Where's the action? Right here! We uncovered the top getaway spots to put on your wish list this year.
Photo: Annie Schlecter
This 32-island chain has been a hot spot for celebs in the past, but it's becoming more accessible to all, thanks to the new airport opening at the end of this year on the main island of St. Vincent: no private charter or helicopter required.
Best bite: The sweet, saucy slice of lobster pizza at Goatie's Bar at Petit St. tastes even better with your toes in the sand and your gaze set to sea.
Sundown sojourn: Join regulars like Tommy Hilfiger for rum cocktails at Basil's Bar, a breezy thatched-roof watering hole lofted on stilts above Mustique's shoreline.
Choice transport: Spend a day on the water aboard one of Barefoot Yacht Charters's sailboats, which can be chartered bareboat or fully staffed.
Photo: Luiz Felipe Castro/Getty Images
The once neglected colonial buildings lining Casco Viejo (meaning "old town") now house gourmet restaurants and buzzy bars.
Great ZZZs: Check in to the year-old, beachfront Trump Ocean Club International Hotel, a sail-shaped vision of glass and steel that's the perfect representation of Panama City's glittering future.
Night out: The rooftop bar at the new Tántalo Hotel in Casco Viejo is a hot spot to enjoy tropical cocktails, like a signature Zen-jito (gin, cucumber, lemon, and ginger syrup) with the city lights around you.
Best eye candy: Tap into Panama's contemporary arts scene at gallery/café DiabloRosso.
Don't-miss dining: The renovated Sabor Restaurant serves conch stew and fresh ceviche alfresco, overlooking the water.
The local catch: Bimini is the Bahamas' big-game fishing capital, so channel your inner angler and head out to hook blue marlin, wahoo, and swordfish.
Bring it back: Stock up on artisan wares and locally made jewelry at the Bimini Craft Centre.
Best view ever: See the island's shores and landmarks from the sky in a helicopter tour with Sky Coast Adventures.
Close encounter: Set off in search of dolphins, gators, manatees, and gulls with a guided nature cruise with On The Water Adventures.
Sustainable eats: Chow down on wild-caught fish and shrimp at the just-opened—and jumpin'—Timoti's Fry Shak in downtown Fernandina Beach.
Photo: Sara Gray/Getty Images
There's no irony here—this spot earns its name with bright, sunny days and summer-like temperatures the majority of the year.
Primo place: The recently completed Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort and Spa in Noosa has spacious rooms and a sublime location—it's an easy walk to Noosa Main Beach, plus upscale boutiques and restaurants serving everything from ceviche to kangaroo burgers (seriously) steps from the water.
Shore style: Along the harbor, just outside of downtown Noosa, find everything that's beachy chic—chandeliers, wooden signs, mirrors, lamps—all dressed in white and neutral in The White House shop. For a splash of color, bright decorative art, coffee-table books, and colorful vases are around the corner at Saffron Noosa.
Day trip: The harborfront aquarium in the town of Mooloolaba recently completed a $4 million renovation; a walk through the ocean tunnel reveals sharks, stingrays, and coral.
Courtesy of Quilalea
Think of this chain of more than 30 coral islands stretching nearly 200 miles into the Indian Ocean off Mozambique's northern end as Africa's answer to the Maldives.
New escape: Azura at Quilalea, a private island hideaway, offers nine butler-serviced, thatched-roof villas built entirely by locals.
Fabulous find: Visit the silversmiths at the Fort of St. Jao Baptista on the archipelago's main island of Ibo to pick up a handcrafted silver bracelet made from melted-down old coins.
Go local: Spend a day island-hopping aboard a dhow, a type of traditional fishing vessel that has been used to ply the archipelago's waters for centuries.
Meet the natives: Dive the coral reef-filled waters around Quirimbas with Mozambique Yacht Charters to see an explosion of fish (more than 300 species).
Perfect perch: Soak in Victoria's new groove in one of Oak Bay Beach Hotel's therapeutic heated mineral pools right by the sea.
Get out: Explore the storied wilderness on a wildlife-watching cruise or rented kayak with Brentwood Bay Marina & Eco-Adventure Centre.
Indulge: Sip an Empress 1908—a signature tea-infused vodka cocktail—at The Bengal Lounge in the Fairmont Empress hotel.
Crown Copyright (2012) Visit Wales
Now you can take a modern-day pilgrimage through this famously green region along the country's newly created Wales Coast Path, the world's first walking and cycling trail to continuously trace a country's shoreline.
Packing must: Bring a windbreaker to tackle the notoriously windy coast.
Know before you go: Track your trip at walescoastpath.gov.uk.
Most unusual lighthouse: Bunk at the West Usk Lighthouse, a beacon-turned-B&B outside of Newport, South Wales, and enjoy a rooftop garden and hot tub with water views.
Authentic digs: Check in to one of Amanruya's 36 minimalist cottages (all with private pools). They resemble ancient village dwellings but are way more comfy.
History lesson: Tap into the region's past at the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, a three-hour drive away; the ruins are some of the most well-preserved in Asia Minor.
Fruit of the sea: Head to the picturesque village of Gümüşlük, where excellent eateries including Yakamoz dish out freshly prepared fish right at the water's edge.
Photo: Karen Kasmauski/National Geographic Stock
Here's what you may not know, aside from its World War II past: This archipelago in the East China Sea has what it takes to be the next big thing. Vacationers are drawn by white-white sand beaches, lush jungles, UNESCO World Heritage Site shrines, and a relaxed island vibe.
Local taste: Dine on a chanpuru stir-fry (tofu, bitter melon, eggs, and meat) at Kise, the teppanyaki restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa.
Souvenir Nirvana: Okinawa is known for its strong craft traditions, especially pottery. For the best selection, head to the Tsuboya Pottery District, on the main island in the capital city of Naha, where workshops and galleries have set up shop.
When in Rome: Explore the sandy streets of Taketomi Island's quaint village as the 350 locals do—in a shaded cart pulled by water buffalo.