50 Romantic Retreats
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50 Romantic Retreats

Martin Morrell
Turn up the heat this winter at one of these hotels, where intimacy is taken seriously

It's February again, the month that celebrates love. So, we've located 50 new (or newly updated) hotels that make privacy a priority. Whether your version of a tryst means a secluded beach, indulgent spa treatments, a burst of urban energy, or a respite from mundane reality, these seductive retreats will have you both swooning

by the sea
The smell of salt in the air. Cool water at dawn. A shore as soft as a cloud. Under these conditions, intimacy comes easily

Esperanza, MEXICO At the resort's new spa, on a bluff above the Sea of Cortés, hibiscus baths and tropical-essence massages act as potent relaxants, especially when followed by an hour in an indoor steam cave—or in a hidden garden by the sea, where humpback whales migrate right offshore. The resort's 56 guest rooms and suites have oversized tubs and handcrafted furniture, and the infinity pool hovers above a private cove, with a distant view of the southernmost tip of Baja.

Doubles from $550, suites from $3,500; Km 3.5, Carretera Transpeninsular, Cabo San Lucas; 866/311-2226 or 52-624/145-6400; www.esperanzaresort.com

Albergo Miramare, POSITANO A favorite with honeymooners, who prize its tranquil, out-of-the-way location off one of the steep, skinny staircases in Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast. The 15 guest rooms have balconies overlooking the sea, revealing panoramas that will have you renewing your vows (and congratulating yourselves for paying so little for such majestic views).

Doubles from $165; 27 Via Trara Genoino; 39-089/875-002; www.starnet.it/miramare

Hotel du Vin, BRIGHTON The English seaside vacation is again reinvented, this time with Egyptian-cotton bed linens and beach-hut style. Step outside the 37-room hotel, turn right, and wander up the Victorian-era pier with its carnival rides and Brighton Rock candy. Or turn left to shop in the cobblestoned Lanes. Go nowhere and there's still lots to see: the vine-covered courtyard, the clubby bar and its billiard table, the cigar gallery. Any table in the airy bistro is ideal for sipping Chablis—and plotting a memorable weekend.

Doubles from $180; 2-6 Ship St.; 44-1273/718-588; www.hotelduvin.com

The House, BARBADOS The crisp blues and whites in the 31 suites are the perfect foil for the jungle of bougainvillea and other tropical flora outside. Despite the landscape, though, Paynes Bay's newest hotel somehow fits in. Those wanting time alone can order from the in-room menu (called Flavors to Awaken Your Senses) or indulge in a five-course dinner for two under a gauzily draped four-poster shelter—with nothing but sand underfoot.

Doubles from $1,143; Paynes Bay, St. James; 800/326-6898 or 246/432-5525; www.eleganthotels.com

Indigo Bay, MOZAMBIQUE Indigo Bay, a 50-chalet resort, is one of just two lodges on Bazaruto Island, 23 miles of wetlands, savanna, and freshwater lakes inhabited by crocodiles. Couples can go horseback riding on deserted shores, picnic by a lake, or take a Land Rover to the pristine white sands of Sailfish Bay. Guests in the Matemo Suite can simply retire to their private swimming pool and tune out the world.

Doubles from $408, suites from $450, including breakfast and dinner; 27-11/467-1277; www.indigobayonline.com

Nannai Muro Alto Beach Resort, BRAZIL Cool bossa nova rhythms blend with Bora-Bora style at Brazil's latest five-star resort. Inside the 49 grass bungalows, flowing fabric surrounds a flower-strewn bed that has views of the swaying palms on the beach. Room service can keep the lime-soaked caipirinhas coming, leaving you time to rock gently in your hammock, then slide into the private freshwater pool that encircles your bungalow.

Doubles from $350, including breakfast and dinner; Ipojuca, Recife; 55-81/3552-2100; www.nannai.com.br

Rock House, THE BAHAMAS Wallace Tutt (who designed the Gianni Versace mansion) just cut the ribbon on this tiny hotel's total makeover. The former schoolhouse, set on a cliff on Harbour Island high above the Atlantic, has taken on the elegance of a plantation manse. The nine airy guest rooms, however, are only half the appeal: massages are given in a cabana by the pool, horseback rides follow the shore, and chartered yachts take guests deep-sea fishing. The chef will pack a picnic for two, then send couples to one of the island's deserted pink-sand beaches.

Doubles from $245; Harbour Island; 242/333-2053; www.rockhousebahamas.com

Soulshine Resort & Spa, BELIZE From Placencia, board a boat for two (plus a captain) and cross a lagoon swirling with dolphins and manatees to a pocket-sized private isle. Five cabanas have been built among the gardens, all designed with pine-floored porches and plush king-sized beds beneath high, Mayan-thatched roofs. Soak by the sea in the spa's Tub Room, where two private baths face each other and the beach. Afterward, sip aperitifs at the end of the dock in twin hammocks.

Doubles from $155, including breakfast; 011-501/523-3347; www.soulshine.com

Turks & Caicos Club, BRITISH WEST INDIES It's easy to pretend that the 21-suite, gated, Caribbean colonial estate on the powder-soft beach of Grace Bay is yours alone: it's so discreetly managed that you'll rarely see another guest, especially on its wide stretch of oceanfront. To avoid an unexpected encounter altogether, retreat to your kitsched-up room with its safari-themed prints, rattan chairs, and waterfront porch. But don't spend all day indoors. The concierge can arrange a full-day whale watching trip, then reserve a table at Simba, where fresh-caught fish is presented beside the beach.

Doubles from $545; Providenciales; 800/269-0966 or 649/946-5800; www.turksandcaicosclub.com

city lights
Adrenaline runs high amid the rushing cars, dramatic skyline, and endless activities that enliven an urban escape

Hotel Kämp, HELSINKI For visiting artists, royalty, and romantics, this modernized 19th-century hotel is the address to commit to memory. Opulence reigns, from the Venetian chandeliers in the banquet hall and the mahogany and cut-glass entrance of the dining room right down to the Karl Fazer chocolates at turndown. Suites are commonly reserved well in advance: the Mannerheim, regally outfitted in teak and purple-and-gold fabrics; the Kämp, with floral settees, silk valences, and a deep marble soaking tub. Twenty-first-century touches have appeared, now that Starwood has taken over, but if service and style from a bygone era appeal, there's no other place in town.

Doubles from $150; 29 Pohjoisesplanadi; 358-9/576-111; www.luxurycollection.com/kamp

Cipriani, VENICE For a new spin on tried-and-true Italian romance, book the recently opened Palladio Suite at this legendary hotel. After relishing its splendors (your own glass sculptures, Rubelli fabrics, wall-to-wall views of the Lagoon), take a trip through the canals in the suite's vintage mahogany motor launch. Before dinner—butler-served, in the Palladio's private dining room—unwind in the outdoor Jacuzzi on the expansive teak terrace. Judging by the 30 weddings and countless proposals at the 103-key hotel each year, the Venetian formula never fails.

Doubles from $810, Palladio suite from $6,325; Giudecca 10; 39-041/520-7744; www.hotelcipriani.com

Dar Rhizlane, MARRAKESH Designed by leading local architect Charles Boccara, the 19-room hideaway seems to glow from all the lemonwood tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl, gilded copper washbasins, and lacy cedar carvings. Relaxing in front of a traditional beehive fireplace burning fragrant eucalyptus logs, passing time under the coconut palms, and working jointly on erasing tan lines in your own private garden are just a few of the pastimes on the menu.

Doubles from $240; Quartier de L'Hivernage; 212-44/421-303; www.dar-rhizlane.com

Hotel AC Santo Mauro, MADRID Intimate spots are rare in Madrid, where couples kiss unabashedly in the street and revelers crowd the city at all hours. Fortunately for the circumspect, there's the Hotel AC Santo Mauro, hidden in a residential neighborhood near the Paseo de Castellana. Last year, 17 rooms were added when the small hotel purchased the mansion next door. But the preferred suite is still No. 107, in the original building, where cava and fruit await and the bathtub affords views over the old stables. And the private garden, where guests dine in tents lit by candles, is a long-standing rendezvous destination.

Doubles from $315; 36 Zurbano; 34-91/319-6900; www.ac-hotels.com

Hôtel de la Trémoille, PARIS Now that this 19th-century jewel box in the Golden Triangle has been given a modern makeover (note the Terence Conran restaurant and spa), it's as good-looking as it is romantic. The original Haussmann architectural details are embellished with sensuous textures and colors: sofas are painted gold and awash in red velvet; persimmon-colored fake-fur duvets drape king-sized beds. To satisfy guests' desire for privacy, the Trémoille has introduced the Hatch—an ingenious drop-off area for room service. Finally, a way to have a champagne breakfast without scrambling for your robes.

Doubles from $385; 14 Rue de la Trémoille; 33-1/56-52-14-00; www.hotel-tremoille.com

MyHotel Chelsea, LONDON The smart town house behind fashionable Brompton Cross was clearly designed with lasciviousness in mind. Most of the 45 guest rooms are outfitted in boudoir pink, but for a night of passion and decadence, check into a ruby- or scarlet-hued suite. If the shag rugs and erotic photographs don't do the trick, head to the bar for cocktail hour. There, the resident tarot card and palm reader can reveal your (or your partner's) most secret desires.

Doubles from $290; 35 Ixworth Place; 44-207/225-7500; www.myhotels.com

NH City Hotel, BUENOS AIRES A 1930's building in the historic district has entered the third millennium as the city's hottest place to sleep. The six suites on the 12th floor are the best evidence of this new classic-meets-steamy aesthetic: red and black walls, cherry-colored silk curtains, and picture windows that overlook downtown's historic domes and the silvery Río de la Plata.

Doubles from $90, suites from $130, including breakfast; 160 Bolivar; 54-114/121-6464; www.nh-hoteles.com

Pucic Palace, DUBROVNIK The 19th-century palazzo is the city's newest hotel—and the only one within the old walls. Pull yourself away from the generously decorated guest rooms, with their European antiques, parquet floors, and Italian mosaic bathrooms, to explore surrounding neighborhoods and coves in the hotel's own yacht (picnic provided). The whitewashed, medieval buildings and cobblestoned lanes might just put you in the mood to pop the question—in which case, you can say "I do" in the hotel's tiny chapel.

Doubles from $145, including breakfast; 1 Ulica od Puca; 385-20/324-111; www.thepucicpalace.com

Red Capital Residence, BEIJING Think of the campy Red Capital Residence, a five-room lodge in a Ch'ing-era courtyard in the city center, as a boutique inn with a Communist-kitsch theme. Furniture favored by Mao fits out the Chairman's Suite, which comes with his provocative Little Red Book at the bedside. In the underground bar, a converted bomb shelter, women in Red Army gear serve Lin Biao's Crashes (blue curaçao, vodka, and mao-tai—a potent Chinese liquor). Cold War role-playing was never so sexy.

Doubles from $150; 9 Dongsi Liutiao, Dongcheng District; 86-10/6402-7150; www.redcapitalclub.com.cn

Ritz-Carlton, BOSTON The $50 million renovation is complete, and faithful visitors to Beantown have their grande dame back. No wonder they missed her: the Public Gardens are visible from most rooms, and tony Newbury Street is right next door. Guests indulge in tubs drawn by bath butlers and logs lit by a fireplace butler (the first of his kind anywhere). Dinners are presented in the restored 1927 Dining Room, beneath cobalt-blue chandeliers.

Doubles from $375; 15 Arlington St.; 800/241-3333 or 617/536-5700; www.ritzcarlton.com

Royal Palms Resort & Spa, PHOENIX Love is big business at Phoenix's favorite Spanish colonial-style hotel—so big, in fact, that it requires a professional's help. Enter Paul Xanthopoulos, a self-proclaimed descendant of Eros and on-staff director of romance. His credits include more than 200 engagement proposals, 1,000 anniversary parties, and numerous acts of encouragement. Have him arrange a dinner table in a private garden, or a path of rose petals leading to a couples' treatment room in the new spa.

Doubles from $375; 5200 E. Camelback Rd.; 800/672-6011 or 602/840-3610; www.royalpalmshotel.com

Solar do Castelo, LISBON Maybe it's the privileged location within the walls of St. George's Castle, with its stunning views of historic Lisbon. Or it could be its small scale: just 14 rooms (couples usually have the garden courtyard or salon to themselves). Whatever the reason, the 10-month-old Solar is a prime spot for couples to hide away when they're not exploring the maze of alleyways in nearby Alfama or swaying to the echoes of fado in the streets.

Doubles from $165; 2 Rua das Cozinhas; 351-21/887-0909; www.heritage.pt

country living
Leave town for the manor houses, tiny inns, and emerald lawns of the provinces, where nobody knows your name

Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, ITALY Lovers like to retreat to the bedchamber in the octagonal tower of this ornate 20-room villa, on the shores of Lake Garda, which opened its doors in 2001. Though the tower's porthole windows, pink frescoes, and Frette linens are hard to leave, even the most besotted are lured away by croquet and tea on the lawn or a picnic for two in the property's wood-paneled boat. At night, order dinner in the "smoking" room (a.k.a. Bob's Bar), with its plush rose upholstery, bowls of apples, and help-yourself drinks.

Doubles from $700; 38-40 Via Rimembranze, Brescia; 39-0365/798-000; www.villafeltrinelli.com

Château de l'Isle-Marie, FRANCE Looking for a place to get away from it all, French country-style?Château de l'Isle-Marie in Normandy has what you want. Meadows and woodlands that invite promenades. Six antiques-filled guest rooms folded into a neo-Renaissance castle. Three apartments in a 17th-century manor house with toile de Jouy bed-curtains sewn by the chatelaine (a countess) herself. Even an Italianate chapel—designed by Mansart, the architect of Versailles.

Doubles from $170, apartments from $200; Picauville; 33-2/33-21-37-25; www.islemarie.com

Dar Mimosas, MOROCCO A 3 1/2-acre compound lush with bougainvillea and oleander, Dar Mimosas is for living out your craziest Moroccan fantasy—and then some. The nine seaside suites are filled with a souk's worth of traditional furnishings and crafts, including the eye-popping zelliges tiles in the bathrooms. For an exotic experience, head down to the beach for a ritual sunset camel ride.

Suites from $350; Essaouira; 212-44/475-934; www.darmimosas.com

De Koperen Hoogte, THE NETHERLANDS Atop a decommissioned municipal water tower, De Koperen Hoogte is a luxury hotel where every room comes with views of the Ijssel River and a city laced with canals in the heart of Holland. The bedroom in the Top Suite is the only place to be at night: the copper-clad tower's two-level penthouse has a moon roof that retracts to reveal the star-dappled sky.

Doubles from $360, including breakfast and dinner; 51 Lichtmisweg, Zwolle; 31-529/428-428; www.dekoperenhoogte.nl

La Maison du Village, ST.-RÉMY-DE-PROVENCE This beguiling five-suite B&B on a lovely side street is the latest, news in St.-Rémy, the über-Provençal village American travelers can't seem to get enough of. Wrought-iron flea-market beds and freestanding bathtubs big enough for two offer an object lesson in l'art de vivre à la française. La Maison's residential feel makes it just the thing for anyone who has dreamed of setting up house in the south of France.

Doubles from $220, including breakfast; 10 Rue du 8 Mai 1945; 33-4/32-60-68-20; www.lamaisonduvillage.com

Lodge on the Bay, SOUTH AFRICA Set on deserted Robberg Beach in Plettenberg Bay (300 miles east of Cape Town), an arc of aquamarine visited by dolphins and whales, the six-suite streamlined lodge appeals to devotees of Arne Jacobsen and Ian Schrager. Its public spaces create a self-sufficient universe: the library holds 1,000 books, the therapists in the spa can untangle any knot, and a better than 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio ensures that all desires are tended to promptly. Sunrise strolls along the beach are worth an early wake-up call, but the heated bathroom floors, African-influenced room-service menu, and good company may make it difficult to leave the room.

Doubles from $345; 77 Beachyhead Dr., Plettenberg Bay; 27-44/501-2800; www.thelodgeonthebay.com

Palms Cliff House, HAWAII John and Michele Gamble held nothing back in creating a paradise at the end of a palm-lined drive, 15 minutes north of Hilo on the Big Island. The eight-room Victorian sits on a 100-foot cliff overlooking Pohakumanu Bay, and has jaw-dropping views of the blue breakers and—on clear days—snowcapped Mauna Kea. Hike down the jungly Akaka Falls Trail beside twin 400-foot cataracts to secret swimming holes, or lounge the afternoon away on the wraparound lanai, watching whales play against the horizon.

Doubles from $175, including breakfast; 28-3514 Mamalahoa Hwy., Honomu; 808/963-6076; www.thepalmshawaii.com

Shandon 1884, AUSTRALIA Once guests pass through the imposing gates of this Italianate mansion they leave their cares behind. With no televisions or telephones and just four rooms (plus the one-bedroom Stables apartment), the focus at Shandon is on Slow Food (local shellfish with Yarra Valley salmon roe and celery nage, for example), excellent wines (more than 450 from around the world), and absolute calm—though it's just a quarter of an hour from downtown Melbourne.

Doubles from $125; 361 Beaconsfield Parade, St. Kilda, Victoria; 61-3/9534-0080; www.shandon1884.com.au

pampering oases
Remove yourself from daily distractions and succumb to expert hands. At a luxury spa, there's time to focus on simple pleasures—and on each other

Four Seasons Resort, SANTA BARBARA Promise your love a rose garden (or just a stroll through one) in the historic Spanish colonial-style resort's newly landscaped grounds. Pledge your passion among Italian marble benches, wall fountains, and tree orchids. Or keep it intimate and sign up for a soothing treatment in one of the lavish new spa suites with a fireplace, oversized whirlpool, paired massage tables, and terrace above the Pacific. Either way, you'll be California dreaming.

Doubles from $475; 1260 Channel Dr.; 800/819-5053 or 805/969-2261; www.fourseasons.com

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HAWAII A favored hideout for Hollywood types in search of a Polynesian interlude, the 380-room resort caters to every pleasurable whim. Stroll in a traditional Hawaiian healing garden to the recently expanded spa, where you can soothe sunned skin with an avocado mask in a treatment room for two. Then make your way to a bedroom suite decorated with tropical accents, facing the Pacific or the dramatic Haleakala volcano.

Doubles from $335; 3900 Wailea Alanui Dr., Maui 800/334-6284 or 808/874-8000 www.fourseasons.com

Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina, ITALY Though snow streaks the craggy contours of the surrounding Dolomite Alps until midsummer, no one feels the cold at this chic spa hotel. The spare, mountain lodge-style rooms have beeswaxed wood furniture, pale marble and antique wood floors, and creamy linens; the recently refurbished St. Hubertus restaurant serves dinner in a candlelit, wood-paneled room with a blazing log fire. To warm things up further, have a lavender- or rosemary-infused sauna followed by a milk or rose-petal bath for two.

Doubles from $350; San Cassiano, Alta Badia, Alto Adige; 39-0471/849-500; www.rosalpina.it

Pangkor Laut Spa Village, MALAYSIA Once you settle into your stilt-raised suite with picture windows facing the Strait of Malacca, consult an Ayurvedic or Chinese physician for a special "prescription"—such as the Navarakizhi, a massage using wrapped bundles of rice, or Gu Fang Xun Shen, a technique in which herbs are used to smoke negative energy out of the body. The resort, designed by American spa guru Sylvia Sepielli, isn't just about individual healing. Couples can book the open-air pavilion and spend quiet time practicing asanas or soaking in the whirlpool.

Spa villas from $460; Perak, Malaysia; 877/851-3144; www.pangkorlautresort.com

Swissôtel, ECUADOR Quito's most stylish hotel lures those craving urban coddling before or after a South American adventure (the equatorial city is a gateway to the Galápagos). Amrita, an eternal-youth elixir referred to in ancient Sanskrit writings, is the wishful eponym of the hotel's new spa. Stay young forever with a rejuvenating thermal mineral body mask or cellular-repair facial.

Doubles from $140; 800/637-9477 or 593-2/256-7600; www.swissotel.com

Taha'a Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, FRENCH POLYNESIA If you've always thought Gauguin had it right when he swapped Paris for Tahiti, then this newly opened 60-room resort is bound to light your tiki torch. Each bungalow is airy, with bark cloth paintings, dried-leaf light fixtures, and a private plunge pool. There's plenty to keep active guests busy, but quality time is best spent lying on your backs, side by side, during banana-leaf wraps and vanilla-oil massages. Or reenact Gauguin's Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach with a picnic of champagne on a deserted atoll.

Doubles from $540; Motu Tautau, Society Islands 800/841-4145 or 689/608-400; www.pearlresorts.com

natural wonders
Surround yourself with the outdoors and use it as your inspiration—its lack of restraint, its changing moods, its voluptuous sensuality

Eichardt's Private Hotel, NEW ZEALAND In Queenstown's cool climate, the best way to stay warm is with possum-fur throw rugs, open fires, champagne, deep double baths, and someone you love. Eichardt's five handsome suites offer almost all of the above (you'll need to bring your own companion) plus serene views across Lake Wakatipu and beyond to snowcapped Walter Peak.

Doubles from $470; Marine Parade, Queenstown, N.Z.; 64-3/441-0450; www.eichardts.co.nz

King Pacific Lodge, BRITISH COLUMBIA Wilderness-lovers are making the trip up the north coast by floatplane to a 17-suite retreat without phones or televisions. No need to share a sleeping bag: luxury accommodations prevail, along with guided hikes in bear country; midnight kayak trips through phosphorescent waters; and soaks in deep Osaka tubswith bath salts, petals, and floating candles. The staff will even prepare a picnic and drop you both on a beach alone, with only a walkie-talkie to connect you to the outside world.

Doubles from $4,600 for a three-night package (May-September); Princess Royal Island; 888/592-5464 or 604/987-5452; www.rosewoodhotels.com

Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, TANZANIA Longing to play Tarzan and Jane?Then climb up to one of 10 tree houses high in a mahogany forest, on the shores of remote Lake Manyara. Only 20 guests are allowed at a time—which means a personal butler and a private wraparound viewing deck for every couple. From that vantage point you get open vistas of the rugged landscape, and perfect sight lines for the lions, elephants, and ibex that roam the camp below.

Doubles from $950, all-inclusive; 27-11/809-4300; www.ccafrica.com

L'Auberge de Sedona, ARIZONA Before you walk into one of the 33 redesigned cottages—furnished with French provincial armoires, mahogany beds, wood-burning fireplaces, and enough crimson fabric to carpet a stadium—the mood is set. Red, the color of love, is everywhere in Sedona, from the weather-worn canyon to the blooms on the cacti. The concierge will direct you to the least-trafficked hiking trails, and can arrange a balloon ride or pink jeep tour through the fiery canyons. And on warmer days, even in winter, active hours spent outdoors are rewarded with dinner served beside a trickling stream.

Cottages from $315; 800/272-6777 or 928/282-1661; www.lauberge.com

Lion Sands, SOUTH AFRICA Settle into your River Lodge or South Camp suite outfitted in Old African style, then take advantage of what's included: late-night astronomy sessions, guided full-moon walks, and lamplit dinners in the bush. Only one lucky couple per night can experience the landscape in an outdoor bed elevated above the veld and draped in mosquito netting. From there, instead of sheep, you can (safely) count animal eyes reflecting red in the moonlight.

Doubles from $830, all-inclusive; 27-13/735-5000; www.lionsands.com

Lodge at Pico Bonito, HONDURAS Twenty-one cabins set between the Caribbean Sea and the Nombre de Dios Mountains. Two hundred acres of tropical rain forest, with more than 300 species of birds. A mountain rising 8,000 feet above the jungle floor. If the numbers don't impress, how about the wildlife: spider monkeys, pumas, jaguars, crocodiles—and precious few humans. In Honduras's only luxury eco-lodge, nature is everywhere. To make the most of it, arrange a guided hike to Unbelievable Falls, tour the butterfly sanctuary, and take dinner for two in the observation tower or on the river deck, with torchlight, stars, and the call of the wild.

Doubles from $170; La Ceiba; 888/428-0221; www.picobonito.com

Udaivilas, INDIA Picture your arrival: you're met at the airport by a car and driver, guided onto a private boat, then ferried across Lake Pichola—past Udaipur's domed lakefront palaces—into the gardens and fountains of the Udaivilas estate. You're led to your suite, tempered with earth tones. From your window, Udaipur, the city of lakes, carved into the desert landscape by Mewari royals in the 16th century, sparkles in the sun. When sensory overload subsides, wind your way through sprawling courtyards to a traditional Kashmiri gondola, where champagne and canapés for two await.

Doubles from $370; Udaipur, Rajasthan; 800/562-3765; www.oberoihotels.com

the middle of nowhere
At the ends of the earth, nobody is watching

Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa, FRENCH POLYNESIA Can living in a fishbowl be intensely private?It can when your fishbowl is one of the glass-bottomed overwater bungalows at this sumptuous private-island resort. You and your Polynesian baby needn't set foot ashore before afternoon; breakfast is served via canoe. Get your land legs back at the hilltop Mandara Spa, with its views of the emerald Otemanu peak and Raiatea and Tahaa islands.

Overwater bungalows from $505; Motu Toopua, Nunue, Bora-Bora; 689/86-48-48; www.luxurycollection.com

Four Seasons Resort Carmelo, URUGUAY You flew into Buenos Aires and took the two-hour boat ride up the Río de la Plata. You checked into your bungalow, had a dip in the pool, then rode on horseback through eucalyptus forests to the beach. You considered a nap in your hand-carved bed, but opted for a rinse in your garden shower. Then dinner at the Pura Restaurant, just the two of you, enclosed behind batik draperies and lit by candles. Now, finally, you're ready for that bed, and a midsummer night's dream.

Doubles from $250; Ruta 21, Km 262, Dpto. de Colonia; 800/332-3442 or 598-542/9000; www.fourseasons.com/carmelo

Fundu Lagoon, ZANZIBAR Just saying "Zanzibar" is sexy; there's something about the way those z's roll off the tongue. A stay on the edge of the Indian Ocean can multiply the effect, especially when you're cosseted in a suite on the beach or up in the hills. Built on stilts and connected by boardwalks, the 20 tented bungalows exude eco-chic comfort, with coconut-wood chairs and the beds swathed in mosquito netting. The stretch of sand that the resort occupies is the farthest you could be from civilization and still have running water.

Doubles from $550; Pemba Island; 255-24/223-2926; www.fundulagoon.com

Hostería Nacional Isla Victoria, PATAGONIA Turquoise Lake Nahuel Huapí and the Andean peaks lie in the distance, and from the 22-room wood-and-steel lodge and its deck (with a heated pool) you can watch the sun dissolve into the lunar Patagonian landscape. The friendly staff helps create romantic rendezvous: from quiet picnics by the shore to horseback riding along 25 miles of wild country roads to moon walks on this isolated island as big as Manhattan.

Doubles from $285, Including meals (two-night minimum stay); Bariloche, Argentina; 54-114/394-9605; www.islavictoria.com

Little Kulala, NAMIBIA When the sun reflecting off the curvaceous peaks of Namibia's Sossusvlei sand dunes grows too intense, visitors can retire to Little Kulala (Swahili for "resting place"). The eight wood-and-thatch chalets have tiled bathrooms, outdoor showers, and fluffed-up beds protected from the solar glare (and nighttime crawlers). But it's worth trading indoor comfort for a night on the open-air stargazing platform, where the silent desert is illuminated only by the moon.

Doubles from $400, all-inclusive; Sossusvlei; 800/545-1910; www.wilderness-safaris.com/ltkulala.asp

Lizard Island, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA With 24 beaches fringing the Great Barrier Reef, and accommodations for just 40 couples, Lizard Island resort is in a category all its own. Open-plan suites are done up in the blues and whites of the sea, with hammocks and sundecks discreetly hidden from view. Count on sunset cruises, torchlit beach dinners for two, and a staff that will do anything to stoke passion (including, once, hiding a four-carat diamond ring in a seashell to surprise a bride-to-be).

Doubles from $360, suites from $490; 800/225-9849; www.poresorts.com.au

Lugger Hotel, ENGLAND By a rocky cove on the southern Cornish coast, the 17-room Lugger Hotel is the countryside's smartest new spot for an escape. Think minimalist white bedrooms with stone terraces overlooking the sea, tidy lounges with crackling fires, a half-timbered dining room serving Austrian chef Franz Hornegger's rich dishes. Just out the door is the equally enchanting village of Portloe—all tiny stone cottages and gigantic hydrangeas—and the Cornish Coastal Footpath, where you can pretend you're Guinevere and Lancelot while strolling the headlands.

Doubles from $280, including breakfast; Portloe, Truro; 44-1872/501-322; www.luggerhotel.com

Makena's Hills, KENYA Six spacious tents on the edge of the Great Rift Valley are decorated with locally crafted cedar beds, African objets d'art, and hurricane lamps. More than 300 elephants roam the surrounding 100,000-acre private nature conservancy, and big cats and black rhino are not an uncommon sight from the infinity-edged pools. Writer Kuki Gallman (author of I Dreamed of Africa) built the new camp in honor of her daughter, who was married on this spot. Makena means "happy one" in Kikuyu, and guests who spend days on safari and evenings with sundowners feel as though the camp had been named for them.

Doubles from $660 (plus $30 per-person per-day conservation fee);Nairobi; 254-2/522-589; www.mukutan.com

Reported and written by Jeffrey Bauman, Gillian Cullinan, Alice Feiring, Sunshine Flint, Paul French, Serena French, Ron Gluckman, Kendall Hill, Amanda Jones, Ted Katauskas, Heidi Sherman Mitchell, Shane Mitchell, Shari Mycek, Catherine O'Neal, Aiofe O'Riordan, Christopher Petkanas, Mariana Rappaport, Alex Salkever, Kristan Schiller, Emily Stone, Valerie Waterhouse, and Gisela Williams.

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