I’d Rather Be Relaxing…

Airstreaming in Santa Barbara.Photo: Meredith Klassen/Courtesy of Santa Barbara Silver Safari
Illustration by Mark Nerys

Melting Into Hot Springs in Chile
Between its hot springs and giant geysers, Chile’s Atacama Desert may be the closest thing on earth to a naturally made water park. Bathe in the Puritama River’s eight 90-degree pools, tucked into the base of a mint-green gorge. Once sufficiently soothed, behold one of the world’s highest geyser fields at El Tatio (elevation 14,190 feet), where gaseous water cannons spout billowing steam clouds and twenty-foot gushers. As the sun rises, temperatures spike and the geysers calm, clearing the view to looming Andes peaks. The village of San Pedro de Atacama has recently become home to a string of adventure lodges, including the 32-room Tierra Atacama ($970 per person for two nights, all-inclusive; tierraatacama.com).

Motorbiking to the Beach in Vietnam
To say that Phu Quoc is untouched is an understatement. The best beaches on the Vietnamese island are so remote that just getting there requires braving a red-dirt-road cow-slalom course on a motorbike. Bai Sao Beach, a crescent of sugar-white sand surrounded by lush hills, is a worthy first stop. Grab a lunch of grilled shrimp and a Saigon beer ($10 for two) under a thatched umbrella at the beachfront Ai Xiem restaurant (84-77-399-0510) and watch the squid fishermen head out to sea. Zip by peppercorn and cashew-nut plantations and wild mangosteen trees in Phu Quoc National Park on your way to equally idyllic Bai Thom Beach on the island’s far northeastern tip. Watch unreal sunsets erupt from your private patio at La Veranda Resort (from $125; laverandaresort.com).

Cruising Down the Amazon in Peru
It’ll take a night or two of cognitive dissonance before you get used to coasting along the wild Peruvian Amazon in what amounts to a floating W hotel, but you’ll shrug it off eventually. The M/V Aqua— a twelve-cabin ship with multiple lounges, a shopping boutique, and a mixologist slinging Camu Camu Sours from the top deck—is without doubt the cushiest way to penetrate the vast tangle of rivers bisecting the wildlife-rich Pacaya Samiria Reserve (all-inclusive three-night, four-day cruises from $2,250; aquaexpeditions.com). Hop aboard a skiff to explore isolated streams, fish for piranha, spot caimans by moonlight, and barter with village artisans. The three-to-seven-night trips launch out of Iquitos, the largest city in the world not accessible by roads, where you can stay at La Casa Fitzcarraldo, the onetime crash pad of the cast of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (doubles from $65 per night; lacasafitzcarraldo.com).

Roasting S’mores in Santa Barbara
Fulfill your California-vagabond fantasy of living out of the back of an Airstream trailer—without the hand-to-mouth existence or the hassle of having to drive the thing. A company called Santa Barbara Silver Safari is glamming up the mobile-home experience by outfitting a vintage trailer with an iPod dock, marshmallow skewers, birding books, and eighties board games, then parking the rig at scenic spots like Ocean Mesa Campground (sbsilversafari.com). From $175 a night, you get your own private trailer, nature outside your front door, and all the marshmallow-roasting you can stomach.

Stripping and Soaking in Switzerland
The hottest spot in the Swiss Alps is just that: incredibly hot. The 108-degree Fire Pool at Therme Vals, a 2009 Pritzker Prize–winning public bath designed by Peter Zumthor, is made from 60,000 stone slabs of Valser quartzite that make for one ultrasleek bathtub ($40; reserve in advance; therme-vals.ch). After your parboil, tiptoe past the black leather curtains to the relaxation areas, a labyrinth of mineral pools, hidden grottos, and fogged-up steam rooms. The spa closes to the public at 8 p.m., but guests staying at the adjacent Hotel Therme can continue to soak past midnight (from $210).

Phu Quoc, VietnamPhoto: Courtesy of La Veranda Resort/M Gallery

Sweating Out the Stress in Jamaica
The goldeneye is not just the latest sun-splashed, reggae-infused, ganja-wafting-through-the-treetops utopia from Island Records founder and de facto Jamaican tourism czar Chris Blackwell (from $536 including breakfast; goldeneye.com; opens November 12). It’s also a Caribbean resort for the multitasking vacationer who would rather spend days bird-watching for some 255 resident species, or triathlon training with a former member of the Jamaican Olympic team. Of course, should you want sand and only sand, you have that option; the edenic James Bond Beach, surrounded by the verdant mountains of St. Mary, is only half a mile away, while the resort is adjacent to a wave-free lagoon.

Skipping From Pool to Beach in Curaçao
Want to be parent of the year? Take your kids to the coolest swimming pool on an island—heck, on a whole island chain—that’s littered with them. The pool at the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino (from $160; marriott.com), located in Willemstad’s Otrabanda neighborhood—once, literally, the “other side” but now the capital’s hot spot—doesn’t just have an infinity edge peering out on the postcard-perfect Caribbean. It’s actually the world’s first “infinity beach,” with tons of trucked in white sand. When the kids tire of the faux beach there’s also the real thing: Sail on Bounty Adventures’ 54-foot catamaran to Klein Curaçao, an uninhabited spit of land encircled by turtle- and stingray-filled waters (from $89, bountyadventures.com).

I’d Rather Be Relaxing…