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Courtesy of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, San Ysidro Ranch
What makes a resort worthy of being called World’s Best? That would be the perfect combination of location, service, décor, and value. So dig out your sunglasses and swimsuits and dive into our list of resorts -- singled out by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards -- to find your ideal winter getaway.
No. 1: San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort
When you drive up this 500-acre property’s long driveway lined with olive trees and lavender, you have the sense of being on the frontier—at the last citrus grove before civilization gives way to the scrubby Santa Ynez Mountains. No wonder this was JFK’s honeymoon spot. In addition to the 27 rooms in the main house, most of the 14 vine-covered cottages have decks and hot tubs. Eat at the Stonehouse Restaurant, where chef John Trotta serves refined dishes like mascarpone and scallion risotto.
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
No. 2 Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu
“Perfect,” “heaven,” and “the best vacation of my life” are just a few ways guests describe this isolated resort where all 228 rooms, in low-rise bungalows, have ocean views. The five-star service is flawless; the grounds border the rocky volcanic coast with seawater and freshwater swimming pools; an open-air spa teems with tropical vegetation; and a full menu of fitness classes is offered daily. The private 7,100-square-foot oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved right into the underlying black lava, which serves as occasional bunkers.
Courtesy of The Kahala Hotel & Resort
No. 3: Kahala Hotel & Resort
This Oahu classic—fresh from a major renovation—has thoughtful in-room details such as Frette linens, chenille robes, and oversize showerheads. It was here, at what was then a Hilton and known as the Kahollywood, that Richard Burton and Liz Taylor hid from the paparazzi in a private cabana. Book an ocean suite for panoramic views of Diamond Head.
Courtesy of Halekulani Hotel
No. 4: Halekulani
Service rules at this recently renovated five-acre Waikiki Beach beauty, which has been around for nearly a century. Diamond Head suites on floors nine and higher have the best ocean and volcano views. Don’t miss the open-air dining room at Orchids restaurant, which serves delicious Hawaiian specialties such as pipi kaula beef jerky, marinated ahi tuna poke, lomi lomi cured salmon, Waimanalo roast suckling pig, local Kula tomatoes, and Big Island goat cheese.
Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach
No. 5: Montage
The quintessential Montage experience comes complete with crisp service and the smell of the surf. In a too-rare instance of architectural common sense, all 262 rooms come with Pacific panoramas. The shingle-style architecture—twists and turns and gables and porches—is incurably romantic; it’s a re-creation of the world of the California Impressionists who gathered in Laguna during the teens and twenties, lived in humble beach bungalows, and painted this coastline. Don’t miss the Thalassic Beach Walk—a complimentary, spa-therapist-guided stroll that focuses on the mind-body benefits of ocean air.
Courtesy of Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
No. 6: Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
Imagine a hunting lodge in the middle of Central Park. That describes the Houstonian, a low-rise, high-price hotel in the middle of an 18-acre pine forest surrounded by glass office towers. The Houstonian has the snazziest health club in town, complete with three heated outdoor swimming pools, a rock-climbing wall, boxing ring, and tennis, racquetball, and squash courts. Members pay $14,000 a year, but hotel guests get to use the facilities for free.
Courtesy of InterContinental Montleucia Resort & Spa
No. 7: InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa
With its graceful plazas and arcaded walkways, this 35-acre retreat so resembles an Andalusian pueblo blanco that you may forget you’re in Arizona. To set apart its North American flagship in resort-rich Scottsdale, InterContinental created a $325 million Spanish hideaway made up of four “villages” featuring fountain-filled courtyards, garden terraces, and views of Camelback Mountain. Unexpected flourishes, such as live flamenco music at the Prado restaurant, complete the picture.
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lana'i Lodge at Koele
No. 8: Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele
This 20-acre central-highland property on sparsely populated Lanai has the sensibility of an English country manor. The 102 rooms and suites have verandas, many facing manicured lawns where guests can play croquet and lawn bowling before a backdrop of green hills and tall pines interspersed with occasional glimpses of ocean. After a day of hiking, horseback riding, or shooting skeet, relax by the enormous stone fireplaces in the Great Hall.
Jeff Greenberg / Alamy
No. 9: Inn at Spanish Bay
Situated next to the famous golf course and amid Monterey pines, the Inn is a peaceful retreat, with Spanish-influenced rooms and restaurant interiors. From the rooms that overlook the fire pits, you can see the bagpiper play at sunset. Be sure to check the inn’s calendar before booking—major events, from car shows to golf tournaments, are held frequently at Pebble Beach.
Courtesy of Pelican Hill Resort
No. 10: Resort at Pelican Hill
The latest place to stay on Route 1, this Palladian-inspired resort has completed its transformation from a 36-hole complex with no accommodations to a world-class golf resort modeled after an Italian hillside village. Fountains, century-old olive trees, and sprawling Pacific-facing bungalows and villas cover the resort’s 504 acres, which are about an hour south of Los Angeles.
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai