Next Stop, Paradise
These 10 escapes have perfection in common
Little Palm Island, Florida Keys
Why go: If you’re looking for the luxury of total seclusion or just trying to slip the paparazzi, Little Palm Island in the Lower Florida Keys has long been the escape for Hollywood’s royalty. No need to renew your passport to feel a million miles away at this ultra-private South Seas meets Swiss Family Robinson enclave. Just how private is it? This idyllic getaway is accessible only by boat or seaplane and since there are never more than sixty guests on the property, you won’t have to fight for a pool chair or worry about getting a dinner reservation.
Why you’ll love it: The crushed-seashell paths and more than 250 Jamaican coconut palms belie the fact that you are still in the U.S. Most every whim, whether a floating Madrugada water massage, mangrove maze kayaking or private Chef’s Table dinner, is realized by the doting staff. They even have a Romance Concierge.
Insider tip: Arrive when the resort is hosting one of its Sandbar Session concerts, which take place a few times a year and bring well-known musicians to the hotel’s beach. Previous headliners? Stephen Marley and the Indigo Girls. Little Palm Island has long been a favorite destination for Eileen and Steve Bartels of Riverside. Eileen recommends booking a private dining experience: “We had the most romantic dinner ever when we reserved the private dining at Harbor Point, where you have a table right on the water with romantic tiki torches and tiny Key deer swim past.”
Off-site excursions: Make a tandem skydive with Sky Dive Key West, from two miles over the incredible Florida Keys. While climbing to altitude, you will see the spectacular views of the Keys, the Atlantic Ocean, the Florida reefs and the Gulf.
How much you’ll spend: This escape from reality will set you back $890–$3,000 per night depending on the season and your bungalow choice. All bungalows have private decks and outdoor showers; the smallest is 500 square feet. littlepalmisland.com
Hotel Rangá, South Iceland
Why go: Though Iceland sounds very exotic and far-flung, it is in fact only a quick five-hour flight from New York. In the midst of the wonder that is Iceland—hundreds of waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black-sand beaches and, of course, the iconic Blue Lagoon—sits Hotel Rangá. This is the only four-star luxury resort in South Iceland.
Why you’ll love it: The sun shines nearly twenty-four hours a day in the summer and the winter skies light up with the mystical aurora borealis. Hotel Rangá has been called one of the best places in the entire world to see the aurora by numerous travel magazines and websites. Should you want to take in the northern lights, no need to stay up all night waiting for the celestial show; hotel staff will place a wake-up call when it is visible.
Insider tip: A recent visitor to Iceland, Sonja Blom, Old Greenwich resident and photographer, says the Jökulsárlón boat tour is No. 1 on her family’s must do list. Take a forty-minute guided boat trip on this glacial lagoon and sail among icebergs more than a thousand years old.
Off-site excursions: A visit to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without a dip in the Blue Lagoon. This large expanse of naturally heated powder-blue water is set amidst a jet-black lavascape. There is the Exclusive Lounge for pampered privacy pre- and post-bathing and in-water massages for those looking for true bliss. Less relaxing but far more adventurous are the “super-jeep” tours (modified SUVs) that take riders into the untouched interiors of the Iceland highlands or up to the top of some nearby glaciers.
How much you’ll spend: Rates for a deluxe room start at $547 per night. There are northern lights specials that run from September to November. hotelranga.is
Enchantment Resort, Sedona
Why go: This majestic retreat in Sedona, Arizona, is designed to let Mother Nature take center stage. Every view at Enchantment Resort frames the artistry of the red rock cliffs that surround this award-winning property. But here it’s not just about the views. Access to the Secret Mountain Wilderness and the Boynton Canyon Trail offers guests plenty of opportunities to quiet their minds and explore nature’s playland.
Why you’ll love it: Enchantment is the perfect escape for nature lovers, Native American enthusiasts and spa addicts alike. There are complimentary daily guided hikes, including a Vortex Lecture & Walk. This tour focuses on the energy and power of vortexes (swirling energy that comes from the Earth’s surface—there’s actually one on the property). The Native American program is unlike any other in Sedona, offering talking circles, hikes to the ruins and medicine walks. Even the youngest guests are exposed to Native American culture in Camp Coyote.
Insider tip: When Marcia Tucker, an interior designer from Old Greenwich, brought her young boys to Enchantment, she took them on a train ride to the Grand Canyon that was hijacked by bandits one day, and on a wilderness Jeep tour the next. “My boys still talk about how the Jeep went up on two wheels,” Marcia says. But her favorite part of Enchantment was her time in the Mii Amo spa, rated No. 1 destination spa in the world by Travel and Leisure readers.
Off-site excursions: You can experience the Grand Canyon easily during your stay in Sedona. Choose among a range of tours—from a two-hour Canyon fly-over to a full experience that combines ground and helicopter tours. See the Painted Desert, Navajo Reservation and the 12,600-foot San Francisco Peaks on your way to a magnificent flight along the spectacular South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
How much you’ll spend: Rates start at $375 per night. enchantmentresort.com
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Why go: Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with a Galápagos excursion. The Galápagos Islands are a totally pristine environment completely unlike any other place on Earth. Darwin’s living laboratory has been isolated from the mainland for millions of years, and now is only accessible to a limited number of visitors under strict supervision. Temperatures range from 69 to 84 degrees year-round, making it perfect anytime. And with only a two-hour time difference, you can be a world away with no jet lag.
Why you’ll love it: Karen Royce from Greenwich loves the unparalleled access to wildlife; “In East Africa you get very close to the animals, but pretty much are in a vehicle at all times or walking with someone who has a gun. Not so in the Galápagos; the animals seem to pose for your photos. It is incredible. Being so close and ‘welcome’ was a very different experience.”
Insider tip: Karen says the must-do activity is “hands-down swimming with the sea lions. I want to come back as one. Swim and play in the water and nap in the sun. And they have the cutest ear flaps.”
Off-site excursions: If you book a tailor-made experience through luxury travel company cazenove+loyd you can divide your trip between cruising the islands on a yacht and enjoying the Galápagos Safari Camp. Kids will love being a part of the working farm, and parents will love the luxurious appointments in the tents.
How much you’ll spend: A family of four booked through cazenove+loyd can enjoy a weeklong trip starting at $5,500 per person all-inclusive, based on children over twelve (not including airfare). cazloyd.com
Viceroy Riviera Maya, Playa Del Carmen
Why go: Don’t let the laid-back boho spirit of the resort fool you, the service is all white glove. The Viceroy Riviera Maya offers all the privacy of an exclusive tropical retreat, yet is just next door to the bustling nightlife of Playa del Carmen. This idyllic beach getaway does not allow children, so leave the brood at home when you head for this sun-soaking, tequila-sipping escape.
Why you’ll love it: The Riviera Maya is famous for high-rise hotels that would be right at home in Manhattan. The Viceroy is something else entirely. This secluded resort melts into the landscape. Each of the forty-one tasteful villas features a private plunge pool and access to the white-sand beach mere steps away. Lindley Pless of Greenwich was “blown away by the staff that always greeted us by name and went out of their way to inquire if there was anything we needed.”
Insider tip: The yoga classes on the pier perched over the ocean are not to be missed, says Lindley. What could bring you closer to inner peace more than practicing your tree pose overlooking the Caribbean?
Off-site excursions: The natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula are endless, but the most unique are the cenotes. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes created by an underground river system. The crystal clear waters were once considered sacred by the Maya. The concierge can arrange for you to swim, snorkel or scuba dive in one of these magical oases.
How much you’ll spend: Day rates range from $720 for a Luxury Villa to $2,700 for the Presidential Villa. viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/rivieramaya
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Vancouver Island
Why go: In addition to being the inspiration for the term “glamping,” Clayoquot Wilderness Resort has stacked up the travel awards, earning a spot on Forbes.com and the Travel Channel’s World’s Most Exclusive Hotels list. And for good reason. This ranch by the sea is only accessible by boat or seaplane; and with just twenty luxury canvas tents on its site on Vancouver Island, guests get the privacy and bespoke service that has made the resort famous.
Why you’ll love it: The list of activities is impressive: visitors can indulge in everything from black bear viewing to whale watching. No need to sign up in advance, however. Every night the activities director sits with each guest to plan the next day’s adventure. Last-minute game-plan changes are not only accommodated, they are welcomed.
Insider tip: Mark Begor has been heading from Wilton to Clayoquot every year for the past five years. His must-do recommendation is a salmon fishing excursion. When you make your big catch, they will clean and smoke the fish and then send it home for you. His boys love the guided horse ride to a nearby abandoned gold mine. Really, what boy wouldn’t?
Off-site excursions: To get to some extraordinary spots hop aboard a helicopter. The folks at Clayoquot can arrange for many heli-adventures. In the summer, fishing fanatics can be flown in to secluded lakes and streams. In the winter outdoor adventurers can be dropped atop isolated glaciers for an epic hiking excursion.
How much you’ll spend: Rates start at $4,750 per person for a three-night stay (there is a three-night minimum); cost includes air transfer from Vancouver International, and all food, drink and activities. Heli-adventures are priced separately. wildretreat.com
Greenwich Hotel, New York City
Why go: The Greenwich Hotel sits right in the heart of super-hip Tribeca, but you’d never know it. It takes its incognito status seriously (note, there’s not even a sign out front). This Robert De Niro property is well loved by hipsters and celebrities alike. If you’ve ever fantasized about having your own loft-like pied-a-terre in New York, the Greenwich is the place to pretend. Each room is unique and decorated with hand-selected items such as Tibetan rugs and antique vases.
Why you’ll love it: Hang out in the cozy drawing room by the fireplace and you may run into De Niro himself. The courtyard, which is reserved for hotel guests only, is also the perfect perch for celebrity spotting during the Tribeca film festival. Julie DesChamps of Old Greenwich raves about feeling right at home in the middle of the busy city.
Insider tip: Pack your swimsuit. The subterranean pool is part of the Shibui Spa but open to all hotel guests. Even if you don’t opt for a spa treatment, a late night dip is just what the doctor ordered. Need we mention how rare an indoor pool in New York City is, let alone a pool that looks like this one?
Off-site excursions: Tribeca is a great neighborhood filled with boutiques, galleries and restaurants; families should note that the hotel provides a special guide to the neighborhood with kid-friendly restaurants and activities for your little urban explorers. Call down to the front desk and have the concierge pack a picnic from Locanda Verde to go along with you on a guided bike ride around Battery Park.
How much you’ll spend: Room rates start at $525, but a night in the penthouse starts at $5,500. We’re guessing De Niro stays for free. thegreenwichhotel.com
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Why go: The cabins and cottages of the Post Ranch Inn are perched along the rocky edge cliffs of Big Sur in California. Some of the rooms are so close to nature that grass is growing on the roof. There are only thirty-nine rooms tucked into this slip of heaven between the towering redwoods and the Pacific Ocean. Though the architecture is modern and sustainable, the hotel appointments are all luxury.
Why you’ll love it: Wood-and-glass guest cottages are built around existing trees—those that are elevated make for the most luxurious of treehouse slumber parties. However, there is more to this spectacular resort than just the views. The chef at the inn’s award-winning restaurant Sierra Mar has taken “locavorism” to a new level with dishes featuring local roe and yucca blossoms. After dinner guests can take advantage of Big Sur’s ideal stargazing conditions and turn their eyes heavenward to explore nebulas, planets and stars through the resort’s celestial telescope.
Insider tip: Alessandra and Scott Long of Riverside recommend booking a room on the backside of the hotel for those looking to do luxe for less. For a fraction of the price you can book a room tucked into the redwoods, then enjoy the jaw-dropping cliff views from the infinity pools or award-winning restaurants.
Off-site excursions: The Longs suggest a trek through nearby Point Lobos State Naural Reserve. Landscape artist Francis McComas referred to the reserve as “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” And indeed it is.
How much you'll spend: Low season rates start at $595, high season rates start at $675. postranchinn.com
Why go: We couldn’t agree more with Audrey Hepburn when she proclaimed: “Paris is always a good idea.” With the opening of the ultra-chic Shangri La Hotel in the Trocadero, Paris has a new grande dame for the well-heeled. This restored palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte has all the glitz and glamour of a bygone era. There are few hotels that can boast a view of the iconic La Tour Eiffel (and the Shangri-La puts even those that do to shame). Forty percent of the rooms and 60 percent of the suites have striking views of the Tower and the Seine. Whether you book a suite with a balcony large enough to have a wedding or a room that merely peeks at The Iron Lady, you feel the magic.
Why you’ll love it: Paris is famous for its museums, but rare is the opportunity to sleep in one. The Roland suite is a French heritage site, and the silken service provided by the white-gloved staff make you feel like nobility. The rock band No Doubt was recently “allowed” to be guests as a “trial for rock bands.” Though like most French, the folks at the Shangri-La are not easy to impress, the band must have passed muster since the Kardashians showed up not too long after.
Insider tip: Keri Cameron from Old Greenwich recently took her family for a visit. She recommends getting to know Tony at the concierge desk. He is the ultimate concierge and “can truly make magic happen on your vacation, whether it’s a fully booked restaurant or a behind-the-scenes tour at a house of couture.”
Off-site excursions: The ultimate hot spot is the restaurant La Societe. It is just past Les Deux Magots, made famous by Hemingway, where tangles of tourists are busy snapping photos of each other. Rumor has it that during fashion week the battle to get a table can get downright ugly. The music is spun by the über-hip DJ from Hotel Costes and Jean Dujardin of The Artist was recently spotted there by a Greenwich visitor.
How much you’ll spend: Rates start at roughly $1,300 per night. The Eiffel Tower’s hourly light show is free—and priceless. shangri-la.com
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana
Why go: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” If this quote makes you want to reread Norman Maclean’s timeless novel, then The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is for you. It’s not likely that MacLean meant the seamless blending of luxury and rugged outdoor adventure, but that is what this Relais and Chateaux dude ranch offers.
Why you’ll love it: Owner James Manley of Greenwich created this cowboy-meets-high-thread-count-sheets paradise for his friends and family. Luckily for everyone else, he opened this real working ranch to the public. It has since become an award-winning favorite for sportsmen, families and luxury seekers alike. Accommodations range from five-bedroom homes to tented cabins. (Yet “tent” is a bit of a misnomer, as they all feature elegantly appointed living rooms and en suite bathrooms.)
Insider tip: Don’t miss the Silver Dollar Saloon on property; never have bowling and Johnnie Walker Black been so upscale.
Off-site excursions: With 6,600 acres of stunning meadows and forests, there is no reason to leave because there’s no place better to go. The ranch’s four miles of private access to pristine river frontage on Rock Creek offer fly-fishers of all levels a good shot at bringing home supper; there are 1,200 trout per mile.
How much you’ll spend: This Western fantasy will cost around $1,000–$1,250 per night per person. All food, drink and activities are included in the price. theranchatrockcreek.com