Turn your mind away from winter chills with these getaway ideas
August has crept up on us faster than you can say "go away winter!" If you're sick of the cold weather, the colleagues full of germs, and the current political dramas — both here and overseas — here are some suggestions for tropical holidays to tide you over until summer... or to add to the wish list for next year. There's nothing like being prepared, right?
Best close to home
We're spoilt for choice in New Zealand, with so many tropical-island destinations just a few hours' flight from home. Take your pick from Fiji, Rarotonga, Niue, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Norfolk Island — all will promise pristine warm waters, genuine hospitality and a choice of accommodation to suit any budget.
It's also a great time of year to head to Tropical North Queensland. Port Douglas' "winter" still sees temperatures of up to 25C, there's very little rainfall, and sea temperatures can be up to 23C.
Best on a budget
At this time of year, post July school holidays, keep an eye out for Pacific Island sales on airfares and accommodation. If you're child-free you can snap up a bargain to one of the islands while it's outside busy family season.
You can also get great airfares to Hawaii, thanks to competition between Hawaiian Airlines and Air New Zealand. Hawaii isn't the cheapest destination but try booking into apartment condos or through Airbnb to save a bit of money.
If you're happy to go further afield — much further afield — how about Honduras? Skycanner.net named this Central American destination as one of the 12 cheapest countries to visit in 2017.
"The country isn't up there on the most-visited lists, but if you do decide to give it a go you'll discover white-sand beaches reminiscent of the Maldives, diving to rival the Red Sea, and mega cheap food and drink," Skyscanner's Catherine McGloin wrote earlier this year. She recommended heading to the northern coast to find the "Caribbean at a fraction of the cost".
Best for activities
If you want more from your tropical retreat than just lying by the pool sipping cocktails, there are plenty of opportunities to combine some activity with your escape.
Vanuatu is an adventurer's paradise — scuba diving, fishing, golf, horse riding and eco-tours, as well as nine active volcanoes. Mt Yasur on Tanna Island is arguably Vanuatu's biggest tourist attraction — the summit is easily accessible via a steep, but only 15-minute, walk; once there you can gaze deep into the active crater.
If you'd rather be more zen, try a yoga and wellness retreat like Queensland's Gwinganna or Sanctuary at Mission Beach.
Escape Haven has opened a new luxury women-only retreat in Bali's Uluwatu. Like its sister property in Seminyak, it offers yoga and surfing, but this one also has bootcamp programmes that will change your fitness mindset.
Matanivusi Resort is an eco-friendly paradise in Fiji, with some of the country's best surfing just across the lagoon from the resort. Catch a break while your family/friends have their own break by the pool.
Best for families
Okay, we know what you're going to say, you don't really think you're a "Club Med kind of person". But what we'll say in return — joined by anyone who has actually been to a Club Med — is: don't knock it until you try it.
The great thing here is that all-inclusive really does mean all inclusive: transport, transfers, accommodation, meals, drinks, activities, kids' clubs are all sorted and paid for before you leave, so you can fully relax and enjoy yourself while you're away. Try the Cancun Yucutan on Mexico's Caribbean coast, where activities include flying trapeze, waterskiing and excursions to nearby Mayan pyramids.
Or a bit closer to home, try Bali, Bintan Island, Phuket or Malaysia's Cherating Beach.
The Pacific Islands also do a great line
in resorts with kids' clubs — try Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort on the Coral Coast, Paradise Cove in the Yasawas, or The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa in the Cook Islands.
There's also Hawaii, which has big resorts with excellent kids' clubs and plenty of activities away from the resorts to keep everyone entertained. Try the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua — it has an environmental programme in collaboration with Jean-Michel Cousteau, giving kids the chance to hike volcanoes, explore coral reefs and go on star-gazing adventures.
Best for singles
If you're child-free and single, tropical holidays can often feel like they're made for everyone else but you. But they really don't have to be.
Hawaii's Oahu has surfing, snorkelling, shopping, hiking and nightlife; stay with an Airbnb host and you'll have a ready-made friend on hand when you arrive.
If you're happy with backpacking, try Fiji's Bounty Island in the Mamanucas. Shared dorms are an easy way to meet new people, or if you would rather have some alone time, there are beachfront bures available too. Combine that with a few nights' luxury on a Blue Lagoon cruise — they don't charge a supplement and offer free upgrades for single travellers. Their itineraries sail around the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands, with only four hours each day sailing so you can enjoy plenty of time on the pristine beaches and snorkelling the tropical waters once you're anchored.
Niue has a population of just 1500 people and is by all accounts one of the most welcoming places in the Pacific. If you go alone, you're bound to leave having made an abundance of new Niuean friends.
Or try a group holiday where you'll meet like-minded people, many of whom will also be travelling on their own. Try Peregrine Adventures — their small group itineraries take in many tropical destinations around the world, including the Seychelles, Borneo, Sri Lanka, Honduras, and Mexico.
Best for couples
Most tropical destinations are suited to romance, with their beautiful surroundings, free-flowing cocktails and balmy sunsets. One we want to hotfoot it to with a significant other is the Four Seasons Bora Bora — over-water villas, a spa with a couples' treatment room complete with glass floor so you can gaze at tropical fish while you're being massaged, hot tubs with views of the surrounding mountains and excellent snorkelling on the doorstep in the Ruahatu Lagoon Sanctuary.
Best far from anywhere
On a tropical island, it's easy to feel like a castaway with no connection to the outside world — just switch your phone off and don't check your social media until you come home.
If money and time are no object, how about Desroches Island Resort in the Seychelles? The private island is almost 1500km off the east coast of Africa, northeast of Madagascar, amid more than 115 mostly uninhabited islands of the Seychelles. Once you make it to Desroches, you'll find unspoiled beaches, suites with private plunge pools, water activities including surfing and fishing, and a whole load of luxury to boot.
For a real celebrity experience, try Belize's Blancaneaux Lodge. The 20-villa resort owned by multi-Oscar winning director Francis Ford Coppola can only be accessed by small aircraft. Its location is truly magnificent, surrounded by waterfalls, jungle, organic gardens and Mayan ruins. Plus, you've got a high chance of bumping into an A-list guest while you're there.