Esperanza Resort [Baja California Sur, Mexico]
THE SILKY BREEZE OFF THE SEA OF CORTEZ will thaw any winter-hardened soul at this new luxury property near Cabo San Lucas. Set on the bluffs of Punta Ballena, a prime whale-watching spot, Esperanza is a tropical compound of sandstone-hued villas with sweeping terraces that overlook two placid coves. Mingle with other guests at a pair of lapis-colored infinity pools while sipping mango smoothies or slurping watermelon-mint popsicles. For a full-body cooldown, head to the spa for the Baja Lime body detox and hydrate with a grapefruit-and-aloe agua fresca. Wander down to the torch-lit beach, where overstuffed pillows and couches make for sublime stargazing.
ROOM & BOARD: The 56 casitas and suites are light and airywith floor-to-pitched-roof sliding glass doorsand heavy on comforts: Frette linens, custom-mixed lotions, elegant woven furniture, and colorful local art. Sample exquisitely prepared local fish, like lime-and-mango-glazed cabrilla and peanut-dusted dorado, at the terraced alfresco restaurant El Restaurante. Or grab a snappy fish taco and sunset cocktail at Esperanza's El Bar (don't miss the tequila-and-cigar menu).
OUT THE BACK DOOR: After morning yoga or Pilates, step up your heart rate on the tennis courts or the two-mile, saguaro-studded trail. The staff can arrange diving, sailing, and surfing trips to nearby breaks like Zippers and to the artist enclave of Todos Santos, a 75-minute drive north. A must-do: Kayak to Santa Maria Bay to snorkel among angelfish, puffers, and wrasses.
DETAILS: Doubles from $575; 866-311-2226, www.esperanzaresort.com
South Beach, Miami, Florida
WAITING-ROOM WHIMSY: Curl up with a cocktail in Hotel Victor's lime-and-eggplant lobby
LAST FEBRUARY, PARIS DESIGNER JACQUES GARCIA remodeled the 68-year-old Hotel Victor, in the heart of South Beach's Art Deco District, to the tune of $60 million, a remake that produced a luxurious assault on the senses: purple and green nouveau-retro furnishings, a custom soundtrack of acoustic "vibe" music, whiffs of Bimbi or Festa (the hotel's "signature scents"), and a six-foot-wide moon jellyfish tank. With a covetable view of turquoise Atlantic waters, the infamous Versace mansion next door, and easy access to the hot nightlife, you'll feel like a VIPminus the paparazzi.
ROOM & BOARD: Ninety-one rooms and suites are situated around an infinity pool overlooking South Beach's thumping main drag and the ocean beyond. Rooms are swanked out with top-shelf minibars and beds framed by elaborate silk-wrapped headboards. A hard run on the beach will prepare you for Vix, the hotel's restaurant, serving a mojito beef salad and salmon ceviche, marinated in yuzu, miso, and sake and served with caviar. Book the Moroccan lava-clay massage at the spa; afterwards, a body rinse and a scalp-and-foot massage will render you clean and cuddly in the confines of your own private steam room.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Your stay includes a personal "vibe manager," who will arrange anything you want to do in Florida: salsa classes in Little Havana, surfing lessons on South Beach, afternoon outings by seaplane to the Florida Keys. Psst: Everglades and Biscayne national parks are easy day trips.
DETAILS: Doubles, $215$715; 800-720-0051, www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com
RAINFOREST REST STOP: Amansala Resort
FROM THE SHADE of a palm, I watch the crashing rollers of the jade-colored Caribbean and rest my thrashed body. No, I wasn't washed up here like a castaway. Rather, I just had my butt kicked by the sweat-inducing Beach Boot Camp at three-and-a-half- year-old Amansala, an eco-resort in Tulum, Mexico, on the Yucatán Peninsula. After yoga, a 12-mile round-trip mountain-bike ride to the Tulum ruins, and an aerobic belly-dancing class, I've earned my chaise lounge and glass of icy limeade.
ROOM & BOARD: Clustered a hundred yards off the beach in the jungle of sea grape trees, the 14 Gilligan's Islandstyle palapas come with private mosaic-tiled bathtubs, mosquito-net-draped beds, and ocean-breeze A/C. Jasmine candles and incense give a bohemian flair, and embroidered orange sarongs await on driftwood hangers. In the beachfront dining cabana, recharge over communal-style meals, such as lemon-herb grilled shrimp or grouper, curried couscous, sautéed kale, and fresh-squeezed cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon juices.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Be it Beach Boot Camp, Warrior Weeka testosterone version with spearfishing, rock climbing, and cliff jumpingor simply an off-season, instruction-free stay, Amansala offers plenty of ways to play. Kayak or boogie-board the three-foot waves lapping up to the resort, then rinse off the salt water at a nearby cenotea spring-fed swimming hole sacred to the Maya. At sunset, book a deep-tissue massage with therapist Steve Swartout and (if you're feeling hedonistic) follow it with a honey-and-brown-sugar facial.
DETAILS: Seven-day, six-night camp, $1,850 per person, meals included; doubles (minus camp) from $146; www.amansala.com
MAGIC CARPET: Sprawl out on a Persian rug at Tamadot
BRASH BRITISH BILLIONAIRE (and balloonist extraordinaire) Sir Richard Branson may be a rebel, but he listens to his mother. In 1998, after Eve Branson spotted a stunning 1920s hilltop castle 40 minutes south of Marrakesh, she convinced her son, who already had a portfolio of luxury resorts, to buy the property and convert it into a five-star hotelno easy task in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains of North Africa. It took seven years, but in February the Kasbah Tamadot's first guests walked through its massive timber doors and into the courtyard's heady lavender-and-rose garden.
ROOM & BOARD: Arched passageways and hidden stairs lead past fountains to 18 mountain-view rooms and suites, most of which have palatial four-poster beds, terra-cotta tile floors, colorful Moroccan poufs, and an Internet hookup. Indulge in the spa's traditional Hammam steam bath, then get a full-body scrub with a goat-pelt mitt. Chef Jean Mundell dishes up memorable meals to eat fireside in the ocher-walled dining room or on the terrace. Menu dependables include tagines (slow-cooked meat-fruit-and-vegetable stews in clay braziers) and sweet-almond and pigeon-breast pastries.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Nearby Oukaimeden, Morocco's best (albeit quirky) ski area, rents vintage equipment, while mule drivers offer rides to off-piste terrain from the base of the hill. Kasbah Tamadot organizes guided trekking and horseback excursions to the Berber village of Imlil, along with outings to Marrakesh and (surprise, surprise) Branson-style hot-air-balloon rides.
DETAILS: Doubles from $378; 800-225-4255, www.sanctuare.com
Hosteria Rincón del Socorro
Corrientes Province, Argentina
ONCE A RANCH ravaged by grazing cattle, Hosteria Rincón del Socorro is now a 30,000-acre wildlife refuge and eco- retreat in Argentina's northeastern Corrientes province. Opened in 2004, it owes its makeover to the Conservation Land Trust, founded by Doug Tompkins, former owner of The North Face, and is now a magnet for solitude seekers preferring the company of marsh deer, ostrich-like nandus, and capybaras (the world's largest rodents) to chatty tourists.
ROOM & BOARD: Tompkins and his wife, Kris, restored three white-stucco-and-red-tile-roof bungalows and El Casco, the main house, built in 1896. El Casco has six vast rooms with high beamed-ceilings and plush beds, a cozy, well-stocked library, and a screened veranda perfect for afternoon tea and chipas, a bread made from cassava. Chef Ramona Godoy serves inspired soups and pastaswith produce fresh from the property's organic gardensin the quaint dining room. Better still, book an asado (cookout) at the barbecue house, where you'll feast on grass-fed organic beef and lamb. Then sit poolside under the stars to savor Godoy's creamy flan and a ramonia rum-basil-and-lemon libation.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Ride with a gaucho on one of Rincón's native criollo horses. (You won't want to leave the fleecy saddle.) On a wildlife safari, look for maned wolves, jaguarundis (weasel-like felines), and a variety of birds.
DETAILS: From $130 per person, including meals and activities; 011-54-37-82-49-7073, www.rincondelsocorro.com
Jungle Bay Resort & Spa
Jungle Bay Resort and Spa
PERFECT TEN: Relaxing at Jungle Bay
DON'T WANT TO BE FOUND? Tucked inside 55 acres of tangled rainforest on the southeastern shore of the 29-mile-long eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, Jungle Bay's balcony-flanked cottages are the perfect hideout. This lush enclave, which opened in March, will ease you into jungle life with two enormous yoga studios, a beachside bar with local reggae and jazz acts, the Spa (where the avocado body mask smells almost good enough to eat), and two hardwood-and-volcanic-stone restaurants with views of the Atlantic.
ROOM & BOARD: Expect your olfactory senses to kick into overdrive on this tiny isle, where the scents of cinnamon tree bark and tangy grapefruit hang in the air. The 35 tropical-hardwood cottages are appointed with private semi-outdoor showers, big beds dressed in white linens, and nap-worthy Adirondack-style chairs outside. With fresh produce and seafood at arm's length, the food here is divine: Try the fried tuna medallions with spiced tomato-and-native-christophene (think summer squash) sauce and the decadent pineapple-carrot-coconut-walnut cake.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Spot pods of humpback and sperm whales from shore, or get closer to the cetaceans in a 50-person ferry. Later, hike or mountain-bike the 100-plus miles of trails to geothermal springs and waterfalls, like the plunging 100-foot Victoria Falls.
DETAILS: Six days, five nights from $599, based on double occupancy; 767-446-1789, www.junglebaydominica.com
Nyuh Kuning, Bali, Indonesia
IF THIS RETREAT DOESN'T TURN you into a tree hugger, you may be hopeless. Situated at the confluence of three rivers in south-central Bali, Panchoran (Balinese for "spring") is the eco-resort's eco-resort25 acres of bamboo and coconut palm groves, waterfalls, spring-fed swimming pools, and organic gardens that supply phenomenal meals. Noted Irish interior designer Linda Garland began constructing the bamboo-and-recycled-wood compound 20 years ago, and in 2003 she decided to open her home to guests. From Swiss Jungian-psych profs to celebrated rockers like David Bowie, they all pilgrimage to Panchoran for the promise of Balinese bliss.
ROOM & BOARD: Unwind your mind in one of five plush, riverside guest villaswhere butterflies and hummingbirds flit from the outdoor showers to the Javanese-antique-furnished rooms. The kitchen dishes everything from eel and veggies steamed in banana leaves to a caramelized stir-fry of ikan teri (dried anchovies) with red chiles.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Tour miles of terraced rice paddies in the village of Ubud, hike Gunung AgungBali's sacred 10,308-foot volcanoor tube riffles on the nearby Wos River. Don't miss lectures at the property's Environmental Bamboo Foundation, where Garland preaches the gospel of sustainable bamboo construction.
DETAILS: Villas (single or double occupancy), $275$715; 011-62-361-974-028, www.lindagarland.com
Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club
Westpunt, Curaçao Island
DIVE INTO EDEN: The watery Kura Hulanda resort would fill Cousteau with envy
CURAÇAO'S WEST END has long been frequented by Cousteau wannabes content to sleep in a shoebox-size hotel room overrun by geckos, so long as it's near killer dive spots. But now Dutch financier Jacob Dekker has shaken up the status quo. Last August, Dekker introduced the Netherlands Antilles to more upscale accommodations when he opened the island's first high-end dive-centered resort, Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club. Focusing as much on land amenities as on underwater adventures, the lodge replaces lizard-filled nights with endless blue heaven.
ROOM & BOARD: Rows of towering palms and indigenous kadushi cactuses lead past the 30-foot-high volcanic cliff to 44 stuccoed suites and guest rooms outfitted with rattan furnishings. Sip a watermelon martini from the beach bar while the sun dips behind the rocking fishing boats. Later, amble over to Watamula, the club's restaurant, for local snapper steamed in a ginger-garlic paste and topped with pineapple chutney.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: The full-service dive shop runs weekly boat trips to the Mushroom Forest, a sloping plateau of green, 'shroom-shaped brain coral five miles offshore that's home to porcupine fish, smooth trunkfish, and yellowtail snapper. Or skip the skiff and swim 100 feet out from Playa Kalkithe resort's white-sand beachto Alice in Wonderland, a 60-foot coral wall where green moray eels and spiny lobsters mingle in the 80-degree crystal water.
DETAILS: Ocean-facing doubles from $200; 877-264-3106, www.kurahulanda.com
The Ultimate Hideout
SOUTHWEST STROLL: The ultimate boardwalk, Lajitas, Texas. Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout
TUCKED IN THE yucca-spiked southwestern corner of the Lone Star State, in the town of Lajitas, this remote 25,000-acre property on the Rio Grande is part dude ranch, part border town. Owner Steve Smith opened Lajitas: The Ultimate Hideout in November 2002 and has been offering his guests outlaw adventure and rugged luxury ever since. Learn to shoot a holstered gun, rope a calf, spot roadrunners, and then indulge in a margarita body polish at the Agavita Spa. It's truly cowboy countrygone soft.
ROOM & BOARD: The 92 rooms strike a balance between classic Tex-Mexadobe walls, timbered beds, leather armchairs, a rack of antlersand modern luxe, with Jacuzzis, feather-light duvets, and soft robes. Candelilla Café serves a mean tortilla soup on the patio, while the showcase Ocotillo Restaurant serves up gourmet Texan fare like rattlesnake cakes and trout glazed with a prickly pear cactus sauce. After dinner, listen to Cowboy Doug croon at Lajitas's Thirsty Goat Saloon.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: There's a 26-mile network of sinuous singletrackthe Más o Menos 100K mountain-bike challenge is held here in February. For a guaranteed good time, try Fun Valley, with tight turns and creekbeds, and El Contrabando. At the Equestrian Center, saddle up Luzy (a nod to Pancho Villa's wife) for a ride to Stargazer Mesa, then take a float down the Rio Grande. For a bigger excursion, head to neighboring Big Bend National Park for a backcountry hike.
DETAILS: Doubles from $215; 877-525-4827, www.lajitas.com
Antero Hot Spring Cabins
Antero Hot Spring Cabins
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Bask in Antero's healing waters
THE LIGHTS ARE ON, THE FIRE IS LAID, and the chalkboard beside the door reads, WELCOME... HAPPY SOAKING. There might be more to life at this rustic Rocky Mountain hideaway than lounging in a secluded hot spring, but I doubt you'll stray too far to find it. Wedged into a narrow cleft between Mount Princeton and Mount Antero14,000-foot peaks in central Colorado's Collegiate RangeAntero's two log cabins have a mismatched charm and unfussy familiarity that will send you into a lovely state of laziness.
ROOM & BOARD: In the century-old Cottonwood cabin, a cast-iron stovethe kind Grandma used for cooking gritssits in the middle of the kitchen, home-sewn quilts drape from log walls, the floorboards creak, and left-behind paperbacks line the shelves. According to a framed note beside the bathroom sink, the water takes a really long time to get there. No worriesthat's what the springs are for. The three-bedroom Hortense cabin, circa 1920s, has a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, bunk beds, and a roomy ranch kitchen. Hire a chef or fix your own meals with groceries purchased at City Market, 15 miles north in Buena Vista.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: Don't skimp on the soaking; the property's 110-degree spring-fed pools are why you're here. If motivated, get a workout snowshoeing or ski-touring the miles of backcountry on the easily accessed Colorado Trail, or alpine-ski 800 acres of lift-serviced terrain at nearby Monarch ski area.
DETAILS: Cottonwood sleeps four and costs $175$195; Hortense sleeps six and costs $200$240; 719-539-8204, www.anterohotsprings.com