By Marika Cain and Justin Paul
Virtuoso Life magazine
1. Break for Bermuda
Best for: Escape from New York-ers; families.
A 21-square-mile oasis 650 miles off North Carolina, Bermuda scoffs at the Caribbean’s prominence with pink-sand beaches, twisting coastal roads to tease out your inner daredevil scooterist, and a lovably quirky style that says, “Look, just don a sport coat and tie with those shorts for tonight’s formal dinner.”
The best value going there is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Manhattan-based Norwegian Breakaway. This family-friendly 4,000-passenger ship begins seven-day sailings with three days at King’s Wharf in May—just when Bermuda’s water and air temperatures sync up in the mid-70s and begin their march to summer’s mid-80s peaks.
2. Philp Out
Best for: Eco-travel adventurers
More than 7,100 islands await in the Philippines, a tropical bonanza of urban nightlife, active volcanoes, remote reefs, and shoe aficionados. Dip your toe in a sampling of activities, or dive deep into one with Remote Lands’ custom private trips (surfing, scuba, cultural immersion, sunbathing). A 13-day overview may begin with sights such as Imelda Marcos’ Coconut Palace in Manila, followed by a helicopter and horseback tour of Taal Volcano, complete with a traditional pig roast.
From there, set out on a geologist-led outing to active Mount Mayon during a multiday hop south to Pamalican Island, where the 40-casita Amanpulo serves as a posh base camp for yoga, diving, and water sports on the Sulu Sea.
TIP: “Head to Donsol Bay to snorkel with one of the world’s largest whale shark migrations (December through May). My private boat ferried me out to swim right alongside the docile creatures—I had four or five sightings that day!” —Michael Holtz, travel advisor, New York
3. Tale of Two Yucatáns
Best for: Sybarites for Substance members and pledges.
For those seeking a tan that’s more than beach-deep: Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, where western Caribbean playgrounds serve as jumping-off points to explore Mayan culture at ruins such as Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.
Monograms’ nine-day vacation spends two nights in each (the Chichén Itzá hotel has a private entrance to the ruins) for guided explorations of eighth- and tenth-century ruins and includes a walking tour of colonial Mérida. Four nights at an all-inclusive Cancún resort provide unabashed lounging, because, face it, a few days with beach chairs and umbrella drinks looks good on you.
4. Cycling Sicily—Slowly or Not
Best for: Italophiles with able quads; Il Postino fans.
A six-day spin through Sicily’s citrus- and olive-scented countryside rewards time in the bike saddle with picnics at agriturismos and espresso breaks in seventeenth-century plazas. Beginning in Catania, riders on this Backroads trip loop through Sicily’s southeastern quadrant with stops at UNESCO World Heritage sites Ragusa and Modica—both rebuilt in extravagant baroque style following a 1693 earthquake—all beneath the gaze of Mount Etna.
Go-getters who’d rather eat up the miles than the manicotti (or eat up more miles and hence more manicotti) can cover upward of 50 per day; those without so much to prove can breeze along on shorter daily routes, ranging from 19 to 40 miles. Compare mileage counts and feast on Sicilian cuisine with fellow cyclists each evening at a series of boutique hotels.
5. Jamaican Renaissance
Best for: Jet-setters with a taste for jerk chicken.
Exceptional Experiences: Thailand
Exceptional Experiences: Bhutan
Houston Art and Dining
Where once Grace Kelly and Cole Porter soaked up the 80-degree average temperatures, now Ryan Gosling, Kate Moss, and Emma Watson relax, mon. The island’s enduring allure lies in a balance of beach, beauty, and history. Also of note: Delta offers nonstop flights from JFK to Montego Bay (four hours), and the 90-minute hop from Miami is a definite “why not?”
Check into Montego Bay’s Round Hill Hotel & Villas—the 36 rooms, 27 two- to six-bedroom villas, and beachfront spa give guests front-row seats to white-sand leisure and access to diversions that range from rafting the Great River by two-seat bamboo craft to horseback riding on the beach.
TIP: “My favorite villas at Round Hill: 16 (six bedrooms) and 17 (four bedrooms) for their spectacular views of sunrises and Caribbean waters. My favorite Jamaican excursion is to YS Falls, which are as beautiful as Dunn’s River Falls but without the tourists!” —Martha Gaughen, travel advisor, Atlanta
6. Extreme Extravagance in Fiji
Best for: Cash-flush paparazzi-duckers.
What magnate doesn’t enjoy a private island? Witness: Malcolm Forbes, who bought seven-mile-long Laucala Island in 1972, and Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who acquired it in 2003, recently tricking it out with 25 sago palm-thatched bures (mega-bures?) with private pools, Fijian-chic decor, and bathtubs hewn from single blocks of granite.
Sun seekers can avail themselves of five restaurants, a golf course, a fleet of 14 boats for exploring the 18-mile-long reef, and a 5,000-square-foot free-form pool.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, March 2013.