Blame it on the skyline, intoxicating desert heat, and diverse cuisine, but a visit to Dubai is something of a heightened sensory experience—that’s even better with an S.O. There’s an ambitiousness here that is infectious; the city’s design influences can be found in its constantly evolving skyline and the aptly named Design District. Meanwhile, a wealth of culinary influences is evident in nearly every restaurant, many of which offer views so stunning you’ll want to share the experience with someone, just to know they are, in fact, real.
Stay: As the city continues to rapidly expand, so does its hotel scene, but there are few that offer a better stay than the Waldorf Astoria. It’s a good option for those who are interested in being a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the city—and want some time to relax by the pool/beach. (There’s only one road on and off the island—via the “trunk” of The Palm Jumeirah archipelago palm tree—so it adds a bit of time to touring around.) The seaside rooms have balconies for enjoying coffee with a view in the morning, but what’s most impressive are the oversized glass-and-marble bathrooms, with luxurious waterfall showerheads and soaking tubs. Closer to the city’s center is one of Dubai’s most gorgeously manicured spaces: Palazzo Versace. This palatial hotel is 100-percent pure Versace, which means everything, from the bespoke fabrics to custom furnishings are done in the Italian fashion house’s signature style. With a little over two hundred rooms and suites, more than a hundred residences, eight restaurants and bars (each with an open-air terrace), three outdoor pools, and unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek and the city skyline, it basically doesn’t get any fancier than this.
Eat: There’s an implicit understanding in the Dubai dining scene that we’ve grown to love: one dresses up. For glassed-in terrace and bay views, head to Pierchic. While it’s not particularly glitzy, the ambiance is undeniably elevated, as is the seafood-centric menu: the caviar, lobster, and fresh fish are offered in every imaginable incarnation. Located on the terrace of the Burj Al Arab, Scape offers a gorgeous sunset view of the gulf and city, plus a new angle to see the Burj Al Arab from up close. The cocktails are good and the food menu can satisfy a range of diners—try the crispy chicken with BBQ miso and a carrot-ginger purée.
Do: Dubai has options for foodies, adventurers, and art buffs alike. If you’re looking to hole up inside, the over-the-top spas in many of the hotels offer some pretty epic R&R. Take the Talise Ottoman Spa: Located inside the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel, it’s almost like a palace, with interiors swathed in marble, ornate mosaic tiles, and even a chandelier above the bathtub. If you’re looking for an experience to spike your adrenaline, head to the desert in a vintage Land Rover for a safari, where you can rent quads and trek out to the dunes, or ride bikes around the Al Qudra tracks. We suggest planning a trip around sunset and packing a picnic.
In the last few years, Seychelles has become a far-flung, African destination that’s finally within reach, thanks to the uptick in direct flights from Dubai, Los Angeles, and other major cities. (It’s the kind of place that has incredible vistas before you even de-plane.) An archipelago of 115 islands—Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue are the most popular—in the Indian Ocean, it is a tropical paradise unlike anything else.
If you can arrange it, don’t miss a visit to the hard-to-reach and largely untouched Aldabra Atoll, a circle of islands surrounding a tidal lagoon about six hundred miles outside of Mahé.
Stay: There’s a certain magic found at North Island, located on one of the smallest Seychelles islands. Part nature and wildlife conservatory, part exclusive resort, North Island take up prime real estate along the shores of the Indian Ocean, offering epic scenery that includes giant granite peaks. The eleven individual villas allow for direct access to the crystalline waters in a totally private setting. Farther east, past the largest island of Mahé is Fregate Island Private, an eco-friendly, island-spanning, luxe hideaway that features private thatched-roof houses.
Eat: Given its location deep in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles cuisine is abundant in fresh fish, as well as tropical fruits, including mango, jackfruit, papaya, and pineapple. The capital city of Victoria, on the main island of Mahé, offers many small, family-owned restaurants serving up fresh catch, steamed in banana leaves, along with local curried dishes (a staple of the island). The long-acclaimed La Scala Restaurant, situated atop granite rocks, has been a mainstay for travelers and locals. Owners Gianni and Silvana Torsi imbue a love into what they do, which is evident in their authentic Italian handmade pastas, impeccable service, and incredible seafood dishes (Gianni is a star fisherman and chef). The all-white interiors are dimly lit and open to allow the ocean breezes to waft through, making this a truly romantic spot. Meanwhile, Le Chateau de Feuilles, over on the island of Praslin, serves up a stellar octopus creole curry in its intimate outdoor dining room where you can sip wine and take in the endless ocean views.
Do: Many of the inclusive resort hotels offer guided activities to help you make the most of the archipelago, like the legendary coral reefs. The Dive Centre on North Island is a good place to start if you need lessons. Sea kayaks, longboards, and snorkeling gear are also available to explore the calm waters around the island. Morne Seychellois National Park, over on the main island of Mahé, is an incredible nature reserve full of trails, including one that winds up the highest peak at Morne Seychelloise, resulting in epic 360-degree views of the island and ocean. If you’re staying on the island, check out the local markets in Victoria and peruse The National History Museum—small but mighty, it gives a good dose of local history. And head to Anse Lazio, on the island of Praslin, which is just as breathtakingly beautiful as everyone says.