Courtesy of Madrona Manor
Victorian mansion and estate in Dry Creek Valley, a mile
from the historic center of Healdsburg.
Competitive Edge: Romantic and atmospheric—a welcome contrast to the area's more contemporary offerings.
Rooms to Book: Nos. 203 and 204, for their balconies, fireplaces, and period furnishings.
Don't Miss: Chef Jesse Mallgren's seafood tasting menu.
Cost: Doubles from $350, including breakfast. No guests under 12.
Courtesy of Four Seasons
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele
Sprawling country manor recently bought by Four Seasons and renovated to the tune of $50 million, set in the hills 20 minutes from the beach.
Stats: 102 rooms; 3 restaurants; 1 bar.
Competitive Edge: An up-country world unto itself, with horseback riding, hunting, and a Greg Norman-designed golf course-plus access to the beach facilities at its sister property, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.
Rooms to Book: Those in the main lodge have wood-burning fireplaces.
Don't Miss: The excellent macadamia-crusted venison loin in the dining room.
Cost: Doubles from $345.
Courtesy of Inn at Little Washington
Inn at Little Washington
Romantic early-20th-century house filled with antiques and fabulous fabrics, near the Shenandoah Valley.Stats: 18 rooms; 1 restaurant; 1 bar.
Competitive Edge: Edge Chef Patrick O'Connell's legendary cuisine, in a tranquil small-town setting.
Rooms to Book: Nos. 5 and 7, for private balconies overlooking the courtyard garden.
Don't Miss: Visiting the newly restored 1740 tavern across the street, which houses shops that sell jewelry and home decor.
Cost: Doubles from $650, including breakfast.
Courtesy of Leading Hotels of the World
New York, New York
Newly renovated 1920's institution on the Upper East Side,
near Madison Avenue shopping.
Competitive Edge: The smallest of the city's top hotels with a residential feel.
Rooms to Book: Nos. 10C and 11C, for wood-burning fireplaces.
Don't Miss: A complimentary shoe shine before leaving to pound the pavement.
Cost: Doubles from $575.
Courtesy of Little Palm Island
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
Little Torch Key, Florida
Luxe thatched-roof bungalows on a private 6-acre island,
accessible only by boat or seaplane.
Competitive Edge: One of Florida's most romantic and secluded retreats.
Rooms to Book: For privacy, the Mockingbird Suite; the Willet Suite is set between the beach and the pool.
Don't Miss: A guided flats-fishing excursion.
Cost: Doubles from $1,760, including meals. No guests under 16.
Courtesy of St. Regis
St. Regis Resort
Sprawling red-brick compound on 5 acres, only 2 blocks from the main gondola.Stats: 179 rooms; 1 restaurant; 2 bars.
Competitive Edge: Fabulous facilities, including Chefs Club by Food & Wine.
Rooms to Book: We prefer Deluxes in the new wing, for their romantic fireplaces.
Don't Miss: The Champagne & Chocolate Truffle Decadence Body Facial, a champagne scrub followed by a chocolate mask and massage, in the Remede Spa.
Cost: Doubles from $499.
Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch
San Ysidro Ranch
Santa Barbara, California
Former citrus ranch set on 500 acres at the foothills of Santa Ynez mountains; fresh from a $150 million overhaul.Stats: 27 rooms; 14 cottages; 2 restaurants; 2 bars.
Competitive Edge: Attention to detail—from hand-selected olive trees to private outdoor rain showers and sunken hot tubs in most rooms.
Rooms to Book: For added privacy, ask for the creekside Honeysuckle or Willow.
Don't Miss: Hiking the San Ysidro Trail to the waterfalls.
Cost: Doubles from $795.
Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Dana Point, California
Elegant yet family-friendly resort on a cliff 150 feet above the Pacific.Stats: 393 rooms; 2 restaurants; 2 bars.
Competitive Edge: Classic Ritz luxury and tons of activities, from waterfront fitness classes to sailing at Dana Point.
Rooms to Book: Ocean Views are pricier, but worth the upgrade.
Don't Miss: Watching the sunset with a glass of champagne from the hotel's Adirondack chairs.
Cost: Doubles from $475.
Courtesy of Greyfield Inn
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Antiques-filled 4-story landmark mansion on a wildlife-filled barrier island.Stats: 16 rooms; 2 houses; 1 restaurant; 1 bar.
Competitive Edge: An unplugged retreat (no Internet or cell service) with an 18-mile-long white-sand beach.
Rooms to Book: The east-facing Porch Suite, for its morning light.
Don't Miss: A guided tour of the island's diverse fauna.
Cost: Doubles from $475, including all meals.