By this point of the weekend, you are so ready for a real vacation…away from the noisy family, away from the crowded airports, away from anything having to do with turkey. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Picture yourself at one of these beachfront escapes—ten hotels all highly ranked by our readers in the annual Readers’ Choice Awards, and just steps away from a dip in the ocean.
The resort’s white stucco buildings with thatched-roof terraces were entirely hand- crafted by one family of Mayan masons. Inside, white-walled rooms are decorated with hand-loomed bedding and rugs. Tubs are oversized, with Mexican tiles. The dinner menu at El Sol includes a bouillabaise with hints of habanero, while La Cantina, a traditional Mexican bar, serves local drinks and homestyle botanas (appetizers). “The service rates a 15 on a scale of one to 10.” “The staff, spa, setting, architecture, and food are exquisite!” “You’ll experience the real Mexico.”
“This sophisticated hotel is on the serene side, compared to other places in Cancún.” Spanish design influences are evident in the tiled roofs, wrought iron railings, and fountains galore. Rooms in shades of beige have bathrooms with twin vanities and rain showers as well as terraces overlooking the sea. “The prices are high, but the food’s very good” at Fantino, which serves Mediterranean cuisine. Cooking lessons are available at the Culinary Center, and the Kayantá Spa gives beachside massages. “Staff welcome guests warmly, like family members.”
“A paradise at the end of the world,” this cedar-plank inn is at the gateway to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Rooms with driftwood furniture offer views of the forest and ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu at the Pointe Restaurant, with its grand panoramic view, emphasizes Vancouver Island produce, game, and fish—”the seafood is unmatched.” For lighter dining and a list of single malts, try On the Rocks. “Staff make you feel right at home.” After a walk on “one of the most beautiful beaches,” enjoy a hot soak in an oversized tub with aromatherapy bath salts.
“It doesn’t get any better” than this: It’s the only property on this year’s Gold List to get all perfect scores. “I had high expectations, and they were all surpassed.” Pronounced kwa-lee-ah, which in Latin means “a deeper sensory experience,” this property is on the northernmost tip of Hamilton Island. “Relaxation kicks in upon arrival, with the first sip of champagne taken with a view of the other Whitsundays.” Hillside pavilions are spread over 30 acres of tropical bushland above the Coral Sea, and are designed to reflect Aussie style using local hardwoods and quarried stone. “The attention to detail is exceptional,” and some pavilions have sundecks and private pools. The Pebble Beach restaurant serves casual Australian lunches, while the more formal Long Pavilion is all about seven-course meals that include dishes such as the organic chicken with autumn vegetables and the Tasmanian salmon with whiting and enoki. “No request is too difficult” for the “super-friendly, super-efficient staff.” “Once you stay at Qualia, it’s difficult to stay anywhere else.”
Sunrise views over the Pacific and sunsets over the lagoon and Mount Otemanu make this Polynesian village resort with a perfect-scoring location “the most beautiful place on earth.” Surrounded by coconut palms, buildings have leaf-thatched roofs and walls made of volcanic stone with mother-of-pearl accents. Perfect-scoring rooms include overwater bungalows that are “beyond words,” allowing guests to spot schools of fish below or gaze at the sky. Enjoy an outing on the resort’s catamaran and a passion fruit mojito at the pool bar. The food is “magnificently prepared” at the four restaurants, including Arii Moana, which serves French and Polynesian cuisine. “Every detail is addressed by the very friendly and efficient staff. ”
Built as a labor of love, this 28-room eco-enterprise is a master microcosm of Dominica: 22 acres of verdant grounds (frangipani, ginger lily, heliconia, and hibiscus) and a hotel blessedly free of pretension. The gingerbread-trimmed cottages, set in a horseshoe shape, face a rocky Atlantic beach or are set back with views of the Rosalie River and Morne Trois Pitons foothills. Inside, uncluttered, compact Garden View rooms and generous-sized suites have plantation-style interiors, with coarse plaster walls, stained concrete floors, and sturdy wood furniture, locally built. Controlling its environmental footprint, the resort uses wind turbine, solar panels, on-site water filtration, and Adirondack chairs made from recycled plastic. From March through October, guests can help monitor turtles nesting on the beach.
This former summer home of a noble family is “in a beautiful fishing village” on the Amalfi Coast. The style is Moorish Baroque, with whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings. Rooms have glazed floor tiles and shuttered French doors, and most have private terraces; the property has “a big reputation, but we were slightly underwhelmed.” La Sponda employs local ricotta and pork in its Neapolitan cuisine. The champagne and oyster bar, open from mid-May through mid-October, occupies its own terrace, and its barmen pour drinks in handblown Murano glasses. “The service could not be better.”
This first foray into the Americas by the Asian hotel chain is set amid dunes, mangroves, and freshwater lagoons. Freestanding villas are decorated with handcrafted Mayan furnishings and modern amenities. All with private pools, they curve around their own garden areas, creating “nirvana on earth.” Dishes at the adults-only Tamarind, next to the “wonderful spa,” are Mediterranean influenced, while Saffron serves Thaifood. Private dining can be arranged for parties of up to 14 at La Cava, in the hotel’s wine cellar. “Staff are attentive without hovering.”