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Hotels Without Walls

Hotels are often at their best when they work with instead of against their setting, thoughtfully incorporating open-air elements and inviting the landscape to do the heavy lifting. Notwithstanding all the trappings of the boutique design arms race, travelers still find themselves charmed by one of the only hotel features that can’t be designed: the view. Here are ten hotels that put their unforgettable locations front and center.


L’Albereta is a 19th-century Lombard villa with all the implied sumptuousness and filigree. There’s plenty to love about both the hotel and the location, but it’s the ceiling that seals the deal — specifically, that of the Cabriolet Suite, which whisks out of sight with the push of a button. No need to leave the starry, fragrant night behind when you retire from the balcony.

Ladera Resort
St. Lucia
Ladera Resort

Here the mountain peaks feel almost close enough to touch. Catch the Pitons at their most mythic right when you wake up at this lofty St. Lucian concern, a world unto itself in which walls are delightfully optional. How could that possibly be improved? Oh, right: with included spa treatments and a private, waterfall-equipped pool.

Banyan Tree Ungasan
Banyan Tree Ungasan

The 73 villas here sprout from their tiered cliffside setting like elaborate tropical trees, each one thoughtfully supplied with a plunge pool, the better to take in the tranquil expanse of the Indian Ocean. The floor-to-ceiling windows are fully retractable, too, which means you can take that vista to bed with you.

Calistoga Ranch
Calistoga Ranch

As glamorous the materials and luxe the amenities are here, there’s no chance you’ll forget the natural appeal; the freestanding cottages include outdoor living rooms and half-and-half bathrooms. What’s more, it’s in upper Napa Valley, with many a gently sloping vineyard for you survey from the open-air fitness center.

Ma’in Hot Springs
Ma’in Hot Springs

What’s a desert without an oasis? Situated at the bottom of a waterfall-speckled canyon, this is well and truly a spa hotel. It makes for a gorgeous backdrop for outdoor dining, we must say, or outdoor anything, really: the views are so captivating and otherworldly that you’ll make the terrace your headquarters.

Resort at Paws Up
Resort at Paws Up

A curious combination, backcountry Western camping and white-glove service, but we have to hand it to the Paws Up crew. There’s something deliciously screwy about the idea of five-star tent living, true, but just try to have a bad time as you lift your glass next to a gurgling mountain stream with that great big Montana sky overhead. These are the kinds of panoramas photographers compete for.

Six Senses Con Dao
Six Senses Con Dao

By this point, Six Senses has the waterfront villa idiom down to a science: uncluttered, open-layout structures designed to admit the cooling East Vietnamese sea breeze whenever you need it. It has a soporific effect, to be sure, but it pays off beautifully if you rouse yourself for a midnight stroll by the moonlit surf.

X2 River Kwai Resort
X2 River Kwai Resort

Design junkies take note: here’s your hyper-contemporary fix, a clean-lined, restorative riverside affair with an illuminating approach to the shipping container. The Bistro takes full advantage of the naturally pure visuals with a geometric glass wall and an open-air terrace. Looking gives way to exploring soon enough — as it ought to.

The Serai, Jaisalmer
The Serai, Jaisalmer

Another demonstration of the fact that a high-end tented camp is no contradiction. They lay the splendor on thick here to balance the harsh Rajasthan landscape: walled gardens with sunken pools counteract the arid winds nicely, and at nightfall, lamps and carpets summon a Sultanish grandeur to complement exquisitely prepared local delicacies.

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