The Good Life: Sun Direct
By Blake Miller
Why: Barely a two-hour flight, and you’re walking on petal-pink sand beaches or taking in the other manicured charms of this upscale but friendly island. It’s not balmy this time of year (the average high is only around 70 degrees), but it’s sunny and pleasant and great for golf. Plus, hotel rates are around 40 percent what they’ll return to in April.
Where to stay: Cambridge Beaches, located on a 30-acre peninsula, has a secluded private beach, beachside dining, spa treatments, and new cottage suites with private infinity pools overlooking the ocean (441-234-3352; cambridgebeaches.com). Managed by Mandarin Oriental, Elbow Beach offers a contemporary twist on the classic island resort; ask for a private lanai with open views of the ocean (441-236-3535; elbowbeach.com).
Where to eat: An island favorite with an appropriately English pub atmosphere, Henry VIII features savory filet mignon along with Bermuda favorites like spiny lobster and pan-fried rockfish (441-234-0331). Grab an outdoor balcony table overlooking downtown Hamilton at Harbourfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar and order the classic Bermudian fish chowder (441-295-4207).
What to do: Book a tee time at one of the island’s most exclusive, breathtaking courses: the world-famous Mid Ocean Club (441-293-0330; themidoceanclubbermuda.com), or the Port Royal Golf Course (on Jack Nicklaus’s list of the world’s best public courses; 441-234-0974).
Getting there: USAir and USA3000 fly direct from Philadelphia in just under two hours.
By Richard Rys
Why: Just over a year old, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is already making South Florida feel like Vegas, boasting the state’s largest gambling playland and nightlife hot enough to draw folks from nearby Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.
Where to stay: The Hard Rock Hotel is one part music museum and one part luxury resort, complete with a full-service spa and dining options ranging from budget to indulgent. When you book, ask for a view of the 4.5-acre lagoon pool (866-502-7529; seminolehardrockhollywood.com).
Where to eat: In the hotel complex, the cowboy-cut rib eye and broiled lobster at Council Oak are king-size must-trys (954-327-7501). Outside in Paradise, Tatu’s Asian fusion dishes and chic dining room decor make for a great start to a night out (954-583-1499).
What to do: Check out the alligator wrestlers at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village & Museum (954-797-5560), or sign up for one of Aqua Sports’ offsite excursions, which include a dolphin swim and a champagne sunset cruise (954-797-2418). At night, catch headliners like Tony Bennett or Bruce Springsteen at the 5,500-seat Hard Rock Live arena. Among the many bars outside the casino, nothing draws a crowd like Tequila Ranch, where a mechanical bull and its mischievous handlers invite tipsy patrons to take a spin (954-556-7430).
Getting there: Fly direct from Philly to Fort Lauderdale, and with just a 10-minute cab ride to the resort, you could be lounging in less than four hours.
By Jessica Blatt
Why: It’s the Caribbean island everyone-you-know hasn’t been to — yet. The largest of the Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao has turquoise waters and a rich heritage that are big draws for divers, snorkelers and history lovers. With a Hyatt scheduled to open its doors in 2008 and the new direct flights, this could be the next Aruba. So book now, and in 20 years tell the grandkids that you “discovered” the place.
Where to stay: The Marriott Curaçao offers a secluded private beach, beachside spa treatments, and a full-service dive shop (011-599-9-736-8800; marriotthotels.com). Or split a week between the Kura Hulanda’s two luxe properties — the new Beach Club, and the award-winning resort in town (011-599-9-434-7700; kurahulanda.com).
Where to eat: Fort Nassau, an 18th-century fort, features fresh local fish and a hilltop view of the island (011-599-9-461-3086). Or visit Angelica’s Kitchen, where chef Angelique Schoop guides private groups through preparing an authentic Caribbean meal (011-599-9-562-3699).
What to do: Spend an afternoon in the island’s only city, Willemstad; visit the slavery museum (at the Kura Hulanda Hotel) or the oldest still-functioning Jewish synagogue in the Americas (Mikvé Israel-Emanuel; 011-599-9-461-1067). And hire a guide from Yellow Tourism Solutions N.V. (tourism-curacao.com) to lead you to the lesser-known beaches.
Getting there: Continental flies direct from Newark airport in just under five hours; from Philadelphia, take American Airlines via Miami.