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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Seven Tropical Beach Vacations - It's Not Too Early (or Late) To Plan

As the heat of summer morphs into pre-fall and the short descent into interminable winter (you now know my outlook on that season), the idea of a Caribbean vacation starts to take hold. It’s not too early to let the seed germinate into full-blown travel plans! But if it feels like summer is still in full hot-weather swing, then you surely are ready for a delightful dip in turquoise cool. A tropical getaway is within reach at these seven sun-splashed spots, where rest and relaxation come spiked with breezy, barefoot adventures.

Jamaica: A River Cruise? With 132 Ralph Lauren-appointed rooms with four-poster beds and whitewashed cottages that date back to its 1950s heyday, Montego Bay’s historic Round Hill Hotel and Villas is like a retro travel poster come to life. Once you’ve settled in, learn some Jamaican history and legends on a gentle, languid cruise down the jade-green Martha Brae River on a 30-foot bamboo raft, pictured above. Miss Martha’s Herb Garden at the embarkation point is worth a stop for browsing local medicinal plants. This is not the Jamaica you see on your cruise ship stop.

Aruba: Better Than an Infinity Pool Off the coast of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean, Aruba is called “one happy island.” Take an open-air jeep or ATV to see the Conchi Natural Pool, a pristine swimming area formed by a ring of volcanic rock, inside the Arikok National Park. Just a half hour away, the palatial, 320-room Ritz-Carlton Aruba satisfies the need for softer adventures with a 15,000-square-foot beachfront spa; a glitzy 24-hour casino; and a wave-lapped beach where frozen fruit cocktails are delivered via Segway.

Saint Lucia: Lava-Inspired Wellness Baths This eastern Caribbean island lays claim to the world’s only “drive-in” volcano, where travelers can wheel into the dormant La Soufrière volcano and sooth sunburns in a mineral-rich mud bath at Sulphur Springs. A ten-minute drive away, the 119-room beachside Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort sits in the shade of the emerald-green Pitons volcanic spires. This honeymoon favorite is currently undergoing renovations through October, which means returning guests can look forward to swanky updates such as new beachfront bungalows and additions to the already-impressive art collection, ranging from Warhol prints and drone photography to outdoor sculptures.

Puerto Rico: Nature’s Glow Up A frequent fixture on best-of lists, the airy Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a 1,400-acre, 96-room sanctuary with an outdoor sculpture garden; two 18-hole seaside golf courses; and the Bill Bensley-designed indoor/outdoor Spa Botanico, nested in a garden of ficuses and pineapples. (Try the Treehouse Massage for its use of local herbs and plants.) As evening arrives, Puerto Rico’s Atlantic coast has some of the world’s brightest glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent bays. Take a nighttime kayaking trip or glass-bottom boat tour into Laguna Grande, La Parguera, or Mosquito Bay.

Los Cabos, Mexico: Eat, Swim, and Play All Day All-inclusive resort Grand Velas Los Cabos feels like an adult playground. Guests can choose from seven gourmet restaurants, from Cocina de Autor – which serves an eight- to ten-course tasting menu – to open-air Cabrilla, a go-to for ceviche, seafood, and poolside cocktails. The new Tequila & Mezcal bar serves 140 choices of Mexican spirits. A million-dollar art collection decorates the space, and the smallest of the 307 suites spread out more than 1,000 square feet. Don’t miss the beachside horseback riding; local guides can arrange a sunset ride along the sparkling Sea of Cortés.

Riviera Maya, Mexico Hotels on the Riviera Maya set a high bar, but the 539-room, all-inclusive Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen goes beyond with a smart approach. Sections in the hotel allow travelers to specify whether they’re looking for a Zen setting, a family-friendly vacation with plenty of pool time, or a grand, over-the-top experience that prioritizes privacy and high-end amenities. Beyond the hotel, Mayan ruins lay within easy reach: An hour south, the clifftop Tulum National Park includes archeological sites such as thirteenth-century towers and walls; farther inland, the less crowded pyramid temples of Cobá and Chichén Itzá beckon travelers from within the jungle.

Riviera Nayarit, Mexico: A New Rain-Forest Resort The Riviera Maya is my favorite part of Mexico. Puerto Vallarta invites travelers to stroll the Malecón esplanade, peppered with art sculptures, or take in a concert at the open-air Los Arcos Amphitheater. To leave the bustle behind, stay at the rain-forest-shrouded One&Only Mandarina in Nayarit, a newly debuted, ultra-private resort of 105 villas and treetop hideaways. Guests can try breathwork classes, meditation, and flow yoga sessions on the Aura Deck, or swing into the saddle at the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club for lessons in the noble sport.

Just because a tropical vacation speaks to me, doesn't mean that's your cup of tea. Tell me what your favorite flavor is and we'll make a late summer frolic or winter getaway happen your way.

'til next week.


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