Evans Pelican Inn
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
WHAT IT'S LIKE: Just south of Myrtle Beach is Evans Pelican Inn, an informal antebellum beach house. All nine of the simple rooms have ceiling fans and screened windows to make the most of the salty sea breeze (there is air-conditioning, too). The Southern-style breakfast includes biscuits, grits, and crab salad. The inn fills up fast during the summer months, but spring is actually the most pleasant time to go, because average temperatures range between 68 and 83 and the humidity is low.
WHAT TO DO: The best way to see this narrow barrier island, which is squeezed between a salt marsh and the Atlantic, is by bicycle. Rent one from Pawleys Island Beach Service (10570 Ocean Hwy.; 843/237-4666) and spend the day exploring. Also, check out the weavers at the nearby Hammock Shop (10880 Ocean Hwy.; 843/237-9122). —Shane Mitchell
Azul del Mar
Key Largo, Florida
WHAT IT'S LIKE: Just past the Everglades is the six-room Azul del Mar, Art Deco villa. The husband-and-wife owners stay behind the scene—breakfast (papaya yogurt, tropical fruit pastries) is delivered to your door, and guests can barbecue on the two outdoor grills. The property is decidedly quiet, thanks to its small adjacent private beach and an adults-only policy. Book the Garden Suite Caribe, for its Jacuzzi-jet bathtub and private patio. The Aquamarina and Celeste rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of Florida Bay, tie for second place.
WHAT TO DO: Snorkel in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park—which includes part of North America's largest living reef, located just beyond the hotel's wood-paneled dock. —Sarah Kantrowitz
Sea View Inn
WHAT IT'S LIKE: The floral prints and canopy beds are a little frilly, but the real draw here is the hospitality—a fireside breakfast, tea in the garden. The eight-room Victorian bungalow Sea View Inn lives up to its name; it's only steps from a broad beach on the Monterey Peninsula. Try to get Room 7, with the largest windows and garden views.
WHAT TO DO: Go on an art spree in town—Carmel has more than 100 galleries within the one-square-mile center. —Shane Mitchell
Courtesy of Puako
Puako Bed & Breakfast
Big Island, Hawaii
WHAT IT'S LIKE: Tucked among the pricey resorts of Hawaii's southern Kohala Coast is one of the big island's best-kept secrets: a tiny village with access to prime snorkeling and surfing beaches. Puako Bed & Breakfast is as low-key as its location; host and hula performer-instructor Punahele Andrade has outfitted the four guest rooms withtropical furniture and bright Hawaiian quilts. After a breakfast of Belgian waffles, Hawaiian sweet bread, and Kona coffee, the rugged black-lava and white-coral beach beckons. For pristine, sandier stretches, head to nearby Beach 69, in the Hapuna Beach State Park.
WHAT TO DO: You can take a horseback tour of the 150,000-acre Parker Ranch, 20 miles away. —David A. Keeps
Holbox Island, Mexico
WHAT IT'S LIKE: The island of Holbox (pronounced “Ole-bosh”) is a tiny spit off the Yucatán Peninsula with sand roads. At the chic 16-room CasaSandra Hotel, Cuban-born owner and artist Sandra Pérez wanted the property to feel more like a residence. So she spread CasaSandra out over five compact buildings and filled each of the spaces with one-of-a-kind regional pieces: rough-cut antique wooden tables from Guadalajara; rattan furniture; hand-woven linens; and bath products created by local artisans. Outside, a collection of palapas and breezy bales dots the sand, and the azure water's edge is 50 uninterrupted steps away. The hotel arranges fishing excursions with CasaSandra's chef, Félix Diaz, who will prepare your catch for dinner.
WHAT TO DO: From June through August, Holbox is one of the few places in the world where you can swim alongside harmless whale sharks—the largest known fish in the world. Holbox Tours & Travel (52-984/875-2173 or 305/396-6987; holboxwhalesharktours.com; $90) runs six-hour tours that guarantee time in the water with these gentle giants. —Elizabeth Woodson
Courtesy of Todos Santos
Todos Santos Inn
Todos Santos, Mexico
WHAT IT'S LIKE: From the outside, it doesn't look like much: a weathered brick-and-adobe hacienda hidden down a dusty unpaved side street in Todos Santos, a little beach town 90 minutes north of Los Cabos. But past the heavy iron gates of the eight-room Todos Santos Inn, you'll find a fairy-tale setting in a 19th-century sugar baron's former estate, with frescoes, adobe walls, and beamed ceilings. Netting hangs romantically over antique canopy beds in all the rooms, several of which open onto a fountain-bedecked terrace. Palm trees shade a small pool in the courtyard. Artists from the 16 neighboring galleries gather at night around the inn's candlelit wine bar, which sources bottles from around the globe.
WHAT TO DO: A few minutes' drive outside town are miles of empty Pacific Coast beaches. Pick your own stretch of white sand: apart from three spots that are popular with the surf set, you're pretty much guaranteed
to be alone. —Laura Begley
Courtesy of Tres Sirenas
Tres Sirenas Beach Inn
WHAT IT'S LIKE: Rincón is known for its pounding waves, which attract some of the world's best surfers. But the location of the Tres Sirenas Beach Inn—on one of the town's more tranquil strands—is just as appealing. Ex–New Yorkers Lisa and Harry Rodriguez returned to Harry's native Puerto Rico to open a laid-back, stylish B&B. And with four breezy rooms (dark woods, rattan, white linens) and the elaborate breakfasts Lisa cooks up every morning for guests, this seaside spot fits the bill. If you're traveling with a group, consider renting out the entire villa. It sleeps 10, and goes for a reasonable $840 per night.
WHAT TO DO: Make the 1 1/2-hour drive southeast to Puerto Rico's second-largest city, Ponce. The lovely historic quarter, with its Spanish-colonial and Art Deco buildings, is worth exploring for a day. —Elizabeth Woodson
Courtesy of Bellavista
Bellavista Bed & Breakfast
WHAT IT'S LIKE: In 2001, Wendy Snodgrass left her job in guest relations at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, and opened the Bellavista Bed & Breakfast, a 1930's West Indian–style villa overlooking Charlotte Amalie harbor. The four rooms are done up in floral prints and bright hues, some with a canopy bed. Guests spend most of their time outdoors on the sun-drenched front balcony or lounging along nearby Magen's Bay, a stretch of calm water that's perfect for swimming. At breakfast, order the banana–sour cream waffles served with a pineapple–passion fruit frappé.
WHAT TO DO: Take a five-minute stroll along the Crystal Gade to the St. Thomas Synagogue, a peaceful 174-year-old refuge with sand-covered floors and whitewashed walls. —Bridget Moriarity
Sol é Luna Inn
WHAT IT'S LIKE: Between Grand Case and Orient Bay on the French half of this multicultural island, the cliffside Sol é Luna Inn delivers a modern twist on rustic Provençal style—an ocher-hued stucco exterior covered in bougainvillea, washbasins reminiscent of the Danish designer Verner Panton, colorfully tiled plunge pools. Each of the six spacious rooms and suites has a private terrace with a view of the cerulean waters of Orient Bay, just 10 minutes away. There's no elevator here, and the hilltop rooms are located up a stone stairway—book the Jasmine or Nacre suites for a shorter climb.
WHAT TO DO: Visit the two-acre Plantation Mont Vernon (2 Mont Vernon; 590-590/295-062), where coffee is grown on-site, then dried and roasted to make potent petits cafés, served after the tour. —Jennifer V. Cole
Courtesy of Bahari Beach Bungalows
Bahari Beach Bungalows
WHAT IT'S LIKE: On an isolated six miles of dark-sand Pacific beach, the Bahari Beach Bungalows attract outdoorsy travelers who don't necessarily want to rough it. There are two bright rooms in the main building; at the very edge of the water, the lodge's hosts and owners, Ludwig and Andrea Zirkelbach, have pitched four oversize safari tents that sleep two people. Here, the mesh walls give the sensation of sleeping outdoors, with the added comforts of tiled floors, freshly cut flowers, and spacious bathrooms. In the thatched-roof, open-air dining room overlooking the grounds, the owners serve octopus salad in vinaigrette and tender grilled mahimahi. The Zirkelbachs also make delicious cocktails that you can carry onto the beach to watch the sun set.
WHAT TO DO: Nine miles away is the Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge (011-506/787-0003; haciendabaru.com), which protects 815 acres of coastal rain forest. Look for capuchin monkeys, toucans, and three-toed sloths along the reserve's well-groomed trails. —Carolina A. Miranda