12 Great Group Getaways

The most memorable vacations are the ones shared with people you love. Here are the best spots for families, couples traveling together, and just plain friends

Rachel Levin
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Family trip: On the water

You know that lakeside summer cabin you’ve always wished you owned? Well, four of them can be yours, if only for a three-day weekend. Down a long, rambling dirt road in Northern California’s Mendocino County is Leonard Lake Reserve, a family-owned, off-the-grid compound whose attractions range from the traditional (canoeing, swimming) to the contemporary (a new outdoor pizza oven). Rent all four separate houses—a total of 10 bedrooms and a few open lofts—and you can gather three dozen people here.

Why it’s great for families: Kids can fish off the dock, parents can take a woodsy walk, and grandparents can paddle a rowboat into the middle of the lake and remember what summers used to be like. From $2,300 for up to 36, $40 each
additional guest; .

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Family trip: Biking

Imagine a vacation with the whole extended family where no one has to make a plan—or lift a finger. Backroads, the 36-year-old Berkeley-based travel company with hiking, biking, and multisport trips around the world, has always been popular with active, outdoorsy types—and, increasingly, with families. Its group biking, hiking, and rafting trips range from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula to Hawaii’s Big Island to Montana’s Glacier National Park. One especially good excursion is new this year: a five-day Southern California bike trek that takes you around Santa Barbara and then inland to Ojai, with stops for beachgoing and wine tasting along the way. Camping? Forget about it—you’ll stay in resort hotels.

Why it’s great for families: More activity, less decision making by consensus. Bonus: Knowledgeable trip leaders also double as the world’s best babysitters, grilling with the kids while you relax over dinner. From $2,098 for 5 days, including meals (reduced rates for kids); .

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Family trip: Mountain classic

Families have been coming to this Idaho mountain resort for almost 80 years—and the decades were starting to show. But now, as part of a multimillion-dollar renovation, the baronial Sun Valley Lodge has reopened to welcome the next generation of hikers/bikers/golfers (and, in winter, skiers). The main improvements are in the guest quarters: fewer but more spacious rooms with amenities including fireplaces, soaking tubs, and mountain views from wall-length windows.

Why it’s great for families: Kids can ice-skate (yes, even in summer) or cannonball into the heated pool while Grandpa kicks back by the firepit and orders lunch; teenagers can bowl on six newly refurbished 1950s lanes; and Mom can steal away for a yoga class/sauna/steam/massage in the new 20,000-square-foot spa. From $329; .

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Family trip: Up in the clouds

This isn’t your grandparents’ Broadmoor—although they may have summered at the Colorado Springs-based 779-room grande dame of Rocky Mountain resorts (and still can). In August 2014, the historic 1918 property went tastefully rogue, adding a wilderness experience 3,000 feet above the resort itself. At the summit of Cheyenne Mountain sits Cloud Camp, with a main lodge and 11 one- and two-bedroom cabins scattered around a lawn backed by views of the Front Range. Granted, it’s a major splurge, but the West doesn’t get any more spectacular. Down along the trout-filled Tarryall River, you’ll find another new Broadmoor camp too: Fishing Camp opened this spring, with seven restored miners’ cabins and a grand lodge.

Why it’s great for families: Kids can ride mules to Cheyenne Mountain’s 9,200-foot summit while their parents do the three-hour hike. Or heck, everyone can hop a mule. At the top, Dad, don’t worry about grilling burgers for your clan—the Broadmoor chefs have you covered. Cloud from $900, Fishing from $640, including meals and activities; .

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Girls' getaway: Wine & wilderness

The only thing better than hiking or rafting your way along the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River is to be greeted at day’s end with a glass of Southern Oregon Viognier or Syrah. That’s what you do on wine-tasting trips with Rogue Wilderness Adventures. On the hiking trips, you cover a total of 40 miles over four days, spending three nights in different wilderness lodges. On the rafting ones—new this year—you tackle the Rogue’s class II through IV rapids, camping two nights and staying in a lodge the other. On both, you spend evenings sipping Southern Oregon wines poured by an in-house sommelier.

Why it’s a great girls’ trip: Some women like to tour Napa in a stretch limo; others appreciate a less-manicured wine experience. If you’re in the second group, these trips are made for you. From $1,129, including meals and wine; .

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Girls' getaway: Surf scene

Vancouver Island’s wild western side is all about rugged, beautiful beaches, bears, and waves—of the wetsuit-recommended variety. And while you and your friends could pack your bikinis and head to San Diego to learn to surf (and if you do, try Surf Diva, surfdiva.com), for a real adventure, hit Tofino, where Surf Sisters has teamed up with Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay: three-hour lessons for two, surfboards to borrow, and a beachfront suite.

Why it’s a great girls’ trip: You’ll stand up on a surfboard in 55° waves. That’ll give you bragging rights for the rest of this century. Surf Sisters package from $318 U.S.; surfsister.com, .

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Girls' getaway: Bargain bliss

When desert temps spike above 100°, hotel rates plummet … to a similar number. Which means that at the midcentury modern Saguaro hotel, you can lounge with two buckets of beer on a daybed beside not one but two pools for $145—or book two nights and get a third free.

Why it’s a great girls’ trip: Affordable spa resort fun. The prickly pear scrub is restorative, and the skirt-steak tacos cooked by Iron Chef Jose Garces for the hotel restaurant, Distrito, are terrific. From $89, restaurant $$$; .

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Girls' getaway: Meditation on Maui

A meditation vacation doesn’t have to mean days of total silence; just, say, an hour or two of guru-led quietude that lets you embrace the world around you—especially welcome when that world is lush, lovely Hana. Set on 12 garden-filled, ocean-view acres, Ala Kukui Retreat Center has room for up to 15 friends in its main 4-bedroom, 3-bath lodge and 2 newly built cabins next door. Bring along a meditation or yoga instructor or hire one from town (Hana has plenty), and set your own class schedule in the renovated barn turned yoga studio.

Why it’s a great girls’ trip: Tropical serenity in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. From $2,500 for up to 15 guests; .

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Couples' escape: Into the woods

Not far from Seattle, and even closer to the spray of Snoqual-mie Falls, Treehouse Point is a woodsy, whimsical property along the Raging River with (now) six treehouses supported by towering red cedars and Douglas firs. Vastly sturdier and more sophisticated than any treehouse you remember as a kid, these arboreal apartments are the creation of treehouse guru Pete Nelson, who had been building structures for others for 20 years before establishing his own treehouse resort. Each of the hand-built cabins rests high in its tree and holds built-in cedar beds, leather reading chairs, and glass-paned windows that let you look out into the forest. You wake up quite literally with the birds and climb down for continental breakfast in the main lodge; after that, spend the day hanging out on the pebbly riverbank or lounging in a hammock. If you’re at all musical, pack your guitar—the stone firepits and a little wooden stage tucked among the trees beckon for impromptu sing-alongs.

Why it’s a great couples’ getaway: No need to book a bunch of boring hotel rooms when you and five other couples can re-enact Tarzan or Swiss Family Robinson. From $255, $4,500 to book the entire property; .

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Couples' escape: Baja beach time

On what feels like an endless, empty stretch of sand outside Todos Santos, Rancho Pescadero is a perfect refuge for anyone who likes to wake up to blue skies and yoga and fall asleep to crazy stars and crashing waves—and swim, surf, sip margaritas, and eat fresh-fish tacos in between. The resort has 29 casitas, each with a daybed for midday dozing. Most are oceanfront and open-air. Antsy types can use two pools or borrow bikes and fishing rods and stay as content as lazy loungers.

Why it’s a great couples’ getaway: Beach sunsets, ready-to-light bonfires, and alfresco tequila bars are flat-out more fun with friends. From $210 U.S.; .

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Couples' escape: Fun on the prairie

Under way in Montana’s great plains: an ambitious project to create a new national parklike land with private funds. The American Prairie Reserve has been dubbed “a stateside Serengeti” for its wealth of animals, including bison and bighorn sheep. Now 305,000 acres, it has plans to expand to 3.5 million acres, bigger than Yellowstone. At Buffalo Camp, 11 basic sites have been spruced up (with sunshades and running water). Pitch your tents, hike alongside bison herds, and savor prairie sunsets. Nearby, the all-inclusive Kestrel Camp—with five yurts and a private chef—is the luxury version.

Why it’s a great couples’ getaway: No noisy neighbors. Buffalo Camp $10, Kestrel Camp $1,200; .

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Couples' escape: Mountain majesty

Even without its A-list Hollywood pedigree, Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort has a lot going for it. First, there’s the setting: 5,000 acres on the slopes of the Wasatch Range, with views to 11,750-foot Mt. Timpanogos. Second, there’s the sheer number of different outdoor activities you can do here in summer: hike, fly-fish, ride horses, mountain bike. If any of the above leaves your muscles sore, head to the resort’s spa for a couples’ massage. Guest rooms are stylishly rustic; the resort’s signature restaurant, The Tree Room, is among the best in the Rockies.

Why it’s a great couples’ getaway: Sundance makes it easy to mix and match activities. Two of you want to go hiking, fine; two of you want to take a watercolor class at Sundance’s art studio, fine. You can all meet up afterward for cocktails at the Owl Bar, as ornately Old Western as you could possibly wish for. From $269, restaurant $$$; .



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