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This season always brings the sort of weather that inspires balmy fantasy - mental pictures of sun-splashed beaches and bikini-clad ladies, and the soothing sound of a steel-drumming, dread-locked man saying “No worries, mon.” You dream of boat drinks and seats by the dock of a blissful bay. You want someone—anyone—to bring a cheeseburger directly to your poolside chair. Medium rare and post-haste.
Essentially, you want to chill where it isn't so cold.
Below you'll find our top extreme heat vacations - warm vacation destinations supplemented by hot attractions, from volcanoes to nude beaches:
High End - Maui
Aloha. You've thought about it for years-make this winter the one where you finally go to Maui. Tee off at an award-winning golf course. Gawk at the natural grandeur and experience the legendary hospitality. Wear obnoxious floral-print shirts and make hackneyed jokes about "getting lei-ed". This island will stun you not only with its jaw-dropping beauty, but with the myriad of options for exploration and relaxation. Explore a lava tube. Marvel at the fantastic 400-foot Waimoku Falls or hike up the mystical Haleakala Crater. Enjoy the quick ferry ride (sometimes with a dolphin or humpback whale sidecar) to Molokai, birthplace of hula and one of the last undeveloped bastions of true Hawaiian culture. Maui's allure lies in the diversity of its charms.
Stay at the Victorian Lahaina Inn, or if you're looking to really splurge, the Fairmont Kea Lani. This Eden on Polo Beach provides luxury, serenity and an idyllic launching point from which to enjoy the island.
Mid-Range - St. Martin/St. Maarten
There are a slew of island options near the U.S., but this one is compelling choice for many reasons. Beautiful beaches, best-in-class cuisine, rich French and Dutch influences, and nightlife for those that like to gamble or get down—basically, this is a hedonist's heaven. The island's Grand Case has been called “Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean” and offers outstanding cuisine ranging from Creole to Italian. After some great food, hit up the island's pulsing nightlife—including glitzy Casino Royale, posh StarBar and crowd-pleasing Bamboo Bernie's.
After a long night out, a relaxing day at the beach (there are over 35 pristine ones here, including clothing-optional Orient Beach) may be called for. “What I loved was the accessibility of everything,” said Brendan Hermes, a recent visitor to the island. “It's so easy to get around, to find whatever you're looking for. If you wanted to party, you could easily find a place to do it. If you wanted quiet, you could find that, too. ” St. Martin/St. Maarten is a great place experience some mild European culture in Caribbean climes.
There are some great moderately-priced options for your stay here, including Captain Oliver's Resort and the Holland House Hotel.
Budget - Costa Rica
A breathtakingly beautiful nation harboring surfers, adventure junkies and quite a few howler monkeys, Costa Rica is a paradise for the imaginative and hyperactive traveler. Once you are there, the diverse topography guarantees a swath of activities-from zip-lining over a rainforest canopy to exploring a volcano. The popular Arenal Volcano, Corcovado and Cahuita National Parks offer different landscapes that you can discover, and the unique Monteverde Cloud Forest feels like a walk in another world.
If all of this activity wears you out, you can always just head down to the beach. For the avid surfer, Costa Rica's beaches (Playa Naranjo, Playa Grande and Playa Pavones to name just a few) are a wave-happy wonderland--and even if you're a novice, this is a ideal spot in which to learn. The country is crawling with surf camps, including Surf Outfitters and Corky Carroll's Surf School. Best of all, Costa Rica is great for modest budgets—it is fairly inexpensive to get here, very cheap to stay, and economical to explore.
The best place to stay depends on where you want to be (though it is a small country, it is a country after all), but Tierra de Sueno is an outstanding choice as is El Viadante.
This article was originally published January 16, 2008 and was reproduced with permission.
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