As temperatures drop, the time is ripe to indulge your inner wanderlust. For many jetsetters, nothing beats a frosty wonderland, while others crave mornings on the greens coupled with poolside afternoons. Whether fantasizing about powder-covered mountains, conquering rustic terrain, or drifting off on warm, sandy shores, here are six destinations certain to ignite the senses.
Nestled amidst majestic red sandstone formations, this geological marvel — located 28 miles south of Flagstaff and a two-hour drive from Phoenix — seeps into the psyche on a cellular level. Luring everyone from adventure hounds to spiritual seekers, Sedona is revered for its vortexes (swirling centers of energy many believe offer healing and enlightenment), and, of course, the striking landscape. Tucked away on Oak Creek, L’Auberge de Sedona and its resident L’Apothecary Spa are the height of luxury. Standalone cottages with expansive decks and private outdoor showers stud the creek amidst the lush Sycamore trees and flowing waters. Or, perch higher up on the 11-acre property surrounded by the grandeur of Red Rock Country in one of their Vista suites.
With a dizzying array of over 100 hiking trails and all levels of terrain to choose from, an epic day of exploits begins with an early morning immersion in the outdoors accompanied by one of the engaging guides at The Hike House. The journey continues a few hours later at nearby Sedona Airport where Westwind Air Service whisks guests away on private charters soaring above the Grand Canyon. Coupled with their partners down on the park grounds, Pink Jeep Tours, this is how you do one of the Seven Natural Wonders Of The World in first-class, hassle-free style. After the aerial rush, wind down with a leisurely late afternoon of wine tasting just 20 minutes away from Sedona at Page Springs Cellars, followed by a prix fixe gastronomical escapade in the soothing alfresco surroundings of Cress On Oak Creek back at L’Auberge. The only way to top off a day like this is with the property’s resident astronomer, Dennis Young, for an imaginative stargazing experience like no other.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Those seeking aquatic pursuits against the backdrop of a sultry vibe head to Los Cabos where desert breezes blend harmoniously with the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez. Decadence abounds at Grand Velas, one of the newest beachfront resorts 35 minutes from Los Cabos International Airport that has redefined the all-inclusive luxury experience. Beachfront views are quintessential here, and the Ambassador Pool Suites deliver with over 1,000 square feet of indulgent living space, including a private plunge pool and expansive deck.
Gourmands are right at home with seven highly curated dining destinations highlighting refined French, Italian, and Mexican creations. While all are memorable, Cocina de Autor is a highlight, thanks to its 8-10 course tasting menu by Michelin star rated chef, Sidney Schutte. With a three-tier infinity pool and attentive staff catering to both families and couples seeking a tranquil respite, it’s easy to surrender. And, thrill seekers will approve of the stimulating offerings including whale watching (peak time is December through May), off-roading in the cavernous backcountry, and hang gliding. No resort is complete without a lush spa sanctuary, and Grand Velas has managed to elevate the experience with its Seven Step Water Ceremony, featuring a transformative sensation pool where guests succumb to sensory-igniting bubble beds, cascades, thermal lounges, and geysers. Designed to help visitors truly transcend, this is what an escape is all about.
San Diego, California
Steeped in vibrant culture, this Southern California refuge lures surfers and sophisticates alike for it’s laid back ambiance and miles of coastal bliss. And, thanks to year-round mild temperatures, there’s no shortage of spoils. Tucked away in a lush residential enclave, Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is a sanctuary of seclusion. Set on 45 rolling acres of olive groves and gardens, the property boasts a standalone spa compound complete with pool, robust wellness program and TRX, pilates, yoga, and spinning classes. Along with its farm-to-table style cuisine and revered tennis facility, including two European clay courts, simply staying put is all that’s necessary.
Mustering up the strength to tear away from the minimum 900 square feet Mediterranean style casitas with private patios (some featuring outdoor Jacuzzis and fireplaces) isn’t easy, but temptations lure, including La Jolla’s beaches and famed manicured fairways. Visitors will appreciate access to several nearby greens arranged by the resort: The Farms Golf Club (within walking distance), Del Mar Country Club and Torrey Pines Golf Course. Coupled with idyllic landscapes and Callaway Golf club sets complimentary to hotel guests, this is a golfer’s paradise. Or, set out to sea with La Jolla Kayak to revel in the views of the area’s shoreline and caves, where sea lions and dolphins are often swirling.
Charleston, South Carolina
With its decadent culinary scene (including many James Beard Award-winning restaurants) and romantic architectural charms of a bygone era, it’s no surprise visitors from around the world have been flocking to this coastal southern city. An intoxicating land of riches, history and tradition abound in what is referred to as the Lowcountry. Park yourself at Belmond Charleston Place in the heart of the historic district where majestic hospitality is on full display. Located a few blocks away at the southernmost tip of the peninsula is the area’s most revered neighborhood, South Of Broad. Book a tour with the Preservation Society of Charleston for a mesmerizing experience inside some of the most historical private homes in the country including Roper House at 9 East Battery.
Stroll down iconic Rainbow Row with its pastel colored facades, peek through wrought iron gates into tea-olive tree lined gardens and marvel at the lush window box plantings. Carve out several hours for Middleton Place, an 18th century rice plantation and National Historic Landmark housing America’s oldest landscaped gardens. Whisk off to nearby Kiawah Island for an afternoon of bike riding along the beach trails followed by al fresco cocktails at Andell Inn located within the quaint Freshfields Village enclave of shops and restaurants. With its local bounty, Charleston is pure gluttony for a gourmand (Husk, The Darling Oyster Bar, and Slightly North Of Broad to name a few). Make the downhome flavors of this epicurean dream even more memorable by creating your own feast under the guidance of award-winning Chef Bob Waggoner, inside his showcase kitchen on Market Street.
Photography: Demi Ward
Dripping in a high dose of ambitious terrain (Snowmass, Ajax, Highlands), Aspen is an alluring blend of A-list ambiance with the rustic charms of its roots as an authentic mining town. Limelight Hotel Snowmass is the shiniest new resort to hit the scene where all-out adventure meets a feast of family-friendly frolics. Convenience on the slopes is paramount and with its prime post, this is about as ski-in/ski-out as it gets — shred straight to the ground floor rooms at the back end of the property, with the gondola situated just a few swooshes away. Pepper in a five-story indoor rock climbing wall (the tallest in Colorado), outdoor skating rink, and two pools, along with daily happy hour specials, live music, and complimentary breakfast for all guests, and there’s no reason to leave this sophisticated powder paradise.
If laid back luxe smack in the middle of downtown is more your speed, The Little Nell at the base of Ajax Mountain is the epicenter of cool and the only ski-in/ski-out, Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond property in the area. Always elevating their adventure programs, Nell Escapades reaches the pinnacle with the first curated outing of the season, Canadian Heli-Skiing in the Cariboo Range slated for January 19 – 26 (space is limited to eight rooms).
Island life never disappoints and the glory of Hawaii is on full display at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. Set on the serene western coast, 30 minutes from Honolulu International Airport, this waterfront haven is a welcome escape from the in your face crowds and congestion of Waikiki. With its sultry ambiance and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and Waianae mountains, the adult pool is a mecca of nirvana. Sip on an exotic libation while gazing at the swaying palms overhead. Itching for an outing? Steps away, dive into the tranquil lagoon where the beachside staff provide complimentary stand up paddleboards and snorkel gear for hotel guests. And, don’t miss a visit to “Secret Beach,” smack in front of the property, where marine life is aplenty including tropical fish and turtles. While peeling away from this state of bliss may seem silly, a slew of waterfall hikes await. Waimea Falls, located on the North Shore in Waimea Valley, is over 40 feet high and plunging into the water is about as memorable as it gets. (Be sure to check depth and conditions in advance).
Keep the thrills going at Ka’a’awa Valley, part of the Kualoa Private Nature Reserve, where everyone from first time to expert zip liners blast over the same lush vegetation you may have spotted in Jurassic World. Find yourself back on property at Mina’s Fish House where Chef Michael Mina’s “line-to-table” spin on Hawaiian delicacies and beach inspired cocktails is redefining culinary adventure.