The new year brings a new wave of wanderlust; visions of bucket list destinations and experiences to check off. Wine tasting in Napa Valley? Desert safaris in Dubai? Waking up in a luxurious villa on a beautiful Caribbean beach? Yes please. Although the holidays are already upon us, there is still time to plan a last-minute escape and ring in the New Year in a fabulous place with your friends or family. There’s no denying that AirBnB can be a landmine of dicey options (especially this late in the game), so we’ve rounded up 10 stunning locations perfect for groups and that are, surprisingly, still available. Take inspiration from these high-end vacation options and kick off 2019 how you intend to continue: enjoying life in good company.
Eden Rock Villas
France has St. Tropez, Italy has Capri, and the Caribbean has St. Bart’s – the ultimate playground for those seeking seaside glamour. Given its proximity to America, the tiny island is a popular destination for the holidays, and although 2019 is just around the corner, there are still some fabulous options available for a last-minute getaway. If you’re travelling in a group, book into one of Eden Rock’s villas, which provide complete privacy along with the convenience of the five-star services at the iconic resort—which is putting the finishing touches on its top-to-bottom renovation. Here you’ll have private chefs, maid service, and butlers to arrange your setup on the beach, so racing to secure a sun lounger in the morning won’t be necessary. The palatial residences vary in size and style, but guests can typically expect to find state-of-the-art features and infinity pools overlooking the turquoise waters of St. Jean Bay. Also, this year, Nikki Beach (located next to Eden Rock) will be hosting a New Year’s Eve party with a live performance by Mariah Carey—we’d suggest booking your tickets now.
Bulgari Resort Dubai
Dubai is quite the journey (a 15-hour flight from New York), but if you’ve got the time to spare, it’s well worth the trip—especially if you kick off the celebrations before you arrive by flying on the Emirates A380, where you can make the long haul more enjoyable by mingling in the sky bar onboard. Once you arrive, there are countless activities that are best done in groups (such as, say, venturing into the desert), glitzy beach clubs, and plenty of ultra-luxe hotels to choose from. The most opulent accommodation in the sandy city is undoubtedly the Bulgari Villa at Bulgari Resort Dubai, which has a private cinema, a nearly 5,400-square-foot garden and terrace, an oval pool, and an indoor Jacuzzi and hammam. It’s the perfect setup for a group looking to ring in the new year in a luxurious, unique environment. And, if you could use a bit more room to spread out, the resort has a total of 20 stand-alone villas, and in true Bulgari fashion, the attention to detail in each is immaculate. During December, new gastronomic concepts will be on offer (including menus based around truffles and caviar), and for New Year’s Eve, the resort will be hosting its ‘Gala Extravaganza’ at the Bulgari Marina promenade with live entertainment, champagne and fireworks.
Auberge du Soleil, Auberge Resorts Collection
Wine tasting in Napa Valley is the perfect group activity, and December is a good time to go, as it is far outside of the peak tourist season. We’d suggest checking into one of the spacious suites at the region’s longtime favorite resort, Auberge du Soleil, Auberge Resorts Collection, and have the concierge coordinate a guided tour around the local vineyards (Beau Wine Tours is highly recommended). There are about 500 wineries in the region, so you can spread it out over a few days and be chauffeured around in SUVs or Limo Buses for larger parties. Napa is also known for its contemporary art, with renowned galleries like the Hess Collection, Mumm Napa, Caldwell Snyder, and Auberge’s very own Sculpture Garden, which features over 100 works by 60 Californian artists.
If you’re looking for something beyond wine and art, the area has a number of activities that are great for groups, including golf, scenic hikes, the Silverado cycling trail, and al fresco pilates and yoga at the resort. Or, if you simply want to relax, Auberge du Soleil really gives you no reason to leave: it has a Michelin star restaurant, an incredible spa and wellness center, a pool framed with picturesque cabanas, and front-row views of Napa Valley’s lush olive groves and mountains.
The Setai Miami
New Year’s Eve in Miami has become as customary as a bachelor party in Las Vegas. Every year, crowds flock to South Beach for the neon-lit revelry—think fireworks, boat parties, and DJs going right through until sunrise. This year, elevate the standard NYE experience by checking in at the Setai, which has a number of two- to four-bedroom suites with panoramic views of the coast. If you’re really living large, opt for the Penthouse Suite, which spans the entire 40th floor of the hotel. It has a private 3,000 square-foot rooftop terrace with an infinity pool, a Jacuzzi, and an outdoor lounge area, providing the ideal setup for throwing your own party to ring in 2019. If you decide to venture out for New Year’s Eve, the hotel is hosting a casino-themed dinner party, with live entertainment, dancing, and a Cristal Champagne toast at midnight, so you won’t need to travel far to embrace the festivities. And, to skirt the standard holiday airport hustle, travelers from New York can book onto BLADEone – a jet service that flies from Manhattan to Miami, seating only 16 passengers.
The Shore Club Villas
Still unmarked by mass tourism, Turks and Caicos’ Long Bay Beach is one of the Caribbean’s most tranquil destinations where guests can soak up the sun without being surrounded by crowds. It is also home to one of the most stylish and exclusive new resorts in the region, the Shore Club, which opened in 2017 and later unveiled a collection of luxurious beachfront villas. Each villa is a sprawling 8,800 square-feet, and features six bedrooms, heated pools, expansive terraces, and private courtyards located steps away from the sand. Private chefs are available for intimate dining experiences and butlers are ready to cater to any whim, whether it’s organizing kite boarding, a tennis session, or chartering a yacht for a cruise during the last sunset of the year. The vibe here is authentic, but contemporary and sophisticated, representing a fresh new Caribbean aesthetic. To top things off, the villas also include private elevators with underground tunnels, allowing service staff to move in and out discreetly.
Since opening in 2009, the otherworldly landscapes of Amangiri have garnered global admiration. The resort is nestled into a protected valley in Canyon Point with sweeping views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (a vista regularly snapped by celebrity Instagrammers). It has 34 suites that are suitable for couples and families, and for larger groups, there is the stunning Mesa Home, which has four-bedrooms, a private 50-foot pool, a courtyard, a kitchen, and expansive living areas for entertaining and relaxing in complete seclusion. For New Year’s Eve, Amangiri will be honoring the region’s Native American heritage with a series of performances celebrating Navajo culture along with special wine and cocktail tastings and festive menus by executive chef Anthony Mazarita. And, being located in the center of the Grand Circle, there are a number of adventure activities that the concierge can arrange to kick off the new year right, such as horseback riding, hot air ballooning, and kayaking around Lake Powell.
COMO Parrot Cay
COMO Parrot Cay on Turks and Caicos has a variety of accommodation options available for groups, ranging from suites and beach villas to a collection of private homes, located a short buggy-ride away from the main resort. The largest within the COMO Parrot Cay Estates collection is the Residence, which has a sprawling master suite occupying the entire second level (better call dibs now), and four bedrooms spaced out on the ground floor, each with individual en suites. Direct beach access and infinity pools are standard across the residences, as is breezy whitewashed interior decor that complements the soothing environment. After ringing in the new year, guests can detox and reset at the resort’s Shambhala Retreat, which offers Asian-inspired holistic therapies including reflexology, Ayurveda, Javanese baths, and private yoga pavilions. For more active experiences, there are paddleboards, kayaks, snorkeling equipment, windsurfing and catamaran sailing—all of which are sure to leave you feeling invigorated and ready to take on 2019.
The Residences at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Sugar Beach is St. Lucia’s most elegant five-star destination, flanked by the iconic twin-peak Pitons that define the landscape. It’s a magical place to experience with family and friends, which can be best done so from one of the resort’s secluded residences. Framed by lush rainforest and boasting views of the sparkling Caribbean, the two- to four-bedroom residences are gorgeous white-on-white hillside cottages that come complete with infinity pools and sprawling patios. They’re completely private, but as with most decent villas in the region, there are 24-hour butlers on call to cater to any requests. For New Year’s Eve, there will be beach bonfires, fireworks, and a live band followed by a well-earned recovery brunch on New Year’s Day.
Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection
Los Cabos has been revitalized over the last few years with a number of new high-end resorts, including Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Abuerge Resorts Collection, which snagged a nod in Robb Report’s 2017 Best of the Best list. Although the area has been known for hosting rowdy college kids, you definitely won’t find a spring break crowd here. Instead, it’s a place that attracts couples, families, and mature groups of friends seeking a low-key but luxurious getaway. There are 10 private villas available, but the real showstopper is the 4,400 square-foot four-bedroom oceanfront villa. It’s equipped with everything you could want: think plush dining and living areas, large bedrooms, a plunge pool, a spacious gourmet kitchen, and modern decor throughout. The villa is perched right over one of the area’s best beaches for swimming (many in Cabo can be notoriously choppy), and there are a range of water activities available for you to test out—though we won’t blame you if you simply want to lounge on the golden sand.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
After a meticulous renovation, Puerto Rico’s Dorado Beach is back and better than ever. Case in point? Its unique five-bedroom villa, Su Casa, has been completely reimagined by Champalimaud Design for modern travelers. The villa, which was once the home of Clara Livingston, reopened for bookings this month, just in time for groups that are seeking a special place to connect over the holidays. The1920’s Spanish-style hacienda spans 8,000 square-feet along the coastline, and has lush gardens, an infinity pool, a separate garden lap pool, and an expansive wraparound veranda facing the ocean. And if you can’t snag Su Casa, the slick five-bedroom villa (which has also received a refresh) should also do you just fine, as it’s equipped with a sparkling infiny pool and direct access to the beach. When you’re not luxuriating in your villa, experience Dorado Beach’s renewed emphasis on wellness at the five-acre Spa Botanico, which features an on-site apothecary and a new spa cuisine concept sure to appeal to health-conscious travelers.