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No Maldivian resort has captured the majesty of water travel quite like Dhoni Mighili. Set on its own private island, the six-suite resort is just a 30-minute seaplane flight from the capital, Malé—but the lazy, five-hour sail via dhoni, or traditional handcrafted wooden Maldivian sailboat, is much more indulgent. The resort's fleet of elegant, 65-foot cruisers is fabulously fitted with everything from seven-foot beds, Frette linens, and Bose stereo systems to Philippe Starck-designed baths, Taittinger-stocked fridges, and thakarus (personal butlers). Even after you've checked into one of the resort's six villas (four of which have plunge pools and private courtyards), the dhoni and thakaru remain on call until checkout.
More information: Dhoni Mighili
Courtesy of Peninsula Hong Kong
Even though the hotel boasts a fleet of custom-designed Rolls-Royce Phantoms, the most jaw-dropping way to approach this venerable Peninsula is by air. The hotel is the only one in the city with a private helicopter pad, and guests with a bird's-eye bent can make the 22-mile jaunt from Hong Kong International Airport in a sleek Aerospatiale AS355N Twin Squirrel craft (roomy enough to seat five). After the eight-minute flight, you'll arrive on the rooftop—right next to Felix, the hotel's posh penthouse restaurant designed by Philippe Starck. If you like the ride, copter tours throughout the city can be arranged via the concierge.
More information: Peninsula Hong Kong
Courtesy of Burgh Island
Burgh Island Hotel, Bigbury-on-Sea, England
Forget the helipad: the way to arrive at this pricey hotel, located on a private island off the coast of South Devon, is via the world's only hydraulic Sea Tractor—an unusual contraption that rises above the lapping waters of the tidal causeway. Designed in 1969, the unique conveyance makes the 700-foot-long crossing in just minutes at high tide (the hotel has a fleet of Land Rovers for low tide), ending at a 24-room Art Deco property that dates to 1929 and has hosted the likes of Agatha Christie and Noel Coward. —Farhad Heydari
More information: Burgh Island Hotel
Courtesy of Montpelier Plantation Inn
Montpelier Plantation, Nevis, West Indies
With its jagged peaks, lush forests, volcanic hot springs, and abundant wildlife, the tiny island of Nevis is one of the Caribbean's most exotic places. And the staff of the Montpelier Plantation—a 17-room former sugar plantation perched on a hillside overlooking the coral-reef-studded sea—makes sure your passage here is super-smooth. Once you've flown into the sister island of St. Kitts, you're transferred to a private speedboat, which crosses the cerulean Narrows separating the two islands and gets you to Nevis in less than half an hour. As soon as you land, a taxi arrives to drive you up the hill to the resort, where you'll be treated to views of the entire island and much of the Leeward chain.
More information: Montpelier Plantation
Courtesy of Burj Al-Arab
Visitors to the world's first self-described "seven-star" hotel, which sits on a private island in the Persian Gulf, can choose to be transported by any of several different luxury sedans (some like the sporty BMW 7 Series; others prefer one of the 10 chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantoms), which shimmy across the hotel's slim causeway linking it to the sandy mainland. Those who want to arrive in even higher style can opt for pickup by the Burj's private luxury Augusta 109 Executive helicopter—although a cool drive along the city's shimmering Persian Gulf-front is the best way to beat Dubai's notorious desert heat. Once there, check into $1,000-a-night starter suites to enjoy the sky-high spa (with infinity pool seemingly floating into the sea) and a team of butlers on each floor of this 1,000-foot-high ultra-haute hotel.
More information: Burj al Arab
Courtesy of Sivory
When it opened in late 2005, this east coast resort jump-started a new era of boutique glamour for the Dominican Republic. With its 55 beachfront suites, lush gardens, spa, a trio of haute eateries, a cigar lounge, and the island's largest wine cellar (with more than 8,000 bottles), Sivory Punta Cana set the standard for other small luxury hotels on the island. And since it's only fitting that guests should arrive in style, many trade the hour-long drive from Punta Cana Airport for a stealth-copter ride straight to Sivory's silky beach. Guests are greeted with cold towels, chilled bubbly, and fast-track check-in right on the sand. En route, they can scope out their favorite hole at Punta Cana's P.B. Dye-designed waterfront golf course.
More information: Sivory Punta Cana
Courtesy of Khwai River Lodge
The Khwai River floodplain, set in the heart of Botswana's Moremi Wildlife Reserve, teems with creatures ranging from lions and leopards to elephants and hyenas. You can spot them all en route to the lodge—which you'll reach via private, single-engine Cessna after pick-up in the nearby town of Maun. Flying low to the ground, the plane skims over arid bushveld and grazing herds of impala and springbok before arriving at the lodge, where local tribespeople welcome guests with traditional Setswana songs and trays of fruity cocktails. Sip one in style at the lodge's new ultra-private suite, with its own splash pool, observation deck, and alfresco shower.
More information: Khwai River Lodge
Courtesy of Duncan Rowlinson/ thelastminuteblog.com
French Polynesia has been a luxurious hideaway for decades (everyone from Gauguin to Brando has called the islands home), but a new clutch of ultra-deluxe resorts has raised the decadence bar even higher. At the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa, the sybaritic service begins as soon as guests arrive at Bora Bora Airport—they're immediately whisked onto a private shuttle motorboat, which takes them on a 10-minute ride across the actual Blue Lagoon (made famous in the movie!). On arrival, they're greeted by staffers wearing traditional sarongs and headdresses, and bearing cold drinks. Then, they can settle into one of the resort's 80 sumptuous overwater bungalows—each at least 1,000 square feet and set on stilts right over the turquoise ocean.
More information: Intercontinental Bora Bora
Courtesy of Phantom Ranch
Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon
The only hotel located below the rim of the Grand Canyon isn't exactly easy to get to. Some folks take the 10-mile hike; others white-water raft along the churning Colorado River from the historic Grand Canyon Village. But for the truly intrepid, the only way to arrive at this 11-cabin retreat is by mule. The roughly five-hour trip, organized by the ranch, leads along jagged cliffs and plummeting gorges, and finally across the mighty Colorado via suspension bridge before arriving at the lodge—which is crafted from native wood and stone and uses eco-friendly evaporation cooling during the summer months. A hot shower and a steak dinner will never seem more delicious.
More information: Phantom Ranch
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Vigilius Mountain Resort, Merano, Italy
Set alongside a dramatic tree-covered couloir at a rarefied altitude of 4,921 feet in the heart of the South Tyrolean Dolomites, this minimalist, eco-friendly hideaway is accessible only by cable car—in this case, Europe's oldest, the Vigiljoch. Guests board the vintage 1912 cable car on the outskirts of Merano for a nearly vertical eight-minute ascent away from the vineyard-covered valley floor to Vigiljoch. There, they discover an outdoor paradise and a low-slung, carbon-neutral enclave with 41 TV-free rooms, two restaurants, and a spa, all designed from larch and slate sourced from the nearby hillsides. —Farhad Heydari
More information: Vigilius Mountain Resort