While working on your New Year’s resolutions in the coming weeks, we recommend adding “plan a vacation” to the top of the list. We found buzz-worthy destinations with new resorts, exciting cruise calls, and noteworthy celebrations next year. Here are the 18 best places to travel in 2018.
Greece had a record-breaking amount of visitors in 2017 (an estimated 30 million), with many of them descending on the Greek Islands. Next year, venture beyond Santorini’s packed streets and Mykonos’ busy beach clubs and head to Paros, a quintessential Greek Isles getaway without the hordes of crowds — for now. Last summer, the Mr. & Mrs. White Hotel quickly became the island’s trendiest outpost, with sleek, whitewashed guest rooms a short walk from the vibrant village of Naoussa.
Climate change is threatening this Indian Ocean archipelago’s pristine coral reefs, which is why many of the nation’s new resorts are making conservation a priority. In 2017, the Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah became the world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO hideaway, and its sister resort, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, continues to champion conservation through the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program. This is a paradise that’s definitely worth saving.
Hawaii is always a good idea, but it’s an even better one now with Southwest Airlines’ announcement that it will begin flying there (with service from California) in 2018 or 2019. The Garden Isle’s iconic Coco Palms — which became Kauai’s first hotel when it first opened in 1953 — makes a comeback this year, after a renovation and rebrand to become part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection.
This charming North Atlantic island is coming off a pretty big 2017, hosting the 35th America’s Cup, but the country still has some wind in its proverbial sails. Eight major sailing events will take place between March and July 2018, including two brand new regattas. Chic travelers should head to The Loren, the island’s first new-build hotel in 45 years, which opened last winter overlooking Pink Beach. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson opened Marcus’ at the Hamilton Princess, and hotels from Ritz-Carlton Reserve and St. Regis are both currently in the works. Bonus: The already easy two-hour flight from the East Coast will be even more enjoyable when the L.F. Wade International Airport wraps up its major expansion by 2020.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Smack in the middle of the Riviera Maya, an hour south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a great base for exploring the area’s powder-fine beaches, Mayan ruins, and subterranean cenotes. Kick back at the new, all-inclusive Panama Jack Resort — the family-friendly property (formerly the Gran Porto Resort) is the result of a new partnership between the casual clothing company and Playa Hotels & Resorts. More family fun: In 2018, Mexico’s largest theme park, Amikoo, is set to open in Solidaridad, a few minutes away.
Phuket is still affordable Southeast Asia, but the popular Thai resort island is shaking off its party-time, backpacker scene a bit and going a little luxe. Late 2017 hotel openings including the boutique Anayara Luxury Retreat Panwa Resort overlooking Chalong Bay, and the latest from luxury hotel chain Rosewood.
The Azores, Portugal
Thanks to new nonstop flights on Delta from JFK that launches in May 2018, summer getaways to Portugal’s remote volcanic archipelago just got easier. Go to sleep in NYC and wake up on São Miguel Island, where you can wander the cobblestoned streets of Ponta Delgada, seek out geothermal hot springs in Furnas, or, if you’ve got longer than a weekend, hop a flight over to Faial island for a whale-watching adventure.
The Caribbean island has really upped its ante as a hot honeymoon destination: the Grand Lido Negril and Royalton Negril opened last year, Montego Bay’s Half Moon resort is revamping all its guest rooms, and in Montego Bay in June, the adults-only, all-inclusive Excellence Oyster Bay will open its Victorian-style doors, revealing 315 swanky suites that each have their own private pools or rooftop terraces.
It’s impressive how fast the Florida Keys have bounced back after a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in September — a testament to the 125-mile-long island chain’s resilience. The Moorings Village and Spa on Islamorada reopens in January, and Key West beckons with a new amphitheater and a free hop-on, hop-off bus service on Duval Street. On Key Largo, the chic Playa Largo Resort & Spa, which opened in 2016, is ready for guests to return, and in early 2018, Bungalows Key Largo will open as the Florida Keys’ first adults-only, all-inclusive resort.
While last fall’s devastating hurricane season left many Caribbean islands with major damage, its business as usual for many others. Cruise lines are re-routing ships while destinations recover, and Grenada is ready to welcome new visitors, with shore excursions ranging from snorkeling at the world’s first underwater sculpture park to touring a nutmeg factory. (This is the Spice Isle, after all.) In March, the new Silversands Grenada will lure travelers with sleek oceanfront suites and a 330-foot-long pool.
Los Cabos, Mexico
There’s no shortage of gorgeous places to sleep in Los Cabos right now. In 2018, Montage, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Four Seasons, and Garza Blanca will all open new oceanfront outposts in the area, promising private beaches, all-inclusive options, championship golf courses, and private residences. These are all in addition to the properties that opened in 2017, including the Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas and a dozen new treehouse suites at Acre, a rural retreat known for its farm-to-table cuisine. Los Cabos is made up of the towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, each with their own appeal — art galleries in bright Spanish Colonial buildings in San Jose, lively restaurants and spirited night clubs in Cabo — so make time to explore both.
There are two new ways to see this Southeast Asian gem in 2018: By land, at the new The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, or by boat, when Marella Cruises (formerly known as Thomson Cruises) homeports on the island for Far East sailings that include stops in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and more. Both options promise fresh seafood, rainforest hikes, and relaxing afternoons on palm-fringed beaches.
Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
The beauty of this lush peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast isn’t leaving anytime soon — the government mandates that 70 percent of land remain protected. In December, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo reopened after a $35 million renovation. Naturally, the luxury resort focuses on eco-friendly adventure, with canyon zip lines, volcano hikes, and catamaran cruises on the activity list.
This tropical paradise of 332 palm-fringed South Pacific islands is always deserving of a spot on the bucket list, but especially now. Last year, Marriott opened its first property in the islands, the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, which also brought more overwater bungalows to the country. (Think traditional bures, but on stilts and with vaulted ceilings.) A Six Senses Fiji is slated to open on Malolo Island in 2018, and the eco-friendly Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji is launching new wellness retreats for 2018. Each of these resorts exemplifies exactly what travelers come to Fiji for: picture-perfect beaches, warm hospitality, excellent diving, and all the solitude your heart desires.
Western Australia’s uber-cool coastal city is well worth the journey. Downtown, the new Elizabeth Quay waterfront teems with buzzworthy restaurants, hip cocktail bars, and cool modern art installations. Elsewhere, the new Perth Stadium will bring Premier League soccer to the city this summer, and a continued expansion plan promises 13 new hotels in the next two years, including a Ritz-Carlton and a Doubletree.
Catalina Island, California
It’s only a one-hour ferry ride from Southern California’s Newport Beach, but Catalina feels a world away. Spend a weekend hiking 27 miles of new trails, or flying over Descanso Beach on the new Catalina Aerial Adventure. All that cardio calls for a chocolate cone from Scoops, nestled in the town of Avalon, just a few blocks away from the ferry pier.
The Bahamas’ capital city is going big in 2018: After the long awaited Baha Mar resort complex finally opened its doors last year (adding a Grand Hyatt and an SLS Hotel), the Rosewood Baha Mar joins the club this spring. But even bigger news is Royal Caribbean’s 5,500-passenger Symphony of the Seas — the world’s largest cruise ship — which will set sail from Miami beginning in November and stop at Nassau during seven-night Eastern Caribbean sailings.
Sure, there’s the Singapore Sling, but there’s so much more on the menu here, where one of the world’s coolest cocktail scenes is emerging. Six Singapore bars made the 2017 World’s 50 Best Bars List, including Operation Dagger and Manhattan, a swanky, NYC-inspired room with leather couches and Art Deco touches. New options for sleeping it off abound, too: the Sofitel Singapore City Centre and the InterContinental Singapore Robinson Quay opened in October, and the island’s grand dame, Raffles Singapore (home of the original Sling), will emerge from a major renovation later in the year.