For most, New Year’s travel means a bottle of Champagne and fireworks on TV. But for the celebrity set, ringing in the New Year is limited only by how far one is willing to travel. Of course, there are many destinations near and far where celebrities flock year after year (ahem, Aspen). But beyond Bora Bora and St. Barts, there are jaw-droppingly chic, A-list–approved properties in slightly less-trafficked—yet no less exclusive—locales. Here, six holiday-season hot spots that value both design and environment.
Laucala Island, Fiji
With Oprah as a past guest, the Fijian private-island playground of Red Bull’s co-founder is one of the world’s most sought-after stays, but it doesn’t come cheap—or easy. Starting at $4,800 per night, the 25 tropical villas—each with its own pool, beach access, and aquatic toys for every whim—are by request only. Multiple massive stone bathtubs, countless sitting and lounging setups, and a constant flow of treats, both for sipping and nibbling, make relaxation a no-brainer. Adventurous types can dream up nearly any activity and have it prepared in minutes, even a deep-sea dive in a submarine. Seriously.
Sweet Bocas, Panama
To vacation lavishly but also in total obscurity, actors, fashion icons, real estate titans, and Academy Award–winning directors and producers rent this exclusive island, home to a warm, seven-bedroom overwater villa crafted entirely in Panamanian teak. With aesthetics that meld global furnishings with the clean lines of a luxury ship, it’s a one-of-a-kind creation—it offers a pontoon for sundowners, an island, a gym, a pool, and glamping A-frames—within the remote Bocas del Toro archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Ocean exploration of all sorts, from surfing to diving to sailing, is possible, fueled by innovative and outrageously delicious courses, all plated by the Ecuadorian chef on the owner’s vast collection of ceramics and stoneware.
Vik retreats, José Ignacio, Uruguay
Well-known among the international jet set (as well as among past visitors Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bridges) for its raging-till-morning beach parties, outstanding cuisine, and art appreciation is the bucolic surf town of José Ignacio, 45 minutes from the less-exclusive city of Punta del Este. The season here is fleeting (two weeks of extremely high season over Christmas and New Year’s, followed by another four to six of full-tilt fun), meaning rates for a two-bedroom suite on the Atlantic—which the sun mindbogglingly dips into as it sets—at artist-designed boutique bolthole Bahía Vik skyrocket to $6,000 per night. Buyout-friendly Playa Vik is another option, as is Estancia Vik, the pastoral estate with art installations as bedrooms and horses to ride. No José Ignacio jaunt would be complete without following in George Clooney’s footsteps to Bodega Garzón, where you’ll experience a mouthwateringly rich assault on the tastebuds. It’s the premier winery of Argentina’s wealthiest man, and there star chef Francis Mallmann oversees fire-marked culinary experiences and the private Garzón Club, which allows members to become winemakers and blend their very own barrels.
The Brando, French Polynesia
Perhaps enticed by Marlon Brando’s legacy, celebrities have flocked to this French Polynesian gem—far from the crowds at Bora Bora—since its inception as a private-island eco-reserve. The design is fully Polynesian—everything from the architecture to the landscaping embraces indigenous methods and materials—and the infrastructure fully sustainable. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi, and Pierce Brosnan have all been known to enjoy this resort’s coconut trees (and coconut oil–generated power!), plunge pools, and sublime lagoon. But former president Barack Obama is arguably the most distinguished guest by far to have called one of the 35 spare, peaceful bungalows his temporary home.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Those who view the holidays as inextricably linked to fresh powder head to this Relais & Châteaux dude ranch, which spans 6,600 acres of pristine wilderness and can feel like being inside a snow globe. The accommodations—a mix of log cabins, lodge rooms, and historic barn bedrooms—masterfully blend rustic bones with elegant finishes, and they are topped off with authentic antiques (think beautifully intricate Native American dress) and, in some, wooden hot tubs. Between the blissful nights, memorable meals, and activity-packed days, it’s no wonder such celebrities as Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk, Scarlett Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Rachel Weiss, and Kate Bosworth are patrons.
Capella Ubud, Bali
Bali, known as the Island of the Gods, has an ever-increasing profile thanks to Instagram-soaked visits this year by Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, the Beckhams, and the Kardashians, among other stars. But it’s the newest resort on the island that’s the most dazzling. Capella Ubud is renowned resort architect Bill Bensley’s fantasy of a tented jungle camp, conceived and executed without disturbing a single tree. The batik-lined, antiques-filled tents and their private pools nearly disappear in the lush foliage, but pathways lead to riverside Hindu temples, verdant rice terraces, a stunner of an above-ground saltwater pool, and distinctive open-air restaurants, including one whose vaulted ceiling is painted in traditionally ornate Kamasan style.
Related: 7 Secret Islands Around the World