18 Best Places to Travel in 2018
Our picks for the best places to travel in 2018 in the Caribbean, Hawaii and beyond.
While working on your New Year’s resolutions in the coming weeks, we recommend adding “plan a vacation” to the top of the list. We found buzz-worthy destinations with new resorts, exciting cruise calls, and noteworthy celebrations next year. Here are the 18 best places to travel in 2018.
Greece had a record-breaking amount of visitors in 2017 (an estimated 30 million), with many of them descending on the Greek Islands. Next year, venture beyond Santorini’s packed streets and Mykonos’ busy beach clubs and head to Paros, a quintessential Greek Isles getaway without the hordes of crowds — for now. Last summer, the Mr. & Mrs. White Hotel quickly became the island’s trendiest outpost, with sleek, whitewashed guest rooms a short walk from the vibrant village of Naoussa.
Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah
Courtesy Four Seasons
Climate change is threatening this Indian Ocean archipelago’s pristine coral reefs, which is why many of the nation’s new resorts are making conservation a priority. In 2017, the Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah became the world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO hideaway, and its sister resort, the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, continues to champion conservation through the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program. This is a paradise that’s definitely worth saving.
Hawaii is always a good idea, but it’s an even better one now with Southwest Airlines’ announcement that it will begin flying there (with service from California) in 2018 or 2019. The Garden Isle’s iconic Coco Palms — which became Kauai’s first hotel when it first opened in 1953 — makes a comeback this year, after a renovation and rebrand to become part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection.
This charming North Atlantic island is coming off a pretty big 2017, hosting the 35th America’s Cup, but the country still has some wind in its proverbial sails. Eight major sailing events will take place between March and July 2018, including two brand new regattas. Chic travelers should head to The Loren, the island’s first new-build hotel in 45 years, which opened last winter overlooking Pink Beach. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson opened Marcus’ at the Hamilton Princess, and hotels from Ritz-Carlton Reserve and St. Regis are both currently in the works. Bonus: The already easy two-hour flight from the East Coast will be even more enjoyable when the L.F. Wade International Airport wraps up its major expansion by 2020.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Smack in the middle of the Riviera Maya, an hour south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a great base for exploring the area’s powder-fine beaches, Mayan ruins, and subterranean cenotes. Kick back at the new, all-inclusive Panama Jack Resort — the family-friendly property (formerly the Gran Porto Resort) is the result of a new partnership between the casual clothing company and Playa Hotels & Resorts. More family fun: In 2018, Mexico’s largest theme park, Amikoo, is set to open in Solidaridad, a few minutes away.
Phuket is still affordable Southeast Asia, but the popular Thai resort island is shaking off its party-time, backpacker scene a bit and going a little luxe. Late 2017 hotel openings including the boutique Anayara Luxury Retreat Panwa Resort overlooking Chalong Bay, and the latest from luxury hotel chain Rosewood.
The Azores, Portugal
The Azores, Portugal
Thanks to new nonstop flights on Delta from JFK that launches in May 2018, summer getaways to Portugal’s remote volcanic archipelago just got easier. Go to sleep in NYC and wake up on São Miguel Island, where you can wander the cobblestoned streets of Ponta Delgada, seek out geothermal hot springs in Furnas, or, if you’ve got longer than a weekend, hop a flight over to Faial island for a whale-watching adventure.
The Caribbean island has really upped its ante as a hot honeymoon destination: the Grand Lido Negril and Royalton Negril opened last year, Montego Bay’s Half Moon resort is revamping all its guest rooms, and in Montego Bay in June, the adults-only, all-inclusive Excellence Oyster Bay will open its Victorian-style doors, revealing 315 swanky suites that each have their own private pools or rooftop terraces.
Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo, Florida
Courtesy Playa Largo Resort & Spa
It’s impressive how fast the Florida Keys have bounced back after a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in September — a testament to the 125-mile-long island chain’s resilience. The Moorings Village and Spa on Islamorada reopens in January, and Key West beckons with a new amphitheater and a free hop-on, hop-off bus service on Duval Street. On Key Largo, the chic Playa Largo Resort & Spa, which opened in 2016, is ready for guests to return, and in early 2018, Bungalows Key Largo will open as the Florida Keys’ first adults-only, all-inclusive resort.
While last fall’s devastating hurricane season left many Caribbean islands with major damage, its business as usual for many others. Cruise lines are re-routing ships while destinations recover, and Grenada is ready to welcome new visitors, with shore excursions ranging from snorkeling at the world’s first underwater sculpture park to touring a nutmeg factory. (This is the Spice Isle, after all.) In March, the new Silversands Grenada will lure travelers with sleek oceanfront suites and a 330-foot-long pool.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Los Cabos, Mexico
There’s no shortage of gorgeous places to sleep in Los Cabos right now. In 2018, Montage, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Four Seasons, and Garza Blanca will all open new oceanfront outposts in the area, promising private beaches, all-inclusive options, championship golf courses, and private residences. These are all in addition to the properties that opened in 2017, including the Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas and a dozen new treehouse suites at Acre, a rural retreat known for its farm-to-table cuisine. Los Cabos is made up of the towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, each with their own appeal — art galleries in bright Spanish Colonial buildings in San Jose, lively restaurants and spirited night clubs in Cabo — so make time to explore both.
There are two new ways to see this Southeast Asian gem in 2018: By land, at the new The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, or by boat, when Marella Cruises (formerly known as Thomson Cruises) homeports on the island for Far East sailings that include stops in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and more. Both options promise fresh seafood, rainforest hikes, and relaxing afternoons on palm-fringed beaches.
Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
The beauty of this lush peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast isn’t leaving anytime soon — the government mandates that 70 percent of land remain protected. In December, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo reopened after a $35 million renovation. Naturally, the luxury resort focuses on eco-friendly adventure, with canyon zip lines, volcano hikes, and catamaran cruises on the activity list.
This tropical paradise of 332 palm-fringed South Pacific islands is always deserving of a spot on the bucket list, but especially now. Last year, Marriott opened its first property in the islands, the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, which also brought more overwater bungalows to the country. (Think traditional bures, but on stilts and with vaulted ceilings.) A Six Senses Fiji is slated to open on Malolo Island in 2018, and the eco-friendly Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji is launching new wellness retreats for 2018. Each of these resorts exemplifies exactly what travelers come to Fiji for: picture-perfect beaches, warm hospitality, excellent diving, and all the solitude your heart desires.
Western Australia’s uber-cool coastal city is well worth the journey. Downtown, the new Elizabeth Quay waterfront teems with buzzworthy restaurants, hip cocktail bars, and cool modern art installations. Elsewhere, the new Perth Stadium will bring Premier League soccer to the city this summer, and a continued expansion plan promises 13 new hotels in the next two years, including a Ritz-Carlton and a Doubletree.
Catalina Island, California
Catalina Island, California
It’s only a one-hour ferry ride from Southern California’s Newport Beach, but Catalina feels a world away. Spend a weekend hiking 27 miles of new trails, or flying over Descanso Beach on the new Catalina Aerial Adventure. All that cardio calls for a chocolate cone from Scoops, nestled in the town of Avalon, just a few blocks away from the ferry pier.
The Bahamas’ capital city is going big in 2018: After the long awaited Baha Mar resort complex finally opened its doors last year (adding a Grand Hyatt and an SLS Hotel), the Rosewood Baha Mar joins the club this spring. But even bigger news is Royal Caribbean’s 5,500-passenger Symphony of the Seas — the world’s largest cruise ship — which will set sail from Miami beginning in November and stop at Nassau during seven-night Eastern Caribbean sailings.
Sure, there’s the Singapore Sling, but there’s so much more on the menu here, where one of the world’s coolest cocktail scenes is emerging. Six Singapore bars made the 2017 World’s 50 Best Bars List, including Operation Dagger and Manhattan, a swanky, NYC-inspired room with leather couches and Art Deco touches. New options for sleeping it off abound, too: the Sofitel Singapore City Centre and the InterContinental Singapore Robinson Quay opened in October, and the island’s grand dame, Raffles Singapore (home of the original Sling), will emerge from a major renovation later in the year.
Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
Around the web
Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.