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Five Finalists Destinations To Visit This Year

Naoshima, Japan

It might be one of the world’s most unconventional contemporary art destinations, but this island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea is a bastion of thought-provoking artistic expression and architecture — from Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Pumpkin sculpture that sits on the pier in front of the famous Benesse House museum and hotel, to the Tadao Ando-designed Chichu Art Museum. In 2019, the Setouchi Triennale will take place across 12 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, including Naoshima. Visitors can expect rotating art exhibits, installations, and interactive experiments from predominately Japanese artists.

Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, but more than a year later, this soulful island has bounced back. Several hotels and restaurants have reopened, many with new amenities and menu updates. The best way to support the island’s continued recovery? Book a trip. The New Year promises even more additions, including the reopening of San Juan’s Caribe Hilton in January, plus a brand new Four Seasons Cayo Largo Resort currently slated to open in late 2019. Hamilton fans will be happy to hear that Lin-Manuel Miranda is making good on his promise to bring the mega-popular musical to the island: He’ll reprise his role as Alexander Hamilton in January at the University of Puerto Rico.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

It’s all about the all-inclusive in Punta Cana, a resort getaway on the Dominican Republic’s easternmost tip. Head here if your idea of a dream escape is checking in once and knowing everything is handled. In December, Spanish hotel chain Melía opened The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, complete with swim-up suites and a Natura Bisse spa. The new, adults-only, Hedonesque-style Temptation Punta Cana is slated to open later in 2019.

Sri Lanka

This island nation off India’s southern coast feels like Bali may have 20 years ago: an emerging, diverse destination that packs just as much cultural appeal as it does tropical allure. The country only recently opened its doors to tourism in 2009 at the end of a 26-year civil war, and a decade later, its tourism infrastructure is solid — and very much on the rise. Tourism has grown by 15 percent in 2018, and the government expects to welcome 4 million annual visitors by 2020. Most travelers fly into the capital city of Colombo and head south to the beach (Unawatuna) or inland to Udawalawe National Park for a safari, but one of the best ways to see the country is on a multi-day tour that offers a little bit of everything. Abercrombie & Kent‘s 14-day adventure includes temple and tea plantation visits, game drives, and more.

St. Barth

St. Barth was yet another Caribbean island that took a beating from Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017; and while much of the past year was spent on recovery, 2019 will be all about getting back to glamorous on this notoriously glitzy isle. Many of the island’s most exclusive properties will reopen in December 2018 — including Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de FranceLe Sereno, and Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa. Later in 2019, Le Guanahani and Eden Rock-St. Barths will return with updated guest rooms and new dining outlets. Plan your trip for May, when the weather is still great, but shoulder season pricing makes the elite island more accessible.