Five fine summer sojourns for the solo traveler

San Juan, Puerto Rico is exotic but far cheaper than many other Caribbean destinations

Five fine summer sojourns for the solo traveler

Grab your passport, language guides, fins, snorkels, rolling duffle bags and sense of adventure: It's time to embark on that trip you've been dreaming of for years. Perhaps you recently divorced, can't find a travel companion or are just a diehard singleton sick of the Rat Race. Whatever your motivation, taking off on an exotic trip alone will bring innumerable rewards, the kinds of life-changing benefits you'd never realize with Mr. or Miss Right. (In fact, you just may meet that special someone after you leave LAX.

Whether your yen is a walk along the beach, a stroll through the park, an encounter with a romantic Russian or just a chance to see cultural treasures, each of these spots offers something special. And one word to the wise: Don't act like a tourist. Don't just visit the touristy spots (including any I mention.) Once on a trip to Prague, this examiner had a meeting a few blocks from the Charles River. Just visiting quaint old shops, hearing the locals yammer in their native language and dodging dogs as the sun set was unforgettable. The magic of travel, remember, is in making it your own.

Here we go!

Puerto Rico: While it may seem counterintuitive to travel to San Juan this time of year, this is the best time for hot deals and sparsely populated hotels and restaurants. This examiner visited in August 2004 and had a ball. Grab a cab from the airport, brush up on your Spanish speaking to the cabbie, stay along the waterfront and enjoy an evening of Piña Colladas and dancing. That's right, with the locals. Just make sure you limit yourself to two drinks, ladies. Shopping in Old Town is fun; even more fun is traipsing through the El Yunque Rainforest. For a change of pace, spend one night at the Rainforest Inn or other nearby lodging. Cost RT mid-August from LAX to San Juan is about $700.

New York City: Whatever you do, avoid Times Square and stay someplace where you can mix with the locals: the Upper West Side, the Chelsea District, or better yet Brooklyn. If you want to stay someplace cheap, fun and within walking distance of Grand Central Station book a stay at The Pod, where you can feel like a European for one night. Cheapest rooms there share bathrooms. Swankier digs are to be had at Columbus Circle at the Mandarin Oriental, an international treasure. Visit Expedia or Trip Advisor and check rankings.

Tip: Stay within walking distance of Central Park and spend countless free hours wandering amidst the trees, statues, events, and kids playing pickup games of football. Amazing views of the skyline if you if walk just a few steps from Central Park West and about 67th. Make sure to see a Broadway show, such as "Kinky Boots" or better yet Jason Alexander in Larry David's "Fish in the Dark"; or just enjoy a film. Find great options across from Lincoln Center on Broadway. And if this is your first time to the Big Apple, or even your 111th, make sure to check out the lights from the Empire State Building after dark. They play an exotic array of themed LED renderings, most recently to bring awareness to the the loss of exotic species. You can also take an elevator up to the top - fun to do at least once.

Paris: The City of Light is more than just the Eiffel Tower, though that is indeed a glorious sight, especially on the hour when it twinkles after dark. But put on your tennis shoes and trek from arrondissement to arrondissment. Stop at cafes, get lost (within reason) and don't sneer if a French person blows smoke in your face. If you know French, even a little, you'll be far ahead. Practice saying, "Je voudrais un sandwich avec janmon" whenever you're hungry for a ham sandwich.

"Ou sont les toilettes?" when you need to use the facilities! While travel to Paris is obviously expensive this time of year, try flying mid-week and save on staying in the less touristed areas, such as around Le République (10th Arrondissement.) Venture closer to La Tour Eiffel and stay at Hotel de L'Avre, which is inexpensive yet chic and touts a charming outdoor breakfast area.

Moscow: Even if you can see Russia from your backyard, you really haven't seen it until you're there. While at once modern and familiar, overwhelmingly you'll be overcome by the rich foods, friendly people, and exotic culture. Make sure to see the Kremlin and Red Square on Day One (or at least Day Two, since you'll be suffering from jet lag!) Cost RT from LAX: About $1300 mid-August. Google for best options or consider an Airbnb rental, and stay for as cheaply as $12 a night!

Portland, Ore.: Mt. Hood is one of the most beautiful mountains, even sights on the planet. You can be inspired time and again looking out at its cotton-topped magnificence as it looms over greater Portland. Friendly people. Clean air. Great coffee. A very eco-friendly culture without the Hollywood vibe. Stay at either the swanky Benson Hotel or if you're on a budget, check out the stylish Jupiter Hotel.

Adios, avoir and Пока! Have a pleasant journey.

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