Introduction | Secluded Retreats | City Lights | Into the Wilderness | Along the Shore | Best Values | Urban Classics | Country Grandeur | Beachfront Property | Rustic Lodges | Inns and Country Houses | Overwater Bungalows | Private Islands
Mahakua—Hacienda de San Antonio, Mexico
Deep in the tangled green of Mexico's western highlands, a 19th-century casa grande opens onto an organic farm, a coffee plantation, and a formal garden inspired by that of Spain's Alhambra palace. Mahakua welcomes anyone seeking a bucolic retreat in the unspoiled countryside. The colonnaded great house, constructed by a coffee baron, was restored in the early nineties and was acquired by Amanresorts late last year. Since then, the hacienda and its 26 antiques-filled suites nearly outshine their enchanted 5,000-acre setting. Volcán de Fuego, which guests can climb with a resident naturalist, steams in the distance. From the rooftop terrace, views extend to the Sierra Madre. Dinner is presented in one of the hotel's secret nooks or alfresco, where candles and stars provide the only light. The staff can arrange visits to nearby Suchitlán ("village of witches"), where the town exorcist can help lift the spirit to an even higher plateau. If that's at all possible. Fifteen miles from Colima, Mexico; 888/802-9127 or 52-312/313-4411, fax 52-312/314-3727; www.amanresorts.com; doubles from $900, all-inclusive.
El Questro Homestead, Australia
Romance can be a daring proposition at El Questro, a six-room hideaway on a million-acre expanse way out in northwestern Australia. Sure, there are sumptuous Balinese beds, lush gardens, and meals of freshly caught barramundi. But even dining outdoors is an adventure: a cozy table for two, lit by candles, teeters on the edge of a 200-foot-deep gorge trolled by flesh-eating crocs. Nearby Zebedee Springs, a series of natural thermal pools prized by local Aborigines for their healing qualities, is no less thrilling—particularly at sundown, when Buddy Tyson, El Questro's charismatic head cattleman, guards the palm-shrouded access path to let couples soak in seclusion (out of sight of even the nosiest kangaroo). Gibb River Rd., The Kimberley, Australia; 61-8/9169-1777, fax 61-8/9169-1383; www.elquestro.com.au; doubles from $750 (reopens in April).
Although it became a hotel seven years ago, little has changed since the oil-rich Dorn family vacationed in their 1929 redwood lodge. And with the scarcity of other guests on the 1,280-acre property, the two of you can be lords of this northern Pennsylvania manor. Cozy up to the stone fireplace in the Great Hall; someone will soon appear with mulled wine and canapés. Feeling active?Snowshoe off the porch into the Allegheny Forest or shoot skeet at dawn with the rifle master. You'll be called for dinner precisely at 7:30, when the chef's creative American dishes and the baker's wicked chocolate pastries will elevate you to a euphoric state. And whether you check into one of the lodge's four cosseting rooms (the Dorn Suite has two fireplaces) or one of 12 rustic cabins just steps away, you'll hear a gently rolling brook outside your window, and nothing else to disturb the peace. 1032 W. Corydon St., Bradford, Pa.; 800/843-8568 or 814/362-6511, fax 814/368-9923; www.glendorn.com; doubles from $375, including meals and some activities.
La Villa Juana Francisca, Argentina
At dusk, traffic on the road to northeastern Argentina's most stylish hacienda means gauchos on horseback returning from their day's work. Fireflies, not streetlamps, light the way. The mood has been set even before owners Jens and Victoria Fava come out to greet you. During your stay, you'll have all the attention—or privacy—you wish. You can spend your days riding stallions across the 2,000-acre estate or looking for violet-capped wood nymphs and sharp-tailed streamcreepers at the Ibera Lagoon, a reserve so packed with birds and wildlife that it's been compared to the Okavango Delta. For dinner, ranch hands prepare traditional Argentine asado (barbecue) and serve it under a sky thick with stars. Don't be surprised if you glimpse a UFO—there have been countless sightings in this unpolluted corner of the world. How many other places can boast extraterrestrial cachet?Mercedes, Corrientes. Book through Abercrombie & Kent, 800/323-7308; www.abercrombieandkent.com; doubles from $325, including meals and ranch activities.