St. Lucia

Soft oval beaches bracket quaint fishing villages below waterfalls, rainforests and lush mountains, with the regal volcanic peaks of the Pitons standing guard. That’s St. Lucia, arguably the prettiest of the Caribbean islands.

Castries, the island’s capital and port, provides insights into St. Lucian life at its vibrant market. At Pigeon Island National Park, learn of the fierce battles between the French and English, then take in sweeping ocean views at nearby Fort Rodney.

Stretch your muscles and your imagination by hiking nature trails, ziplining, climbing the Pitons, riding horseback or diving among corals. When you’re done, settle into natural hot springs.

Accommodations: Sandals Grande St. Lucian has views of the Caribbean and the Atlantic and glass-bottom, over-water bungalows.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona’s got it all. Near Flagstaff, the village has top-notch art galleries, outdoor adventure, natural beauty and unique shops. Sedona is surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests, all providing nonstop inspiration for the town’s many artists and more than 300 miles of hiking trails.

Dozens of art galleries dot the town, including the renowned Tlaquepaque (pronounced t-lockey-pockey) Arts and Crafts Village, a massive cultural and shopping destination on the banks of Oak Creek.

Soothe your body and soul at a spa. Each of the better resorts has one. There are also day spas and even a massage school.

Accommodations: El Portal Sedona Hotel has 12 rooms ensconced in an unusual, ivy-covered architectural marvel.

Morocco

Mysterious, mystic Morocco is the stuff of which romance is made – browsing bazaars filled with exotic goods and tagines laced with spices, haggling with carpet merchants, and riding camels on sand dunes.

Casablanca, Morocco’s port on the Atlantic coast, shows off its French colonial legacy in Moorish stylings and European art deco. (The legendary Casablanca, while looking for all the world like the title place, was filmed in Burbank, California.)

After the rose-pink walls, maze-like marketplaces and mesmerizing sunsets of Marrakesh, check out the adobe cottages and never-ending staircases, lanes and squares in the 1,200-year-old Maghreb city of Fez. Finally, kick back on the beaches of Essaouira.

Accommodations: Designed by King Mohammed VI, the Royal Mansour in Marrakesh is the gold standard of luxury hotels.

Malta

Just off of the southern tip of Sicily, this tiny archipelago fascinates visitors with deep-rooted Mediterranean culture and a seductive mix of customs born of Sicily and the Middle East.

Malta’s rocky landscape brims with monuments, from ancient ruins and secret bays to breathtaking cliffs and edifices thought to be the world’s oldest freestanding structures. 

Take a break from exploring temples and fortresses by sunbathing on scenic beaches, indulging in Maltese cuisine, and working it off by hiking fossil-filled limestone cliffs and diving through extraordinary underwater caves.

Accommodations: Westin Dragonara Resort in cosmopolitan St. Julian has multiple restaurants, an upscale piano bar and two private beaches.

Paranomic view of Picton, New Zealand, View from Tirohanga Track.

Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

This coastal paradise is the easternmost of the primary Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand’s South Island.

Island sanctuaries are plentiful. Native bird species thrive along with dolphins, penguins and orcas. It’s also blessed with one-of-a-kind resorts and restaurants, particularly on Picton, a buzzing community on the north coast with an eclectic mix of eateries offering freshly caught seafood.

Picton itself is a gateway to the islands of the Marlborough Sounds. That’s where the EcoWorld Aquarium shelters and rehabilitates native animals, such as rare tuatara reptiles, blue penguins and king salmon.

Accommodations: McCormick House in Picton is an ideal base of operations set in private, established, woodland gardens just minutes from ferry and train stops.

 Chuck Mai