By more, we mean double-down and give in to the allure of the cold—definitely an acquired taste. Whereas, by less, we mean escape to a place where warm sand, turquoise water and delicious ocean breezes wash away all memories of ice, snow and work.
Realizing that no single choice is necessarily best for everyone (and that going to extremes isn’t always the goal), we’ve decided to present three very different vacation destinations. One will literally take you to the frozen edge of the Arctic Circle to interact with the kind of nature that thrives amid ice; another brings you to a restored Colorado ghost-town-turned-luxury-spa, where hot springs and Rocky Mountain heli-skiing will vie for your attention; and the last nestles you in the lap of Caribbean-style luxury, where fun and sun can cure all of your winter doldrums.
Arctic Kingdom’s Icy Adventures
The word “safari” tends to conjure up gorgeous images of wildlife in a natural habitat that involves the rolling grasslands, marshes and jungles of Africa. This is exactly the concept the pioneering folks at Arctic Kingdom want you to experience—albeit with a tundra twist—when you travel with them for a custom-tailored trip to the Arctic regions. As go-to logistical providers of equipment and outfitting services for filmmakers and scientists in the Northwest, Arctic Kingdom is an Iqaluit, Canada-based firm that excels at shepherding small groups of hardy adventurers on weekend or extended trips to camps on land and ice in the Northwest Territories and Greenland. They offer a variety of season-specific excursions with personalized itineraries, such as going to see polar bears and migratory birds, taking hot air balloon rides above Baffin Island, scuba diving under (yes, under) glaciers or taking in the Northern Lights, among others. Not your typical walk-in-the-park stuff.
Depending on the trip, guests may stay in timber lodges with full amenities (including on-site chefs), remote log cabins 100 miles from the nearest town, temporary tents or structures for extreme adventures or partner hotels for shorter, weekend trips. Their Taste of Arctic Spring (offered rom February through May) pairs you with local Inuit guides. You’ll travel on a sled pulled by a team of dogs across the frozen wilderness, ice fish for Arctic char and even, if you’re up for it, help build the igloo you’ll bed down in after viewing the Northern Lights. Similarly, their Taste of Arctic Summer (July through September) plants you on a sea-ice camp near Baffin Island where you’ll witness the soul-shifting migration of thousands of hungry whales that congregate at the icy edge of the bay.
BEST ROOMS Depending on the trip you take, you will stay in a local partner hotel, a timber lodge, a remote log cabin, a tent, or a yurt. The truly intrepid or authentic traveler, however, may prefer to build his or her own lodgings out of the copious amount of ice at hand—you guessed it, an igloo. With help from the pros, you cut blocks of ice and assemble your very own igloo, throw down a few caribou skins, light some candles and slide into the provided sleeping bag. You’ll be about as in-touch with the Arctic as it gets. 888-737-6818, www.arctickingdom.com
Rustic Rewards at Dunton Hot Springs
What happens when a German billionaire focuses his attention on a 19th century ghost mining town in the shadows of Telluride that happens to be rich in natural hot springs? In the case of Dunton Hot Springs, the result is an absolutely stunning collection of 12 original miner cabins (appointed with antiques, modern comforts and luxurious amenities, as well); a tented, high-end suite for the more outdoors-inclined traveler; and a nearby sister camp (eight tented suites with river- or mountain-facing views).
All told, Dunton’s two main properties—located in Dolores, Colorado—encompass more than 1,700 acres of private wilderness, providing no shortage of activities (some included, others a la carte). From fly fishing, mountain biking, show shoeing, hiking and horseback riding in the wilderness to snow mobiling, dog-sledding, ice-climbing and exceptional skiing at nearby Telluride (plus heli-skiing direct from your cabin for the truly intrepid), you won’t find yourself wishing there was something to do here. There’s even a boxing gym for those who relax by sparring.
The best reason to visit, however, is the chance to submerge in the natural, sulfur-free hot springs of the blissfully updated bathhouse that the town’s old miners once enjoyed. Afterward, stroll down to the town’s old saloon (now a restaurant) for gourmet Alpine cuisine, followed by a peek at the scrolled signature of Butch Cassidy who, the story goes, paid a visit after robbing a bank in Telluride.
Caribbean Comfort at St. Regis Bahia Beach
Approximately a 35-minute drive from San Juan, the St. Regis Bahia Beach sits between El Yunque National Forest and the mouth of the Espíritu Santo River on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast. Known as AAA’s only Five Diamond Award resort in Puerto Rico, this former coconut plantation sits on 483 lush acres of property, including two miles of pristine, private beach. Among its notable features are an oceanside world-class golf course with fabulous views, a top-rated restaurant and a luxurious spa.
As far as outdoor activities are concerned, it’s hard to beat the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. oceanfront golf course, which offers 18 holes (par-72) with fairways featuring views of the ocean, scenic lakes and mangroves that will delight even the most jaded of golfers. Other tempting attractions include nature trails, a bird sanctuary, tennis, art classes and a zip line that takes adventurers through the tropical canopy of nearby El Yunque’s rainforest.
The resort’s top restaurant, Fern, is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten creation that features notable dishes from his portfolio of renowned restaurants around the world. Remède Spa, near the hotel’s main entrance, is all about pampering and peacefulness, with seven secluded massage villas lining the spa’s garden, plus men’s and women’s steam rooms, sauna and hot and cold plunges. An incredible menu of treatments and services, including massage, skin, salon and well-being programs are readily available, including customized treatments featuring indigenous, organic products.
BEST ROOMS The 2,510 square-foot, bi-level Governor’s Suite ($2,600 nightly) offers a second-floor terrace with beautiful ocean views. This low-rise Caribbean plantation-style building fits in perfectly with the lush surroundings. The entire suite, which receives butler service and has a full kitchen and a dining room for six, is decorated with custom-designed dark cherry wood furnishings and original artwork. The master bedroom features a king-size bed layered with 300-thread-count Pratesi linens and a sleek marble bathroom with a huge rain forest shower connected to the private, outdoor terrace. 787-809-8000, www.stregisbahiabeach.com