What makes a perfect escape? Whether it's a hidden California wine valley, a white-sand beach in Mexico, or a not-to-be- missed region of Italy for shopping (and eating), we've got all the right places. Just pack your bags and go.
Why Among the wealthiest isles on earth, this land of coral walls, pastel cottages, and pleasant locals in shorts hasn't changed much since Queen Elizabeth II first visited, in 1953. "It's a place that can erase your memories of the modern world," says one New Yorker who retreats to this British colony throughout the year.
How to Get There Bermuda is a short flight from Boston or Philadelphia (both two hours). With the arrival of JetBlue, which you can take from New York's JFK (two hours also), look for more affordable airfares.
Where to Stay A cottage colony on the remote west end, Cambridge Beaches (30 Kings Point Rd., Sandys; 800/468-7300 or 441/234-0331; www.cambridgebeaches.com; doubles from $430) is from another, more charming era. Mandarin Oriental is pouring millions into renovating Elbow Beach (60 S. Shore Rd., Paget Parish; 800/223-7434 or 441/236-3535; www.mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $475). The intimate Reefs Hotel (Southampton; 800/742-2008 or 441/238-0222; www.thereefs.com; doubles from $488) has updated its rooms for a sleeker look.
Where to Eat After a ploughman's lunch at the Lighthouse Tea Room (Southampton; 441/238-8679; lunch for two $25), take in the panoramic view upstairs. For a formal night, the Fourways Inn (1 Middle Rd., Paget; 441/236-6517; dinner for two $130), in an 18th-century residence, delivers.
Insider Tip More fun than the bus (and cheaper than a taxi), the island's ferry system is a great way to mix with the locals—and to avoid driving a moped along the wrong side of Bermuda's notoriously narrow roads.
2. PUERTO RICO
Why This simple-to-reach isle is a rapid remedy for adventure-seekers craving an adrenaline rush. Rappel 250 feet into the prehistoric Camuy Caves, 60 minutes west of San Juan, or hike El Yunque rain forest. Wind down on a tour of Hacienda Buena Vista (Hwy. 123; 787/722-5882; $7), a former coffee plantation near Ponce, about 70 miles south of the capital.
How to Get There Most airlines fly to San Juan from major U.S. cities, including New York (3 1/2 hours), Miami (2 1/2 hours), and Dallas (4 1/2 hours).
Where to Stay Old San Juan makes an ideal base for exploring. Book a room at Chateau Cervantes (329 Recinto Sur, Old San Juan; 787/724-7722; www.cervantespr.com; doubles from $300), a boutique property in a Spanish colonial building with interiors by a local fashion designer.
Where to Eat Grab a porrito (fish taco) and honey-lemon ginger juice at Pure & Natural (1125 Ashford Ave.; 787/725-6104; lunch for two $30), in San Juan's Condado district. At night, dine at the minimalist Marmalade (317 Fortaleza St.; 787/724-3969; dinner for two $90), on a trendy street in Old San Juan.
Insider Tip You can pick up a pound of Puerto Rico's muy fuerte coffee at any market for far less than those beans at Starbucks.
Why Extending along the Atlantic coast, Georgia's barrier islands are pristine and uncrowded—perfect for beach hopping. Our favorite locations include St. Simons, Jekyll, Sea, and Cumberland islands. (Note: Sea Island is private and is exclusive to hotel guests and members.)
Where to Stay The recent multimillion-dollar renovation of the Cloister at Sea Island (800/732-4752 or 912/638-3611; www.seaisland.com; doubles from $725) pays homage to the original Addison Miznerdesigned version. Built in 1887 as a hunting lodge for the likes of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel (371 Riverview Dr.; 800/535-9547 or 912/635-2600; www.jekyllclub.com; doubles from $179) is a surprisingly affordable hideaway. The 10-room Greyfield Inn (Cumberland Island; 866/410-8051 or 904/261-6408; www.greyfieldinn.com; doubles from $350), a Georgian mansion with a broad front porch, was converted into a guesthouse in 1962 by Andrew Carnegie's grand-niece.
Where to Eat Courtyard at Crane (375 Riverview Dr., Jekyll Island; 912/635-2600; dinner for two $85) offers up local seafood. At Halyards (600 Sea Island Rd., St. Simons; 912/638-9100; dinner for two $110), tables are made of teak from shipwrecked boats.
Insider Tip Check out the golf cartsized tree trunks and limbs scattered along the shores of Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island.
4. LAS VEGAS
Why The culinary scene has evolved: world-class chefs have been bypassing bigger cities to cater to an increasing number of visitors intent on spending their time at gastronomic—rather than gaming—tables. Still, most top restaurants are inside casinos, so the slots are never far away.
How to Get There What airport doesn't have direct flights to Sin City?No wonder it's so popular for quick escapes.
Where to Stay Most of the suites at the Signature at MGM Grand (145 E. Harmon Ave.; 877/727-0007 or 702/891-7777; doubles from $200) have a feature nearly unheard of in Vegas: a balcony. Staying off-Strip has new cachet, thanks to the Red Rock Hotel & Casino (11011 W. Charleston Blvd.; 866/767-7773 or 702/797-7777; www.redrocklasvegas.com; doubles from $200), 20 minutes away. Backlit red onyx bars and ceilings dripping with crystals recall vintage Rat Pack glamour.
Where to Eat Former New York chef Rick Moonen picked up and moved to the Strip to open the seafood restaurant RM (3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702/632-9300; dinner for two $210) at the Mandalay Bay, which is also home to Hubert Keller's expansion of his San Francisco empire: Fleur de Lys (702/632-9400; dinner for two $148) and Burger Bar (702/632-9364; dinner for two $36). At Stack Restaurant & Bar (3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 866/339-4566; dinner for two $40), in the Mirage, chef David Haynes stuffs Tater Tots with Brie and serves white chocolate milk with warm cookies.
Insider Tip Walk through the wine store Marche Bacchus (2620 Reggata Dr., Suite 106; 702/804-8008; dinner for two $72) and you'll find a hidden French bistro on a lake: this is where all the chefs eat.
5. SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Why Don't call this a mini-Napa. The region may be filled with small-production "garage" wineries, but you're as likely to see cowboys on horseback prowling these hills as you are carloads of vino lovers.
How to Get There Fly into Santa Barbara—serviced nonstop from Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. The valley is a 35-mile drive away on Highway 154, which winds along the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Where to Stay On a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, the Alisal (1054 Alisal Rd., Solvang; 800/425-4725 or 805/688-6411; www.alisal.com; doubles from $450) has horseback riding, golf, and fishing. If four-poster beds and Tiffany lamps are more your style, there's the Santa Ynez Inn (3627 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 800/643-5774 or 805/688-5588; www.santaynezinn.com; doubles from $285).
Where to Eat Denim-and-diamondclad regulars dance the two-step to country bands at the Maverick Saloon (3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez; 805/686-4785; dinner for two $25) and then chow down on sandwiches.
Insider Tip The 1807 adobe Mission Santa Inés (1760 Mission Dr., Solvang; 805/ 688-4815) is one of 21 Spanish missions in California. Stroll through the rose-and-oleander garden.
6. HANA, HAWAII
Why Most of Maui may have fallen victim to high-gloss tourism, but the town of Hana is old Hawaii, where days are spent snoozing on the warm sands of Hamoa Beach or kayaking the deep-blue waters of Hana Bay.
How to Get There Numerous nonstop flights (from L.A., Seattle, Dallas, and more) arrive at Maui's main airport, Kahului; from there, Pacific Wings runs thrice-daily flights to Hana. Or drive 2½ hours along the winding Hana Highway. On your return, take the reverse route around Haleakala, through stark lava terrain.
Where to Stay The bluff-top cottages at the Hotel Hana-Maui (5031 Hana Hwy.; 800/321-4262 or 808/248-8211; www.hotelhanamaui.com; doubles from $425) overlook the bay. Ukulele jam sessions at the hotel's Paniolo Lounge draw the whole town.
Where to Eat At the Hana-Maui's Ka'uiki restaurant (dinner for two $180), chef David Patterson plates what he has speared on his morning dive, like ahi tuna. Ono Farms (149 Hana Hwy.; 808/248-7779; www.onofarms.com; $25 per person) offers an 11-course sampling of its harvest, including lychees, longan, and mountain apples.
Insider Tip If Hana is still too developed for your tastes, visit Piilanihale Heiau (1819 Hana Hwy.; 808/248-8912), a massive lava-rock structure that's the largest ancient place of worship in Polynesia.
Why Yes, there are plenty of quaint calèches plying Old Montreal's cobblestoned streets, as well as shops chockablock with fleur-de-lis flags and hockey paraphernalia. But along the neighborhood's southwestern edge, design studios and upscale condos have taken over industrial spaces; cafés, bars, and some of the city's most ambitious chefs have followed.
How to Get There Direct flights to Montreal's Trudeau airport are available from 21 U.S. cities.
Where to Stay The recently renovated Place d'Armes Hôtel & Suites (55 Rue St.-Jacques W.; 888/450-1887 or 514/842-1887; www.hotelplacedarmes.com; doubles from $248) mixes 19th-century architectural details with sleek, contemporary interiors. We like the lofty rooms in the original Great Scottish Life Insurance building.
Where to Eat At Cluny ArtBar (257 Rue Prince; 514/866-1213; lunch for two $38), try a pressed charcuterie sandwich and the white-chocolate bread pudding. Chez L'Épicier (311 Rue St.-Paul E.; 514/878-2232; dinner for two $100) updates classics like duck confit with mango and chiles. Pick up a souvenir jar of artisanal olive oil at the attached grocery store.
Insider Tip Go in the first week of July for Festival International de Jazz de Montreal—this year's artists include Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, and Mali's Amadou et Mariam. Some of the best acts play gratis on outdoor stages downtown.
8. BANFF, ALBERTA
Why When it comes to the Rockies, most travelers have overlooked this Canadian wilderness for the more familiar peaks of Montana and Colorado—until now. Brokeback Mountain was filmed in the area, bringing the region's rugged terrain center stage.
How to Get There Air Canada runs nonstop flights to Calgary from New York, Denver, L.A., and San Francisco. Banff is a 90-mile drive away.
Where to Stay With its Scottish-castle towers rising from the alpine forest at the convergence of two rivers, the 770-room Fairmont Banff Springs (405 Spray Ave.; 800/441-1414 or 403/ 762-2211; www.fairmont.com; doubles from $399) is as dramatic as it gets. Or check out the Juniper (1 Juniper Way; 877/762-2281 or 403/762-2281; www.decorehotels.com; doubles from $178), an eco-hotel constructed from native fir and Rundle stone.
Where to Eat Rimrock Resort's Eden Dining Room (Mountain Ave.; 403/762-1840; dinner for two $180) is known for its French cuisine, 1,100-label wine list, and valley views. Try the caribou in a berry glaze with mashed sweet potato in the woodsy restaurant at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge (700 Tunnel Mountain Rd.; 403/760-4484; dinner for two $90).
Insider Tip Summer is prime viewing time for Jasper National Park's Columbia Ice Fields or the Athabasca Glacier. Grab your fleece and hop aboard the Brewster Ice Explorer (www.columbiaicefields.com; $30 round-trip per adult), which climbs up the glacier.
9. LOS CABOS
Why While the highway between the sister towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo now sports a Costco and a Home Depot, this cactus-studded Sonoran Desert region at the tip of the Baja Peninsula retains the laid-back sensibility of a true Mexican outpost, where taco stands, sun-bleached resorts, and empty beaches give reason to linger.
How to Get There Author John Steinbeck had to charter a sardine boat to get to Los Cabos in the 1940's. These days you can take Continental's nonstop flight from Newark to San José del Cabo in seven hours. Other direct connections are available from Atlanta (5½ hours), Houston (four hours), and L.A. (three hours).
Where to Stay At Esperanza (Punta Ballena; 52-866/311-2226; www.esperanzaresort.com; doubles from $425), the 56 rooms have terraces overlooking Punta Ballena, where humpback whales feed during their annual migration. Hotel Twin Dolphin (Hwy. 1; 800/421-8925; www.twindolphin.com; doubles from $270) remains a favorite for its white-on-white simplicity, potent margaritas, and access to the best snorkeling bay in Cabo.
Where to Eat Rossy Taqueria (Km 33, Carr. Transpeninsular; 52-624/142-6755; lunch for two $15) dishes up succulent shrimp and scallops in corn tortillas; wash them down with an ice-cold Corona. For seafood risotto with roasted tomatoes and fresh Parmesan, head to Mi Cocina at Casa Natalia (4 Blvd. Mijares; 52-624/142-5100; dinner for two $100), in the courtyard of a historic adobe town house.
Insider Tip Rent a Jeep and drive an hour north to the colonial town of Todos Santos, where unpaved streets are lined with modern-art galleries. On the way back, look for dirt-road turnoffs to surfing breaks that attract California's top board riders.
10. MEXICO CITY
Why The high elevation of this buzzing megalopolis keeps days crisp and cool—making it a welcome retreat during summer. The Condesa district is Mexico City's answer to SoHo, alive with outdoor cafés and a vibrant nightlife; the newest addition is the intimate, oval-shaped Superficial (102 Avda. Veracruz; 52-55/5241-2600), where the techno beats continue until the wee hours.
How to Get There Mexico Citybound planes take off daily. AeroMéxico, American Airlines, and Delta all offer direct flights from New York (five hours), Miami (3½ hours), Chicago (four hours), and L.A. (3½ hours).
Where to Stay With its rooftop bar, nueva cocina restaurant, and design by India Mahdavi, it's no wonder the hotel Condesa DF (102 Avda. Veracruz; 52-55/5241-2600; www.condesadf.com; doubles from $165) is red-hot.
Where to Eat Contramar (200 Durango, Colonia Roma; 52-55/5514-9217; lunch for two $54) serves the city's freshest soft-crab tacos and tuna-sashimi tostadas. For a star-studded repast, head to the nearby Polanco district's Hacienda de los Morales (525 Vàzquez de Mella, Colonia Morales, Chapultepec; 52-55/5096-3054; dinner for two $100).
Insider Tip Don't miss Cuban music on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Casa Lamm (99 Álvaro Obregón; 52-55/110-899), a cultural institution in a 1913 mansion.
11. RIO DE JANEIRO
Why Brazil's most famous city is at once a big and bustling metropolis (population 6 million) and a romantic waterfront paradise, with 25 powdery beaches. Although it's technically winter in July, Rio's highs hover in the seventies.
How to Get There Overnight flights out of Miami and Atlanta mean you can start the day on the beach. And with just a one-hour jump on Eastern time, jet lag isn't an issue.
Where to Stay The Copacabana Palace (1702 Avda. Atlântica; 800/223-6800 or 55-21/2548-7070; www.copacabanapalace.com.br; doubles from $380) is an 83-year-old French landmark with winding staircases and the city's most glamorous pool scene. Coming soon: a $2.2 million spa. Hang out with the supermodel crowd at the beachfront Marina All Suites (696 Avda. Delfim Moreira; 866/376-7831 or 55-21/2172-1100; www.marinaallsuites.com.br; doubles from $318).
Where to Eat Ipanema's white-hot Forneria (112 Rua Anabal de Mendonsa; 55-21/2540-8045; dinner for two $50) is a must for fans of design, rock and roll (the jukebox counts more than 1,000 classics), and temptations like asparagus-Brie panini. Whether thirsting for Brazilian espumante (sparkling wine) or Krug, the cognoscenti of Carioca—as locals are known—head to champagnheria Ovelha Negra (120 Rua Bambina; 55-21/2226-1064).
Insider Tip Scheduled to open over the course of the summer, the Devassa complex (52 Rua Farme de Amoedo), just steps from the beach, is sure to draw the beautiful people with a brewery and a club that will showcase the world's top DJ's.
12. BUENOS AIRES
Why Onetime home to legendary tango crooner Carlos Gardel, Buenos Aires's Abasto neighborhood is—like the music—experiencing a revival. Immerse yourself in the history of tango culture at Gardel's former residence, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel (735 Jean Jaures; 54-11/4964-2015).
How to Get There Nonstop overnight flights to Buenos Aires run from New York, Miami, and Houston, arriving at about the same time that everyone is heading out for coffee and medialuna pastries after a night of tango dancing.
Where to Stay The Abasto Plaza Hotel (3190 Avda. Corrientes; 54-11/6311-4466; www.abastoplaza.com; doubles from $150) draws on the Belle Époque theme of tango's heyday, with Art Nouveau furniture and antique Victrolas. At the gift shop, buy a pair of Madreselva's sexy tango shoes, then join the hotel's free nightly dance class.
Where to Eat Dine on entrecôte and sip Malbec while dancers perform moves such as boleos and gaunchos at Esquina Carlos Gardel (3200 Carlos Gardel; 54-11/4867-6363; dinner for two $140), the city's top dinner club—and one of Gardel's old haunts.
Insider Tip Perfect your own moves with renowned tanguero Carlos Copello at his newly opened International School of Dance and Art (575 Anchorena; 54-11/4864-6229; classes from $3). You won't be an expert overnight, but you will be able to hold your own at any milonga in town.
Why The up-and-coming Goutte d'Or neighborhood technically may be part of Montmartre, but in spirit it is more about a lively multiethnic street scene than about the charmed life depicted in Amélie, which was filmed in the area. Think: smoky jazz clubs, buzzing African restaurants, and one of the hottest hotels in town.
How to Get There Many major U.S. cities have direct flights to Paris (about seven hours from the East Coast). If you are staying in the Goutte d'Or, get one that lands at Charles de Gaulle; from Terminal 2, you can take the RER suburban train to the Gare du Nord.
Where to Stay Kube Rooms & Bars (15 Passage Ruelle; 33-1/42-05-20-00; www.kubehotel.com; doubles from $400) has shag-covered sofas and faux-fur throws; an ice bar accommodates 20 people for 30 minutes at a time.
Where to Eat L'Olympic Café (20 Rue Léon; 33-1/42-52-29-93; dinner for two $50) is as popular for its salmon poached in mint tea as for its concerts downstairs. Senegalese specialties have earned La Nouvelle Histoire (30 Rue Laghouat; 33-1/42-52-91-32; dinner for two $50) a reputation as the best African restaurant in town. For lunch, locals head to Au Clair de Lune (1 Rue Ramey; 33-1/46-06-93-61; lunch for two $40), a sweet café decorated with vintage movie posters.
Insider Tip The music scene thrives at Le Blue Note (14 Rue Muller; 33-1/42-54-69-76), which showcases Brazilian bands every Friday and Saturday.
14. PARMA, ITALY
Why Famed for its gastronomy, with local specialties like its namesake Parmesan cheese and prosciutto, Parma and nearby Fidenza also appeal to bargain-hungry fashionistas. At Fidenza Village Outlet Shopping (Via San Michele Campagna, Località Chiusa Ferranda, Fidenza; 39-0524/33551; www.fidenzavillage.com), there are discount finds from the likes of Versace, Furla, and Camper.
How to Get There Milan's Malpensa airport and Bologna are both about 90 minutes away by car—though Bologna is slightly more convenient. Eurofly is the only airline that offers direct flights to the latter from New York's JFK—twice weekly until November.
Where to Stay Marquis Vittorio Dalla Rosa Prati welcomes guests to his 14th-century Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati (7 Strada al Duomo, Parma; 39-0521/386-429; www.palazzodallarosaprati.it; doubles from $191), a period-furnished seven-room guesthouse that overlooks the city's 900-year-old cathedral.
Where to Eat Splurge on dinner at the rustic-chic Michelin-starred Stella d'Oro (8 Via Mazzini; 39-0524/597-122; dinner for two $108), in the ancient town of Soragna.
Insider Tip Soak in thermal baths amid 1920's frescoes, sculptures, and bas-reliefs at the Terme Berzieri spa (Largo Berzieri, Salsomaggiore Terme; 39-0524/582-611; $205 per person per day), an Art Deco masterpiece.
Why Spain's reigning city of style peaks in the summer, when long siestas give way to dining at midnight, dancing until dawn, then sleeping until lunchtime. Once you land, there's no need to shift the body clock.
How to Get There Nonstop flights depart from New York (eight hours), Atlanta (nine hours), and Chicago (11 hours), to name a few.
Where to Stay Those in the know head to the hip El Born district, where centuries-old buildings house all-night bars and edgy shops. El Born's latest addition is the 147-room Grand Hotel Central (30 Via Layetana; 34/93-295-7900; www.grandhotelcentral.com; doubles from $250). Relax by the rooftop pool and take in the city views.
Where to Eat With a fresh take on Catalan dishes—black sesamecrusted langoustines served with corn—Ramón Freixa's Actual Restaurant & Café (3C Pare Gallifa; 34/93-295-7905; dinner for two $130) is creating a stir. El Xampanyet (22 Montcada; 34/93-319-7003; dinner for two $30) serves standout tapas such as patatas bravas.
Insider Tip On the outskirts of El Born, you'll find the newly renovated Santa Caterina market, where locals haggle over jamón serrano. The sparkling mosaic floor, Gaudíesque roof, and stands of skinned poultry make for a surreal shopping experience.