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The It List

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Launch Slideshow
Photo: Dean Kaufman

Beachcombers

Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam

A high-design property on the South China Sea, one of several exciting newcomers in the region.

Location The property sits on a remote beach in Central Vietnam outside the quaint town of Hoi An, once a 16th-century trading port and now a unesco World Heritage site.
Pedigree Nam Hai’s sleek style is a testament to the impressive talent behind it: Regent and Aman resorts founder Adrian Zecha, French architect Reda Amalou, and Indonesian interior designer Jaya Ibrahim (whose most recent project is the Chedi Milan, which opened in March).
Style + Design One hundred freestanding villas done in rich local woods, with elaborate hand-carved screens, pressed-eggshell surfaces, and stone floors, are set around sandy coves. Some features are impractical, such as the vertigo-inducing beds, raised too high off the ground.
Service + Amenities Three swimming pools, spacious grounds, and a stunning spa with sublime overwater relaxation rooms—plus great extras, such as the luscious wool-and-cotton-blend bathrobes and outdoor showers.
Value for Money The coolest hotel for miles—but food, drink, and spa treatments are expensive for this region.
Needs Work Communication problems with staff, some of whom have limited language skills, should be addressed, and so should the difficult-to-use room facilities. During our stay, the bathtub, DVD player, and coffeemaker all needed repair.
Quang Nam; 84-510/940-000; www.ghmhotels.com; doubles from $550.

Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya’s first environmentally conscious golf-and-spa complex is an eco-friendly alternative to the Cancún strip on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Location The debut hotel in the four-resort Mayakoba development is laid across 50 acres of carefully preserved mangrove swamps, a network of freshwater lagoons and canals, and a 700-foot-long sugary white-sand beach—all just a 50-minute drive from Cancún.
Pedigree Greg Norman designed the Audubon-certified golf course, his first in Mexico; Maxime Cormier, a thalassotherapy expert from nearby Paraíso de la Bonita, is at the helm of the Willow Stream Spa.
Style + Design Rooms have a Maya-goes-Zen aesthetic that pairs thatched roofs and splashy green-and-red fabrics with serene touches such as slatted wooden doors and cool marble floors. But the real masterpiece is the mangrove-and-flower landscaping.
Service + Amenities All the usual perks of a self-enclosed resort (five swimming pools, four restaurants), with a plethora of ways to get around: lanchas (boats), golf carts, and bikes.
Value for Money A tranquil playground in the midst of one of Mexico’s busiest coasts?It’s a steal.
Needs Work When we were there in November 2006, the staff seemed poorly trained at handling special requests (helping to locate a suitcase lost in transit) and even routine ones, such as delivering coffee for the in-room French press.
800/441-1414 or 52-984/206-3000; www.fairmont.com; doubles from $239.

Fazenda da Lagoa, Una, Brazil

One of three Brazilian properties on our It List, this 14-room eco-retreat sets a new standard for stylish, intimate lodging on Bahia’s Câcao Coast.

Location Just 25 miles south of Ilhéus (reached by a daily nonstop flight from São Paulo), the resort lies on 1,500 verdant acres backed by tropical Atlantic rain forest and fronted by 2½ miles of deserted, ivory-white beach.
Pedigree The noted Carioca artist Mucki Skowronski owns the resort with her husband, Arthur Bahia, and designed the interiors herself.
Style + Design The public areas—in a series of open-sided pavilions—hew to cool, Aman-style minimalism, while the individually decorated guest cottages incorporate Skowronski’s trademark tropical whimsies: bold stripes, vivid floral patterns, and splashes of fuchsia, orange, and lime green. All have gauze-netted platform beds, private decks with hammocks, and, best of all, open-air showers.
Service + Amenities The friendly staff encourages guests to treat the resort like their own private beach house. Raise a flag outside your bungalow and afternoon snacks will be delivered in a handsome wicker basket.
Value for Money Anywhere else in Brazil, these casual-chic rooms might cost half the price; you’re paying for the magnificent, isolated setting, which is well worth it.
Una, Bahia; 55-21/2259-8511; www.fazendadalagoa.com.br; doubles from $370.

Koh Samui Four Seasons, Thailand

The Four Seasons’ first Thai beach resort marks a turning point for an emerging hot spot.

Location A secluded bluff on the island’s far northwest corner, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the rapidly developing beaches nearby.
Pedigree Thailand-based landscape designer turned architect Bill Bensley (also behind the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, one of the properties featured in our 2006 It List) is responsible for both the resort’s elegant look and the sublime water views from every villa and all public spaces.
Style + Design The 60 stilted villas, which seem to tumble down the lush hillside to the white-sand beach, all have infinity pools, teak floors, and sea-colored fabrics.
Service + Amenities The possibilities are endless, with complimentary activities (Chi Gong, kickboxing, fruit carving, kayaking), tennis courts, and a knockout spa. Don’t miss a soak in one of the outdoor spa tubs, which spill out into the jungle. In-room details like iPod docks, big daybeds, and well-stocked coolers of wine will keep you entertained even if you never leave your villa.
Value for Money The most expensive resort on the island, but worth it for the views alone. This would be a terrific honeymoon destination.
219 Moo 5, Tumbon Anthong; 800/332-3442 or 66-77/243-000; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $600.

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