New year, new places to travel. These 10 islands made this year’s hot list of the best places to travel in 2017 thanks to a host of new resorts and reasons to visit. So pack your bags and start planning your next getaway.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the invention of the overwater bungalow, invented in this South Pacific haven. The first new luxury resort on the island in nearly 10 years, Conrad Bora Bora Nui debuts in March 2017 and ups the overwater bungalow ante with the only two-story designs in the destination.
U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to explore this trio of Caribbean islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix). While the 133-square-mile chain has history in spades — Christopher Columbus touched down in 1493 — 2017 marks a banner year as the USVI celebrates its Centennial, with special events (festivals, parades and presumably lots of rum cake) continuing throughout the year. Also historic, Caneel Bay, the 60-year-old, 170-acre escape in St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park founded by environmentalist and preservationist Laurance Rockefeller, just celebrated its diamond anniversary. The property is bringing back the original beauty of its pared-down, 1950s-inspired Scandinavian style.
This quiet island is waking up. Luxe boutique Zemi Beach House recently opened with classic details and a laid-back vibe that call to the local natural beauty of Shoal Bay East beach. On Merrywing Bay next to sister property CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, The Reef by CuisinArt recently unveiled 80 new suites. Here, farm-to-table fare means local fish and fresh produce from the on-site Hydroponic Farm. The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla took over the former Viceroy Anguilla with villas that overlook white-sand beaches and the rugged coral coastline.
Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer were among the first guests at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, a 642-acre that opened in May 2016 on the island’s west coast 17 miles from Honolulu. Closer to the action of Waikiki, the Surfjack Hotel opened in May with a dose of vintage 1960s Hawaii, down to its painted murals and birds of paradise wallpaper by local artists that are just begging to be Instagramed. Pacific Beach Hotel re-emerges in the fall as Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, whose $115 million upgrades include two new restaurants by celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Travel here is now easier than ever thanks to recent renovations at both international airports. One of Grand Cayman’s first hotel openings in years, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa opened in November, with 266 design-centric guest rooms along a 500-foot coral sand stretch of Seven Mile Beach. At the grass-and-teak filled, flip-flop friendly Margaritaville Beach Resort, which will open in early 2017 with 286 guest rooms, kids can cruise down the two-story waterslide and you’ve got a License to Chill at the bar with the same name.
Fiji is poised for a comeback after 2016’s Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most severe on record. The quintessential Fijian Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort on Savusavu Bay reopened in September with 25 newly thatched houses known as bures. For total seclusion, guests are ferried via seaplane to the remote Kokomo Island, a new collection of 21 bures and five villas on uninhabited Yaukuve Island.
Hey, sailors: In May, the 35th annual America’s Cup heads to the pink-sand beaches of the Great Sound, a prime time for racing enthusiasts. The event’s official hotel partner, The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, transformed its “pink palace” with new guests suites, exhale spa, a state-of-the-art marina and three new restaurants including celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new venue, Marcus’. The upcoming Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel and branded residences plan to open a mega-yacht marina in time for the race, but keep this island on your long-term radar: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones break ground on the redevelopment of the famed Ariel Sands resort in 2017.
Private jet is the best new way for VIPs to travel south: Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, now offers direct seaplane air service with Key West Seaplanes from Florida airports to the property’s private beach pier. Slightly farther north on Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort & Spa debuted last summer with signature Sunshine State coral reefs and sea glass, plus 144 rooms and suites, 10 secluded bungalows and a standalone luxury guesthouse.
Sea Island, Georgia
The state appears on many travel hot lists for 2017, especially thanks to Georgia’s quirky, craggy coast that threads throughout a chain of barrier islands — the most idyllic of which may be at the private resort community of Sea Island, with its five-mile stretch of coastline. Historic Mediterranean-style hotel The Cloister recently added 63 rooms, making it the perfect home base for spa-going, golf and even seeing the sea turtles nest.
Turks and Caicos
The island’s next hotspot may be The Shore Club, the only development on Providenciales’ Long Bay Beach with 106 ocean view suites and six luxury villas on a nine-acre stretch. On popular, pristine Grace Bay Beach, Grace Bay Club‘s tropical-chic redesign led by interior designer Thom Filicia includes redesigned lobby and guest rooms, the new Infiniti Restaurant and Raw Bar and The Residences, a trio of freestanding, beachfront villas. To get off the radar, the eco-conscious Sailrock Resort debuts this year on untouched South Caicos Island — secluded beaches are the buzz.