From Antíparos to Zanzibar, we've tracked down 12 new hot spots where you'll find pristine sand, local culture, and picture-perfect sunsets. What are you waiting for?
Hua Hin, Thailand
Like much of the sea pinedotted coast within a few hours of Bangkok, Hua Hin started out as a little-known village where the only commuting involved the local fishermen sailing to and fro. Its popularity has grown exponentially as Siamese high society has turned it and the surrounding towns (Cha-am and Pranburi in particular) into the Far East's answer to the Hamptons. Very private and emphasizing clean-lined modern design, a clutch of boutique hotels like Aleenta, Evason Hideaway, and Praseban Resort have debuted in the last few years; top Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag is set to complete a hotel in Cha-am in early 2007. While dining at breezy seaside docks and browsing nightly food markets are absolute musts, new restaurants like Supatra by the Sea have opened to feed the stylish crowds. Getting to Hua Hin is easier than ever with charter flights from Bangkok on SGA, the regional shuttle, but colonial-era railcars are still a timeless way to arrive.
THE FACTS Aleenta 66-2/508-5333; www.aleenta.com; doubles from $162. Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa 66-32/618-200; www.sixsenses.com; doubles from $450. Praseban Resort 66-32/630-590; ww.prasebanresort.com; doubles from $152, including breakfast. Supatra by the Sea 66-32/536-5612; dinner for two $25.
More than a year after the devastating tsunami, a multimillion-dollar recovery effort has helped propel Sri Lanka's south-coast beach scene back into action. The fort city of Galle—a three-hour coastal drive from the capital, Colombo—is at the heart of the renaissance.Two resorts on the forefront: Amanwella's 30 minimalist suites, the nation's plushest, and the Fortress, a spa and yoga-centric property from the team behind the Maldives' Huvafen Fushi. For a little local color (and flavor), book a table at Firefly, a Euro-Lankan restaurant and lounge set in a restored colonial mansion. In Galle itself, the tiny boutique Mimimango stocks a colorful selection of clothing from India and Indonesia. The shop's boho-chic sequined or embroidered silk caftans are perfect for beachside lounging.
THE FACTS Amanwella 94-47/224-1096; www.amanwella.com; doubles from $550. The Fortress 800/525-4800; www.the fortress.lk; doubles from $420, including breakfast and dinner. Firefly 94-91/545-1641; dinner for two $35. Mimimango 94-77/751-3473; www.mimimango.com.
A 90-minute flight from Perth, Esperance is the last of Australia's unspoiled beaches and a haven for resort-weary travelers seeking a genuine brush with nature. Kangaroos frolic on the beach at Lucky Bay, a shipwreck makes for excellent diving, and the vistas along the Great Ocean Drive are in a class by themselves. Newfound prosperity in this turquoise oasis on Western Australia's southeast coast has even brought some creature comforts. Coffee devotees congregate at the Onshore Café, a buzzy in-town hangout serving salads and sandwiches, and the beds at Esperance Seaside Apartments are topped with duvets to ward off the evening chill. A more eco-conscious experience can be had at the remote Woody Island, with its back-to-basics canvas tents. Jump ship from a Mackenzie's Island cruise to get there, or stay on board to see the sea lions and dolphins of Recherche Archipelago.
THE FACTS Onshore Café 61-8/9071-2575; lunch for two $34. Esperance Seaside Apartments 61-8/9072-0044; www.esperanceseaside.com; doubles from $113. Woody Island Ecostays Book through Mackenzie's Island Cruises, 61-8/9071-5757; www.woodyisland.com.au; doubles from $27.
Great Oyster Bay, Tasmania
The east coast of Tasmania has been a well-kept Aussie secret for some time—and for good reason. Thanks to sheltering hills and warm offshore currents, it's the antipodean alternative to the Mediterranean, with one of the country's best year-round climates. The coast is grabbing attention at last, though, for the opening of a handful of stylish hotels, most notably the Avalon Coastal Retreat, which overlooks Great Oyster Bay, off the Tasman Highway. A onetime farmhouse, it has been transformed by local architect Craig Rosevear into a three-bedroom Modernist glass house with astonishing views across the Freycinet Peninsula and National Park. The B&B doesn't have a restaurant, but guests have access to a kitchen stocked with smoked eel and gamekeeper sausages from the Wursthaus Kitchen, Tassie's "it" purveyor.
THE FACTS Avalon Coastal Retreat 61-1/3003-61136; www.avaloncoastalretreat.com.au; from $375 a night; sleeps six.
Cabo San Lucas is favorite of L.A.'s party crowd. But beach lovers who want peace and quiet should head farther north on the Baja Peninsula's rugged Highway 19, where the only sound you'll hear is that of massive rollers pounding the deserted Pacific coastline. As the winter wind shifts the surf into high gear, California's top boarders begin their annual migration south to makeshift camps between Pescadero and Todos Santos. Sandy tracks in dry washes peeling off from the main road are often the only sign that the wave-riding tribe is in residence, so you'll need to navigate carefully between stands of prickly saguaro to find Los Cerritos (at kilometer marker 64) and San Pedrito beaches (at marker 56). At Playa Los Lobos, outside Todos Santos, you'll find miles of creamy sand interrupted only by battered driftwood. After a long day battling the waves, surfers head for the rooftop bar at Posada La Poza, a favored spot for potent sunset margaritas. If you're not the type to pitch a tent, this hacienda is the closest you'll come to sleeping beachside.
THE FACTS Posada La Poza 52-612/145-0400; www.lapoza.com; doubles from $165, including breakfast.
How do you know when a destination hasn't been trammeled by Americans?When it's a challenge to find locals who speak English. Such is the charm of the Dominican Republic, which has long been on the radar of A-listers (Oscar de la Renta, the Clintons); now, with low fares on JetBlue, it's even easier (and less expensive) to get to. The Sivory Punta Cana, a 55-suite property open since December and situated on a long expanse of untouched beach, offers visitors a low-key hideaway. In Playa Dorada, where the choppy surf and rugged landscape set a more adventurous tone, the 50-suite Casa Colonial reflects the area's European influence. On the horizon: Playa Grande, a 2,000-acre community of invitation-only residences (Moby and Alex von Furstenberg are early members), a recording studio, and several high-end hotels set to open in 2007.
THE FACTS Sivory Punta Cana 809/552-0500; www.sivorypuntacana.com; doubles from $517. Casa Colonial Beach Resort & Spa 809/320-3232; www.vhhr.com; doubles from $350. Playa Grande Resorts 809/582-0860; www.pgresorts.com.
For years, St. Lucia has been that charming out-of-the-way Caribbean island. It won't stay unspoiled for long: near-constant real estate development, the inauguration of daily nonstop flights (Delta from Atlanta, American from Miami), and Britain's World Travel Award for best honeymoon destination three years running have brought attention to the island, known for its rugged interior outlined by empty beaches. The rustic southern half of the island is full of fishing villages, waterfalls, and cottage-style plantation villas. There are more modern amenities available in the capital city of Castries (a one-hour drive north from the airport). The French Creoleinspired Coco Palm resort has Wi-Fi service, yoga cruises, and guides who'll take you through the 19,000-acre rain forest on the new zip line.
THE FACTS Coco Palm 758/456-2800; www.coco-resorts.com; doubles from $145.
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.
The store sells batiks and crisp cotton cover-ups.
Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski
Villa La Diouana
Ilha do Papagaio
Confraria das Artes Nightclub
A nightclub-cum-antiques store.
Five Star Greece
With more than 100 houses and estates around the country, Five Star Greece prides itself on authentic experiences, whether you want Mykonos glamour or barefoot beach luxury.
Standout On Corfu’s northeast coast, Corfu Estate House bridges the privacy of a villa (with its own jetty) and the services of a hotel (seven bedrooms; $55,613 a week).
Pousada Forte de São Sebastião
Caloura Hotel Resort
Sivory Punta Cana
A new breed of boutique hotel is sprouting up along the Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast, giving the area’s massive all-inclusive resorts some serious competition. One of the best of these intimate newcomers is Sivory Punta Cana, a secluded romantic resort on a long stretch of beach about an hour’s drive north of Punta Cana International Airport. The 11-acre grounds are dotted with sea grape trees and two-story terracotta villas, which house 55 large, handsome suites, all with floor-to-ceiling oceanfront windows and bathrooms furnished with soaking tubs and spacious showers (both built for two). As nearby resorts are more buffet than soufflé, the hotel’s emphasis on food and cocktails is a welcome change. You can choose from among three restaurants—Asian fusion, Mediterranean, or nouvelle French—and three lounges (including a cigar bar). The wine cellar is stocked with more than 8,000 bottles; the remainder of the collection is stocked in small refrigerators in every room.
Avalon Coastal Retreat
The east coast of Tasmania has been a well-kept Aussie secret for some time—and for good reason. Thanks to sheltering hills and warm offshore currents, it’s the antipodean alternative to the Mediterranean, with one of the country’s best year-round climates. A onetime farmhouse off the Tasman Highway, the Avalon Coastal Retreat has been transformed by local architect Craig Rosevear into a three-bedroom Modernist glass house, with a pine soaking tub and locally made oak beds. The B&B doesn’t have a restaurant, but guests have access to a kitchen stocked with chicken and herb sausages from the Wursthaus Kitchen, a top food purveyor in Tasmania.
Woody Island Ecostays
Esperance Island View Apartments
The shop's boho-chic sequined or embroidered silk caftans are perfect for beachside lounging.
Supatra by the Sea
Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa, Hua Hin
What’s It’s Like: The French Creole-inspired 101-room resort has Wi-Fi service, yoga cruises, and “swim-up rooms” (at a higher cost), which open directly into the grand swimming pool and Caribbean bistro,which serves some of the best rum cocktails on St. Lucia, a sarong is as dressy as it gets for dinner. The hotel arranges trips through the 19,000-acre rain forest on the new zip line, and can book sunset catamaran cruises and day trips to Martinique or the Grenadines.
Why It’s a Bargain: Guests can make all manner of customized requests: type airport transfer, color of room, champagne and snack preferences.
Casa Colonial Beach Resort & Spa
The absence of pink walls and plastic furniture isn’t the only refreshing thing that sets Casa Colonial apart from other hotels in the Dominican Republic. Guests arriving at the 2 1/2-acre retreat, on the northern coast, pass through the lobby’s majestic white arches while Edith Piaf croons in the background. They’re then led to one of just 50 suites, each an homage to colonial sophistication. Once settled, they can visit the low-density beach, one of the two restaurants, the rooftop infinity pool (with Atlantic views), or the 12,000-square-foot spa, which offers beachside Pilates and yoga classes.
Posada la Poza
Ponta dos Ganchos
A 20-bungalow retreat spread over 20 acres of Brazilian beachfront, Ponta dos Ganchos is picturesque to the extreme: a rain forest looms just beyond the shore; three tiny islands, which encircle a sandy bay, are reachable by canoe or kayak. The restaurant serves Brazilian and French fare, and romantic torchlit dinners can be arranged on one of the islands. For guests to take in all this beauty, the wood-and-stone clifftop cottages have glass walls and spacious decks with stellar views. The newest (and most luxurious) bungalows have private saunas, pools, and home cinemas for viewing any of the hotel’s 200 DVD’s.