Direct from Denver

Chad Chisholm

Colorado continues to climb the ranks as one of the top destinations to visit. More and more airlines are adding non-stop flights to—and from—Denver International Airport—making it the 20th busiest airport in the world, and fifth busiest in the U.S. The addition of these direct flights is making travel from the Centennial State easier and more appealing. Here are a few of the many destinations you can explore without having to take a layover.

Canada

Courtesy of One King West Hotel & Residence

Whether flying to Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal, our northern neighbors are a relaxed, direct flight away. From exploring the coastal cities to diving through the mountainous regions, sampling maple syrup to observing moose, Canada is urban, it is rural, and it is everything in between.

Stay on set: Toronto is a place where a multitude of movies have been filmed. Film aficionados may recognize one such location, housed within the historic Dominion Bank Building, the One King West Hotel & Residence. TV shows and movies such as Red, Max Payne, Jumper, and Orphan Black have been filmed here, and it’s fun to walk on the set where the bank vault is still on location.

Costa Rica

© Dreamstime.com/Kamchatka

Direct flights into either San Jose or Liberia provide travelers a land of volcanoes, lush rainforests, white sand beaches, world-renowned ziplines, thermal hot springs, and bustling cities. Pura vida (pure life) is a way of living in Costa Rica, with friendly locals, beautiful Pacific and Atlantic coastal opportunities, and breathtaking cloud forests where the humidity gets caught in the rainforest for a spectacular effect.

Coast to coast: If you’re flying into San Jose, Jaco (on the Pacific side) is the closest beach town (about two hours) and popular with surfers. In San Jose, a “must-do” is to visit the Gold Museum near The Gran Hotel Costa Rica, where more than 1,500 Pre-Columbian gold artifacts are on display. On the Pacific side, Playa Pan de Azucar (Sugar Beach) is one of my favorite spots near Tamarindo, offering a secluded white sand beach and affording rainforest travel to explore the rest of the country.

England

Courtesy of The Milestone Hotel & Residences

London has been a notable destination for almost two millennia. From landmarks such as Big Ben to the contemporary London Eye observation wheel one could spend a lifetime exploring this city. Visitors can survey the Tower of London, watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, or crunch into some fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. I especially enjoy a stop at Harrods—a playground for luxury shoppers—where you can ride on the Egyptian Escalator taking you on a journey from the lower to upper Nile. It’s simply stunning.

Tea time: The Milestone Hotel & Residences, near Kensington Palace, offers fine dining and charming rooms with beautifully crafted antiques. This sets the tone for Afternoon Tea in the lounge, next to the fire, with finger sandwiches and scones. Would you care for one lump or two?

Germany

© Dreamstime.com/Beats1

When you get a hankering for authentic German brats and beer, Frankfurt and Munich are only a direct flight away. Vacationers can enjoy traditional beer gardens that are older than the U.S., scenic riverfront walks, and plenty of medieval castles. In Frankfurt, a dinner cruise on the River Main is a great way to see the city. A little more than an hour outside of Munich, the Neuschwanstein Castle is a fairytale chateau in the forest. If you’re going during Oktoberfest, be sure to make reservations, or take a food tour to enjoy Bavarian flavors throughout the region.

My favorite memory: As a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy, it looks like I should be able to speak German. I don’t. So, when Germans were asking me for directions, I did learn how to say “Ich spreche kein deutsch.” (I don’t speak German), while walking the streets nibbling on a pretzel. The Christmas markets are incredible all over Germany, bringing the holidays to life in the snowy squares.

Grand Cayman

© Chad Chisholm

In 2019, Cayman Airways began offering the first non-stop service to the Caribbean from Denver. Azure blue waters, white sands of Seven Mile Beach, luxury shopping, and fine dining opportunities abound on Grand Cayman. A day trip to Rum Point via boat ride is an excellent way to spend an entire afternoon, having lunch on the beach, and snorkeling the waters viewing colorful corals and reef fish as well as stingrays. Exploring the underground limestone Cayman Crystal Caves is an adventure topped off by a treehouse bar on-site. For golfers, the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman offers a stunning Greg Norman 9-hole course.

Insider knowledge: Seven Mile Beach is a major draw for visitors, but I also enjoyed the Camana Bay Shopping Center. The outdoor shopping area is home to several retailers and restaurants—my favorite being the waterside patio at Agua restaurant and lounge.

Hawaii

Courtesy of Andaz Maui

While not an “international destination,” you do have to traverse a large body of water to get there—Hawaii is a mystical playground of water sports, resorts, jungles, and culinary excellence. With the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ almost palpable in the Hawaiian Islands, a direct flight to Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai are all within reach of a perfect island paradise vacation.

My favorite memory: I got married at the AAA Four Diamond Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. We had searched the world over to celebrate our nuptials, and this location captured our hearts. From burying our toes in the sand in the lobby to the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, the spectacular sunsets to the coastal walks along golden sand beaches, allowing us to create some magical Maui memories.

Iceland

Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

The Land of Fire and Ice is stunning year-round, with sunny round-the-clock opportunities in the summer, and otherworldly northern lights in the fall and winter. A quick six-and-a-half-hour flight from Denver, Reykjavik boasts a stellar culinary scene, picturesque landscapes, and geothermal pools. Other great spots to visit are Heimaey Island to see the puffins, or Grundarfjordur, where scenes from Game of Thrones and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were filmed.

Astronomical wonder: If you’re looking to see the northern lights, I recommend staying at the Hotel Ranga. This luxury resort, located along a river with almost extra-terrestrial rugged beauty, offers an advanced stargazing facility with two telescopes, and its remote location allows for some of the world’s best aurora borealis viewing.

Italy

Courtesy of Urban Adventures

Whether feeling “la dulce vida” (the sweet life) perusing the streets of Rome or visiting the Vatican for a spiritual experience, direct flights to Rome are a welcome addition to the suite of routes available from Denver. One of the things I found amazing in Rome was at the Colosseum. The architecture is such that you can hear someone talking normally across the amphitheater. I was hesitant at first, but gave it a go, and low and behold, I could hear the conversation across the sprawling space.

Insider knowledge: Taking a guided walking tour of Vatican City allows you to discover the smallest country in the world. Visit Saint Peter’s Basilica and his tomb, walk the districts flanking the Vatican Walls, and enjoy a gelato while visiting the local stores in Borgo Pio. Foodies will also love a trip to the museum dedicated entirely to pasta.

Japan

© Dreamstime.com/Prakobkit

Geishas, samurais, tech tycoons, and animators are all found in the multi-faceted city of Tokyo. With Mt. Fuji on the horizon, the sakura cherry blossom season is spectacular and a must-see in late March and early April. One of the things that really struck me about Tokyo is the cleanliness of the city and the culture behind living in a megalopolis. On the train, parents would wipe down the windows and seats if their children touch the glass to ensure it’s clean for the next traveler.

A taste of luxury: The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, located in the heart of Midtown, features a plethora of cultural and dining experiences. Try the Japanese whiskey flight as part of their luxury spirits program. For culinarians looking for an out-of-this-world dining experience, Kanda restaurant by Chef Hiroyuki Kanda celebrates simple yet elegant Japanese cuisine for a true taste of the culture. With only seating for eight, the bespoke experience is one you won’t soon forget.

Mexico

Courtesy of The Haven Riviera Cancun

The warm weather and sandy beaches of Mexico beckon Coloradans with short, direct flights to locations such as Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, and Cancun. Poolside margaritas and fresh ceviche are reason enough to hop on a multitude of direct flights to Mexican locales. A rich history of Mayan culture, diverse wildlife, and vibrant traditions can be found in cities throughout the country.

My favorite all-inclusive Mexican resort: The Haven Riviera Cancún is an all-inclusive, adults-only, luxury resort on the shores of Cancun, and I was thrilled to find this resort beautifully appointed with a placid circular serenity pool, fine dining opportunities, and a solitary white sand beach. I recommend upgrading your spa experience to indulge in an hour-long guided hydrotherapy session, with water jets, cold plunges, sauna and pool experiences that make your cares recede like the waves on the beach.

Nassau

Courtesy of Atlantis Paradise Island

United Airlines recently began direct flights to Nassau, opening a whole new playground for Colorado travelers to the Bahamas. The island is seeing a resurgence of development, with new hotels, renovations to existing properties, and a reimagination of the marina. Dance to boisterous festival music at Junkanoo, where the tunes are as bright and cheerful as the costumes, or swim with stingrays in the crystal-clear waters.

My favorite thing to do: Getting outside of the resorts to explore the history of Nassau. Locals are very friendly and eager to share their island life. Enjoy a conch fritter or chowder, sip a Rum Punch, or tour the Pirates museum to soak in the local flavors. To really experience the island, participate in the People-to-People Program, a complimentary offering that pairs guests with a Bahamian ambassador to truly show the island way of life.

Chad Chisholm is a Denver-based freelance travel writer, photographer, and author of Unique Eateries of Denver, Imbibe Worldwide, and the Colorado Cocktail Cookbook.