Three summer vacations that are good for the soul
Looking for a refined summer trip to enrich your personal horizons? A week or two in one of these amazing destinations will leave you feeling rested and reinvigorated. | By Joanna Tweedy | March 3, 2022 (Updated March 7, 2023)
Summer vacation spots that promise equal measures of relaxation, adventure and culture aren’t always easy to come by. Never fear, however. Here are three vacation ideas — Punta de Mita, New Orleans and Los Cabos — that are just the ticket for winding down and enjoying new experiences.
Make your travel memories last in these relaxing vacation destinations:
Hit the (golf) club: Increase your heart rate and decrease your stress with a round of golf
Lunch in Louisiana: Fill your plate with a half-a-dozen chargrilled Gulf oysters, beignets and jambalaya
Eye candy: Enjoy soothing ocean views from your own private plunge pool
Punta de Mita, Mexico
A low-key idyll midway down Mexico’s Pacific coast, upmarket Punta de Mita has been wooing visitors for decades with endless blue horizons and golden beaches. Fly in (via tourist town Puerto Vallarta, 45 minutes’ drive south) and wind down is the mantra for a summer vacation here. If you’re yearning for breezy beach days that balance swimming in azure blue pools with sunset walks and delicious local food, you’re in the right place.
At Conrad Punta de Mita, wellness is a high priority. The hotel’s spa, set on the Riviera Nayarit, offers treatments inspired by the region’s ancient shamanic rituals. Take part in a curative temazcal ceremony, which uses herbal steam, chanting and meditation to help restore wellbeing. An alternative form of mindfulness? Try thwacking a ball at the pristine Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course at the neighboring Higuera Golf Club.
Punta de Mita has some enriching excursions within easy reach, too. The UNESCO-protected Marietas Islands are about an hour away by boat. This protected ecological wonder is home to a dazzling array of wildlife. Spot whales and dolphins dipping and diving, encounter olive ridley sea turtles and spy tropical fish darting beneath the ocean’s surface. Inland, a ‘pueblito’ (little town) tour taking in the Sierra Madre mountain range is a wonderful way to explore the region. The range’s lowlands are dotted with pueblitos, including the pretty agricultural town, San Juan de Abajo, a perfect spot for a locally sourced lunch.
Lilting jazz drifting through the French Quarter, streetcars rumbling past elegant houses with cast-iron balconies and restaurants serving up comfort food to dream about when you’re back home, New Orleans has elegance in spades for a relaxing vacation.
The Big Easy is a place to don your finery and enter a bygone era of glamour, where sipping on a cocktail and listening to ragtime classics is a favored pastime. Landmark bar The Sazerac at The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel takes its name from the amber-hued rye whiskey cocktail the city loves. Drink one while perched on a plush banquette and bask in surroundings that have welcomed many a famous local — Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long was a regular in the late 1920s.
The character-filled streets of the French Quarter and historical Jackson Square are just a 15-minute walk from the hotel’s front doors. You can experience the city’s cultural side at NOMA, one of America’s most respected art institutions; it also includes the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden on its grounds. For something a little more unique, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, in the Vieux Carre Historic District, is a place to write home about, with exhibits ranging featuring Voodoo potions and locally excavated medicine bottles.
Visit 6-mile Magazine Street for shopping, which runs parallel to the looping Mississippi River; boutique shops and galleries showcase New Orleans’ finest wares here. The city’s dining scene is eclectic and satisfying. Bite down on a famous sugar-dusted beignet donut from a street vendor, fill up on jambalaya in a French Quarter cafe (try Coop’s Place on Decatur Street), or enjoy half-a-dozen chargrilled Gulf oysters at the Fountain Lounge in The Roosevelt New Orleans.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
A slim strip of land jutting out into the Pacific, Baja California, often known simply as ‘Baja,’ has become one of Mexico’s most lusted after destinations in recent decades. This natural landscape is blessed with hidden coves, soaring mountains and miles upon miles of honey-colored beach. The shimmering Sea of Cortez is to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west is made for soul-reviving summer vacations.
At Baja’s southern tip, you’ll find Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, carved into the region’s mountainous terrain and set over 24 acres, with Pacific Ocean views gifted from every room. If only a sun lounger will do, then you’ll be happy to know that some of Mexico’s most beautiful stretches of sand lie on this horseshoe of coastline. You can also admire the ocean blues from your room’s private plunge pool.
Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is just a short walk from Los Cabos’ lively downtown area, and an evening stroll around the marina at sunset — after a cliffside dinner of sea bass ceviche and marinated crispy octopus at El Farallon, of course — is a heavenly way to round off a sun-kissed day.
Ready to shake the sand from your toes and explore? Learn more about the region’s rich heritage with an ocean-to-table lunch in the arty beach town of Todos Santos, an hour-and-a-half's drive up the coast. Or charter your own yacht and weave around the coastline at leisure, passing distinctive rock formations like The Arch of Cabo San Lucas (El Arco). You can spot marine life including dolphins, whales and sea lions as you sail. Oh, and don’t worry about planning — at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos, your personal concierge will arrange everything so all you have to do is enjoy.
From traditional healing treatments in Mexico to breathtaking decorative arts in New Orleans, these coastal destinations offer the perfect mix of soul-searching and serenity. What better way to make summer vacation memories that you’ll remember forever?
Joanna Tweedy is an award-winning travel writer and editor who lives in London.