With the end of winter fast approaching, now is the time to start planning your summer vacation. Whether single and ready to mingle or traveling with la familia, these beach locales are sure to inspire your next getaway.
Click through for travel tips on where to eat, stay, and play at our four favorite summer vacation destinations.
1. Cancun, Mexico
Cancun, Mexico: Once upon a time, this Mexican destination was the immediate answer to the question: "Where should we go for Spring Break?" And rightfully so. It was fun. (Still is.) It was sexy. (Still is.) And it had beautiful beaches, numerous all-inclusive resorts, and hundreds of flights arriving daily from almost every U.S. airport hub. (Still does.)
But Cancun has also matured in the last decade. Today, it's a premiere destination focused as much on families and luxury travelers as hedonistic college students. The food culture is elevated, the night life is more sophisticated, and the hotels are more luxurious and eco-friendly than in years past.
Next, where to Stay, Eat, & Play in Cancun...
2. Cancun, Mexico: Stay
Where to Stay in Cancun: CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort
There are a lot of hotel options in Cancun. Among the best is CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort.
The winner of TripAdvisor's eco-friendly Green Leaders Award and AAA's Four-Diamond award, CasaMagna boasts blue sky views of the Caribbean and Nichupte Lagoon, a spa that boasts the best couple's massages and foot baths you'll ever have, and a Thai restaurant that's surprisingly authentic.
3. Cancun, Mexico: Eat
Where to Eat in Cancun: Hartwood
Ok. Hartwood isn't exactly in Cancun; it's in Tulum, which is a short 30 minute drive from Cancun. But trust, it's worth the trip. (A cab ride organized by your hotel concierge will get you there.)
A love letter to the seductive flavors of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Hartwood's food balances sweet and spicy, fresh and dried, oily and acidic to perfection. There are no gas ranges or electric ovens at Hartwood. The only source of heat for cooking comes from a wood-burning grill and a wood-burning stove.
There are also no walls, no ceiling fans - no ceiling, in fact, apart from the sky and trees - and no tiled floors. A padlock on the front gate is all that separates the outside from the inside. As food writer Natalie Rose put it: "Hartwood is a non-restaurant restaurant." She's right, and you have to see and taste it to believe it.
4. Cancun, Mexico: Play
Where to Play in Cancun: Snorkeling in the Sea
The shoreline along Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which boasts the second longest coral reef in the world. See it in all its splendor underwater, whether you bring your own goggles, mask, and fins, rent them from your hotel, or take a day trip to Xcaret, a nearby water park that highlights the Caribbean’s marine life in all its glory.
5. Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida: If you haven't been to Miami in the last couple of years, you haven't been to the new Miami: its food culture is exploding with major new restaurant openings by celebrity chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli and Dale Talde, and its artistic horizons are expanding thanks to the opening of the Pérez Art Museum, the democratization of Art Basel, and entree to a traveling artifacts circuit whose members include the Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum in New York. (Recent exhibits include the Lod mosaics of the Holy Roman Empire.)
Combine this with South Beach's pastel pastiche of gorgeous art deco architecture and longstanding beach volleyball, hot body, drinks-in-the-cabana tradition, and you've got yourself the perfect warm weather vacation destination.
Next, where to stay, eat, shop, and visit in Miami...
6. Miami, Florida: Stay
Where to Stay in Miami: Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach
Set in a landmark Art Deco building, this beachfront hotel combines retro-inspired design and modern amenities. Among its most notable assets are a breezy pool deck with private cabanas, a permanent display of 11 paintings and sculptures from Art Basel 2015, and some of the best hotel dining in South Beach - its forthcoming Sarsaparilla Club, a Southern-infused Southeast Asian spot with Top Chef alum Jeff McInnis among those at its helm, is one of the city’s most anticipated restaurant openings of 2016.
If you’re the type who can’t unplug and chill, The Shelborne also features a 24/7 fitness center and free WiFi throughout the property. If it’s good enough for Kylie Jenner and Pitbull…
7. Miami, Florida: Eat
Where to Eat in Miami: GK Bistronomie
While Miami has always boasted authentic Cuban food and has been home to the country’s premiere food and wine festival, South Beach Wine & Food, for nearly two decades, its legit foodie cred has only jumped off in the last couple of years. That’s when heavy hitters like Jose Andres, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Robert Irvine came to town.
Currently on our “must eat here” radar is GK Bistronomie, the first Peruvian restaurant in the ultra-artsy Wynwood neighborhood. The brainchild of Chef Rafael Perez, a Peru native acclaimed for earlier stints in Ecuador and Florida, the 3,500 square-foot restaurant boasts an open kitchen and courtyard bar with an industrial-maritime design mashup and a seafood-driven menu replete with tiraditos, ceviches, salads and surprising mains. Lobster tail sprinkled with mascarpone cheese, anyone?
8. Miami, Florida: Shop
Where to Shop in Miami: Lincoln Road Antique Mall
South Beach’s Lincoln Road is home to more than H&M and outdoor cafe seating. On select Sundays, it’s the site of a vast antique mall that includes more than 100 vendors selling vintage clothes, handcrafted jewelry, creative home decor, and other fun curiosities.
From old school vinyl records to French sherry glasses from 1942 to Gucci, Pucci, and other classic Floridian frocks, the antique mall is a treasure trove of collectibles that make way better souvenirs than keychains and t-shirts.
9. Miami, Florida: Play
What to Do in Miami: Walk the South Beach Promenade
There’s a lot to do in Miami, but Ocean Drive is where it’s at. Because really, you didn’t choose to vacation in the city that’s home to the most beautiful beach bodies in the continental U.S. so you could take a historic tour of Biscayne Bay. You came to Miami for sun, and maybe a mojito.
If you’re feeling active, play some beach volleyball or rent a bike and cruise Ocean Drive and the charming residential streets past 20th Street. Otherwise, grab a chaise, open your umbrella, and get a tan.
10. Nevis, West Indies
Nevis: Located in the West Indies, Nevis is the smaller half of the two-island country known as Saint Kitts and Nevis (pronounced knee-vis). Though Saint Kitts is well-known among international travelers, Nevis has maintained its mystery, which is why it’s an ideal destination for the traveler who wants to relax but doesn’t want to go where everyone else has been.
According to Devon Liburd of the Nevis Tourism Authority, the island represents a window to the past: “It’s like taking a step back in time,” he says. “We are developing, but not too fast. It’s exactly as things used to be.”
Next, where to stay, eat, visit, and more in Nevis...
11. Nevis, West Indies: Stay
Where to Stay in Nevis: Montpelier Plantation
Several of the island’s best accommodations are converted plantations. Among the best is Montpelier Plantation, a former working sugar plantation that now boasts luxurious suites, a spectacular restaurant, tennis courts, and an outside spa that overlooks the intersection of the mountains and the sea. If hanging by the pool is your preference, you can do that, too; nestled between the mountain’s peaks, Montpelier’s pool and adjacent bar is a tranquil oasis best enjoyed with a good book and a sweet rum punch.
12. Nevis, West Indies: Eat
Where to Eat in Nevis: Sunshine’s
Sunshine’s is beloved by Nevisians and travelers alike for its fresh, traditional food served in a colorful, sun-drenched hut on the sand. Famous for its Killer Bee cocktail – rum, fruit punch, rum and more rum – Sunshine’s also serves a variety of salads made from island-grown produce and barbecue dishes made from local lobster and seafood, chicken and ribs. Stop in for a quiet lunch or dinner and dancing.
13. Nevis, West Indies: See
Where to Visit in Nevis: Alexander Hamilton House
If you’ve seen or heard of Hamilton on Broadway, you know that the revolutionary U.S. statesman is back in the spotlight. In Nevis, he’s always been a star. He spent his formative years on the island and visitors can tour his childhood home for insights to his ideologies.
14. Nevis, West Indies: Play
What to Do in Nevis: Bath Springs
Bath Springs is a must-visit for travelers seeking mind-body wellness and a bit of a challenge. (The pools’ waters, which are reported to contain medicinal minerals, clock in at 104° to 108°F.) There are two bathing spots: a small swimming pool-style spring protected from the sun by a sturdy roof and an exposed stream that allows for wading…if you can stand the heat. Both are free of charge.
15. San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico: If you haven’t yet been to San Juan, what are you waiting for? (Especially if you’re on the East Coast, from which it’s a short three-hour flight that’s affordable and direct.)
San Juan has it all: sea, sun, food, nightlife, architecture, and history, making it an ideal family vacation, honeymoon destination, or girlfriends getaway.
Next, where to stay, eat, play, and visit in San Juan...
16. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Stay
Where to Stay in San Juan: Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Built in 1919 by the architectural team behind New York’s original Grand Central Station, the Condado Vanderbilt is a gorgeous hotel with amenities that surprise and delight. Its spa boasts Puerto Rico’s first hammam, and its Red Flower Aroma Blending Bar allows guests to create their own signature fragrance. Also notable are Ola, its exceptional hotel restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Juan Jose Cuevas, and a just-opened restaurant that serves the first ever hotel-branded barrel of Patron.
17. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Eat
Where to Eat in San Juan: Santaella
Sophisticated is the word that best describes Santaella, the stunning restaurant and bar in Puerto Rico's hottest nightlife destination, La Placita de Santurce. A former hardware store, it was transformed by chef owner Jose Santaella into one of the island's most luxurious restaurants.
On Santaella’s menu is traditional Puerto Rican food with international flair inspired by chef Santaella's time spent working alongside food world royalty in some of the world's best restaurants, among them Ferran Adria at elBulli in Spain and Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin in New York. Trust us. Just go there.
18. San Juan, Puerto Rico: See
Where to Visit in San Juan: Old San Juan
Colorful, historic, and sunshine-drenched, Old San Juan is an Instagram photo waiting to happen. Dotted with notable churches – The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas – paved with limestone, and replete with gorgeous Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture, the former Spanish port is a Latin history lover’s dream.
19. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Play
What to Do in San Juan: Spoon Food Tours
Spend a day exploring the culinary history of Puerto Rican cuisine with the knowledgeable guides at Spoon Food Tours. The couple that owns the company and leads the tours lives on the island and both are steeped in the multicultural influences – including Caribbean, Latin American, European, African and Taíno Indian – that contribute to Puerto Rico’s flavorful food fusion.