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Fiji is back, and better than ever after some serious post-monsoon damage. The elegant Wakaya Club, having been purchased by the Bronfman family, emerges from a multimillion-dollar face lift. Not to be outdone, Laucala Island, the world’s most expensive hotel (built by the owner of Red Bull), just reopened after an eight-month redo (following monsoon damage). As usual, Laucala offers the ultimate in activities, including a private submarine.
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Beach bums running from Zika are going long-haul this year. And if you're on the run, why not go for the best sea and sand in the world: the Maldives! With more access from all across the globe and the strong dollar, sexy resorts like the One & Only Reethi Rah, sport addict’s dreamland, Velaa Private Island, and LVMH’s uber-chic Cheval Blanc will be joined by the new St. Regis, which is sure to be a magnet. This might be just the year for your Maldives bucket-list adventure.
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Tel Aviv is one of the trendiest destinations in the Mediterranean, with its burgeoning food scene and night life that goes until dawn. Game-changing recent hotels have seriously upped the luxury quotient, such as the design-forward Norman and the fabulous Ritz-Carlton Herzilya located in the sandy suburbs of the city. More hot news in Israel: this year the W Jaffa becomes the first W Hotel in the country. Located in the old town of Jaffa, it is the only luxury beachfront hotel within walking distance to the neighborhood's fabulous art galleries, acclaimed restaurants, and buzzing bars and clubs.
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With a newly upgraded luxe quotient, Ireland will literally steal the upscale spotlight from classic destinations like France this year. Savvy travelers love that Ireland still feels a bit off the grid but now offers a host of fabulous golf courses along with major hotel renovations like Ashford Castle. Furthermore, the uber-luxe Belmond Grand Hibernian train is the first of its kind on the island. All aboard!
This will be the year for Antarctica. Luxury ships like the new Ponant and Quark’s all-suite Island Sky finally make the experience bearable for the soft adventurers among us. And with special flights now jumping over the bumpy Drake Passage, explorers avoid the sea sickness and can see Antarctica in just seven days. Don’t want to sail? Stay at the incredible new White Desert Adventures Tented Safari Camp. Told you it was this extraordinary destination's year!
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Thanks to some eye-popping Four Seasons activity on two islands in this classic warm-weather (and Zika-free) destination, Hawaii is back at the top of the A-list. On Oahu, there's a new Four Seasons Oahu stirring up excitement, and on little Lana'i, the truly spectacular Four Seasons Lanai shows what a thoughtful--and multimillion-dollar--overhaul can do. It's a wow from beginning to end, and Larry Ellison's Pacific passion project is drawing the world’s elite to rediscover the magic of these islands.
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The north coast's wine country is abuzz for 2017. Land lovers rejoice at the opening of the eco-friendly Los Alcobas Napa, with the modern-art-filled, rustic-contemporary take on its Mexico City concept. Chef Kyle Connaughton, the former R&D chef of the Fat Duck in London opens the 11-room foodie haven, Single Thread Farms, in Healdsburg. For those wanting to work off all the food and wine, the famous Ranch at Malibu boot camp will be opening up a new fitness retreat in Sonoma. To each his own in this rich region of bountiful California!
Charleston will be hotter than ever this year with a host of new, luxury boutique hotels including the Dewberry and the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort in picturesque Mt. Pleasant Village. Add this to the picture-perfect old city with its breathtaking architecture and sophisticated food and music scene, and the Holy City continues to hold its own against major destinations worldwide.
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The Creole capital of the world just shines brighter and brighter. This year brings a new Salamander resort -- the cool NOPSI -- and even a Four Seasons, just in time for the city to host the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. And with a restaurant scene that moves faster than a Louisana alligator at suppertime, there's never been a better year to fall (or stay) in love with New Orleans.
This coastal South African city is one of the most complete dream destinations in the world -- with one of the best food scenes, fabulous night life, beautiful beaches, cutting-edge art, and a buzzing commercial scene all within minutes of incredible wildlife and scenic mountains for hiking. What’s best is that the soon-to-be-opened Silo Hotel will be inside the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa with dramatic views of the waterfront and Table Mountain, whimsically eclectic interiors, sexy rooftop infinity pool and bar, and inside access to the city’s hottest museum. Beauty and brains!
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Zika-free and more fantastic than ever, Bermuda is the quintessential quick escape.This year the newly redone Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club hosts the 35th America’s Cup in June 2017, with the whole island prepping its wares for the season. Come early, come often, for the biggest island party of the year.
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This oft-overlooked European destination heats up following a growth year in 2016 as more and more travelers seek off-the-grid experiences in the region. Incredible value and great new hotels opening up the coastal regions and wine lands make Portugal the next big thing. The newly redone Six Senses Douro Valley is a WOW to those looking for an alternative wine destination, while the authentic new Barrocal gives guests an opportunity to live on a working farm in the countryside, halfway between Seville and Lisbon. Get to Portugal in 2017, before the world follows your lead.
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Off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar finally gives lemur-lovers the ability to explore in the lap of luxury with the opening on Miavana, set on a private island by the founders of North Island. Like its big sister, this is rustic luxury at its best, offering a host of planned excursions into the island’s wilderness.
After a few sweltering sunrise treks to the temples of Angkor Wat, explorers can now unwind at world-class beach resorts. Joining the five-year old Song Saa is the new Arovada by Akaryn, a cool, chic beach haven. For the ultimate in privacy, Bawah Private Island opens in early 2017 with acres of pristine jungle and powdery white sand. Just for you.
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There is nowhere in the world that transports St. Tropez to the Caribbean like St. Barts. And the hottest island in the Caribbean is about to get hotter! Hot openings like Le Barthelemy will bring a relaxed beach chic to sexy St. Barts while Villa Marie, St. Barts just opened as a great place for people who want to party in the action of St. Barts but then escape to a private romantic setting when ready for a soothing retreat. Everything is possible in this chic getaway that keeps things impossibly fresh.
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Game change alert! Park Hyatt brings the first luxury resort to this sleepy island in early 2017. This sophisticated property will redefine the quiet island of St. Kitts with a chic, contemporary style and its first posh resort. Book your flights now.
Photo: Courtesy Pink Sands Club
Closer to home, the “insider” IT island is Canouan in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where Sandy Lane’s founders have just finished building the Pink Sands Club. This impeccably polished boutique hotel on this private island comes complete with a majestic 18-hole golf course and eight private beaches.
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Once a bit of a ramshackle surfers' outpost just 30 miles across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain, Tangier redefines the beach resort in Morocco with the opening of Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, which will feature all-private pool villas. There's also an elegant Ritz-Carlton in the works.
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The Seychelles archipelago is going through a major face-lift, with the Four Seasons reopening Desroches Island and Oetker (the company behind the Hotel du Cap in Antibes) overhauling Fregate Island. Six Senses adds its dose of rustic-luxe with the new Six Senses Zil Pasyon. What a reinvention, and 2017 is the year to get in before everyone's booking.
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Hot off of its first Art Basel, the shimmering new FAENA Miami has become the centerpiece of Miami’s hottest destination – the Faena Art District marking the new capital in North Beach. And for those looking for a more subdued time in the sun, the new Four Seasons Surf Club opens this year as an uber-luxe residential-style beach resort in Miami, the first Four Seasons on the beach south of Palm Beach. Not to be outdone, it joins the ranks of the sexy St. Regis Bal Harbour, the shopping Mecca of the city, and the still fabulous Acqualina Resort & Spa, Miami’s #1 luxury family resort. There’s never been a better time to check out the perfect sunny destination in America.
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This classic warm-weather getaway is back on the hot list. The Shore Club opens up the north shore of the central island of Providenciales (ideal for sports lovers and famous for its kite surfing) with stunning two-, three-, and four-bedroom oceanfront villas offering sweeping views steps one of the best coral reefs in the Atlantic. Families won’t get enough of the new family programs by Grace Bay Club which brings parents into the kids club for exciting family experiences like painting with a local artist or kayak races in the mangroves. Get ready to fall back in love with Turks and Caicos.