Winter can be the best time of the year to travel. You can get away from the cold by heading to warmer climates to enjoy sun and sand or grab your skis and take off for a great snowbird resort. Here are FIVE fabulous destinations that will break up the monotony of a seemingly endless winter: the lesser-known island of Lana’i in Hawaii; Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it’s summer; Vail and Aspen, Colorado for Western ski bunnies and New Hampshire’s many ski resorts in the East; and the Florida Keys.
THE ISLAND OF LANA’I
THE SIXTH LARGEST AND LEAST ACCESSIBLE inhabited island in the Hawaiian chain is like no other. Known as the “Pineapple Island” since 1922, James Dole, president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, bought the island and transformed it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation. To this day, the island remains privately owned, though no longer by (what became known as) the Dole Food Company. There is one small town on the island, Lana’i City, which has a small hotel where Dole executives used to stay when there on business; one school on the entire island, which serves kindergarten through 12th grade; one hospital, which caters to all the medical and dental needs of the 3,131 islanders.
There are, of course, the man-eating spirits that live in the Forgotten Valley but none have been seen since 1999, when Prince Kauluāʻau was exorcized from the body of a young, male by a Catholic priest; and one particular banyan tree where every evening, a massive flock of black ravens come to roost. The tree is on the grounds of one of only two resort hotels on the island, the magnificent, landlocked Lodge at Kōʻele, but fortunately most guests do not know the black ravens are, in actuality, the spirits of the dead. A half-hour’s drive, at the bottom of the island, is the magnificent Manele Bay on Hulupoe Beach, considered one of the Top Ten (and least known) beaches in the world. Both are luxury resort hotels, managed by Four Seasons Hotels, and offer three world-class golf courses: The Challenge at Manele, designed by Jack Nicklaus, which borders the ocean (Bill and Melinda Gates were married on the 12th hole tee-box); The Experience at Kōʻele, designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. and Greg Norman; and The Cavendish, a nine-hold short course designed by E.B. Cavendish in 1947. There is Lana’i Pine Sporting Clays, near the Lodge at Kōʻele, which offers a challenging, state-of-the-art, 14-station course and Five-Stand. Four-wheel drive vehicles can be rented so you can explore the backroads and high terrain, and all the water sports a Pacific island can offer are readily available, including snorkeling, fishing, sailing, and swimming.
One last thing: if you drive along the road—because yes, there is only one—at night, be sure to have an unopened bottle of whiskey with you. If you encounter an old woman smoking a pipe, thumbing a ride at the side of the road, pick her up and allow her to ride in the back seat—but don’t talk to her. She is Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, in disguise, and she is visiting Mount Mount Lānaʻihale, her island retreat, away from her home on Kilauea, across the Au’au Channel, to the east. Hand her the bottle, then turn away and continue your drive in silence. When you arrive at your destination, you will find she is not there. But be content. The whiskey appeased her. If you had not given her the bottle, she would have been angered and in all assurance, the volcano Kilauea would erupt to show her rage.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
It is called the Paris of South America (in part because of its seriously fashion-conscious inhabitants) and this beautiful city, the largest in Argentina with a population of almost 16 million, lies in the Pampa region on the western shore of the Rio de la Plata, on South America’s southeastern coast. Multicultural, it has been a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world since it was founded by Catalan missionaries and Jesuits in 1324. Its history is rich and colorful. It is warm here in January—winter south of the Equator is our summer—with daily temperatures of 76-degrees F., which are cooled by the dry Pampero winds, and the nights can be chilly. There is much to see. The Metropolitan Cathedra is the main Catholic church, the Jewish synagogue, the Templo Libertad, is the largest in Latin America, the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the oldest non-Catholic church in Latin America and the Russian Orthodox church and St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral are the largest of their respective orders in South America.
Because it is indeed a cultural melting pot, there is a lot going on. There are 300 active theaters—more than London, New York, or Paris—making Buenos Aires the busiest theater industry in the world. There is the Teatro Colón, an internationally celebrated opera house, several symphony orchestras and choral societies, numerous museums, and hundreds of bookstores, earning Buenos Aires the name, “the city of books.” A member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, it is called the “City of Design” and yes, Buenos Aires Fashion Week (BAFWEEK) is held annually. Then there are the magnificent hotels, the incredible restaurants, the glorious parks and resplendent architecture. Want a winter getaway? Go to Buenos Aires…and plan on staying a couple of weeks.
VAIL AND ASPEN, COLORADO
It used to be, not all that long ago, that Vail and Aspen were undeveloped enclaves known only to serious skiers who were privy to the challenge afforded by the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Then the word got out and the rich and famous from the West Coast descended, building homes to rival a castle, and causing the towns to mushroom and rival Gstaad and other posh European ski resorts. There remains a little left of the small town feeling since you can ski right up to your hotel or lodge, depending upon where you stay. And there are plenty of wonderful places to stay, and dine, and revel by night before starting a new day once again, shushing down the slopes.
Vail is only an hour-and-a half from Denver and Aspen is two hours further west, through Glenwood Springs. Spending a couple of weeks skiing Vail and Aspen is a ski lover’s ultimate destination. When there’s no snow, though, it’s still beautiful, but much quieter.
THE SKI SLOPES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Though New Hampshire offers some of the most challenging skiing in the world, the state does not get a lot of lip service as a ski destinations—and there’s a reason why. Skiers who come to this northern part of the Northeast to ski have likely been coming here for years, or since childhood, just as their parents and grandparents before them did, to schuss down the slopes that surround Mount Washington, the highest point on the entire Eastern Seaboard. The summer playground of the Boston Brahmins and America’s dynastic family, the Rockefellers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Bretton Woods Resort, which remains a luxury, world-renown, sprawling period hotel high in the heart New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Scenic Conway, New Hampshire, a charming Hallmark-type village, is central to the ski resorts of Cranmore, Attitash, Gunstock, Ragged Mountain, Loon Mountain, and for a family retreat, there’s King Pine, just south of Conway. To the west and in easy driving distance of beautiful Wolfeboro, America’s oldest resort, located on the state’s largest lake, Lake Winnipesaukee, there’s Loon Mountain and Waterville Valley Resort. If you want a weekend getaway that’s easy driving distance anywhere from Washington, D.C. north, Pittsburgh to the west, and just an hour from Portland, Maine, then ski New Hampshire. You’ll keep coming back, again and again.
THE FLORIDA KEYS
Ever since that storm ripped through in Key Largo and Bogart confronted Edward G. Robinson, the Florida Keys, a coral cay archipelago off the southern coast of Florida, has been an escape, a fisherman’s paradise, and was home to Hemingway before Cuba lured him away. President Harry S. Truman wintered here. Playwright Tennessee Williams, like Hemingway, wrote here and so did author Judy Blume, children’s author Shel Silverstein, and songwriter Jimmy Buffett. The Keys are that much further away than other Florida winter meccas, with a different sort of charm that’s uniquely its own. Time stops in the Keys. The fish are always biting. The cooling trade winds come from the south-southwest. The Florida Keys is where you go if you want to be busy doing nothing but cast a line, read a good book, dine, drink, and sleep in one of the most alluring and relaxing winter retreats you could hope to find.