America's Best Warm-Weather Resorts
A stream of golden sunlight awakens you. You pull back the curtains, check out the magnificent orange-hued panorama, and step outside to embrace the warmth. It may be cold, gray, and blustery back home, but here, at the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, AZ, it’s warm, sunny, and endlessly summer-like.
The property is just one of America’s leading warm-weather resorts singled out by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards. And as the mercury begins to plummet, what better time to highlight hotels where the average winter highs climb to 65 degrees or more? The winning resorts are located mostly in sun-drenched states like Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, and California, of course, but a few under-the-radar locales made it as well.
Related: America's Best All-Inclusive Resorts
What makes a resort worthy of being called World’s Best? That would be the perfect combination of location, service, décor, and value. So dig out your sunglasses and swimsuits and dive into our list to find your ideal winter getaway.
If a slack-key guitar serenade is music to your ears, check out some of the Hawaiian resorts that made the grade. One of them is the famed Halekulani, the oasis-like luxury resort on Waikiki Beach with sweeping Diamond Head views, which ranked No. 4. Another luxury option is The Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, a serene enclave set amid tropical gardens and towering Cook pines on the sleepy island of Lanai, which ranked No. 8.
East Coast and Midwest residents can make a quick getaway to the Sunshine State, where both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts scored winners. Among them is The Breakers, the grand dame of Palm Beach resorts, which blends Gilded Age ambience with a recent $15 million beachfront redevelopment featuring five pools and a pristine half-mile private beach.
California also has a wealth of warm-weather resort winners. Readers ranked the Montage Laguna Beach at No. 5, and with good reason: the bluff-top Craftsman-style luxury resort in arts-oriented Laguna Beach offers ocean-view rooms and suites, seasonal artisanal cuisine, and a nature-based spa.
So, just what does it take to crack the No. 1 spot on this hot-spot list? Read on to find out which warm-weather resort scorched its competition. —Donna Heiderstadt
No. 1 San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort, Santa Barbara, CA
When you drive up this 500-acre property’s long driveway lined with olive trees and lavender, you have the sense of being on the frontier—at the last citrus grove before civilization gives way to the scrubby Santa Ynez Mountains. No wonder this was JFK’s honeymoon spot. In addition to the 27 rooms in the main house, most of the 14 vine-covered cottages have decks and hot tubs. Eat at the Stonehouse Restaurant, where chef John Trotta serves refined dishes like mascarpone and scallion risotto.
No. 2 Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, HI
“Perfect,” “heaven,” and “the best vacation of my life” are just a few ways guests describe this isolated resort where all 228 rooms, in low-rise bungalows, have ocean views. The five-star service is flawless; the grounds border the rocky volcanic coast with seawater and freshwater swimming pools; an open-air spa teems with tropical vegetation; and a full menu of fitness classes is offered daily. The private 7,100-square-foot oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved right into the underlying black lava, which serves as occasional bunkers.
No. 3 Kahala Hotel & Resort, Oahu, HI
This Oahu classic—fresh from a major renovation—has thoughtful in-room details such as Frette linens, chenille robes, and oversize showerheads. It was here, at what was then a Hilton and known as the Kahollywood, that Richard Burton and Liz Taylor hid from the paparazzi in a private cabana. Book an ocean suite for panoramic views of Diamond Head.
No. 4 Halekulani, Oahu, HI
Service rules at this recently renovated five-acre Waikiki Beach beauty, which has been around for nearly a century. Diamond Head suites on floors nine and higher have the best ocean and volcano views. Don’t miss the open-air dining room at Orchids restaurant, which serves delicious Hawaiian specialties such as pipi kaula beef jerky, marinated ahi tuna poke, lomi lomi cured salmon, Waimanalo roast suckling pig, local Kula tomatoes, and Big Island goat cheese.
No. 5 Montage Laguna Beach, CA
The quintessential Montage experience comes complete with crisp service and the smell of the surf. In a too-rare instance of architectural common sense, all 262 rooms come with Pacific panoramas. The shingle-style architecture—twists and turns and gables and porches—is incurably romantic; it’s a re-creation of the world of the California Impressionists who gathered in Laguna during the teens and twenties, lived in humble beach bungalows, and painted this coastline. Don’t miss the Thalassic Beach Walk—a complimentary, spa-therapist-guided stroll that focuses on the mind-body benefits of ocean air.
No. 6 Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, Houston
Imagine a hunting lodge in the middle of Central Park. That describes the Houstonian, a low-rise, high-price hotel in the middle of an 18-acre pine forest surrounded by glass office towers. The Houstonian has the snazziest health club in town, complete with three heated outdoor swimming pools, a rock-climbing wall, boxing ring, and tennis, racquetball, and squash courts. Members pay $14,000 a year, but hotel guests get to use the facilities for free.
No. 7 InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ
With its graceful plazas and arcaded walkways, this 35-acre retreat so resembles an Andalusian pueblo blanco that you may forget you’re in Arizona. To set apart its North American flagship in resort-rich Scottsdale, InterContinental created a $325 million Spanish hideaway made up of four “villages” featuring fountain-filled courtyards, garden terraces, and views of Camelback Mountain. Unexpected flourishes, such as live flamenco music at the Prado restaurant, complete the picture.
No. 8 Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, HI
This 20-acre central-highland property on sparsely populated Lanai has the sensibility of an English country manor. The 102 rooms and suites have verandas, many facing manicured lawns where guests can play croquet and lawn bowling before a backdrop of green hills and tall pines interspersed with occasional glimpses of ocean. After a day of hiking, horseback riding, or shooting skeet, relax by the enormous stone fireplaces in the Great Hall.
No. 9 Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, CA
Situated next to the famous golf course and amid Monterey pines, the Inn is a peaceful retreat, with Spanish-influenced rooms and restaurant interiors. From the rooms that overlook the fire pits, you can see the bagpiper play at sunset. Be sure to check the inn’s calendar before booking—major events, from car shows to golf tournaments, are held frequently at Pebble Beach.
No. 10 Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach, CA
The latest place to stay on Route 1, this Palladian-inspired resort has completed its transformation from a 36-hole complex with no accommodations to a world-class golf resort modeled after an Italian hillside village. Fountains, century-old olive trees, and sprawling Pacific-facing bungalows and villas cover the resort’s 504 acres, which are about an hour south of Los Angeles.
No. 11 Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL
Ritz-Carlton’s Mediterranean-inspired beachfront flagship near the Gulf of Mexico comes with a 51,000-square-foot spa, access to premier golf, and a kid-friendly entertainment center (including 11 aquariums). South-facing Coastal Rooms overlooking the resort pool also offer views of the Gulf of Mexico—at a lower price than the west-facing Gulf Front rooms. At the resort’s sushi bar, order the Mingei—an Asian circle bowl with sushi, sashimi, and tuna roll.
No. 12 Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club, Palm Beach, FL
Known since 1926 as a rendezvous spot for celebrities, this elegant hotel—with 80 rooms and suites—continues to attract notable names. Of particular interest is Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud. (Try the lunchtime version of a BLT, with house-smoked beef brisket instead of bacon, and fried green tomatoes.) Book suites 306 or 307 for a private hideaway with a large terrace overlooking the central courtyard.
No. 13 The Breakers, Palm Beach, FL
Still the grande dame of deep-pocketed Palm Beach, the 540-room resort, set on 140 beachfront acres, is pure drama thanks in no small part to the palm-lined entrance that leads up to the twin-towered behemoth. The modern day intervenes in breezily tropical rooms, newly redesigned in white and sand tones, and in the private poolside cabanas with flat-screens and concierge service. Despite the pomp, there are many kid-friendly perks, so don’t be timid about bringing the young ones.
No. 14 Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Maui, HI
A favored hideout for those in search of a Polynesian interlude, the 380-room resort caters to every pleasurable whim. Stroll in a traditional Hawaiian healing garden, or relax in a suite decorated with tropical accents, facing the Pacific or the impressive Haleakala volcano. Dine in one of three restaurants or grab a fruity drink in the hotel’s four bars before touring the resort’s contemporary Hawaiian art collection.
No. 15 Lodge at Pebble Beach, CA
This 161-room resort, located on the edge of Carmel Bay, is best known for the caliber of its on-site golf course. Die-hard duffers should request Ocean View rooms, which overlook both Carmel Bay and the 18th green. Speed up recovery after a day on the course with a 50-minute post-golf therapy massage.
No. 16 Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, CA
Situated on a bluff between L.A. and San Diego, the Ritz-Carlton boasts beachy-hued rooms and a serious spa. For kids, the resort offers surfing lessons and a Healthy Taste menu. Even though Ocean View rooms are pricier, they are worth the upgrade for the private balconies or patios. Have a glass of champagne on the Sunset Lounge at sunset.
No. 17 L’Auberge de Sedona, Sedona, AZ
For a refreshing change from the desert, but still within easy reach of the red rocks, check into this cozy English country–inspired inn and cottages in a wooded, creekside setting. Sip a sunset vino at the wine bar overlooking Oak Creek, or have staffers arrange a romantic dinner or a couples-only treatment at its spa.
No. 18 Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa, Point Clear, AL
Located on the eastern side of Mobile Bay and about 30 minutes from the Magnolia Grove courses, this resort has changed quite a bit since beginning as a small hotel in 1847. After a $30 million renovation, it’s now a 278-room, 21-suite facility with tennis courts, two Perry Maxwell golf courses, a 20,000-square-foot European Spa, and more than 100 new rooms.
No. 19 Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Ideal for the preppy set, this 1928 golf-and-tennis resort sits on a 300-acre oceanfront site 20 miles southeast of Jacksonville. For views of the ocean, pool, and playground, book room 292 in the Atlantic House’s second-floor corner. Surf lessons, available for $20, give you an hour of one-on-one with a resort instructor and two hours with the board.
No. 20 Royal Palms Resort & Spa, Phoenix
From the moment you step through the big, rustic wooden door into the lobby, you’ll think you’ve entered a Mediterranean villa. It’s all in the details—from carefully preserved tile frescoes to the furnishings gathered from all over the world. The hotel features a two-level open-air spa, which offers an array of Mediterranean-inspired treatments throughout its 10 rooms. Be sure to check out the Watsu pool, set in a private garden terrace with an “8-foot grotto waterfall shower.”
No. 21 Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL
This 444-room resort on a barrier island 35 miles from Jacksonville is truly a perfect marriage of tropical escapism and antebellum southern charm. Check in to a Garden View suite that comes with a large terrace and then try the zero-gravity massage at the 27,500-square-foot spa, or relax at the pool, where staffers circulate with chilled towels and ice water. Explore the island’s many historic sites (the island has famously flown eight different flags since the 1500s) and stroll paths flanked by trees draped in Spanish moss.
No. 22 The Phoenician, A Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale, AZ
After a three-year, $20 million makeover, the 647-room complex’s aesthetic now fuses France of the late 1930s with a dash of southwestern flair. Grandmotherly furnishings have been banished from the main lobby; the rooms and suites have been “un-done” in muted earth tones; and guests staying in the secluded, 60-room Canyon Suites have access to an S550 Mercedes-Benz and driver. With the hotel’s two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, it’s easy to forget that you’re sharing three golf courses, nine pools, 12 tennis courts, and six restaurants with 1,800 other guests.
No. 23 Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, FL
No longer can you simply say you’re headed to the Ritz in Naples. Now you have to specify which one: the original hotel on the Gulf or the new Golf Resort three miles inland, where the piney heart of central Florida begins. The other Ritz has the spa and the beach, while the inland resort is sportier and more informal; it has an exceptional golf program, thanks to the two Greg Norman–designed courses and stellar golf academy. For views of the greens, book a corner deluxe room.
No. 24 Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater, FL
For the most sophisticated digs in this part of the Gulf Coast, head to this resort with 253 citrus-hued rooms and apartment-like suites, perfect for families traveling together. For stunning gulf views, book one of the top-floor Sandpearl Suites. If swimming in salt water doesn’t appeal to you, head to the gulf-front lagoon-style pool and its private poolside cabanas.
No. 25 Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Big Island, HI
Spa treatments using ancient Hawaiian techniques and golf at two championship ocean-side courses are the top draws at this eco-friendly hotel. The property is constructed like a lanai—it’s hard to tell where the interior ends and the rest of the world begins. Palms and vines climb up the six-story, open-air central atrium; carp ponds are refreshed by waterfall fountains. Be sure to book an upper-floor suite for views of the ocean.
No. 26 L’Auberge Del Mar, Del Mar, CA
The sunny seaside town of Del Mar, between L.A. and San Diego, offers an increasingly hard-to-find slice of old-school SoCal relaxation. The classic 120-room property is decorated with dashes of elegant Hollywood Regency style with nautical touches like seashell-covered consoles, matted vintage prints of sea grass, and stands of giant clamshells and white coral. Savvy weekenders sip hibiscus margaritas poolside. The rooms with coastal views are often the loudest, since they also overlook the pool and bar; the underrated village-view rooms, which feature vaulted ceilings and fireplaces, are quieter.
No. 27 Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, North San Diego, CA
Formerly the Four Seasons Resort, Aviara, this open-air Spanish-colonial getaway is the ideal crash pad after a busy day at nearby Legoland or at the resort’s Arnold Palmer–designed golf course. Deluxe rooms on upper floors have balconies facing the eucalyptus-filled hills or the Batiquitos Lagoon. Take a surfing lesson from the Surf Concierge; or, if you prefer to lounge, the beach butler can arrange a chair and umbrella.
No. 28 The Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, FL
A flurry of development has made Fort Lauderdale the state’s newest destination. The Mediterranean-style Atlantic Hotel, just three miles from downtown Fort Lauderdale, was one of the first condominium-hotel projects to pop up on the beachfront stretch of A1A in the last few years. Each of the 124 guest rooms comes with private terraces with ocean or intracoastal views, as well as kitchenettes and BOSE sound systems. It’ll be tempting to stay inside all day.
No. 29 Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, CA
Located an hour south of San Francisco, this resort on California’s coast boasts a 16,000-square-foot spa, two golf courses, and 261 rooms on an oceanside bluff. The cozy Terrace Fire Pit rooms feature an outdoor patio, fire pit, and views of the Pacific. For a leisurely weekend afternoon, sign up for the Vintner Series, taught by California wineries, in the ENO Tasting Room.
No. 30 Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando, FL
Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the wicked stepsisters would feel right at home at this sprawling neo-Victorian manse, with gas lamps and wicker chairs. There are, of course, thoroughly modern elements: suites big enough for eight, a walk-in pool with a waterfall, and after-dark kids’ activities. Don’t miss dining at Citricos or Victoria & Albert’s (one of Florida’s best restaurants), and take advantage of the hotel’s proximity to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
No. 31 Hotel Hana-Maui & Honua Spa, Maui, HI
From its beginnings as a six-room inn opened in 1946, this secluded property has been completely transformed into a luxe resort, with 69 rooms in expansive plantation-style bungalows perched on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s a special place that emphasizes the culture and tradition of Hawaii, from the indigenous patterns used in textiles to ukulele and hula lessons. Take advantage of views of tranquil Hana Bay from the Honua Spa’s aquatic therapy pool and lava-rock whirlpool.
No. 32 Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, Santa Barbara, CA
Located on Butterfly Beach, this 207-room property is decorated with the area’s signature 1920s-style tiles and gardens. For easy access to the courtyard pool, book a room in the 300s. Head to the golden half-mile sliver at Butterfly Beach for head-on views of Santa Cruz Island and almost-as-reliable sightings of local celebs like Kevin Costner, or spend a day at the adjacent Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, available to paying members and resort guests only.
No. 33 WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Situated on an expanse of powdery, white-sand beaches and secluded pine forests, the David Rockwell–designed resort contains 60 cheerful beachfront rooms with walk-in showers and balconies. Located near rare, coastal dune lakes, the resort offers a host of outdoor and recreational activities, including kayaking, hiking, tennis, fishing, and golf. Cruise the 18.5-mile scenic path along the Gulf of Mexico on bike, or just coast around the resort’s own 499 acres.