Top Ten Getaways to Beat the Winter Blues - Page 2

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Kanantik Resort, Placencia, Belize
GENTLE SWAY: Befriend the hammocks of Belize  (courtesy, Kanantik Resort)

5. Moorea, Tahiti
Pile up as many sick and vacation days as you can muster and escape to Tahiti's most accessible island. Encircled by a reef about a mile from the shore, Moorea's coast enlivens your desire to swim, kayak, and snorkel. You may have come to sit on a chair and read, but the warm Technicolor blue waters, rainbow-colored fish, and dazzling coral reefs hypnotize you to enter the sea. Hike to waterfalls, rent a moped and tour the isle, surf the epic breaks that inspired the creation of the sport, snack on the finest baguettes east of France, and then unpack your daypack to enjoy a candlelit oceanfront feast to fill your dreams for years to come.

4. Praia de Pipa, Brazil
When my husband and I stumbled upon this chic Brazilian beach on our honeymoon, we wondered why—and rejoiced in the fact that—it wasn't busier. Compared to the other beach towns along the northeastern coast Praia de Pipa (or Pipa as locals call her) is the prettiest girl in the room. Waters house playful (and, if you are a strong swimmer, approachable) dolphins and sea turtles. The village perches atop cliffs, with expansive views of the azure Atlantic rolling perfect waves below. Easy rainforest hikes introduce you to cheeky Brazilian mini-monkeys (that nearly snatched our lunch) and splendid sea views. Brazilian surfers love the long point break, while local shoppers and eaters appreciate the sophisticated offerings in town. On a rare day off from sunbathing, take a day trip to nearby Natal to have a white-knuckle ride on the dune buggies.

3. Placencia, Belize
Ethically speaking, you cannot spend a bad dollar in Belize. The country's commitment to the ecology of the land and her people makes eco-star Costa Rica seem lazy. After you pat yourself on the back for pennies well spent, begin to enjoy the lax vibe of this Caribbean beach community. Children paint seashells, play with washed up jellyfish, and entertain "panty-ripper" (pineapple juice with rum—a local cocktail) drinking tourists. Besides endless beaches to stroll on, swim in, and kayak through, the draw is having arrived at a place that doesn't announce itself. Rather, this peninsula sneaks up on you, waits until you settle into your hammock with a book, after you have spotted manatees out at sea, or filled yourself with barracuda and rice, and then she seems to whisper with a wink, "welcome to paradise." Because who knew heaven could be so, well, heavenly?

2. Phuket, Thailand
Got a couple of weeks for sun, snorkeling, and sinfully cheap massages? Hop on a plane to Phuket's swanky Indigo Pearl Resort for a five-star vacation at two-star prices. Nestled in a state park on a spectacular west-facing beach, this hip Andaman Coast resort treats families and romance-seekers to the finest of Thailand's largest island without the crowds. Enjoy postcard-worthy curry at their romantic Black Ginger restaurant; stroll the quiet Nai Yang Beach at sunset (better yet, take a walk out to the sand bar at low tide); or merely spend hours in the family pool sipping a beer and munching on pineapple delivered to your chaise. If you get tired of all that relaxing, sign up to ride an elephant through the jungle for an afternoon; scuba dive with the cast of Finding Nemo; or snap photos of the lively scene at Patong Beach.

1. Kauai, Hawaii
Aloha spirit lives strong on Hawaii's eldest isle. Slow-paced Kauai, with her country lanes, farm stands selling organic banana shakes, bubbling waterfalls, and verdant landscape may not be Hawaii's most sophisticated destination, but she sure is the archipelago's most alluring. Whether you set up camp in sunny (and newly spruced up) Poipu or in the tropical Hanalei, Kauai's natural riches make you happy your cell phone doesn't always get service. The symphonic bird call, plumeria perfume, baffling double rainbows, resident monk seals, hidden redwood forest, and divine gardens remind you why this Hawaiian island is the top choice for savvy outdoors lovers from around the globe.

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