With a flotilla of boldfaced big-hitters hugging its sunny shores, Dubai isn’t exactly short of luxury digs. But what makes the newly opened Bulgari stand out is its location on its own seahorse-shaped manmade island, and its low-slung layout, a pleasing retort to the city’s ubiquitous canyons of skyscrapers. This is down to the group’s Milan-based architects, who anchored the hotel so it separates two bays: one an oh-so-quiet stretch of beach lined with villas; the other a super-smart marina with a sweep of restaurants and the Bulgari Yacht Club – a first for the brand. Structures are topped with layers of coral-like latticework; other marvellous textures that draw the eye include backlit green onyx, black granite and woollen Beni Ourain rugs from Morocco, picked out with covetable objects from B&B Italia and Flos. The city centre thrums on the other side of a 300-metre bridge, but with six bars and restaurants at the hotel, there really is no reason to cross it. La Spiaggia is a poolside crowd-pleaser that flips out wagyu beef burgers during the day, while in the evening, a Negroni from the oval Bulgari bar is a punchy aperitif for oysters and bottarga risotto at the neighbouring Niko Romito restaurant. The wow factor, though, is provided by the immense spa, with its ice fountains, hammam and an indoor pool – lined with a mosaic of real gold tiles, naturally – that has far-reaching views of the sea and the Dubai cityscape through floor-to-ceiling windows. The sense of contented wellbeing isn’t limited to the spa. In a land of hyperbole, this is understated perfection that thinks big. By Lauren Ho
The Four Seasons Resort Maui is a tranquil retreat located on Wailea Beach. The No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui offers spacious rooms and suites appointed with lanais, access to three golf courses and many kid-friendly amenities, such as lawn games, arts and crafts and hula lessons. What's more, guests can enjoy the hotel's picturesque location, as they lounge on the beach or by one of the three pools, including an adults-only pool with underwater music and a swim-up bar. (Peter Vitale/Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)
At the far reaches of the Punakha Valley, on the Mo Chu River in central Bhutan, is this COMO retreat. The 11-room hideaway gives harried guests views of terraced rice fields, the temple of Khamsum Yuley Namgay, and snowcapped Himalayan peaks. The restaurant Bukhari, so named for the traditional Bhutanese fireplace, might be the best place to savor these vistas. Park yourself on the outdoor terrace, preferably by a smoking, standing fireplace, for a seasonally driven dinner made with local organic ingredients—red rice, hand-ground buckwheat flour, apple cider vinegar, and hand-moulded farm cheese.
This 142-room hotel sits in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and in the shadow of the iconic bridge—which, no doubt, helped it land its top-10 rankings for both location and lovebirds. You get the choice of two compelling kinds of lodging: either the new, eco-friendly suites with gas fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and bamboo furniture; or rooms in the site’s original Fort Baker, which was an officers’ residence during World War II. Readers also loved the Northern-Cal-style spa, which features massage as well as energy work (like reiki and jin-shin) and hypnotherapy.
This hotel is the most talked-about hideout on the planet. Out here in the remote lands of southern Utah, where shark-tooth fossils, arrowheads and dinosaur bones poke through the crusty earth, Amangiri materialises out of the wobbling desert air. Seen from a distance, it has a phantasmic appearance, like a train of earth-toned cubes amongst the boulders. Inside, it’s a sleek homage to nature, with 34 airy, minimalistic suites and common areas that blend into the landscape. This is where retired rock stars, exhausted A-listers seeking tune-ups and athletes with deep pockets gather for creative South-western-style cooking and stargazing on the decks at night. Scramble up the hilly splendour that goes on as far as the eye can see – about 600 uninhabited acres. Or hike to the Via Ferratas, triumphantly executing the breathtaking, high-altitude treks and hearing all about the hoodoos, promontories, pinnacles, caves and iron-flat mesas of this untrammelled place from the on-site guide and geologist. Then there’s the pool, which wraps around an immense boulder in the heart of the grounds, or the spa, where Native American-influenced treatments rule the day. Amangiri, just a four-hour drive from Las Vegas, is a low-rise outpost in the dusty desert that goes beyond satisfying creature comforts: it’s an invitation to live deeper. By Becca Hensley
Half an hour’s drive from Mérida, the state capital of Yucatán, Chablé began life as an 18th-century sisal hacienda, and many of its original buildings endure. The arcaded Casa Principal, its faded stucco the blue of a Madonna’s cloak, contains the bar and an enfilade of sitting rooms; the former machine house has been incorporated into the most ambitious of its four restaurants, which is under the auspices of Jorge Vallejo of Quintonil in Mexico City, ranked 11th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants; and a smaller building contains an immense library of tequilas. In case you feel the urge to atone for a surfeit of high living, the chapel of San Antonio, after whom the San Antonio Chablé estate was named, remains a house of God. Forty contemporary white-limestone-and-glass casitas are strung across the densely wooded 300-hectare estate, each with its own terrace, pool and hammock, and guests fall broadly into two categories: those who have come to explore the ruins of ancient abandoned Maya cities – Chablé is well placed for visiting Uxmal, arguably the greatest example of these on the Yucatán peninsula – and those who are here for the spectacular forest spa, where the pools are lined in tiles of petrified wood. Surrounded by jungle, a dozen treatment cabins are arranged around a cenote, a water-filled sinkhole which the Maya believed to be a portal to the underworld but guests are told is a fountain of wellness. It’s a place of such beauty and charm that even non-converts to traditional Maya healing rituals will succumb to the overall spirit and peace. By Claire Wrathall
This sprawling cream-colored villa is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, and the stunning vantage point is one of the hotel's finest features: Hermanus is known for its rugged natural beauty, and Birkenhead House maximizes that in all directions. Hermanus is a lovely add-on to any South Africa trip, and this is the best hotel in the area by far. If you're a serious whale watcher, it's a no brainer: You can't beat these views.
Picture this: You’re in the middle of a tiled, two-story courtyard, where potted plants reach up toward archways, their emerald leaves a contrast to the salmon-colored walls. And that's just the view inside. Hacienda de San Antonio, set at the foot of the Colima Volcano in the midst of a 5,000-acre nature reserve, feels like Gatsby went to Mexico and never left. The estate is like an ornately designed cosmopolitan residence in the middle of nowhere, with a garden-facing bar and vaulted common rooms, where plush couches inspire shoulder-to-shoulder socializing.
Highly recommend for a white Christmas! The city is so magical complete with German Christmas markets and carolers (come prepared for the cold!). Old town is beautiful (very European) and there is lots to do. Recommend trying the toboggan ride (great for all ages) and a visit to nearby Jacques-Cartier National Park if you like the outdoors! Tip: make sure you have the right change (in coins) for the buses.