The Best Spots for Beach Holidays

Our island expert, contributing editor Marion Laffey Fox, dove deep into her little black book of top coastal resorts and found these amazing accommodations. Book now―your beach chair is waiting.

Entertain this fantasy for a moment: You cut your holiday to-do list way down—skip the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, and 24-hour hostessing—and make a quick break for the beach instead.

Photographer David Tsay

Escape Plan

Entertain this fantasy for a moment: You cut your holiday to-do list way down―skip the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, and 24-hour hostessing―and make a quick break for the beach instead. Have we piqued your interest? With the escape mentality in mind, we scanned coasts from the Caribbean to California for diversions with the highest irresistibility quotients. Choose one of these  getaways and start a new holiday tradition basking in the sun or lounging by someone else’s crackling hearth.

Left: Montage Laguna Beach

Stay seven nights from December 19 to 26 or December 26 to January 2 and receive Christmas Day or New Year’s Day free (no room taxes on December 25) plus a complimentary bottle of Champagne and a one-hour massage.

Courtesy of the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

WHERE: Nevis

WHY GO? It’s Nevis’ only resort plantation directly on the beach, which ratchets up the romance factor. Cheerful, lanai-style rooms are recently refurbished with light green walls and rattan furnishings.

HOLIDAY FUN: The 1778 Great House is dolled up in holiday decor. Enjoy caroling, Santa, and a Christmas pub tour; 800/742-6008 or nisbetplantation.com.

Published Dec/Jan 2010. Information correct at time of publication. Rates subject to availability; contact accommodations directly for final terms and conditions.

Ottley’s Plantation Inn

Courtesy of Ottley’s Plantation Inn

Ottley’s Plantation Inn

WHERE: St. Kitts

WHY GO? Set into the foothills of Mt. Liamuiga, this 35-acre boutique resort is artfully built into the ruins of a 17th-century sugar plantation. Its hillside location guarantees panoramic Atlantic views and breezes for all 23 English-colonial-style rooms in the Great House and nearby cottages. A 66-foot-long pool ringed by old sugar factory walls provides a romantic, old-world setting. New island cuisine in the Royal Palm restaurant lures gourmands.

HOLIDAY FUN: Christmas dinner, caroling by locals; 800/772-3039 or ottleys.com.

Mention Coastal Living when you book four nights and get the fifth night free.

Courtesy of The Inn at English Harbor

The Inn at English Harbour

WHERE: Antigua

WHY GO? This pristine, colonial-style hideaway just completed a $1.5 million top-to-bottom renovation. Its setting―the entrance of historic English Harbour on the captivating southern coast of the island―couldn’t be more ideal. Sterling silver-plated cutlery, gleaming china, and jacquard linens set the tone in the acclaimed Terrace Restaurant, where you can savor the refined creations of executive chef Fred Cougnon. For more-casual fare, try the Reef Restaurant and Beach Bar, enlivened by the beat of a Cuban band or tinkling piano music depending on the mood du jour.

HOLIDAY FUN: Festooned lighted trees in courtyard and main salon, carolers singing on boats in the harbor; 268/460-1014 or theinn.ag
 

Both Ocean Club resorts are offering discounts; rates start at $295 per night.

Courtesy of Ocean Club Resort

Ocean Club Resorts

WHERE: Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

WHY GO? The ultracasual, family-friendly Ocean Club and Ocean Club West resorts are just a 15-minute beach stroll apart―guests can stay in one and play in two! Both front Grace Bay Beach, which has legitimate bragging rights as one of the best beaches on the planet, and the third-largest barrier reef in the world just offshore. In the resorts’ new fine-dining Opus Wine Bar and Grill, chef Abby Marlow wows guests with a surprisingly extensive wine list and local delicacies such as roasted-pumpkin-and-coconut soup, conch ceviche, and herb-marinated pork chops with pineapple, apple, and cilantro salsa.

HOLIDAY FUN: A rum punch party and holiday-themed menus; 800/457-8787 or oceanclubresorts.com
 

Holiday fun includes Christmas Eve tree-trimming and caroling, Christmas Day presents and eggnog followed by lavish brunch, music and dancing in the evening.

Photographer Annie Schlechter

The Reefs

WHERE: Bermuda

WHY GO? You’ll love this gorgeous site on a limestone cliff overlooking a private, pink-sand beach on the island’s south shore. Inside scoop: Every room in this 1947 hotel has an ocean view, but three spacious Point Suites boast utterly private patio hot tubs. The four-month-old sybaritic La Serena Spa features a relaxation room with floor-to-ceiling views of a sometimes-tempestuous Atlantic. Don’t miss chef Philippe Haddad’s signature dishes, which might include pan-fried rockfish on Napa cabbage in the Ocean Echo restaurant, or beef Wellington laced with dauphinoise gratin truffle sauce at Royston’s.

HOLIDAY FUN: Christmas Eve tree-trimming and caroling, Christmas Day presents and eggnog followed by lavish brunch, music and dancing in the evening; 800/742-2008 or thereefs.com

The entire property is festooned for the holidays. Mrs. Claus arrives on Christmas Day.

Courtesy of Cambridge Beaches

Cambridge Beaches

WHERE: Bermuda

WHY GO? This legendary old-Bermuda, adults-only resort is the ideal place to experience holiday rendezvous. With four private beaches, it’s the go-to place if you’re seeking a sophisticated environment with grownup revelry. Don’t miss the pampering at the world-class Ocean Spa.

HOLIDAY FUN: Entire property is festooned. Mrs. Claus arrives on Christmas Day; 800/468-7300 or cambridgebeaches.com
 

Holiday fun includes caroling, piatas, and a Mexican feast on Christmas Eve, traditional American Christmas dinner and special gifts at beachfront Arrecife Grill on Christmas Day.

Courtesy of Ceiba Del Mar Beach & Spa Resort

Ceiba Del Mar Beach & Spa Resort

WHERE: Cancun, Mexico

WHY GO? Only 20 minutes from Cancún Airport, this 88-room resort is nestled along a powder-sand beach at the edge of a picturesque fishing village. Sleep in the luxurious ambience of Mayan and Mexican architecture; each room has a balcony or terrace with water views.

HOLIDAY FUN: Caroling, piñatas, and a Mexican feast on Christmas Eve, traditional American Christmas dinner and special gifts at beachfront Arrecife Grill on Christmas Day; 877/545-6221 or ceibadelmar.com
 

For Christmas, the chapel on property hosts traditional services

Courtesy of Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort & Spa

WHERE: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

WHY GO? Locals proclaim this the best time of year for consistently warm, sunny weather. Adding to the allure are holiday festivities from street parades to colorful church services. Bustling Los Cabos offers a wealth of diversions, such as shopping, every imaginable water sport, and golf. There are four Pueblo Bonito properties in Los Cabos: Sunset Beach, the ultimate family resort (all-day activities are offered in the just-launched Kids Club); Rosé, an Italian-style villa resort; Pacifico Holistic Retreat & Spa, the newest, adults-only, serene-meets-Mexico scene; and Pueblo Bonito Blanco, the group’s most casual retreat. We chose Sunset Beach for its family-fun appeal.

HOLIDAY FUN: Chapel on property hosts traditional services; 800/990-8250 or pueblobonitosunsetbeach.com

Las Brisas, Acapulco

Courtesy of Las Brisas

Las Brisas

WHERE: Acapulco

WHY GO? With more than 50 hotels in the area, Acapulco is a veritable vacationers’ playground. When you’re not browsing local markets or teeing off on verdant courses, watch the world-famous La Quebrada divers leap from sheer 100-foot-high cliffs. At Las Brisas, you’ll check into casita-style rooms with private plunge pools.

HOLIDAY FUN: Charming lobby displays of decorations made by local artisans, festive holiday menus in Bellavista restaurant; 866/221-2961 or brisas.com.mx

HOliday fun includes a tree-lighting ceremony, decadent buffet menus, New Year’s Eve Beach Boy Bash held at Coconut Grove, and a wondrous Candy Village in the lobby with creations by executive pastry chef Jamon Harper including his “sushi” made out of rice cereal and gummy bears.

Courtesy of Fairmont Orchid

Fairmont Orchid, Kohala Coast

WHERE: Big Island, Hawaii

WHY GO? Chill out or partake of the beach, water sports, and special Big Island cultural activities. Don’t miss the resort’s amazing Spa Without Walls, where treatments are accompanied by ocean breezes.

HOLIDAY FUN: Santa arrives in a koa canoe, tree-lighting ceremony, decadent buffet menus, New Year’s Eve Beach Boy Bash held at Coconut Grove, wondrous Candy Village in the lobby with creations by executive pastry chef Jamon Harper including his “sushi” made out of rice cereal and gummy bears; 800/845-9905 or fairmont.com/orchid
 

Holiday fun includes lighted Christmas trees and masses of poinsettias, Christmas brunch, and spontaneous caroling and hula dancing by the staff.

Courtesy of Kaanapali Beach Hotel

Kaanapali Beach Hotel

WHERE: Maui, Hawaii

WHY GO? The three-mile golden-sand beach is hard to beat at Kaanapali, recognized by the Waiha Foundation as “the most Hawaiian hotel in Hawaii.” Hula dancers perform free shows nightly.

HOLIDAY FUN: Lighted Christmas trees and masses of poinsettias, Christmas brunch, spontaneous caroling and hula dancing by the staff; 800/262-8450 or kbhmaui.com
 

Holiday fun includes a best ornament contest, s’mores and stargazing on the beach, cookie decorating, and Keiki (children) meeting with Santa.

Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Kauai

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

WHERE: Kauai, Hawaii

WHY GO? Treat yourself to casual elegance in a resort on 50 oceanfront acres. Cavort in the sea or in one of multiple saltwater swimming pools. The top-rated Anara Spa features outdoor treatments under thatch-roofed huts with soaking pools, lava-rock shower, and ginger-steam grotto.

HOLIDAY FUN: Best ornament contest, s’mores and stargazing on the beach, cookie decorating, Keiki (children) Meet with Santa, holiday brunch; 800/233-1234 or kauai.hyatt.com

Shutters On the Beach

Photo: Courtesy of Shutters on the Beach

Shutters On the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar

WHERE: Santa Monica, California

WHY GO? These sister properties are on one of the most stunning beaches in California, adjacent to historic Santa Monica Pier, vibrant Third Street Promenade, and lively shopping and dining districts. At Casa del Mar, sleep in one of 129 new, elegantly appointed rooms. Hip, airy Shutters has 186 glam rooms and 12 suites designed by White House decorator Michael Smith.

HOLIDAY FUN: Loads of chi-chi holiday decorations, as well as Santa’s Reindeer Turndown (at Shutters) and stockings hanging by the fire; 800/334-9000 or shuttersonthebeach.com, or 800/898-6999 or hotelcasadelmar.com

 

Montage

Jackie Caradonico/Courtesy of Montage

Montage

WHERE: Laguna Beach, California

WHY GO? On a 30-acre blufftop setting overlooking the Pacific near the vibrant arts community of Laguna Beach, this 250-room Arts and Crafts-style resort offers oceanfront luxury. At the critically acclaimed Studio restaurant, executive chef Craig Strong produces modern American cuisine that combines Mediterranean flavors with classic French techniques. The Loft serves more-casual fare, including an “interactive cheese gallery.” In the spa, the two-hour Surrender Program is tailored to your whims.

HOLIDAY FUN: An enormous Christmas tree on the lawn overlooking the Pacific, artfully lit palm trees, Santa tuck-in for kids with cookies and milk, cooking classes, holiday-themed storytelling around the fire pit, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas reading, twilight search for Santa’s sleigh; 888/715-6700 or montagelagunabeach.com

Holiday fun includes a tree-lighting (December 2), boat parade and “A North Pole Experience” with Santa (December 19), holiday dinners, and a beach bonfire (December 27).

Courtesy of Boca Beach Club

Boca Beach Club

WHERE: Boca Raton, Florida

WHY GO? Why not! It’s the best new thing on the Florida coast. Enjoy fab amenities: pools, golf, and a pristine spa. This year’s $220 million makeover has refreshed the 1920s Mizner classic on 356 acres to its sparkling best. Sleep in one of 212 spacious rooms, with modern cabana style and striking views of the Atlantic.

HOLIDAY FUN: Tree-lighting (December 2), boat parade and “A North Pole Experience” with Santa (December 19), holiday dinners, beach bonfire (December 27); 888/564-1312 or bocabeachclub.com
 

Five percent of room rate benefits the local humane society.

Courtesy of Vero Beach Hotel & Spa

Vero Beach Hotel & Spa

WHERE: Vero Beach, Florida

WHY GO? Vero Beach’s first luxury retreat is a contemporary ode to airy West Indies design. There are 113 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom guest rooms and suites, which have balconies. Dine in Heaton’s Reef Bar & Grill for casual fare or Cobalt for gourmet cuisine.

HOLIDAY FUN: The spirit of giving: Five percent of room rate benefits the local humane society; 866/602-8376 or verobeachhotelandspa.com.

Published Dec/Jan 2010. Information correct at time of publication. Rates subject to availability; contact accommodations directly for final terms and conditions.
 

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