It could happen on a barefoot beach in the South Pacific. On a cobblestoned street in a crowded city. Over lobster in a turn-of-the-19th-century baronial estate. That's when it hits you: you can't imagine being anywhere else, with anyone else. Here are 50 places that inspire those kinds of moments, with insider tips on how to guarantee them.
ST. BART'S Le Sereno
Ever since Christian Liaigre signed his name to Club Med Bora Bora, about a decade ago, style-obsessed hotel junkies from Hong Kong to Hoboken have dared to hope that the French designer might bring his handsome and spare sensibility to another beach resort. The wait is over. Le Sereno, with 37 rooms that blur the distinction between indoors and out, stands on a small but exquisite stretch of sand on the east end of the Caribbean island where the bling-bling crowd still goes to get a tan.
T+L TIP Book the Villa Vue Mer, over 1,000 square feet of streamlined Liaigre loveliness (teak furniture, wooden tubs) and swoon-worthy ocean views. Grand Cul-de-Sac; 590-590/298-300; www.lesereno.com; doubles from $709.
ITALY Casa Angelina
In the Amalfi Coast's first design hotel, Philippe Starck furniture and colorful Murano-glass sculptures pop against white surfaces but don't distract from vistas of the Gulf of Salerno and Positano. Along with all the expansive views, there are plenty of hidden nooks—the private beach, the junior suite's enviable terrace, and the indoor whirlpool.
T+L TIP For an evening adventure to remember, arrange for a boat trip to the tower of La Capperina, where a couple can dine outside on the roof. 147 Via Gennaro Capriglione, Praiano; 877/783-4600; www.casangelina.com; doubles from $270.
Formerly an Ottoman mansion, A'jia feels more like a Zen retreat, but with all the comforts an ascetic would shun: lofted guest rooms, in-room massages—spare design with every modern amenity. Most indulgent of all is the restaurant, where you can have a lamb fillet smothered in pistachios and mushrooms with a bottle of Chianti on a patio beside the sparkling Bosporus Strait.
T+L TIP Jump aboard A'jia's private wooden launch and be ferried across the strait to the Sakip Sabanci Museum (Picasso is on view through March 26). 27 Çubuklu Caddesi, Kanlica; 90-216/413-9300; www.ajiahotel.com; doubles from $350.
Phi Phi Island is finally emerging from 2004's tsunami and embracing a future of luxury. Fragrant orange jasmines and panoramic views of the Andaman Sea envelop Zeavola resort's sprawling re-creation of a mythically wealthy rural Thai village—complete with crooked paths, a faux folk theater, and 52 bungalows crafted of tropical balau wood, rattan, and thatch.
T+L TIP Take a barefoot stroll through the fishing towns sprinkled along the beach. Phi Phi Don; 66-75/627-000; www.zeavola.com; doubles from $388.
MALAYSIA Bagus Place Retreat
At the southern tip of tropical Tioman Island, where virgin rain forest meets a sliver of soft white sand and soaring, misty peaks, a narrow jetty leads to three chalets and a palm-roofed restaurant. Accessible only by private boat, the tiny Bagus Place Retreat gives guests bedside views of the glittering South China Sea and the chance to beachcomb in splendid isolation.
T+L TIP Take a spot at the bar and watch as stars pepper the sky above and phosphorescence streaks the water below. Mukut; 44-7740/358-020; www.bagusplace.com; doubles from $140, meals included.