Just because it’s still winter here, doesn’t mean there aren't plenty of sunshine-filled destinations to escape to. Grab your passport, pack your flip-flops and head somewhere warmer.
The weather in Sydney is nice year-round, but the city really shines in the summer (December – March). Make the most of it and stay in Bondi Beach—the sophisticated yet laid-back neighborhood is nestled on one of the country’s most stunning stretches of sand, just six miles east from the city center. Coastal-chic hotel QT Bondi is steps from the beach, so you can make like a local and go for a swim in the morning, then join the barefoot surfers at Harry’s, the epitome of Aussie café culture, for a cup of coffee (Australians love their flat-white) and a kick-ass breakfast of avocado, tahini and harissa on sourdough, or a pulled pork roll with fried egg and coffee bacon jam. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the 2.5-mile Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk before grabbing a chilled glass of rosé or local beer (try Coopers or Little Creatures) and some Sydney rock oysters at relaxed beachside eatery The Bucket List. Just one tip: don’t get stuck in the ‘Bondi bubble’ as locals say, and forget to see the rest of the city. Book tickets to a performance at the iconic Opera House and bookend the show by having a drink and a bite at Opera Bar with its unbeatable view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Or, if you feel like splurging, reserve a table at Quay, one of Australia’s best restaurants.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Think you can handle Rio’s heat? The sultry city can hit a sweltering 100 degrees in the summer (December-March), plus the season is prime time for its electric festivals like Carnival, the world’s biggest street party. When you want a break from the action, escape to Ipanema, a quieter and hipper nabe than Copacabana, where the nightlife is more refined. Check into Casa Mosquito, a small boutique property just uphill from Ipanema Beach (the rooftop pool’s panoramic views of Rio make it worth the hike). Rub shoulders with glamorous locals at one of the flashy restaurants in Leblon, a cool enclave about 15 minutes from the hotel. Sushi is big in Rio, and Sushi Leblon serves up some of the best sashimi in the city. Meanwhile, at CT Boucherie, the focus is on the meat. Carnivores will drool over the filet mignon with quinoa risotto and ratatouille. And the best part? The waiters will keep bringing you unlimited sides until you call it quits (if you can!).
Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand’s capital, at the very bottom of the North Island, is arguably one of the world’s most underrated cities. Set on a stunning emerald harbour surrounded by mountains, it’s greedy with natural beauty, while also being home to a sophisticated food and drink scene. Check into Ohtel, a boutique property on the waterfront, with 10 rooms decked out in mid-century Scandinavian furniture. Then, head to Cuba Street where you can sip an expertly made coffee (Kiwis take their caffeine seriously) and tuck into a tasty brunch at Loretta, or have a cocktail in the courtyard at world-renowned bar Matterhorn (order The Secret Garden; gin, yellow Chartreuse, orange bitters, lemon juice and egg white). Also on Cuba Street: Logan Brown, one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, which serves a seasonal tasting menu (think: paua ravioli, roast spring lamb rump, and wild Fiordland venison with braised osso bucco) in a former 1920s bank chamber.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Although December-April is technically springtime in Vietnam, it’s still the best time to visit. The average temp hovers at a perfect 82 degrees, and it rarely rains so you can enjoy taking in all the historical sights the city has to offer. Start the trip by touring Independence Palace and Saigon Opera House, then once you’ve gotten your culture kick, head to the markets to experience Ho Chi Minh at its liveliest. The vibrant VietS Corner Flea Market specializes in affordable fashion from young, local designers, and there’s a food hall cooking up aromatic dishes like pho (noodle soup) and banh xeo (crispy pancakes). The most authentic Vietnamese fare can be found in a market or street cart, but for a more quirky night out, try Noir, a high-end restaurant where diners eat in the dark, heightening the smell and texture of the food (and incredibly, all the wait staff are blind—not that you can tell from their skillful service). And for those who want a post-supper tipple, Glow Skybar’s bartenders mix the best cocktails from a rooftop lounge overlooking the city. At the end of the evening, crash at Hotel des Arts Saigon, a stylish MGallery stay that feels like an oasis thanks to its blissful rooftop infinity pool and serene suites.
Cape Town, South Africa
January through March is prime time in Cape Town, when it’s finally warm enough to take a dip in the stunning turquoise water along the city’s Atlantic coast. Camps Bay and the surrounding coves are all picture-perfect, with calm, clear water, impossibly white sand, and a backdrop of dramatic mountains in the distance. But, the exclusive POD Camps Bay is worth the 15-hour flight alone. The uber-modern, 17-room hideaway has sleek suites, some with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the pristine sea. When you’re not lounging by the beach, check out Cape Town’s mouthwatering eats, including one of the world’s best restaurants, The Test Kitchen. The experimental, cutting-edge dishes (liquorice-cured Wagyu biltong, chamomile ice cream) have just as much wow-factor as the luxe-but-low-key dining room, located in Woodstock, Cape Town’s hippest ‘hood. Prefer something more casual? Laid-back sister restaurant Pot Luck Club offers Asian-inspired tapas divided into five tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.
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The beginning of the year is a great time to visit the lush Indonesian island of Bali, when the December peak season crowds leave and tranquillity returns. Don’t be put off that it’s the wet season—rain tends to be brief and followed by sunshine, and with temps ranging from 75 to 85 degrees, a tropical shower can be a welcome way to cool off. Stay in Seminyak, and treat yourself to a sprawling pool villa at The Oberoi. But as tempting as it is to never leave the hotels’ beautifully manicured grounds, it’s worth it to experience Bali’s culinary stars. Mamasan presents a mouth-watering South East Asian menu in a modern dining room: feast on crispy lemongrass chicken with green mango papaya som tum and sweet chilli sauce, and wash it down with the Spirituality cocktail: Pimms Gin infused with berries, watermelon and mint. Potato Head beach club is a glamorous space to kick back with a fruity drink on your poolside daybed while the waves crash below (get there before the sunset crowd to secure a spot).
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Lima’s sub-tropical climate means it’s pleasant year-round, but during the summer the coastal Peruvian capital enjoys spectacular sunsets, a ‘gram-worthy display of rich pink, purple and orange hues over the Pacific. See it for yourself from a bar or restaurant in Miraflores, the well-heeled neighbourhood on the city’s dramatic cliffside. Cala is a stylish spot with a terrace right on the water where you can sip on a pisco sour and choose from a seafood-heavy menu. There’s also a dining room upstairs, but with Lima’s world-renown restaurant scene, why not take meals to the next level? Maido specializes in Nikkei cuisine, the fish-focused Peruvian-Japanese fusion. Go for the full 15 courses that incorporate rare ingredients from the Amazon, seen in dishes like the ceviche with river prawns, pejerrey fish, nikkei-style leche de tigre, charapita, shaved chonta (peach palm), and farina. Walk off the gluttony along the six-mile seafront El Malecon, until you reach the Belmond Miraflores Park, an elegant hotel overlooking the craggy coastline.
If you’re looking for hot weather just a short flight from the U.S., Mexico is the obvious choice. But skip tourist-heavy destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen for Mérida, a 500-year-old colonial city at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Mérida has been named this year’s Cultural Capital of Latin America for a reason: wander the Paseo de Montejo, a boulevard lined with one architectural gem after the next, and you’ll find an abundance of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. The unmissable dining experience here is K’u’uk, which showcases an inventive twist on traditional Yucatecan cuisine. Manjar Blanco offers a more casual atmosphere, but the tasty and creatively-presented dishes far exceed expectations for a hole-in-the-wall (be sure to finish your meal with the dessert the restaurant is named after, a coconut-cream concoction). And to really feel like a local, bed down at one of Sirena In The City’s apartments in the charming Santiago neighborhood.