savannah Georgia and Honorable Mention Hobart Tasmania Australia
Despite having traveled quite a lot around the US South, I had spent almost no time in Georgia. So this year we made it to both Atlanta and Savannah. Savannah is a fabulous town, historic and charming. We had great weather, ate great food, spent time with dear friends. It was worth the wait. On the other hand, Hobart on the island of Tasmania, Australia was such a wonderful surprise. With an incredible and diverse collection of things to do. We enjoyed both.
Favorite Island – Panglao Philippines
We arrived in Panglao Bohol with absolutely no expectations. I knew it wasn’t Maui. Or the island of Malta. But I was intrigued and curious. What we found was unexpected and fabulous. Nothing fancy..but ridiculously inexpensive, beautiful, friendly and sunny.
Most Expensive Country – USA
Second year in a row that the USA is our pick for most expensive country. Granted we own a small house in the USA, so while in that part of the country we don’t need to pay for lodging. But groceries, dining out, excursions, flights and anything else to do with day to day life or domestic travel is more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the world.
Least Expensive Country – Philippines
It was frankly shocking how cheap the Philippines were. I mean an entire four course meal with drinks for 2 people was $20!! What? A manicure was $3! Our lodging with private swimming pool was $60 a night. Yep, hands down the Philippines is this year’s least expensive country.
Accommodations – 11 Airbnbs, 15 hotels, one cruise ship, one Glamping tent and one motor-home
Favorite Airbnb Hobart Tasmania, Australia – Honorable Mention Washington DC
The Airbnb in Hobart was such a lovely surprise. It’s a bigger house than we need, but we wanted something quaint and cozy for the holidays. We got that and a whole lot more in the historic Gatekeepers Lodge in Hobart for $170 per night. Although we never met our hosts, they left us delicious treats and were kind and generous. But the tiny basement studio Washington DC Airbnb in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC was also lovely. A perfectly appointed small space so well thought out. We loved it for our short visit at $150.
Favorite Airbnb for service – Panglao Philippines and Roatan Honduras
We rarely have complaints of any kind with our Airbnb choices, most are acceptable and usually better than expected. But once in a while we have an exceptional host that takes the customer service level up a notch. Of course those same hosts also know to give us the privacy we need. Our hosts in the bungalow in Panglao Philippines were so helpful with any questions, booking drivers and much more. Our host on the island of Roatan Honduras was also superb. We loved that big, beautiful third floor walk up and thanks to our host we had absolutely anything we needed and more.
Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.
The second year in a row New York takes this category. Everything is expensive in New York. At least the Airbnb we had this year was much more comfortable and bigger than the one we rented last year. We paid $320 per night. However, since we stayed there in April, New York City has passed a new law and Airbnb’s can no longer rent for less than 30 days. So, I’m not sure what that means for any future visits to NYC.
Best Value Airbnb – Panglao Philippines
At only $60 a night our four week stay in Panglao was one of the least expensive, yet completely relaxing stays we have ever had. The private pool was wonderful, although rustic I had a nice running route, and we could walk or take a Tuk Tuk everywhere we needed to go. It was simple, with a very small kitchen but we made it work. We would visit here again in a minute.
Best View Airbnb Roatan Honduras
The West End Roatan Airbnb was awesome. It involved ALOT of stairs, and since we didn’t have a car we also walked up and down a steep hill each day to town, but the hill and the stairs resulted in a lovely 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a beautiful deck and gorgeous view of the Caribbean for $140 per night.
Favorite Hotel – Red Tree House, Mexico City and Honorable Mention Clarion Suites Gateway Melbourne
Staying at the Red Tree House in Mexico City last March, was the first time we had ever returned to the same hotel again just because we loved it so much. The Red Tree House won our Favorite Hotel award in 2021, and our second stay was just as lovely. When in Mexico City it’s the only choice. Ask for a room that looks at the garden. But we also really loved the Clarion Suite Gateway in Melbourne – our suite was perfect and we could have stayed forever. The location is perfect for exploring Melbourne.
Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston
Well we often have an early morning flight out of Boston to Seattle, so it’s very convenient to stay at the airport. But it still is a sticker shock to me every time…The Hilton Logan Boston is lovely, but $400 plus per night.. Not our usual that’s for sure.
Least Expensive Hotel – Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu, Cebu, Philippines
We spent one night in the Sempre Premier in Lapu Lapu before taking the ferry to the island of Bohol/Panglao. We stayed in the same hotel for one night again, on our way back, returning to the airport. The hotel room was compact but comfortable, spotlessly clean with all the comforts we needed. The hotel included a restaurant with a great breakfast (included) and dinner service for an added fee. We paid $40 per night.
Most Unique Accommodations – Salt Hotel Bolivia
Our eleven day tour with Intrepid Travels around Bolivia we stayed in several different lodgings…some nicer than others, but all acceptable enough. But one stood out above all others – The Salt Hotel. On the salt flats of Uyuni, we spent one night in a hotel made of salt. The walls, the floor, even the bed was made of salt. Apparently some people lick the walls to be sure. I declined, but it was interesting.
Tiny But Fun Award – The Aussie Nest Motorhome, Glamping in Millersylvania State Park Washington
Spending a month in a tiny motorhome traveling 2400 miles in eastern Australia was one of our favorite things this year. The space was tiny, unique and very memorable. But I also have to give a shout out to the Glamping Tent we stayed in back in Washington State USA in the summer. I highly recommend it a visit to Pampered Wilderness at Millersylvania State Park.
Food and Drink
Favorite Country Cuisine – Mexico
Returning to Mexico City, one of our favorite cities in the world, was a special treat. We ate nonstop during this second visit to this beautiful, historic and delicious city. I can’t wait to go again.
Best Food Tour – Hong Kong
Angel our tour guide, who we found through With Locals ,took us on such a wonderful tour of delicious Hong Kong. We would never have found the hidden gems she took us to, or learned the hidden stories about delicious Hong Kong. It was a wonderful tour!
Best Cooking Class – Hong Kong
What a wonderful private cooking class we had in Hong Kong with our new friend Bill at Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio. It was fun talking to Bill about Hong Kong, the cuisine and learning to cook multiple delicious dishes. We ate till we thought we would burst and then we took home even more!
Best Meal Carmine’s Italian Restaurant New York City
We eat well on our travels. Even though we try to cook in our airbnb’s as often as possible, we still dine out and enjoy local cuisines everywhere we go. While in New York for five nights we ate out each night and enjoyed delicious meals. But our evening at the famous Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, where we met up with good friends, was memorable. The family style (huge portions) was delicious, the service on point, the atmosphere boisterous and fun.
Most Overrated Restaurant – Pujol Mexico City
I hadn’t known about this restaurant the first time we visited Mexico City. So when I knew we were going again I made a reservation seven months in advance at Pujol – the highest rated restaurant in Mexico City. But, I was underwhelmed. It was unique, most certainly, but not up to the hype I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, the authentic meal we had at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City restaurant called Sala Gastronomica was so much better.
Most Unique Meal – Popular La Paz Bolivia
We learned about this restaurant from our walking tour guide. Otherwise I don’t know if we would have found it. Popular is only opened for lunch and reservations are required. Hands down one of the most unique, beautiful and delicious meals I’ve experienced.
Best Beer – Australia
Well it’s Australia Mate! And they love a cold one here. Australia’s Microbrewery scene is fantastic, throughout the country and we enjoyed each regional specialty. We also had a wonderful tour in Hobart Tasmania of the oldest brewery in Australia – Cascade Brewing, established. BTW – Australian wine…also really great.
Best Overall Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea
Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea
Two categories – one winner. It was a stretch for us to book this tour with Indigo Tours, more expensive than our usual choices, but Papua New Guinea was not a place we felt we could tackle on our own. Lots of back and forth with the owner of the company before we pulled the trigger. And I’m so glad we did. This experience, participating in the annual Goroka Festival with more than 150 tribes of Papua New Guinea was once in a life time. Papua New Guinea, one of the least understood places in the world, lost in time, beautiful. The tribal spectacle that is the Goroka Festival is undeniably one of the most incredible shows on earth…and I was there.
Most Amazing Man Made Structure – Teotihuacan Mexico
This place blew my mind. So incredibly underrated…I had actually never heard of it until we visited Mexico City the first time. So, on our second visit it was top of my list. Construction of Teotihuacan began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archaeological research and discovery first began in 1904.
Best US History Site – Martin Luther King Museum and Ebenzer Baptist Church Atlanta Georgia
MLK National Historic Park is Atlanta’s top tourist attraction and it’s free! We visited this moving and inspiring site on two different days. The first day we visited Ebenezer Church where King preached as did his father. We also visited the beautiful memorial area where both Martin and his wife Coretta’s tombs are.
The MLK museum was so good, and actually made me cry. This is worth going to Atlanta for more than anything else.
Best Garden – Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne – Honorable Mention Rhododendron Spieces Garden Federal Way Washington
We visit a lot of gardens in our travels. But Australia has been an absolute paradise when it comes to the botanical gardens in every town we have visited. Every single town. And every one was free. The pinnacle of all these gardens was the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. Fabulous.
Honorable Mention goes to a garden very close to my home – The Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way Washington. This little beauty was such a surprise I don’t know why I had never visited. And a bonus was the remarkable Pacific Northwest Bonsai Gardens. I’ll be taking my out of town visitors to this place in the future.
Best Museum – Anthropology Mexico City and the African American Museum WA DC
The Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is one of the finest museums in the world. Astonishing the story it tells of the cultural history of this amazing land we know as Mexico. And by the way, don’t miss the cafe. It too was remarkable as it explored the ancient tribal foods of Mexico.
BUT, there is another museum that was just as remarkable. The African American Museum in Washington DC. The depth of this experiential museum will blow your mind. I wish we had known, we would have gotten tickets two days in a row. It is worth it. Entrance is free but booking is definitely advised.
Most Bizarre Museum – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart Australia
The strange Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), located on the Derwent River in Hobart is definitely the most unusual museum I’ve ever been to. I’m still not sure what it was…art? Culture? Or was it about architecuture? Maybe the goal is just to be different…and it certainly suceeds there.
Best Walking Tour – La Paz Bolivia
La Paz is, frankly, a strange place but strange in a wonderful way. The cultural history, the incredible people living at 11,000 feet, and the architecture will blow your mind. And then there are the myths and religions and witchcraft. We learned all about this on our amazing walking tour with a local.
Best Historical Sight – City of La Paz, Bolivia
We spent about three times more time in La Paz than most people do – a full 12 days. We planned the time so I could acclimate to the altitude because I have suffered from altitude sickness in the past. And for the most part, it worked. And, over those 12 days we discovered this remarkable city. A place unlike anywhere we have ever been from the way of life, the people, the myths and the construction. Mind boggling.
Best Performance – Ballet Folkloric Mexico City
Not only was this performance the best of the entire year, it was honestly one of the best things I have seen anywhere in the world. The Ballet Forkloric in Mexico City is an ethnic cultural dance and music performance, professional and mesmerizing in a beautiful and historic theater. Stunning.
Best One Day Tour – Roatan Honduras
One of our most favorite things was a full island, full day tour of Roatan Honduras. If you only have one day this might not be for you, but those staying longer definitely should do this. We booked with Omar Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario was amazing. We discussed the things we were interested in seeing and he made sure we saw those and much more. He also took us to the most amazing place for lunch, an out-of-the-way, over-the-water spot with delicious food called La Sirena.
Best Multi Day Tour – Bolivia
We wanted to cover a lot of territory in Bolivia, and didn’t feel confident to handle those logistics as independent travelers in this country. So we took a recommendation from a fellow full-time traveler and booked our tour with the highly regarded Intrepid Travel. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Intrepid, and particularly our guide Wendy, who made this tour the once in a life time experience it was. She is amazing. If you have ever considered Bolivia…Intrepid is the way to go. You will be so amazed by this country, the quality of the tour and the adventure.
Best Tour Guide
Hands down our guide with Intrepid Tours in Bolivia, Wendy was the best this year and honestly probably the best guide EVER. I experienced some altitude sickness, and we encountered some other strange situations (see below under Travel) and Wendy handled everything with a stealthy ease and a touch of humor.
Unexpectedly Fun Tour – San Juan del Sur Nicaragua ATV Tour
We booked a one day tour with Pacific Adventures. Using a rugged ATV, we spent hours with our guide on a private tour of the mountains of Nicaragua. We swam in hidden pools, climbed waterfalls and had lunch with a local family who made us an authentic Nicaraguan farm to table meal. It was a fun day.
Best Sunrise – Eden, Australia
While traveling in our Aussie Nest motorhome we enjoyed an early morning walk on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean
Best Sunset – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia
Another remarkable experience on the Uyuni Salt Flats, watching the glory of sunset turn everything you could see pink and purple, then star studded black. Spectacular experience.
Best Beach – Nobby Beach Gold Coast
We actually spent less time on beaches this year than we have the past few years. So when we did have some beach time I really wanted to enjoy. We were lucky to have beautiful weather when we were on the Gold Coast in Australia. It’s stunning.
Best Hike – Booderee Australia Honorable Mention Papua New Guinea
So MANY hikes to try to chose from this year! Since we hike at least once a week, year round and in every country. Australia alone provided at least 6 candidates for this category. But we chose Booderee National Park in New South Wales Australia. We spent three days there and were astonished with the bird and wildlife. We did a long hike one day where I almost stepped on a venomous snake…that was memorable! But what a place it was! Honorable mention too in this category, because hiking in Papua New Guinea in a successful search of the exquisite Bird of Paradise will always be a great memory.
Best View Hike – Fluted Cape Bruny Island Australia
Spectacular weather, no other hikers and views to rival anywhere in the world made this day hike on Bruny Island near Hobart just so memorable and breathtaking.
Best Natural Sight – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia
A bucketlist for me was visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia and it did not disappoint. One of the most incredible natural sights I have seen anywhere in the entire world. It’s out-of-this-world beautiful and worth the effort it takes to get there.
Best Overall Wildlife Viewing – Australia
At every turn in Australia there is something unique to see…especially in the wildlife category. From kangaroos to wombats, platypus to wallaby, the wildlife of Australia is unlike anywhere else in the world…worth a trip just to see it.
Most Unexpected Wildlife Moment – Bohol Philippines
Despite the abundance of wildllife in Australia, the winner of the most unexpcted wildlife moment for 2023 was seeing the teeny tarsier on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. These shy little nocturnal creatures return to the sanctuary during the day because they feel safe there. So with a guide we wandered only a short distance into the jungle to see these darlings up close and personal. A breathtaking experience.
Best Bird-Watching – Australia
We track our birds through out the world, and Australia hands down wins the award of all time for the MOST new to us birds spotted. During our two month visit we marked over 80 new birds from the teeny Fairy Wren to the giant Pelican and dozens in between. So much fun!
Best Snorkeling – Panglao Philippines
Without even going on a boat we were able to snorkle the Napaling Reef on the eastside of the island of Panglao. With a guide we snorkled through literal millions of sardines, lots of other fish too in the crystal clear waters. One of the best snorkeling experiences we have ever had.
Best Golf – Washington State
Our home course in Port Orchard Washington where we spend the summers takes the prize this year for best golf. During our four months back in Washington State we played golf at least once a week and sometimes more often. It’s a great golfing community.
Best Place to Run – Brisbane Australia
I run usually five days a week when I can, and I really loved running on the beautiful river trail in Brisbane. With nearly endless possibilities this trail is really the lifeline of this beautiful city.
Hottest Day – Barbados
We spent five brief days in Barbados. And though we didn’t love the island, we did enjoy a couple of nice days at the beach when the temps soared over 90 fahrenheit on Easter.
Coldest Day Australia
We expected Australia to be warmer than it was but we saw a little bit of everything during our visit. One very hot day and some very chilly days too. Our hike in Cradle Mountain produced the coldest day and we wore every bit of clothing that we had with us in the icy wind at 3500 feet.
Wettest Day – Philippines
Tropical storms can produce a whole lotta rain, and rain it did on three different occassions while we were on Bohol/Panglao Philippines. An absolute deluge.
Longest Travel Day – Los Angeles to Port Moresby 9730 miles
Our overnight flight from LA to Manila was luckily made bearable because of a last minute upgrade to business class. What an unusual luxury for us.
Shortest Flight – Papua New Guinea
A quick 30 minute hop (that was delayed about 16 hours) was worth the wait to get us to the amazing Goroka Festival in Papua New Guinea. When traveling somewhere like PNG you always need to be prepared for the unexpected.
Worst Airport Manila Philippines
I’m not giving a best airport award this year, but for the second time in our travels the worst airport award goes to Manila. It is just an awful airport and there really is no excuse for it. Signage is non-existant. Escalators rarely work. The Public Address system is awful. Even worse the Domestic and International terminals are a long ways apart and you have to ride a bus, and so if you are trying to make a connection it is stressful and frankly tricky.
Craziest Travel Day – Bolivia
On our first day of the group tour in Bolivia our bus got stopped in the road where strikers from the lithium mine had put up barricades and were threatening. We waited six hours and our AMAZING guide Wendy finally decided we would walk across. She arranged for us to quietly walk through the strikers while drivers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles snuck through the desert, lights off, to meet us and whisk us away into the night. It was totally like a movie, frightening but also exciting, especially in hindsight. We learned the next day the road remained closed for several days…if we hadn’t taken this chance we would not have been able to do the tour. And of course this tour ended up being one of the highlights of the year. It’s a good travel story too.
Most Incredible City Transportation System – La Paz Bolivia
A city wedged into the mountains at more than 11,000 foot elevation means driving is difficult…and walking even harder. But La Paz has an ingenious, thorough, and even colorful system of gondolas, built specifically as public transportation, in this densely populated city in the sky – it is beyond astonishing.
The Ouch Award – Bug Bite Australia
Australia is known for things that can kill you…from snakes to jellyfish. Luckily the thing that got me was a Red Bull Ant. Evolved from a wasp, this little red devil actually stings rather than bites and the sting was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had. As I write this it’s been two months since my rumble with the mean fella, and my leg still has a bruise and scar. It may never go away.
Expensive But Worth It – Papua New Guinea
It was a stretch for us to book this tour to Papua New Guinea because the cost was a lot… for two people for a week we paid $7500. This included most everything, from lodging to most meals. But that said this was still really roughing it. It’s not an easy place to travel, with terrible roads and unreliable air travel. It certainly isn’t a place I’d want to navigate without a guide. So this is how we did it, expensive but worth it.
I try to chose a single photo each year, out of the tens of thousands of images I take on our travels around the world. This year I have chosen two because I just could not decide. My photography is a big part of both our world travels and this blog. It hopefully takes my followers to these unique places and into my life experiences. I hope you enjoy seeing these images as much as I enjoy taking them.
Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023
There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2023. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and fantastic experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too – the seventh annual world travel awards 2023.
As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Thailand. Over the next few months we will visit 12 more countries before returning to the USA in early May where we spend our summers. Beyond May we don’t know yet.
It takes me weeks to write this post so I hope you have enjoyed the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. My goal is to inspire you. The world is so amazing…not everyone is going to want to go to places like Papua New Guinea. I understand that. But I hope you have learned something and perhaps are motivated to step beyond your comfort zone. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and stay fabulous. This travel blog wouldn’t be possible without all of you. And if you are ready to begin a travel life of your own, see our post Becoming a Traveler here.
See last week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. Come back next week for our post all about Singapore.
HAPPY NEW YEAR OF TRAVEL!!! We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! The Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. Thank you.