10 resorts for every type of traveler
From hotels situated in billion-year-old landscapes to the snowiest ski resort in the world, these places prove that the resort experience is so much more than lounging by the pool with masses of other sunburned tourists.
1. Best foodie resort: Meadowood, California
Located in a private 100-hectare estate in Napa Valley, Meadowood is mostly known for its Michelin three-star restaurant simply called The Restaurant.
Each dish at The Restaurant is a tribute to the Napa Valley region. Chef Christopher Kostow cooks with ingredients from Napa Valley's terroir. This includes curing Wagyu beef with pine needles from the Meadowood property, and sourcing fresh produce from its garden.
Meadowood takes its wine seriously as well. On top of maintaining an 11,000-bottle cellar, the property's owners also founded the exclusive Napa Valley Reserve.
Located near the entrance of Meadowood, this wine club is said to entertain only 500 members around the world, including Tom Cruise, the Beckhams, Robert Redford, several U.S. ambassadors and captains of industry.
Facilities such as tennis courts, croquet courts, golf courses, hiking trails and a swimming pool complete the country club experience.
900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, California, United States; +1 (800) 458 8080; www.meadowood.com. Rooms cost US$575-2,550 per night.
2. Best ecological resort: Cousine Island, Seychelles
At Cousine Island, "eco" is taken so seriously that guests are requested to plant trees and assist the island ecologists to monitor wildlife.
The 25-hectare island, situated 1,600 kilometers east of Kenya, is one of the few islands in the world that are free from alien mammals (apart from humans, that is.) The island has four villas that can accommodate a maximum of 10 people at one time "to minimize human impact."
Endemic plants take up 95 percent of the island's vegetation. With carbon footprint kept to a minimum, it’s little wonder that the resort frequently wins green tourism awards.
There’s more to visiting the island than walking around on tiptoe and staring at birds through binoculars. Cousine Island also offers standard resort activities such as a spa, deep sea fishing and a host of water sports.
Cousine Island, Victoria, Mahe, +248 321107, www.cousineisland.com. Individual villa rental costs €1,200 (US$1,720) per night, and the entire island can be rented for €4,500. Funds generated from tourism are used to finance the island’s conservation work.
3. Best golf resort: The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
It’s won awards for its hotel, its dining and its spa. But most travelers love Kauri Cliffs for its seaside golf course.
Kauri Cliffs' par-72 golf course meanders through forests, marshes and farmland. Most of the holes overlook the Pacific Ocean, six of which are alongside sheer cliffs.
The pace of play is reportedly an issue, because golfers can't stop gawping at their surroundings.
Visitors who don’t like golf will appreciate the pleasant diversions back at the lodge. There’s an award-winning spa that is accessible by a road that winds through a totara tree forest.
The property has three private beaches, one of which is covered with pink sand. There are infinity pools, tennis courts, mountain bike courses, and even opportunities for game hunting.
And don't worry about having to share the facilities with the masses. The Lodge only has 22 guest suites and two owner's cottages, so guests will have hundreds of hectares to themselves.
4. Best beach resort: Esperanza Resort, Mexico
Proximity to the sea is what Esperanza Resort sells, and they lay it on thick. The resort is perched at the tip of the Baja Peninsula overlooking the Sea of Cortez, and each of the hotel’s 57 rooms and 60 villas overlooks the ocean.
Many rooms afford views of humpback whales in migration in the winter. Their oceanfront restaurant serves fresh catch from the sea.
Each Wednesday, executive chef Gonzalo Cerda cooks Argentinean barbecue on the beach for guests with tiki torches, a bonfire and millions of stars as backdrop.
The genuine concern and care of the staff at Esperanza Resort is frequently commented on by guests.
7 Carretera Transpeninsular, Punta Ballena, Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, +52 624 145 6400, www.esperanzaresort.com. Rooms start at US$595 per night.
5. Best spa resort: Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
Destination spas don’t come better than the spa village at Pangkor Laut. Treatments are administered to each guest in private spa pavilions.
Treatments from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia are on the menu, including a "Chinese Foot Pounding" enjoyed by concubines in ancient China, and treatments for couples inspired by ancient Malay wedding rituals.
Guests with cash to burn might want to splurge on a full day at the Belian Spa Pavilion, which is a private compound complete with an outdoor whirlpool, a yoga pavilion, a nap gazebo and a steam room.
With a spa this lavish, it’s little wonder that celebs such as Keira Knightley, Jimmy Choo, Elle Macpherson, Martha Stewart and Rubens Barrichello all turn to Pangkor Laut for their downtime.
Pangkor Laut Island, 32200 Lumut, Perak, Malaysia, +60 5 699 1100, www.pangkorlautresort.com. Villas start at US$350 a night. For reservations, contact YTL Travel Center at +60 3 2783 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Best ski resort: Hilton Niseko Village, Japan
The town of Niseko, on Japan's Hokkaido island, has four ski resorts, each with separate, but interlinked, ski areas, adding up to 887 hectares all of which can be accessed with one ski pass.
But it's the Niseko Village resort that ranks among the snowiest resorts in the world, thanks to bouts of winter storms coming from Siberia.
It's also one of the few ski resorts in Japan with boisterous nightlife, which perhaps explains why it's the most popular ski destination in Japan among Australians.
Regulars rave about skiing into chest-deep dry powder without resistance. Niseko is also famous for off-piste and night skiing.
Situated on the southern slopes of Annapuri Mountain, Niseko Village utilizes the protruding area of the mountain to offer a wealth of terrain changes for more daring skiers. The runs at the top part of the resort offer a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.
Higashiyama Onsen 048-1592 Niseko N, Niseko-cho, Japan, +81 136 441111, www.niseko-village.com/en. Rooms start at ¥55,000 (or approximately US$678) a night.
7. Best budget resort: Hotel Banana Azul, Costa Rica
At Hotel Banana Azul, rooms go for as little as US$64 a night but come with balconies, hammocks, views of the ocean, and, in some cases, outdoor baths as well.
There’s no air conditioning in rooms, but with a perennial sea breeze wafting through, there’s hardly any need for it.
The 14-room resort, which was built using local hardwood, has its own free-form swimming pool and a Jacuzzi that can fit eight people. Guests regularly rave about the friendly staff and the black sand beach just next to the property.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon, Costa Rica, +506 2750 2035, www.bananaazul.com. Rooms are priced from US$64 during low season and go up to US$143 per person during peak season. Reservations can be made here.
8. Best family resort: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Hawaii
The island of Oahu in Hawaii is made for young families. Surf schools claim to have taken infants as young as six months out to sea, and there are submarine rides, a maze and horseback tours on the island to give kids something to talk about for years.
At the Hilton Hawaiian Village kids get to attend Surfing 101 lessons coached by big wave surfers at the beach fronting the resort.
A mammoth family activity pool on the premises has the longest water slide in Waikiki. The resort's Camp Penguin will keep children entertained with games and lei-making while the parents sneak off for some precious time alone.
9. Best adventure resort: Amangiri, Utah, United States
Soar over the rugged Utah landscape in a hot air balloon and take in lakes, mountains and cliffs billions of years in the making.
Later on in the day, make your way through sandstone towers and ancient sand dunes with your personal guide, or hop aboard a motorboat to tour a lake that’s visible from space. At night, unwind in a spa that is inspired by Navajo healing traditions.
That’s a day in the life of a guest at Amangiri, a 243-hectare resort located deep in a protected valley in Southern Utah, close to the border with Arizonza.
Amangiri also offers challenging trails and off-road tours through ancient sandstone canyons, fly-fishing on the nearby Colorado River or horseback rides through the desert tundra.
10. Best party resort: Mayrhofen, Austria
Ski resorts invariably come with a high-on-life sense of cheer, but Mayrhofen ski resort does it a little different.
Each April, crowds flock there not for the skiing but for the “Snowbombing,” the biggest music festival in Europe held during the ski season.
In 2012, the festival will be held from April 9 to 14. The lineup next year has yet to be announced, but judging from the avalanche of big names at last year’s event, including Mark Ronson and 2ManyDJs, Snowbombing 2012 is bound to get people talking.
The skiing at Mayrhofen is decent as well, with 159 kilometers of runs, the steepest of which hits a gradient of 78 degrees.
Mayrhofen-Hippach Holiday Region, Dursterstraße 225 A-6290, Mayrhofen, Zillertal, Tirol, +43 (0) 5285 6760, www.mayrhofen.at. Accommodation at Mayrhofen starts at US$3,169 a night during next year’s Snowbombing event. Hotels at the resort can be booked here.
First published July 2011, updated May 2012.