1. Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
Eco-conscious and extraordinarily beautiful, the former surfing retreat of Nihi Sumba Island scores top billing on lists of the world’s best beach resorts. It presides over a wild and pristine palm-fringed slice of coast on the remote island of Sumba in Indonesia, about a one-hour flight from Bali. It’s a fitting location considering the resort’s philosophy is “The Edge of Wildness.” The resort nestles within a nature reserve, and more than 2.5 kilometers of white-sand beach beckons beneath the cliffs below, with fantastic surfing, fishing, and snorkeling. You won’t find TVs here, just cool ocean breezes, island adventures, warm and friendly staff, and glorious sea views.
The 33 air-conditioned villas perfectly capture the essence of this tropical hideaway; with soaring thatched ceilings that peek out among the palms and sweeping ocean views. Configurations range from one to five bedrooms, and they come with features like large living rooms, private plunge pools, outdoor showers, and impeccable butler service. Families can reserve a delightfully quirky three-story treehouse.
If you can tear yourself away from the villa and beach, with its fantastic surfing, diving, and fishing, you can go horseback riding on the beach (the resort has an equestrian center), sign up for visits to nearby villages, explore hidden waterfalls, mountain bike, take a Land Rover safari, tour a chocolate factory, or relax at the beach club and pool. For the ultimate in pampering, you can embark on a day-long Spa Safari with multiple treatments and healthy meals. Free daily yoga in a sea-view pavilion is also offered.
Rates include all meals, snacks, and some beverages and activities. Children are welcome, and some of the profits from your stay support the Sumba Foundation’s community projects, providing fresh water, medical care, and communal farms for local villages, so you can live in the lap of luxury and feel good at the same time.
Accommodation: Nihi Sumba Island
2. The Brando, Tahiti
If you’re dreaming of a Tahitian tropical paradise with an eco-sensitive, low-impact approach, look no further than The Brando. Set on a pristine private island embracing a three-mile lagoon, this carbon-neutral resort is the ultimate in laid-back luxury.
The resort was established by screen legend Marlon Brando to preserve the island’s beauty and biodiversity and serve as a model of sustainability-solar power, seawater air-conditioning systems, and other renewable energy technologies power the entire island. Not surprisingly, nature lovers will be in heaven here. Flourishing coral reefs shimmer in the lagoon, birds flock to the shores, whales swim by on their annual migrations, and sea turtles nest on the bone-white beaches.
Set back from the beach, the thatched villas peek out unobtrusively from clusters of pandanus and palms. Modern furnishings and fixtures mix effortlessly with recycled and local building materials like thatch, stone, and wood. Features include private plunge pools, outdoor bathtubs, and media rooms with TV and Wi-Fi. Two-bedroom villas add kitchens and dining areas, and the spacious three-bedroom villa is perfect for large family gatherings. All the villas come with bicycles, so you can explore the island with pedal power.
Fusing French, Polynesian, and East-meets-West styles, the food is divine and incorporates fresh produce from the island’s organic gardens. Local seafood features prominently, and the fluffy, flaky breakfast croissants are a guest favorite. Vegan options are also offered.
As you would expect, activities revolve around the water, and the resort provides all the equipment you need to paddleboard, snorkel, dive, and kayak in the crystal-clear waters. If you’d like to learn more about the island’s ecology and conservation, you can visit the eco-station and chat with the researchers.
The resort also offers talks on Polynesian culture and history. Lagoon School keeps the little ones busy, and tennis, deep-sea fishing, dancing, and fitness classes are more active options. All-inclusive rates are optional, but a bonus is that all island activities and holistic treatments at the soulful spa are covered by this full-board plan.
Accommodation: The Brando
3. Kurumba Maldives
A 10-minute speedboat ride from Malé’s airport, Kurumba Maldives has a long history of warm hospitality on a ravishing island ringed by fish-rich coral reefs. This was the first private island resort in the country, and the friendly staff love to welcome guests and share their Maldivian culture.
Sprinkled amid the tropical gardens, the luxurious air-conditioned guest rooms range from superior rooms and beachfront bungalows to multi-bedroom villas with private plunge pools. Decor is sleek and contemporary. Typical features include hardwood floors, cathedral ceilings, flat-screen TVs, indoor/outdoor showers, and soft robes.
In your spare time, you can slink into an umbrella-shaded lounger by one of the pools, snooze on a hammock under palms on the powdery white-sand beach, dine around the world at one of eight excellent restaurants, or splurge on an over-the-water spa treatment. Turtles, rays, and fish swim in the crystal-clear waters around the resort, and snorkeling and diving is excellent on the nearby reefs.
Traveling with kids? They’ll have a ball splashing in the two dedicated children’s pools or playing at Majaa Kids Club, which also offers fun cultural activities like Maldivian dance and drum lessons. Special children’s menus, a packed line-up of sports and games, painting classes, and a movie cinema add to all the fun.
Accommodation: Kurumba Maldives
4. Jumby Bay Island, Antigua
On a palm-studded private island in Antigua rimmed by dazzling beaches, Jumby Bay is tropical elegance at its best. The entire island is car-free, but you can explore it on a bike and soak up the relaxed pace of life. In particular, Jumby Bay is known for its doting staff, who provide five-star service with a warm smile. World-class cuisine infused with tropical flavors stars at the fine-dining restaurant, but you can also dine by the pool and beach.
Despite the relaxing atmosphere, you can still stay connected to the outside world. The 40 air-conditioned luxury guest rooms and villas come with all the modern conveniences, including large flat screen TVs, Bose sound systems, Nespresso coffee makers, and Wi-Fi, but they also have timeless romantic features such as four-poster beds dressed in Italian linens, wrap-around terraces, and private outdoor gardens with rain showers.
Red-roofed villas and houses add extra luxuries, like private chefs, personal butlers, and swimming pools. When you’re not basking under rustling palms on the beach, you can work out at the gym; swim in the infinity pool; play tennis or golf; or succumb to a pampering session at the spa.
Eco-conscious guests will also appreciate the recycling program and conservation projects, such as the Hawksbill Turtle Preservation Program. Children are welcome here, and “Camp Jumby” offers customized adventures to keep them entertained.
Accommodation: Jumby Bay Island
5. Royal Malewane, South Africa
One of the top safari lodges in South Africa, Royal Malewane in Thornybush Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park, is for travelers who want to follow in the footsteps of the world’s most discerning and wealthy wildlife lovers. Old-world colonial elegance sets the tone here, and animals take center stage – especially the relatively large number of resident lions.
Eight impeccably decorated, air-conditioned suites recall the grand old days of Hemingway, with oriental rugs, antiques, thatched roofs, and four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting. Outdoor showers and plunge pools on expansive decks merge with the wilderness, where elephants and other wildlife are part of the views. Two-bedroom Royal Suites are perfect for families, and for even more exclusivity, groups can reserve Africa House, a six-bedroom villa with a private chef.
Daily activities revolve around the morning and evening game drives, when expert trackers and guides deliver you to National Geographic-worthy wildlife action. You can also relax at the award-winning bush spa and tone at the gym in your spare time. Children of all ages are welcome in the Royal Suites and Africa House, but they must be older than ten to stay in the luxury suites.
Accommodation: Royal Malewane
6. Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia
St. Lucia is known for its dramatically beautiful scenery, and adults-only Jade Mountain Resort capitalizes on it with spectacular views of the ocean and St. Lucia’s twin volcanic peaks, the Pitons. Clinging to a cliffside, the resort encompassess a series of open-sided rooms and common areas that embrace these breathtaking vistas, so you always feel like a part of your surroundings. Despite their sweeping views, the suites offer total privacy making this a favorite hideaway for honeymooners.
Called “sanctuaries,” the 24 open-sided guest rooms here feel spacious and airy, with 15-foot-high ceilings, large living rooms, and plenty of local stone and tropical hardwoods. Typical features include private infinity pools, four-poster beds, Frette bathrobes and towels, 24-hour butlers (“Major Domos”), and jalousie louvers so the tropical breezes can flow freely. Five SKY jacuzzi suites come with hot tubs instead of the private pools. Wi-Fi is available at the resort, but you won’t find TVs and telephones here, just the sounds and sights of the sea.
Cuisine at the Jade Mountain Club captures fresh island flavors with plenty of produce from the resort’s organic farm, and you can also dine at Anse Mamin or Anse Chastanet, the 600-acre sister resort on a silver-sand beach below. Free time can be as active or relaxed as you like. Swimming, sailing, kayaking, and diving, are all popular pastimes along the shores of Anse Chastanet beach, a steep walk from the resort or a shuttle ride away.
You can also hike and bike on the resort’s 600-acre plantation; go birdwatching; do yoga; swim in the resort’s infinity pool; or take tours of the botanical gardens, volcano, and sulphur springs. A fitness center and spa are also on-site. The all-inclusive rates are an optional but great-value choice here-especially as the hotel lies in a remote location.
Accommodation: Jade Mountain Resort
7. Twin Farms, USA
Snuggled amid 300 acres of bucolic Vermont countryside, about a three-hour drive from Boston, Twin Farms is the home-away-from-home of your wildest country-estate fantasies. Whimsical art from the owner’s private collection adorns the 1795-era main house, where crackling fires, and picture-book views greet guests. Personal service is taken to a whole new level here, and the pampering spa services and exquisite culinary creations maintain the resort’s high standards.
Created by esteemed architects and designers, the 20 uniquely decorated accommodations range from cozy guest rooms to log cabins, multi-level Scandinavian-style cottages, and mid-century hideaways. Fireplaces, antiques, custom art, and stone hot tubs add to the homey feel in many, and all have beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. All meals are included in the rates, and the culinary creations emphasize healthy, fresh flavors with customized personal menus and a farm-to-table focus. The lemon souffle pancakes with Vermont strawberries are breakfast favorites.
Activities change with the season here. In the warmer months, you can hike and bike among the forests and flower-flecked meadows, play tennis, fly fish, swim, or paddle upon tranquil ponds. The incredible display of fall colors in Vermont make it one of the best seasons to visit. In winter, you can skate, snowshoe, and ski on the resort’s private groomed trails and slopes.
If you can bear to leave the resort, you can tour a working farm, shop for antiques, visit nearby artisans and historical sites, or take one of the resort’s BMW sedans for a spin. A fully equipped gym is also on-site. Guests must be 16 years or older, except during the resort’s two annual family weeks, and dogs are welcome in some of the cabins for a fee.
Accommodation: Twin Farms
8. Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, Kenya
On a 6,000-acre private game reserve in Kenya near the border of Tanzania, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp oozes Out of Africa elegance. The camp borders the wildlife-rich Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve, two of the best game reserves in Africa, and is one of only 10 accredited Global Ecosphere Retreats in the world, thanks to its commitment to sustainability and projects that help the local community.
Don’t be put off by the word “camp.” The luxury tents are a world away from those on your typical family camping trip, and the attentive staff make you feel like royalty. The expert Maasai guides and trackers are some of the best in the business, delivering you to classic African “big-five” wildlife action starring lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants. This is also a wonderful place to experience the wildebeest migration from July through November.
Strategically flung far apart to maximize privacy, the 10 palatial tents allow you to feel at one with nature, without sacrificing any luxuries. While propped in your billowy four-poster bed, you can gaze out at zebras and giraffes, and fall asleep to the whoop of hyenas and the distant roar of lions echoing through the night.
Antique furnishings, oriental rugs, candelabras, and steamer trunks add to the nostalgic Hemingway feel, and the ensuite bathrooms come with flushing toilets and hot showers. But if you really want to get back to nature, you can opt for the unique experience of a safari bath or shower in the middle of the savannah. Family tented suites come with two bathrooms and living rooms with fireplaces. You can also reserve a honeymoon suite or the Cottar’s Bush Villa, which sleeps 10 and has its own 25-meter pool.
The chef crafts culinary creations from fresh food grown right in the camp. Meals are usually served communal style in the huge dining tent or at breathtaking wilderness locations. In addition to the excellent game drives and walks, you can visit a Maasai village, swan around in the pool, or enjoy pampering spa treatments. Children of all ages are welcome.
Accommodation: Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp
9. Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
Blending beautifully with the sloping sea cliffs on Kangaroo Island at the edge of South Australia, Southern Ocean Lodge lets nature do the talking. Wild ocean vistas welcome you through walls of glass in this curvaceous contemporary building, and light streams into all the spaces.
The 21 guestrooms drink in sea views through floor-to-ceiling windows, and the decor is decidedly “eco-chic,” featuring recycled wood accents, local art, sandblasted limestone floors, and crisp white fabrics. Other typical features include sunken sitting areas; heated floors; and outdoor terraces with daybeds, so you can relax and soak up those hypnotic views. Some rooms also add EcoSmart fireplaces as well as TVs and DVD players.
Sophisticated and fresh, the food includes many island specialities, including Ligurian honey, local cheeses, and fresh-caught seafood. Another big bonus at this resort is the daily schedule of guided island excursions included in the rates. Coastal treks and trips to nearby national parks, seal colonies, and wildlife sanctuaries are typical excursions. You can also relax at the wellness spa, where kids can join a special workshop making bath bombs and body scrubs.
Accommodation: Southern Ocean Lodge
10. Likuliku, Fiji
Home to the only over-the-water bungalows in Fiji, adults-only Likuliku, on Malolo Island in the sublime Mamanuca Islands, is known for its warm and friendly Fijian hospitality. Local materials such as thatch, wood, and stone feature prominently in the bungalows (or bures), giving the resort an authentic island feel that feels totally at one with its lush, tropical surroundings. Forget TVs and telephones. Instead, guests here tune into the relaxing pace of island life, snorkeling over kaleidoscopic reefs and chatting with the friendly staff.
Honeymooners love the ten light-filled over-the-water bures, with large outdoor decks, separate bathing pavilions, air-conditioning, and lagoon views from egg-shaped soaking tubs. Many guests also like the beachfront bures, with their cheaper price point, plunge pools, large daybeds, and private outdoor showers. These bures also offer direct access to the ocean, which is sometimes not available from the over-the-water bures when the tide is low.
The food is fabulous here and spotlights fresh seafood as well as luscious tropical fruits and produce from the island’s organic hydroponic farm. Daily canapes delivered to your room give you a hint of the delectable dinner dishes that await. In your spare time, you can enjoy a Couples Indulgence package at the spa, trim and tone at the gym, learn how to weave palm fronds, or sign up for village visits and island-hopping cruises. Rates include accommodation, non-motorized water sports, meals, filter coffee, tea, and water, but other beverages incur an extra fee.
11. Lily Beach Resort & Spa, Maldives
Surrounded by a world of water in mesmerising shades of blue, Lily Beach Resort & Spa offers over-the-water luxury and family-friendly fun. The resort lies on Huvahendhoo island in the Maldives, a coral island ringed by thriving coral reefs and some of the best dive sites in the world.
Perched over the water or strung along the beach, the air-conditioned villas come with sleek contemporary furnishings and modern conveniences like home theater systems, flat-screen satellite TVs, and outdoor bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs. Beach villas snuggle amid palm trees along a beautiful stretch of powder-white sand, while the water villas offer more privacy and direct access to the hypnotic sea. If you’re traveling with children, the family villas, with interconnecting rooms, are perfect. Deluxe over-the-water villas boast glass floor areas, so you can peer into the crystal-clear sea below, and the sunset suites also come with private plunge pools and 24-hour butler service.
Guests can choose from several different dining venues serving everything from fusion cuisine inspired by Chinese, Indian, and Thai flavors to teppanyaki and themed buffets. Water sports reign here, and with a flourishing reef not far from shore, the snorkeling is fabulous. You can also swim at the two pools, play volleyball and tennis, tone at the gym, or indulge at the over-the-water Tamara spa.
The all-inclusive plan is optional. It offers excellent value and includes food (buffet-style and limited a la carte); beverages; and two excursions per person per stay, such as snorkeling, sunset cruises, village visits, and fishing.
Accommodation: Lily Beach Resort & Spa
12. North Island, Seychelles
Wanna-be Robinson Crusoes love this exclusive back-to-nature eco-resort, nestled between soaring granitic peaks on a remote island in the Seychelles, but with the bevy of attentive staff here, you’ll never feel stranded. “Barefoot luxury” is the island’s slogan, and conservation is key. The owner’s mission is to restore the island back to its natural state, and guests are welcome to participate in the conservation programs and learn about the unique ecology of this far-flung isle. You can choose from two different picture-perfect beaches, where turtles nest on the shores.
Constructed of local materials harvested during the island’s ongoing restoration, the eleven private open-plan villas rim a beautiful stretch of beach that bristles with coconut palms. Sophisticated beachy chic best describes the decor, which incorporates plenty of textural elements and natural materials. Plunge pools in large decks, netted beds, and deep soaking tubs are typical features, and doors fold back to let the outdoors in. The sumptuous Villa North Island at the far end of the beach is the ultimate honeymoon hideaway.
Cuisine captures fresh creole flavors using the island’s latest harvest, and butler service allows you to eat anywhere you like. A full range of watersports, guided walks, and excursions to other islands top the activity list, as well as yoga and holistic treatments like the “barefoot ritual” at the spa. Bicycles and electric golf carts provide transport. Kids can keep busy with customised children’s programs offering activities like treasure hunts and pizza-making lessons.