Ask around about where the ultra wealthy and the uber famous of New York spend their summers, and the answer is overwhelmingly the easternmost part of Long Island known as the Hamptons. Boasting part time residents like Martha Stewart, Eli Manning, and New York icon Sarah Jessica Parker herself, the Hamptons have long been a hotspot for the city’s elites. From an artists’ haven for Kurt Vonnegut and Truman Capote in the ’60s to appearances in pop culture giants like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl more recently, the secret got out about this getaway a long time ago. Don’t believe us? Just look at the Montauk Highway traffic report on Friday afternoon. Every weekend hordes of New Yorkers leave the car horns and chaos of Manhattan behind and head to the calmer shores of the Hamptons, because once you get there, it’s worth the gridlocked traffic you had to sit in. A coastal breeze, plenty of beach, and all the quaint little shops and restaurants you could want. Around the globe there are Hampton-esque retreats, where locals go to escape their cities. Here, the best weekend retreats around the globe.
For the President, there’s Camp David. For the D.C. elites without a secret service detail, there’s Gibson Island. It sits just an hour outside of Washington D.C., but knowing about this little oasis is only half the battle. Gibson Island is members only, and membership is reserved for residents of the island, or people invited to join the official club. With only 200 homes on the whole island, it’s a short list of invitees. If you’re not able to buy one of the rare million dollar properties up for sale, the only area you’ll be able to access is the post office. Don’t count on spying on any politicos through binoculars either, residents and members here overwhelmingly gather at The Club, where membership fees are extensive: from a $25,000 initiation fee, monthly dues of over $300 dollars, with a dining minimum of anywhere from $150 to $600 dollars.
You know it’s an insider spot when Elizabeth Taylor isn’t even the most famous ex-resident. Julie Andrews deemed this “the last paradise in a crazy world,” and although this town tucked away in the Swiss Alps is a haven for the A-list, you won’t find pretense here. This is where celebrities and the rich go to retreat from the insanity of their day-to-day, not to be seen. Whether or not you ski (although the skiing here is undoubtedly incredible) hanging out at the Gstaad Palace is a must, where you’re almost sure to run into a notable name while sipping a craft cocktail. In the winter, hit the slopes like Jackie-O used to, grab a hot cider, and get into the holiday spirit with one of the many winter festivals. In the summer there’s no shortage of activities either, with a hot air balloon festival, polo tournament, and the tried and true al fresco dining with views of the Swiss Alps.
An island in the South China Sea (far from the hustle, bustle, and pollution of big cities such as Beijing), Hainan has recently become a vacation hotspot for Hong Kong’s middle class. In particular, the city of Sanya—a destination that used to be popular only for political exiles from the mainland—is now a resort town famous for its tropical climate, lavish hotels, and abundance of outposts for holistic health and wellness. When in need of R&R, people of Hong Kong escape the smog and opt for the healing powers of the Sanya Pearl River Nantian Hotspring coupled with some tropical mangosteen fresh from the market.
A far cry from the busy streets of nearby Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island (referred to by locals sans “Santa”) has been providing mainlanders with the option for a laid-back stay-cation since the early 20th century, when it was purchased by chewing gum kingpin William Wrigley. Nowadays, visitors arrive to Catalina via the Catalina Express ferry, sail boat, or private jet—this is Southern California, after all—and enjoy any number of island attractions, including beautiful public beaches, Catalina Island Casino, Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Gardens, and, of course, the famous Catalina bison herd introduced to the island in 1924 for a film and subsequently left to reproduce over the years.
Full of secret beaches and secluded island hangouts, Uruguay’s José Ignacio has become the go-to spot for some of the world’s most glamorous jet-setters (think: Victoria’s Secret models, pro athletes, etc.) in search of some high quality relaxation. Though more of an isthmus than an island, this little fishing village is the gateway between beachy paradise and the rugged beauty of inland Uruguay, and home to all the yoga retreats, fresh seafood joints, and stunning hotel views that urbanites from nearby cities such as Buenos Aires (the flight is under an hour) can handle.
Seventy miles outside of Boston lies Newport, Rhode Island, where people come from all over New England to spend their days smelling the saltwater and living like the old elites. Famous for the annual regattas, the sailing scene is evident in everything from the decor to the day-to-day schedule of waterfront events: weddings, festivals, and local restaurants. Newport developed its own identity long before the comings and goings of the hordes of seasonal tourists, as a destination for many of the Astor 400. Now, it’s filled with a range of visitors and locals, from sailors to restaurateurs and hoteliers. Complete with a thriving arts scene, it’s hard to imagine summering anywhere else.
Camera-wielding tourists go to Old San Juan—those looking for a chiller vibe head to Rincon, on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico. The very definition of a surf town, Rincon is filled with expats who are chasing waves full time—or at least the culture. Outdoor yoga studios, smoothie stands, and fresh seafood spots abound. At the Casa Verde Hotel, you’ll find the perfect burgers and rum punch at their Kahuna Bar & Grill, and fine dining at the property’s Saltaire restaurant. For killer breakfast burritos, stop by Casa Islena; for sushi, head to Pool Bar. If you’re a non-surfer, there’s snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding, and any number of beaches to post up for the day. The town is typically pretty quiet, but Puerto Ricans travel from all over the island for the annual Corona Pro Surf Competition in March, driving up crowds, prices, and parties.
A little over an hour east of Salzburg, Altaussee is a tiny “spa town” nestled underneath the Loser and Trisselwand mountain peaks. With a population under 2,000, and many locals dressed in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, it feels like a storybook village. Austrians from Salzburg and Vienna keep summer homes here, where they take dips in Lake Altaussee and hike the surrounding mountains. History buffs will also find plenty to amuse themselves with: During World War II, Nazis stashed their stolen art in the area's salt mines, where they were eventually recovered by the Monuments Men—tours are available daily in the summer.
You can’t swing a hammock without stumbling upon a yoga retreat at this beachfront town in Costa Rica. Teachers from all over the world train at the Nosara Yoga Institute, and as such it’s become a bit of a wellness capital. It’s also one of the easier places to learn to surf, with a long break at Playa Guiones, where everyone also gathers to watch the glorious sunset each night. Plenty of expats have made a home here, bringing their cuisine and customs with them. You’ll find a gelato place run by an Italian, a burger joint from an American, and a marketplace (with breakfast tacos!) from a Canadian couple. There’s plenty of boutique hotels with hippie vibes to choose from, and thanks to a three-hour drive from any major airport, the village remains relatively low key, not counting the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s.