World's best coastal resorts, by continent
With more than two-thirds of the globe covered by water, there's plenty of seashore to go around in the summer.
But some beaches are better than others, and one easy way to find them is to locate the best coastal resorts -- they have a knack of planting themselves in the best places.
They're not just banking on the beaches, either. These coastal resorts are the best because they have the architecture and amenities to do justice to their surroundings.
Here are the top picks, by continent.
Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
This resort features four swimming pools, scuba diving and snorkeling at the Red Sea’s world-class coral reefs.
The architecture pays homage to Middle Eastern traditions.
The usual Four Seasons amenities like a fitness center, spa and a range of restaurants are available.
One Four Seasons Boulevard, P.O.Box 203, Sharm El Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt; +20 693 603 555; www.fourseasons.com/sharmelsheikh; rates start at US$290
Frégate Island Private, The Seychelles
Celebrities seeking refuge from the paparazzi come to Frégate for the privacy. The three-square-kilometer island has just the one resort, which has rooms for only 40 guests at any given time.
Guests go for the villas, a cliff-top spa and deep-sea fishing excursions.
The steep price includes full board (island dining experiences anytime, anywhere), private butler service, guided nature walks to learn about the island’s vibrant ecology and non-motorized water sports.
Frégate Island Private, PO Box 330, Victoria, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles; +27 21 556 9984; www.fregate.com; rates start at US$3,369
The Majlis, Kenya
Kenya may be better known for its safaris, but off its coast lie some beautiful islands that are regular haunts of wealthy vacationers. The Majlis opened towards the end of 2009, and it has quickly become a top destination.
A mixture of Italian style and Swahili culture, the hotel is decorated with coral stone, hand-carved wood and traditional East African art.
Rates include laser sailing, kayaking and windsurfing.
Ras Kitau Bay, Manda Island, PO Box 502, Lamu, 80500, Kenya; +254 20 712 3300; www.themajlisresorts.com; rates start at US$435
The Palms, Zanzibar
There are only six villas at this resort, and while they have a traditional, thatched-roof design, they’re actually very luxurious.
Each has an outdoor plunge pool, two bedrooms, a living room and a furnished terrace where guests can lounge on silk-draped four-poster beds and look out at the Indian Ocean.
No one under 16 is allowed at the resort. It’s ideal for couples, with massages for two and a host of activities like kite-surfing, sailing and diving.
The rate is all-inclusive.
The Palms, Zanzibar; +254 020 269 9796; palms-zanzibar.com; rates start at US$1,028
White Pearl Resorts in Ponta Mamoli, Mozambique
Mozambique’s not a top tourist destination yet, which should make this resort more appealing. It sits on a relatively isolated stretch of southern coastline.
Guests take a helicopter to the resort and sleep in stand-alone suites with a plunge pool and sea view. Daytime activities include riding horses on the beach and checking out the dolphins, whales and turtles on the offshore reef.
Ponta Mamoli, Zitundo, Mozambique; +27 35 592 8100/1; www.whitepearlresorts.com; rates start at US$360
More on CNNGo: 27 sights that will remind you how incredible Earth is
Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, Thailand
Thailand is overflowing with exceptional resorts, but the Hyatt Regency Hua Hin stands out for two reasons. One, its stand-alone spa keeps winning awards, and two, the resort’s beach-front is the longest of all Hua Hin hotels.
Features include landscaped gardens and interconnected free-form swimming pools -- along with a waterfall, Jacuzzi and waterslide.
Guests can participate in traditional ceremonies, like making lotus blossom offerings to monks.
91 Hua Hin-Khao Takiap Road, Hua Hin, 77110, Thailand; +66 3 252 1234; www.huahin.regency.hyatt.com; rates start at US$207
Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, The Maldives
Only suites are available at this Maldives hideaway, and the most popular are the overwater villas that look into clear waters showing coral and tropical fish.
Inside, you’ll find beds that are three meters wide, toiletries from Hermès and steps leading down to the ocean.
Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Maldives; +960 682 8800; www.jumeirah.com/Dhevanafushi; rates start atUS$845
One&Only The Palm, Dubai
Located at the end of the surrounding crescent of Dubai’s man-made palm frond of resorts jutting into the Arabian Sea, One&Only The Palm is accessible by water taxi.
Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno heads STAY, the resort’s signature restaurant. Guests can opt for beach or skyscraper views.
West Crescent, Palm Dubai; +971 4440 1010; thepalm.oneandonlyresorts.com; rates start at US$997
The Legian, Bali
The Legian is almost as close to Seminyak’s nightlife and swanky shops as it is to the sea.
Having just completed a four-month-long renovation for the summer, everything about the resort looks and feels brand new.
Recommended: mojitos at the Pool Bar after a dinner of coral trout at the gourmet restaurant.
Jalan Kayu Aya, Seminyak Beach, Bali 80361, Indonesia; +62 361 730 622; www.ghmhotels.com; rates start at US$600
The Nam Hai, Vietnam
Vietnam’s best resort is the Nam Hai, located by the South China Sea. Every room features its own patio, indoor and outdoor showers and personal espresso machines.
A trio of swimming pools, a private beach and villas that come with their own private pool and butler ... we like.
Hamlet 1 Dien Duong Village, Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam; +84 510 394 0000; www.thenamhai.com; rates start at US$800
More on CNNGo: 7 of Asia's best hotels with a view
This multi-level resort overlooks the Aegean, and has the feel of a small hamlet.
Surrounded by olive groves and backed by pine-covered hills, its 36 cottages were designed to merge village comforts and Ottoman opulence with personal pools, traditional charcoal fireplaces, and indoor and outdoor showers.
Take an excursion to nearby historic sites, explore the countryside on horseback or sail the Aegean Sea. Alternately, the dining pavilions by the infinity pool combine top-notch Turkish food with stunning views.
Bülent Ecevit Cad., Demir Mevkii, Göltürkbükü, TR-48483 Bodrum, Turkey; +94 77 774 3500; www.amanresorts.com; rates start at US$1,000
Finca Cortesin, Spain
Finca Cortesin is home to 67 luxurious suites, even the smallest of which has its own private garden or terrace.
The villas have their own pools, spacious living rooms, and four lavish bedrooms. The renowned golf course hosts world championships.
Carretera de Casares, Kilometer 2, 29690 Casares, Málaga, Spain; +34 952 937 800; www.fincacortesin.com; rates start at US$630
Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, France
This multi-level resort set into a cliff overlooking the Riviera was immortalized as the Hôtel des Étrangers in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "Tender Is the Night."
A 19th-century villa turned 118-room resort, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc has a glamorous history to live up to, and does it splendidly. Antique furniture, a saltwater pool dug into the rock, and the obvious resemblance of its terraces to the decks of an ocean liner all make this one of Antibes’ most historically cool hotels.
Two fun facts: the hotel has a Head Pool Attendant, whose job is to ensure that everyone’s pool experience is the best it can be, and there’s a trapeze that will fling you straight into the sea.
Boulevard JF Kennedy, 06601 Antibes, France; +33 4 9361 3901; www.hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com; rates start at US$626
The Romanos, Greece
The Romanos is number one in a planned development of four eco-conscious resorts on the beaches of Messinia.
What we like: a golf course irrigated by rainwater, suites with private pools, a 4,000-square-meter spa, and -- perhaps the best idea ever -- two separate child care facilities that provide programs and activities for children of all ages.
One of these, the Sandcastle, even provides overnight accommodation for kids.
Navarino Dunes, Costa Navarino, 24001, Messinia, Greece; +30 272 309 6000; www.romanoscostanavarino.com; rates start at US$405
Turnberry Resort, Scotland
The Turnberry has been open for over a century on Scotland’s craggy west coast. The Edwardian estate covers 3.2 square kilometers of Ayrshire countryside and sits on a bluff overlooking the sea and Ailsa Craig Island.
When it underwent a massive renovation a couple of years ago, 40 of its rooms were updated as well as the public areas. The Ailsa golf course is legendary.
Maidens Road, Turnberry, Ayrshire, KA26 9LT, Scotland; +44 165 533 1000; www.turnberryresort.co.uk; rates start at US$650
More on CNNGo: Best Maldives resorts for every vacationer
Boucan Hotel & Restaurant (Hotel Chocolat), St. Lucia
Hotel Chocolat, the luxury British chocolatier, opened the Boucan Hotel last year -- a collection of 14 cottages on a cocoa plantation that’s been operating since the 1700s (yeah we're wondering why they didn't just name the hotel after the brand too ... seems like a no-brainer).
The hotel is perched 30 meters above sea level with to-die-for views of the Piton Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, and its clean lines, dark wood and white walls contrast wonderfully with the rainforest that surrounds it.
Guests can harvest cocoa pods and learn how to make chocolate bars.
Also recommended: the cocoa butter massage and the chocolate Bellinis.
Rabot Estate, PO Box 312, Soufriere, St. Lucia; +1 800 757 7132; www.thehotelchocolat.com; rates start at US$350
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii
Popular with Hollywood’s elite, the Four Seasons snagged a top location along Hualalai’s volcanic rock coast. This is a jet-in, jet-out sort of place -- guests arrive, have every need catered to, then hop a plane and rejoin the real world.
Parents can drop kids off at the children’s program knowing they’ll be fed, watered and entertained while the adults hit the open-air spa, the no-kids-allowed swimming pool, the yoga classes, the oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course or the bar.
72-100 Ka`upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, United States; +1 800 325 8000; www.fourseasons.com/hualalai; rates start at US$545
Musha Cay, The Bahamas
Musha Cay is a resort on one of 11 islands owned by magician David Copperfield. It can only be rented to one group at a time for $37,500 per day (all-inclusive).
Each of the five guesthouses has its own private beach. Motorboats are available for excursions to the neighboring islands.
For kids (or nostalgic adults), there’s even a Gilligan’s Island-themed bedroom.
Musha Cay, Bahamas, Caribbean; +242 355 4040; www.mushacay.com; rates start at US$37,500 per night for up to 12 guests
Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos
Catamaran sailing and windsurfing are complimentary at this Caribbean resort, located on a private island.
In October, the resort is opening three two-bedroom villas with personal butlers.
Recommended: the award-winning Shambhala Retreat Spa featuring Ayurvedic treatments and beach yoga.
PO Box 164, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies; +649 946 7788; www.parrotcay.como.bz; rates start at US$500
Wickaninnish Inn, Canada
It’s rather difficult to believe that a top coastal resort is in Canada.
Set on the western edge of British Columbia, the Wickaninnish Inn is backed by pine forest and faces a rocky beach. The owners chose the location because they loved to watch storms churn up the water.
Guests keep coming back for the panoramic views, fireplaces, nature walks and deep bathtubs. The restaurant stocks wines from the Pacific Northwest.
500 Osprey Lane, Box 250, Tofino, BC, Canada, V0R 2Z0; +1 250 725 3100; www.wickinn.com; rates start at US$515
More on CNNGo: 18 wacky hotels in the United States
The Great Barrier Reef is crowded with resorts, but Hayman stands out for a few reasons. It’s got 234 guest rooms and everything it does is larger than life. The swimming pool, to take just one, is saltwater, and seven times the size of an Olympic pool with four boardwalks that cross it. Plus, it’s got a heated freshwater pool in its center.
Hayman offers a number of ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef: by seaplane, by cruise vessel (with an underwater viewing chamber), by semi-submersible, by helicopter, by speedboat -- as well as the standard scuba diving and snorkeling.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland 4801, Australia; +61 7 4940 1838; www.hayman.com.au; rates start at US$907 per person for three nights
Lizard Island, Australia
Remote Lizard Island, the northernmost Great Barrier Reef resort, has 24 beaches and they’re all stunning.
Thanks to a population of unusual marine life like the Potato Cod, guests spend most of their time underwater.
Diving, snorkeling and a host of other underwater activities are all provided by the resort.
Rooms are simple but comfortable. Big spenders can book the Pavilion, an extra-private and spacious suite with a 270-degree panorama of Anchor Bay.
Rates are all-inclusive.
Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia; +61 3 9426 7550; www.lizardisland.com.au; rates start at US$1,470
Saffire Freycinet, Australia
Tasmania’s preeminent resort was designed to showcase its setting, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the Hazards Mountains just above the waters of Great Oyster Bay. The interior is stone and timber -- modern and comfortable.
The rate includes canoeing, wine tastings, and a visit to an oyster farm, where guests can wade into the water and harvest their own Freycinet Pacific oysters.
Each stay comes with a complimentary treatment at the resort’s celebrity-patronized spa.
Have money to burn? Go for a facial using gold, sapphire or diamond dust.
2352 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, Tasmania, 7215, Australia; +61 3 6256 7888; www.saffire-freycinet.com.au; rates start at US$1,847
Te Tiare Beach Resort, French Polynesia
Te Tiare’s not an easy place to get to. It’s isolated in a private bay, accessible only by boat.
Each of the resort's 17 overwater bungalows is perched above the sea, with balconies facing west to catch the sunset.
Scuba diving, shark-feeding trips, snorkeling and cooking classes in traditional Tahitian cuisine from the resort’s chef are available, as is pretty much anything else you can think of.
BP 36 Fare, 98731 Huahine, French Polynesia; +689 60 60 50; www.tetiarebeachresort.com; rates start at US$450
The Wakaya Club & Spa, Fiji
The Wakaya, a nine-square-kilometer private island, is owned by the big boss of Fiji Water. A cluster of 10 “cottages” have an indoor space of 140 square meters, private gardens and outdoor showers.
The rate includes meals, beverages (including unlimited mini-bar access), two scuba dives per day, personal tennis and golf coaches and as many bottles of Fiji water as you can drink.
There are 12 staff members for every guest, but the resort can also create a private beach picnic experience, leaving guests with a walkie-talkie and a guarantee that there are no other people within five kilometers.
Post Office Box 15424, Suva, Fiji Islands; +679 3448 128; www.wakaya.com; rates start at US$2,400
More on CNNGo: 10 best Aussie beach bars
Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Estancia Vik combines ranch, beach and high-end art on 16 square kilometers of Uruguayan pampas. The suites house installations by the country’s leading artists and public areas, including even the gym, display paintings and sculptures.
Polo lessons are available, along with a number of other activities.
Camino Saiz Martínez, Kilometer 8, José Ignacio, Maldonado, Uruguay; +598 94 605 212; www.estanciavikjoseignacio.com; rates start at US$500
Kenoa Resort, Brazil
Known as Brazil’s most laid-back area, Bahia is home to some of the country’s best beaches.
Kenoa Resort occupies a prime spot near a nature preserve, and is an “eco-retreat” built from natural materials with an emphasis on conservation.
Luxury is still a byword, however, with gourmet meals and attentive service.
Rua Escritor Jorge de Lima 58, Barramar, Barra de São Miguel, Alagoas, Brazil; +55 82 3272 1285; www.kenoaresort.com; rates start at US$575
Ponta dos Ganchos, Brazil
Ponta dos Ganchos is located on the peninsula in southern Brazil, and features stone-and-wood cottages in a tropical jungle overlooking a bay.
The top accommodation here is the Special Villa Emerald, with its private deck, infinity pool, a dry sauna, huge sleeping and living spaces, all of which come with incredible coastal views.
A beach barbecue of fresh seafood is a nightly option, and a romantic dinner for two on one of the islands can be easily arranged.
Rua Eupideo Alves do Nascimento 104, Ganchos de For a Governador Celso Ramos, SC CEP: 88190-000, Brazil; +55 48 3953 7000; www.pontadosganchos.com.br; rates start at US$643
Posada de Mike Rapu, Easter Island
At Posada de Mike Rapu, there are no televisions, but there are volcano treks, horseback rides on the beach, scuba dives and hikes to Easter Island’s famous basalt statues.
Huge windows look out on the Pacific. Guests can relax after a day’s explorations by taking hydro-massage baths.
Rates are all-inclusive.
Te Miro Oone s/n, Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) 2770000, Chile; +56 2 395 2800; www.explora.com; rates start at US$3,360 for three nights
The Cliffs Preserve, Chile
Ten kilometers of South Pacific coastline, the Cliffs Preserve showcases the vibrant environment of Patagonia.
During the day, guests can go bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, penguin/sea lion/whale watching, fishing, whitewater rafting and take helicopter trips over the Andes.
Decker 1031, Puerto Varas 5550479, Los Lagos, Chile; +56 65 439 512; www.cliffspreserve.cl; rates start at US$4,200 for four nights.
More on CNNGo: World's 50 best beaches