By now, most of the U.S. has had its share of winter, and we’re all just a little bit tired of cold, wind, rain, ice, sunless skies, and gray, dirty streets. And there’s no end in sight for the immediate future. So trade in those winter blues for the blues of the Caribbean. It doesn’t take much. A good book, a nice sunscreen, a cool hat, a couple of bathing suits, and a plane ticket are about all you need to find yourself relaxing and sunning with the beautiful blue water at your feet and a tasty libation in your hand.

The only hard part is deciding where you should go. But not to worry. There’s an island for everyone and every requirement. If you didn’t get your shopping fix satisfied over the holidays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten offer up stores galore. If you’re hoping for a little solitude and beautiful beaches, you’ll want to visit St. John or Vieques. Maybe you want to head below sea level and do some great diving. Bonaire is the place for you. If you prefer to spend your time exploring the great outdoors, St. Lucia offers kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and lots of other activities. And if you’d like to treat your entire family to some sunshine, the Bahamas is the perfect place.

Of course, this list isn’t even close to complete. So to help you get in the mood, we’ve devoted our entire Travel section to the Caribbean. Flip to page 12 and start planning your getaway. A little respite is all you’ll need to make the rest of winter bearable.

Elsewhere in our pages, we explore the hype behind a place called Costco (surely you’ve heard of it). Its CEO’s philosophy has spelled success for the company, and beyond the bottom line, Costco has what every company strives for: legions of devoted fans who make shopping there a priority. Not even Wal-Mart has achieved success on this level. The story on page 68 is a fascinating look at how this company works, and, more importantly, the kinds of deals you can find.

We also let you in on a little cultural secret. Despite the persistent rumors that the arts are dying throughout North America, it’s simply not true. All sorts of great performances are happening outside of New York and Los Angeles, and with your support, they’ll only get bigger and better. On page 40 we showcase 11 cities that are offering up inspired and inspiring performances that are well worth your time and money. Whether you’re heading to one of these great cities for a vacation, or will be stopping in one on a business trip, be sure and fit a show or two into your itinerary. Not only will you be entertained, you’re ensuring the continued success of the arts.

Speaking of success, as we close out the first month of 2004, I hope you’re enjoying a prosperous and stress-free new year, and I hope to see you in the Caribbean.


Above Right Photo: Design director J.R. Arebalo Jr., Rick Fox, and photographer Andrew Macpherson groove to a different beat — a Bahamian one.