Oregon’s Willamette Valley finally has a resort on a par with its award-winning wines. Fully utilizing the 35-acre property’s natural beauty (including vineyards and hazelnut orchards), designers have blurred the boundary between inside and out. Everywhere, it seems, there’s a spectacular view: from the lobby’s fireside “living room”; from the indoor infinity pool, with its glass wall that opens; even from your bathtub, thanks to a retractable screen. Extensive use of rough-hewn stone and wood surfaces, along with muted golds, greens, and browns, invite the agricultural landscape inside. Offering respite after a long day of winery tours, the 85 guest rooms are at once capacious (starting at 490 square feet) and cosseting (gas fireplace, terrace or balcony, wine glass—stocked wet bar). The staff are genuinely friendly and have a knack for anticipating guests’ needs: Noticing our reviewer’s running shoes, the bellman offered running maps. The hotel’s dining room, Jory, is everything you’d hope from a restaurant named for the region’s native soil, with a terroir-focused seasonal menu and a 32-page wine list, including well over 100 Oregon pinot noirs alone.
Which room to book: With million-dollar views, upper-floor rooms are just $20 to $30 more than garden-level rooms.
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
Out-of-towners don’t typically find themselves in Rancho Palos Verdes, a moneyed burb 20 miles south of Los Angeles airport, but with the opening of this sunny and sophisticated resort that’s quickly changing. From its perch above the Pacific, Terranea tumbles across 102 acres scented with sage scrub and pine trees, and consists of 582 accommodations, from honey-colored guest rooms in the main building to stand-alone casitas with three bedrooms and your very own outdoor fire pit. The decor throughout is a mix of Spanish hacienda (elaborately tiled floors, graceful archways, even valets dressed like gauchos) and seaside lodge (rooms have seashell lamps and bleached-wood furnishings), with a splash of California modernism (the stark serenity of the adults-only pool is the essence of SoCal cool, while the family pool has rainbow-striped cabanas and even a modest waterslide). For fun, there’s a huge spa, a small beach, and guided kayaking and hiking expeditions. Of the resort’s two formal restaurants, the Catalina Room is the more popular, but the waitstaff’s kindness and enthusiasm are more impressive than the food. Opt instead for the local brew and the avocado burgers at Nelsons, the clifftop pub with spectacular views.
Which room to book: The ones with the best views are a trek from the lobby, except for those on the higher floors overlooking the resort pool.
Cabo San Lucas
From the resort’s entrance via a jaw-dropping 1,000-foot-long tunnel carved through the mountain, to the seafood restaurant El FarallÃ³n tucked into a cliff above the ocean, to the views of whales and dolphins splashing in the surf, the focus at Capella’s new property on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula is on making the impossible feel routine. Eight contemporary buildings (some of which back right into the mountains) house 66 rooms on 24 acres of dramatic yet manicured bluffs. Huge stone vases, metal turtle sculptures, Jurassic-size shells, and dozens of varieties of cactus dot the property, while three curvy public pools–two freshwater and one salty–snake through the grounds. Rooms, the smallest of which measure 820 square feet, take on a Mexican gothic look and, happily, include private plunge pools, stand-alone tubs, one-button fireplaces, and complimentary minibars. Personal assistants assigned to each guest will eagerly fulfill even the most self-indulgent request. Lunch options consist of upscale twists on the usual burgers-and-salads resort fare, but the breakfast buffet at Don Manual’s is elevated to craft with bountiful fruits and fresh pastries and no fewer than five milk options, all presented in a warm, rustic kitchen.
Which room to book: Ocean View rooms on the third and fourth floors have the same panoramic views as the pricier suites.
Greek classicism meets French couture in the elegant 188-room Elysian. Befitting its location in the heart of the tony Gold Coast shopping district (Marc Jacobs occupies a corner retail space in the hotel), the perfectly proportioned new 60-story tower models tailored interiors beginning with the lobby’s Christian Dior—inspired kick-pleated drapes and (an homage to Chanel designs) a crystal starburst chandelier, patterned mosaic floors, and curvy wall grillwork. Guest rooms are similarly composed, and both indulgent–high-thread-count Rivolta Carmignani sheets, TVs built into bathroom mirrors–and functional (including Carrara marble wet bars). The sexy second-floor bar, Bernard’s, is suggestive of a 1920s salon, with low banquettes, dim lighting, and pre-Prohibition cocktails. Elysian’s bright brasserie, Balsan, outshines expectations with foodie fare that underscores the relationship between legendary chef Alice Waters and hotel owner David Pisor, her nephew. A 14,000-square-foot spa and gym play it Greek with column-flanked hot tubs and Hellenic wall mosaics to mark the men’s and women’s locker rooms. With its no-tipping policy–a gratuity is included on food and beverage orders and at the spa but will be politely declined elsewhere–the Elysian maintains its poise where money matters are concerned, too. In a neighborhood crowded with luxury hotels, it emerges as a sophisticated pied-Ã -terre with the confidence of understatement.
Which room to book: Corner suites offer views to Lake Michigan.
Viceroy Anguilla Hotel
Upping the chic quotient on laid-back Anguilla, the Viceroy Hotel Group’s first island outpost is as sleek as a gin martini. The main building, a highlight of this 35-acre resort, mixes modernist planes and angles, an allÃ©e of towering palms stretching toward the sea, and a sumptuous array of natural materials–juxtapositions of marbled stone slabs, whorls of exotic woods, matte sheets of metal, sinuous and spherical ceramic objets. The 166 rooms, done in a pale palette, feel comfortable and are artfully arranged. Distressed mirrors provide a surface for sconces, the furniture is low-slung (dark leather in public areas, soft beiges in rooms), chairs are of woven jute and bent wood, and lots of driftwood is displayed. It’s evident that much thought has been given to framing vistas that are either open or through glass, including the centerpiece dark-granite infinity pool, beside which you can enjoy cocktails while gazing out onto the sea. The waterfront villas are steps from the broad, soft-sand beach of Barnes Bay; swimming, however, is easier at the resort’s other beach, on Meads Bay. Many finishing touches were still being worked on at the time of our visit, but even in the early weeks the friendly, attractive staff were eager to please.
Which room to book: Each spacious Rooftop Studio suite comes with a plunge pool and a private terrace.
La RÃ©serve Ramatuelle
Despite its proximity to the rocking scene in St-Tropez, six miles away, this discreet little oasis feels a world away from the high-octane glitz. Its 23 spacious rooms and suites, all with terraces or private gardens, have spectacular sea views and are nestled into a ridge overlooking a secluded cove near the medieval hilltop village of Ramatuelle. The creation of Jean-Michel Wilmotte, one of the designers behind Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, the hotel uses floor-to-ceiling windows and open balconies to capitalize on the region’s famed light. With natural stone in ocher and white and touches of unfinished wood, the undulating, interlocking structures create a modernist effect–a welcome change from the more classic and frumpy properties of the CÃ´te d’Azur. And despite their simplicity, rooms are extremely comfortable, with plump white sofas positioned to let you gaze at the view. The sundeck hugs a 100-foot-long swimming pool, and there’s an indoor option in the spa for the cooler months. With understated but warm service and arguably the area’s best spa, La RÃ©serve deserves an almost perfect score. The only misfire is the restaurant, which touts a healthy menu but serves rather bland food that’s pricey considering the portions.
Which room to book: No. 50 for its perfectly situated garden with Mediterranean views.
Few properties have a more enviable address: Right at the mouth of the Grand Canal, facing St. Mark’s Square, the imposing nineteenth-century redbrick palazzo manages to be centrally located (the wonderful new Punta della Dogana museum and the spectacular Santa Maria della Salute church are just steps away) yet feel apart from the city’s bustle of tourists. Inside, Florentine architect Guido Ciompi has brought a modern aesthetic to the landmark structure, to mixed effect. The 50 one-of-a-kind rooms and suites, some of which have fireplaces, feel intimate and contemporary, with light-wood floors, bathrooms lined with exquisite gold-leaf treatments, and custom furniture in burnished shades of orange, light pink, and blue velvet. (Try to snag a water view, and note that rooms on the courtyard are quiet but smaller.) The public spaces, however, are either a bit too stark (like the blindingly white restaurant and bar) or almost garish (the lobby). Still, the Centurion’s sublime location eclipses these few design missteps and the hit-or-miss service.
Which room to book: The junior suites – Nos. 201, 209, 210, 212, 401, 402, 404, and 502–which overlook the canal.
It’s a challenge to get to Raas through the confusion of old Jodhpur’s narrow, congested streets. You at last reach an unprepossessing door in a cement facade that opens onto a leafy courtyard and a modern structure housing 39 guest rooms and suites. Through the alchemy of inspired design, the bold lines of this new building blend harmoniously with the elegant remnants of the eighteenth-century haveli (courtier’s palace) on whose grounds it is sited. Through minimalist decor, the accommodations make adroit use of space, texture, and pattern (including pink sandstone lattice screens that, recalling traditional jalis, bring shade and privacy), which compensates for the fairly modest size of the rooms and bathrooms, with handsome tubs set in stone. Room terraces offer not just a view, but grand theater: In the foreground, a swimming pool with gauzy-curtained cabanas is set in a garden, and reflecting pools lead up to a graceful old pavilion, now the dining room. To your left, an ancient structure accommodates pillowed seating alcoves. And as the dramatic backdrop looms the Maharajah of Jodhpur’s massive pink sandstone Mehrangahr Fort. The quality of the cuisine, with both Indian and international offerings, can be uneven, and the calls to prayer from the minaret next door can be jarringly loud. Mercifully, double glazing and the hum of the air-conditioning silences the 4 a.m. loudspeaker crackle.
Which room to book: Avoid the garden courtyard rooms which lack privacy and opt for one on the second floor with a retractable sandstone trellis screen.
For decades, the 87-year-old La Mamounia was the height of Moroccan glamour, hosting everyone from Charlie Chaplin to the Rolling Stones, but by the 1990s, it had become a shabby shadow of its former self following an ill-conceived design. Now, after a three-year, $150 million revamp by French designer Jacques Garcia, “the loveliest place on earth,” as proclaimed by habituÃ© Winston Churchill, can again live up to this appellation. The top-to-bottom makeover not only reestablished but heightened the Art Deco meets Arabesque design of the original. Walls are adorned with intricate plasterwork and gem-colored zellij (traditional tiling); sconces and lamps throw off speckles of light through punched metal; arresting black-and-white photography of contemporary Berbers, Tuaregs, and bedouins animate hallways; and dozens of fountains and decorative pools add a tinkling sound track. The 210 guest rooms are lavishly appointed as well, each with painted wood doors, a large etched-glass mirror over a leather-topped desk, and a terrace; alongside are modern touches such as key-operated light fixtures and the ability to lock or unlock one’s room door via a bedside switch. New too, are the expansive outdoor pool, subterranean spa, and three restaurants serving fine French, Italian, and Moroccan cuisine. La Mamounia’s 20-acre garden is still its most romantic feature, and strolling amid the centuries-old palm, orange, and olive trees is a true retreat within the medina walls. Though staff are unfailingly polite (at check-in they’ll usher you to a sofa, proffering figs and almond milk), the service can be uneven–housekeeping has a habit of entering one’s room immediately after knocking, and calls to the front desk go unanswered. Other caveats are high prices (continental breakfast costs $42) and the overly dim lighting throughout, in which visibility is sacrificed for a moody ambience.
Which room to book: Any facing the verdant garden and the Atlas Mountains beyond.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
Desa Pecatu, Bali
This fabulous clifftop pleasure complex on Bali’s booming south coast is the region’s first fully successful marriage of postmodern cool and tropical hot. The Singaporean design partnership WOHA has created a startlingly original vocabulary that alternates monumentality and intimacy, classicism and funk–and lets sky and sea shine through at every turn. The public places and 84 villas spill across a hillside overlooking the ocean with an organic ease that makes the place feel like it’s been there forever, and its smart eco-planning may let it stay there almost that long: Flat roofs are insulated with local volcanic rock, and water from washing machines and baths is filtered for garden use. Rooms have ceilings of local bamboo, and the hardwood is recycled from retired Indonesian railway sleeper cars. The yoga pavilion is a little architectural masterpiece on a verdant knoll, and the two restaurants–one serving traditional Indonesian and Balinese, the other contemporary Western fare–are excellent. Perhaps one of the resort’s most beautiful touches is a private banquet room with a vaulted clerestory studded with 2,500 glittering copper batik stamps.
Which room to book: Villa 409, a one bedroom at one of the resort’s highest points, offers total privacy and a wide ocean view.