Where to Get Warm (and Weird) on Your Next Long Weekend

From fishing for sharks to exploring Brando's Pacific island, here's what you should be doing to flee the winter chill.
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From fishing for sharks to exploring Brando's Pacific island, here's what you should be doing to flee the winter chill.
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Beachcomb Like Brando (Tetiaroa, French Polynesia)

This remote atoll in the South Pacific served as Marlon Brando’s private escape hatch/love nest for four decades; now it’s the ultimate tropical paradise in which to channel your inner Colonel Kurtz. Brando (who died in 2004) made plenty of native conquests here (including his third wife), and The brando resort, which opened last year, captures his legendarily hedonistic ethos. On Tetiaroa, a series of pristine islets engulfing a gorgeous turquoise lagoon, you and your posse can overtake its secluded three-bedroom villa (about $11,700 a night). Eat just-hooked fish at Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin’s Les Mutinés. Liquor up at Bob’s Bar on the beach, or at your own private poolside. And if you crave eye-popping island idylls, take an exotic-bird-watching trip, snorkel pink coral, or night-view migrating sea turtles laying eggs on the beach. (Coconut-bra-clad Polynesian maidens not included.)

Go Shark Fishing in the Florida Keys (Islamorada, Florida)

This highly touted “sportfishing capital” is renowned for its offshore tournament-contending makos, black tips, hammerheads, bulls, and hard-fighting threshers. Whether you fly into Miami or Key West (preferred), the road trip across Overseas Highway is well worth your efforts for its salty-cracker surroundings—at the crossroads where mullet ’dos meet smoked-mullet dip. There are enough backcountry fish camps, outlaw biker bars, and barnacled honky-tonks here to keep you partying all weekend long. Make your destination one of the veteran shark-angling ports, such as the Sea Horse or Bud N’ Mary’s; both opt for a circle-hook catch-and-release, while the latter provides some deceptively comfy houseboat rental accommodations docked to their shove-off points. And if you’d like to take over a luxury hut of your own, upscale the itinerary at the Moorings Village, a picturesque Atlantic cove where several Sports IllustratedSwimsuit covers have been shot. There are plenty of sharks here just waiting for your fleshy meat hooks to be landed, measured, and Instagrammed to those poor saps on land. 

Tee Off, Rat Pack–Style (Palm Springs and Palm Desert, California)

Rather than reenacting the Hangover movies along with everyone else in Las Vegas, ring- a-ding-ding away the weekend amid the more intimate desert decadence of Palm Springs, the literal crossroads of Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope (Drives). It’s proudly old-school and home to more than 100 primo golf courses (plenty of them public). During winter the balmy weather’s never better for bogeying where Dino, Bing, and Sonny Bono all swung through to live a little. Post-tee- off, hit enduring 19th holes like Toucan’s Tiki Lounge and the classic Melvyn’s, and drop the clubs at such time-bubble lodgings as the Movie Colony Hotel and the Parker Palm Springs. Or if you’d prefer to chat up Coachella-frequenting cuties, swagger into the Ace Hotel’s retrofitted amigo room, the perfect place to kick up your own desert storm. 

Get Flexible with Yoga Babes (Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico)

Study your Kundalini for Dummies on the plane to Cancún, and then get ready for the two-hour road trip to Tulum, a secluded, yoga-happy sanctuary on the “Riviera Maya.” Your goal: to get touchy-feely with  the beautiful creatures who winter-migrate to its incredible beaches to stay perfectly tanned and toned. (Get ready to assume the position…that you actually care about yoga.) Frisky downward dog that you are, you’ll outlast all who are piled in the sweat lodge and win the naked mud bake on the beach. Not everything here is about healthy living: These yoga girls drink, you know (they earned it). Check in to one of the more primitive digs, like the el cheapo Coco Tulum (starting at $160 a night), and luxury-hotel barhop with your flexible new friends. Or upgrade to Casa de las Olas or the beachfront eco-resort Amansala. Check scheduling for the latter’s fabled bikini bootcamp, and man up by showing you’re not afraid to be in touch with your feminine side.

Surf ’N’ Turf in Costa Rica (Nosara, Costa Rica)

Endless summer, indeed. In this go-native surfing stronghold—favored by enthusiasts of all wave-riding levels—winter’s dry season (November through April) offers warm waters, high swells, and long point breaks. If you’re a novice, get your feet wet at the Safari Surf School in nearby Playa Guiones, where the breaks are waaay out there and less-intimidating waves roll right up to the beach. Besides the surf, there’s white-water rafting, zip-lining down volcanoes, rain-forest hiking, and cliff diving. In Nosara, hit local grist station Casa Tucan (for mouthwatering plates of traditional casado) or fuel up at the bar at the Kaya Sol Surf Hotel. Once you’ve surfed—or swilled—yourself to exhaustion, recharge at the eco-savvy Harmony Hotel, which boasts a “Healing Centre” spa, spacious 1970s- style bungalows, and ample hammocks in which to happily laze around the gorgeous freshwater pool.

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