Island Getaways


Spread across 175 square miles of the Indian Ocean, this chain of 115 islands has become (slightly) more accessible with the introduction of Crystal Cruises’ first small-capacity yacht, Crystal Esprit. The 62-guest, all-suite ship will spend its maiden season sailing into some of the smaller ports of call in the Seychelles, departing from Dubai. If you prefer to remain on land, The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach debuted this past August as the only five-star beachfront hotel in Mahé, the archipelago’s largest island. And come spring, Six Senses Zil Pasyon will open on its own 640-acre isle; even if you don’t opt to stay in one of the 47 villas that make up the resort, you can still boat over for meals or drinks. When to go: Year-round; the islands sit outside the cyclone belt.


In 2016, travel to this Mexican isle will be easier — and less expensive. A new ferry company, Barcos Caribe Cozumel, will shuttle travelers from Playa del Carmen, raising the total number of boat companies serving the island to three. Once on Cozumel, wander through the revamped gardens and fountains at Parque Benito Juarez, which offers free Wi-Fi, and breathe deeply at the world’s first underwater oxygen bar, Clear Lounge Cozumel. Also underwater: new exploratory dives to sites with pristine reefs are being led just north of the island. After dark, stargaze from the astrological observatory at the new Cha’an Ka’an Cozumel Planetarium. When to go: January through July, but avoid spring break.


Off the coast of British Columbia, Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) houses some 5,000 people on its 150 islands. Accommodations are limited to just two of these, Graham and Moresby, which together see about 24,000 visitors a year. Annual tourism to Gwaii Haanas National Park, however, is capped at just 2,000. Enter Steppes Travel, with an easier, more comfortable way to explore the destination. Its brand-new, May-to-July itinerary includes seven nights on Swell, a century-old tugboat turned six-cabin, 12-passenger expedition cruising ship. You’ll observe a variety of wildlife — humpback whales, black bears and bald eagles — and visit several cultural sites, including SGang Gwaay Haida village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see its hand carved memorial totem poles. When to go: May to September.


With a geographic position just north of Venezuela and just south of the hurricane belt, Aruba boasts nearly perfect weather, making it an ideal year-round locale. Adding to that appeal for 2016? New and improved resorts and an event foodies will love. A total of $100 million was invested in new hotels and enhancements to existing properties. The all-inclusive Riu Palace Antillas opened late last year; the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino updated the rooms in its adults-only Marina and family-friendly Ocean Suites areas; and both the Marriott Aruba Hotel and Holiday Inn Resort Aruba received face-lifts. The former Radisson Aruba, a historic Morris Lapidus-designed beachfront property, recently became the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, and by year’s end, a trio of Divi Resorts will have completed their upgrades. On the food scene, Aruba is getting a taste of the farm-to-table movement. Its first-ever Eat Local Aruba Restaurant Week, during which some 55 eateries created special wallet-friendly locavore menus, debuted last fall and will return in late September. But the island celebrates great local food any time of year; it won the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award for the best fine dining in the Caribbean. When to go: June through November, when most of the region’s weather is unpredictable.



The launch of Scotland’s North Coast 500 loop has opened up the country’s Highlands and northernmost shores in a new and much more accessible way. Intrepid travelers can now explore its rural and rugged landscapes by car, bicycle or even on foot. An added boon: Recently added flights to Aberdeen on Icelandair make it easier than ever to get to nearby Inverness, the capital of the Highlands and the perfect place to start the trip. The scenic 500-mile route — which can be driven in its entirety in as little as three days — combines nature and adventure, food and drink, history and culture. You will pass towering mountain ranges, centuries-old ruins and monumental castles. And you can see what all the Hollywood buzz is about with a side trip to the Isle of Skye, off Scotland’s northwest coast. Its wild, weathered, windswept landscapes have recently been featured in Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and J.J. Abrams’s just-released Star Wars epic. When to go: High summer, when daylight stretches until 11 p.m.


Last spring, Ryanair and EasyJet began offering low-cost flights to connect the Azores’ capital city of Ponta Delgada, on the main island of Sao Miguel, to London and Lisbon, raising the profile of this nine-island chain dramatically. Americans will also find them surprisingly easy to reach, thanks to four-hour direct flights from Boston on SATA. Reasons to visit: A 450-mile network of hiking trails recently debuted on the island of Santa Maria, where the soon-to-open Charming Blue will offer 15 residential-style rooms. On Sao Miguel, the striking volcanic stone and concrete Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre just bowed, as did Design Hotels’ 55-room Furnas Boutique Hotel, featuring a spring-fed thermal spa. When to go: Mild climate year-round, but rainy season is November through March.



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