Sandy Beaches and Lush Landscapes
In warm coastal and island locales, the beauty of the landscape — shaped over millennia by tides and surf and storms — simultaneously inspires and soothes the soul. With cold, short days up north, it’s an excellent time to travel south to reconnect with your passions, and create new ones, in the tropical climes of Florida, the Caribbean or Latin America.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: A Tropical Trek
Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest is less than 30 minutes from The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, and boasts tremendous biologically diversity and a unique year-round tropical climate—its rugged mountain slopes can receive more than 200 inches of annual rainfall. Accessible by a day hike or scenic drive, the forest is home to thousands of native plants and hundreds of smaller animals, including the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and the coquis, a tiny tree frog native to Puerto Rico.
Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida: Bike by the Bay
Key Biscayne is just minutes from Miami — a short scenic drive across the Rickenbacker Causeway — but offers a low-key retreat for the whole family. To appreciate its close-to-nature appeal, hop on a bicycle at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Coast on a flat terrain and soak up scenes of Biscayne Bay — keep an eye out for eagle rays and manatees. Enjoy a post-ride meal at the Lighthouse Café or Boater’s Grill, and be sure to check out the park’s lighthouse. Built in 1825, it’s South Florida’s oldest building.
Sarasota, Florida: A Trip Through Time and Nature
Learn about Sarasota’s rich past and indulge in the natural beauty of the gardens at Historic Spanish Point, a 30-acre outdoor museum on Little Sarasota Bay. Or venture inland to discover an expanse of natural lands, including Myakka River State Park’s pine forests, prairies and marshes. The park’s canopy walk gives an up close view of treetop life and a 74-foot tower offers a spectacular view of the area’s wetlands and wildlife, including eagles, hawks and vultures.
Grand Cayman: Botanical Wonderland
Grand Cayman’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park abounds with floral splendor and rare birds and animals. Along the Woodland Trail, you’ll journey through a sampling of the island’s environmental wonders, from wetlands to swamp to woods of mahogany trees. De-stress mind and body among serene gardens and don't be surprised if you spot the endangered Blue Iguana — the park features a habitat for these captivating animals, at one time on the brink of extinction.
St. Thomas: Baths, Caves and Natural Wonders Galore
From St. Thomas, it’s a short boat ride to the beaches and massive boulders of the famous Baths of Virgin Gorda, a nearby British Virgin Island. Immerse your senses in the crystal turquoise waters, replenish with lunch and then head off to snorkel the Caves of Norman Island, thought to be in the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate novel Treasure Island. You’ll embark straight from The Ritz-Carlton beach and enjoy a continental breakfast onboard.
Aruba: An Exotic Island Adventure
Arikok National Park makes up almost one-fifth Aruba and features miles of hiking trails. Trek through lava-formed hills, limestone rocks, white sandy beaches and rock paintings from indigenous Indians. For a heart-thumping workout and stunning views, climb 620 feet to the top of Jamanota, the island’s highest point. Add some adventure to your experience with a 4x4 trip to the park’s remote natural pool, protected from pounding surf by surrounding rocks.
Naples, Florida: Tranquility Found
Barefoot Beach State Preserve, near Naples, is one of southwest Florida’s last undeveloped barrier islands — close by but worlds away. Its remoteness is a pick-me-up for the soul, a retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle. Look for shells as you wander down this pristine, unspoiled beach. The gentle surf, shallow water and fine sand are perfect complements to the island’s nature trails. Keep an eye out for the protected gopher tortoise and bottle-nosed dolphin.
South Beach, Miami: Art Deco, Ambiance and Fashion
South Beach’s nightlife has an international reputation, but its daytime display of chic is no less impressive. Stroll through the palm tree-lined Lincoln Road Mall, a wide open-air pedestrian area with an eclectic mix of sidewalk cafes, ice cream parlors, art galleries, haute boutiques and top fashion stores. The pastel-suffused Art Deco historic district is an architectural feast for the eyes, and the Art Deco Welcome Center offers guided walking tours every day.
Cancun, Mexico: Beachside Wellness
Greet the day with sunrise yoga on the beach at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, or opt for a beach walk class with the Mayan coastline as your backdrop. For exercise that will both break a sweat and tone muscle, try the total body workout with steps, fit balls and circuit training. Reward yourself at the end of the day with a salsa class — the music is so fun you won’t even notice it’s a great workout too.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida: A Promenade Stroll
Fort Lauderdale is a family-friendly destination known for its legendary beaches, but the real dynamic pulse of the city just may be its beachfront promenade. The brick-lined walk is fringed by palm trees and lined with shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and a unique swirling, flowing white beach wave wall. Popular with runners, in-line skaters, walkers and cyclists, the promenade offers plenty of local flavor and no shortage of people watching.