Last Minute Holidays Across the U.S.
From the West Coast
It feels more like Tangier than Palm Springs at this family-run pensione that channels the rustic romance of Morocco and the Mediterranean. Villas are filled with hand carved wooden furniture, with lemon and olive trees right outside your window. Fountains, fire pits and colored glass lanterns decorate the outdoor courtyard where group yoga and evening screenings of old movies happen (there are no TVs or phones otherwise). P.S. We hear the Moroccan villa is the one to stay in.
This is California’s only Relais & Châteaux property – the $30 million dollar renovation completed last fall includes an immaculate spa with high-end, organic, wellness focused treatments (think facials with Spirulina and sea salt/olive oil scrubs before your massage), a manicured 45 acres of gardens with hiking trails, complimentary Porsches to take for spins around the horse ranch rich San Dieguito Valley, and, of course, the rooms. The 49 casitas are stocked with amenities (private outdoor jacuzzis, free mini bars…) and the kind of small details that make you feel royal – in December, you’ll most likely walk into your room with soft music playing, the fire going and robes and slippers laid out… FYI They’re offering a “Home for the Holidays Package”, which includes a $150 resort credit for a two-night stay, available Dec 1st – Jan 5th.
This spectacular location built on Native American spiritual ground is so transformative and relaxing we didn’t even mind that the rooms were nothing to write home about (though on a return trip, our room was much lighter and airier). The treatments here—like the psychic massage and the sedona clay wrap—transport you to a place where judgement evaporates. Body treatments range from reiki to lymphatic drainage while spiritual treatments include meditation, hypnosis, and past life regression. It’s like 3 years of therapy in 3 days.
There’s definitely a Moorish paradise thing happening throughout this Scottsdale resort. Rooms are clustered in sections so it feels like walking through little villages with a Kabash pool where people lounge under the cabanas from day into night. The heart of the resort is the massive Moroccan-style Joya spa (the building is an architectural feat in its own right) their signature being the Hammam Experience – start with a herbal black soap scrub, followed by a steam, whirlpool, sauna, cold deluge and a final rest in the ‘warming room’. The resort is set at the foot of the Camelback Mountain, which makes for a great morning hike through the dry, desert landscape.
Just opened this past September, the Andaz Maui is a relaxed and affordable change up from the Wailea beach big hitters (Four Seasons, Fairmont…). Designed by David Rockwell, we hear the open-air lobby is kind of insane – you enter on a footbridge that crosses an infinity pool to arrive at a sandpit where you’re encouraged to remove your shoes while checking in…on an iPad. It’s super contemporary, even in the spa, which is done apothecary style, meaning your therapist will custom blend locally grown herbs, plants and fruits for your treatment. Oh, and Morimoto’s here.
So, the first thing to know is that it’s not on the beach but rather along the marina. We’d suggest taking advantage of the location by renting an open-top jeep and exploring the wilds of Hawaii on the North Shore. The hotel itself is more boutiquey than a resort and feels airy, clean and crisp, with lots of white. The vibe is young, cool, modern – less expensive Hawaii – with a spring break vibe for the upwardly mobile. There are four bars, a nightclub (which gets pretty cray at night) and an ‘adult’ pool where people can be found drinking coconut mojitos in the shallow end at pretty much all hours…
If you are looking for the kitschy, camp Hawaiian vibe – lei’s draped around your neck, hula dancing, a whale-shaped pool, tiki bars, umbrellas in your drinks, snorkeling, you name it – this is the place. It’s really well-priced, especially for being on the beach in Maui, with rooms at just $169 a night. There are often more ‘Swimmies’ in the pool than people, so definitely more a family place than a romantic getaway…
A gorgeous Auberge resort with a Mexican slant. It’s a big, classic style resort done well, with an especially remarkable spa – we were particularly into the Four Hands Two Hearts massage. It’s definitely a place to be pampered – from the time you are greeted by a personal concierge at the resort with a house margarita to days spent by the pool, where intermittent mini massages, chilled bottles of water and frozen fruit sticks are given without asking. The clifftop location on Punta Ballena (“Whale Point”) – between two private beaches overlooking the Sea of Cortez – is dramatic and stunning, especially in winter months when you can watch the humpback whales migrate past. The casitas and suites are as luxe as to be expected from an Auberge property but with muted colors and soft, natural handwoven rugs and blankets, along with Mexican artwork lending a tranquil and relaxed feel…
Just about a two and a half hour flight from LAX, Hacienda Beach Club is for the active holiday. Outdoor yoga, spinning and complimentary water sports, including Stand-Up Paddleboarding are just a few of the activities offered. Soak it up afterwards at the spa. Note: These are fully-equipped villas for rent, making it a practical choice for a longer stay – you have a kitchen so you can cook and a washer/dryer to do laundry, etc. It’s centrally located next to the marina and people who stay here love that they can walk to the beachfront shops and restaurants.
Iman means magnet in Spanish, and Imanta really does draw you in. It’s one of the best resorts we have ever been to – totally secluded and authentic. Located in a perfectly remote area outside Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Gold Coast, where the softest sand beach meets 250-acres of dense tropical rainforest on the ocean. It’s the kind of place where you can horseback ride through the jungle and end up on the beach. It feels truly one of a kind here, with no hint of chain (that commercial vibe). Fish dishes are based on what is caught fresh that day. All the rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that open up to beautiful outdoor stone bathtubs and showers.
Don’t be put off by the outdated website – this is one of the best small resorts for romance we’ve found. Every single one of the intimate, terra-cotta-colored villas at La Casa que Canta has incredible views of the sea from the cliffs they’re perched on, and almost half the suites have private plunge pools. If yours doesn’t, the saltwater infinity pool looking down on Zihuatanejo Bay will not disappoint. From the flower-petal designs on the bed for turn down to the many nooks and crannies throughout the property, to the candlelit dinners, this is an ideal getaway for two.
The biggest draw to this luxury boutique hotel is the long, private stretch of white sand beach on the nicest part of Playa La Ropa that it sits on. Lounge under the oceanside palapas with coconut palms from the tropical gardens swaying overhead and a cold piña colada in-hand. Though it’s on the beach, not all rooms have an ocean view (and we heard the garden rooms can be a bit disappointing…)
From the East Coast
Tulum is a total hot spot right now, and this is the THE hotel to stay at – we can’t believe it has any availability. The draw to Coqui Coqui is its beautifully rustic aesthetic – exposed concrete walls contrasting animal hide tapestries, the softest white linens draping the bed posts… The exterior looks like a cross between the nearby ruins in Tulum and a well-built sandcastle on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera surf. There are just seven rooms, so it’s quiet with candles only after dark. Their house branded natural hair and body products are stocked in the rooms (one of the owners, Nicolas, founded Coqui Coqui Perfumes). Their clean, simple cafeteria serves some of the best snapper ceviche in town.
Rosewood Mayakoba is a huge resort that’s very well run and well manicured. You’re surrounded by water, with the Caribbean Sea on one side and freshwater lagoons on the other, which you traverse by boat to get around. It’s very family friendly here, with a bunch of pools and a kids club. It’s hard to get a bad room as they’re all villas – private plunge pools, sun decks and outdoor showers come with each. Also, people come for the top-notch golf course, where they host the only PGA event in Mexico. We don’t love a massive resort but this place does it right.
Elbow Beach feels like the British Bermuda of yesteryear. The recent takeover by the Mandarin Oriental group means some of the bright pastels, floral wallpapers and grandad feel are changing to a sleeker look, but we hear the careful charm of the staff and the slow pace still feel delightfully old-school. The resort is home to Veranda, Bermuda’s only rum bar, with over 100 varieties of rum and a clubby, jazzy vibe. FYI The Bougainvillea cottages with sea views are said to be the ones worth coming for.
The main building could use a bit of sprucing up, but the resort is one of the largest, most inclusive on the island and a reliable full-service option for families, just over two hours from NYC. There’s a big focus here on kids activities and golf, and the course is pretty immaculate, with views of the water and towering coconut palms overhead. The rooms are standard and comfortable with balconies overlooking the beach and mellow, tropical patterns on fabric.
Despite the name, the tropical rainforest this resort is set in is a bigger draw than the beach. This is a place to come if you’re into exploring nature as there are guided tours through the forest led by local marine biologists, a bird sanctuary, bike paths, etc. Kids can hang out in the Iguana Club. It has all the upscale amenities you’d expect from a St. Regis property, including their signature butler service (they unpack your bags), Remède Spa, an oceanfront golf course and a Christmas Eve dinner hosted by Jean–Georges’ Fern.
People rave about the service at this 28-room resort on Antigua – it feels like you are being personally hosted. With just 28 rooms and no kids under 10 allowed, it’s an intimate and peaceful getaway for a couple with everything you might need on the property – a large heated pool, tennis courts, a beachside restaurant, private white sand beach, hammocks and snorkeling, a rum bar, a library to relax and read in… The look is English meets Caribbean, with grand colonial style architecture – standout features are the strong mahogany four-post beds with contrasting airy white linens. P.S. Apparently, the old–fashioned rum punch at the Reef bar is not to be missed.
If you are looking to feel totally secluded and off the grid, Guana is the place. One of the lesser known of the British Virgin Islands, it’s also one the few remaining privately owned islands in the area and is minimally developed. There’s not much here besides seven (nearly deserted) white sand beaches, 850 acres of untouched tropical forest, and this small resort with just 15 cottages and three villas. Depending on when you go, you can be one of the only vacationers here with just a few scientists or grad students around studying the ecosystem. The staff at the resort will tell you how best to explore the islands and how to navigate the steep trails, even giving you cell phones so you can call if you’d rather be picked up on your way back. Each room is named after a different Caribbean island and is simply decorated in lots of white. There are no TVs, phones or much else to distract you from completely unplugging. P.S. People rave about Xavier, the young Spanish chef at the on-site restaurant…
The resort is known for having the same feel now as it did when it opened (when Sir Winston Churchill used to come here to paint) – colonial-style cottages offsetting the tropical beachside setting with a bit of a retro Jamaican feel, croquet and polo on the lawn, and no TV’s to be found. The rooms are as on the beach as it gets (open the door and step in sand) and they are happy to bring you breakfast on your veranda if you don’t feel like making it over to the palm-covered dining room…
The raison d’être here are the ‘house ambassadors’. Once you book, you are assigned to someone that basically looks after you throughout your trip. Your ambassador will do everything from picking you up at the airport, to getting a rum punch, setting up ‘jet lag revival’ massages upon arrival and arranging private dinners on the beach. Complimentary ice cream (we hear the house rum raisin is pretty insane), water and fruit by the pool and champagne breakfasts are nice perks. It’s a small place with only a handful of rooms and is adults only – so best for a couple.
You can be as private or social as you like at this resort, which feels like a village of waterfront villas. Most people spend the day lounging by the infinity pool overlooking the sea, but you can chill by the private pool in your villa for a more secluded experience. The rooms are newly refurbished, simple and modern, keeping the gorgeous setting the focus, with features like outdoor soaking tubs and sun decks. The town of Port Antonio, where the resort is located, was a hotspot in the 60’s and part of the experience is checking out the restaurants, bars and live music in town. Fun feature: If you get tired of the beach, there’s a screening room that you can reserve to watch movies in.
If you are looking to escape your social scene on the Upper East Side, don’t come to this chicest-beach-house-you-have-ever-seen, designed by Kelly Wearstler, where the look is more heels than flip flops. The restaurants and bars are a step above your typical Caribbean resort experience – fresh made pasta at the signature restaurant Cobà, frozen cocktails and hummus wraps at the Half Shell, and cocktails and sushi for a very buzzy happy hour at the Sunset Lounge. The two-story spa and cute boutique that features local jewelry designers makes it a fun place to come with girlfriends.
This place oozes Nantucket-style, shingle-lodge B&B charm – only you’re on the beach in Florida. It feels like the holidays this time of year, which is nice if you want to be somewhere warm but not totally escape the season. Small antique-y rooms feature oversized tubs and flannel blankets while rocking chairs are set up in front of a brick–lined fireplace in the reception room where you can take your evening drink and hors d’oeuvres during social hour. The ‘innkeepers’ make you feel like you’re a guest in their house, and we hear the homestyle breakfast is a real highlight.
Lush tropical plants tower over the thatched-roof bungalows on the private white sand beach of this luxury resort on Little Palm Island. No phones, TV’s or kids under 16 makes it a romantic, secluded retreat with not much else to do besides lounge or learn how to deep sea fish or sky dive. The resort’s SpaTerre offers delicious sounding treatments inspired by the area – Coconut Sugar Body Polish or a Margarita Key Lime Pedicure. They also offer massages on the beach for optimal relaxation.
Admittedly not one of the most exciting getaway options, the Ritz in Naples is a classic, large-scale resort experience without the international flight. You can check in and pretty much never leave, with seven different dining options, beach sports, extensive spa and a really great kids program called ‘Nature’s Wonders’ that features an in-house aquarium and classes on natural sciences, sea creatures and ecosystems for ages 5-12.