5 hot winter escapes

Stay in luxury, dine impeccably, and get adventurous.

Rather than endure freezing temperatures, beat winter blues, de-stress, and get a strong dose of vitamin D by temporarily snowbirding away to sunnier places. Across the globe, these five hot destinations—figuratively andliterally—are worth traveling to right now.

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  • Maldives


    These upscale islands in the Indian Ocean have seduced affluent travelers for decades considering their resorts come with high-level privacy and privilege (think: private beaches). As developers continue to open properties, they go next-level, upstaging the ones that already exist.

    The latest crop are one-of-a-kind, including Milaidhoo set inside a UNESCO biosphere reserve with massive oval-shaped villas and a white-sand beach surrounded by native coral where you can swim with sea turtles, dolphins, and even friendly nurse sharks. Alternatively, Soneva Jani comprises strictly overwater villas, most equipped with their own lap pool and retractable ceiling to literally sleep under the stars. There’s also a hammock set half a mile out in the calm lagoon. 

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  • Quito, Ecuador

    Quito, Ecuador

    Capital city Quito has been well under-the-radar but 2018 is its year, thanks to the recent opening of a new international airport, direct routes from the US, and the 40th anniversary of its UNESCO inscription (it’s the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage City). Quito is cradled within volcanic peaks and valleys high up in the Andes, making for scenic treks, as well as epic views from various lookout points. It’s also the launching point for Galapagos (to which there are no direct flights from US).

    January through April bring the hottest weather (86 degree average) so you don’t need to don a wetsuit when snorkeling. Stay at Casa Gangotena, a former 15th-century mansion, with amenities like energy cleansings and house-made smoothies. Or, consider the new Pikaia Lodge. Built on the rim of a volcano, the five-star property is equipped with mountain bikes; take one out to search for giant tortoises and other creatures nearby. 

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  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    In the 1960s, Elizabeth Taylor had a famous fling with Richard Burton in Puerto Vallarta, and the house he bought her became legendary. Now, opened as Casa Kimberly, a nine-suite hotel, guests can live vicariously through the iconic actress by staying in her former residence.

    The recent revival of glam in Puerto Vallarta is also felt with tucked-away, swanky jazz bars (El Patio de Mi Casa), secret beaches (Yelapa), and Hollywood’s comeback, especially in Punta Mita, home to Casa De Mita, a private inn on a secluded beach where stars like Sofia Vergara have been recently spotted.

    If you’re traveling with several friends, there are now more luxury villas than high-end hotels perched along the coast and equipped with private staff. They all have history, like beachfront, 10-bedroom Casa Septiembre, the former vacation home of director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and Villa Mandarinas, a private estate designed by renowned architect Alberto Alvarez. Most rooms have a huge private balcony with unobstructed ocean views. 

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  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    The $150-million Victoria Falls International Airport opened just over a year ago and wise travelers are discovering Zimbabwe before the crowds. Start at Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most stunning waterfalls in the world with myriad outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, canopy tours, and even crocodile diving. The national parks are teeming with wildlife (particularly 3.5-million acre Hwange National Park) and very few tourists.

    Shack up at Little Makalolo, an unbound safari lodge (meaning there are no property fences or gates so the wild animals can actually come up to your cabin). There, you can see elephants in the wild play in a pond less than 100 feet away. Or, over at Singita Pamushana, the creme de la creme of lodges, swim laps in the heated outdoor pool (a rarity in safari land) with views of wildlife in the backdrop. Celebrities like Shakira and Bill Gates have stayed here. Most safari trips are booked with a travel operator.

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  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    For a quick escape, Fort Lauderdale is one of the hottest destinations for 2018. The quiet beach town is undergoing a development boom, which is destined to rival Miami. Most activity is in the luxury hotel front. Along the main drag’s 23-mile beach, popular for water sports, the highbrow Conrad Fort Lauderdale recently opened (with Art Deco interiors and a rooftop pool deck). W Fort Lauderdale expanded to the tune of $60 million, boasting the famous glass-bottom pool and day parties, and Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale underwent a $9-million renovation that introduced a speakeasy bar.

    Celebrity chefs are unpacking knives here, like Stephen Starr (James Beard Award winner) with El Vez opening this month, and Michael Schulson’s latest, award-winning Monkitail

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