Lie back. Close your eyes. What do you see when you dream of your ultimate holiday? Chances are it involves endless horizons of azure water, vast panoramas of powdery white sand, and the feel of a tropical breeze against your bare skin. Cocktails at sunset set the scene. Candle-lit lanterns never go astray. Throw in lots of time and you’re beginning to imagine the exclusive realm of beach resorts. To help make the dream become a reality, Luxury Travel magazine presents its top 100 places to stay.
As in any good intimate relationship, these retreats are discreet. Small in scale, they take the time to know your special needs and desires, and do their utmost to fulfill them. They also try to pre-empt them, stoking the fires of your imagination with their own lush offerings. The role of these retreats often extends to never-have-to-leave-your-room comfort. Their calling card is peace and quiet. Nevertheless, knowing the fickle nature of guests, beyond seclusion usually lies an element of escape and adventure.
Rae’s on Wategos, Byron Bay
With seven-only individually styled Moroccan-meets-Med suites, opt for Penthouse 1 with its three terraces, elegant marble floors and sunken bath.
Bedarra Island, North Queensland
Removed from the rest of the resort, which caters to only 18 guests, try one of two pavilions where you can soak up the views from a private plunge pool.
Cotton House Resort, Mustique Island, Caribbean
For best intimate, choose between sea front rooms with a private plunge pool, or the two-bedroom Cotton Hill Residence with its own butler.
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Capella Lodge, Lord Howe, NSW, Australia,
Private island resorts are the ultimate antidote to speedy, sardine-packed, urban lifestyles. They allow us to soak in Thoreau-like solitude, without skimping on style. Masters at getting priorities in balance, being able to frolic undisturbed on a beach is just as important as, say, a private massage in your room – preferably with swizzle stick cocktail close by. The word ‘private’ is highlighted at every turn. There is no need to mix it with locals or get down with fellow tourists. Numbers are kept to a minimum, so encounters along sandy trails are few. What private islands promote is something we’ve often forgotten – how to simply be.
Royal Davui, Fiji
The two pavilion (living + sleeping) suites are embraced by 32km of unbroken reef and a marine sanctuary.
Fregate Island Private, Seychelles
One of the world’s most exclusive resorts – think Bill and Melanie Gates and Brad and Jen. With seven pristine beaches to choose from, hang up the ‘Beach Occupied’ sign and it’s yours.
Voavah by Four Seasons, Baa Atoll, Maldives
This ultra-luxurious seven-bedroom island paradise is available for exclusive use only.
The squeaky white sands of 90ha Pamalican Island, part of the Cuyo Archipelego, are home to the 57-room Aman Resort, Amanpulo. The clear waters and unspoiled reef make it an ideal location for water activities including diving, sailing and windsurfing. You’ll spot it all from the sky first, arriving by private plane to the island’s own landing strip. There are Treetop and Hillside Casitas, and 29 Beachfront Casitas with direct beach access. The spa is perched on the top of the hill with views over the Sula Sea.
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos, Caribbean
Grab a group of friends and head to Parrot Cay Estate – five luxury three-bedroom bungalows with pools, 10 metres from the beach.
North Island, Seychelles
All Villas are 450 square metres and come with a plunge pool. Villa 11 is secretly tucked away with views of the beach from every angle.
Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
Arguably the most famous private island in the world, Necker is Sir Richard Branson’s personal playground. The island can be booked year-round for exclusive use.
Living on the edge has never been so luxe at these high-altitude resorts. They exude a feeling of being on-top-of-it-all, which has its own subtle way of unwiring even the most built-up stress. Down below the waves might be crashing, but up here you can quietly observe all from the comfort of your chaise lounge. Rather than overwhelming they can become overly enticing, setting up the mood for all manner of engagement. While not exactly encouraging you to take the plunge – although many clifftop suites come with private pools – these resorts do inspire you to take new leaps; even if that means learning how to stay still long enough to enjoy the endless blue horizon. If there is an end point, all they really want is for you to feel on top of the world.
Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Yes, there are the villas clinging to the cliffs with pools that drip over the edge, but if you can drag yourself away from your room, do try the cliffside dining that edges out over the rocks.
Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena, Ibiza, Spain
A must-try is a float through the bubbling pools that cascade down the Cliffside in the hotel spa.
Le Sireneuse, Positano, Italy
An 18th-century villa with stunning views over Positano’s blue water; many balconies have private Jacuzzis.
There’s something that seems immediately oh-so-naughty about having your own private pool. Utterly indulgent, these pools tend to hang off the edge of bedrooms, are often surrounded by vast dine-and-lounge decks or have add-on Jacuzzis. Whatever, they are almost pointedly designed to be synonymous with private play. Unlike resort pools, only those you choose to let in can enter. Forgo cossies altogether or float alone; personal pools are your very own round-the-clock pleasure zone.
Six Senses Samui, Thailand
For ultimate privacy head for The Retreat, a two-bedroom villa with a 40 square-metre infinity pool that overlooks the Gulf of Thailand.
Naka, Phuket, Thailand
Select from one, two and three-bedroom contemporary pool villas, each with their own infinity pool.
Four Seasons Resorts and Residences Anguilla, Caribbean
Each of the four and five bedroom waterfront villas feature outdoor dining areas and infinity pool.
Banyan Tree Bintan, Indonesia
The Spa Pool Villa includes a couples massage area.
Bulgari Resort, Bali
The 1,300 square-metre Bulgari Villa and its 20-metre private pool is a must for fashionistas.
At first glance, it seems quite a strange thing that beachside resorts would bother with designer pools – all that blue-on-blue. However, it only takes dipping a pinky in, to begin to understand. We aren’t thinking about a nice neat square patch of blue, we are talking hectares of blue that wends its way around the outline of luxury suites and villas. Terracing, fountains, tunnels, and all manner of foliage and landscaping aren’t out of the question. In fact, they are merely the beginnings of serious pool culture. There are swim-out suites and swim-up bars. All of which means, to enjoy the big blue you need not worry about tidal rips, sea stings, or sand in your cossie again.
One&Only Hayman Island, Queensland
Swim out through its maze to the arc that edges over into the endless blue ocean horizon.
The Chedi Muscat, Oman
One of three pools, the Long Pool at the Chedi Muscat is the longest pool in the Middle East at more than 100 metres.
Halekulani On The Beach at Waikiki, Hawaii
Do you stare beneath at the Cattleya orchid, made of 1.2 million mosaic tiles, that surfaces the pool, or out to the views across Diamond Head?
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Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau Island, Fiji
From the time when Captain Cook’s crew clapped eyes on thatched rooftops, Pacific island lifestyle has had a certain allure. Two centuries later Marlon Brando’s enthrall simply broadened its appeal. Today, flash grass has upped itself from hut to villa status, and has become synonymous with private escape. Bure style living incorporates a lot of languid lolling in liquid warm temperatures beneath sky-high woven ceilings. Swimmers and sarong are about all that is required. Time doesn’t slow, you do.
Kokomo Island, Fiji
Fiji’s newest luxury resort boasts some of the most beautiful bures in the region.
The Wayaka Club, Fiji
The Governor’s bure blends antiques and indigenous yaka timber flooring beside the beach. Michelle Pfieffer loves it here, so does Nicole Kidman.
Yasawa Island Resort, Fiji
With 18-only thatched bures, head to Lomelagi for total seclusion.
Hilton Conrad Bora Bora Nui, French Polynesia
The two-story Presidential Overwater Villa features a private outdoor living area, private pool, whirlpool, sauna and massage room.
Spas have come a mighty long way since being something that was stuck in the corner of bathrooms. Now, they have spread themselves out and shimmied themselves up into luxe, designer temples, devoted to the worship of you. Caringly, they run the gamut of wellbeing – from relax and unwind through to stimulate and invigorate. Anything from body wraps and massage to sauna and ice room can be on the menu. And a very individual menu it is, with each resort offering its own individual twist on treatments for ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ to shuck off the old and bring on a new you. Go private or indulge as a couple, the experience is totally yours.
Huvafen Fushi, Maldives
At the world’s first underwater spa, the gentle flap of a Manta Ray passing by the windows is all part of the massage.
Tanjong Jara Resort, Malaysia
Try one of the award-winning traditional Malay treatments in a pavilion set amongst gardens and pools.
Rasa Sentosa Resort, Singapore
Lie down inside a private pavilion perched on the edge of a fishpond and waterfall, and give yourself over to the two-hour Caviar Cell Vitale Facial.
The Westin Resort & Spa, Fiji
The Heavenly Spa by Westin is nestled amidst 1,350 square metres of lush garden, with private pavilions separated by lily ponds.
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Angsana Resort & Spa, Palm Cove, QLD, Australia
Untie the shoelaces, leave the stilettos at home, at these beach resorts going barefoot is all part of the grounding experience. Here, the freedom of sand between toes is considered as essential to sloughing off big city stress as a paraffin pedicure in the spa. Barefoot doesn’t equate to munching on mung beans and campfire singing. Instead, the food is gourmet, while activities range from the extravagant to do-nothing simplicity – all accompanied by five-star, 24-hour service. While that won’t make you feel at home (unless you’re royally rich), it will give you a glimpse of paradise that allows you to get back on your feet.
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
So committed to the barefoot life they have a no news, no shoes policy.
Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
With 24 white powdery beaches to explore, you’ll spend most of your time shoeless.
Vomo Island, Fiji
The beachfront villas are just a few sandy steps from your own secluded beach at Vomo Island Resort.
Turtle Island, Fiji
Okay, you might need shoes for horseriding. For lomi-lomi massages you don’t.
Architecture in the Orient has always channelled mystery and glamour. A long history of intense cultural traditions has lent them an array of unexpected shapes. Nature has supplied a rich palette of striking materials. Time still seems to afford a level of handcrafted detail that has gone missing in the west. Here, in the east, the specific demands of the elements have been accounted for. They work with nature, instead of against it, responding overwhelmingly with awe-inspiring, pavilion style architecture that keeps its cool. They also know how to keep calm, littering their landscape, and often their interiors, with exquisite water features that entrance the eye and soothe time-driven souls. We only have to look at our own homes to see just how influential this open-plan style has been. Nevertheless, Asia’s beach resorts are also masters of the element of surprise.
Rayavadee Resort, Krabi, Thailand
Traditional southern Thai bell-shape roofed pavilions with lots of warm wood and mood lighting to set the scene. Make the most of it with butler service and Jacuzzi at Phranang Villa on the beach.
The Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia
A daybed overhanging a private pool is the Datai’s modern take on Asian style that mixes in lots of teak and slate roofing.
Four Seasons Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia
The soaring wooden rooflines and open pavilion style might be indigenous Malaysian, but there’s some sleek pale Scandinavian-style furniture that’s snuck its way in between. It’s a happy modern marriage of traditions.
Amanpuri, Phuket, Thailand
No resort company has done more than Aman in transporting pared-back traditional Asian style into the 21st Century. Amanpuri is where it all began.
Kayumanis, Nusa Dua, Bali
Okay, it is a step or two from the beach, but its stunning modern Asian architecture makes this resort worth a mention.
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Phuket Pavilions, Thailand
Chedi, Phuket, Thailand
Who can say what gets one in the mood? It’s a very individual thing. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that a secluded beach is always romantic. A tropical breeze on bare skin, candle lit meals on the beach and 24-hour room service make a luxury beach resort the perfect couple’s retreat.
Four Seasons Bora Bora, French Polynesia
There’s nothing quite like an overwater bungalow.
Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Mexico
Whitewashed private residences with personal staff set the mood, but it’s the sunset cocktail around the lantern-lit infinity pool curving out over the ocean that seals the deal.
Evason Hideaway & Six Sense Spa at Ana Mandara, Vietnam
The Presidential Villa offers in-villa spa treatments, wine cellar, plunge pool and on-call butler.
Amanyara, Turks & Caicos
Wild beaches and spectacular coral walls for keen divers; seclusion for lovers.
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Trisara, Phuket, Thailand
One&Only Reethi Rai, Maldives
A hammock is the ultimate symbol of relaxed beachside indulgence. Simply find two trees and string it up. Better still go where someone has done it for you already – in a perfect location.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Florida Keys, USA
Most of the resort’s bungalow suites are equipped with a hammock, a Florida Keys essential.
Sarojin, Khao lak Thailand
This romantic and stylish resort has hammocks strung in the gorgeous gardens.
Vatulele Island Resort, Fiji
A honeymoon hammock just for two awaits you on Vatulele, at least if you don’t mind snuggling up. Choose a hammock where you can hang around and enjoy the beach views.
They are the royalty of the resort world. With a rather large splash of old Hollywood glamour thrown in. Elegant and imposing they are as legendary for their looks and service as they are for the people who slept here. Their guest books read like a who’s, who list of the last century – Grace Kelly, Bogart & Bacall, Taylor & Burton all appear. Rather than hiding themselves away in nature, these resorts tend to be positioned in the centre of some of the world’s sexiest play zones. They know what makes a grand entrance. Fortunately, they also understand, impeccably, what makes a pleasurable stay.
Galle Face Hotel, Sri Lanka
Colombo’s legendary heritage hotel has been offering sophisticated beachside service since 1864.
Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro
Old-style glamour places you at the centre of one of the world’s sexiest cities.
Hotel du Cap – Eden Roc, Cap D’Antibes, France
The 1870 Hotel Du Cap stands grand on high while the 1914 Eden Roc spreads out over the water.
Hotel Splendido, Portofino
A former monastery that became Bogart and Bacall’s private fling.
Sandy Lane, Barbados
Make an entrance on the amphitheatrical swoop of cream coral stairs. Loved by the Euro-elite.
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The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida
Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, Italy
These are the sorts of places that are packed with Darwinian-style inspiration. Here, it is easy to get up close and personal with nature in all its many wondrous forms. These resorts tread lightly on the ground, without forgetting that a little luxury doesn’t go astray. They intuitively understand that guests want wilderness but also to feel comforted. Sharks are majestic to watch, but champagne is nice to come home to. Here, you can edge towards adventure, but safely do it in style.
Set on the nature reserve island of Moyo, these enormous luxury tents have hardwood floors and cream lounges. You can commune with komodo dragons by day, and drink champagne by night.
Seven Spirit Bay Wilderness Lodge, Northern Territory
Set in the permit only area of Arnhem Land in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park on Cobourg Peninsula, you can watch all manner of wildlife – from buffalo to Timor ponies – during a Champagne Sunset Wildlife Safari.
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Wickanninish Inn, Torfino, Canada
These resorts offer the best of both worlds: you can unwind without the worry of wondering what the little dears are up to. Decide to bring them along and they can be swept away from dawn till dusk, and well beyond, if champagne on the beach at midnight is your thing. Commando trained for ongoing, attention-diverting amusement, beach resort kid’s clubs excel in water, sand and sun.
Alymra, Pafos, Cyprus
The Smiling Dolphin Children’s Club keeps four to 12-year-olds busy, the Baby Go Lightly program allows you specify baby needs before you go – bliss.
Carlisle Bay, Antigua
The new Cool Kids Club has four mini tennis courts for day play. The kids movies at night are cool.
Caneel Bay, Virgin Islands
The kids-designated Turtle Town and dining keeps things quiet.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai
Sinbad’s Kids Club operating from 9am to 9pm, plus 24-hour babysitting mean endless possibilities for you.
Cable Beach Club, Broome, WA
With two playgrounds, a lagoon-style family pool and mini golf, the kids activities are endless.
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Sheraton Denarau Villas
Peppers Salt Resort & Spa
Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa
Unlike other contemporary beach resorts, which try to blend back into their environment, they seek to stand out. Self-confident and knowledgeable about the ways of their world, they take all that’s evocative of their typically exotic pasts then cleverly reinterpret it for today with stunning effect. Rooms – and there are always many – are lavishly oversized. Golf courses, and there are often two, are most likely to be championship designed. Stylish, urbane and mature, they are not here to be ignored.
Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius
Flash thatch meets marble and intricate waterways in this most royal of retreats.
One&Only Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
Set to reopen in late 2017, the completely renovated Le Saint Géran will feature brand new permanent residences.
Cap Juluca, Anguilla, Caribbean
Moorish whitewash mansions line the sand and ocean.
Conrad Bali Resort and Spa, Bali
On the coast of Nusa Dua this resort offers sandy beaches, a soothing spa and bags of style.
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Sheraton Mirage Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
La Samanna, St Martin, West Indies
Shutters on the Beach, California
Much like a private boat, over-water bungalows give you the isolated beauty of being encircled by blue. Unlike boats, these bungalows don’t rock. You still sleep to the gentle lapping of water, but you don’t wake feeling seasick. Instead, you can get up and pad around spaces that often incorporte sky-high ceilings, multi-level storeys, a mix of living spaces, and in some, even their own pools. Your time is your own, and there’s no need to request setting anchor. The mainland is only a short walk or row away if you feel like extra company, eating in a restaurant, or visiting a spa. Did anyone mention shopping?
Soneva Gili, Maldives
Seven Soneva Gili ‘Crusoe Residences’ stand on stilts in the Indian Ocean reached by boat with personal butlers. There’s over-water bliss in the others.
Pangkor Laut Resort, Thailand
The teak and white linen Spa Villas have views over the Pangkor Straits and direct access back to the Spa Village.
Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa, Tahiti
Watch sea-life below through a glass-topped coffee table in your living room.
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, Cook Islands
One of the world’s smallest resorts on a remote island getting world-wide acclaim.
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Maldives
Blue lagoon as far as the eye can see and palm-thatched villas with stilts paddling in the water.
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Coral Palms, New Caledonia
These beach resorts ooze Lawrence of Arabia style romance and adventure. Here desert mountains meet the ocean sand. Their architecture takes a scene out of One Thousand and One Nights – all large-scale domes, arches, and swaying palms; then mixes in a modern take on luxe. They have courtyards with secret corners. You may have given up thinking about genies in a bottle years ago, but these resorts relive the magic.
Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Look out for the exclusive ‘seven-star’ addition to this Shangri-la complex, Al Husn, due to open this month.
The Residence, Tunis
Must-try: dining beneath a Bedouin tent surrounded by veiled horsemen and the hypnotic hips of dancers.
The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh, Red Sea, Egypt
Slip into the Arabesque spa and pool overlooking the sea.
Residence & Spa at One & Only Royal Mirage, Dubai
A traditional hammam with soaring arches, mosaic and marble meets Givenchy product.
The Chedi, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Whitewashed walls and Arab arches never looked so designer sleek and sexy.
We do love to know. And we do like to be first to know. Especially when it comes to experiencing the newest hot property. Luxury Travel magazine understands this well. These recently opened resorts are worth a stay. Before you take off, discover their new and special ways of launching into the luxe resort life.
Kokomo Island, Fiji
Kokomo is Fiji’s latest five-star luxury private island resort. It’s a game-changer for the largely overlooked Kadavu Island Group that, until now, had primarily been a magnet for scuba divers. Accommodation includes 21 Beachfront Villas with private pools and walled gardens; five Hilltop Luxury Residences and the Owners’ Beachfront Residence. Surrounding the island is the Great Astrolabe Reef, which is the fourth largest reef in the world, offering guests water activities like diving, snorkelling, fishing or kayaking.
Hurawalhi Island Resort, Maldives
The luxury adults-only resort in the Lhaviyani Atoll, which opened in December, is a mix of beachside and overwater villas that fan around the palm-fringed island and down a wooden jetty. Inside the villa, sliding doors open directly onto our sun-soaked terrace. Even the shower door slides open onto the private deck so you can marvel at white sands and cobalt ocean ahead.
A 17-hectare island off the east coast of Bintan, Cempedak is Indonesia’s newest adults-only private escape. Developed by the small hospitality group behind the nearby Nikoi Island, the sustainable resort has been designed to preserve the natural wildlife. The 20 cocooned villas were built using bamboo and local alang alang grass and their curved shape prommotes natural ventilation. Each two-storey villa has a private plunge pool (though note there are no television). Guests can instead spend time playing tennis, croquet, boule or participating in the many water sports on offer.
Bawah Private Island
The summer of 2017 will bring the opening of luxury destination Bawah Private Island, two hours from Singapore. The island is accessible via ferry from Singapore to Batam, then a private plane ride to Bawah. The 300-acre island encompasses 13 beaches and will offer 35 villas, allowing a maximum of 70 guests total. Guests will be able to choose from Beach, Water or Garden villas, each type overlooking a different landscape. A treetop Club House will be available to guests and include a yoga pavilion, infinity pool and spa offering local treatments. Adventure activities include snorkelling in the surrounding waters and hiking through the lush rainforest.
Soneva Jani Maldives
Possibly one of the most instagrammed new resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Jani offers waterslides that lead straight from the over water bures into the crystal clear lagoon below. The resort also has the Maldives’ first overwater observatory, an overwater cinema and a resident astronomer.