The 10 Best Beach Hotels in the World
By Tracey Minkin
Ocean House Reader's Choice Winner
Watch Hill, Rhode Island
A grande dame seafront hotel on a private white-sand beach from Watch Hill's late-19th-century heyday, Ocean House underwent a $146 million restoration that put it on the world's map. The magic of Ocean House lies in its ability to retain a genuine sense of bygone grace with modern amenities. Broad porches and decks set the tone outside and are the ultimate cocktail destination. Indoors, Ocean House's bright and luxurious 16 Signature Suites and 49 guest rooms feature modern baths with oversize soaking tubs and marble tiles.
Book it: Ocean House or 888-552-2588
Our experts say: “A complete restoration preserved this nostalgic beauty to be loved by generations to come,” says travel correspondent Samantha Brown. “Great views and vistas abound, inside and out,” says freelance writer Gary Santaniello. “The architectural details, including pillared porches and a widow’s watch, are perfect,” say travel writers Diane Bair and Pamela Wright.
Montage Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, California
With its blufftop setting that overlooks crashing surf and exquisite beaches, the Montage glows with California drama and design. Taking advantage of Craftsman elements that echo Laguna Beach's founding as an art colony in the early 1900s, all of the resort's 248 guest rooms, including 60 suites and 37 bungalow rooms, offer stunning ocean views and are appointed with early California artwork.
Book it: Montage Laguna Beach or 866-271-6953
Our experts say: “I love the California casual elegance of this Craftsman-style beauty on the bluff,” says Ann Wycoff, freelance travel writer and co-founder of the global adventure site wandermelon.com. “The service is superb without being over-fussy,” says freelance writer Joe Yogerst. “If Doc (one of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row characters) were alive today, the Montage is where you’d find him chilling with Dora and a bottle of California cabernet.”
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Set on Hawaii Island's exclusive Kona-Kohala Coast with turquoise oceanfront, fine white sand, and black-lava landscapes, this resort casts a spell. Housed in intimate two-story bungalows, the 243 guest rooms and suites exude a nostalgic sense of Hawaii's Golden Age with expansive, open-air living spaces and island-inspired decor.
Book it: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai or 808-325-8000
Our experts say: “Hualalai’s aloha calls you back again and again,” says Ann Wycoff. “It’s the perfume of plumeria, the gentle chatter of Aunties teaching children lei-making, the gracious yet stealth staff who anticipate and execute before you ask, a lomilomi massage in a lush garden, a sip of a fresh pressed mango Mai Tai.” Travel correspondent Samantha Brown calls it “one of the most stunning resorts in the world.”
Soufrière, St. Lucia
The most well-traveled guest still can't help but gasp when entering any of Jade Mountain's 29 suites to take in the view across Soufrière Bay to St. Lucia's fabled Piton peaks. Further, architect-owner Nick Troubetzkoy's design removes an entire wall so that each suite opens to a private infinity pool (five of the suites have Jacuzzis instead) and the sense of being suspended in the soft Caribbean air, hundreds of feet above the sea.
Book it: Jade Mountain or 800-223-1108
Our experts say: “Jade Mountain is one of the most romantic and relaxing coastal resorts in the world,” says Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel International. “The views from the rooms are almost ridiculously gorgeous,” say Diane Bair and Pamela Wright. “The chic ‘swimming holes’ at Jade Mountain take the concept to a whole different level,” says Joe Yogerst.
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
How appropriate that this secluded retreat derives its name from the Sanskrit words for peace and place. Amanyara's 20 villas and 38 timber-shingled pavilions are steps away from Malcolm's Beach, a half mile of soft, white sand, and the resort borders the pristine reefs of Northwest Point Marine National Park, home to some of the world's best diving. Amanyara's serene, contemporary design pairs with these natural splendors in perfect harmony.
Book it: Amanyara or 866-941-8133
Our experts say: “It’s beautiful, tranquil, and has great views,” says travel correspondent Peter Greenberg. “And for Type A personalities like myself, great connectivity is a welcome option.”
Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Set among 25 acres of verdant jungle and on a beach that glows with the fine powder of pink coral, Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa is a gem on the Yucatán coast.
Book it: Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa or 866-454-9351
Both luxe and low-key, Maroma's 63 whitewashed, thatched-roof bungalows and nine suites feature mahogany and leather furniture, as well as artwork, all made in the hotel's own workshop. Sybaritic pleasures include a beachside tequila-and-ceviche bar, and Kinan Spa's Temazcal ritual that involves volcanic steam and a plunge into that impossibly blue sea.
Maundays Bay, Anguilla
Like a vision from a storybook, this village of bone-white, Greco-Moorish dwellings clusters exotically along the intimate crescent of Maundays Bay.
Book it: Cap Juluca or 888-858-5822
A sophisticated and stylish hideaway surrounded by 180 lush acres with more than 60,000 flowering plants, Cap Juluca features 70 newly refurbished beachfront guest rooms and suites with louvered doors that open wide to oceanfront terraces. (Villas come with private swimming pools.) The 1,800-square-foot pool flanked by columns is a freshwater alternative to the aquamarine Caribbean.
Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Dorado, Puerto Rico
Built on the former Laurance Rockefeller estate, this open-air enclave is surrounded by 1,400 acres of verdant vegetation crisscrossed by meandering nature trails. That said, it might be tempting never to leave one's room: Dorado Beach's 100 quietly luxurious guest rooms and 14 suites all sit directly on the beach. Dedicated butlers, a five-acre spa, and two oceanview pools add to the sense of sanctuary. Su Casa, the hotel's 8,000-square-foot, four-bedroom villa, is a 1920s hacienda restored to understated glamour.
Book it: Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve or 787-626-1100
Our experts say: “Puerto Rico’s most coveted slice of beachfront has been reincarnated,” says travel writer and photographer Paul Rubio.
Laucala Island Resort
Laucala Island, Fiji
This 3,200-acre private island features 25 villas scattered amid coconut plantations, on deserted beaches, and atop mountains. All are glamorous versions of traditional Fijian dwellings, with gardens and infinity pools lit by tiki torches.
Book it: Laucala Island Resort or 679-888-0077
The lagoon-style swimming pool meanders amid palms, and an 18-hole golf course overlooks Seagrass Bay. Enjoy meals in your villa, or gather with your fellow castaways at one of the five restaurants and bars, from an elegant plantation house to cliffside perches.
Hotel Santa Caterina
With guests including Liz and Dick and Brad and Angelina, the allure of this late-19th-century villa that has been owned by the same family for more than four generations seems as timeless as its beauty. Immersed in the spectacular scenery and cosmopolitan lifestyle of the Amalfi Coast, Hotel Santa Caterina is surrounded by fruit orchards, olive groves, and bougainvillea. The spacious and light-filled rooms have floors in antique hand-painted majolica, marble baths with brass fixtures, and balconies with views over the Bay of Salerno or the garden.
Book it: Hotel Santa Caterina or 39-08-987-1012
Our experts say: “The minute you arrive,” says Stacy Small, “you are overwhelmed by two things: the friendliness of the longtime staff who welcome you like family and the stunning views you see from the terrace.”
How we chose the winners:
Pictured: Cap Juluca, Anguilla
Coastal Living sought nominations from its editors and contributors, plus more than 40 travel writers, for hotels and resorts worldwide that combine setting, design, amenities, and service. Using that pool of nominees, editors consulted a panel of 10 travel experts, including seasoned travel correspondents Samantha Brown and Peter Greenberg and super agent Stacy Small, for their recommendations and insights. The final selections were made by Coastal Living editors. For our Readers' Choice winner, we asked the magazine's nearly 1 million online followers to select the hotel from our Top 10 that they most want to visit.