50 Romantic Escapes
From the serpentine canals of Venice to the untamed savanna of South Africa, we've found dozens of destinations where you can steal some time together.
It could happen on a barefoot beach in the South Pacific. On a cobblestoned street in a crowded city. Over lobster in a turn-of-the-19th-century baronial estate. That's when it hits you: you can't imagine being anywhere else, with anyone else. Here are 50 places that inspire those kinds of moments, with insider tips on how to guarantee them.
ST. BART'S Le Sereno
Ever since Christian Liaigre signed his name to Club Med Bora Bora, about a decade ago, style-obsessed hotel junkies from Hong Kong to Hoboken have dared to hope that the French designer might bring his handsome and spare sensibility to another beach resort. The wait is over. Le Sereno, with 37 rooms that blur the distinction between indoors and out, stands on a small but exquisite stretch of sand on the east end of the Caribbean island where the bling-bling crowd still goes to get a tan.
T+L TIP Book the Villa Vue Mer, over 1,000 square feet of streamlined Liaigre loveliness (teak furniture, wooden tubs) and swoon-worthy ocean views. Grand Cul-de-Sac; 590-590/298-300; www.lesereno.com; doubles from $709.
ITALY Casa Angelina
In the Amalfi Coast's first design hotel, Philippe Starck furniture and colorful Murano-glass sculptures pop against white surfaces but don't distract from vistas of the Gulf of Salerno and Positano. Along with all the expansive views, there are plenty of hidden nooks—the private beach, the junior suite's enviable terrace, and the indoor whirlpool.
T+L TIP For an evening adventure to remember, arrange for a boat trip to the tower of La Capperina, where a couple can dine outside on the roof. 147 Via Gennaro Capriglione, Praiano; 877/783-4600; www.casangelina.com; doubles from $270.
Formerly an Ottoman mansion, A'jia feels more like a Zen retreat, but with all the comforts an ascetic would shun: lofted guest rooms, in-room massages—spare design with every modern amenity. Most indulgent of all is the restaurant, where you can have a lamb fillet smothered in pistachios and mushrooms with a bottle of Chianti on a patio beside the sparkling Bosporus Strait.
T+L TIP Jump aboard A'jia's private wooden launch and be ferried across the strait to the Sakip Sabanci Museum (Picasso is on view through March 26). 27 Çubuklu Caddesi, Kanlica; 90-216/413-9300; www.ajiahotel.com; doubles from $350.
Phi Phi Island is finally emerging from 2004's tsunami and embracing a future of luxury. Fragrant orange jasmines and panoramic views of the Andaman Sea envelop Zeavola resort's sprawling re-creation of a mythically wealthy rural Thai village—complete with crooked paths, a faux folk theater, and 52 bungalows crafted of tropical balau wood, rattan, and thatch.
T+L TIP Take a barefoot stroll through the fishing towns sprinkled along the beach. Phi Phi Don; 66-75/627-000; www.zeavola.com; doubles from $388.
MALAYSIA Bagus Place Retreat
At the southern tip of tropical Tioman Island, where virgin rain forest meets a sliver of soft white sand and soaring, misty peaks, a narrow jetty leads to three chalets and a palm-roofed restaurant. Accessible only by private boat, the tiny Bagus Place Retreat gives guests bedside views of the glittering South China Sea and the chance to beachcomb in splendid isolation.
T+L TIP Take a spot at the bar and watch as stars pepper the sky above and phosphorescence streaks the water below. Mukut; 44-7740/358-020; www.bagusplace.com; doubles from $140, meals included.
The ashram meets the Amanresort at Shreyas, a farmland yoga retreat 22 miles outside Bangalore. Its four cottages and eight tented chalets—with all the typical luxuries (but no television)—are drizzled with jasmine, frangipani, and rose petals. Couples spend most of the day indoors, recharging with rigorous twice-daily Hatha yoga classes and vegetarian dishes prepared with produce from the gardens.
T+L TIP Visit the stilted thatched hut on the edge of the gardens, built for meditation; it resembles the lookout platforms used by colonial tiger-hunters. Nela Mangala; 91-80/2773-7183; www.shreyasretreat.com; doubles from $375, meals included.
VIETNAM Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa at Ana Mandara
After a day of islet-hopping in Ninh Van Bay or shopping in bustling Nha Trang, grab a bottle from your villa's private wine cellar and soak in the wooden bathtub with a view, or plunge into your own free-form rock pool. Or take advantage of the property's perks: stroll past the water lily lake to the beachside spa and get an Adam-and-Eve massage that ends with a whirlpool dip and a glass of bubbly.
T+L TIP Request a candlelit barbecue with a personal chef and waiter and views of the South China Sea. Nha Trang; 84-58/829-829; www.sixsenses.com; villas from $400.
Thalassa's 58 elegant suites—crisp white furniture, Brazilian-marble shelves, African iroko-wood floors—hover above the rhythmic waves of Coral Bay on Cyprus's west coast, but it's the Anagenisis Spa that most soothes the soul. Ask your multilingual butler to book one of its Greco-Roman treatments, such as the yogurt, olive oil, and herb-infused Trahana body wrap.
T+L TIP Follow your wrap with a meal at Psari, Thalassa's seafood grill overlooking Mycenaean ruins dating back to the 13th century B.C. Coral Bay, Paphos; 800/525-4800 or 357-26/881-500; www.thalassa.com.cy; doubles from $205.
SCOTLAND Skibo Castle
Andrew Carnegie's former estate—set on 7,500 rugged highland acres—finally has a spa to match its spectacular setting. Sleek and state-of-the-art, each room is equipped with a marble shower and heated treatment table, where you can start every session with a scalp rub. Spoil yourself with an oil-rich hot-stone massage, then relax fireside or stroll through the grounds where Madonna was married.
T+L TIP At this members-only club, you can stay only once before joining, and rumor has it that this won't last forever. Clashmore; 44-1862/894-600; www.carnegieclubs.com; doubles from $1,258, all-inclusive.
ARGENTINA Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Spa
You don't just get to drink the fine vintages at the Patios de Cafayate in the northern Argentine province of Salta—you get to bathe in them. The ultraslick Winespa at the 30-room Spanish colonial–style property draws on ancient vinotherapy techniques that include soaking in bubbling water treated with Cabernet Sauvignon and moisturizing the skin with a preparation of grape syrup, seeds, and oil.
T+L TIP Take the bacchanalian experience further with the 45-minute Romantic Massage—administered at night, in the vineyards. Cafayate; 800/325-3589; www.luxurycollection.com; doubles from $229.
Call of the Wild
SOUTH AFRICA Samara
In the malaria-free Great Karoo, the Eastern Cape's largest private reserve unfolds as far as the eye can see. Here, reintroduced springbok, eland, oryx, gemsbok, and endangered mountain zebra cavort in four of the country's seven biomes. With days of game drives spent tracking rare cheetah (sightings guaranteed) and evenings in a boma dining on local lamb, venison sushi, and bean salad (presented in a Hemingwayesque tin mug), you'll forget a world beyond the horizon exists.
T+L TIP Splurge on one of the three Karoo Suites, done up in Cape-style architecture (reed ceilings, tin roofs, ebony furniture), for total privacy. Graaf-Reinet; 27-49/891-0880; www.samara.co.za; doubles from $570, all-inclusive.
AUSTRALIA Lifetime Private Retreats
Scattered across 100 untamed acres on South Australia's Kangaroo Island, these three secluded houses take nesting to luxurious new heights. Each has beach access, telescopes to take in the jaw-dropping views, and thoughtful vacation extras like snorkel gear and board games.
T+L TIP If you're given a choice of the three, opt for the Cliff House, with its sensuous curves, glass-walled tower bedroom, and private path down to the ocean. Middle River; 61-8/8354-2368; www.life-time.com.au; doubles from $973, all-inclusive.
NEW ZEALAND Whare Kea Chalet
Get your skis serviced, then hop a helicopter—the only way to access this isolated alpine retreat 5,600 feet up in the Buchanan mountains. The owners don't make it easy for you—the sole bathroom is shared with two staffers—but then, how many other chalets do you know that have bedside glacier views?
T+L TIP For an unparalleled trekking experience, head out from Albert Burn Saddle to Galactic Bypass. Wanaka, South Island; 64-3/443-1400; www.wharekealodge.com; double from $1,284, meals included, guide and helicopter fees extra.
ARIZONA Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
In a break from typical Southwestern architecture, this 77-room hotel takes its design inspiration from 11th-century Andalusia. The Moorish fantasy plays out in the pool area, with its 500-year-old Tunisian wrought-iron gates, and in the guest rooms, where Syrian chests and jewel-toned curtains make for a seductive contrast with the red-rock landscape.
T+L TIP Be sure to request an unobstructed canyon view. Sedona; 866/312-4111; www.sedonarouge.com; doubles from $229.
MONTANA The Resort at Paws Up
In Tent City at Paws Up, a western Montana resort, "roughing it" means camping under the stars in a heated canvas bower with a king-sized featherbed. After your campfire breakfast of huckleberry pancakes, an expert guide will take you fly-fishing on the Blackfoot, then leave the two of you all alone.
T+L TIP The Camping Butler will light a campfire, deliver s'mores, or set up an outdoor movie screen. Greenough; 800/473-0601; www.pawsup.com; doubles from $595, meals included.
At the intimate Ca Maria Adele, in a quiet corner of Italy's most intoxicating city, the only sound breaking the silence is the tolling of bells from the nearby Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. There are just 14 guest quarters; book the Moors' Room with blue silk chenille wall coverings, antique Florentine-Moorish sculptures, and a balcony suspended over the adjacent canal. That way, if you never make it beyond the door, at least you can enjoy the view.
T+L TIP For a memorable tour of the city, take a gondola from the hotel's private moorings to the Grand Canal. 111 Dorsoduro; 39-041/520-3078; www.camariaadele.it; doubles from $318, breakfast included.
This year may be Mozart's 250th birthday, but Vienna's most fashion-forward hotel isn't buying into Amadeus schmaltz. At Le Meridien, all is as mod as the nearby MuseumsQuartier—from the lobby's light projections to chef Michel Rostang's Cuisine Mondiale in the Shambala restaurant.
T+L TIP Snag one of the six top-floor back rooms: their big terraces have heavenly rooftop views. 13–15 Opernring; 800/543-4300; www.vienna.lemeridien.com; doubles from $381.
PALMA DE MAJORCA
Palma's Old Town, a warren of narrow alleyways, ancient mansions, and lively bars (not to mention fantastic shoe shops), has recently been revived, and at its heart lies the Hotel Tres. Behind the 16th-century façade you'll find 41 modern rooms—with cowhide benches and platform beds—and couples lingering over breakfast beneath a shady palm tree in the courtyard.
T+L TIP Book a massage and meal at Purobeach, a stylish seaside hangout 10 minutes by taxi from the city center. 3 Calle Apuntadores; 34-971/717-333; www.hoteltres.com; doubles from $206, breakfast included.
In an ancient city crowded with historic mosques, museums, and Silk Route bazaars, designer Pierre-Yves Rochon pays homage to the Persian empire with locally crafted mother-of-pearl inlay mirrors and hand-painted ajami doors at the Four Seasons Damascus.
T+L TIP Ask the concierge to arrange a day-long excursion to Palmyra, an early Roman oasis on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Shukri al-Quwatli St.; 800/223-6800 ; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $155.
SAVANNAH The Mansion on Forsyth Park
In this Victorian house in Savannah's Historic District, each of the 126 rooms mixes the classical (carved rococo headboards, red velvet curtains) with the sleek (mirrored bedside tables, clear-glass lamps). Request one on the Bohemian Floor facing Drayton Street, with a freestanding claw-foot tub draped in taffeta and views of the 100-year-old oak trees in Forsyth Park.
T+L TIP Don't miss a private lesson at the hotel's state-of-the-art cooking school. 700 Drayton St.; 888/711-5114; www.mansiononforsythpark.com; doubles from $289.
Nothing says hot like Versace, and with the opening of Casa Casuarina, Gianni's former mansion, anyone willing to pay $1,500 a night can sleep, wine, and dine like a fashionista. The original structure, built in 1930 in extravagant rococo designs, now houses a 10-room hotel and club that is a kaleidoscope of colors and tastes, starting with a mosaic-tile pool and ending at the Caviar Creator Lounge, where farmed roe is spooned onto guests' hands for $100 a "lick."
T+L TIP Now that the property is part of Leading Hotels of the World, anyone—not just invitation-only members such as Oliver Stone—can be a guest. 1116 Ocean Dr.; 800/745-8883; www.lhw.com; doubles from $1,500.
This cultural capital is guaranteed to make your heart pound—whether from a hike up one of the staggeringly steep streets (at sunset, head to the top of Twin Peaks for 360-degree views of the surrounding city and bay), or from a meal made with locally purveyed ingredients.
T+L TIP Carved out of the turn-of-the-century Williams Building, the new St. Regis Hotel is perfectly placed for artistic outings: the Museum of the African Diaspora shares the property's ground floor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is next door, and the hotel itself has an art collection that rivals those of nearby galleries. 125 Third St.; 877/787-3447; www.stregis.com; doubles from $539.
Get the best view of the town's cobblestoned streets, tropical gardens, and dazzling plazas from a suite at the 14-room Hacienda San Angel. Colonial art decorates the secret patios and nooks, where you can steal away for a candlelit dinner.
T+L TIP Hit the plaza after hours and get caught up in the carnival spirit of the Vallartenses who stroll the boardwalk. 336 Calle Miramar; 415/738-8220 or 52-322/222-2692; www.haciendasanangel.com; doubles from $250.
RIO DE JANEIRO
Rio's sensual pleasures satisfy all agendas: those seeking natural beauty, Mid-century architecture buffs, and, of course, anyone looking for the Ultimate Good Time. For a retreat from the chaos, book one of the seven bright rooms at La Suite. They're a short walk down a sandy lane in Rio's swanky Joatinga area—a well-kept secret of local surfers.
T+L TIP See the city from every angle by joining the pilgrimage to the top of Corcovado mountain, strolling through the lush Jardim Botânico, and stepping into the party on Ipanema Beach. 501 Rua Jackson Figueiredo; 55-21/2484-1962; www.chicretreats.com; doubles from $330.
In this former imperial capital, traffic still means three bicycles side by side, or a huddle of motorboats plying the languid Perfume River. Hire one of the latter to take you to the secluded tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty kings, then drift back to the 122-room La Résidence Hôtel & Spa. Each lamp, tile mosaic, and settee was meticulously crafted to flatter the original Art Deco design of the hotel's main building.
T+L TIP Through the arc of louvered windows in La Suite du Resident, you can gaze across the infinity pool and river to the 19th-century Citadel. 5 Le Loi St.; 84- 054/837-475; www.la-residence-hue.com; doubles from $130.
On the Sea
Retrace the old East African spice route on board this luxuriously restored 1910 schooner, which navigates the turquoise waters off the coast of Tanzania. A typical five-day cruise for up to six guests takes in Zanzibar's Stone Town and Pemba Island's exquisite Fundu Lagoon, and you might get a chance to race migrating humpback whales.
T+L TIP If you find you just can't bear to disembark, you can extend your trip all the way up to Lamu Island, off Kenya.www.sailafrica.net; 435/649-4655; from $4,500 per night,all-inclusive.
The Maldives' latest slice of seclusion is an exclusive-use resort that comes with an 86-foot-long luxury ship. Guests spend days cruising to nearby islands, swimming in the eye-dazzling blue waters, then sleeping either in the three-suite villa on the island or, better yet, on the four-bedroom boat itself.
T+L TIP Get scuba certified with the resort's PADI-licensed instructor. 960/ 333-6522; www.raniaexperience.com; $8,000 per night for one couple, all-inclusive, plus $500 per night for each additional person.
AUSTRALIA Barrier Reef Seafaris
Now you can explore the world's largest coral reef aboard the most decadent of yachts. The newly minted 130-foot-long boat comes equipped with a hydrotherapy spa, helipad, movie theater, and your own staff—ready to wait on you hand and foot. Chartered tours through the Great Barrier Reef are tailor-made to fit your fancy, whether that means a helicopter flight over ancient rain forests or tracking sea turtles.
T+L TIP Go spearfishing off one of the reef's 900 islands, then have the yacht's chef whip up dinner from your catch. 61-7/3720-8554; www.epicexpeditions.com; from $112,000 per week.
Meals to Remember
Nearly every ingredient on Chef Matt Weedon's sublime menu can be found in the area surrounding this 19th-century castle on Scotland's winding southwestern coast. Roasted Ballantrae lobsters are caught by fishermen from town. Dense cheeses are produced by local artisans, and the game, beef, and lamb are raised at nearby farms. Share the dessert tastings for two in the all-red dining room, then take your digestifs to one of Glenapp's 17 guest rooms.
T+L TIP Request table No. 4 and savor views of the mist-shrouded sea, the Mull of Kintyre, and the isles beyond. Ballantrae; 44-1465/831-212; www.glenappcastle.com; dinner for two $190.
LONDON Dorchester Grill Room
A Scottish baronial fantasy comes to one of London's grandest hotels. Under a giant mural of Highland guardsmen outfitted in Stewart tartans, waiters carve Aberdeen rib roast and Welsh lamb from a tableside trolley. Even Anglophiles will applaud the Gallic twist new chef Olivier Couillaud gives classics such as Yorkshire pudding and Dover sole.
T+L TIP Save room for the ultimate dessert: sticky toffee pudding with pecan praline ice cream. Parklane; 44-20/ 7317-6336; www.thedorchester.com; dinner for two $200.
Michelin three-starred chef Michel Bras continues to bring big-city cooking to his hometown of Laguiole in this high-tech, glass-walled restaurant. From a table overlooking a dramatic bluff, you can watch the sun set over the French countryside while sampling Bras's legendary fried foie gras, fillet of Aubrac beef, and herbed ice cream made with wild local meadowsweet.
T+L TIP After dinner, head upstairs to one of the 15 rooms. 33-5/65-51-18-20; www.michel-bras.com; dinner for two $275.
FRANCE La Ferme du Mont-Mussy
The rustic Ferme du Mont-Mussy, in the foothills of the Jura mountains along the Swiss border, has neither running water nor electricity, but that doesn't stop the chef-owners from tempting visitors with guinea fowl and mushrooms in the fall, strawberries and young asparagus in the spring. Sip a brandy and make sure you have nowhere to go afterward—fast food is definitely not part of the local lexicon.
T+L TIP Take a table under the canopy of trees and catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc across the lake. Then get a little lost on the nearby walking trails. Divonne-les-Bains; 33-4/50-20-24-52; www.montmussy.com; lunch for two $35.
CAYMAN ISLANDS Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Two new restaurants have chef Eric Ripert (of New York's Le Bernardin) at the helm, and no one does fish better. Blue and Periwinkle, situated along the waterways that pulse through the British-colonial resort's 144 acres, marry fresh seafood to Caribbean flavors in a modern, nautical-inspired setting.
T+L TIP Schedule a private sailing and have the captain drop you off on Periwinkle's terrace for grilled shrimp in a papaya-orange vierge sauce. Seven Mile Beach; 800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com; dinner for two $90 (Periwinkle), $170 (Blue).
HONOLULU The Hanohano Room
The 30-story ride in a private glass elevator to the grand Hanohano Room at the Sheraton Waikiki is the perfect occasion to steal a kiss. Once you've arrived, settle into a table with views of Diamond Head and the Waikiki surf breaks to the east and Honolulu's city lights and the Koolau Range to the west. Chef Ron Amasol is winning fans for modernizing the menu with crisp-skinned Hawaiian threadfish in cilantro-ogo sauce and rice cracker–coated jumbo shrimp doused with sesame tartar sauce.
T+L TIP Book a table for six o'clock on the west side of the restaurant for the best sunset views in the winter months. 2255 Kalakaua Ave.; 888/488-3535; www.sheraton.com; dinner for two $125.
ARGENTINA Cavas Wine Lodge
Chef Sebastián Flores runs the tiny candlelit restaurant of this 14-room property, set on 35 acres outside Mendoza, offering plates such as rib-eye steak with a pepper chimichurri sauce. Dine with a view of the mountains to the sound of chirping crickets, then sleep it off in an adobe villa with a private plunge pool.
T+L TIP Order a bottle of Quimera 2002—an acclaimed blend from the nearby Achaval Ferrer estate—from the lodge's well-stocked private cellar. Agrelo; 54-261/410-6651; www.cavaswinelodge.com; dinner for two $50.
Off the Grid
Chosen for the lightness of their footprint on 586 acres of unspoiled wilderness in Chile's remote lake district, Amilik's 10 luxury guest suites (with billowing platform beds) are linked together by elevated paths. Guided treks take you through emerald forest, and holistic treatments emphasize mystical Mapuche Indian therapies.
T+L TIP Dine in the forest under a canopy of stars, or in the floating restaurant, where dishes are prepared with ingredients from the resort's organic farm. Puelo Lake; 877/532-6737; www.amilik.com; doubles from $1,000, all-inclusive.
NAMIBIA Ntwala Island Lodge
It doesn't get much more out there than this: at the junction where four African countries and two major rivers meet, a series of islands are linked by floating walkways. On one of the islets stand the four spacious villas that make up the Ntwala Island Lodge. Each one comes with its own plunge pool and private beach. Can you say bliss?
T+L TIP February through April is the rainy season, the best time of year to soar over Victoria Falls, only a 30-minute charter flight from Ntwala. Kasane; 27-11/706-7207; www.islandsinafrica.com; doubles from $610.
SRI LANKA The River House
Set above the mighty Madhu River, half a mile inland from the Indian Ocean, every suite of the River House is a private compound—each has an oversize courtyard, and some have private pools and outdoor showers. All are precisely decorated with Southeast Asian and Indian antiques sourced by owner and local design guru Nayantara Fonseka.
T+L TIP River House boatmen lead long, lazy tours of the Madhu, where some 100 species of birds as well as yard-long lizards share tiny islands with Buddhist monasteries and cinnamon plantations. Balapitiya; 94-11/472-4363; www.taruvillas.com; doubles from $313.
CHINA Banyan Tree Ringha
More than 10,000 feet above sea level, in the ancient heartland of Tibet's Bon religion, 32 traditional farmhouses have been revamped into decadently rustic suites. Guest quarters are decorated with vivid thangkas and woolen carpets in the rich rust and maroon hues that are a local trademark, and each has an open hearth for cold winter nights as its centerpiece. Private balconies offer breathtaking views of the Ringha River and distant snowcapped peaks.
T+L TIP After a day's trek in the wilderness, rejuvenate with a hot-stone treatment at the spa. Jian Tang Town; 65-6/ 849-5800; www.banyantree.com; doubles from $280.
FIJI Navutu Stars
You arrive by seaplane at this barefoot resort on remote Yaqeta Island, swooping down over shimmering jade-green waters and a palmy white beach. In addition to a beautiful shoreline, great diving, and glamorous thatched bures— some with stunning soaking tubs carved into the smooth white-concrete floor—this South Pacific paradise has an adventurous chef who serves up Asian dishes with Mediterranean flair.
T+L TIP Have a picnic on a nearby deserted island with a box lunch of grilled lobster and chilled white wine. 888/345-4669 or 679-6/640-553; www.navutustarsfiji.com; doubles from $346, including breakfast and massage.
In the Countryside
At Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Daguin's Hegia inn, ancient wooden beams and timbers have been lovingly restored without losing their rough-hewn appearance. The interior, however, has been completely transformed into a minimalist lair. Guests take their aperitifs into the open kitchen to watch Daguin create elaborate dinners based on whatever was fresh at the local markets that day.
T+L TIP Meander a few minutes through the foothills of the Pyrenees to Ursuya, a small mountain that has an ancient path built by the Romans. Hasparren; 33-5/59-29-67-86; www.hegia.com; doubles from $825, meals included.
MOROCCO Dar Zuina
About an hour's drive south of Tangier, a rugged country road through rolling hills leads to this magical compound. Within its pastel mud walls and open-air pavilions, six rustic suites mix Moroccan, Indian, and Middle Eastern fabrics and furnishings, collected over the years by French owner Jean-Yves Ardiller. The activities are few; most guests are content to sit back and take in the bucolic beauty.
T+L TIP Spend a day on nearby M'ghrirt beach, one of the least-known and most magnificent in Morocco. Asilah; 212-61/243-809; doubles from $130, choice of lunch or dinner included.
CAMBODIA Hôtel de la Paix
Traditional Khmer and Art Deco designs come together at this oasis four miles from Angkor, with 107 guest rooms set around a firelit inner courtyard. Rooms come with terrazzo soaking tubs, handcrafted furniture, wall mountings by local artisans—and iPods loaded with Cambodian music and tales.
T+L TIP Book one of the duplex suites, which have rooftop terraces. Siem Reap; 855-63/966-000; www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com; doubles from $360.
Worth the Splurge
MEXICO La Casa Que Canta
At thatched-roof, terra-cotta El Ensueño, the new villa at La Casa Que Canta on Zihuatanejo Bay, your four-bedroom retreat comes with a private cabana club on La Ropa Beach, blossoms that spell out romantic messages on the bed, and the surf serenading through open windows.
T+L TIP At cocktail hour, ask your personal butler to deliver soursop-nectar daiquiris and tapas to the plunge pool on your patio. Camino Escénico, Zihuatanejo; 888/523-5050; www.lacasaquecanta.com; $4,500, double, all-inclusive.
VERONA Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà
Set in the tower of a Baroque villa four miles from Romeo and Juliet's hometown, Mendini's Island Suite is a high-design hideaway for lovers of art, architecture, and romance. Revamped by design guru Alessandro Mendini, the suite has mirrored metal chairs by Philippe Starck, art photographs by Begoña Montalbán, and Mendini's sail-shaped bed.
T+L TIP Take breakfast in the tower's lounge (seats two) overlooking the 1,000-year-old olive trees. 78 Via Cedrare, Corrubbio di Negarine; 39-045/685-5555; www.byblosarthotel.com; suites from $528, double, breakfast included.
SOUTH AFRICA Phinda Getty Lodge
Tara Getty, grandson of John Paul Getty II, built this burnished sandstone–and-thatch lodge on the 44,000-acre Phinda Private Game Reserve for himself and his wife, but when they're "out of town," it's all yours. Comprised of four suites, a living room, a study, and a kitchen, the lodge was conceived as a fantasy of Zulu artifacts, complemented with beanbag seating by Chris Browne, the resident designer of Phinda's ace tour operator, CC Africa.
T+L TIP Visit the dry-sand forest to view suni and red duikers. KwaZulu-Natal; 27-11/809-4300; www.ccafrica.com; $4,420, double, all-inclusive.
MALDIVES Soneva Gili Resort & Spa
A boat is the only way to reach the Private Reserve at Soneva Gili, which stands on pillars beside one of the Maldive archipelago's pristine coral reefs. Six thatched-roof buildings include two master suites, a living pavilion, and a wine cellar. Splash into the turquoise lagoon from a slide on the sundeck or paddle through your own personal water garden while tropical fish glide by.
T+L TIP Try the couples massage in the Reserve's sequestered spa complex. Lankanfushi; 949/640-1198; www.sixsenses.com; $10,000, double.
MONNICKENDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
This fishing enclave was lifted straight from a van Ruisdael landscape; it even has a tiled church spire. It's 20 minutes from Amsterdam; its canals run beside cobblestoned lanes lined with centuries-old smokehouses; and the bell orchestra in the 400-year-old belfry still rings out every Saturday from 11 A.M. until noon, during the morning market.
T+L TIP Check into the Posthoorn, an inn where bespoke English furniture sits beneath 18th-century wooden beams in the five guest rooms, and the restaurant (try the roasted wild duckling with mashed parsley root) is drawing Demeulemeester-clad day-trippers. 43 Noordeinde; 31-29/ 965-4598; www.hotelposthoorn.com; doubles from $123, breakfast included.
Trace the secluded paths of the Route de Vignoble, pausing here to admire the architecture of a church, there at a vineyard for a tasting. Rest your head at La Clé d'Or, an eight-room hotel and restaurant in the heart of the thimble-sized village of Bursinel (population 350).
T+L TIP Visit the neighboring hamlets of Luins, Vinzel, and Bursins and pop into a tiny auberge for a glass of the local Chasselas. 41-21/824-1106; www.cledor.ch; doubles from $115, breakfast included.
With pine-scented air, a shoreline dappled with lemon trees and bougainvillea blooms, and azure waters, the beauty that surrounds the sleepy Basilicata town of Maratea rivals that of the Sorrento Peninsula. There's a small harbor, and built into a slope of 2,000-foot Mount San Biagio is a pristine medieval center: a maze of cobblestoned streets, piazzas, and 44 churches.
T+L TIP Book one of the 29 rooms at La Locanda delle Donne Monache, an 18th-century convent that's been turned into an inn. The sparse rooms (wrought-iron beds, vaulted ceilings) have views of the surrounding peaks and the town's tiled rooftops. 4 Via Carlo Mazzei; 39-973/877-487; www.lalocandadelledonnemonache.it; doubles from $350.
Written by Richard Alleman, Jennifer V. Cole, Kimberly Fay, Anne Glusker, Granville Greene, Jaime Gross, David Kaufman, Pim Kemasingki, Amy Marr, Heidi Sherman Mitchell, Shane Mitchell, Anja Mutic, Clara Ogden, Attila Pelit, Christopher Petkanas, Sarah Maud Powell, Douglas Rogers, Alex Salkever, Kate Sekules, Carol Wallace, Valerie Waterhouse, Freya Williams.
Formerly Soneva Gili by Six Senses
On the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Malé Atoll, the Soneva Gili resort is situated on one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives. Jetties provide access to the 45 thatched-roof villas, all of which are built on stilts over the water. Each villa has an open-air living room, a sundeck cantilevered over the lagoon, and an outdoor shower near a private water garden. By the Sea restaurant provides Peruvian-Japanese fusion fare in a treetop dining room, and dinner is also served in the wine and chocolate cellar. Activities range from spa treatments to picnics and diving classes.
La Locanda delle Donne Monache
This former 18th-century convent—recently made over by the Stein Group—has 29 simple, chic rooms and makes a nice base from which to explore the coast.
La Cléf d'Or
Phinda Getty Lodge
Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà
Amid Valpolicella vineyards outside Romeo and Juliet’s hometown of Verona, this classical Venetian-style villa appears ripe for an old-world romance. If the star-crossed lovers were to step through the arched doorway today, they would be in for a surprise. Proprietor Dino Facchini (who also owns the fashion line Byblos) has updated the estate with a frescoed ballroom tarted up with photographs of red-haired nudes by Vanessa Beecroft. The 60 rooms have whimsical details like harlequin patterns, fridges with painted faces, and asymmetrical mirrors. But the hotel is more than a house of fun. Couples can wind down in the Roman-style pool, detox in the spa, or head to the restaurant for sea bass sweetened with rose petals.
Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Best known for high-style urban hotels, Park Hyatt is now dipping into the resort world with its first property in Cambodia. The brand asked Bangkok-based designer Bill Bensley to repolish one of his original works, the Hôtel de la Paix, adding two rooftop garden suites and contemporary Khmer-inspired art. From the soothing, open-plan guest rooms to the blissfully chill pool with an infinity edge, you’ll feel as if you’re staying in a hushed oasis—though Angkor Wat is just a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride away.
Dar Zuina Hotel
Navutu Stars is an intimate, 20-capacity resort built along three bays on the Yasawa Islands. Beneath thatched roofs made with native nokonoko wood, the nine private bures (bungalows) include whitewashed walls, fresh flower arrangements, and Asian-inspired furnishings, as well as outdoor daybeds. The grand bures set atop the island’s volcanic rock outcroppings also have oversize, in-room soaking tubs. Combining fresh Fijian seafood and Italian recipes that reflect the owners’ heritage, the on-site restaurant serves specialties like steamed lobster claws and homemade fish ravioli in garlic-butter sauce. Popular activities range from snorkeling and hiking to visiting the local villages.
Banyan Tree Ringha
Guest quarters are decorated with vivid thangkas and woolen carpets in the rich rust and maroon hues that are a local trademark, and each has an open hearth for cold winter nights as its centerpiece. Private balconies offer breathtaking views of the Ringha River and distant snowcapped peaks.
The River House, Balapitiya
Ntwala Island Lodge
Cavas Wine Lodge
Cavas Wine Lodge's contemporary casitas are a striking contrast to their surroundings: the property is set in the midst of a working vineyard accessible only by a dirt road. Walls are rounded like mushrooms, and provocative art fills the public spaces. Dine alfresco at the hotel's restaurant, whose menu—which has included 24-hours-cooked lamb and goat-cheese-and-grilled-vegetable ravioli—changes every three months. Pair your meal with one of 250 Argentinean wines from the expansive cellar.
The Hanohano Room
In January 2011, Hanohano was converted into an exclusive lounge for Sheraton Club Level guests.
La Ferme du Mont-Mussy
The Grill at The Dorchester
A local favorite for modern British cuisine, The Grill is set in the historic Dorchester Hotel, a Mayfair landmark established in 1931. Beneath gilded ceilings and shaded chandeliers, patrons settle into high-backed tartan-upholstered chairs while taking in the surrounding murals of Scottish warriors. The stately atmosphere serves as a backdrop for wholesome, seasonal, and often organic fare from head chef Brian Hughson, previously of Michelin-rated Rhodes W1. Grilled Dover sole is the centerpiece of both the lunch and dinner menus, though the Rhug Estate rabbit and Dingly Dell pork saddle (served with Scotch egg) are popular as well.
La Résidence Hue Hôtel & Spa
Formerly the residence of the French colonial governor, this 1930s manse opened its doors as a hotel in 2005 after a painstaking restoration. Its Art Deco feel extends far beyond the striking bowed façade and porthole windows: vermillion club chairs grace the on-site Le Gouverneur bar, while the 122 rooms are appointed with vintage-style light fixtures, ceramic-tiled bathrooms, and photographs of old Hue. Most of the rooms are located in the two modern wings that flank the saltwater pool, but the 10 individually decorated ones in the original building are the real draw. Each room has a private balcony or terrace; ask for a west-facing one to enjoy spectacular sunsets, complete with the Perfume River and the outer gate of the 19th-century citadel as the backdrop.
La Suite, Rio
A seven-room guesthouse clinging to the side of a cliff in Joá, a beachfront suburb just 20 minutes from Ipanema.
Hacienda San Angel
Colonial art decorates the secret patios and nooks of this romantic 19-suite hotel.
St. Regis San Francisco
Generously sized, contemporary rooms have marble accents, chaise lounges, soaking tubs open to the room, and partial views of downtown San Francisco. Located in San Francisco’s cultural hub, next to the Museum of Modern Art and near many other SoMa galleries. The posh lobby bar is a hotspot for the local business crowd, and where live jazz nights occasionally take place.
Mansion on Forsyth Park
Four Seasons Damascus
Le Meridien, Vienna
This art hotel is located between two historic parks on the front end of the Ringstrasse, in the center of Vienna. Le Meridien houses 269 guest rooms and 25 junior and executive suites, all outfitted in contemporary design with Viennese influences. Guest rooms are decorated with soft color palettes, modern stainless steel accessories, and parquet floors. Contemporary furnishings such as bright red and cream leather sofas and cubes mimic art in the hotel's sleek lobby. An on-site fitness center with a personal trainer is available, as well as an art gallery and indoor pool. Guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Le Moet Champagne bar.
Ca Maria Adele
Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
The Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, a collection of 77 rooms, suites, and spa suites, is located in the heart of Sedona, within walking distance of the city’s top stores, restaurants, and nearby trails. Plush rooms are artfully designed with deep red accents, wooden chests from Syria, and ironworks and vases from Tunisia. Luxurious touches also include goose-down feather duvets, rain showerheads, and, in some cases, vaulted ceilings, fireplaces, and balconies. Another property highlight is the 5,000-square-foot spa, with Body Bliss spa amenities and an extensive treatment menu, as well as a fitness center and outdoor swimming pool.
Whare Kea Chalet
The Altitude: 5,700 feet.
The Perch: Tucked into the glacial snow of the South Island’s Southern Alps, the steel-and-glass Whare Kea Chalet at first looks like a forest ranger’s hut as interpreted by architect I. M. Pei. But looks aren’t everything: those are solar cells adorning the A-frame roof; a small wind turbine whirs on-site.
The Journey: You’ll be picked up by helicopter in the nearby town of Queenstown, then lofted on a 20-minute ride over Lake Wanaka and among the craggy Southern Alps to the lodge. If you visit in winter, bring your “fat boys”—heli-skiing is big here, and a great way to carve your own path in the adjacent, powder-heavy Buchanans Range.
The Best View: There are only two rooms in the chalet; both have equally sweeping views. Look for Mount Aspiring, the Lucas Glaciers, and Aoraki/ Mount Cook—the highest peak in New Zealand—from your bed.
Lifetime Private Retreats
Patios de Cafayate Hotel & Winespa
The hotel consists of two stories of dark wood and stucco, built around a courtyard and filled with hundred-year-old furniture.
Evason Hideaway & Six Senses Spa, Hua Hin
Bagus Place Retreat
The Ajia Hotel, a waterfront property in Kanlica, Istanbul, is housed in an 1870s Ottoman mansion. The intimate hotel’s 16 rooms and suites are elegant but minimalist—with platform beds, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and Bosporus views. Some have striking accent pieces, such as mid-century modern chairs and couches, French doors, and expansive balconies. The hotel’s service is fit for a sultan: not only will all guests enjoy a complimentary Turkish breakfast and Acqua di Parma bath products, but room amenities are also tailored to vacation type—romance, leisure, business, and so on. For those interested in exploring Istanbul, the magnificent city is easily accessible thanks to the property’s private water taxi. Also in-house: an award-winning Mediterranean restaurant. Though the hotel does not have a separate spa, in-room massages are available.
In an area known for tradition, this cliffside hotel in Praiano displays a surprising amount of modern design. Each of the 43 cotton-white rooms follows minimalist tastes with straight lines, boxy furniture, and silver anglepoise lamps, while down duvets and sweeping sea views from a private balcony provide the romance. Public areas include enough original art paintings, ceramics, and glasswork to feel like a gallery. On the top floor, Un Piano nel Cielo restaurant offers the hotel’s best sunset watching spot alongside a fish-based menu dependant on the catch of the day.
Villa by Barton G
A testament to opulence and design, The Villa by Barton G. is a creative collaboration between event planner Barton G. Weiss and designer Gianni Versace. The 19,000-square-foot luxury boutique hotel houses 10 suites decorated in a variety of lavish styles, ranging from Egyptian to Baroque. The hotel, housed inside the former Versace mansion, exudes luxury in its public spaces as well, including the courtyard area—complete with an ornate fountain—and the Thousand Mosaic Pool that is lined in 24-karat gold.
Blue, Cayman Islands
Resort at Paws Up
In Tent City at Paws Up, a western Montana resort, "roughing it" means camping under the stars in a heated canvas bower with a king-sized featherbed. After your campfire breakfast of huckleberry pancakes, an expert guide will take you fly-fishing on the Blackfoot, then leave the two of you all alone. The resort is open for the winter season from December 18 through February 15. Starting summer 2010, the resort opened Creekside Camp—six tents with one or two bedrooms overlooking a babbling creek.
Thalassa Boutique Hotel & Spa
The 58 mod-rustic suites - most with butlers and all named after a Greek god or goddess - are perched on a peninsula just above Coral Bay, overlooking 3,400-year-old Mycenaean ruins. In addition to sumptuously appointed quarters (marble bathrooms, iroko parquet floors, whirlpool tubs), the resort has a holistic spa. Ask your multilingual butler to book one of the spa's Greco-Roman treatments, such as the yogurt, olive oil, and herb-infused Trahana body wrap.
La Casa Que Canta
Pure romance of the white-wine-at-sunset and walk-on-the-beach variety is the allure at this 25-suite hideaway above La Ropa Beach. All rooms have a cool Mexican contemporary vibe, ample ocean views, and private terraces (televisions are notably absent); 11 have private plunge pools. Because of the hotel's construction—made up of three terra-cotta-colored villas built into a terraced hillside overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay—there are lots of secluded decks and hidden corners, perfect for canoodling couples or sunbathers. Of the two pools, our favorite is the saltwater expanse: It's adjacent to the beach is filled naturally by the sea. Lounge there in the evening as the sun sets into the Pacific.