The 16 Best Places to Visit in 2019
It's never too early to plan your next vacation. To help with a little inspiration, travel site Kayak analyzed more than 1.5 billion searches to determine the top destinations that fellow travelers are eyeing. Spoiler: Beaches are in. Scroll on to find the locations that will satisfy your wanderlust, whether you're looking for food, culture, or adventure.
Mexico City, Mexico: Mexico's capital, and 2018's World Design Capital, has steadily become a go-to vacation spot for foodies and art lovers, with searches on Kayak up 73 percent year over year*. Eat street tacos or the splurge-worthy taco omakase menu at Pujol, visit the home or joined studios of Frida Pinto and Diego Rivera, walk through the 1,700-acre Chapultepec Park, get your art fix at one of the numerous museums, gaze upon Aztec ruins in the center of the city or indulge in some high-end shopping in Polanco — there is inspiration to be had in every corner of this vibrant city.
*Based on the top 100 most searched destinations for the travel dates from 3/01/2018-2/28/19 compared with 3/01/2017-2/28/2018.
Bali, Indonesia: Ever since the success of Eat, Pray, Love (book and movie), this Indonesian island has topped many travel bucket lists, and its popularity hasn't waned: searches on Kayak are up 65 percent. Bali has no shortage of luxurious resorts with incredible amenities — beachfront Mulia has an award-winning spa, Amandari's traditional Balinese village houses are nestled in the hills, and Alila Uluwatu has a breathtaking cliffside infinity pool. But with lush forests, gorgeous beaches, and ancient temples, the island's natural beauty is the real reason to fall in love.
Tahiti: If your ideal vacation includes a lot of relaxing, look no further than Tahiti, which as Kayak's #1 trending beach destination, saw a 55 percent increase in searches*. The largest island in French Polynesia is brimming with laidback charm, black-sand and white-sand beaches, towering waterfalls, and secluded lagoons. For a little local flavor, head to the public market Le Marché de Papeete, where you can buy traditional snacks, Tahitian vanilla, local wares, and handmade crafts.
*Based on the top 1,000 most clicked destinations for the travel dates from 3/01/2018-2/28/19 compared to 3/01/2017-2/28/2018.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a mix of old and new. Vietnam, which saw Kayak searches up 49 percent year over year, is still an extremely affordable Southeast Asian country to visit: Five-star hotels won't break the bank, street food is delicious and adventurous, French colonial architecture still stands grandly, and Vietnamese coffee will give you a legit caffeine kick. For history buffs, visit the old temples and pagodas like the Jade Emperor Pagoda; walk through the underground Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong as their base of operation; or walk through the somber War Remnants Museum, which has a number of retired military vehicles and photo exhibits.
The Bahamas: The Caribbean is a natural playground for travelers looking for a tropical escape and turquoise waters, and searches are up 45 percent for the Bahamas. With more than 2,000 islands, the Bahamas offers plenty of opportunities to soak in some vitamin D on pristine white and pink sand beaches. Adventure seekers can also head to the Grand Isle Resort & Spa, set on a one-mile stretch of beach on Great Exuma, where you can enjoy some spa time or go swimming with pigs in the Exuma Cays. Or visit the giant Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, which boasts a 141-acre water park and the largest open-air marine habitat in the world.
Guadalajara, Mexico: It's not just Mexico City — Mexico's second-largest city is a trending destination too, with a 43 percent increase in Kayak searches. Less well known than bustling Mexico City or the beach areas (e.g., Cabo and Cancun), Guadalajara has its own appeal. (It is the home of mariachi music, after all.) At the Plaza de los Mariachis, you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy live music in the evening. The city also boasts a number of artisanal markets and art museums, and each year it hosts the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the largest Spanish language book fair in the world.
Lisbon, Portugal: Lisbon is a small city with a big personality. And with a great food scene and bustling nightlife, it's no wonder searches were up 42 percent year over year. Take a ride on one of Lisbon's historic trams and funiculars, or simply wander through the narrow cobblestone streets by foot. You'll easily discover trendy bars and boutiques, tucked-away cathedrals, and scenic views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. After trekking up and down the city's hills, go ahead and treat yourself to a glass of the national drink (port) and nosh on a creamy custard tart.
Paris: Manicured gardens, legendary fashion houses, charming cafes, Michelin-star dining, unparalleled museums, iconic landmarks — what does Paris not have? It doesn't matter if you're sitting at a corner bistro or window shopping along the Champs-Élysées, Paris has style and sophistication to spare. And there's no better city to splurge — hotels like The Ritz; Four Seasons Hotel George V; Hôtel Plaza Athénée; Le Meurice; and Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris have hosted kings, queens, and artists and continue to be the very definition of old-school glamour and opulence. With searches up 41 percent, it's clear the allure of the City of Light is still bright.
Rome, Italy: The Eternal City has always had an old-world allure to it, and in 2019, searches for Rome were up 39 percent. It's hard to resist la dolce vita here: impressive art galleries, picturesque plazas, huge public fountains, and remarkable ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Sistine Chapel. The city is walkable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a break or two to fuel up with an espresso, an aperitif, or (multiple) scoops of gelato.
Turks & Caicos: It's no surprise that searches for this Caribbean destination are up 37 percent, given it has some of the world's best beaches and coral reefs. The most populated island, Providenciales, has luxury resorts built for every type of traveler — Amanyara has a focus on nature and wellness, and the Gansevoort provides modern luxury steps from the soft sands of popular Grace Bay Beach. For something off the beaten path, travel to one of the less-populated islands, where you'll truly be able to unplug from the rest of the world.
Maui, HI: Do you really need another reason to go to Maui? Searches for the island paradise increased 36 percent for from last year, so it's not like the second largest of the Hawaiian islands is under the radar. But in case you need a nudge: You can watch a sunrise or sunset from the summit of the Haleakala volcano, surf in the warm waters of the Pacific, see humpback whales, drive along the unbelievably scenic Road to Hana, or enjoy happy hour at an old saloon in downtown Lahaina. At the end of a relaxing day, retire at one of the luxurious hotels like the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Hotel Wailea, or Four Seasons, and you'll see why it's easy to get used to island living.
Munich, Germany: Even if you aren't one of the millions of people who pack some lederhosen and travel to Munich for Oktoberfest, beer culture is no joke in Germany's largest city, where searches increased 34 percent from last year. The world-famous 16th-century Hofbräuhaus has beers, brats, and live music every day, and many locals keep personal steins stored there. There are, of course, non-alcoholic ways to enjoy Munich as well: The English Garden is one of the largest urban parks in the world, and numerous art and history museums showcase centuries of culture.
Kauai, HI: Jurassic Park may be fictional, but a majority of where the film was shot is very real: the island of Kauai, aptly named the "Garden Island." Searches for Kauai are up 22 percent, and as the oldest and greenest of the Hawaiian islands, it's a nature lover's dream. You can see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon, from above in a helicopter; swim at the base of the towering Wailua Falls; sail along the dramatic and rugged Napali Coast; or simply enjoy some downtime on the beaches of Hanalei Bay.
Aruba: Aruba, part of the ABC islands (along with Bonaire and Curacao), is outside of the hurricane belt, making it an ideal place to visit any time of year. The island has a fascinating blend of cultures (the native language of Papamiento is a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and West African) and an abundance of friendly locals. The beaches here are the obvious draw, but other activities include walking through the colorful capital of Oranjestad, visiting the Aloe Museum, or treating yourself to a little spa and casino time at one of the resorts like the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort and Casino, Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, or The Ritz-Carlton. Searches are up 22 percent; book a trip to see for yourself why Aruba is also known as "One Happy Island."
Honolulu, HI: Honolulu, with a 22 percent increase in searches, has everything you want from a Hawaiian vacation — sun, surf, and beaches — but it also has a thriving nightlife, an incredible food and shopping scene (Ala Moana is the largest open-air shopping center in the world), and plenty of adventure activities. Hike around a crater at Diamond Head State Monument or get a stair workout at Koko Crater Trail, then sunbathe at Waikiki beach. Snack on some satisfying eats by heading to Giovanni's shrimp truck, Leonard's Bakery for malasadas (Hawaiian donuts), Matsumoto Shave Ice, or Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts. And there is no shortage of hotels to accommodate every interest and budget such as Disney's Aulani Resort, boutique Laylow Hotel, Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, or the classic Royal Hawaiian.
Bonus: New Zealand: Adventure awaits for you in New Zealand (Kayak editors' number 1 pick for adventure), where the sheep outnumber people and you can find rich Maori culture, spectacular natural beauty, and a thriving wine region. 2019 marks the 250th anniversary of James Cook's mapping the North and South islands, and there is still plenty of wilderness to be explored. The landscape is vast and diverse, from Milford Sound (a fjord rather than a sound) to the geothermal pools of Rotorua, the adventure capital of Queenstown (where bungee jumping was invented) to the rolling hills of Matamata (which doubled as the peaceful Shire in Lord of the Rings). And accommodations are equally as impressive, such as the scenic and grand Lodge at Kauri Cliffs; the secluded Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte overlooking the Waimea Estuary, and the sophisticated The Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa. No matter how your itinerary shakes out, you're guaranteed a vacation of epic proportions.
(Photos via Getty)
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Lesley Chen is a California native who writes about travel, health/fitness, and other lifestyle topics. She has a serious case of RBF and exercises mainly to balance out an aggressive candy addiction.