Whether it’s a neoclassical palace or a down-home ranch, these are the places in our personal black book.
Country Getaway: E. B. Morgan House, Aurora, New York
The stately lakeside inn was built as a family residence in 1858 by wealthy capitalist E. B. Morgan, a cofounder of the New York Times. Now owned by Wells College, it was recently reimagined by American Girl doll creator Pleasant Rowland—part of a one-woman beautification campaign in a bucolic Finger Lakes town. The most welcoming nook? The back porch, furnished with plump-cushioned wicker chairs and overlooking lawns that descend to the water’s edge.
Great Value 431 Main St.; 866/364-8808 or 315/364-8888; aurora-inn.com; doubles from $175.
Secret Island: Aldeia da Cuada, Azores, Portugal
On this westernmost European archipelago, an abandoned 18th-century village of tumbledown stone cottages was renovated into a folksy rural getaway against a jaw-dropping landscape. Ancient basalt paths lead to waterfalls and deep calderas known as the Seven Lakes, and the greenness of the valley resembles J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Grab a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese from the dairy in the town of Fajázinha and set off on a morning hike to find your picnic spot of choice.
Flores; 351/292-590-040; wonderfulsland.com/cuada; doubles from $80.
Historic Estate: Coworth Park, Berkshire, England
Love is in the air at this reinvented Georgian manor on 240 acres of private parkland 45 minutes west of London. In fact, the very sentiment is spelled out in capital letters in the contemporary light fixture over the bar. The 70-room property pays homage to genteel rural pursuits with polo ponies on the lawn and equestrian-themed artwork; guests can doff their muddy Wellingtons after a ramble in the woods, then thumb through The Book of Idle Pleasures while soaking in a deep copper tub.
Blacknest Rd., Ascot; 44-1344/876-600; coworthpark.com; doubles from $365.
Hight-Style Spot: Soho House, Berlin
The creative energy is palpable at this boho 40-room boutique hotel, set in a 1928 building that once housed the Communist Party archives; it’s now the most fashionable address in the Mitte district. While certainly not the largest quarters, the attic rooms—with fire engine–red bed frames and rain showers—have a quirky, La Bohème feel. Also on site: a 30-seat cinema, a rooftop bar, and House Kitchen restaurant, the most desirable reservation in town.
Great Value 1 Torstrasse; 49-30/405-0440; sohohouseberlin.com; doubles from $130.
Beach Retreat: Rancho Pescadero, Todos Santos, Mexico
Live the life of a refined surf bum at this wellness-focused Baja California resort owned by an American former CEO who traded the corporate world for a simpler existence by the shore. Most of the 27 suites face the Pacific; shaded daybeds, swimming pools, and mangrove trees dot the grounds. There’s a yoga class at 9 a.m. each day in an oceanfront pavilion, and guests get complimentary use of bicycles, surfboards, and boogie boards for cavorting on land or sea.
Great Value San Juan de Dios; 910/300-8891 or 52-1612/135-5849; ranchopescadero.com; doubles from $200, including breakfast and daily yoga classes.
Palatial Opulence: Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
The newest Shangri-La was originally built for Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandnephew, who took up residence at the hôtel particulier from 1896 until his death in 1924. Interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon drew upon the Directoire and Empire periods—with a dash of Asian fusion—to restore the property in a manner worthy of its gilded, hand-painted, mosaic- and mahogany-trimmed heyday. The 81 rooms are like Parisian pieds-á-terre, and half have Eiffel Tower views. Nearly as many feature private terraces or balconies.
10 Ave. d’Iéna, 16th Arr.; 866/565-5050 or 33-1/53-67-19-98; shangri-la.com; doubles from $990.
Wildlife Camp: Arkaba Station, Flinders Ranges National Park, Australia
From an 1856 homestead deep in the southern Australian outback, guides lead groups of up to eight on a four-day, 30-mile route through Flinders Ranges National Park. (Your bags await each evening at camp, along with dinner and a hot outdoor shower.) Plush beds and feather duvets on open-air wooden platforms ensure a good night’s rest, although the wilderness doesn’t lack for background noise: Listen for the call of kookaburras and currawongs at dawn and dusk, a kind of outback melody.
61-2/9571-6399; arkabastation.com; from $1,950 per person for a four-day trip, all-inclusive.
Safari Lodge : Olarro, Masai Mara, Kenya
On a hill in a private reserve within the Maji Moto Group Ranch, owned by the local Masai people, this eco-lodge was designed by Anthony Russell, the architect and conservationist behind the award-winning Shompole. The curvaceous thatched-roof structure, built to blend in with the landscape, houses seven guest cottages with polished flagstone floors. The lodge borders the area’s wildebeest migration route; get a front-row seat on your veranda, or book a helicopter ride for a bird’s-eye view of the action.
Masai Mara National Reserve; 254-721/921-966; olarrokenya.com; doubles from $1,370, all-inclusive.
Forest Sanctuary: Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima, Yakushima, Japan
A sense of mystery and magic pervades this secluded retreat on a southern Japanese island covered in old-growth cedars—said to be the inspiration for Princess Mononoke, the 1997 anime masterpiece from director Hayao Miyazaki. The 28 airy suites and villas have sliding screens and delicate porcelain cups from Kyoto. Book the Sankara Suite and ask a spa attendant to draw a bath for two in the open-air tub, where you can contemplate the scroll-like setting of mist-swirled mountains.
553 Haginoue, Mugio, Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima; 81-997/473-488; sankarahotel-spa.com; doubles from $515.
City Scene: The Redbury, Los Angeles
The latest from developer Sam Nazarian of SLS Hotels, the 57-room Redbury gives guests preferred access and car service to its buzzy sister properties (Michael Mina’s XIV restaurant; the Colony nightclub). The splashy, eclectic décor—think suzani textiles and nouveau-Rococo furniture—was masterminded by the hotel’s creative director, fashion photographer Matthew Rolston. The Redbury even has its own fragrance, a rich plumeria with oriental notes that greets you at the valet-parking station.
1717 Vine St.; 323/962-1717; theredbury.com; doubles from $299.
Tropical Escape: GoldenEye, Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica
Jet-set bohemians and creative types have flocked to GoldenEye since the mid 20th century, when it was the cliff-top getaway of Ian Fleming, who wrote 14 of his James Bond novels here. Fresh from a two-year overhaul courtesy of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, the property has morphed from private villa for rent into a 22-room hotel. But thanks to Blackwell’s highly personal touch, the mood remains the same: it’s a playground for well-traveled expats from some latter-day Noël Coward play. Fleming’s three-bedroom villa is available for booking and still features the writer’s own desk, carved out of Jamaican red bulletwood and surrounded by windows looking out to the sea.
Oracabessa Bay, St. Mary; 876/975-3354; goldeneye.com; doubles from $536.
High-Rise Glamour: Setai Fifth Avenue, A Capella Managed Hotel, New York City
The rush of midtown Manhattan fades away inside this cocoon of a hotel, a stellar example of streamlined maximalism (the rosewood and marble were flown in from Milan). Part of a 60-story tower, the Setai features faceted windows angled downward for dizzying views of New York at your feet. Each night at nine, a jazz trio plays at the bar off the lobby, supplying that quintessential big-city sound track.
400 Fifth Ave.; 877/247-6688 or 212/695-4005; setaififthavenue.com; doubles from $595.
Mountain Refuge: Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Montana
It’s a 100-mile drive from Missoula International Airport to this 6,600-acre spread, but the posh high-mountain pampering is worth it. Ponds are full of trout, cabins come with well-stocked wine fridges and claw-foot tubs, and spa treatments are tailor-made for two. Built from fallen wood found on site, the secluded Trapper Tent has its own hot tub, gas fireplace, and etched-glass windows overlooking Rock Creek.
79 Carriage House Lane; 877/786-1545; theranchatrockcreek.com; from $900 per person, including meals and most activities.
Winter Haven: Hotel Kakslauttanen & Igloo Village, Saariselkä, Finland
In the vast Lapland wilderness, towering pines loom above 40 fireplace-equipped log cabins and 20 domed “igloos” made of thermal glass. From December through April, you can also stay in one of eight real igloos built from snow and equipped with down sleeping bags. The main attraction is the almost surreal setting from which to watch the northern lights—currently on the rise until 2015. The seasonal snow chapel provides a fairy-tale mood for a winter wedding (Finnish ceremony optional).
Great Value 13 Kiilopääntie; 358-16/667-100; kakslauttanen.fi; doubles from $185.