The Azores' easy access from Europe and the United States (just a four-hour flight from Boston) has recently brought an influx of luxury hotels. At Caloura Hotel Resort on the Azores' main island, São Miguel, guests can go deep-sea diving, hike, or just read by the pool; Forte de São Sebastião, a 16th-century castle on Terceira, will open next month as a boutique pousada. Stata airlines has also upped the ante with more island-hopping flights, which makes it possible to explore Pico's emerging wine region, watch for whales off Faial, and dine at the authentic restaurants of São Miguel (try the cozido das Furnas, a meat stew cooked underground by thermal heat, at Terra Nostra restaurant) all in just a few days.
THE FACTS Caloura Hotel Resort 351-296/960-900; www.calourahotel.com; doubles from $137. Pousada Forte de São Sebastião 800/467-0772; www.pousadas.com; doubles from $182. Stata Azores Express 800/762-9995; www.azores-express.com. Terra Nostra 351-296/549-090; dinner for two $44.
Visits to this Greek island by celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (pre-breakup) are a sure sign that this haven off the coast of Páros will be the next of the Cyclades to hit the big time. Laid-back and unpretentious, Antíparos has all the elements of a Greek island cliché: whitewashed houses, a famous land cave scarred by 19th-century graffiti artists, even blue grottoes with magical powers (legend dictates that if a pregnant woman swims through one, her child will be a boy). Best of all are the miles of beaches, from Ágios Geórgios, with its picturesque white chapel, to Despotikó, a neighboring islet, which is deserted except for some recently discovered early Cycladic ruins. Visitors must fly or sail to Páros, then take a 10-minute ferry ride to Antíparos. Big hotels don't exist (yet?), so accommodations range from luxury villas (rented by operators such as Five Star Greece) to chic, affordable inns (Oliaros Studios) that offer sea-kayaking tours of the area.
Ilha de Santa Catarina, Brazil
A 300-square-mile island of 42 beaches, inviting lagoons, and hills that resemble Hawaii's (without the volcanoes), Santa Catarina, an hour's flight south of São Paulo, took off after a Brazilian magazine declared part of it the best place in the country to live. At Mole, Joaquina, and Campeche beaches on the eastern shore, kite-surfers coast over perfect waves while Gisele Bündchen look-alikes in barely-there bikinis watch. At night, the scene moves to Lagoa a Conceição, a neighborhood in Florianopólis where nightclubantiques store Confraria das Artes, opened by a São Paulo designer, attracts the beautiful and scantily clad. Until the Sofitel is unveiled later this year, the best places to stay are across the Hercilio Luz bridge on the mainland: Ilha do Papagaio, where tropical birds fly between fruit trees and guests eat oysters on the beach, and Ponta dos Ganchos, with 20 cliffside bungalows offering views of the Emerald Coast.
THE FACTS Confraria das Artes 55-48/3232-2298. Sofitel 800/763-4835; www.sofitel.com. Ilha do Papagaio 55-48/3286- 1242; www.papagaio.com.br; doubles from $166, including breakfast. Ponta dos Ganchos 55-48/3262-5000; www.pontadosganchos.com.br; doubles from $445, including meals.
A 2½-hour drive northwest of Marrakesh, the Atlantic coastal village of Oualidia (pronounced "wah-leedia") is almost too good to be true. Vast expanses of unspoiled coastline, a tranquil lagoon for swimming and windsurfing, and arguably Morocco's best seafood (served by fishermen who grill their catch on the beach) make it a favorite destination among in-the-know Marrakeshis. Stay in one of Oualidia's handful of unpretentious guesthouses (high marks go to the spotless five-room Ostréa II) or private villas, including the newly refurbished 1940's-era Diouana, with three Moorish-minimalist bedrooms, tadelakt bathrooms, a walled garden, and endless views of the sea.
THE FACTS Ostréa II 212-23/366-451; doubles from $68. Villa La Diouana www.33degreeslatitude.com; $1,960 per week, including breakfast; sleeps six.
This Indian Ocean island, 25 miles off the Tanzanian coast, was already renowned for its historic 19th-century Stone Town and beautiful beaches. What was missing, however, was a full-service luxury hotel. That changed in December with the opening of the 111-room Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski, a waterfront spa retreat on the east coast. The serene guest rooms with private terraces make a perfect base for day trips to the ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon groves at Kizimbani spice farm or shopping excursions to the likes of Gallery Zanzibar, which sells batiks and crisp cotton cover-ups. After sunset, Zanzibar sways to the sounds of Swahili-inflected jazz played live at the beachfront Mtoni Marine hotel, a property with its own sliver of sand and aromatherapy spa.
THE FACTS Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski 255-77/444-4477; www.kempinski.com; doubles from $350, including breakfast. Gallery Zanzibar 255-24/223-2244. Mtoni Marine 255-24/225-0117; www.mtoni.com; doubles from $50.
Written by Richard Alleman, Megan Anderson, Mark Ellwood, Eleni N. Gage, David Kaufman, Rob McKeown, Shane Mitchell, Kari Molvar, Whitney Pastorek, Douglas Rogers, and Anya Strzemien.