by Nina Hemphill Reeder, Tamara Crockett, Satchel B. Jester, Ronda Racha Penrice and Sheryl Nance-Nash
If Santa is feeling extra generous, perhaps he’ll slip an airline ticket into your stocking and whisk you away to somewhere fun and exotic this holiday season. Whether you chose to stay domestically or venture abroad, break from the traditional winter plans and head to these hot hotels and resorts.
Steps away from Buckingham Palace in a private historic St. James courtyard lies the treasured DUKES LONDON. Touted as one of London’s first luxury boutique hotels, DUKES is over 110 years old. The renovated property features 90 rooms—including one penthouse and 18 suites—plus a health spa, gym, drawing room and conservatory. Also, it’s home to the famous DUKES Bar, known for its tableside crafted martinis and for being where author Ian Fleming penned his James Bond novels. This haunt was the inspiration behind Bond’s “shaken not stirred” line. The Great British Restaurant, GBR, is open all day and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, which is a must-have experience while visiting England’s capital city. The GBR Afternoon Tea features a delectable assortment of teas, finger sandwiches and sweet treats plus champagne (dukeshotel.com). —TC
Solis Two Porsche Drive
Whether you’re just passing through Atlanta or hanging local for a staycation, the Porsche Solis should be the top of your consideration because-hello-it’s Porsche. In addition to the clean and cozy décor, pair your stay with a driving package at the neighboring Porsche Experience Center, where guests can hop in a Porsche and zip around their 1.6-mile test track with a driving coach by your side. After you work up an appetite, hit APRON, the Solis’s Mediterranean-style restaurant, where executive chef Derrick Green cooks up house-made pasta and tasty spins on Greek favorites (solis2porschedrive.com). —NHR
The Confidante Miami Beach
Despite all the quests to be had around Miami, you might find it hard to pull away from the cozy digs at the Confidante. Fittingly named the Backyard, the Confidante has recreated a retro Miami wonderland with courtyard pools and gardens. Here, while lounging in the comfy cabanas and pastel-colored poolside lounge chairs, guests can order a full menu of cocktails and flavorful bites (book a stay for the fish sandwich and spicy waffle fries alone). The same full service and colorful aesthetic are offered beachside. Back in the room, you’ll still see the colorful reminders of Miami’s hot and lively mid-century scene. (theconfidantehotel.com).—NHR
The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Why do the parents get to have all the fun? The family concierge delights the kiddos with amenities, such as youth terry cloth robes, kid-friendly toiletries and beach toys. Also, turndown service includes nightly surprises, like a drawn bubble bath filled with giant balloon animals. Roomy suites with kitchenettes and swim-ups are ideal for families with young ones. But when you’re not lounging in your room, enjoy the culinary indulgences of their all-inclusive dining, from their lavish breakfast buffet to their Mediterranean restaurant. Furthermore, the Reserve’s guests are free to dine at the larger Palma Real property for more restaurant options. Its Grand Reserve at Paradisus offers more exclusivity in private swim-ups and spacious suites reaching up to 3,000 square feet. (melia.com)—NHR
The Don CeSar
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
If your idea of holiday cheer is wrapped in history, tradition and elegance, then the perfect present for you is waking up in the Don CeSar hotel. Nicknamed “the Pink Palace,” the Fort Lauderdale-based attraction is laced in legendary stories of pomp and circumstance dating from the Gatsby Era, yet new renovations offer the storied property a fresh foot to put forward with updated rooms and thoughtfully curated dining options.
Beach-house suites and sunset champagne sabering must top your to-do list, and jazz and wine from the house’s impressive collection have to end your night. And because girls like sugar, spice and everything nice, choose to celebrate the season with girlfriends and feel even more phenomenal after a booked and busy day at Spa Oceana (doncesar.com). —SBJ
The Bloomsbury Hotel
Leap across the pond and celebrate the holidays like a royal in Londontown. The Bloomsbury Hotel will welcome you with open arms. The West End property is located in the Bloomsbury district—a cultural, intellectual and literary hub and home to museums, great shopping and history galore. The hotel’s 2017 redesign brought forth one of London’s most Instagrammed restaurants, Dalloway Terrace, the art-deco inspired Coral Room grand salon bar and the indoor/outdoor smartly styled Bloomsbury Club Bar.
This space is trendy yet cozy, with amazing amenities and superb service. Hit the town if you want or spend an entire weekend cozied up in the warm comforts of the Bloomsbury’s English charm (doylecollection.com). —TC
Hilton at Resorts World Bimini
It’s not surprising that Dr. King wrote part of his Nobel Prize speech in Bimini. That’s just the kind of serenity the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini taps into. Be it chilling in a room overlooking the water, getting a massage on site or simply devouring a scrumptious lobster crab burger, there are endless ways to kick back. Got a large crew? Stay in a suite and dine in. Roll the dice with actual high rollers in the casino. Roam the 750-acre property at Resorts World. Adventurers can explore the shipwreck and then Zen out on a private island nearby. Still, nothing quite beats cycling around the island, especially if it includes a stop at Edith’s Pizza & Takeout for lobster pizza made with Bimini bread dough.(rwbimini.com). —RRP
La Playa Carmel
There’s a good reason La Playa Carmel is called the “Grande Dame of Carmel.” The former mansion built in in 1905 has it all, including manicured gardens, intimate patios, tucked-away courtyards and a terrace swimming pool, which set the stage for all things serene. The 75-room, historic hotel is elegant with its elevated beach cottage style. The service is high touch. (laplayahotel.com) —SNN
Abaco Club on Winding Bay
All clubs weren’t created equal, and it’s clear that this isn’t your average country club. With residential properties for club members and cabana and home rentals for guests, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay is an ideal Caribbean escape for a low key vacation on highlife vibes. Within a short flight from the East Coast, guests can be nested on the secluded Bahamian cove with a rum cocktail within hours.
Golf enthusiasts can hit the links on their picturesque golf course, where an on-site PGA pro is available for private lessons. At the two property restaurants, the Cliff House and the casual Flippers Beach Bar, guests have an array of exciting menu choices like sushi, lobster and Bahamian barbecue. Or guests can request a private chef to cook in their own rental unit (theabacoclub.com).
NOTE: The property has reopened since the devastation of August 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. In addition to returning tourism dollars to the island, the Abaco Club is running a relief fund to help the Great Abaco Island and those affected. To donate to their fundraising efforts, visit their GoFundMe page. —NHR
SLS Baha Mar
For the perfect amalgam of naughty and nice, touch down in Nassau, Bahamas at the SLS Baha Mar, which is still intact post-Hurricane Dorian. Leading the pack as the first lifestyle hotel in the country, the 299-room escape has lured an expressive group of celebrities and personalities, boasting elevated night club experiences, swanky residences and dining that couldn’t possibly get any finer. Make a splash with a lush cabana at the Privilege Pool. Enjoy excursions to Long Cay, a private island off the shores of Baha Mar or take a jaunt on a seaplane to discover the brilliance of the Exumas. (sleshotels.combahamar). —SBJ
Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Leave the kids, cool weather, coats and boots behind this winter and head to paradise — Paradise Island, that is. The beautifully renovated RIU Palace Paradise Island is an adults-only, all-inclusive property with 397 rooms that all include views of the serene white sands of Cabbage Beach. The Soca Pool will lure you in with its oceanfront infinity pool and swim-up bar—selfies will go down here. Steps away from the pool, find mouthwatering jerk chicken and various jerk sauces at the Jerk Chicken station. With five other restaurants to choose from, make their Chutney Indian Restaurant top the list. Eliminate holiday stress with a self-care day at Renova Spa, and catch a live show and dance the night away at Pacha Disco (riubahamas.com). —TC
Thompson Playa Del Carmen
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Beach meets city style minus the stress at Thompson Playa del Carmen. Choose from two experiences, Beach House or Main House. View the water from your room, dine by it at C-Grill or, better yet, hit the sand at Beach House. At Main House, turn up with a cabana at the world-class rooftop bar or go full foodie at Catch restaurant. Use a tour company like Living Dreams Mexico to get a taste of ancient Mayan life, swim in a cenote or zipline. Missing the nearby Frida Kahlo Museum is not an option. There is also a mall and plenty of spots to keep the party going. And again, there’s a beach! (thompsonhotels.com). —RRP
Palm Beach, Fla.
A fixture in the Palm Beach community, the Brazilian Court Hotel has had its fair share of famous guests over the years, from Greta Garbo to John F. Kennedy. Today, the boutique property keeps the Old World charm but continues to serve as a choice retreat for discerning travelers. As home to award winning Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud, the restaurant remains an attraction in itself.
Furthermore, within a quick stroll, guests have access to the shopping on the famous Worth Avenue. The property also offers Lilly Pulitzer bicycle rentals and beach service transfers, where Brazilian Court staff will have you set up with a cooler, plush towels, a chair and umbrella on the beach (thebraziliancourt.com). —NHR
Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Waking up to an ocean view is one of the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach’s best features. The location wins too. It’s just eight miles from the airport, right at the beach and a stone’s throw (or a water taxi, rather) from all the action in Las Olas, Florida’s other strip for fun into the wee hours. For an earlier start, pounce on the ongoing Bed and Breakfast getaway and enjoy dining by the beach. Make things even more interesting by taking an Everglades Airboat Nighttime Tour and look for alligators in the dark and now, there’s even an adventure for your palate at their latest eatery, Steelpan, which thrives on Caribbean flavors (sonesta.com). —RRP
There’s nothing like Southern hospitality. The Henry Howard Hotel, built in 1867, is as grand as ever. The double gallery townhouse designed by famed architect Henry Howard, today is an 18-room, luxury boutique hotel in New Orleans’ Garden District. Think beautiful Greek Revival and Italianate elements. The Parlor, located right inside the front entrance, is like something you’ve seen in a movie with 12-foot ceilings, crown molding and stunning red pine flooring. The cozy rooms showcase local, original artwork and a combination of vintage and custom furniture. It’s an oasis, a perfect retreat when you’re ready to retire from all the lively fun that is New Orleans (henryhowardhotel.com) —SNN