LOS CABOS, MEXICO
With tony Caribbean destinations such as St. Barths still hurting from last year’s hurricanes, Los Cabos is emerging as 2018’s hottest beach escape. The region will soon welcome $1 billion of new hotel inventory, including some adventure-focused newcomers that are reimagining what it means to vacation in Baja. Whereas most of the area’s resorts aren’t on swimmable beaches, the Four Seasons at Costas Palmas will have an unconventional location on the undeveloped East Cape, where the calm Sea of Cortez, unlike the rough Pacific, is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kite surfing. (It opens late in the year.) If you can’t wait that long, try Zadún, only the fourth location of Ritz-Carlton’s ultra-high-end Reserve brand, set to push the area’s sky-high standards of luxury when it opens in June. Other entries by top-tier brands such as Montage, Nobu, and Luxury Collection will likely give the area more luxury stays per square mile than anywhere on the planet. Throw in a $50 million airport enhancement at Los Cabos International and you’ve got an A-list getaway that rivals the heyday of Acapulco.
When to go: Winning temperatures and post-spring break deals make May a great time to visit—though the peak winter months make for memorable whale sightings.
When not to go:: September, when humidity is a certainty and hurricanes are possible.
Whom to call: Julie Byrd of Cabo Villas.
If Dubai comes off as the Las Vegas of the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is making a play to be the region’s Paris. The emirate’s new crown jewel is the billion-dollar Louvre Abu Dhabi where, beneath a latticed steel dome by Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel, you’ll find 7th century Qurans, 20th century Picassos, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi—yes, the one that recently sold for $450 million. Other major institutions will join it in coming years, including Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Performing Arts Centre, by the late Zaha Hadid.
But don’t wait to visit: A growing number of luxury cruise ships are pulling into port, and for families there will soon be the $1 billion Warner Bros. World theme park. Reserve a room at Ian Schrager’s much-anticipated 244-room Edition, coming soon to the Al Bateen waterfront.
When to go: February or March. Cooler temperatures—still up there, with highs often in the 70s makes it prime time for festivals and events.
When not to go:: Summer months. It’s never fun exploring a city when it’s 110 degrees outside.
Whom to call: Lindsey Wallace of Linara Travel.
As a conflict-free oasis of the Middle East, Jordan has experienced double-digit tourism growth over the past 12 months. The upward trajectory has been spurred by an influx of public and foreign money bolstering infrastructure: The Jordan Trail, a long-distance hiking route from Umm Qais in the north to Aqaba in the south, was recently created by the government’s adventure travel wing. The 400-mile expedition strings the best of the nation’s natural highlights into a journey of biblical proportions—it’s meant to take 40 days and 40 nights—cutting through the jagged Dana Biosphere Reserve and the rock-hewn city of Petra before ending at the Red Sea. Trekkers are encouraged to stay in Bedouin camps and eco lodges along the way, whether they tackle the entire trail or one of eight 50-mile-long sections.
A highlight is Wadi Rum, aptly referred to as the Valley of the Moon, which now has luxurious bubble-dome camps scattered throughout its pockmarked sandstone recesses. Explore the landscape by camel, on foot, or via four-wheel drive during the day, then stargaze from your bed at night. And don’t forget Jordan’s capital: By May, Amman will welcome two new hotels, a W and a St. Regis, offering a plush way to bookend your dusty desert explorations.
When to go: April and October, when daytime temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees F are perfectly suited to Petra hikes and Dead Sea swims.
When not to go:: December to February. Desert nights are cold year-round, and they’re punishing in the winter
Whom to call: Jean Newman Glock of Signature Travel Network.
St. Kitts has pulled off a beach-escape hat trick: It feels untouched while being both comfortable and convenient. A quarter of it is preserved as American oceanic rainforest, perfect for hiking through pristine wilderness, but the island also offers the infinity pools and beachfront cafes travelers hope for in a luxe vacation.
After surviving last year’s hurricanes unscathed, the destination got a considerable injection of glitz when the 126-room Park Hyatt opened in November. The first five-star beach resort on St. Kitts, it’s located on a secluded white-sand cove near the island’s southern tip; suites with private pools overlook the Caribbean Sea and the neighbouring island of Nevis, while the three-bedroom presidential villa has a private chef and dedicated fitness area. The resort anchors Christophe Harbour, a new, 2,500-acre luxury development and superyacht marina, which means guests have the twin benefits of privacy and quick access to high-end boutique shopping.
When to go: May—when you’ll find great deals and few crowds—or the six weeks in November and December that are bookended by hurricane season and holiday madness.
When not to go: Heed the big lesson of 2017, and steer clear of the Caribbean in the peak storm months from June to October.
Whom to call: Lindsey Epperly of Epperly Travel.
Sitting north of Jakarta and east of Singapore is lushly forested Borneo, home to most of the planet’s 120,000 remaining orangutans. Unlike its neighbors, the third-largest island in the world, has yet to register on the traditional tourist map. That’s changing, though, as wildlife enthusiasts race to see these sweet-faced primates before their population declines any further. Facilitating these untapped adventures are such newcomers as the luxe-leaning Audley Travel and G Adventures, which has a partnership with National Geographic. Charter cruises meander down lazy tributaries of the Lemanak and Kingbata rivers, stopping in on the Indonesian side to see the conservationists at Camp Leakey, whose founder mentored Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, or Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, an orphanage and rehab center in Malaysia territory. The itineraries are easily combined with traditional bucket-list destinations—Bali is a popular pick—but why bother? Borneo is a gorgeous treasure trove unto itself, with former headhunting villages tucked amid rice terraces and an increasing number of honeymoon-worthy hotels.
When to go: Wildlife is best spotted from late May through September. Just know that “dry season” is a relative term here.
When not to go: December and January put the rain in rainforest.
Whom to call: Pat O’Connell of Asia Transpacific Journeys.
Antarctica may get all the attention, but the southern Patagonian ice fields are gradually melting, too. Luckily there are several new avenues for travelers who want to get there sooner rather than later. Bespoke travel company Black Tomato now offers a journey to the untrammeled area of Aysén, letting adventurers explore caves, hike glaciers, and ride down rapids in the least-populated region in Chile. On the shores of Lake Llanquihue is Hotel Awa—a marvel of concrete and glass that adds to the country’s collection of remote, contemporary luxury hotels. It makes a great home base for fly fishing, hikes up snow-capped Osorno volcano, and authentic cultural encounters with indigenous communities.
The areas further south are becoming easier to see by boat: Starting this month, Australia’s new, 210-passenger ship, the Ventus Australis, will sail four-night itineraries through the fjords of Tierra del Fuego; by the end of the year, luxury line Azamara Club Cruises Inc. will introduce a three-week journey that takes in the length of Chile, starting in Lima and winding up in Buenos Aires.
When to go: Early March—the tail end of peak season—when crowds have dispersed, hotel rates dip, and temperatures hover at a comfortable 60 degrees.
When not to go: July. Winters are cold and wet, and most hotels are closed.
Whom to call: Tom Marchant of Black Tomato.