Nothing beats a weekend away with the ladies. Bidding the regular humdrum adieu, it’s a time to reconnect, eat, laugh, and gab all night. And, although the guys may envision us lounging around in lacy lingerie and having pillow fights, we’re more likely to be sporting sweatpants in private and "it" jeans with stilettos in public, on our way to the latest hotspot.
But then again, who knows what you’ll find us wearing on these female bonding adventures, some familiar and some totally unexpected, from weekend escapes in exhilarating New York City and foodie-focused Portland, Oregon, to transcontinental voyages of discovery in Africa and Australia. There’s bound to be a perfect vacation here for any of the special ladies in your life—just spin the globe.
Urban Foodies in Portland, Oregon
Why Go: Like its farm-to-table food scene, Portland’s size is easily digestible, making it an ideal walk-everywhere-to-burn-off-the-calories getaway. This is not your ‘salad sans dressing and a water’ type destination, though. Maple bacon donuts, food trucks, bourbon cocktails, and locally-sourced everything are the gastro-city’s trading cards where mixologists and chefs achieve celeb status.
Where to Eat: The Pearl District is full of well-established restaurants, such as Peruvian-focused Andina and Le Bouchon, a must for Francophiles. For quick bites, don’t miss out on the city’s prominent food truck scene. Follow the best online via FoodCartsPortland.com or @pdxfoodcarts or simply enjoy the serendipity of stumbling upon a new favorite.
Where to Stay: For a cosmopolitan hotel, check-in at downtown’s The Nines, from $230/night.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Portland.
"Out of Africa"-Style in Masai Mara, Kenya
Why Go: Traveling to Kenya’s Masai Mara–a continuation of Tanzania’s Serengeti–is trip-of-a-lifetime material. Think of yourself as Ralph Lauren’s newest muse, wearing aviators and head-to-toe khaki. Sure, it might take some convincing—and a few glasses of wine—to gather friends and arrange a crossing of the pond to Africa, but once you’re scoping out the "Big Five" (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros) in a safari vehicle, and sleeping in a luxury canvas tent with a hot chocolate wake-up, the transcontinental trip won’t seem like such a trek.
Where to Eat: Besides your lodge’s restaurant, other memorable meal options include Champagne breakfasts in the bush and private patio dining. Don’t miss out on the classic sundowner experience with snacks and cocktails–it’s a must for every safari.
Where to Stay: Fairmont Mara Safari Club takes "camp" to a new level, from $619/night including WiFi, meals, and two game drives daily.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Kenya.
Hiking in Style in Phoenix, Arizona
Why Go: Work hard to play hard. Lace up your trail shoes and instead of coffee, start with a hike in the Arizona foothills, then slip into your flip flops to celebrate your achievement poolside. Or kick them off in exchange for wooden wedges, perfect for sipping wine sipped under a clear, inky sky. Moderate, six-mile hikes like Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Sonoran Preserve offer great views from every step.
Where to Eat: In downtown Scottsdale, don’t miss The Mission, where the setting is almost as good as the food. For some Native American flavors, try foodie favorite Kai or grab a quick bite at Fry Bread House (you deserve it after burning all those calories).
Where to Stay: The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore is a Valley of the Sun classic, from $269/night. A $28 nightly resort charge includes complimentary WiFi, use of the fitness center, and self-parking.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Phoenix.
Sun, Sand, and Snorkel in Bonaire
Why Go: Nature lovers should jump on a 45-minute flight from Aruba, bound for its petite and down-to-earth sibling, Bonaire. Don’t expect shiny malls selling emeralds or Louis Vuitton bags, Bonaire is more focused on its natural landscape and 87 dive and snorkel sites. Stay a 10-minute drive from the main city of Kralendijk at one the island’s only white sand beaches—the rest of the shores are rocky—on a bay that stretches for two miles in each direction with knee-deep water the color of Daniel Craig’s piercing blue eyes. The waters are also protected as part of the Bonaire Marine Park. While perched at the beach bar for happy hour, keep an eye out for the flock of 30 flamingoes that fly overhead around 6pm every night.
Where to Eat: The hippest spot for cocktails and tapas on the island is La Guernica, and for a late-night scene be sure to hit the waterfront City Cafe, which is always hopping and a great people-watching spot, to boot.
Where to Stay: For a pampered escape, head to the Harbour Village Beach Club, from $315/night, with its renowned tropical gardens and spa. Or for an excellent budget choice, go to The Sorobon Beach Resort, from $150/night for a one-bedroom beach bungalow outfitted with a kitchen.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Bonaire.
Celebs and Champagne in Hamilton Island, Australia
Why Go: Follow in Oprah’s footsteps at one of Australia’s most exclusive island retreats, Hamilton Island. Dressed head-to-toe in resort wear, feel the wind rushing through your hair as you buzz from the island’s peaks to beaches on your personal golf cart—the main mode of island transport. Or get a taste of the high life with helicopter rides over the Great Barrier Reef, koala cuddling at the Hamilton Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and beachside lobster barbecues. Let your hair down while lounging by the inky blue, beachfront infinity pool on a comfy lounger. It all begins with a glass of Veuve Cliquot at check-in—the only way to start a true girls’ getaway, when you think about it.
Where to Eat: Hamilton Island has put in the work to improve its dining options over the years. We like Manta Ray Cafe for its wood-fired pizzas and top-notch wine list, and the luxurious Bommies Restaurant, for elevated, modern Australian fare.
Where to Stay: We like the Hamilton Island Beach Club, with rooms from $500/night, as a girl’s getaways option for its no-kids policy. But we also Qualia, an all-villa resort with an excellent spa, with villas from $1000/night, including use a personal golf cart, WiFi, and breakfast.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Hamilton Island.
Sidewalk Skimming in New York City
Why Go: The Big Apple’s a sure thing for a high-octane weekend away with the gals. Reinvent your wardrobe in SoHo, dine in the bumping Meatpacking District, and walk it off along the High Line, and that’s just Day One. On Day Two, make like a local and head for the newest hip ‘hood, NoMad where you’ll find Mario Batali’s enormous Italian market, Eataly, with its several restaurants and rooftop birreria. From there, head a few blocks north for cocktails at the new NoMad Hotel, or the buzzy Ace Hotel. At once, New York has a way of welcoming old friends and energizing everyone, including tired moms of four (trust us: you’ll return home a new woman). Just remember to bring your flats for city slicking and heels for girls’ night out.
Where to Eat: In the Meatpacking District, sit at an outdoor table at Fig & Olive with glasses of rosé and Italian snacks. To challenge your tastebuds, stop into Fatty Crab for spicy crab and other Malaysian fare. Or do a little celeb-spotting at the Standard Grill, part of the Standard Hotel.
Where to Stay: We like the buzzy scene at The Standard in the Meatpacking District, from $295/night, including WiFi. For something more intimate, book a room at The NoMad Hotel, the fabulous new Jacques Garcia-designed hotel with rooms from $345/night.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to New York City.
Storm Watching in Tofino, British Columbia
Why Go: The Pacific Ocean’s first point of contact with the West Coast and one of Canada’s wettest costal rainforests, Tofino’s weather can get a little wet and wild, performing one of the greatest shows on earth. Clouds bang like STOMP drums and waves rock and roll in this naturally occurring spectacle with open seating (and its free, of course). Watch from the beach in a rain slicker and Hunter Boots, or inside your waterfront perch with a just-popped flute of bubbly.
Where to Eat: Tofino’s seaside location makes it a prime spot for trying the day’s freshest catch. Find a table at local institution The Schooner Restaurant for a seasonal and oft-changing seafood menu, or spring for tapas inspired by international street foods at Sobo.
Where to Stay: We like The Pacific Sands Beach Resort for its prime beachfront location and cozy décor, from $410/night for a two-bedroom beach houses. But for a true escape–no phone service, but ultra-luxe tents–head to the Clayoquot Wilderness Retreat, from $4,827 for three nights all-inclusive in a Deluxe Tent.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Tofino.
Glamping in Appin, Scotland
Why Go: Halfway between Oban, the gateway to the Isles, and Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK, get the girls together for a bit of sea kayaking along Scotland’s rugged West Coast, followed by stargazing in a Japanese soaker tub. Reconnect with your inner “outdoor enthusiast” in a high-style, with up close and personal wilderness encounters in a heavy-duty, camo-print tent with skylights and mid-century modern furniture. And if any of the gals need a backcountry pep talk, tell them a complementary hamper with dived scallops, handmade chocolates, and a decanter of Scottish malt whiskey is gifted at check-in.
Where to Stay: For its sweeping views and chicly outfitted geometric rooms, we like Ecopod Boutique Retreat, from $800 for three nights, including WiFi.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Argyll and the Isles.
Infectious Music and Malbec in Buenos Aires
Why Go: Stylish and sultry, elegant and edgy, Buenos Aires indulges in fashion, food, wine, architecture, and dance with equal abandon. Arrive with an empty stomach and a pair, or two, of dancing shoes (either for learning the tango or reckless club-hopping until 5 am), and join locals at 9 pm for a multi-hour steakhouse dinner, feasting on bife de lomo, and goblets of local Malbec. With a roster of red wine, high-heeled shoes and tango, this getaway will sell itself with the gals.
Where to Eat: Steakhouses reign supreme in Buenos Aires, with eateries like Don Julio and Rio Alba leading the pack. Spring for a modern, elegant Argentine meal at Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca, or try wilder fare (like llama and wild boar) at the charming Pura Terra.
Where to Stay: One of the best pools to laze by can be found at the Mine Boutique Hotel, where it’s flanked by grassy areas and a waterfall, from $135/night, including WiFi. Or to infuse your trip with a touch (or a heavy hand) of drama, book a room at the Faena Hotel + Universe, from $740/night including breakfast, WiFi, and access to the fitness center.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Check out our guide to Buenos Aires.
Sacred Spa Weekend in California
Why Go: A trip to the spa is a sacred lady-retreat. Cucumber slices over the eyes and a eucalyptus-scented towel wrapped around the body, it’s one of the few times you get to bond with your girls without even talking. And Golden Door Spa is among the more stunning, welcoming environments to do just that and more. The original location sits in Escondido, California, just under two hours outside of Los Angeles. They offer more than just facials and massages, though those are legendary here as well. There are hiking trails, a focus on healthful cuisine, zen-like meditation spaces, and yoga classes. You’ll book a week at a time, so choose yours based on schedule or on that week’s focus at the spa – they range from Dance Week to Culinary Week.
Where to Eat: At Golden Door Spas, all your meals are prepared and provided on site.
Where to Stay: Sumptuous accommodations are provided by Golden Door.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Golden Door has locations in Escondido, at the Boulders Resort in Arizona, at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, Utah, at the Las Casitas Resort in Puerto Rico, and at the Waldorf Astoria in Naples, Florida. Or to find something closer to you, peruse SpaFinder.
Photo credits: 1. Portland: urban farmer cider waffles, apple butter, blueberry bourbon syrup by Krista
Attribution-NonCommercial License; 2. Courtesy of Trish Friesen; 3. Arizona: Four Peaks from Sunrise Peak trail – McDowell Sonoran Preserve by
Attribution-NoDerivs License; 4. Courtesy of Trish Friesen; 5. Courtesy of Trish Friesen; 6. High-line: High Line Park via Shutterstock.com; 7. Tofino: Tofino via Shutterstock.com; 8. Scotland: Courtesy of Ecopod Boutique Resort; 9. Argentina: tango color by Zabara Alexander
Attribution-NonCommercial License; 10. Spa: Joshua Hodge Photography/iStockphotoB