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Holiday Travel: Sand and Snow Edition

Some may think that there’s no place like home for the holidays, but for intrepid travelers, there’s nothing like gathering your loved ones and taking off to an exotic locale for sunning, skiing and a bit of cultural immersion.

Jimbaran, Bali

With its lush, misty rainforests, ancient temples and glorious, sun-splashed beaches, Bali comes pre-loaded with exotic, culturally-enriching experiences. Take them in from Jimbaran, which is situated on the southwest coast of Bali and combines everything you want in a vacation by the sea — theatrical sunsets, water activities, a stunning beach — with full-on immersion in Bali’s traditional way of life. Check into AYANA Resort and Spa BALI, for instance, and you’ll receive a twelve-page booklet detailing cultural offerings that include guided excursions (some by bike) to temples and markets, demonstrations of painting, wood carving, dance and other Balinese art forms, cooking classes and, of course, Balinese massage. Even breakfast is a cultural experience: beyond eggs and sausage, the expansive buffet is also set with specialties from Bali, China, Japan and Great Britain. 

The massive resort sprawls over a 222-acre clifftop perch. Guests have access to 11 pools, 15 restaurants, a private beach and other diversions. There are 78 villas that are set apart from the main resort and have secluded gardens with private pools, butler service and outdoor showers. 

Sunset is the best time to visit photo-ready Uluwatu Temple, which is balanced on the tip of a west-facing bluff overlooking the ocean. Afterwards, stay for the traditional Kecak dance, which is performed around a blazing fire.

Laguna Beach, California

Laguna Beach is a best-of-both-worlds locale. Beyond beachy fun, you’ll find chic boutiques, outdoor adventures and pampering resorts, all located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Start with the coastline, seven miles of sandy bliss scalloped with secluded coves and sun-warmed tide pools. There’s also plenty to do off the beach. Rent an electric Duffy boat and you can cruise Newport Harbor at your own pace. Get your exercise with a guided stand-up paddleboard or kayak tour from Dana Point to Doheny State Beach or a biking exploration of Catalina Island. Hikers take note: Forty miles of trails loop through the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which lies within some of Southern California’s last remaining undeveloped coastal canyons.  

Montage Laguna Beach is a luxury hotel, but with a difference: though upscale and elegant, the resort also understands the needs of today’s families. The immersive children’s program, for instance, features fun themes like food and science while the spa pool is an adults-only oasis where you can wait for customized treatments on a deck outfitted with a pool overlooking the ocean. The dramatic grounds — huge emerald lawns, tropical blooms galore — skirt a rocky Pacific bluff and make a wonderful setting for a family photo.

Telluride, Colorado

Hard-core skiers flock to Telluride for its accessible backcountry skiing and vertical drops, but that’s not the whole story. Not only are more than half of the resort’s 127 runs rated for beginners and intermediate skiers, but since many of these blue and green trails begin high on the mountain, the runs are long and rarely crowded. 

Connected by the coolest public transit system ever — a free gondola — Telluride’s two distinct districts give even non-skiers plenty to do. Butch Cassidy once walked the streets of downtown Telluride, an atmospheric jumble of local bars, restaurants and shops located within historic buildings. Mountain Village is a European-style resort town set with an ice-skating rink, large hotels, boutiques, sport shops that offer fun activities like fat-tire snow biking and the city’s only Starbucks. Set in the middle of the action, the Madeline Hotel and Residences Telluride offers both hotel rooms and multi-bedroom residences, most with mountain views and direct ski access. Don’t miss dinner at Allred’s, a mid-mountain tradition serving food as stunning as the view.

Sand or snow — which will you choose? Your local AAA Travel Agent can help you decide. Stop by your nearest AAA office or call 800-398-0379. 

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Standing within the perfect alpine village that is St. Moritz, it’s hard to believe that this wintery wonderland started life as a summer resort. Today, though, 153 years and two Olympics later, St. Moritz is renowned as a destination for high-adrenaline pursuits like skiing, bobsledding and sledding. Yet if you’ve ever dreamed of skating outdoors on a natural rink, cross-country skiing, hiking or snowshoeing through a mountain-hemmed valley or sipping espresso in an outdoor café, snug and warm on a winter day, then St. Moritz is also for you.

Getting to St. Moritz is part of the fun: the train route traverses bridges, viaducts and alpine forests as it chugs through the Alps from Chur to St. Moritz. 

The Kulm Hotel was the first hotel to be built in St. Moritz and continues to exude old-school elegance in rooms and public areas. Be sure to reserve time in the spa, where a sun-splashed whirlpool overlooking Lake St. Moritz is set with underwater chaises. Don’t leave without dipping into a pot of raclette — Swiss fondue — which is well worth the calories and available throughout the region.    

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