This one’s a make-or-break doozy. No amount of genius architecture or mouth-watering cuisine can outshine the spirit of a location. An arresting mountain vista, a thrilling crop of skyscrapers, an impossibly blue seascape: such are the visuals that keep us coming back.
Boucan by Hotel Chocolat
Soufrière, St. Lucia
The Caribbean islands have all the luck in the looks department, and we aren’t even mad: Piton fever hits hard and doesn’t let up. An infinity pool keeps the jaw comfortably dropped, but in case that does eventually get uncomfortable, we’re sure the spa (and its chocolate treatments, naturally) knows the trick.
We’ll likely never tire of coastal Mexico’s astounding variety and allure. Case in point: Cala de Mar Resort & Spa Ixtapa, which scores double points both for its outward vistas and for the glowing cascade of its own structures. Cliffside affairs will always have our hearts, negotiating as they do the dizzying draw of altitude against the ocean’s raw, relentless power.
And let the record show that mountains will do when an ocean isn’t around, moreso when they’re situated midway between posh Telluride and mesmerizing Mesa Verde. Why yes, this did start its life as a gold prospectors’ camp; the saloon still slings lip-smacking potables, and we hear there are hot springs to be found somewheres.
You can go huge in Colorado, turns out, and furthermore you can withdraw meaningfully from the grid in a landscape that truly earns the moniker “canyon country.” The décor skews appropriately Southwestern, and the activities rosters makes absolutely sure you drink in as much of the territory as you can: by horse, by classic car, or by helicopter.
In the spirit of not fixing what was never broken, Lake Placid Lodge firmly keeps the same Adirondack promise that drew our great-grandparents to the lake’s fabled shores. The fable is one you likely already know: upstate New York’s old-growth forest is a thing of legend, a national treasure to be savored fully but with respect. They knew what they were onto, those old whippersnappers.
We, too, are taken in by Manhattan’s steel-and-glass grandeur, as captivating in its own man-made way as the aforementioned natural phenomena. Central Park, all 51 blocks of it, still pulses with that can-do New York crackle come sunrise, and it’s strictly impossible to replicate elsewhere the perpetual swirl of activity crashing like waves against the edifices at Columbus Circle.
Set like a jewel amidst a handful of untamed National Forests, this resort is an unambiguous ode to the, well, greatness of the Great Outdoors. It revels in the oxymoron of High Luxury meets Roughing It, preserving the impeccable service of the former amid the wilderness appeal of the latter, never resolving to mediocre middle ground.
Here we have a testament to eccentricity: originally owned by the fourth Earl of Orford, Strawberry Hill was a temple of gothic bohemianism, an affect only amplified by Chris Blackwell’s camaraderie with the likes of Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones. It’s a place of foggy, velvety hills in which 19th-century bungalows nestle and hammocks rock freely in the breeze. Don’t be shy, get used to it.
Smack in the middle of Jasper National Park, this erstwhile holding of the Canadian National Railroad speaks to a bucolic time before overdevelopment strangled the charm out of the idiom. It’s piecemeal and rustic, though unfailingly luxe, and it’s perfectly content to take a justified backseat to the Park’s pinch-me panoramas.
Yes, this is 37 acres of Mendocino Coast, and yes, it’s got a century of impeccable stewardship going for it, and no, they don’t plan on slacking off any time soon. Snag a local bottle or two, drop your bags off, and start in on the oceanfront trail network. That’s an order.