Courtesy of Geejam
Björk, Gwen Stefani, and India Arie have all checked in to music producer Jon Baker’s treetops resort, where seven Zen-spare suites on six lush acres overlook Port Antonio and the Caribbean Sea. With a staff-to-guest ratio of 4 to 1, anything you ask for is possible, from a picnic of jerk chicken and planter’s punch on Frenchman’s Cove to spontaneous staff-led rafting trips. You can even have a band to back you up in the recording studio should you feel so inspired. In a world of cookie-cutter boutique hotels, Geejam is truly bespoke. Doubles from $595.
Courtesy of Banyan Tree Residences
Banyan Tree Mayakoba Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya, Mexico
How do you make a splash in a destination that’s already seen its share of It List hotels? Banyan Tree’s first foray into North America starts with an impressive 50-foot pagoda-style lobby; moves into Asian-meets-Mexican-style villas with outdoor pools, Jacuzzis, and rooftop terraces; and really delivers on the promise of an Asian property by staffing its spa only with Thai-trained therapists. Once we were suitably relaxed (who can resist an alfresco treatment?), a riverboat awaited to bring us through a lush mangrove forest to a stretch of powdery white sand. Doubles from $495.
Courtesy of Firefly Bequia
Firefly Bequia, The Grenadines
Looking for your Next Great Caribbean Getaway?We’re betting it may be the Grenadines, a part of the still-unspoiled Windward Islands just west of Barbados, and especially Bequia, one of largest of the archipelago. At Firefly, a four-room oasis on an 18th-century plantation, a martini-shaking bartender arrives by speedboat; the wild beach is practically yours alone; and turndown includes candlelight, Billie Holiday on an iPod, and Italian linens. More hotels are on the horizon in Bequia, but for now, this is the spot for an idyllic, sybaritic fantasy. Doubles from $495, including breakfast.
Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
Great Value It’s got Rat Pack glamour and Morris Lapidus–design-icon status, and now, after a $1 billion renovation, the Fontainebleau also has top restaurants and lounges (11 of them, including Alan Yau’s much-anticipated Hakkasan) and 1,504 guest rooms, with plasma TV’s and iMacs. The staff is still adjusting to the demands of such a huge hotel, but it’s the public spaces that really impress: the epic lobby, the glowing floor of the Bleau Bar, and, outside, a seemingly endless series of pools, lounge chairs, palm trees, and more pools. Doubles from $249.
Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Sanya
Ritz-Carlton Sanya, Hainan Island, China
Great Value Welcome to the Hawaii of the South China Sea. The 450-room Ritz-Carlton is a standout among the growing number of resorts on Hainan, China’s only tropical island. Amid crowds of well-heeled mainland Chinese (including lovestruck newlyweds in matching Hawaiian shirts) we found a Forbidden City–inspired retreat with gardens, reflective lagoons, and wooden pillar-lined walkways. After a day spent by your villa’s plunge pool, don’t be daunted by the distance to the seawater-themed Espa at the other end of the resort: a personal butler awaits to drive you there. Doubles from $190.
Courtesy of Six Senses Resorts & Spas
Six Senses Destination Spa, Phuket, Thailand
Spa-obsessed jet-setters, take note: Six Senses has brought the best of Southeast Asia’s healing arts to a speck of land off Phuket’s eastern coast. A 26-acre retreat houses four individual spas—yes, four—each dedicated to Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, or Thai traditions. Many of the practitioners have trained for years to fine-tune a single treatment, which became apparent during our deep-tissue Indian Abhyanga massage. Between appointments, we lounged by the ocean and ordered seaside delivery of addictive Thai dishes such as chili lobster. Doubles from $1,102, including treatments and meals.
Courtesy of Uxua Casa Hotel
Uxua Casa Hotel, Trancoso, Brazil
Bahia’s sexiest beach village takes a giant leap forward with this nine-suite gem masterminded by the creative director of Diesel. The design is outdoorsy elegant, with burnished reclaimed timber, billowing muslin curtains, and Midcentury Brazilian furnishings. The three best villas open onto the Quadrado, Trancoso’s town green, and every evening, bossa nova wafts across the lawn, and you’re right in the heart of the action. Doubles from $790, including breakfast.
Courtesy of The Dolder Grand
Dolder Grand, Zurich
It’s rare that a hotel feels both stolidly conservative and explosively futuristic, but that’s the effect architect Norman Foster has achieved with his redesign of the Dolder Grand, in Zurich. The hilltop property overlooks the city and lake, and the original 1899 façade and turrets, now restored, are flanked by dramatic new stone-and-glass buildings, the Golf Wing and the Spa Wing. Inside, gently curving hallways evoke a 2001: A Space Odyssey sort of mood, and wooden doors open to reveal quietly modern guest rooms—off-white leather upholstery, smoked-oak flooring, and private terraces. Doubles from $769.
Courtesy of ME Barcelona
Great Value We may never have ventured into Poblenou, Barcelona’s emerging tech district, if it weren’t for Dominique Perrault’s 400-foot-tall glass-and-steel den of cool. Barcelona’s beautiful people bear the 15-minute cab ride from the city center to arrive at this hotel (surprisingly, run by Sol Meliá, better known for its all-inclusives), where they gather on ebony wingback chairs and chalk-white daybeds at Angels & Kings, an outpost of musician Pete Wentz’s New York bar. We couldn’t get over our room’s postcard-perfect views of the Sagrada Familia, the Agbar Tower, and the hills of Catalonia beyond. Doubles from $236.
Dutch designer Marcel Wanders’s Baroque-minimalist palace on the calm waters of Biscayne Bay is a feast for the imagination: Step inside, and South Beach’s Art Deco aesthetic melts away. In the lobby, stark white surfaces lead to a latticed black spiral staircase, and rooms come with enormous digitally manipulated femme-fatale paintings. When it all becomes too much—the chandelier that turns out to be a showerhead; the trompe l’oeil cloud-mosaic bathroom tiles—retreat to the hotel’s waterside patio to take in the Technicolor sunset over downtown Miami. Doubles from $495.