written by
Barbara Wysocki

Here’s a recipe for the perfect winter getaway. Start with an island snuggly settled in sapphire or turquoise waters. Fringe the island with soft sandy beaches. Let rolling tides add rhythm. Now tuck intimate villas and suites close to the natural bounty of breeze and waves, but include pools, too. Serene spas enhance the sense-soothing mood. Of course, premium local cuisine will fill forks. Libations flow freely. All this is waiting when winter hits hard or when work is a tightrope of deadlines. Time for a tropical escape is essential.


Set on Thailand’s west coast, Phuket is the nation’s largest island. Pronounced poo-ket, it’s graced with warm, gentle waves. Though it’s easily reached from the mainland by a half mile span, most people arrive via the international airport just 30 minutes outside the town of Phuket. Midwinter temperatures stay around 80-degrees, while the skies stay sunny.

Banyan Tree Phuket
This family-friendly resort also lures romantic, luxury-loving duos for weddings on the beach or in the orchid garden. Everyone loves the chance to go golfing, kayaking, cycling, snorkeling or visiting island festivals. Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration and there’s a street fair in Old Town Phuket in the Thalang Road district. Because Banyan Tree is one of five resorts in the Laguna Phuket area, it’s easy to canoe over to the others for a visit. Dine on fare ranging from a villa-side BBQ to classic international and spicy native dishes in the Saffron and Watercourt restaurants. Cooking classes give Thai take-home a new meaning. In addition to new recipes, pick up handicrafts and art in the in-house gallery. What a great way to take home lifetime memories. Finish off a day with tennis matches or day hikes amid casuarinas trees with singles or doubles spa sessions. Restoration awaits in either indoor or outdoor spaces with the spa’s Ayurvedic oil and herb treatments. Guests toast their warmly-rewarding days watching the sunset over the Andaman Sea.

JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa
Stroll along Mai Khao, one of Phuket’s loveliest beaches, or tread carefully to the Phuket Marine Biological Center to learn about recent efforts to nurture endangered leatherback turtle’s eggs laid during the annual nesting ritual. Nearby Sirinat Marine National Park protects coral reefs and an exceptional mangrove forest. School-age girls and boys maximize their time enjoying dancing lessons and nature walks. With the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa’s water slide for kids and the Mandara Spa’s powdered spice scrub paired with Balinese-based massage for the grownups, everyone glides along. The resort’s stellar staff mixes up star-quality cocktails in the Out of the Blue bar and makes terrific towel animals in the 265 generously appointed rooms and suites. With water everywhere, hook up with locals to go fishing, diving, sailing or even painting batik fabrics. Nightly buffets rotate through the resort’s Ginja Taste, Cucina, Andaman Grill and Kabuki restaurants. Adults and youngsters with an appetite to meet the chef can sign up for a Thai Ginja Cooking Course. Fortunately jogging paths on the resort’s fitness trails can work off such daily indulgences.

A collection of 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (an atoll is a circular reef around a lagoon,) the Maldives’ archipelago is in the Arabian Sea portion of the Indian Ocean. The nation is above-water evidence of no-longer-active undersea volcanoes. Covering 115 square miles with more saltwater than sand, it’s Asia’s smallest nation and the world’s lowest in elevation. No wonder many visitors climb aboard a seaplane for the last leg of a journeys here. At this equatorial, cultural crossroads, the lagoons are lush retreats rich in beach and breeze.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
Settled on the North Malé Atoll, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru’s underwater wedding package is surely a natural. There’s a fully certified Dive Center to organize the ceremony. It’s also the place to get ready to go exploring the sea life amid the coral reefs just below the waves. For those who prefer skimming the surface there’s waterskiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing. Easy to build up an appetite for the multicultural cuisine that reflects the Indian, Arabian, Sri Lankan and Asian visitors who’ve passed through the Maldivian nation. That means guests may find breadfruit, cassava, rice, chapatti and tuna, that is often the catch-of-theday, on their plates. Arranging a romantic seaside meal is possible from morning to evening. Or pack a picnic, hop on a catamaran and take the whole family to find dolphins at play. After encounters with these aquatic acrobats, kids can dive into activities in the resort’s Marine Conservation Lab. For another family favorite take a ride on a banana boat, just right for smooth trip across the lagoon. Coconuts are among the natural ingredients on hand for spa therapies that embody this shimmering soul sanctuary. With acupressure massage followed by applying pouches packed with coriander, cloves and lemon grass, guests are ready for a good night’s sleep in a draped, fourposter bed. Then everyone wakes for a walk on the pure-white sandy beaches.

Hurawalhi Island Resort
Designed for adults-only (ages 15 and older allowed), Hurawalhi Island Resort makes it easy to get in touch with one’s inner kid by hopping on a fun-tube or a sofa ride. Perhaps take time to run upa boat’s sails to capture the pleasant winds. Need aquatic adventure? Then it’s time to jump aboard a jet ski or a speedboat. Diving is definitely the way to get closer, but not too personal with the schools of snappers, bluestripes, fusiliers, Oriental sweetlips, bannerfish and even, the reef sharks who live in the coral. The Hurawalhi Marine Biology Center works on conservation of Lhaviyani Atoll’s 2,000-plus sea life species, including manta ray research. Fine dining and fresh sipping opportunities reflect the resort’s international flair. Water views abound: cocktails in the Coco Bar, desserts at the Aquarium Restaurant and extraordinary lunches and suppers in the 5.8 Underwater Restaurant where sixteen guests eat inside a see-through space 19-feet beneath the surface. There’s even a Champagne Pavilion where twosomes toast the spectacular scenery. Doors opened here in January of 2017, with villas, many with private pools, offering sunrise and sunset views. Combining Asian and African modes of treatment, the Dunive Spa menu not only offers classic comforts, but the rooms have rare overwater views. Even with so many delights close at hand, excursions to go fishing or to find a private island inspire an urge to roam. So whether it’s packing a picnic or landing dinner, the days always end perfectly when the stars fill the sky.

Sawasdee and Kihine
Get ready with these friendly greetings for Thailand and the Maldives respectively — it’s time to head to a tropical island. Pack the flip-flops, stow a swimsuit and some sun block in the suitcase. Say goodbye to stress and storms. Serene sandy beaches are calling!

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