When Zoe Saldana isn’t donning blue for Avatar or green for Guardians of the Galaxy, the actress settles into her own skin and plays the part of traveler.
The L.A. resident crisscrosses the globe for work, but extends trips to explore landscapes as alien as some of the roles she’s portrayed. Saldana’s passion for jet-setting made her a natural fit to partner with Japan’s All Nippon Airways, for whom she will write about how to stay stylish while traveling, offer her personal travel tips and share her favorite destinations in Japan.
Saldana’s running on a full schedule — she reprises her role as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one of the summer’s most-anticipated movies, dropping in May; is filming Avengers: Infinity War; and is set to star as a black-ops assassin in the action-thriller Hummingbird. But the actress still carved out time to call us from Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills to talk about her bucket-list trips, her favorite hotels and the dignified way to travel.
You recently visited Tokyo with your family. What were the highlights of your trip?
I love the Japanese culture. I think it’s such a gracious culture, and it’s also so progressive and avant-garde in its own right. I got to take my grandmother — who is 82 — my mom, my dad, my sons and my husband to Japan. I had been there multiple times for business purposes, but we were able now to make it a personal vacation.
We visited temples and went to Kyoto as well. We had shabu-shabu and got to have their barbecue. Not only were we eating all over the city, but we were also seeing how kimonos were made.
It ended up being such a great vacation. We did so many things — we got to get on the train, which had always been a dream of my grandmother’s, to get on that fast train in Japan.
What are your favorite travel destinations?
Japan is definitely on the top of that list. I went to South Africa once and had I really had a great experience there.
I’ve been to many islands all through the Caribbean, and me being a person that has Caribbean roots and lived partially in the Caribbean, going island hopping was something I used to do and enjoy a lot when I was a teenager with my friends and my family. So continuing that exploration all throughout the Caribbean has always been a passion of mine and getting to teach my sons of my heritage is super important.
And a goal for my husband and I is for us to visit Asia more often with our sons and getting to share cultures that are very different from their own.
What kind of traveler are you? Do you hit the shops, go to the beach, do something adventurous?
I want to know more about the culture. I visit museums to know more about that country’s history. I like to explore their culinary culture as well — that way I’m trying different flavors and spices in foods that I’ve never experienced before.
But I also like to talk with locals, and having the locals be the ones to take me to their spots. Whether or not those are “in” spots or just places where a lot of the natives are hanging out, I feel like it’s the most fruitful advantage for me. I like feeling like I was a part of that culture while I was there.
What do you pack on your carry-on?
Ooh, a great book. I like to have options. So I have one or two books, maybe a magazine that I’ve been wanting to read. I will carry some scripts because now that I’m a mom, flying gives me that downtime that I don’t usually have.
And I like to catch up on literature. Lately, it’s a lot of parenting books. I’m reading It’s a Boy!, on how to get to know boys better so that we can understand them more, help them with their development and give them a life that’s more relaxing other than the traditional social stigmas that we tend to have.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brought you to Atlanta for filming. What were some of your favorite spots in the city?
The Ponce City Market was amazing. We got to experience three seasons — we got there in the late winter, we were there all through spring and early summer. Going to this market that was indoors, we were shopping, we were eating, the boys were running around.
I love what’s happening in Atlanta right now — there are so many young chefs who are moving there and opening up their restaurants, and it’s bringing in a crowd that is super diverse.
There’s a French restaurant called Marcel. We love French cuisine, my husband and I, so we went there.
There’s St. Cecilia, an Italian restaurant that makes their own pasta fresh. And they have gluten-free options, and we are a gluten-free family. My husband was able to get a taste of Italy, but in a very healthy way, so I was happy, too.
And I love the fusions that every restaurant is bringing to the table. They’re not just bringing in the cuisines from the respective parts of the world where they are from; they are blending in with the Southern American culture.
What are some of your bucket-list destinations?
I’d like to explore more of Japan. Right now I’ve only been to Tokyo and Kyoto. So I’d love to maybe go to the islands and see what Japan has to offer.
I love Korea as well. I’ve been to South Korea, and that was an experience that was wonderful.
What are your favorite hotels?
I love The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo because of its views. You tend to stay in floors that are very, very high. It’s part of the architecture. From your room, you’re able to see the whole city any time of day or night, and it’s such a beautiful city to view that way.
But we also like to stay at boutique hotels that are small, [don’t have] that many guests, have the independence that we need, but also have all of the luxury.
Your upcoming movie I Kill Giants was shot in Ireland. Did you get a chance to explore?
We went to southern Ireland, all parts of Dublin, the outskirts of Dublin. We had a lot of Irish food, and it was wonderful. The weather wasn’t too, too cold. But it was just enough to make the whole Irish experience authentic.
We got to hang out with a lot of local people — our driver was amazing. We ate with him and his family and got to get that local experience that is making Ireland such an appealing city to visit.
Right now because of all these tech companies having their bases in Dublin and all throughout Ireland, it’s bringing in an influx of so many people from all over the world living there and opening all these amazing restaurants, and it just feels like a little melting pot of cultures that reminds you a lot of London, New York City, Paris, Tokyo. It was just fantastic for us.
You spent part of your childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic. What are some of the lesser-known attractions that people should see there?
Because the Dominican Republic — la Hispaniola — was one of the first islands that was conquered and colonized, there were a lot of churches and cities that were built. Besides going to the beach and staying in those all-inclusive resorts, step outside and visit those cathedrals or those small churches. And go to the colonial parts of town. It’ll give a sort of history on how old Latin America is, and how much we’ve preserved all the cultures that came together from our African heritage, to our European heritage and also our indigenous heritage, and how it’s all blended in.
For 500 years, it influenced our cuisine, our music. The way we preserve our history is quite beautiful.
And also there were a lot of indigenous caves that were preserved in the Dominican Republic. Those are amazing, too.
What are your favorite travel tips?
Be adventurous. Step outside of your box and get to know as much as you can of the culture of the country that you’re visiting. I think it’s the most dignified way to travel and get the best out of the places you visit.