Best Resorts in the Continental U.S. 2015
Whether you’re craving California’s sunset-soaked Pacific or a snow-dusted mountain retreat, the continental U.S. has no shortage of elite resorts. The best properties are expansive, design-driven, and contain everything you need to stay entertained during your holiday without stepping foot beyond the grounds: gourmet restaurants serving regional fare, rooms so comfortable you'll feel homesick upon departure, and unique programming to help you connect with the locale.
To help you narrow down your dream destinations, we asked T+L readers to handpick their favorites, based on service, restaurants and food, location, rooms and facilities, and value.
There was a great display of loyalty this year to old favorites such as Little Nell in Aspen and California’s Post Ranch Inn. Both have impressive scores that have sustained their perch on the World’s Best List for ten years in a row.
Of course, new properties are always appearing in our country’s most coveted resort towns and spacious stretches of wilderness. Florida, with two debut properties (the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and the Pier House Resort Spa) swept 5 out of 25 spots this year. Meanwhile, California trumps with six properties.
With 40 rooms or more, all of these fan-favorite properties are capacious, often secluded estates, and are virtually self-sufficient. After all, with amenities like planetariums and zero-entry pools, why would you leave?
From coast to coast, these are the best resorts in the continental U.S.
No. 25 The Pier House Resort & Caribbean Spa Key West
There are two things no stay at The Pier House Resort would be complete without. One: a Sun Undone wrap, to nourish dry skin with organic algae, aloe vera gel, green tea extracts, and a sea mineral-soaked cool compress. Two: a classic cocktail at the famous Chart Room bar, where no sign of neon tropical sludge has ever appeared. Book your stay in the new Harbourfront building, where every room has an ocean view.
No. 24 St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort & Residences Miami, Florida
Service is the real star here, where pool attendants are always on hand with sunscreen, frozen grapes, and fruity mojitos. Meanwhile, celebrity trainers Christopher and Tracie Wright Vlaun can help you get Miami-fit with beachfront yogalates classes. Butlers service every room, and the hotel has a Bentley to take you around town (as long as that’s no more than six miles from the hotel). It’s no surprise to anyone, especially designer Glenn Pushelberg, if you have a hard time leaving the resort. The property drips with chandeliers made from raw Brazilian crystal, floors sparkle with Chinese marble, and bleached African movingui wood make for a pretty picture.
No. 22 Mohonk Mountain House New Paltz, New York
Equal parts romantic and active, with just a touch of Victorian-era leisure, draws day and overnight visitors year-round. The family-owned Mohonk Mountain House resembles a castle, though travelers typically come for recreation rather than royal treatment. Summer means long hikes in the Hudson Valley (scale the 20th-century Sky Top Tower for the iconic five-state view) horseback riding, and canoeing. In winter, guests don skis or skates on the neighboring lake, or in the resort’s private pavilion. Rocking chairs on the East Porch are perfect for sipping hard cider in the afternoons.
No. 22 The Resort at Pelican Hill Newport Beach, California
This clutch of sprawling, Pacific-facing bungalows and villas has helped boost the area from upscale Orange County to prominent, world-class destination. Terra-cotta roofs and ancient olive trees add to the impression that you’re staying at a hillside Mediterranean villa, as do the three restaurants, all of which specialize in Tuscan fare. An around-the-clock staff organizes everything from nutritious, customized meals to personal training sessions. The true focal point of the resort, however, is the Coliseum Pool. The world’s largest circular pool is fringed by cabanas with Bose sound systems and pool attendants, and boldly completes the Italian fantasy.
No. 21 San Ysidro Ranch Santa Barbara, California
Celebrities love this secluded mountainside resort, hidden beneath a series of narrow, oleander- and lavender-lined lanes. Once upon a time, this was a modest citrus ranch, until it was transformed into a resort in 1893. Since then, it has been a favorite hideaway for Hollywood stars and dignitaries, like Bing Crosby and JFK, who honeymooned here. The cottages have a variety of rooms, some cozy, others grand, all scattered among 500 acres of lawns and gardens high above the Pacific. You can even have your name posted outside—or not, if you prefer. Book the Honeysuckle for additional privacy.
No. 20 Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach, Florida
The Gulf Coast’s most sophisticated digs come with a zero-entry, lagoon-style pool, which makes taking a dip not unlike strolling gracefully into the nearby ocean waters. Citrus-colored suites have views of Mandalay Bay, and guests are encouraged to take advantage of the resort’s private boat slips. Just call ahead and have your ride waiting for you in the marina. Vestiges of the property’s past as a small guest cottage remain in the nightly bell-ringing. A different guest is invited each day to ring the dinner bell just as the sun begins to slip beneath the horizon.
No. 19 The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Just 30 minutes outside the No. 1 city in America, Charleston, is the private island-bound Sanctuary Hotel. Every detail here nods to Southern heritage (Tobacco-stained walnut planks, moss-green brocades and the Jasmine Porch restaurant menu, which includes chicken-fried oysters and she-crab bisque). From Kiawah’s 16 corner rooms, you can watch the salt marshes and sand dunes glow pink at sunset.
No. 18 LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort Naples, Florida
LaPlaya has been pampering travelers since back when Naples was still a sleep beach town. From nearly all the rooms, you can reach out and run your fingers through the sand. Otherwise, meander through the pool complex, which makes you long for a daiquiri and a good beach read. This tropical resort is done in fresh greens and warm yellows, with handsome mahogany furniture: like four-poster beds hidden beneat gauzy hangings. Each room has a balcony with a Gulf view that sums up all of Florida in one sunrise. When you’re hungry, order seared sea scallops with scallion-miso butter or a fresh BLT salad on a balmy evening.
No. 17 Post Ranch Inn Big Sur, California
Watch the sun transform the rugged Pacific bluffs into dramatic watercolors during your two hour drive from San Francisco to Post Ranch Inn. Perched 1,000 feet above the crashing waves awaits Post Ranch Inn, a series of foliage-shrouded Tree Houses and ultra-private cottages. Check out the dazzling Santa Lucia Mountains from your room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, private deck, wood-burning fireplace, and indoor spa tubs. What you won’t find? TVs or clocks. Perfect for that digital detox you (and your partner, or your tuned-in fam) really need.
No. 16 The Sagamore Resort, Bolton Landing, New York
While The Sagamore is now a year-round resort, we suggest you make like the Vanderbilts and head to the Adirondacks this summer. Take a trip around Lake George on The Morgan, a replica of a 19th-century boat, or try your hand at wake-boarding and surfing. Thanks to its Bolton Landing location, this 1883 hotel, adorned with elegant white clapboard, has postcard-perfect views—especially from the Veranda Terrace and Pavilion Restaurant (just two of the seven dining areas on-site).
No. 15 Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail, Colorado
Come snow or sun, you’ll want to visit the Bavaria Haus Spa for a Moor mud treatment or a relaxing afternoon in the Turkish steam room. Our favorite room at this German-style resort is the Bald Mountain Suite, thanks to its heated, marble bathroom floors, fireplace, and large windows that afford stellar views of Vail Village and the Gore Range. The European theme continues in the mornings with a Bavarian Benedict (served by special request) and, in the evenings, raclette fondue at the Swiss Chalet restaurant served by the lederhosen-wearing staff.
No. 14 Stein Eriksen Lodge Park City, Utah
A Norwegian-style chalet halfway up a peak at Deer Valley is reason enough to book your ski vacation here. In the winter, you might just catch the Freestyle World Cup on the fresh powdered-slopes, or enjoy dinner in a Viking-inspired yurt with live music and views of Park City in the background. The lodge is equally charming in the summer, when concerts are held at the outdoor amphitheater and the ski lift operates for the sheer pleasure of scenic rides.
No. 13 Meadowood Napa Valley, St. Helena, California
Easy access to Napa’s most vaunted wineries make this a popular destination for oenophiles. Its golf course, tennis courts, and championship croquet teeter on the pressed-pleat edge of country club-stuffy, but the attitude here is unexpectedly laid-back. Likewise, wood-burning fireplaces and exposed beams make rooms feel cozy and rustic despite vaulted ceilings and all-white interiors. Take advantage of the complimentary wine tasting offered each afternoon in the reception area.
No. 12 Sebastian Vail—A Timbers Resort, Vail, Colorado
Redesigned guest rooms, which now boast a frosty palette and snowflake-inspired prints, helped the alpine resort surpass its former, 2013 glory (No. 12 on the Best Resorts in the Continental U.S. list). After a day sashaying down the mountain, warm up in the heated outdoor pool, with hot tubs and a waterfall feature, or the icicle-clad Frost Bar, with its impressive list of hot cocktails.
No. 11 Calistoga Ranch Calistoga, California
Luxe lovers who still want to see nature unspoiled should head to this woodsy, 157-acre Eden. Freestanding cedar-shingle lodges with copper accents, panoramic windows, and striking double-sided, indoor-outdoor fireplaces are hidden in a canyon of ancient oaks and sparkling streams. Evidence of the ranch’s Napa Valley heritage can be found in the Cabernet wine bath at the Bathhouse Spa, morning yoga in the mountainside wine cave, or (more traditionally) an estate winetasting. Slowly sip the Tinto Classico from Oakville.
No. 10 Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, Sea Island, Georgia
Exposed beams, antiques, and marble baths give this country resort the look and feel of a countryside manor plucked straight from Downton Abbey. Guests enjoy the perks of aristocracy, too, like private butlers and access to three legendary golf courses—complete with marsh and St. Simons Sound views. For guests in need of a little extra indulgence, there are six on-site restaurants, like the leather-ceilinged Oak Room where you can enjoy the sweet sounds of a wandering bagpipe player while sipping a glass of fine Scotch.
No. 9 Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito, California
It’s hard to tell that this resort, situated on the spectacular promontories known as the Marin Headlands, was once an army base. Now, the lodge offers adventure-seeking guests strategic access to the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a uniquely-Californian healing arts center. Energy experts can combine reiki, jin-shin, and therapeutic touch to give you mental clarity, or head to the healing gardens to help detox and de-stress. Bay views, leather armchairs, a gas fireplace, and vintage crown molding are the selling points of a Historic Deluxe room.
No. 8 The Cloister, Sea Island, Georgia
A tour of the marshes on the antique yacht Cloister Belle, stand-up paddleboarding, and surfing are just a few of the activities visitors can enjoy while staying at the 1928 Mediterranean-style mansion. Thanks to its location on a 1,000-acre-long private barrier island south of Savannah, the resort is as private as its waters are calm. Both families and solitude-seeking businessmen find equal pleasure here, thanks to a 100-seat movie theater, ice cream parlor, and three swimming pools. For in-room fireplaces, a kitchen, and a balcony, reserve a Beach Club Suite.
No. 7 Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, Teton Village, Wyoming
Low-impact, meet high-end. At Hotel Terra, steep prices buy guests unmatched mountain views and peace of mind, thanks to the LEED-certification and property-wide sustainable practices. Guests are asked to use the provided Sigg-style water bottles throughout their stay to minimize plastic waste, while decorative leather accents are made from reclaimed “scraps.” Nontoxic paint and 100 percent natural and organic bedding doesn’t hurt, either. Of course, eco-friendly and luxurious don’t have to be mutually exclusive. On the recycled-tired rooftop, guests can relax in an infinity pool that appears to stretch straight through Jackson Hole Mountain.
No. 6 The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
Aspen’s only ski in/ski out resort, at the base of staggering Ajax mountain, isn’t just for snow bunnies. A team of “adventures specialists” can arrange activities such as catch-and-cook trout fishing and whitewater rafting. They’ll take care of the little details (warm boots, VIP trails) and escort you back to your room. Book the namesake suite for wall-to-wall windows, curated art, heated marble floors and walls, and stone-clad fireplaces. Two of them.
No. 5 Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Book one of three fairway cottages on this secluded estate—the Cardinal, Woodpecker, and Sparrow lodges—for cathedral ceilings, Tennessee field-stone fireplaces, and private decks looking out across the resort’s 12,000 woodsy acres. The elevation (nearly 3,000-ft) and distance from civilization offers ideal stargazing conditions from the on-site observatory. While biking, horseback riding, or fly fishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, keep an eye out for roaming animals, such as black bears, bobcats, wild turkeys, deer, and bald eagles.
No. 4 Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, Oregon
A rustic experience awaits travelers at this beloved Willamette wine country retreat. From bay windows or personal terraces and balconies, there are views of the 35-acre property’s wineries, gardens, and surrounding countryside. If you can pry yourself away from in-room gas fireplaces and soaking tubs with tangerine bath salts, visit the spa and fitness center, where lodgers have exclusive access to the whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and swimming pool. On summer Sundays, overnight guests can enjoy free yoga in the Meadow Garden. Afterward, have your pick from the 32-page wine book list at the signature restaurant, JORY.
No. 3 Ocean House, Watch Hill, Rhode Island
What does a $146 million facelift get you? When this 1868 Victorian oceanfront hotel was rebuilt, designers shrunk the number of rooms to 49 (not including suites and apartment-style villas), doubled the number of windows, and ultimately gave each guest more space and privacy. Resort privileges include daily activities, like martini-mixing classes or yoga, as well as daily access to one of the property’s Mercedes-Benz convertibles. Consider visiting in the off-season—think moody skies, long walks on the private beach, and leisurely laps in the 25-meter spa pool—for a far more intimate stay.
No. 2 Inn at Palmetto Bluff, A Montage Resort, Bluffton, South Carolina
It’s impossible to feel crowded at this plantation-style estate, cloistered on 20,000 acres of South Carolina’s costal marshland. Inn at Palmetto Bluff encourages guests to indulge in traditional Southern comforts, like a leisurely round of golf on the 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed signature course, or a spa treatment featuring Gullah healing traditions. Pick up the pace on a naturalist-led alligator “hunt,” or paddle a complimentary canoe through the lagoon beneath 17th-century oaks covered in Spanish moss. You might just catch a glimpse of the great blue herons and snowy egrets.
No. 1 Sunset Key Guest Cottages, a Luxury Collection Resort, Key West, Florida
Head to this small, private island in Key West to indulge your inner Castaway fantasies. The series of whitewashed cottages, equipped with fully stocked kitchens and wrap-around verandas, are perfect for either a romantic getaway or a week with the family. If complete isolation sounds unnerving, head to the island’s restaurant, Latitudes, for a complimentary glass of champagne and fish so fresh it was caught off the resort’s own pier. Other services include twin tennis courts and the spa that was added in 2010.