Life Affirming Travel: Hotels at the Top of their Game

A two week escape plan to somewhere absolutely awe-inspiring is something we all need right now. A swish holiday to a deserted-ish island (five star of course) or a stint in a lush jungle paradise can do wonders for your mind and relationships, which is why we’ve scoured the globe for truly restorative stays to reboot your life force. A great hotel staffed by caring locals can set the tone for your entire journey. Time to start packing your Rimowa, because for this particular issue, we were keen to get you off the beaten path, as we regularly cover the who’s-who of luxury hotels, though you’ll always find both indulgent buzzy gems and familiar brands in the mix. Instead, we’ve aimed to showcase properties at the top of their game, adding something new to the conversation, or hitting the sweet spot between hotel hospitality and vacation-rental coziness.

Villa Similan, Layan Residences by Anantara: Phuket, Thailand

If 2022 has been a stressful, white-knuckle year, take your tribe on a rewards trip. The reward is simply for getting to the other side of challenging times. Savor your best life in the sweet lane at Layan Residences by Anantara in Phuket. This ultimate all-villa retreat brims with VIP perks geared group bonding of the highest order. Villa Similan—the largest and most sublime of the resort’s 15 ultra-luxurious residences—commands prime ocean and jungle views. This lavish eight-bedroom contemporary villa comes with a live-in butler and an on-call private chef and spa therapist (a set up worthy of Tom Brady’s retirement party, should that ever really happen).

Showcasing a simply sublime indoor-outdoor design, the villa features a rather photogenic roof terrace, 22-metre infinity pool and massage room. A glass-clad wine room leads to the pièce de résistance: a ‘man cave’ adorned with leather sofas and an antique billiards table. Heighten your appreciation of wine with a sophisticated tasting with Anantara’s wine guru, before retiring to the terrace for a feast of culinary delights.

A glamorous yacht cruise around Phang Nga Bay can be arranged, pop the Krug champagne while a gourmet barbecue sizzles under the watchful eye of the onboard private chef. Spot the bay’s most photographed mangrove-cloaked rock, ‘James Bond Island’, a key location in the Bond classic, Man with the Golden Gun. Keep an eye out for monkeys, birds and lizards. At nearby “Tarzan beach”, swing your heart out on impossibly thick vines to drop dramatically into the deep surf, dispersing shoals of cigar fish.

Back at the villa, brush up on your jab skills with a private Muay Thai boxing lesson. Soak up the views over the Andaman Sea as your butler serves up signature dry Martinis before heading to the cinema room for a private viewing of vintage Bond films. When in season, phosphorescence glitters in the warm sea, a rather remarkable phenomenon to lose yourself in a late-night swim. Float on your back and look up at the stars above; aquatic somersaults spark up your own underwater constellations.

anantara.com

Caerula Mar Club: South Andros Island, Bahamas

Helmed by husband-and-wife duo Bryan and Sarah Baeumler of HGTV fame, Caerula Mar Club is a boutique luxury resort spread across ten oceanfront acres dotted with swaying palm trees on the sleepy island of South Andros in The Bahamas. Five stand-alone villas, 18 Clubhouse Suites, three stellar dining options and a secluded stretch of white sand beach await guests at this tropical paradise, providing an idyllic spot for an intimate destination wedding with a postcard-perfect backdrop.

Jetsetters looking to tie the knot can book the resort’s “Beachfront Bliss in The Bahamas” package in partnership with national private jet charter company evoJets. After being whisked away with round-trip transportation to South Andros aboard a private, 10-passenger jet, guests can enjoy three nights of accommodations—a private villa for the bride and groom and four Classic Clubhouse Suites for the wedding party, as well as daily breakfast for the group. Onsite wedding coordinators will take care of all the details on the big day, from an outdoor ceremony and three-course al fresco reception dinner to bridal bouquets and a wedding cake.

CaerulaMar.com

Oil Nut Bay: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Tucked away in the desirable North Sound area of Virgin Gorda lies Oil Nut Bay, an idyllic island resort with luxury homes and villa rentals known for privacy and catering to well-heeled groups. Kick back with your best mates at a beach club with three pools and a swim-up bar. Or unwind at the wellness center when you’re done with pickleball or tennis. Watersports galore awaits the adrenaline junkies, while world-class dining and two heli-pads keeps families coming back. Beloved guest favorites include Sunday brunch, movies under the stars, sea turtle tagging, destination picnics and visiting the rescue barn onsite.

The resort features a cool new Marina Village with Nova overwater restaurant, suspended pool with hammocks and daybeds, 93-slip marina, market, and Luna boutique. Oil Nut Bay also recently added five incredible new villas to its collection. Each of the villas are custom-built into the island’s topography integrating both natural and modern elements, glistening blue pools, and white-washed interiors to reflect the nature outside. Villas can accommodate up to 12 guests.

OilNutBay.com

Conrad Punta de Mita: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Situated among the area’s serene natural landscapes and aquamarine waters, the new-build Conrad Punta de Mita delivers an inspired beach vacation – the Conrad way. Drawing influence from Mexico’s rich history and unique culture, indigenous artwork integrates with exceptional amenities to create a sense of barefoot resort elegance that highlights its local Mexican identity. All guest rooms and suites boast views of the Pacific Ocean, with suites offering large patios, plunge pools, freestanding soaking tubs and outdoor showers.

Four restaurants and three bar concepts offer menus and spaces that pay tribute to the age-old techniques and flavors of the local region. Its signature restaurant, Codex, is an open-air experiential culinary journey on the secluded edge of the resort, offering sprawling views of the beach and flavor profiles from the renowned destination woven through each course. The adults-only Conrad SPA serves as a refuge from the pace of everyday life with a unique indoor-outdoor design and traditional Temazcal spread across 10,000-square-feet. For the adventurers, embark on off-site activities including zip-lining, sailing and seasonal whale watching, or immerse yourself in on-site activities such as agave tastings, surf lessons and cultural experiences.

ConradPuntaDeMita.com

Zemi Beach House: LXR Hotels & Resorts, Anguilla

Nestled on six oceanfront acres on Anguilla’s tranquil Shoal Bay East, Zemi Beach House blends contemporary luxury with experiences anchored in rich island traditions. The intimate beachfront boutique hotel comprises 76 guest rooms and one- to three-bedroom suites with private balconies overlooking the ocean or tropical gardens. Five food and beverage concepts create an innovative culinary experience that offers a variety of settings and a diverse array of tastes, all in one exquisite location. Guests can enjoy cuisine that marries the island’s abundance of fresh-off-the-boat seafood with an array of imported delicacies, local herbs and seasonal produce. The properties signature Rhum Room is a refined and elegant tasting room in which to savor the best island rums and small bites, featuring more than 100 small-batch, single-estate rums that recall the Caribbean’s 18th century sugarcane plantations.

Designed to awaken the spirit in a setting completely in harmony with nature, the award-winning Zemi Thai House Spa is a sanctuary featuring private spa suites and a yoga deck. Housed within an authentic 300-year-old Thai house, this serene and luxurious Anguilla spa resort features the island’s only hammam, as well as five multifunction treatment rooms with showers, relaxation areas with beautiful views, a fresh juice bar and a wellness boutique.

ZemiBeach.com

Bawah Reserve: Anambas Archipelago, Indonesia

Earth Day everyday lovers rejoice, remote eco-resort Bawah Reserve reopens on September 1, 2022, welcoming guests back to the Anambas Islands, Indonesia for the first time in over two years. Bawah Reserve offers the ultimate in that “secluded island castaway” feeling, opening up this lesser-trekked part of the world for the discerning traveler.

Accessible via private seaplane, Bawah is a group of six tropical islands in the Riau Archipelago, Indonesia, located 160 nautical miles from Singapore. Set across 13 beaches and three lagoons with 100 hectares of forest, Bawah Reserve combines an earth-focused philosophy with refined elegance. The reopening will see the rather thrilling debut of a new island and accommodation offerings, an aesthetic transformation to its villas, as well as an extensive enhancement to its sustainability program.

Set on a previously untouched island, Bawah Reserve will launch six new cliffside lodges that now make up Elang Private Residence, promising guests over the age of 18 an even more elevated private island experience. Elang Private Residence will offer the ultimate exclusive take-over for groups of family and friends of up to 20 people. Guests will have the run of the island and exclusive access to a private beach, an open-air, two-story Club House restaurant and bar, a Beach House with the breath-taking views of the lagoon. Best amenities? Kayu Spa and a dramatic “saltwater infinity pool of dreams” refreshed with every tide. Each lodge will offer guests private butler service, a balcony with ocean views and private paths leading to dramatic rocky coves and into the glistening turquoise waters. Bawah Reserve has all the answers when it comes to increased demand for group, multigeneration and family travel. Bawah is the first island in Indonesia to be powered by a renewable microgrid and is certified as a 5-star resort under the Signing Blue WWF program.

BawahReserve.com

Rancho Pescadero: Baja California Sur, Mexico

Just an hour north of Cabo near the artists’ enclave of Todos Santos, expect friendly service and relaxed luxury at this nature-inspired retreat. With 30 thoughtfully-designed beachfront acres, travelers are immersed in Mexican culture, wild natural landscapes and sustainably-sourced epicurean experiences. Rancho Pescadero reimagines wellbeing as visitors are guided on a voyage of self-discovery and personal enrichment.

Where barefoot luxury meets Mexican soul, Rancho Pescadero is home to nine interconnected indigenous plant gardens, orchards and farms, complemented by a bird sanctuary, sea turtle hatchery, goats, chickens and bees. Tucked within the gardens, a show-stopping conservatory built with Palo de Arco, which grows widely in the region, doubles as an artful abstract sculpture, while a communal table sets the stage for farm-to-table cooking classes, salsa-making workshops, Mezcalita mixology lessons and gardening tutorials where guests can design their own bouquets of fresh-cut flowers. Paying homage to the local way of living off the land, Rancho’s visitors are encouraged to pick limes from the orchard’s citrus trees to garnish their cocktails and gather eggs from the chicken coop for their Huevos Rancheros.

The resort’s 25,000 square-foot wellbeing complex features a spa with an apothecary, rooted in the wisdom of plants, inviting guests to pick fresh herbs and botanicals to create their own scrubs, masks, tinctures and essential oils. A Pilates studio, two yoga shalas, an ice fountain, steam room and Himalayan salt sauna are complemented by a fully-equipped indoor/outdoor fitness center and an Olympic-sized swimming pool surrounded by lush palms. Here, the opportunities for healing are endless, from meditation and sound healing to gardening, candle-making and crafting to yoga, meditation workshops and native cacao rituals.

At Rancho Pescadero, from the Sierra Laguna mountains to pristine beaches, the wonder of nature thrives.

RanchoPescadero.com

Ibiza Gran Hotel: Ibiza, The Balearic Islands

Renowned for outstanding culinary venues, and celebration of contemporary art, Ibiza Gran Hotel is a feast for all five senses. The seductively peaceful locale is situated in the heart of Ibiza’s “golden mile,” across from the island’s most glamourous marinas and nearby Talamanca beach, high-end designer shops and famed nightlife. Open April through October, the all-suite hotel offers four restaurants, the only casino on the island, two pools and an award-winning spa.

Ibiza Gran Hotel features 185 contemporary, loft-style suites boasting exceptional views of the Bay of Ibiza. The buzziest bit of news? Their flagship restaurant, La Gaia by Óscar Molina, was awarded its first Michelin star in December 2021. The property is the first and only hotel on the island to be awarded this prestigious accolade.

IbizaGranHotel.com

About The Author

Si Si Penaloza's first brush with unbridled luxury came when she was 18 months old, when she toddled from the lobby of Hôtel Ritz Paris into the adjacent Bar Hemingway – only to be busted 15 minutes later. After cutting her teeth as a curator, arts editor and cultural critic, she fell down the rabbit hole of luxury travel. A natural born flâneur, she thrives as a professional lounger – jetting to the world’s top destinations to review hotels and spas for top international outlets. Amid bouts of horizontal hedonism, she’s not immune to the lure of stunt journalism – interviewing Brad Pitt, George Clooney and the cast of Ocean's Thirteen in Cannes, reporting from Prince Harry’s Diamond Jubilee Tour of the Caribbean or racing the Top Gear team through the vineyards of Stellenbosch. She’s also been known to trek the Himalayas in seersucker pajamas, track baby kiwi birds at Cape Kidnappers, observe octopus at 80 feet below in Curaçao and frolic with frisky penguins on Cape Town's Boulder Beach. For editorial consideration please contact [email protected](dot)com.

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