If you’re daydreaming of escaping to a sun-drenched tropical paradise, these idyllic destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico are at the top of our best summer beach vacation wishlist. In partnership with our friends at Marriott International, these are the Instagram-worthy white sandy beaches and turquoise water locations, luxury hotels, spas, and gastronomy hotspots worth traveling for.
Not that you need further encouragement – just look at these images – but as loyal Marriott Bonvoy members, you can unlock exclusive rewards and curated experiences.
The tiny island of Aruba, nestled off the coast of South America, is a paradise of beautiful beaches, aquamarine waters, blissful weather, and warm, happy people. They call it Happy Island for a reason. An idyllic summer beach vacation destination, the island is abundant with natural beauty, colorful wildlife, desert landscapes, and ancient grottos. Aruba also promises a vibrant cultural hit, thanks to its Caribbean meets Dutch colonial roots, the candy-colored facades, and turrets of its colonial architecture are as Instagram-worthy as its pristine beaches. And then there’s the rich coastal Caribbean-inspired culinary scene where locally grown ingredients and freshly caught seafood play a starring role.
Best places to stay in Aruba
A luxury oceanfront resort on Aruba’s famed Palm Beach, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba seamlessly blends laidback coastal Caribbean style with five-star elegance. All of the guest rooms and suites have private balconies overlooking the ocean and the resort has two outdoor pools, six restaurants (private dining experiences on the beach can also be organized), a lively casino, and a luxe spa with a whirlpool, sauna, steam room, oxygen bar and signature treatments infused with local indigenous ingredients. For an elevated family-friendly experience Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is also an oceanfront paradise on stunning Palm Beach with spacious guest rooms and suites looking out over the island’s turquoise waters. Other highlights include private cabanas on, the H2Oasis adults-only pool area and pool bar, the Balinese-inspired Mandara Spa, signature restaurants, and buzzing 24-hour Stellaris Casino.
Puerto Vallarta, México
Overlooking Mexico’s Pacific coast, surrounded by lush green mountains, this once sleepy fishing village was catapulted into the world spotlight in the 1960s when film icons Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love on the set of Night of the Iguana. Ever since, this romantic seaside enclave – the birthplace of mariachi music – has been a favorite summer beach vacation and honeymoon destination sought out for its quaint sense of history and charm. Strolling the narrow, cobble-stoned streets, especially the Zona Romántica (Romantic Zone) and buzzy boardwalks filled with cute cafes, chic boutiques, and lively street art, cuisine, and nightlife scene is a highlight. As are the magical sunsets at Playa Los Muertos and its pier, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens awash with exotic orchids and hummingbirds, and the harborside Marina Vallarta.
Best Places to stay in Puerto Vallarta
The stunning beachfront Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa has gorgeous views over Banderas Bay, a beautiful infinity pool, swim-up pool bar, and signature Seafood, Japanese, and a Ceviche and Tequila restaurant that is home to a resident ‘tequilera’ (think sommelier) where you can taste over 180 tequila varieties. At the onsite Ohtli Spa, the focus is on ancient healing traditions and treatments.
The Westin Puerto Vallarta is an oasis of swaying palms, sparkling pools, and a private beach. There is also a serene, seven-room spa, fitness studio, and the romantic open-air restaurant Arrecifes, overlooking the Bay of Banderas, where fresh-caught seafood, steak, and colorful cocktails are the order of the day.
Nestled on the spectacular coastline in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, Sheraton Buganvilias Resort and Convention Center has epic views over the Bay of Banderas and the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Offering an elevated All-Inclusive experience, spend your days on the private beach, by the resort pools, enjoying the culinary line-up, or indulging in some pampering at the onsite Maiavé Spa.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Los Cabos – named after the neighboring towns Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo – on Mexico’s famed Baja California has long been the vacation hotspot and playground for LA’s A-listers (Jennifer Annison is practically a local) and seasoned travelers who flock here for its luxury resorts, fantastic beaches, snorkeling, whale watching, and sublime natural beauty – the desert literally crumbles into the sea in Cabo. Add to that Los Cabos’ hip bar and gastro scene and it’s easy to see why it always tops the best summer beach vacation list.
Best Places to Stay in Los Cabos
Set in sand dunes overlooking the Sea of Cortez, Zadun, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a luxury desert oasis that exudes tranquility and the vibrant colors and culture of Mexico. Beachfront villas bring a sense of the outside in with sliding doors and private plunge pools, while the interiors celebrate the location through art, textiles, and decorative objects by Mexican artists. At the divine Spa Alkenia treatments honor ancestral and modern Mexico by incorporating indigenous ingredients and ancient rituals to create his culinary offering at El Barrio executive chef Rodrigo Torres traveled throughout Mexico to find artisan-designed pieces for each table and the menu takes its cue from authentic dishes of his childhood, right down to the local spices.
World-renowned architect Jim Olson designed the artful JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa to capture its magnificent surroundings, the rich blues of the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean and the warm shades of the surrounding desert. The result is a stunning desert-inspired luxury resort with standout architectural details at every turn, from the cascading pools to the quaint waterfalls that merge into the horizon, wooden pergolas volcanic stove stone tables. Also on the list of standouts, the Jasha Spa, Puerto Los Cabos Golf Club, and Café des Artiste by Thierry Blouet, one of San Jose del Cabo’s most celebrated restaurants for its contemporary Mexican with a French flair
Cozumel, a Robinson Crusoe style island just 34-mile-long by 11-mile-wide off Mexico’s Riviera Maya is an unspoiled paradise that is the perfect place to unplug. Surrounded by expanses of jungle and untouched shoreline its crystal clear waters make it a beach lover’s dream and a bucket list destination for divers. Cozumel’s coral reef, abundant with colorful, tropical marine life, tunnels, and caves happens to be the second-longest in the world (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the biggest). Beyond its beautiful turquoise waters, and laid-back beach vibe, Cozumel has a fascinating landscape, deep sense of history, and plenty of cool bars and lively beach clubs, especially in its low-key city of San Miguel. Rent a jeep to explore the wildlife (watch out for iguanas), visit the ancient ruins at the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological Site, explore its eco beach parks and the seascape rock formations at El Mirador and check out the lighthouse at Punta Sur. Or just enjoy long lazy days in your beach chair at Playa Palancar and Dzul Ha, just two of the island’s many gorgeous beaches.
Best Place to Stay in Cozumel
The Westin Cozumel is an oceanfront paradise on the palm-lined white sandy shores of vibrant San Miguel. A relaxing oasis that strikes the perfect balance between uninterrupted beach time, soaking up the sun in the resort-style pool and immersing yourself in the local culture and experiences; guest can hang out the local beach clubs, explore museums, ancient ruins, and eco tours or take to the turquoise waters to snorkel, scuba diving or sail. The boutique rooms, suites and cabanas all have stunning beach views and many come equipped with the luxury of their own outdoor whirlpool and private plunge pool. Also on the list of highlights, taking in the epic beauty of the island from the highest point at the resort’s Sky Lounge, dining at any of the on-site restaurants, including the signature Cuzamil, which is ideal for a romantic candlelit dinner and rejuvenating at the Zazil Spa where you’ll be pampered in cabins overlooking the ocean.
There is so much to love about the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean nation located on the east side of Hispaniola (Haiti resides on the west). Turquoise beaches – 1000 miles of pristine coastline – a vast landscape of mountainous terrain, beautiful lakes, and sand dunes, its warm friendly people, and balmy climate. Then there’s the DR’s treasured dance, the merengue, the annual humpback whale migration (Jan – March), and the rum, chocolate, coffee, and larimar – the rare, almost-cerulean blue, semi-precious stone mined only in the country’s Bahoruco mountains. Also worth traveling for is its amazing cuisine inspired by its Spanish-African heritage.
Best places to stay in the Dominican Republic
The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club is an oceanfront resort located within the Puntacana Resort & Club set on three miles of secluded beach. All of the thoughtfully appointed guest rooms have views of the ocean and lush gardens and the resort has stunning pools, a Six Senses Spa, Tom Fazio-designed championship golf, and a 1,500-acre ecological reserve with 12 fresh-water lagoons. As for restaurants, there are seven to choose from including Anani where the baby rock lobster, ceviche, and salads have been elevated to an art form; and Brassa Grill & Bar Restaurant, with the best of international cuisine and a wide variety of delicious dishes.
At the idyllic Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino, the winding garden paths and resort-style ambiance feel worlds away from the bustling heart of downtown Santo Domingo where the hotel is located, offering easy access to explore must-see sites like National Botanical Garden, Colonial Zone, Catedral Primada de América and El Conde Street. Adding to the retreat allure is the outdoor pool, Zui Spa, fitness center, coffee shop, and Luna Tapas Bar, spotlighting traditional Dominican flavors and cuisine.
Costa Rica with its over 800 miles of stunning beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides is always a perfect escape. The mantra here is ‘pura vida’ (pure life) and that is evident from its abundance of natural parks, waterfalls, natural hot springs, popular surf breaks, and deep commitment to sustainability and caring for its unique biodiversity. Beyond sand and surf time, Costa Rica is loved for its artisan culture, amazing coffee, and nature and wildlife; howler monkeys, rain and cloud forests, butterflies, monarchs, and hummingbirds (it’s arguably the hummingbird capital of the world), macaws, sea turtles, and sloths all call this slice of paradise home. On the must-do list is hiking Tenorio Volcano National Park to view the Rio Celeste waterfall and mastering the art of chilling like a local over epic sunsets and coastal Pacific food.
Best places to stay in Costa Rica
Hidden among the mangroves of Guanacaste, surrounded by the sugar-white beaches of Playa Conchal, W Costa Rica Reserva Conchal is a haven for wildlife (there’s a 2,300-acre nature and monkey reserve) and a playground for surfers, nature lovers, and bohemian travelers. Guest rooms and suites honor their jungle meets beach surroundings through nature-inspired headboards and design elements, vivid colors, and even surfboard bar tops. Some come with private plunge pools and all over spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean and Playa Conchal. Adding to the experience are the fresh, bold flavors at the resort’s five dining options, the on-site Always Spa, where the treatment menu is unique and the signature champagne bar is everything, an 18-hole golf course by Robert Trent Jones II and kayaking, surfing and bike adventures. The resort is also deeply committed to the community and environment. Their Huerta Nauji project, an on-site garden run by women from local communities, grows and produces fresh ingredients that are used in the resort’s kitchen and restaurants and it also has its own apiary where millions of bees live in a protected area to produce raw honey for the restaurants.
Amid the rainforest canopies of the Green Coast in stunning Playa Herradura, Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort is an oceanfront paradise immersed in natural beauty. Embracing the peace-loving culture and warmth of Pura Vida, the resort is an exercise in island-style glamour with a stunning pool, private beach, and easy access to local fishing spots, nature hikes in Carara National Park, and the luxurious on-site golf La Iguana Golf Course set against a breathtaking backdrop where the rainforest meets the sea. The renovated guest suites have idyllic views, outdoor hammocks, and some offer the intimacy of an adults-only swim-up pool. Among the many highlights is the Sibö Rainforest Spa & Retreat whose treatments and wellness packages are inspired by the lush, healing rainforests of Costa Rica and the resort’s culinary experiences; Mediterranean delights overlooking the beach at Zoe and the local flavors and gastronomy at Hacienda Kitchen. The resort also has an initiative with Costas Verdes to reforest several beaches in the area and help the macaws population.
Authentic Costa Rica is the hallmark of a stay at Hotel Punta Islita Autograph Collectio, a luxurious ocean meets mountain resort in Guanacaste, where eco-adventures like hiking, monkey safaris, cooking lessons, and exploring the Scarlet Macaw Reserve and Camaronal Sea Turtle Reserve await. The stunning guest rooms, suites, and 3- and 4-bedroom villas all overlook the mountains or aquamarine beaches and the resort has two signature restaurants including the gorgeous oceanfront Alma where you can enjoy the traditional flavors and recipes of Costa Rica and the Casa Spa where signature treatments incorporate ancient Chorotega healing wisdom and local ingredients.
Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise that feels worlds away from the mainland, even though it’s a short, easy flight with no passport required. Promising the perfect beach, surf, snorkeling, and diving vacation, the waves are epic, the water is crystal clear, the coral reefs are vibrant and the 270 miles of sand is pristine. Then there’s the cave beaches, lush tropical forests – most notably El Yunque – and the historic, cobblestoned streets, pastel-colored Spanish colonial architecture, and lively bars and restaurants of Old San Juan, the designer boutiques of Condado, and the salsa filled streets of charming towns like Ponce.
Best Places to stay in Puerto Rico
Set on the stunning palm-lined Condado beach San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has guest suites, including their renovated cabana wing, with private balconies overlooking the ocean, or lively Condado, a scenic pool with a swim-up bar, and the Stellaris Casino. The resort is also home to three elevated dining options, a coffeehouse, and a gelato shop. Also a popular event destination for weddings and conferences, the resort has 14 venues, biking, and jogging paths, a sauna, tennis courts, and an onsite fitness center as well as a spa.
The vibrant, stylish Aloft San Juan is a pet-friendly loft-style boutique hotel bringing a hip social networking vibe to the El Distrito entertainment area – just minutes from Old San Juan, Miramar, and Isla Grande Airport. Enjoy digital art and nightly digital fireworks, lofty suites with high ceilings, and platform beds, and hanging out in the signature WXYZ bar, a workspace by day and the place to be for signature cocktails, light bites, and live entertainment at night. The hotel also has the super convenient 24-hour grab-and-go, Re:fuel pantry, and event space.
Travel with confidence to the Caribbean and Latin America
The Caribbean and Latin American nations of Aruba, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are all open and eager to welcome travelers and the great news is vaccinated Americans are at low risk of Covid-19 and can travel internationally and domestically with few restrictions according to the CDC. Health experts also say the ventilation and filtration on airplanes are even better than those in hospitals. Before boarding a flight back to the U.S. all travelers are required to show a negative Covid-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past 3 months. The regulation does not apply to travelers returning from Puerto Rico, there is a large collection of Marriott International hotels and resorts. All Marriott International hotels provide guests with assistance to make getting their test a breeze, by connecting them with local labs or organizing their tests to be done in their hotel room. Vaccinated travelers also no longer need to quarantine on arrival into the U.S.