The World’s Best 2017: Most Romantic Hotels
Before she had even left, Tiffany Dowd was planning her next couples escape to the Brando, an exclusive resort on its own private atoll in the South Pacific.
“I kept asking my husband over and over when we could come back,” the global luxury hotel expert told Travel + Leisure. During their stay in a beachfront villa, with its private infinity pool and outdoor soaking tub, Dowd and her husband snorkeled, enjoyed spa treatments, and took part in Polynesian cultural activities (she learned to palm weave; he learned to play the ukulele).
“It’s one of the few places in the world I have truly felt away from it all,” she remembered. “You feel like you are in a postcard-perfect setting and it’s just the two of you.”
It’s not just the two of you, of course. The Brando has 35 villas catered to by a staff of 200. But good design — and that whole private island aspect — make everything and everyone else drift away. “The Brando feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you must experience again and again,” Dowd added.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more.
T+L readers echoed Dowd’s affection for the Brando, giving it a perfect score for romance in this year’s World’s Best Awards survey. (A staggering nine other hotels this year received flawless marks on the survey as well, ranked below by number of votes).
Regardless of where they are in the world, this year’s crop of romantic hotels all share a commitment to discreet, personalized service, and the opportunity for couples to enjoy intimate moments alone in a gorgeous setting — be it a Tahitian atoll, rural Vermont, or Argentina’s picturesque wine country.
15. Cavas Wine Lodge, Argentina
Cavas Wine Lodge offers oenophiles an indulgent escape in the heart of Argentina's Mendoza wine region. Each of its 18 rooms faces west, where Andes mountains loom high. They make the perfect backdrop for couples relaxing on their private decks, complete with outdoor showers and plunge pools. And after a day biking or horseback riding through the vineyards, guests can unwind with massages at the spa, where wine therapy treatments include a crushed Malbec scrub and a Torrontés wrap.
14. Farmhouse Inn, California
In the forests of the Russian River Valley, this luxurious compound of cream-yellow buildings surrounding a nineteenth-century farmhouse epitomizes barnyard chic. Featherbeds, oversized fireplaces, and jet tubs — stocked with handcrafted organic soaps and bath bombs — make each of the 25 spa-like rooms a romantic hideaway. A team of five concierges attends to guests’ every need, providing hyper-personalized service. They can arrange for sommelier-led private wine tours, soothing couple’s sessions at the inn’s farm-to-massage-table spa, and dinner reservations at the region’s top restaurants. For the latter, guests shouldn’t have to travel far: The Farmhouse Inn’s Michelin-starred restaurant is a Sonoma institution.
13. Castello di Casole—A Timbers Resort, Italy
Vineyards of Cabernet, Sangiovese, and Petit Verdot varietals and century-old olive groves make up 100 acres of this Medieval estate turned luxury resort. Most of the remaining 4,100 acres are hilly forests and meadows, criss-crossed by walking paths and home to pheasant and deer. When guests aren’t exploring the vast grounds or sampling the wines, they’re in their villa or at the main palazzo, enjoying a rejuvenating spa treatment followed by a private cooking class using local truffles. Thinking of popping the question here? The property can connect you with one of Florence’s historic jewelers to create a custom engagement ring.
12. Manoir Hovey, Canada
In rural Quebec’s idyllic eastern townships, Manoir Hovey began as a grand summer home for an Atlanta business tycoon in 1900. To this day, the resort evokes that sense of escape. The 30-acre property hugs the shores of Lake Massawippi, with most of the 37 elegant rooms overlooking its calm waters. Couples planning a warm-weather retreat can look forward to days spent canoeing, swimming, and hiking. Or, come wintertime, guests can cozy up next to their ensuite fireplaces for s’mores and housemade hot chocolate.
1. (tie) Nihi Sumba, Indonesia
Thatched villas with canopy beds and plunge pools, more than 400 acres of protected tropical jungle, and 1.5 miles of private, white-sand beachfront: Nihi Sumba is a remote eco-resort where adventure-loving couples can live out their Robinson Crusoe fantasies together. (Surfers the world over come here to test their skills at Occy’s Left, a challenging reef break just offshore.) Lovebirds should reserve the new Rahasia Villa for top privacy. On a hilltop behind the Nihioka Spa at the outer edges of the resort, it’s acres away from the nearest other guests.
1. (tie) Rosewood CordeValle, California
In the foothills of Northern California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Rosewood CordeValle is a favorite weekend getaway for in-the-know Bay Area residents seeking pastoral romance. Rooms, done in hues of cream with wooden and leather accents, feature fireplaces and private patios, most of which overlook the resort’s gently rolling, 18-hole golf course. Guests might want to stop after the sixth hole though, where the entryway to Clos La Chance winery promises private tastings. Couples looking for a more immersive wine experience can book a joint massage at the resort’s Sense spa, where the Vineyard Vitality treatment utilizes grape seeds from the 150-acre vineyard in a nourishing body scrub.
1. (tie) Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Italy
Travelers looking for love under the Tuscan sun head to Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, perched atop one of Val d’Orcia’s cypress-dotted hills. The 5,000-acre estate occupies a former village, complete with a Medieval town center and Etruscan ruins. The resort’s dedication to attentive service begins even before check-in. Case in point: the property recently set up aperitifs and wine tasting in its vineyards for a couple arriving by car from Monte Carlo. Rather than driving straight to reception, the guests were escorted to a panoramic lookout, where they could sip on Brunello di Montalcino and he could pop the question just as the sun set. (She said yes.)
1. (tie) Petit St. Vincent, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Sans Wi-Fi, telephones, and televisions, Petit St. Vincent proves that Caribbean views, beach barbecues, and evenings spent under the stars trump Netflix. The low-tech resort forces guests to live in the moment. And when you’re on a private island surrounded by turquoise waters, sleeping in a stone-and-timber cottage with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to secluded sundecks overlooking the sea, that doesn’t seem difficult.
1. (tie) Amandari, Indonesia
Privacy is king at Amandari, a thatch-roofed resort above the Ayung River gorge. Walls of local paras stone provide total seclusion for the 30 freestanding suites, which open via glass doors on three sides to lush gardens. Tree-shaded paths meander throughout the re-imagined Balinese village, but couples should make a beeline to the blissful spa, located next to a lotus pond. End the day with a private dinner at Amandari’s teak and bamboo bale, adorned with tropical flowers and overlooking the rice paddies below.
1. (tie) Cala de Mar Resort & Spa Ixtapa, Mexico
There are 54 suites at Cala de Mar Resort & Spa Ixtapa but, thanks to the Mexican resort’s ingenious layout, you wouldn’t know it. Each of the rooms, designed to cascade down a seaside cliff, feature outdoor terraces overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with secluded, infinity-edge plunge pools tucked out of view from other guests.
1. (tie) Londolozi, South Africa
T+L readers can’t get enough of Londolozi, a collection of five distinct safari camps lining the Sand River inside South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve. For starters, the wildlife viewing is sublime. Game drives specialize in leopard spotting, though it's not uncommon to see elephants, water buffalos, and white rhinos during an outing. But it’s the attentive service, Michelin-worthy cuisine, and gorgeous accommodations that earned Londolozi its perfect score in the romance category on this year’s survey. Couples should opt for the ultra-exclusive Granite Suites camp, with its private pools and remote location alongside a granite outcropping.
1. (tie) The Brando, Tahiti
Tahitian royalty once considered the verdant Tetiaroa atoll their summer retreat, and in the 1960s Hollywood heartthrob Marlon Brando turned the remote islands into his private escape. These days, Tetiaroa is only slightly less exclusive, thanks to the Brando, which opened in 2014. Couples from across the world venture here for an ultra-romantic stay in one of 35 indoor-outdoor villas, each with a private pool. Champagne picnics for two, torch-lit dinners under the stars, and secluded beach walks are the norm, earning The Brando a perfect score for romance in this year’s survey.
1. (tie) Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, Thailand
Since opening a decade ago on the hilly coast of Thailand’s Laem Yai peninsula, Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui has seen dozens of marriage proposals. “We’ve never had anyone say ‘no’ to the question,” conference services manager Worawan Grongthong told T+L. “There must be something in the air.” T+L readers agree, and laud the resort for its couples-centric activities, including sunset massages, candle-lit seaside dinners, and private excursions on Minor Affair, the property's yacht.
1. (tie) Twin Farms, Vermont
Couples rave about Twin Farms, a 300-acre, adults-only retreat in a woodsy corner of Vermont. Along with countless activities (ranging from canoeing in pristine New England waters to downhill skiing come winter) the resort excels on the culinary front. Watch chef Nathan Rich and team in action from the private chef’s table, or arrange for a decadent picnic for two on the extensive grounds. Room to book? The Aviary Cottage. The two-story glass, stone, and cedar-timber house features a sunken hot tub in front of a roaring fireplace.
1. (tie) The Inn at Willow Grove, Virginia
In its idyllic setting at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Inn at Willow Grove is this year’s winner for romance, receiving the most perfect-score votes of any hotel in the world from T+L readers. After a day sampling the best vintages from central Virginia wine country, couples return to this circa 1778 Federalist manor — complete with a grand, triple-decker front portico — in time for nightly canapés and dinner for two at the inn’s softly-lit gastropub. Afterward, they retreat to cream-colored guestrooms, suites, or private cottages (many of which come with gas fireplaces) and await their house-made beignet delivery.