A handful of North American hotels have gone under the knife, and now these timeless beauties have a fresh new look. Mustique's Cotton House (St. Vincent and the Grenadines; 877/240-9945; www.cottonhouse.net; doubles from $460) has upgraded most of its suites with private plunge pools and built a two-bedroom house, the Cotton Hill Residence, which has a dedicated staff and its own pool with views to the sea. • Guests on St. Martin have two more ways to indulge themselves at La Samanna (800/854-2252; www.lasamanna.com; doubles from $425): in one of the four private beach cabanas or during dinner in the resort's expansive wine cellar. • More than $200 million in renovations, including a 36-story tower and a grand entry with ocean views, has put martini attitude back in the 1953 Morris Lapidusdesigned Fontainebleau Resort & Spa Miami Beach (305/538-2000; www.hilton.com; doubles from $179). • Interior designer David Easton has reimagined Aspen's Little Nell (970/920-4600; www.thelittlenell.com; doubles from $415) using muted terra-cotta tones, bleached mahogany, and neutral leathers in the lodge's public spaces. • In Vista, California, Cal-a-Vie (866/772-4283; www.cal-a-vie.com; doubles from $2,995 for three nights) just added a new bathhouse, complete with Provençal antiques and thalassotherapy and hydrotherapy rooms. • Celebrity decorator Michael Smith has taken on Santa Monica's star-studded Shutters on the Beach (800/334-9000; www.shuttersonthebeach.com; doubles from $445). Guest rooms have a residential aesthetic, with plush sofas and hardwood floors—not to mention some luxuries you don't get at home (like packing services). • Farther north, the 220-acre Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (800/422-6524; www.ojairesort.com; doubles from $400) has created a new lobby and touched up all of its 305 guest rooms with four-poster beds and decorative tiles. The style is Spanish colonial, but the substance is fully 21st century, including Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV's.
—EUGENE CIRMI AND SARAH FORREST
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
The 220-acre Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, situated in a mountain valley that aptly portrayed Shangri-la in the 1937 film Lost Horizon, has long been known for its classic 18-hole golf course and for its Native American–culture- inspired spa. Now it has upped the ante with a $70 million renovation, creating a new lobby, adding an additional 100 guest rooms, and refurbishing the existing 205 rooms with four-poster beds and decorative Mexican terra-cotta tiles.
A grande dame among destination spas, this Provençal-style retreat 40 miles north of San Diego has just emerged from a head- to-toe renovation. Among the improvements are a full room redesign, a 17,000-square-foot state-of-the-art fitness center, and a new bathhouse complete with French antiques, and thalassotherapy and hydrotherapy rooms. A 5-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio guarantees that you’ll always be the center of someone’s attention, and all-inclusive stays ranging from three to seven nights ensure you’ll leave loose-limbed and stress-free (notwithstanding your considerably lighter wallet). Your faux Mediterranean villa (terra-cotta tile roof, stucco façade, window boxes bursting with flowers) has a private terrace and carefully placed windows that open onto rolling hills framed by jasmine and oleander.
Fontainebleau Resort & Spa Miami Beach
This crescent-shaped landmark hotel has a longstanding reputation for grandeur. Recently, more than $200 million was poured into an elaborate renovation, including the construction of a new entry and 36-story tower, with ocean views. Everything is done on a grand scale here, from the room count (1,504) to the humongous chandeliers to the elaborate pool—which has three whirlpools, a two-story waterfall, and a children’s play area with a lazy river and giant water slide.
Belmond La Samanna
La Samanna is perfectly placed: equidistant to the nightlife on the Dutch side of St. Martin and the shopping and restaurants on the French side. Best of all, it’s perched above Baie Longue, the island’s most beautiful beach (made even more appealing by the recent addition of ipewood cabanas, outfitted with preprogrammed iPods and flat-screen TV’s). The 81-room resort’s Restaurant is also famous for its innovative French-Caribbean cuisine; reserve a table either on the terrace overlooking the ocean or in the expansive new wine cellar (for private dining, by prior arrangement), a cool respite from the tropical heat.
This 20-room hotel on the private island of Mustique is always booked with boldface names, yet it retains a refreshingly laid-back vibe. At the Cotton House, casual elegance reigns; the interior is filled with loads of comfortable white-upholstered furniture, dark woods, and flowing curtains. Originally an 18th-century coral warehouse and sugar mill, it sits between two beaches and is just a “mule”-ride (island-speak for golf cart) away from five additional ones. The hotel recently upgraded most of its suites with private plunge pools and built a two-bedroom hilltop house, the Cotton Hill Residence, which has a dedicated staff and its own pool, with views to the sea.
Aspen's singular ski-in/ski-out property is also its most glamorous address. It doesn't hurt that almost every single guest is swathed in Loro Piana cashmere and Prada skiwear, many carrying designer dogs to match their duds (the in-room pet dining menu and dog beds make it perfect for pet-porting travelers). The 92 spacious rooms, recently touched up by designer Holly Hunt, blend classic Aspen touches with a residential warmth. Rooms feature gas fireplaces, plasma TVs, and marble bathrooms. As cozy-chic as the rooms are, you may prefer being seen at the new bar, Element 47, sipping a Silver Lining (Colorado vodka and blood orange puree topped with an edible silver Aspen leaf) while weighing the virtues of hedge funds.
Shutters on the Beach
This sprawling beach-house-style inn looks like it was airlifted from Nantucket and dropped on the Santa Monica shore. Inside, the common areas (like the fireside lounge with chairs and sofas upholstered in seashell colors) and the 198 rooms (all with subtle blue and yellow accents, four-poster beds, walnut furniture, and custom linens) reinforce the laid-back, summer-house vibe. But there’s real luxury here, too: The on-site spa offers organic body treatments by Red Flower and facials by Omorovicza, and the nautically themed One Pico restaurant serves exceptional seafood dishes that reflect the oceanside vibes and coastal California produce.