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lush, green woodlands on the other, Hotel
Riu Guanacaste showcases Costa Rica's
Photo: Hotel Riu Guanacaste
There's no need to splurge on a luxury beach hotel this year, thanks to a wave of hotels that boast smart design, prime waterfront real estate, and nightly rates that typically go for less than $250.
Hotel Riu Guanacaste
Gunacaste, Costa Rica
With the azure Pacific surf on one side and lush, green woodlands on the other, Hotel Riu Guanacaste showcases Costa Rica’s stunning coastline. The first Costa Rica hotel in the beach-focused Riu chain, this 701-room all-inclusive resort opened in November 2009 on Playa de Matapalo in Guanacaste, a region known for its lower humidity and dry forests. Although Costa Rica’s western beaches are naturally more rugged than its Caribbean shores, the region’s ecological diversity and the Riu’s impressive list of amenities easily overcome any white-sand envy. The luxury beach hotel's all-inclusive price covers all meals, snacks, and drinks (both alcoholic and non), plus a handful of outdoor sports like windsurfing and kayaking. And for an extra charge, the hotel will arrange excursions like hiking to nearby volcanoes, diving to explore underwater volcanic rock formations, and sport fishing for massive sailfish and roosterfish. Guests who want to learn to dive get to test the waters with one complimentary intro course in the hotel pool. Those who just want to relax can easily do so on property, thanks to two swimming pools, five bars (including one swim-up option), four restaurants, beachside lounge chairs, and a Jacuzzi and steam bath.
Photo: Hotel Erwin
With quintessential SoCal surf and a carnivalesque boardwalk (overrun with a colorful cast of local characters) at your doorstep, plus a hipster-magnet, party-hearty rooftop lounge just overhead, Venice Beach’s hip Hotel Erwin, part of the Cali-based Joie de Vivre chain, offers a home base that showcases a different face to Los Angeles. Primed for gawking at the funky and festive spectacle that’s come to define the nabe, guests can get in some bona fide beach time and a cultural fix, to boot. Revamped and rebranded in August 2009 (it was formerly a Best Western), most of the now luxury beach hotel's 119 modern guestrooms offer private balconies (opt for one on the top floors for the best boardwalk and ocean views), colorful design schemes etched with eclectic art and California kitsch, and modern touches like iPod sound systems and comped Wi-Fi. The laidback and artsy Hash restaurant offers seasonal, market-fresh dishes, while the rooftop lounge, High, is primed for Pacific sunsets – both have inspired a local following.
Photo: Hyatt Regency Curacao
Hyatt Regency Curaçao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina
Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
Sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea and Spanish Waters Bay, the Hyatt Regency Curaçao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina boasts prime, white-sand real estate on an island that’s known more for cosmopolitan Willemstad than smooth, sandy oceanfront. The 350-room property (including standard rooms with plasma-screen TVs and balconies and 20 private, beachside bungalows) opened in late April 2010 and already promises to sate almost any traveler’s itinerary on Curaçao. Families should come for the resort’s Camp Arawak, a partnership with National Geographic Kids, that brings the littlest vacationers to some of the island’s top environmental and historical attractions – think archeological expeditions, cave hikes, and a sea creature petting zoo. For grown-up adventure, everything from windsurfing to scuba diving to golfing on the resort's namesake 18-hole Peter Dye championship course is up for grabs. Local influence and culture also seeps into the luxury beach resort's dining and amenities. SHOR, one of three resort restaurants, collaborates with island farmers to serve fresh, locally-sourced meals, while the Atabei Spa infuses its treatments and house-made products with native plants and herbs.
Photo: La Amada
Playa Mujeres, Mexico
Laidback Playa Mujeres has one up over its party-hearty neighbor Cancun: The new La Amada Hotel, one of only two resorts in Playa Mujeres, which comes with two miles of private, sparkling-white beach. Opened in February 2009, the luxury beach hotel’s 109 suites all come furnished with private terraces or balconies, Jacuzzis, and free Wi-Fi. After soaking in some sun on the sand, guests can lay out on a poolside lounge bed or sample casual Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine at the beachfront Isla Grill. La Amada’s water sports options range from sailing to snorkeling, while cruises and deep-sea fishing voyages leave from the on-site marina. Keep the little ones entertained at the complimentary Kids Club (activities include beach soccer and treasure hunts) or invite them along for a day at the 35,000 square-foot spa (kids under 17 must be accompanied by an adult), which boasts a variety of massages and other treatments for adults, teens, and even kids.
Photo: Life Resort Da Nang
Life Resort Da Nang
The newest property on Vietnam’s prized central coast, the 158-room Life Resort Da Nang opened on April 4, 2010, and boasts nearly 10 acres of unspoiled sand on Bac May An beach – not to mention a swimming pool with swim-up bar and full-service restaurant and lounge overlooking the South China Sea. Accommodations run the gamut from petite rooms with two twin-sized beds to private, two-bedroom villas; all come stocked with bathrobes and slippers, in-room minibars, and private balconies. On property, guests can choose from a hearty roster of activities like biking along Da Nang’s nearly 20 miles of coastline, playing tennis on one of two courts, and kayaking the sea’s challanging, wavy waters. The luxury beach hotel is close enough to the ancient town of Hoi An (about 20 miles away) for guests to spend the day exploring the UNESCO World Heritage village with its crumbling bridges, historic homes, and vibrant infusion of French culture, and be back at the resort in time for an evening dip and dinner.
Photo: Radisson Blu
Radisson Blu Resort & Thalasso, Monastir
Skirting the golden-sand beaches of Skanes, one the top Mediterranean resorts in Tunisia, the Radisson Blu Resort & Thalasso, Monastir, opened November 2009, grants guests some unrestricted R & R. Lushly landscaped resort grounds boast numerous diversions, including several swimming pools, tennis courts, and abundant beach activities like jet skiing and beach volleyball. A sparkling new 150,000-square-foot spa, operated by French spa brands Cinq Mondes and Thal'ion, is set to debut at the luxury beach resort this summer, and will feature hammams, a fitness center, and specialty seawater-inspired treatments. The 280 guestrooms (20 of which are set to be dedicated spa suites) each tout a private balcony or terrace overlooking the sea or pools. On site, opt for Tunisian-, Asian-, and/or Mediterranean-influenced fare at a trio of restaurants, or savor a cocktail at one of six bars. Or, venture into the nearby historic town of Monastir for a taste of authentic North African culture, complete with ancient mosques, bustling medina, and museum showcasing Islamic art.
Photo: Rancho Pescadero
Todos Santos, Mexico
Situated on the sandy Pacific shores of Baja California (1.5 hours north of Cabo’s San Juan International Airport), Rancho Pescadero, opened in November 2009, comes with just 12 oceanfront suites and all the delightful luxuries of a small luxury beach hotel: canopied beds, private patios, coffee delivered to your room each morning. The hotel’s 2.5-mile stretch of beach is technically public, but the secluded location means you’re not likely to find more than half a dozen people on the sand at one time. Rancho Pescadero supplies all the beach essentials and then some, from beach bags and sunscreen to bar service and binoculars for whale watching to curtained siesta beds with individual fire pits. There’s plenty to do on the water, too, including kayaking and fishing, and you’ll be hanging ten in no time with on-site surf lessons ($75 for 1 hour, $120 for 2 hours). Free daily yoga sessions and a two-room spa round out the experience. Kids must be 12 or older to stay at the hotel.
Photo: Seagate Hotel
The Seagate Hotel & Spa
Delray’s Seagate Hotel & Spa made a splash when it opened in November 2009 – it’s already racked up a few accolades and we’re joining the bandwagon. This Florida newbie (about 15 miles from Palm Beach) scores big points in our book for its sophisticated boutique-hotel feel (think 162 rooms done up in mahogany woodwork with marble-and-stone bathrooms and private bars, and a beachy-chic lobby with 5,000-gallon aquarium). While the actual hotel is not technically on the beach (it’s a block away in Delray Beach town), the hotel offers complimentary trolley service to and from its own private beach club, located just a few clicks down Atlantic Avenue. The Seagate Beach Club reminds us of a casual country club, what with its own oceanfront pool, cabana rentals, two oceanview restaurants, clubhouse, and exclusive privileges like private beach access, towel and chair service, beverage service, water sports rentals, and complimentary Wi-Fi. When you’re not whiling away the hours sipping cocktails beachside (or poolside), try out the green-certified spa, complete with a Bikram Yoga studio, back at the hotel and dine at the on-site Atlantic Grille for fresh New American fare like Maine lobster pot pie and rib pork chop with balsamic-grainy mustard glaze and parmesan polenta cake.
Photo: Sheraton Rhodes
Formerly the Imperial Rhodes, the 401-room Sheraton Rhodes opened on May 1, 2010, after an extensive makeover. Pillow-top mattresses and marble bathrooms are some of the slick new room features; many also have private balconies overlooking the Aegean Sea. Located on the largest of the Dodecanese isles in the eastern Greek Islands chain, the Sheraton enjoys a few football fields worth of prime beach property, albeit pebbly, with complimentary cushioned sun beds and umbrellas. Guests can order refreshing drinks and snacks right from the sand. Those feeling active can hit the surf á la jet ski, windsurfer, or pedal boat. The luxury beach hotel’s four pools (three outdoor, one indoor) include a dedicated children’s pool, while tennis, squash, a playground, and a games room are also available. Take your pick from Mediterranean or Asian cuisine at the hotel’s several restaurants, then head for an après dinner drink at the piano bar.
Photo: Trump Waikiki
Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk
Trump’s expanding hotel empire has reached the shores of happening Waikiki Beach on Oahu. His 38-story Hawaiian high rise, Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, debuted in November 2009 with interiors that blend organic elements and Hawaiian motifs in an understated, sophisticated way. The lobby features wood paneling with granite and stone finishes and the pool area on the sixth floor comes with a cascading waterfall and impressive ocean views. Accommodations, 462 in total, range from studios with kitchenettes to suites of up to three bedrooms. All feature floor-to-ceiling windows with ocean or Waikiki views, private lanais, travertine floors, and kitchen appliances by Wolf, Sub-Zero and Bosch. Guests can stroll right over to famed Waikiki Beach, just steps away, while Trump’s Beach Attaché can facilitate beach and water sports activities. This luxury beach hotel also touts the notable steakhouse chain, BLT Steak. Trump's outpost features fresh local fish and produce in addition to the usual prime cuts, and patrons can savor sun sets while dining on the restaurant’s trellised outdoor lanais.