By Susan Hanson
1. Maui, Hawaii
With sublime beaches and heavenly sunrises over 10,000-foot-high Haleakala Crater—not to mention its Seven Sacred Pools—is there any wonder why many call Maui paradise? Golfers love its lineup of luminary-designed courses that rank among the top in the world.
, D.T. Fleming
, and Kapalua
beaches are all deservedly famous; yet given Maui’s more than 30 miles of white, black, and red sands, there’s always a spot for secluded sun-worshipping. Hike to iconic Iao Needle
, search for ancient petroglyphs, and get into the laid-back vibe in Lahaina
, a historic whaling village now lined with inviting shops, galleries, and cafés.
Go for: Palm-lined golf courses, sky-high volcanoes, megadoses of vitamin D
Flight time: 5.5 hours from Los Angeles
When to visit: February through March for some of the world’s best whale-watching
Stay: Encompassing 54 acres adjacent to the Honokahua Preservation Site, the 463-room Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is recognized as one of Hawaii’s premier golf resorts. See Photo Gallery >
2. Puerto Rico
Blessed with an ideal climate (temperatures average around 80 degrees) and diverse terrain, you can kayak through mangroves, snorkel in bioluminescent waters, and trek both the cactus-filled Guánica dry forest and El Yunque rain forest all in a single weekend.
Diving along Desecheo Island is legendary, surfers tell tales of monster waves in Rincón, and swashbuckling sagas come alive at La Fortaleza; built to protect San Juan Bay from pirates, the fortress has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Old San Juan retains much of its colonial charm; wander the cobblestoned streets lined with restored sixteenth- and-seventeenth-century buildings. Salsa dancing, a little suckling pig, and samples at the Bacardi distillery are musts.
Go for: Bioluminescent bays, vibrant Caribbean culture, adventure aplenty
Flight time: 2.5 hours from Miami
Bonus: No U.S. passport, currency exchange, or international phone needed
Stay: W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island. Enjoy two private beaches, twin infinity pools, and easy access to the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. See Photo Gallery >
Blending British civility and a casual island flair (think bobbies in shorts), Bermuda offers old-world charm with a spirited local vibe. This is perhaps the only place where travelers can, say, watch energetic Gombey dancers over proper tea and crumpets.
A golfer’s utopia, Bermuda features more courses per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Temperatures average 75 degrees year-round, and the surrounding waters envelop the northernmost coral reefs in the Atlantic.
Hop on a moped and explore the pastel-painted capital of Hamilton and UNESCO-designated Saint George’s, the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the New World.
Go for: Pink beaches, turquoise waters, white-gloved bobbies
Travel time: A leisurely three-night cruise from New York
Don’t miss: Crystal Caves, with dazzling stalactites and stalagmites reflecting in the deep, underground pools
Set Sail: Pink sands and other colorful surprises await on an eight-day Bermuda voyage aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s 3,969-passenger Norwegian Breakaway. Travel light and easy round-trip from New York, with three full days in King’s Wharf.
4. Beverly Hills
Slip on those Ferragamo slingbacks and pay homage to the honorees along the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style. The most famous street in the 90210 zip code is a hub for the world’s highest-end shoppers, who now find a just-opened Hermès flagship, a new Céline boutique, and 5,000 reimagined square feet of Dior.
For a break from browsing, join the star-studded tables at Wolfgang Puck’s legendary Spago or The Bazaar by chef José Andrés and designer Philippe Starck, described as a “culinary Disneyland.” Try to sneak a peek through the multi-gated, mansion-packed North Beverly Park enclave before strolling the formal Greystone gardens; then check out The Beatles’ first television performance, Jack Benny radio clips, and other rare archives at The Paley Center for Media.
Go for: Celebrity sightings, celluloid history, mega-mansions
Flight time: 2.5 hours from Seattle to Los Angeles
Ideal for: A well-deserved shopping spree
Stay: Boutique doors open wide along Rodeo Drive for two VIP shopping cards, among the many exclusive amenities Virtuoso guests enjoy at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. See Photo Gallery >
5. U.S. South
Life just moves a little slower in the South. Maybe that’s so travelers can take the time to appreciate its potpourri of formal gardens abloom in rhododendrons, gardenias, and fragrant magnolias. Middleton Place in Charleston boasts the oldest landscaped gardens in the U.S., while the city’s Historic District is a bouquet of stately antebellum homes. Not to be outdone, Savannah’s own Historic District comprises 22 squares brimming with flora and giant oaks draped in Spanish moss. At the Burgwin-Wright House in Wilmington, seven distinctive gardens have been planted with the same flowers that bloomed there in the eighteenth century. Site of the first Thanksgiving, Virginia’s Berkeley Plantation elicits
gratitude for its five terraced gardens dating from before the Revolutionary War.
Go for: Antebellum homes, lush gardens, gracious hospitality
Flight time: 2.15 hours from Dallas/Fort Worth to Savannah
When to visit: April, when blooming azaleas are in their full brilliance
Set Sail: Cruise the colonial South and smell the magnolias while touring National Historic Landmark homes and gardens with Travel Dynamics International. Sail 11 days between Savannah and Alexandria aboard the 130-guest Yorktown, visiting Middleton Place, Berkeley Plantation, and other estates as well as Colonial Williamsburg along the way.
6. Mayan Riviera
While Cancún is infamous for springtime shenanigans, just beyond the city’s tropical borders lies a treasure trove for history buffs, eco-tourists, extreme sporters, and the most idle of beach bums.
Ancient home to the highly advanced Mayan civilization, the Yucatán Peninsula boasts spectacular archaeological sites, including Tulum, Uxmal, and Chichén Itzá, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Go jungle trekking and ziplining, or swim in the region’s many cenotes (deep natural pools). Snorkel along the island of Cozumel, which sits atop the second-longest coral reef in the world. Spend a day exploring the UNESCO-designated Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Or simply search out a quiet spot along 75 miles of white sands.
Go for: Ancient ruins, coral reefs, swimming in cenotes
Flight time: 4 hours from Boston to Cancún
Bonus: Mérida, the Yucatán’s capital and one of Mexico’s best-preserved colonial cities
Take a Tour: Travel between Mexico City and Cancún on a ten-day family tour that includes visiting a traditional Mayan home, exploring ancient archaeological sites, and cruising through a flamingo sanctuary. This private adventure from Artisans of Leisure is completely customizable; consider adding a Yucatán cooking class with the clan.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Traveler magazine, February 2014.