Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand
While some beach resorts place you smack in the middle of the action, either right on the beach or with a killer view, the Banyan Tree group’s flagship property in Phuket, on Thailand’s picturesque Andaman coast, takes the road less taken. The resort is tucked away almost 20km away from Patong beach, where all the er…’attractions’ are centred around. But no fret, there’s Bang Tao beach just across the road from the property for your dose of ‘vitamin sea’, with the resort’s helpful staffers on hand to offer water, cold towels and refreshment.
But it comes as no surprise that many of the guests who come to this iconic property (right in front of the reception are the four banyan trees which gave the resort, and the world-famous hotel chain that followed, its famous name) do not even stir out of the complex to check out rest of Phuket). Why? The reason being the many enticing facilities the resort throws at its well-heeled guests.
The place does take the definition of luxury to a whole new level. While other resorts have infinity swimming pools, at Banyan Tree Phuket, you have your own private swimming pool - take your choice from single, double and three bedrooms (there is even a double pool villa, where a chef will come by and whip up a Michelin-level meal privately for you, if requested)! Then there is also an 18-hole golf course right within the property, which attracts golf aficionados from far and wide. There are also coaching classes available from PGA instructors from the nearby Laguna Golf Academy.
And of course, when it is Banyan Tree and Thailand, how can one finish off without the mention of a spa? While spas come in all shapes and sizes in this country, BT Phuket has nothing short of an entire section of the resort earmarked for guests who come in with the spa as the focal point. The Spa Sanctuary villas are spacious, each either facing a garden or lagoon (there is an artificial lagoon meandering through the sprawling property) and come with deals that offer unlimited in-villa massages. Yes, you heard it right. Unlimited. And apparently there are guests who check-in and avail the offer from morning till evening! Ahh!
Four Seasons, Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica
Just 30 minutes from the Liberia airport in Costa Rica (with connections to most major cities in the US) is a tropical paradise encircled by sapphire blue waters with 18km of coastline and 12km of bluff edges and a choice of seven secluded beaches, and one of the few remaining tropical dry forests on the planet. Surrounded by five lakh acres of eco-parklands, this is a paradise for the outdoorsy. You can snorkel, surf, dive, bike or just take a hike.
The Four Seasons is the most luxurious accommodation option on the peninsula. It is Forbes’s only five-star resort in Central and South America and is fresh from a multimillion dollar transformation. New York-based Meyer Davis Design Studio has worked on integrating the resort’s indoor and outdoor spaces with the peninsula’s unique tropical landscape. It offers a choice of two beaches and varied suites and villas. There are four culinary diversions, plus a vibrant new bar – Anejo. You can lounge in a luxury cabana in one of the two pools or tee off at the Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course.
Santa Caterina, Amalfi Coast, Italy
This historic hotel’s guest list includes Hollywood A-listers like Elizabeth Taylor, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. A fine example of liberty-style architecture, it began as a humble guest house in 1904 and has grown to become one of Amalfi Coast’s most iconic hotels. It’s just one kilometre from Amalfi and is on the drive along the famed Amalfi Coast. Owned and managed by the same Gambardella family for four generations, Santa Caterina has been transformed into a luxury abode over the last few decades.
Nineteenth century antiques and hand-painted ceramic tiles are in the mix in an architectural style that is quintessentially Mediterranean, while the grand exteriors offer staggering views of the Bay of Salerno. The floors of the rooms are embellished with hand-painted majolica tiles, while almost all rooms offer sweeping views of the Bay of Salerno from its balconies. Elevators are cut into the rocks offering guests direct access to a private beach club with a large saltwater pool. Al Mare, the hotel’s popular restaurant, is housed in the beach club and offers fresh catch of the day from the Amalfi Coast.
Montage Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii
Get away from it all in one of Hawaii’s most picturesque corners – Maui. This 24-acre resort offers a wide array of all-suite accommodation, making it the perfect family getaway. Catch sunsets from the three-tiered pool that overlooks the ocean – the ideal spot to sip on your sundowner while the kids are enjoying one of the many family-friendly activities. There’s a zip-line close at hand and a host of water sports options within easy access.
The spa features restorative skin treatments by Jacqueline Piotaz of Switzerland, but it’s the outdoor treatment rooms that are the big draw. Dining options include Cane & Canoe, which is modelled after a traditional canoe house with tiki torch-lit patio seats. If you’re looking for a golf getaway with ocean views, you won’t be disappointed. There’s the Plantation Course with natural and dramatic elevations that has been ranked as Hawaii’s number one course by the Golf Digest. The bay course offers spectacular views and has hosted multiple PGA events.
Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Fiji
The chirping tropical birds flitting around Fiji Marriott sound just as happy as the guests at this retreat nestled on the secluded beaches of Momi Bay on the western coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. Surrounded by tropical vegetation and a beautiful lagoon, this upscale resort executes luxury with skill and style. It is close enough to Nadi and Denarau Island and also to the renowned “Cloudbreak” surfing spot and the Natadola Bay Golf Course.
The light-filled overwater villas centred on a man-made lagoon offer gorgeous water view, a private terrace and direct access to the lagoon. Swim in the lagoon’s turquoise waters or enjoy direct access to a sandy, palm-fringed beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Dedicated butlers exceed expectations with quiet, smiling service.
There’s no need to worry about getting off the all-inclusive island. You’ll be plenty busy on one of the resort’s three restaurants, café, three swimming pools and luxurious spa. The snow-white sand hosts the traditional gamut of water sports, including kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and fishing tours. Lounging, of course, is another option. Kick off your shoes and catch Fiji’s blazing sunset with a tropical cocktail in hand and superb seafood at the Fish Bar.
One & Only, Le Saint Géran, Mauritius
Not every 42-year-old gets to enjoy rejuvenation to the point of rebirth. But the One & Only Le Saint Géran resort has just experienced this, with a $55 million investment, which means an update of the interiors by South African designer Janine Mijne and upscaling of the restaurants by the Michelin-starred chef Marc de Passorio.
Always famous as the exclusive beach resort frequented by royals, it is now one that the new elite aspire to. The legendary warmth of the staff is one of the few aspects that have been retained, much to the pleasure of returning guests.
The re-imagined suites are as gorgeous as paintings in pastel. The food spans premium steakhouse to delicate Japanese to artisanal bakery to authentic local. The sporting and leisure activities are top class. But even now, the focal point of this sprawling 60-acre property on the peninsula of Point de Flacq is the splendid beach, unmatched by any other in Mauritius. Be it the sheltered cove where the water sports can be accessed or the open Indian Ocean on the other side, the vista of powder-white sand and azure sea is more intoxicating than the local sugarcane rum. Really!
The Lind, Boracay, Philippines
The Lind in Boracay is a sprawling resort done in whites and blues, keeping in step with island ambience. The infinity pool on the terrace seems to blend into the blue waters of the sea. The nouveau style of architecture pairs harmoniously with the warm Filipino hospitality. Located on the exclusive end of White Beach Station 1, The Lind offers breathtaking views. With more than a hundred rooms that are accentuated with local materials, and sea themes, this is definitely a destination for coastal luxe. The options are many—going underwater in a submarine, accompanied by a constant escort of entire schools of fish, parasailing over the sea with only the sky above, jet skiing, walking on the floor of the ocean, yes, really! Food and drink in the hotel or at the various restaurants on the beach allows for both fine dining and local fare.
Shenzhen Beaches, China
On holidays and weekends, all roads lead to the beaches of Shenzhen.
There is Rose Coast beach, fave with wedding photographers, thanks to its blue waters, the Greek house and church. The jagged stones forming tiny islands make the best backdrop. Not to mention a great 1,500-metre-long white sand beach for barbecue, volleyball, football and even diving. The DaMeiSha beach borders the Yantian seashore plank road, an elevating experience as it is about 10 to 25 feet above the shoreline. Sunbathing, watch tower on the mountain top, and plenty of water sports make it a sumptuous delight, while the YangMeiKeng beach is just out of this world. You could rent a bicycle and explore its sandy shores or go hill climbing. Dotted with wooden cottages on a green, hilly landscape, it showcases a picture postcard life of blue waters, sailing ships and the endless mountainous expanse. The hill-top restaurants serve you sumptuous seafood and if you feel more adventurous, you could rent a speed boat to reach the smaller islands nearby, like Sanmen, Big Jia and Small Jia islands.
Inputs by K. Sunil Thomas, Rukma Saluja, Ashwin Rajagopalan, Zahid H. Javali, Nivedita Jayaram Pawar & Priya Pathiyan