From North America to the South Pacific, private islands to safari camps, we combed the earth for 50 inns, castles, resorts, and hotels that set the stage for passion. Even if you haven't yet made plans for an amorous getaway, read on, and let your imagination run free . . .
Introduction | Secluded Retreats | City Lights | Into the Wilderness | Along the Shore | Best Values | Urban Classics | Country Grandeur | Beachfront Property | Rustic Lodges | Inns and Country Houses | Overwater Bungalows | Private Islands
Reported and written by Richard Alleman, Laura Begley, Thomas Begley, Mandy Behbehani, Malia Boyd, Catherine Calvert, Katherine Cole, Gillian Cullinan, Joshua David, Elizabeth Garnsey, Hillary Geronemus, Ron Gluckman, Peter Green, David Hochman, Amanda Jones, David Kaufman, Peter Jon Lindberg, Connie McCabe, Heidi Sherman Mitchell, Shane Mitchell, Catherine O'Neal, Christopher Petkanas, Kimberly Robinson, Paula Szuchman, Katie Thompson, Erik Torkells, and Philip Watson.
Elegant interiors (parquet floors; white marble bathrooms), opposite St. Isaac’s Cathedral and within walking distance of the Russian Museum.
Room to Book: Request a room looking out on St. Isaac's Cathedral.
Doubles From $1,050.
Formerly Soneva Gili by Six Senses
On the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Malé Atoll, the Soneva Gili resort is situated on one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives. Jetties provide access to the 45 thatched-roof villas, all of which are built on stilts over the water. Each villa has an open-air living room, a sundeck cantilevered over the lagoon, and an outdoor shower near a private water garden. By the Sea restaurant provides Peruvian-Japanese fusion fare in a treetop dining room, and dinner is also served in the wine and chocolate cellar. Activities range from spa treatments to picnics and diving classes.
All but unknown in America, Eagles Nest is famous in New Zealand for its setting (directly on the water in the placidly beautiful Bay of Islands), the scale of its five freestanding villas (the smallest is 1,107 square feet), and its aesthetic pro?le (brusquely modern and acres of glass). With villas sporting full up-to-the-minute kitchens and lap pools at four of the villas, Eagles Nest is an utterly private experience. The well-bred town of Russell is less than 10 minutes by foot from the retreat, at the bottom of a gentle hill edged in lush bush.
Skip the overexposed island of Hvar for the walled medieval village on the Adriatic island of Korcula, purported home to Marco Polo. Korcula is more of a day-trip destination, and that means the tourist crowds thin considerably by sundown, leaving those who remain to relax in the cafés, stroll the narrow alleys, and enjoy the easygoing life of the old town. Don't worry about finding a room; one company has a lock on the five best lodging options in town, including the century-old Hotel Korcula, a seaside villa in the old center with simple but pleasant rooms; book one overlooking the water to catch the sea breezes.
Hotel Schloss Fuschl
Lodge on Little St. Simons Island
Kona Village Resort
Peter Island Resort & Spa
This private-island retreat is all about serenity and catering to classic desert-isle fantasies. The resort is committed to delivering in quantity everything the genre is known for, especially peace and privacy. Add to that a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one, atypical service for the region (it's friendly and professional), and five untrafficked beaches for the thirteen sunny two-story bungalows that make up the property's 52 rooms on 1,800 acres. Elopers are common at this resort, and no wonder: the staff organizes everything before your arrival, leaving nothing for you to do but say, 'I do.' If marriage isn't in the cards, a couple can still take advantage of the countless coves, accessible only by sea. Boatmen will drop you off with just a picnic basket and your imagination. You don't have to be a guest to use the spa, which welcomes day-trippers for the ultimate indulgence: 5 hours of massages and body buffing in a private couples suite.
Horned Dorset Primavera
This intimate, 33-suite resort, spread over seven beachfront acres on Puerto Rico's western coast, could just as easily exist on the southern coast of Spain. Its whitewashed stucco buildings cascading down a verdant hillside and its central courtyard surrounding a terracotta fountain have a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Though the current duplex suites are plenty luxurious—averaging 1,400 square feet and furnished with mahogany canopy beds, teak chairs, and expansive marble bathrooms complete with soaking tubs—six newer suites are even more so. These have carved arched entryways, Moroccan furnishings, and private plunge pools—the ultimate in casbah chic.
Room to Book: Beachside rooms are literally steps from the azure sea.
The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel
Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
Looming on a majestic city block (the site of a former famous department store), the Ritz-Carlton unsurprisingly rubs shoulders—almost literally—with the best luxury hotels in the city. The astonishing attention to detail and levels of service, from the lobby staff to the farm-to-table ethos of the M Bistro, is truly impressive. The plush, colorful furnishings of the regular accommodations will meet even the most exacting standards, but an even more sophisticated approach can be found at the Maison Orleans Club, which affords guests the experience of a luxurious Southern townhouse. Jazz great Jeremy Davenport serenades guests in his eponymous lounge every weekend.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
The city's grande dame. All 364 rooms include modern amenities, but those in the original wing have a traditional feel.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
A head-to-toe renovation in 2009 perked up this plush high-rise; rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, black granite credenzas, and Eames chairs.
andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge
Hotel Bora Bora
This hotel is currently closed for a complete reconstruction. No date has been set for reopening.
Friendly Meeting Chapel
This glass-and-marble tower has 57 white-on-white rooms accented with furniture designed by the Compana Brothers and Eames. Relax in the renovated spa or in your bathroom’s claw-foot tub. Best for Stylish travelers seeking easy access to the city’s top boutiques.
Hôtel San Regis
Sheltered behind the famous Avenue Montaigne, this family-owned three-story mansion excels at personalized service. Opened in 1923, the Hôtel San Regis has décor that harkens to turn-of-the-century Paris, with soaring ceilings, 200-year-old furnishings, chandeliers, peach accents, and varying shades of marble floors. Bathrooms are equally regal, stocked with Hermès toiletries and soft terry-cloth slippers. Famed French restauranteurs—Lasserre, Laurent, Ledoyen—are all within close distance, or guests can eat classic French cuisine at the hotel's Bar & Salon. Beyond the San Regis’ comforts and beauty, its location is key: These accommodations are a five-minute walk to Champs-Elysees and the heart of the Seine.
The history of this three-level island hotel goes back into the 19th century: built in 1895, it belonged to historic Symi Island figures like Vangelitsa, and was remodeled in 2000. The sea is literally steps from the front door, and wood floors, columns, and traditional wood furniture fill the interior. The 15 rooms and suites range from the standard double to the suite sea view, and vistas of the city’s port are plentiful. La Vaporetta restaurant offers Mediterranean fare that may vanish from the plate like the restaurant’s moniker.
Château de Talhouet
King Pacific Lodge
The 84 rooms are subtly done in salvaged timber and antique slate, and outfitted with Frette linens, fireplaces, and giant Jacuzzis for two. The Burke Gilman Trail beckons cyclists to feel the wind in their hair. A full-service spa offers lengthy massages. If all of this is too much stimulation, take a relaxing walk through the carefully curated gardens.
The only Relais & Châteaux property in the midwest, Northern Wisconsin's favorite wilderness retreat, Canoe Bay, has upped the ante for lakeside cottages with four recently opened cabins. The striking two-story structures blend a modern aesthetic (cathedral ceilings; panoramic windows) with sustainable design and old-fashioned comfort. Cedar decks incorporate recycled wood, fireplaces are made from local stone, and Arts and Crafts-style rugs keep things cozy. Ultimately, Canoe Bay is designed to allow those in search of relaxation and privacy the chance to be left alone, one reason couples have found it a perfect place for a romantic (and ecofriendly) gettaway.
Pousada do Castelo
About one hour's drive from Lisbon is Obidos, a well-preserved, walled medieval town built in 1282 and known for its cobblestone streets and white-washed, blue-trimmed houses. The town's 11th-century castle was converted into Pousada do Castelo in the 1950's, the first of its kind. From the ramparts and towers enjoy the stunning views of the town and countryside, with its windmills and vineyards. The rooms maintain their medieval atmosphere, with stone or whitewashed walls, four poster beds, azulejo-tiled bathrooms, and arrow-slit windows. The restaurant serves Portuguese cuisine such as roasted duck in honey and thyme-infused veal cutlets.
La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa
25 luxe jungle tents outfitted with four-poster beds, freestanding bathtubs, and teak floors, on 20 acres next to Ranthambhore National Park and Tiger Reserve.
Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
Machu Picchu’s remote mountaintop ruins feel amazingly accessible when you’re staying next door; the Sanctuary Lodge (part of the Orient-Express group) is the only hotel to abut the 15th-century ancient Incan site. It takes a four-hour trip by train and bus to reach Machu Picchu (from the nearest city, Cuzco), but you’ll be whizzing past Jungle Book–worthy vistas en route. Want to arrive like Hiram Bingham did when he “discovered” the place in 1911? Take the old Inca trail (a five-day journey by foot) and bring your bug spray—mosquitoes here are no strangers to human sacrifice. From Mountain View Rooms (which, unfortunately, have twin beds), you’ll see the looming, craggy peaks of Huayna Picchu as well as the Urubamba River valley—with its 300-odd species of orchids—from your personal garden-side deck.
InterContinental Hong Kong
The infinity pool on the terrace of the new $12,468-a-night Presidential Suite at the InterContinental appears to share water with Victoria Harbour. (If only the pool had regular edges, you could rest your scotch on one of them as you gazed through the mist at those luminous skyscrapers.) The 7,000-square-foot suite comes with two 24-hour butlers, a gymnasium, and high-tech toilet seats that rise automatically when you enter the room. This over-the-top lair is just one of the impressive additions to the property, which has undergone an overhaul to stay competitive in the city’s heated hotel market. There’s also a fleet of butlers for guests in the 495 spiffed-up rooms (with iPod docks and Bose surround sound), and outposts of Nobu and Alain Ducasse’s Spoon. One thing didn’t require improvement: the hotel’s unrivaled views of Hong Kong.
Park Hyatt Chicago
Rising 67 stories above Michigan Avenue, the Park Hyatt Chicago is within a five-minute walk of major attractions like the John Hancock Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The hotel has an urban-chic vibe that begins in the lobby, where huge black columns make a striking first impression. The 198 renovated guest rooms contain reproduction Eames furniture, as well as oversize soaking tubs with candles, and window seats overlooking Lake Michigan or the Magnificent Mile. Amenities include a spa, a cocktail lounge, and the NoMI Kitchen, which serves locally inspired cuisine.
La Villa Juana Francisca
The Lodge at Glendorn
El Questro Homestead
Refined comfort has arrived in the outback. El Questro Homestead is a soothing six-room refuge in million-acre El Questro Wilderness Park, set amid vast manicured lawns and leafy gardens. The hotel’s timber verandas, linen- covered furniture, and recycled wood beds bring a rustic yet contemporary feel to the bush. There are plenty of opportunities for getting up close and personal with nature, including hikes to Champagne Springs and soaks in the thermal pools of Zebedee Springs, which local Aborigines believe have healing qualities. You could also absorb it all in one fell swoop: scenic helicopter flights are the only way to access some distant water holes, making for a lofty immersion into the park’s vast and varied terrain.
Hacienda de San Antonio
A German immigrant built the hacienda (estate) in 1890, but more than a century later it opened as a coral-walled hotel—emulating the feel of a countryside home. Outside, the all-suite hotel sits amidst formal manicured gardens, fountains, and a coffee plantation. Inside, the rooms are carefully decorated with Mexican-patterned textiles and original art. Each of the 23 suites has a fireplace, wireless Internet, and a terrace or balcony. On-site facilities include the sun-hued Yellow Bar, a heated outdoor pool, and a Mexican restaurant serving dishes that often incorporate the estate's own organic produce, meats, and cheeses.
This adults-only private resort covers two secluded miles in the center of Old Town. Select five different styles of accommodations for a total of 30 rooms: B&B at The Mansion, cottages, an inn, Manor House, and a townhouse, with concierge services available. Each lodging option has private doors leading to grounds abundant with flowered vines and palm trees, and light-filled rooms have wicker furniture, high ceilings, and plenty of wood accents like painted wood furniture and wall paneling for a high-end cottage feel. Brick walkways guide guests to the four 24-hour pools where a large, complimentary continental breakfast is served daily.
The inn's restaurant is one of the best in Vermont. It offers an extensive cheese selection; after a few days of working the curds, however, it just might push you over the edge. The austere white three-story house dispenses with the clichés and clutter of most country inns. When the inn was burned in a 1993 fire, the owner handed each of the guest rooms to a different designer. So while the public spaces have a traditional vibe, the 11 rooms go for something much kickier, with, say, mountains, Calvin Coolidge, or trout as themes. It may be silly, but the staff is still serious about service. The inn belongs to the Vermont Fresh Network, a partnership of farmers and chefs promoting locally grown food, and your breakfast omelette, with eggs provided by free-range hens, will be the shocking color of marigolds. Five minutes away, there's skiing at Sugarbush (once so popular with the jet set that it was dubbed Mascara Mountain), or try Mad River Rocket Sleds at the inn, made of recycled plastic (trimmings from garbage-can lids). You kneel with your legs strapped down and use your knees to steer. Doesn't that sound like the ideal excuse for a massage?
JW Marriott Hotel, Rio de Janeiro
Judging simply by the stately building in the heart of Rio's famed Copacabana Beach, this might seem like any other Marriott elsewhere in the world. Until: a trip to the rooftop pool, with its sweeping views of Sugaloaf Mountain and Corcovado, to remind visitors where they are so lucky to be. The rooms might be small, but the executives who clamor here are likely spending most of their time in the Griffin Lounge, an elegant business center with comfortable work stations, free snacks, and a five-story bay window overlooking the beach.