(CNN) — Planning your 2018 vacation and starting to think about just going back to that place you went last year with the OK-ish beach and the mediocre cocktails?
C'mon, you know you can do better.
Check them out below and find the inspiration for your next adventure.
Cape Verde Islands
The Cape Verde islands are known for music, culture and gorgeous beaches.
Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock
What do you get when you blend Brazilian, African and Iberian influences in a place already blessed with incredible weather and scenery? The Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa, which are finally coming into their own as an exotic vacation destination.
The 10-island Atlantic archipelago -- around 570 kilometers (350 miles) west of Dakar -- mixes pristine beaches and outdoor adventure with a unique homegrown culture, a melting pot simmering since the 15th century when Portuguese navigators came across the uninhabited islands.
The islands are best known for music, a melodic heritage that borrows from all three of its mother cultures and that provided one of the sparks of the modern World Beat sound. Despite its small population, Cape Verde has spawned five distinct musical genres including morna -- the national music and dance.
Volcanic peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to the archipelago's beaches and bays, waterfront towns spangled with pastel houses and hiking trails that meander across lava fields, along deep ravines and through the island's bizarre Dragon Trees.
There's history too. Like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cidade Velha, a 15th-century Portuguese outpost where Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama stopped off on their epic voyages of discovery.
Don't miss: Sip locally made grogue (rum) while listening to morna -- folk tunes sung in the local kriolu dialect -- in a bodega along the waterfront of Mindelo town on São Vicente Island.
Botum Sakor National Park, Cambodia
Cambodia's largest national park is home to varied ecosystems.
Courtesy Shanti Mani Wild
Within it lies the Southwest Elephant Corridor -- a 700-square-mile area that's home to Cambodia's largest population of Asian Elephants as well as villages, waterfalls, rare birds and saltwater crocs.
Recently, a crop of eco-oriented tented camps, all promising eco initiatives and low-impact accommodations have sprung up.
The camp will work with environmental partners -- including Wildlife Alliance, Fauna & Flora International and the Cambodian government -- to protect the area from mining and deforestation.
From this luxurious home base, travelers can explore the park's thick mangroves and rainforest with rangers, kayak along the estuaries or visit local fishing villages.
Malta's capital, Valletta dates back to the 16th century.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Located between Italy and Tunisia, Malta exists at a crossroads that makes for a fascinating history. Within a 20-minute bus ride, you'll feel like you've journeyed from ancient Greece to the Middle East and back, and you're as likely to find a bowl of Sardinian-style pasta as a doner kebab.
Don't miss: Although the "azure window" on the island of Gozo -- made famous thanks to "Game of Thrones" -- collapsed into the sea in 2017, this gorgeous stretch of beach and bright blue-green water is absolutely worth visiting, window or no window.
Serbia's Tara National Park is home to deep gorges and forested slopes.
Not for long though. Visitors are beginning to descend on this largely undiscovered corner of the region, lured by terrific scenery, rich history, incredible value for money and a lot of cheese.
Belgrade has already established itself as a city that can party and -- in much the same way eastern Europe's big cities did 10 or 15 years ago -- is shedding urban Soviet gloom and rushing headlong towards a glitzier future.
Don't miss: One of the world's most dizzyingly spectacular railway journeys, linking Belgrade to Bar in Montenegro, fully reopened in 2017. There's no better way to arrive.
Broadway buffs will get a particular kick out of visiting Alexander Hamilton's birth country.
Ian G. Holyoak/Nevis Tourism Authority
These days, anyone with a Spotify account can probably tell you that Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean before coming to the colonies. But how many can tell you which island he was born on?
That would be quiet, lovely Nevis (that's pronounced NEE-vis), which is not as well-known as its larger twin, St. Kitts.
Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbors, Nevis was spared damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, which means its elegant white beaches may now experience a deserved uptick in tourists. And even people who think they've seen-one-seen-'em-all when it comes to Caribbean islands will look in awe at the quieter, simpler, more connected with nature way of life here.
Don't miss: The well-cared-for Hamilton birthplace -- see how long you can go before starting to hum "My Shot."
If you're lucky, a visit to Banff will be rewarded with a sight of the Northern Lights.
From Travel Alberta
Whether passions tend toward skiing and snow-shoeing or kayaking and mountain hiking, Banff is unrivaled for all lovers of the great outdoors. Though Banff National Park welcomes four million visitors each year, it never really feels over-crowded, save perhaps for the peak months of July and August.
The Fairmont Banff Springs is a national historic site, and resembles a medieval castle right out of a Disney film ("Frozen," perhaps?). It's an ideal and luxurious base from which to experience the best of Banff. And if you're wondering how Banff got its unusual name, it is named for Banffshire, Scotland, the birthplace of two of the original directors of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Don't Miss: The Northern Lights are on display much of the year, but between February and April, the breathtaking Aurora Borealis colors are at their most vibrant. In the fall, the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival centers on mountain explorations, with screenings (last year there were 75 films featured) as well as Q&As with the world's most daring adventurer-authors.
Many new hotels are opening in Nagano -- including KAI Alps, pictured, a luxury inn-style Ryokan.
From Hoshino Resorts/KAI Alps
Nagano, a land of chilled soba noodles, steaming onsen hot springs and perfectly powdery snow, hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, but is only now emerging as an international travel destination.
If the impeccably groomed ski slopes of the Hakuba Valley aren't enough of a draw, there's the history, culture and relaxing hot springs of the all-natural Nagano area, or the beautifully preserved 17th-century Matsumoto Castle.
Don't miss: Wildlife lovers will not want to miss a visit to the famous Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, next to Yudanaka Shibu Onsen village, where red-faced macaques thaw out in hot springs under a blanket of snow.
Puebla is Mexico's fourth largest city, known for its great food culture and architectural delights.
About 100 miles south of Mexico City is Puebla, the country's fourth-biggest city.
Though locals have long known about poblano food culture (mole and the chalupa were both invented here) and dazzling architecture (ornate Baroque churches and the country's oldest public library, for starters), a few key new hotel openings will bring international tourists to this charming, underrated city.
Following an earthquake in September 2017, the city is already on the road to recovery, although some of its historic churches are still under scrutiny.
Exploring North Africa's point break paradise with surfer Ramzi Boukhiam.
Somewhere among the ancient towns and cities of Europe and northern Africa there's probably still at least one beautiful old port that hasn't been conscripted into backdropping for "Game of Thrones."
Essaouira isn't it, but unlike other prime locations, it's largely escaped the fantasy series' tourism Midas touch.
Keeping the crowds at bay during sunbathing season -- regardless of regular budget airline arrivals -- are the powerful inshore gusts that give Essaouira its reputation as Africa's Windy City.
Those same winds have also made this stretch of undeveloped coastline a haven for surfers and windsurfers arriving from both within and without Morocco, adding to the laid-back vibe.
Don't miss: Essouaria's fishing port is a cluttered soup of bright blue boats that deliver photo ops and delicious fresh fish that can be eaten in restaurants just yards from the waterfront.
Perth has great food, pristine beaches and the Swan Valley wine region is only 30 minutes away.
Paul Kane/Getty Images
Oft overlooked in favor of Sydney and Melbourne, Perth seems to have finally hit its stride.
For starters, the coastal city is better connected than ever, gearing up to welcome the first direct flight linking Australia to Europe next year -- a 17-hour Perth-London flight operated by Qantas.
The city's building on its lively night market and dense restaurant scene -- now offering more eateries per capita than both Sydney and Melbourne.
But that's just what's happening downtown. From pristine beaches to oceanfront cycling and whale-spotting, Perth also offers timeless natural adventures.
This central African country is on the tourist map thanks to its volcanic landscapes.
From Remarkable Rwanda
The small, central African country has been surfing a tide of good news stories in recent years as it distances itself from a troubled past with glowing accounts of its amazing volcanic landscape, clean streets, stable government and efforts to preserve endangered mountain gorillas.
In 2017, Akagera completed its Big Five list with the triumphant reintroduction of eastern black rhinos after they vanished 10 years ago.
Throw in pleasant year-round temperatures of about 27 Celsius and direct flights from London and Rwanda could become one of the most tempting luxury year-round escapes on offer.
Don't miss: Suspended a knee-wobbling 50-meters above the floor of the Nyungwe Forest, the Canopy Walk takes visitors across a narrow 200-meter bridge through treetops teeming with life.
Crete in Greece is blessed with sunshine, cultural history and archaeological treasures.
From Greek National Tourism Organization
How do you like your Greek gods? Fantastical heroes of ancient legend, or sun-kissed beauties atop powder-soft beaches? Either way, Crete has you covered.
Western Crete has the Venetian splendor of Chania and Rethymno, while the skyline is dominated by the limestone peaks of the Lefka Ori, or White Mountains. The mountains are slashed with around 30 gorges, the most famous of which is the 16-kilometer-long Samaria Gorge.
Crete enjoys balmy temperatures April through October and is ringed with a host of impressive beaches. Diving trips in the clear, warm waters allow guests to view underwater canyons, World War II wrecks and a rich variety of marine life. The most celebrated beach is Elafonisi on the southwest coast, renowned for its delicately hued pink coral sand.
PyeongChang, South Korea
The Winter Olympics are likey to put South Korea's ski scene on the map.
Yongpyong Ski Resort
Those in the know might be lamenting the loss of one of Asia's best-kept ski secrets, but the snowy spotlight is about to hit PyeongChang, a little-known mountain region in South Korea's east.
Not to be confused with North Korean capital Pyongyang, PyeongChang is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which will take place from February 9-25.
Even if you can't make it to any of the sporting events, you should still add it to your winter vacay shortlist.
Though lacking the dramatic peaks you'd find in Japan's north, PyeongChang's ski and snowboard scene offers a uniquely Korean experience, its modern, mid-sized resorts famed for decent powder and speedy lifts. Add in night skiing until 2:30 a.m., world-class beef, non-stop soju and yes, plenty of K-Pop, and you have the makings of an incredible snow holiday.
Hosting the Olympics of course prompts a need for improved infrastructure, meaning travel to/from/around PyeongChang is now easier than ever. Among the more notable enhancements is a new high-speed train line, which began operations in late December and can whiz visitors from Seoul to PyeongChang in just over an hour.
Alongside the usual influx of restaurants, hotels and improved roads, officials have also been working to ensure foreign visitors won't get tangled in the language barrier by developing high-tech translation apps and plenty of travel guides highlighting the area's attractions.
Don't miss: Post slopes, a jjimjilbang session is essential. Basically, it's a bathhouse/sauna/spa where you can soak and steam your sore muscles, ensuring you're back in shape to hit the powder the following day. You won't have trouble finding one, either. Almost all of PyeongChang's resorts have their own jjimjilbang facilities.
The fishermen of Cascais rise at dawn to catch the seafood that will later become the dish of the day
But in 2018 this famously relaxed and convivial city has more to celebrate than usual. From May 8 to 12, it'll host the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, having at last won the honor after 53 years of trying. The long-running festival of kitschy fabulousness and bonkers spectacle is a Euro institution and will be watched on TV by some 200 million viewers worldwide, while thousands of diehard fans will flock to the host city for one heck of a party.
It's not just Europeans heading to Lisbon in 2018. A new daily Delta Airlines daily flight from Atlanta starting May 24 will bring US visitors. And then there's the Portuguese capital's rise as a European tech hub, helped by cheaper rents than London, better beaches than Berlin, and a thriving cultural scene.
The city's pastéis de nata, or custard tarts, never stop being a draw. The most celebrated, and with the longest lines, is Pasteis de Belem on the Belem seafront, but great versions can be found all around the city.
Don't miss: The resort town of Sintra, high in the Sintra mountains, is a short day trip away. It's a pastel-colored wonderland of hilltop fairytale palaces and European Romantic architecture.
The Peruvian city of Cajamarca is a cultural hotspot known for baroque churches, including Belen --pictured here.
A favorite Inca stopover along the old Cusco-to-Quito Royal Highway -- complete with natural hot springs and fatefully large quantities of gold deposits in its surrounding hills -- Cajamarca still hasn't quite hit its full stride with international tourism the way it has over the centuries with indigenous emperors, Spanish conquistadors, environmentally challenged mining corporations and the odd Chachapoyas-bound trekker.
That's good news for travelers who find their way to this lofty (over 9,000 feet), resolutely villagey Northern Highlands charmer with its colonial edifices, cobblestone streets, time-warped central plaza, sigh-worthy Andean backdrop and -- who would've thought -- one of the wilder annual parties in South America.
Cajamarca hosts Peru's most happening annual Carnaval (February 10-14) -- featuring several days of parades, live music, cultural events, chicha de jora (corn beer) quaffing and rambunctious water balloon fighting.
During quieter, equally captivating times in Cajamarca, checking into a restored colonial mansion-turned-posada overlooking the town's central Plaza de Armasn -- the site of a pivotal 16th-century Spain vs. Inca clash -- treats visitors to an Old World Peruvian scene like no other.
Spectacular baroque churches. Inca ruler Atahualpa's infamous ransom chamber El Cuarto del Rescate. Peru's richest ice cream -- you're in the country's dairy capital. That's all here too.
Don't miss: Hiking (or taxi riding) to the crest of Cerro Santa Apolonia -- Cajamarca's stone-stair-lined hilltop shrine towering over the city -- leads to a favorite Inca and Spaniard perch along with the best bird's eye view of Plaza de Armas and the city's great cathedrals.
The cascading rice terraces of Honghe Hani are among Yunnan's attractions.
Anyone who's visited China's southwestern Yunnan province before won't need much persuading to go again. Down by the country's border with Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and the region of Tibet, Yunnan delivers everything from snowy mountains to sub-tropical rainforest.
There's the cascading rice terraces of Honghe Hani, the ethereally colored waters of Blue Moon Valley and some of the world's deepest gorges -- little wonder it's said to have inspired mythical "Shangri La."
The province is also China's most ethnically diverse. It's home to 25 of the country's 56 recognized ethnic groups -- each with a distinctive cuisine and culture.
If that's not enough to keep returning, or visit for the first time, 2018 offers a few extras, not least the energetic prospect of 100 new marathons.
Don't miss: Named a UNESCO World Heritage natural site in 2003, Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the world's deepest canyons. Whitewaters of the mighty Yangtze River roar beneath cliffs that tower up to 3,790 meters high.
Maggie Hiufu Wong
Asheville, North Carolina
Biltmore Estate, pictured, will host the glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly in May 2018.
It was put on the map by a Vanderbilt, but this Western North Carolina mountain town now has world-famous art, a hopping farm-to-table scene and an expanding brewery culture to mark it out.
And 2018 sees this visual and actual feast backdropped by some world-class sports.
2018 marks the tricentennial of New Orleans.
New Orleans has serious roots.
Broader and more crazily spun than a cypress swamp draped in Spanish moss. Stronger than the stiffest Hurricane, or Sazerac.
And bigger than the sum of its nearly 300 odds-defying years.
In 2018, The Big Easy will celebrate its tricentennial in top festive form -- and beg two obvious questions:
1. How has a fabled French-then-Spanish-then-French-then-Louisiana-Purchased gulf-adjacent outpost remained this positively buoyant after all it's weathered over the last three centuries, beginning with the hurricane that decimated it four years after it was founded in 1718.
2. Where's the next big party happening?
On deck for year 301: a rebuilt airport and redeveloped riverfront area. All warm beignets and chicory coffee aside, it's going to be a good century.
Don't miss: Bread Pudding Soufflé. There