Top Tropical Destinations for 2019
Known as the “spice island” of the Caribbean, this unspoiled gem at the southern end of the Grenadines is little known to most American travelers (a Marxist coup in the late 1970s, long resolved, had a lot to do with that). But what a find it is, with untouched beaches, verdant rainforests, and loads of culture and personality. And with the late-2018 opening of Silversands Grenada—the island’s first luxury resort—things are about to heat up.
Why January? January is Grenada’s sweetest spot: there are plenty of flights still (including nonstop flights from Atlanta, JFK, Miami, and Toronto), but the peak prices of Festival Season are past. And January marks the beginning of the island’s less humid and rainy season.
Always classic, always chic, and always blessed with sugar sands, turquoise waters, and fantastic boating and fishing, there is no bad time to escape to the Bahamas. But with the recent openings of the luxurious Rosewood Baha Mar on Nassau and The Other Side on Eleuthera, there’s a renewed hot-right-now quality to this warm-weather destination.
Why February? Pair the quiet of off-season with the blissful warm weather, and you’ve got February in the Bahamas. The holiday travelers are long gone, and the March spring break surge in traffic is a blip on the horizon. The best of all worlds, in other words.
A cherished playground for yacht- and jet-setters, this rugged little jewel just south of St. Vincent (and happily in the shadow of super-buzzy Mustique) is stepping back into the spotlight with the recent rebooting of the quietly spectacular Mandarin Oriental, Canouan (formerly the Pink Sands Club) paired with the stunning villas of Canouan Estate at one end of the island and the ongoing build-out of Glossy Bay Marina, a low-rise and design-forward enclave of marina, shopping, and dining, at the other.
Why March? The weather—blue skies, calm seas, warm breezes—is perfection. Secondly, March bring the international scene from the UK and France who yacht-hop around St. Vincent and the Grenadines, adding additional fun to party when they tie up for the night.
This is the island you’ll be bragging about for the rest of the year, because you’ve been smart enough to discover it in 2019. While there’s ample air service directly to this West Indies island, its inherent romance is best teed up with the picturesque ferry jump from St. Kitts, and continued on at the island’s gorgeous, small boutique hotels. Most romantic of all is Montpelier Plantation & Beach, tucked amid historic sugar plantation ruins and glowing in low-key luxury and nostalgia (if Ian Fleming ever wrote another James Bond book, he’d do it poolside here), and with its own glorious little cabana-dotted beach club.
Why April? Nevis comes off high season as April begins, so it’s a wonderful time to take advantage of prices adjusting downward while the weather remains divine.
Don’t tell your U.K. friends who’ve cherished this island destination for generations, but it’s time to stage your own American invasion this spring. The small hotels on the western shore are like pop-up books of classic Caribbean style, from the serene intimacy of The House (where the open-air bar stays quietly open 24 hours a day) to the Lily Pulitzer dreamscape of Cobblers Cove (just emerging from a stunning update). Don’t miss a visit to the stunning historic manse and small-batch distillery at St. Nicholas Abbey, tour the wild eastern coast, and grab the world’s best fish sandwich at Cuz’s Fish Shack in Bridgetown.
Why May? Book for right after the Easter week 2019 for high-season pleasures minus the crowds; the first two weeks of May can yield better flight options and some lowered hotel rates.
Mountainous, lush, and still remarkably off the radar, this overseas region of France is one of the most underrated destinations in the Caribbean. Martinique is home to a quiet and unassuming old-school Club Med on the beachy south shore, but more interestingly, design-forward small hotels like Hôtel Plein Soleil, Hôtel French Coco, La Domaine Saint-Aubin and Hôtel Villa Saint-Pierre and some of the most breathtaking (and habit-forming) rhum agricole distilleries in the world, including Habitation Clément and Rhum J.M.
Why June? Grab the shoulder season after late spring to take advantage of discounted hotels and still catch the island's incredible sugar cane harvest.
If Bali has always been on your global conquest to-do list, this year provides fresh inspiration with the coming of age of Canggu, a little resort enclave with a steady surf break on the island’s southern coast that’s got just enough buzz to have fueled a fresh crop of places to eat, drink, sleep, and chill out appropriately. The recently opened COMO Uma Canggu leads the pack with its Zen aesthetic, along with a COMO Shambhala Retreat for wellness indulgences and a beachside surf shack elevation at the COMO Beach Club. Retro-modernists will love The Slow, a knowing boutique hotel with a health-forward, Brooklyn-minded restaurant and bar, and everyone will love posting up at The Lawn, a vegetable-and-seafood driven beach lounge complete with pool.
Why July? Take advantage of the dry season’s gifts of low humidity, mild temperatures, and blue skies. Bring your Instagram game, in other words.
August: Riviera Nayarit
It’s all about this lush stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast right now, with exciting additions to hot spots like Sayulita (the surf-chic darling of West Coasters), San Blas, artsy San Pancho, Bucerias, Nueva Vallarta, and perhaps most excitingly, Punta de Mita. Already, adjacent luxury gated Punta Mita is home to Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and two Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses, and the area is preparing for the entry of heavy hitters Rosewood, One&Only, Auberge Resorts Collection, and Ritz-Carlton. At the center of the buzz is Punta De Mita, a small beach town with its old-school vibe wholly intact, making this area a getaway for every kind of Mexico devote, from laid back hippy chic Sayulita to the super luxe villas, condos and hotels within the gates of Punta Mita. And with daily air service from both coasts to Puerto Vallarta, access has never been easier.
Why August? For families, this off-season month is a fantastic choice, with family-friendly festivals and SUP and Surf Camps popping up along those broad, pearly beaches.
It’s never a bad year to go to Hawaii, but 2019 offers a chance to return to Hawaii Island (known also as the Big Island) and spread some love and tourist dollars after the eruption of Kilauea kept visitors at bay in 2018. Although the volcano is still active, it’s safe to settle back into beloved resorts like Mauna Kea Resort, home to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the newly renovated Westin Hapuna Beach Resort on the Kohala Coast. Look for cool updates at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel like a sustainably kept beekeeping program and bespoke VIP heli-adventures, including volcano/lava and waterfall hunting.
Why September? The summer crowds are gone, the weather is optimal, and prices are among the lowest all year. What more do you need to know?
In 2019, the delightfully cosmopolitan Panama City will mark its 500-year history with a giant celebration, and that is reason enough to make the journey to this easy-to-reach Central American nation. With design hotels and sophisticated restaurants and bars (not to mention that canal), this is the year to put this destination on your list. But add to that the natural riches (and superb assortment of eco lodges at varied price points) on Panama’s celebrated Caribbean coast (or the stunning new Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge off the Pacific Coast) and you’ve got the perfect place to recover from all the 500th-anniversary partying.
Why October? Among Panama’s dry months and before the place gets completely booked up in November by locals for national holidays, October is a tropical sweet spot.
November: British Virgin Islands
After the ravages of the 2017 hurricanes, it’s never been a better time to return in 2019 to the British Virgin Islands (or make it your first visit). Whether you charter a sail or motor yacht and cruise the archipelago for a week or hunker down on a private island, make time for hitting some of the world’s most memorable beach bars on Jost Van Dyke, shopping on Tortola, and patronizing the island’s historic rum distillery.
Why November? Help the BVIs get a jump start on their high season by making your trip in early November, or consider spending the Thanksgiving holiday on Anegada for its annual holiday Lobster Festival. You’ll never want turkey again.
December: Puerto Rico
With its surging culinary and design scenes that have come back better than ever since the tragic damage from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is the star attraction of 2019 tropical travel. Check out a raft of new and reopened hotels in San Juan (including O:live Boutique Hotel, Serafina Beach Hotel, and El San Juan Hotel) and beyond (including the glorious Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve), explore new restaurants and shops, and enjoy helping this marvelous island recover with the passion and creativity it possesses.
Why December? Puerto Rico goes crazy for Christmas, and spending time on the island before, during, or after the holiday will make you a convert, from the special food and drink to the high-spirited parades and celebrations.