At first sight, Tetiaroa looks like a trick of the light, almost an aberration: it has a sci-fi glow. A pale blue of such luminosity, the remote, entirely private French Polynesian atoll’s water can be seen from outer space – astronauts orbiting the earth have enquired what it was. You leave from Tahiti (30 miles away, but it might be 3,000) and descend in a private six-seater directly into the Technicolor incandescence: a four-and-a-half-mile lagoon surrounded by a subterranean wall of living coral reef and circled by 12 cute green islands. Just one is used for the hotel’s 35 villas, the others solely occupied by frigate birds and ancient pandanus trees and honey bees. Tahitian royalty once lived here through the summers, prettifying their daughters for marriage, feeding them giant sea snails and sweet potato. All the islands are hemmed by white sand and shallow water rippling with baby fish. In deeper water are coral cathedrals for giant clams with mouths full of an algae in a trippy neon. The one-, two- and three-bedroom villas are decidedly more lustrous than the usual desert-island design in glass and ironwood, slate and silk. Each is set super-secretively in its own grounds, with a stretch of lonely white sand backed by dense trees. Your lazy eyes catch the occasional bright jags of oleander, jasmine, hibiscus and golden trumpet. Some guests stay put; some congregate at Bob’s Bar by the lodge’s restaurants (there are three, including a tiny new Japanese) and talk about the actor Marlon Brando, who bought Tetiaroa in 1967, having sailed past whilst scouting for locations for Mutiny on the Bounty (he even helped to develop the innovative 100 per cent renewable-energy seawater air-conditioning system here). A species of tilapia in the natural pond near the spa likes to gobble mosquito larvae: you won’t be bitten here. Best are the late afternoons, with the lulling sound of the Pacific crashing against the distant reef, waiting for the dusk, when the sky turns through the softest pastels into a stupefying heliconia red. By Antonia Quirke
With seven swimming pools, a 28,000-square-foot spa and an epic beachfront location on the Kohala Coast, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii. Accommodations embrace the locale, with bright colors and Hawaiian art. Plus, many rooms include furnished terraces and outdoor lava rock showers. This Four Seasons outpost also organizes special experiences for guests, ranging from private luaus to mixology classes. (Don Riddle/Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
Travelers are hard-pressed to find much to complain about at the Montage Kapalua Bay. Located on the northwest corner of Maui, this 24-acre property offers panoramic views of the beach and ocean. Visitors can spend their time on the water with activities that range from sport fishing to snorkeling. The resort also offers more adventurous pursuits like zip lining and helicopter tours, as well as traditional Hawaiian luau shows. Other activity options include shopping, golfing on two award-winning courses or playing a round of tennis at the hotel's courts. If you're looking to relax, you can enjoy the complimentary beach towels and chairs, take advantage of the poolside Hana Hou Bar & Sunset Patio or indulge in a spa treatment. Accommodations here are one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom suites and each come equipped with separate living and sleeping areas, and furnished lanais. Additional amenities include flat-screen TVs, in-room laundry facilities and bathrooms with separate tubs and showers. To top off their great experiences, recent guests said all staff members, from the pool attendants to the restaurant servers, went above and beyond to ensure they had a pleasurable stay.