If as you get set to bid farewell to another year (how did that happen?), you’re lamenting the arrival of a long winter, we’ve curated a list of sun-soaked destinations where you can escape to this December (or anytime from now to March). From barefoot luxury in the Maldives to the beaches of Santa Monica and the turquoise Mediterranean waters of Greece, grab your passport and go.
The Maldives – made up of 1000 coral islands, sandbanks, and atolls – is known for its sparkling transparent cerulean waters. Add to that, powder-soft beaches, brilliant blue skies, and ideal weather (November to April is the dry season, averaging temperatures in the upper 80s) and you have the perfect winter getaway. Diving and snorkeling are a way of life here, the amazing myriad of marine life (sea turtles, reef sharks) is considered to be among the best in the world. Then there’s the famous bioluminescent plankton (fireflies) that magically light up the beach in glowy blue orbs at night. Sandbank dining – alone with your love on a stretch of sand surrounded by the sea- is another (romantic) Maldives signature, as is travel by seaplane. One of the best ways to admire the islands’ stunning beauty is by air and for many resort guests, the only way to reach their hotel is by seaplane.
Where to Stay
We love the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, the epitome of barefoot luxury, featuring 36 secluded land villas and 14 dreamy over-water villas. All come with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors leading to a private deck; some, with their own outdoor terrazzo bathtubs, rain showers and plunge pools. Start with a floating (pool) breakfast in the villa, then spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, slipping into Vidhum spa for signature treatments like the sehathu massage – combining rose oil, lotus and jasmine with hot, cold, dry therapies as per Dhivehibey tradition. Kayak the crystal-clear lagoon waters in search of turtles, dolphins and baby reef sharks or journey by speed boat to the equator – stopping to snorkel and visit an authentic Maldvian fishing village – before arriving at the 0°00’00.00N coordinates for an exquisite champagne brunch. Continue the romantic vibe, later, with a private starlight dinner on the rooftop overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Miami is always a good idea. An eclectic, creative melting pot, in recent years the city – famed for its Art Deco fabulousness, rich Cuban influences, and stunning beaches – has redefined itself. The home of Art Basel, Miami now has a thriving arts scene, endless galleries, its own cultural hub The Faena District and has been busy garnering a reputation as one of the best culinary hotspots in the US. All while remaining quintessentially Miami – the ritz, glamor of its nightlife is alive and well and here, people watching, on the streets, at the pool parties and in the clubs,is a way of life. Then there is the bounty of hip oceanfront resorts, like Soho House, Faena (by director Baz Luhrman) and the impossibly cool W South Beach.
Where to Stay
It doesn’t get more hip or gorgeous than W South Beach Miami. Set on the corner of Collins Avenue at 22nd Street between South Beach and Mid-Beach, the vibe at W South Beach is more stylish professional than party town. Walking distance to Ocean Drive’s famed Art-Deco buildings and top chef-helmed restaurants, the oceanfront resort has expansive grounds with cozy seating areas and while the design stays true to the brand’s signature green apples and colorful pop art prints it evokes more of an understated glamor with gray slate, dark-wood, and coastal blues and whites. The suites and guest rooms are large with soaring ceilings, high-end finishes, spa-worthy bathrooms and balconies offering epic views over the beach (some even have kitchenettes, and plunge pools). Hang by the WET pool to enjoy DJs during the day, chill at the private beach or pamper yourself at the on-site spa before savoring the Asian culinary delights at star restaurant Mr. Chow or for a more laid back, airy atmosphere head to the hotel’s tiki-style neighborhood-tavern-inspired restaurant and oyster bar, Irma’s (the wood is reclaimed from hurricane Irma).
Who doesn’t lust after a summer holiday spent exploring whitewashed coastal cities, indulging in fresh seafood, and lounging by the sea in Greece? The arrival of winter brings cooler temps but nothing near what is experienced in Northern Europe or the States making it an ideal destination for escaping winter. From historic Athens to the sun-soaked Greek Islands, the atmosphere pivots from one of the tourist-filled streets to one made up primarily of locals. While temperatures hovering in the mid-’60s mean a dip in the sea may only be for the bravest of visitors, Greece is also perfect for hiking the coast, visiting local orchards, olive groves, and wineries, exploring historic sites, and delving into the rich culture.
Where to Stay
Nestled into the thick pine tree-filled mountains of the Peloponnese Peninsula, Euphoria Retreat is a luxury wellness retreat known for its sprawling four-story spa. We love the way the property has blended the history and the culture of the region with modern styling and science-based wellness practices. The bright rooms, designed with earth tones and solid oak furniture, inspire tranquility while embracing touches of Byzantine architecture. The 14 suites feature private terraces that offer views of nearby Mount Taygetus and the ancient Mystras Castle. It’s easy to disappear and forget the outside world exists when you’re in the Byzantine Hamam, or tepidarium but exploring the surrounding area known for snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, and dramatic waterfalls and historic sites is all part of the experience.
Who doesn’t love southern California with its towering palm trees, rugged cliffs, scenic coastline, chill vibe and perpetual sunshine (it’s called the Golden State for a reason). From the serene beaches and stilted mansions of Malibu to the desert spas and vintage vibe of Palm Springs, to the celebrity-obsessed whirling electricity of LA – southern California, with its fiery red-orange-yellow sunsets that dip into the Pacific Ocean – has something for everyone. Art. Culture. Shopping. Surfing. And of course, signature produce-forward ‘California cuisine’ – fresh fruits and vegetables (with a focus on organic), seafood, locally sourced meats, and avocados everywhere.
Where to Stay
Located just steps from the beach, the reimagined Viceroy Santa Monica originally opened in 2000 as the inaugural property of the now-iconic brand. A recent $21 million renovation has taken the property to the next level, with the addition of an impressive art collection, chic twists on mid-century modern decor, and a transformation of outdoor spaces to better celebrate southern California’s near-perfect weather. We love the private open-air cabanas by the pools and redesigned restaurant/bar flowing from inside to out – perfect for breakfast frittatas and lattes by day; small bites and splashy cocktails by night. The rooms are equally stylish in crisp white with pops of blue to evoke a modern beachy vibe and come with pillowtop beds wrapped in Italian linens, ROIL, and Natura Bisse bath products.
Proverbially sunny and beloved for its colorful castles in the sky, coastal fishing villages, stunning tiles and pottery, the freshest seafood, fantastic wine, and rich culture, Portugal (only a six-hour flight) from the US east coast has become a European hot spot. Chefs, designers, entrepreneurs and the like have been flocking to Portugal (Lisbon and Porto especially), lured by the climate, lifestyle, incredible architecture, new and Michelin star restaurants, upscale shops, and a vibrant wellness-spa scene.
Where to Stay
Overlooking one of Portugal’s most celebrated wine regions, Six Senses Douro Valley is all about the vino – and the outrageously beautiful scenery and historic architecture. Wine aficionados love the ‘wine library’ (serving wine and tapas), along with the on (and offsite) wine and port tastings. Each of the 60 guest rooms, housed in this dreamily updated 19th-century manor are ultra-romantic, with neutral tones, oak floors, natural mat beds (made of organic lamb’s wool and sustainable latex), and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the vineyard or River Douro. The main farmhouse-chic dining venue, Vale de Abraão offers seasonal tasting menus showcasing the bounty of the Douro Valley, while architectural highlights include a walk-in fireplace, 18th-century azulejo tiles, cork ceiling, and stunning outdoor terrace overlooking the vines. The spa, too, is a standout. Accessed by a dreamy candlelit stairwell, treatments include vinotherapy (of course), rose-crystal lymphatic facials, Ayurveda, and sleep programs. Also on the menu: forest bathing, the art of walking slowly and silently in nature.
Oh how we love Puerto Rico, with its stunning beaches, colorful architecture, rich Spanish culture, spicy, flavorful cuisine, and of course its salsa dancing. A landscape of mountains, waterfalls, tropical rainforest, and beaches galore, this Caribbean island state offers so much to do. Surfing is popular, as is kayaking the bioluminescent bay at night. Wander the cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and fortified walls of Old San Juan, or spend days lazing about – swimming, snorkeling, or combing for sea glass – an island pastime, you’ll find unusual shapes, sizes, and colors.
Where to Stay
When Laurance S. Rockefeller first opened this eco-friendly resort here in the 1950s (the Caribbean’s first), his mantra was strict: no buildings taller than a palm tree; access to the ocean would remain unobstructed. More than a half-century later, his philosophy continues. Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve is eloquently cradled by the Atlantic Ocean on one side; lush vegetation on the other. Suites and villas feature floor-to-ceiling windows and doors – ensuring spectacular views of the ocean – and some come with deep soaking clawfoot tubs, outdoor showers, and private verandahs with plunge pools. Local ingredients are celebrated – in both the restaurants (fresh seafood, grilled meats, fresh produce) and in Spa Botanica, where treatments infuse local coffee grounds, lemongrass, bay leaves, and even tobacco. Sip cocktails by the pool, book a (complimentary) fashion shoot with the resort’s onsite photography studio, play a round of golf on the two waterfront (Robert Trent Jones Jr.) courses, go deep-sea fishing. Or simply do nothing at all.