Travel

A Bostonian’s Guide to the Other Greatest Places in the World

Twelve destinations in 12 months—all just one nonstop flight away. 


FG+FS/Courtesy EDP Foundation (Lisbon Museum); Grand Hyatt Baha Mar (Queens Staircase); Vail Resorts (Park City); Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson (Hanuma Bay); Julien Lagarde/Flickr (Cape Verde); Paul Bride/Tourism Vancouver (Sea to Sky Gondola); iStock

Edited by Brittany Jasnoff

January

Nassau

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO
To sip a poolside cocktail at the flashy new mega-resort Baha Mar.

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JetBlue nonstop to Lynden Pindling International Airport

Poolside vibes at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar / Photo courtesy of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

Sometimes, we want to get out there and explore every inch of the world. Other times, we just want to tune it out completely. If your winter-getaway wish list includes the latter, you’ll want to pack last summer’s sunnies, a swimsuit, and a few lucky numbers and head straight for Nassau. Cable Beach got a major injection of cool when the gigantic seaside resort Baha Mar opened last year, inviting vacationers to unwind in an exclusive island playground that’s part Vegas glam and part Caribbean charm.

Situated on a stunning waterfront lot just 10 minutes from the airport, the sexy new destination consists of three hotels: The SLS, the Grand Hyatt, and Rosewood, the most luxurious of the three. Shared by all three properties, the gigantic Espa Spa and 100,000-square-foot casino at the Grand Hyatt anchor the entire complex and give it a glitzy feel.

When you’re not frolicking waterside, find time to refuel during afternoon tea (3 to 6 p.m.) in the Rosewood’s Library, where you can choose from eight native Bahamian teas served with jerk-chicken sandwiches and scones. For a truly over-the-top experience, book one of the hotel’s luxury villas, which come complete with their own plunge pool and start at $14,000 per night during high season.

For dinner, you’ll want to hop on over to SLS, known for its culinary partnerships: Katsuya by Starck—a collaboration between master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and design icon Philippe Starck—is a good bet, as is Fi’lia, an Italian spot from James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Schwartz. The hippest nightlife, meanwhile, can be found at Monkey Bar.

Of course, there’s more to Nassau than Baha Mar. Burn off those poolside daiquiris with a walking tour of downtown: Hosted by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, it offers the chance to see some of Nassau’s oldest landmarks and architecture, including pastel Colonial buildings and reminders of the island’s West African heritage. And if you’re hungry for even more local flavor, take a ride to McKenzie’s Fresh Fish & Conch in Potter’s Cay, where a row of shacks peddle conch, cold beer, and authentic Bahamian hospitality. —Erica Corsano

February

Park City

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

For snowy silver-screen magic: 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of Sundance, the largest indie film fest in the country.

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JetBlue nonstop to Salt Lake City International Airport, followed by a 40-minute drive to Park City

Deer Valley Resort; an evening toast on Main Street / Photos courtesy of Deer Valley Resort, Vail Resorts

Sick of hitting the same old Granite State slopes year after year? It pays to go west, especially in February. The only destination where you can carve up black-diamond trails in the morning and catch the next Oscar-winning movie in the afternoon, Park City is the place to be this month.

Indeed, in the early part of February, Sundance Film Festival (which runs January 24 to February 3) will attract tens of thousands of movie buffs from across the globe. Ticket-holders are bound to spot at least a few A-listers between screenings—keep an eye out for Katherine Heigl and Will Smith, both rumored to own property in town.

Of course, you can’t spend your entire visit in a dark theater, and thankfully, Park City offers plenty of ways to embrace winter’s chill. First, decide which of Park City Mountain Resort’s 300-plus runs you should zip down. Then, when you’re sufficiently tuckered out, sit back and watch the pros have at it: The FIS Snowboard, Freestyle, and Freeski World Championships will wow spectators with jumps, flips, aerials, and more through February 10.

All of that Wasatch Mountain air is bound to whet your appetite—for roasted-beet-and-smoked-salmon toast at Harvest just a block off ever-charming Main Street, perhaps, or cheddar biscuits with pimiento cheese (and a pint of something local) at the new Hearth and Hill. When it’s finally time to unwind, you’ll want to check into the Waldorf Astoria, which boasts a year-round heated pool, a roaring fireplace in every room, and a seriously soothing spa (don’t miss the peppermint pedicure). If you’d rather rest your head closer to the runs at Park City’s other resort, Deer Valley, make a reservation at the recently renovated Goldener Hirsch Inn, where each of the 20 rooms comes with a private balcony overlooking the closest thing to a real-life winter wonderland. —Madeline Bilis

March

Washington, DC

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To brighten up all of your friends’ mud-season Instagram feeds with some early spring flowers, courtesy of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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JetBlue nonstop to Reagan National Airport

Fragrant cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin / Photo via iStock

Most of us, when we go on vacation, like to get away from the things that stress us out, like, say, politics. The nation’s capital, you might think, would be about the worst place to do that—but you’d be wrong. The once-sleepy and bureaucratic town of northern hospitality and southern efficiency is downright cool these days, booming with daring new eateries alongside the establishment joints.

Still, if you’re doing DC, you can’t miss the classics. Start with the National Mall; home to March’s beloved Cherry Blossom Festival, it’s where you’ll find hundreds of trees blooming with delicately fragrant, picture-perfect pink flowers. Then trek the mile from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, catching the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam memorials along the way, before making a loop around the Tidal Basin—also rimmed with cherry trees—to see the monuments to MLK, FDR, and Jefferson. (If you want to go full tourist, and don’t mind dirty looks, there are Segway tours.) Still hankering for some history? The National Museum of African American History and Culture has received rave reviews since opening in 2016, both for its rich, affecting treatment of the subject and its breathtaking design. All of this is a hop, skip, and jump from the grand, historical, and quintessentially DC Willard Hotel.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to take advantage of what might be the best part of Washington—the food. But where? The city is crackling with standouts, but two of the most exciting are Rose’s Luxury, a globetrotting take on southern comfort food in a cozy, farmhouse setting on Capitol Hill, and Bad Saint, a 24-seat gem serving Filipino in Columbia Heights, north of downtown. (Fair warning: Both involve standing in lines.) If you want the “as seen on TV” DC experience, try the Tabard Inn near Dupont Circle—a classic dark lounge with a fireplace and good wine list—or the more recent favorite, Le Diplomate, a French bistro on 14th Street. No matter where you eat or play, you’ll find that like Boston, DC is a great city to walk and explore, one that’s full of little surprises along the way. Most, you won’t even need a subpoena to find. —Thomas Stackpole

April

Oahu

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To be among the first New Englanders to say aloha to a brand-new direct flight from Boston.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Hawaii Airlines nonstop to Honolulu

Palm trees and a gentle breeze along Oahu’s shores / Photo via iStock

The kids are itching to get outside after a long winter, your spouse is itching to get a tan, and your parents are just itching for an invite. How do you please ’em all? Answer: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the pearlescent shores of Oahu, where a brand-new nonstop flight from Boston is debuting in April, just in time to get out of town for spring break.

For those traveling with the brood in tow, there’s no place like Aulani Disney Resort, nestled on the western part of the island in the Ko Olina resort area. The luxe property’s ukulele lessons and pool parties promise to keep the young ones occupied while you catch some rays on the stunning white-sand beach or check into the spa for a little R & R. Looking to stay closer to the action in Honolulu? Book a room at the hip, midcentury-modern Laylow and stroll to the open-air International Market Place to browse the high-end stores.

Though it may be hard to wrench yourself away from your poolside cabana, there’s much to explore on the island—and off it. Grab a surfboard and hang 10 with the locals at Waikiki Beach, or become acquainted with hundreds of tropical fish and other marine wildlife at Hanauma Bay State Park, where you can rent snorkeling equipment and swim atop an extensive network of reefs—great for both the beginners and avid swimmers in your clan. Prefer to experience nature’s wonders on land? Check out the breathtaking vistas of Honolulu and the Pacific while hiking Diamond Head State Monument, the showpiece of which is a 300,000-year-old crater.

Once you’ve gotten your steps in, it’s time to indulge: in loco moco, a hearty island staple featuring white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and gravy, at Goofy Café’s brunch, or in the decadent tasting menu at Senia, from Per Se alums Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush (if you can find a babysitter, that is). And you’d be remiss not to stop by Liliha Bakery, known for its addictive chocolate-filled “coco puff” pastries: Stash away a box in your carry-on and give the kids something to look forward to on the long plane ride home. —Tessa Yannone

May

Seoul

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

No longer just for businesspeople visiting Samsung or Hyundai, Seoul is now cooler than ever, offering fully realized food and shopping scenes. And thanks to a brand-new direct flight from the Hub, it’s closer than ever, too.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Korean Air nonstop to Incheon Airport

Bongeunsa Temple’s Big Buddha overlooks a modern tableau of Seoul skyscrapers / Photo via iStock

Like Boston, Seoul is a study in contradictions—see: the historical and ultra-contemporary architecture, the mouthwatering street food and top-notch fine dining, and the cutting-edge technology and Old World customs that blend seamlessly on every corner. And with a population greater than that of the entire state of Massachusetts, this mega-city offers something for just about everyone.

Once you drop your bags, start your adventure with an easy hike up Namsan Mountain to N Seoul Tower, the city’s iconic landmark. The views are spellbinding—the river, the mountains, and the metropolis sprawl in every direction—and from all the way up you can get a pretty good lay of the land. When you’re ready to begin exploring at ground level, hop over to Insadong, the best neighborhood to pick up traditional antiques, porcelain, and other gifts to bring home. If you’re feeling peckish, take a few hours to explore the street-food stalls of Gwangjang Market, and don’t leave without trying Korean staples such as bibimbap and sticky rice cakes.

Speaking of local favorites—even if you prefer to get your nips, tucks, and injectables in your Chestnut Hill doctor’s office, it’s worth taking some time to rummage through the shops in Myeongdong to experience the city’s burgeoning beauty tourism scene. Olive Young and Aland are favorites for post-plane pick-me-ups such as sheet masks and serums. For a quintessential Seoul experience, consider getting a quirky, Instagram-worthy nail-art manicure at Unistella or Tam2Na, both located in the posh Gangnam district.

As a city that caters to a constant stream of business travelers and creative impresarios, Seoul has no shortage of luxe hotels. Among the best-loved are the Four Seasons Seoul, which boasts an impressive spa and famously comfortable beds, and the Shilla, which occupies its own private hilltop in the heart of central Seoul. Take a breather from the action before dinner at Hannam-dong hot spot Parc, where you’ll find a contemporary, unpretentious take on traditional Korean food. But if you really want a high-brow, high-altitude dining experience, there’s no better spot than the Michelin-starred Bicena. Located 81 stories up, it’s the best place to get a bird’s-eye view of the nonstop action below. —Todd Plummer

June

Amsterdam

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

Like the peacock showing off its fantastic tail feathers, Amsterdam in June means long, warm days and annual festivals flooding every theater, church, and park with culture.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Delta/KLM nonstop to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

A scenic evening along Amsterdam’s canals / Photo via iStock

Art, culture, and, yes, cannabis coffee shops that are more than just a glimmer in your stoner sister’s eye: This storybook-like city built on canals along the Amstel River knows how to have a good time.

And yet much of Amsterdam’s beauty and ingenuity come from its historically bad geography—the Netherlands is a tiny lowland country locked in an eternal battle against flooding, meaning everything here has been designed to perfection. The result? Dutch artists and engineers have always punched above their weight class, from iconic painters such as van Gogh to modern industrial design masters like Marcel Wanders. And for all of the MFA members among us, this is the year to go.

In honor of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 2019, the incomparable Rijksmuseum is holding a yearlong tribute to the Dutch da Vinci, including an exhibition of all of his known works. Those lucky enough to book a trip in June, meanwhile, will be blessed with sunny weather as well as an incredible array of festivals, including the Holland Festival, a weeks-long performing-arts showcase featuring world premieres of international works in theater, dance, music, and more.

When it’s time to take a break from the action, immerse yourself in the Dutch aesthetic at the Wanders-designed Andaz Amsterdam. It’s just a stroll away from the historical Jordaan neighborhood, where an unforgettable surf-and-turf experience awaits at Venus & Adonis.

With recreational marijuana dispensaries still elusive in the Bay State, it remains a novelty to enjoy a smoke Dutch-style with other aficionados in one of the city’s many coffee shops. Our favorite: De Tweede Kamer. With friendly weed sommeliers (yes, that’s really a thing) who will match your personality to the perfect strain, it promises to be a high point in a trip full of them. —Rachel Slade

July

Vancouver

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To see fireworks light up the sky and plenty of illuminating activities on the ground, too.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Canada nonstop to Vancouver International Airport

Journeying across Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge / Photo via iStock

The best way to escape the sweltering summer heat in Boston? Embracing the warm welcome of our friends up north, of course. And in Vancouver, a nature lover’s paradise with a low-key Pacific Northwest vibe, July is the best time to lace up your New Balances and hike, bike, and feast your way through the many must-see attractions.

The first stop? A ferry to Granville Island. Hop on a water taxi from Hornby Street to access this gorgeous peninsula, where you can stroll through the daily Public Market and check out the indie art galleries and shops. Your outdoor adventure continues at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, deep within the lush Capilano Forest, where brave souls can stroll across seven suspended footbridges 110 feet above the forest floor and 230 feet above a river. (Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge offers similar thrills.) Or spend the afternoon hiking up Grouse Grind, otherwise known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” for unparalleled city vistas.

Hungry yet? As a gateway into Canada from the Far East, Asian influence can be seen throughout Vancouver, especially when it comes to the food. Chinatown offers a plethora of options, including Japanese-Italian gem Kissa Tanto and the always-crowded Bao Bei, which serves up handmade prawn, scallop, and rockfish dumplings and “kickass” fried rice with black-pepper skirt steak. And like their American neighbors in Seattle, Vancouver residents take coffee seriously: Make sure to get your cup of joe at Matchstick, arguably the best in town.

Before tucking in for the night at the centrally located Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, there’s one more stop you have to make: English Bay Beach, where you can take in the Celebration of Light, an annual musical fireworks competition that rivals Boston’s Fourth of July display with pyrotechnics from various countries, beginning July 27. Al fresco escapades, top-notch eats, and a little razzle-dazzle—sounds like the stuff midsummer dreams are made of. —E.C.

August

Lisbon

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To sample a traditional custard tart (or three) in Europe’s most happening city.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

TAP Air Portugal nonstop to Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport

Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology / FG+FS/Courtesy EDP Foundation

With hundreds of thousands of Portuguese descendants living in the Bay State, chances are you’ve heard someone raving about Lisbon. Find out what all of the buzz is about this August, when the locals clear out for their own holidays and leave behind a refreshingly quiet city ideal for sightseeing.

Begin at the top—of the city, that is. Nicknamed the “City of Seven Hills,” Lisbon features miradouros, or terraced viewpoints, at its highest peaks, allowing you to admire panoramic vistas of clustered terra cotta rooftops and the Tagus river. A favorite is the Portas do Sol: Find a seat at the nearby café of the same name and kick back with Lisbon’s favorite cocktail, the porto tónico (white port with tonic water and citrus).

If your shoes were not made for climbing, rely on Lisbon’s tram network to take you up, up, and away. Operating since 1873, any of the five lines will deposit you in the city center’s most popular neighborhoods. The stylish set should hit the Príncipe Real’s Embaixada, a former 19th-century palace that’s been transformed into a gallery of independent boutiques featuring everything from home goods to baby clothes. Art lovers, meanwhile, will want to head west to Belém to discover the newly built Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.

One of your hardest decisions will be where to eat. Take a bite of new Lisbon at Michelin-starred Alma, helmed by local celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa. Or taste old Lisbon at the popular Cervejaria Ramiro, known for its grilled giant tiger prawns. Of course, no Lisbon meal would be complete without a pastel de nata, the classic Portuguese custard tart served at Pastéis de Belém since 1837.

After a packed day, unwind at the Lisboans, a unique new hotel that offers one- or two-bedroom apartments beautifully outfitted with handpicked antiques. And whatever you do, don’t leave town without a souvenir from Conserveira de Lisboa, the family-run grocery store that’s sold colorful tins of fish to travelers since 1930. When you’re home, you’ll only need to peel back the top to be transported to Lisbon. —Abby Bielagus

September

Willamette Valley

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To celebrate the harvest season with all the pinot noir you can drink.

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Alaska Airlines nonstop to Portland International Airport, followed by a 35-mile drive

Grape vines as far as the eye can see: postcard-perfect scenery in the Willamette Valley / Photo via iStock

If you’ve spent the summer sipping and swirling along New England’s Coastal Wine Trail and are ready to graduate to the next level, there’s only one grape-growing destination that should be on your list, and it doesn’t start with an N. Sandwiched between the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges and featuring more than 500 wineries, Oregon’s Willamette Valley isn’t a place you come to put the pedal to the metal. It’s a place you come to sleep in, drink pinot, and enjoy life’s singular pleasures—especially during harvest season, aka “crush.”

Take, for example, the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, a resort situated in the midst of vineyards, rolling hills, and mountains. Stroll the stunning grounds to view the hotel’s 500-piece art collection, indulge in a “Divine Wine” facial at the spa, or make a reservation for two at the Jory Restaurant chef’s table—with so much to do onsite, you’ll never want to leave.

But you really should, if only to get a taste of the grapes that make Willamette so famous. Warm up by the outdoor fire pit while sipping pinot noir at Tresori, also in Newberg. Stop by Four Graces, in Dundee, and WillaKenzie Estate, in Yamhill, to sample more pinot in their tasting rooms. And to really immerse yourself in the wine-soaked scenery, book one of the guesthouses at Stoller Family Estate, in Dayton.

When you’re not hitting the tasting rooms, there’s plenty to see and do in the area—all you need to do is get in the car and make your way along winding back roads. Thistle, in McMinnville, serves up locally sourced fare paired with plenty of Willamette vino. The 7.2-mile loop at Silver Falls State Park, meanwhile, offers glimpses of dramatic waterfalls. But if all you want to do is cozy up to the wood-burning fireplace in the Allison’s living room, well, that’s just fine. After all, you’re on Oregon time now.

October

Mexico City

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

To dance with the dead during the city’s Día de los Muertos celebrations.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Aeroméxico nonstop to Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México

Ushering in Día de los Muertos with a vibrant parade / Photo courtesy of Secretaría de Cultura Ciudad de México/Flickr

Centuries older than Boston, more populous than New York City, and vaster than Los Angeles, Mexico City is a place where ancient history mingles effortlessly with dazzling modernity. For proof, look no further than its Día de los Muertos festivities. Typically celebrated privately by families in their own homes, this holiday (which pays homage to deceased loved ones) has increasingly started spilling out into the streets of Mexico City—thanks, in part, to the James Bond flick Spectre. Inspired by the film’s opening scene of costumed catrinas (skeletons garbed in high-society finery) cavorting in the Zócalo plaza, Mexico responded with its annual La Catrina Fest MX, which includes a spectacular parade of its own, beginning at the Ángel de la Independencia monument and ending near the iconic Palacio de Bellas Artes building. Those looking for a more contemplative glimpse of Día de los Muertos, meanwhile, should stop by the Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli to see the brightly decorated traditional ofrenda, or altar, dedicated to the museum’s namesake painter, Diego Rivera.

The depth of Mexico City’s cultural heritage is rivaled only by the vibrancy of its cuisine. If you can’t snag a spot at chef Enrique Olvera’s white-hot Pujol, fear not. Nearby, you’ll find two spots helmed by Pujol alums: At Carmela & Sal, chef Gaby Ruíz (who hails from Mexico’s tropical Tabasco region) brings a taste of the rainforest to the capital city, while at Quintonil, chef Jorge Vallejo serves up such inventive fare as braised oxtail in smoky black recado paste.

Need a nightcap? Stick around the tony Polanco neighborhood and join the party animals over at the W Hotel, which hosts regular DJ events. Those who prefer a low-key vibe will find tranquility at Las Alcobas, a plush boutique hotel where every detail is designed to soothe. Indeed, the options are endless, but no matter how you choose to experience Mexico City during this season of remembrance, your visit will be unforgettable. —Shaula Clark

November

Istanbul

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

Smaller crowds make fall an ideal time to visit this historical metropolis.

U+21E2.gif GETTING THERE

Turkish Airlines nonstop to Istanbul Atatürk Airport

An aerial view of Turkey’s largest city / Photo via iStock

Want to knock two continents off the bucket list? Touch down in Istanbul, where Asia and Europe are separated only by the Bosporus strait, and get it done in less time than it takes to cross the Charles on the Green Line. A stunning mix of East meets West, both halves of this glamorous ancient city are ripe for exploring.

First up: an abbreviated tour through thousands of years of history. Stock up on legendary Turkish coffee at Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, just outside the famous Spice Bazaar, then check off these must-see landmarks: At the Grand Bazaar, you can haggle your way through 3,000-plus shops hawking everything from Turkish bath towels to handmade pottery. Be sure to devote a generous amount of time to exploring the magnificent Sultan Ahmet Mosque (better known as the Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia, the former Greek Orthodox patriarchal cathedral.

Have your bearings yet? Good—now it’s really time to get up close and personal with Turkish culture. At the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam, you can partake in an ancient bathing ritual that entails being washed and massaged by ladies (or men) in waiting. The spa-like experience isn’t for the modest, but relaxing with a scrub is an Istanbul must-do.

Just outside the hammam is an outdoor coffee shop where you can take in another Turkish tradition: Whirling Dervishes. Clad in white gowns and long caps, the men perform spellbinding meditation rituals that entail spinning around to Sufi devotional music. Looking for a religious experience of the culinary variety? Situated on the top floor of the 18-story Marmara Pera hotel, Mikla is the spot for fine dining, with an emphasis on local ingredients.

With all of the action around Istanbul, you’ll need a restorative home base, and the Çırağan Palace Kempinski fits the bill. A former royal residence dating to the 19th century, the hotel invites you to unwind where sultans one roamed—a fitting reminder that in this city, the past is never far away. —E.C.

December

Cape Verde

U+21E2.gif WHY YOU SHOULD GO

For a totally new take on winter fun in the sun.

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Cabo Verde Airlines nonstop to Aeroporto Internacional da Praia Nelson Mandela

The positively palatial Riu Karamboa hotel, on Boa Vista / Photo courtesy of Riu Karamboa Hotel

If the thought of holiday shopping has you dreaming of a warm Christmas somewhere far, far south of Newbury Street, consider escaping to the Cape Verde islands, an exotic archipelago off the coast of West Africa. A Portuguese colony for more than 500 years, this little independent nation with a deep New England connection flaunts everything you need for a December getaway—festive music, good food, gorgeous landscapes, and almost unlimited sun, sea, and sand.

As a mainly Catholic country, the Christmas season is an extra-special time in Cape Verde. You can catch joyous holiday services in 15th-century World Heritage churches; savor treats such as cocadas (coconut cookies) washed down with the archipelago’s celebrated grogue or volcano crater wine; and ogle Christmas trees made entirely from green bananas.

Which of the 10 main islands you choose to spend the majority of your time on depends largely on what you like to do on vacation. Boa Vista and Sal, the closest islands to the Sahara Desert, boast the best beaches. All-inclusive hotels such as the castle-like Riu Karamboa cater to water-sports aficionados drawn to the islands’ scuba diving, windsurfing, and deep-sea fishing.

Fogo island, meanwhile, is ideal for adventurers, renowned for its lava-rock vineyards, black-sand strands, and volcano treks. The hiking is even better on Santo Antão, where trails lead along vertiginous coastal cliffs and through the rugged volcanic interior.

Thanks to singers like the late, great Cesária Évora, Cape Verde is also a hub of World Beat music. Among the top places to hear local tunes are Casa Café Mindelo on São Vicente island and Quintal da Música in Praia on Santiago island. Can’t leave without seeing it all? Island hopping is encouraged through high-speed ferry service.

If you stick around long enough for New Year’s Eve, expect fireworks on the beach, midnight dips in the warm sea, and carnival-like celebrations that don’t end until the sun rises over the nearby Sahara. In other words, it’ll be a party for the ages. —Joe Yogerst


PLUS: Notable Bostonians share their travel bucket lists.