Published on May 1, 2019

Even among the most adventurous of travelers, sometimes nothing beats a good beach vacation. That’s why it comes as no surprise that, according to a new survey by Allianz Global Assistance, the top three international destinations for American travelers in 2019 all include sand and sea.

For the third year in a row, Cancún took top honors in terms of popularity, with Aruba coming in second place and Mexico’s San José del Cabo coming in third. Rounding out the top five are Nassau, Bahamas, and Higuey, Dominican Republic. Nothing, it seems, beats a bit of relaxation in the sun, equipped with a strong SPF and a festive drink for good measure.

These destinations are popular for a reason, but if you’re trying to avoid crowds, it’s best to opt for more under-the-radar options. Luckily, there are some new design hotels that even the most discerning traveler could love in locales that make great—and dare we say better—alternatives to these top three spots. Pack your bags and book your flight: These are the real places to be this summer.

Instead of Cancún, go to… Tulum

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courtesy of casa pueblo

The two-hour drive from Cancún’s airport is totally worth it to experience Casa Pueblo, a boutique hotel with just 16 rooms with a minimal, boho vibe. Saltwater pools and plenty of terraces provide an alternative to the beach so compelling that visitors might not even feel compelled to leave the hotel, but they totally should, if only to get breakfast at Don Cafeto and explore the cenotes.

Instead of Aruba, go to… Negril, Jamaica

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courtesy of skylark negril

On Jamaica’s west coast, the Skylark presents a totally fresh, playful Caribbean retreat. Complete with its own outpost of the beloved NYC restaurant Miss Lily’s and a holistic spa, this boutique hotel is perfect for travelers who want an energized beach retreat. Snorkeling and paddleboarding are encouraged on Seven Mile Beach (just steps from the hotel), and cooking and painting classes provide entertainment onsite. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy live reggae at Bourbon Beach.

Instead of Cabo, go to… Punta Maroma

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courtesy of chablé maroma

Set on the Riviera Maya, Chablé Maroma offers 70 villas—each with their own pool and private terrace—for visitors to find their utmost peace. The hotel pays homage to its location with design that uses local materials (xucun and galarza stone), in addition to interior accents (like palm-woven lamps) made by Mexican artisans. When you really need to escape it all, this is the dreamiest option—plus, with a menu filled with ceviche, tapas, and homemade flatbreads prepared under the direction of world-acclaimed chef Jorge Vallejo, there’s plenty to savor.

See more travel ideas:
This Destination Is the Most Popular Dream Vacation—We Have a Few Ideas Why

I Underwent “The Ritual” at the Blue Lagoon, and It Was an Experience
4 Amazing International Hotels Worth Planning a Trip Around

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