The seasons change, and, along with your tan, the sunny chirpiness of your world gives way to winter’s chills. Don’t let the fight against Mother Nature get you down; instead, get to one of our top picks.
10. Santa Barbara, California
Marshmallow hued buildings, with red ringlets on top, and the sashaying sun welcome you to the home of the American Riviera. Check into the Latin luxe quarters at the Canary Hotel. Have a glass of Pinot Noir next to the rooftop pool and bar as the sun descends over the Pacific, and then indulge in authentic enchiladas at Los Arroyos. In the morning, hop on your beach cruiser to explore locally roasted coconut coffee near the palm-tree-hugged Leadbetter Beach. Then get your sea legs ready for a whale-watching adventure aboard the Condor Express catamaran. See the big blubbery mammals put on a wintery show around the Channel Islands. Back on the mainland, dance the night away at the many State Street bars. The next day, hire a driver and wind up the mountains to the Santa Barbara Wine Country to sample its newly rising star, Syrah. As the sun sets on your weekend escape, delight in grilled halibut, a few pints of lager, and a stroll along the moonlit pier.
Imagine Holland, but warm, with tanner inhabitants and less hustle. Then picture yourself entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Willemsted; linger to admire the primary-colored mansions housing kitchy souvenirs, fresh seafood, and smiling locals. Sugar-sand beaches washed by calm, unbelievably blue seas surround the most hidden of the “ABC” islands (that’s short for Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). Divers explore the 60 sites circling the isle—most impressively the Mushroom Forest (a coral reef shaped like its namesake). Fork over some cash to swim with the dolphins, guide horses to gallop on the strands, wait until the cruise ships depart, then splurge at the Willemsted stores, and end your day toasting this Caribbean hideaway you seemed to have located before the rest of your travel buddies.
8. Sayulita, Mexico
Whether you’re hunting for a girlfriend getaway, a family vacation, or a romantic adventure, this Puerto Vallarta neighbor promises warm winter seas and balmy temps. During the day, sip coconuts on a lounge chair then splash into the Pacific. Join the locals in the lively plaza to eat abundant fish tacos and dulce de leche late into the evening. Stroll through the cobblestone lanes to view galleries, artsy shops, and locals selling bananas from flatbed trucks. Surrounded by a lush rainforest, this popular beach has a longtime reputation with surfers—especially women who attend the Las Olas Surf Safaris. Breaks impress beginners and pros, while the beach hops year-round with live music, margaritas, and protected coves ideal for young swimmers.
7. Lake Tahoe, California
If skiing Olympic-class slopes brings some glee to your day, while the masses head to Whistler this winter, sojourn to Lake Tahoe. The new Ritz Carlton Highlands may be all the rage with luxury snow bunnies, but there are plenty of inexpensive cabins to allow you some extra cash for snowboard lessons. Tricksters and novices negotiate the slopes at Squaw Valley and Heavenly; cross-country skiers hoof it for miles at Royal Gorge; and families enjoy the excellent kid’s club activities at Kirkwood. A hot cocoa sipped by the fire, then a dip in the hot tub with the snow glistening in the moonlight promises a rich wintery sleep that will bathe the winter blahs away.
6. Malpais, Costa Rica
Howler monkeys swing past your open-air shower; the scent of silky flor blanca flowers travel in the wind; mangoes hang heavily from trees; and rain offers a respite from the hours of surfing the epic waves of this internationally known surf break. Malpais might mean “bad country,” but there is nothing bad about the Florblanca luxury resort—save the road to get here. Hidden at the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula, your oceanfront villa has been selectively decorated by world-traveling artists, complete with stone flooring, a handmade Costa Rican hammock, poster beds, and a sprawling outdoor tub. The florescent sunsets are almost as dazzling as the cuisine, service, and style of this luxe destination in a low-key beach setting.
….Moorea Tahiti thru #1 HERE