The Lodge at Kukuiula
THE TOWN OF Poipu on Kauai’s south or “sunny” side is a year-round destination. Flour-soft white sand and gentle waves attract not only endangered monk seals but families looking for toddler-safe environs. The area has famously come back strong after Hurricane Iniki’s devastation in 1992 with the Lodge at Kukuiula, a collection of island-style cottages, bungalows and villas as the newest hotel option.
BEDS Ideal for families or multiple couples traveling together, the property offers two-, three- and four-bedroom plantation-style cottages, all with private plunge pools, outdoor garden showers, gourmet kitchens, indoor/ outdoor screened lanais, fire pits and outdoor gas grills. Rates start at $1,000.
EATS While the on-site Plantation House features local farm-to-table cuisine, openair dining and sweeping views, the nearby Shops at Kukuiula boast a bevy of award-winning options to please every palate, from fine-dining Merriman’s to mid-price Tortilla Republic and the casual Bubba Burgers and Uncle’s Shave Ice.
EXERCISE Poipu’s famed expansive white sand beach makes surfing, swimming and snorkeling attractive bets. On site, enjoy one of the seven different pools, or get in a game of volleyball in the large lagoon. Off-site, nearby activities including golf, stand-up paddling and hiking.
DON’T MISS Enjoy sunset with poached Kauai shrimp and fresh ahi poke with house-made curry chips and a mai tai at the Plantation House.
BECOMING KNOWN AS the quiet adults-only escape on Maui, the newly renovated Hotel Wailea is getting lots of positive attention on sites like Trip Advisor. Included in the fluff-up are the “ultra-private” one-bedroom suites designed to evoke the ultimate island-style pied- à-terre. Poolside cabanas entice guests to get to that book they’ve been meaning to read, and an ocean-view treehouse offers couples a private dining experience within the mango canopies. Beach valet services at nearby Wailea Beach include reserved beachfront lounge chairs, umbrellas, bottled water and towels.
BEDS The 72 suites are spread out on 15 acres of “ultra-private” ocean-view property. Each one-bedroom suite has a separate living area, luxury linens, deep soaking tubs, kitchenettes and private lanais. Rates start at $429.
EATS Wailea Resort itself boasts dozens of award-winning dining experiences, but The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea, the on-site option, has a five-star Zagat rating. And when you’re finishing the aforementioned book, The Cabanas, a casual poolside spot, offers light alfresco meals and cocktails prepared with Hotel Wailea’s made-from-scratch sodas and simple syrups.
EXERCISE Go for the complimentary yoga or Hawaiian Outrigger canoe experience, or take advantage of the preferred tee times at the nearby Wailea Gold, Emerald and Blue courses.
DON’T MISS Be that person in the hot car. Use the on-site reproduction 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster convertible for a ride through town or better yet, head to the North Shore for a kiteboarding lesson at the resort’s own kiteboarding school.
Four Seasons Lanai
Manele Bay, Lanai
THE LONG-AWAITED, LUXURIOUSLY reimagined, multimillion-dollar transformation of this 90,000-acre property is just around the corner with an early 2016 opening. While there are a few more t’s to cross and i’s to dot, the lobby-to-roof renovation includes guest rooms, seating areas, spa and golf pro shop. Famously the elite getaway for those with no budget limit and high expectations, the property has its own lounge at the Honolulu Airport to ensure guests have the ultimate experience from the moment they arrive on the islands.
BEDS Aiming for wow factor, guest room interiors boast details such as teak, zebra wood and artisan-produced Nepalese lokta paper. The floors are mahogany with wool handwoven area rugs. High-tech execs will feel comfortable with the fully integrated and intuitive lighting, temperature, service and privacy controls, available via wearable key wristbands just in case they want to turn on the ceiling fan while heading home from the golf course. Rates start at $960.
EATS Four dining options on site include Nobu Lanai, where famously creative Japanese cuisine is infused with local ingredients and served with sweeping panoramic views of the sea. For a casual cocktail with world-class views go poolside at Kailani.
EXERCISE Snorkeling and scuba are popular here; the property fronts the largest marine preserve in the state. For landlubbers, the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course is a must-play.
DON’T MISS The new pool area features an adults-only space with private sanctuaries and a lagoon-style pool ideal for recharging and relaxing.
Marquis Los Cabos
Cabo Real Los Cabos, Mexico
WHILE CABO CERTAINLY has its share of sprawling beachfront resorts with dramatic views, this hotel, after a recent $10 million refresh, trumps the lot with its wow factor — a chic white minimalist lobby sits under a soaring arch that frames an ombre of blue sea and sky. Underneath it, a serene reflective pool flows into a 40-foot cascading waterfall. Arresting to say the least. Not to mention the infinity pools, white sand and a French top toque.
BEDS This romantic all-suite, all-inclusive, adults-only retreat, just 15 minutes from San Jose del Cabo, has 235 ocean-facing guest rooms, some with private plunge pools and all with dreamy views, crisp linens, hydro-massage tubs, luxe L’Occitane bath amenities and outdoor terraces for lounging and whale sightings. Rates start at $650.
EATS Michelin-pedigreed executive chef Thierry Dufour oversees all five restaurants with finesse, but the true expression of his talents appears at Canto del Mar during a four-course, French-inspired feast for the senses. There’s also fresh seafood and romance at Dos Mares, poolside grilled eats at Marlin Grill, Asian fusion at Sakke, and a grand buffet at Vista Ballenas. Thoughtful culinary touches include the Marquis Wake Up, featuring en-suite daily delivery of fresh coffee and pastries, as well as poolside treats like churros and Mexican-style corn on the cob throughout the day. You also won’t want to miss the requisite tequila tastings.
EXERCISE Whether you want to hit the gym to work off those margaritas, lap around the two infinity pools or try salsa dancing lessons, archery, water aerobics or pool volleyball, you’ll find plenty of creative ways to burn calories. Or let the concierge drum up an off-site adventure like scuba diving or camel riding.
DON’T MISS You’re sure to fall under a spell of relaxation at the Spa Marquis with its shimmering sea-view treatment rooms and skin-quenching therapies incorporating Natura Bissé, the luxe line from Barcelona. Try the Diamond Rose Ritual, an aromatic body scrub and massage with diamond dust and damask rose oil for radiant skin.
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
IF YOU PREFER the company of toucans, monkeys, electric blue butterflies and hummingbirds over humans, this Eden is the perfect place to unplug and immerse yourself in nature. Stunning secluded villas dot a jungle ravine in an emerald tropical rain forest with humbling views of mist-shrouded Arenal, an active volcano that heats a network of thermal mineral springs. Thoughtful luxury meets sustainable tourism here with endless eco-adventures right outside your door in the bio-diverse Arenal Volcano National Park.
BEDS These gasp-inducing villas (35 in all) define good taste with four-poster beds, handsome textiles, handwoven rugs, mineral-rich spring-water plunge pools, open-air garden showers, colorful hammocks and decks for drinking in the presence of that beguiling volcano to the sound of bird song. Individual personal hosts for each villa enrich the already attentive service at this adults-only paradise. Rates start at $285.
EATS Grab fresh-pressed juices and fish tacos by the pool at the Terrace, or try the five-course wine pairing dinner at Nostalgia Wine & Tapas Bar. Estonian celebrity chef Jaak Toomsalu has recently revamped Nayara’s menus to feature both international and local favorites, from spicy shrimp ceviche and fish steamed in plantain leaves to freshly grilled lamb with herbs from the garden. After a day of adventure, cool off with a local Segua Red Ale in the company of Carlotta, the resident scarlet macaw.
EXERCISE On property, cozy half-moon mini-cabanas rim the lap pool and the openair yoga pavilion sits in the treetops. The rain-forest trail calls for early morning bird watching walks. Off site, private guides lead the way to zip-line canopy excursions and hanging bridges, mountain biking, rain-forest trekking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and nature safaris. After the high-octane exertion, try a volcanic mud massage at the spa.
DON’T MISS Be sure to enjoy a halcyon float down Rio Frio with a local naturalist for howler monkey, turtle, caiman and exotic bird spotting that ends on a Costa Rican family farm with food and drink and a chance to practice your Spanish. Saludos.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Soufrière, Saint Lucia
ARGUABLY SET IN the most stunning spot in all of the Caribbean, this lavish 100-acre resort is nestled between two towering volcanic pitons (a UNESCO World Heritage site), rimmed by verdant rain forest and a ribbon of powder-soft white sand. Sugar Beach further enchants with architecture evoking its 18th-century colonial sugar producing roots and rain-forest tree-house spa modeled after the huts of ancient Carib Indians.
BEDS After a $100 million tune-up and makeover from Viceroy Resorts, Sugar Beach is a classic beauty, composed of 81 guest rooms and 62 hillside villas. The interior design features clean lines and whites against dark hardwood floors. Private pools, patios, four poster beds and personal butler service up the luxury. Rates start at $520.
EAT Start the morning at the Terrace, overlooking the lily pond and cerulean sea, with blueberry French toast and caramelized bananas, then grab a beachfront seat at the Bayside for conch stew or stone crab and sweet potato cakes for lunch. Savor inventive Caribbean cuisine like lobster carpaccio with osetra caviar in the candlelit Great Room at night. Traditional afternoon tea in the Palm Court Lounge winks to the resort’s colonial sugar-producing heritage, as do the tastings of refined rums in The Cane Bar with the resident “rummelier.”
EXERCISE Try the latest cutting-edge water sport — cycling across the sea. Sugar Beach is the first resort to have the revolutionary Schiller Bikes, a carbon-fiber hybrid of a catamaran and bike. Guests can pedal across the natural marine reserve out front and espy the colorful coral and underwater denizens below, while metabolizing those dark rum hurricanes from the previous night.
DON’T MISS At the Rainforest Spa, tucked into the lower slope of the Petit Piton, wooden bridges lead to tree house huts peeking over cascading springs and plunge pools. For a soulful purification ritual, relax in the Temescal, an Amerindian steam dome, and breathe deep.
Glenorchy, New Zealand
ESCAPE THE TRAPPINGS of everyday life and snuggle yourself into the highest-rated small luxury lodge in the world. The Blanket Bay Lodge is in one of the most scenic spots on the planet, Glenorchy, New Zealand, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu in the South Island region of Otago.
BEDS There is no shortage of privacy or amenities at Blanket Bay. The property features five lodge rooms, three lodge suites and four chalet suites that could be converted to become staterooms if even more space is needed. And all the accommodations are situated to make the most of the stunning lake and mountain views. Rates start at $1,015.
EATS Guests are invited to start their day with a lavish complimentary breakfast — words you don’t see together very often. The most important meal of the day at Blanket Bay includes bacon, eggs, muesli, cereals and freshly made muffins. For lunch, the Lake View Dining Room restaurant offers a changing daily menu specializing in regional cuisine, with choices ranging from roasted beef filet to Thai carrot and coconut soup. For a truly special and intimate evening, consider reserving the Wine Cave to sample some of New Zealand’s finest wines in a space that accommodates six guests. Or if weather permits, go alfresco on the terrace to take full measure of the gorgeous surroundings.
EXERCISE New Zealand is a hands-on place that encourages both looking and touching. The Harris Mountains will please the adventure seeker in your family; horse riding and mountain biking can be easily arranged.
DON’T MISS “Marin residents will appreciate the similarities to Lake Tahoe,” says co-owner Pauline Tusher, but on top of that, “being on a large alpine lake, you have spectacular mountains, glaciers and a national park on your doorstep.” Blanket Bay is also known for the four New Zealand chefs of the year who have worked there, so the cuisine is a must-try.
Outrigger, Fiji Beach Resort
IT’S TIME TO get the whole family out of the country and into a bure. Outrigger Resorts, the newish, luxury branch of the Hawaii-based hospitality company, has just the spot. Situated on the balmy blue Coral Coast, this 40-acre beachfront resort with a golf course, hilltop spa and award-winning restaurants resembles a traditional Fijian village. Enter the thatched-roof Fijian bure. Guests can opt for this experience or the more familiar four-walled hotel suite. Either way, the resort is ideal for families with onsite meimei (nannies), kids-eat-free programs and plenty of teen and tot activities.
BEDS The property offers two types of lodging options. Guests staying in the bures will also get the VIP talai (butler) service, which includes complimentary welcome drinks, guest escorts, personalized tours, access to resort facilities and champagne and canapés delivered every afternoon. Rates start at $429.
EATS With more than half a dozen options on the property (not counting the bars), the offerings range from the white-tablecloth elegance of Ivi Restaurant (leave the kids with the meimei for the evening) to family fare at the kid-friendly Vale Ni Kana. For an eclectic taste of Thailand, China and Singapore, try the Baravi Restaurant. For wood-fired pizza and cocktails on the beach, Sundowner Bar is your place, and in true Outrigger style, live music suffuses the Vakavanua Lounge.
EXERCISE Kayak or stand-up paddle in the gorgeous lagoon fronting the property. Hiking, golf and swimming are also available. Less extreme athletes can forgo the poolside beverage service and walk from the beach chair to the bar and back again.
DON’T MISS Find your Zen in the hands of trained Fijian massage therapists. At the award-wining Bebe Spa, choose from the uniquely Fijian bobo technique, using fluid strokes from the hands, elbows and forearms and warm coconut oil, or a warm seashell massage to increase circulation, or possibly a caviar mask, or green coffee body wrap. Or better yet, try them all.