Sipping champagne while soaking in the sun in an impossibly gorgeous infinity pool, vertical wine tastings of Brunello while staying at a Tuscan villa, open-air massages under an canopy on a private stretch of beach—when it comes to “bucket list” hotels, it’s all about the amenities and special experiences on offer. But where to start? After scouring the world’s most luxurious hotels, these stood out as the top five places in the world to relax and rejuvenate. Each is a sight to see, built into some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world. So get out your own bucket list and start editing—you’ll want to make room for these five stunning locales. Trust me.
CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO
Fashion designer Massimo Ferragmo’s 4,000-acre Tuscan retreat has its heart set on showing off what the region is most famous for—its food and wine. Cooking classes include making traditional pizza and pasta from scratch or baking generations-old cookie recipes, or relax over a dinner at Ristorante Campo del Drago, where farm-to-table ingredients come straight from their sprawling vegetable patch, which also hosts a gardening class. I’ve always dreamed of staying in a Tuscan villa, and this resort is at the top of the line. The 17th and 18th century farmhouses are up to 6,000 square feet and are secluded in various corners of the property, including near castle ruins or overlooking olive groves. Villas have their own heated outdoor stone pool, a covered patio on which to in the views and a full kitchen so that a private Italian chef can cook you a private meal for the memory books. And let’s not forget that wine. The resort’s winery makes a delicious Brunello di Montalcino, and wine tours and tastings range from winemaking classes and barrel tastings of not-yet-released vintages, to fun blind tastings and an intense two-day course. After indulging on all of this Tuscan cuisine, get outside to see the countryside—there’s a golf course, boot camp in the forest, hiking trails and a heated pool. Then rejuvenate in the luxurious spa, or by taking culture classes that range from painting to astronomy. The services and amenities can’t be beat either: Packing and unpacking, in-villa butler, personal bodyguard, valet service, SUV rental with driver for exploring Tuscany and private heliport for helicopter transfer.
DUNTON HOT SPRINGS
Luxury Americana at its finest, Dunton Hot Springs is located in a breathtaking alpine valley of the Colorado Rockies near Telluride. The resort is its own town (a restored ghost town, to be precise), guaranteeing the ultimate private experience. You may even rent the whole place, saloon and all, for you and 44 of your closest friends. There’s no cell phone service—don’t panic, the resort has Wi Fi—instead, head out into nature, including horseback riding, skiing on trails via helicopter-only access, kayaking, fly fishing, hiking and river rafting. Excursions include Dunton’s own winery, Monument Valley, desert wilderness so beautiful it’s called “Valley of the Gods” and the Canyon de Chelly. Are you more interested in relaxing on property? Feel free to spend all day taking in the views from Dunton’s famous hot springs. Food is local and organic, with wine pairings. Cozy up with some big reds, as snow is visible on the mountains even in summer. Lodgings are spectacular—each “room” is its own stand-alone log cabin, surrounded by ponds, lush green landscapes and, yes, mountain vistas. Back to the spa—wraps, massages, facials and private yoga classes promise to rejuvenate. Still not at one with nature? Rent one of Dunton’s new top-of-the-line canvas tents to experience luxury camping at its nearby River Camp at Cresto Ranch; it’s all the rage, for extremely good reason.
The stellar staff wandering the grounds of Cabo San Lucas’ One&Only Palmilla resort touches their heart and slightly bows their head when passing a hotel guest—that’s how much love there is for this stellar tropical retreat. This dreamy celebrity-filled getaway is all about the tailored experience, as the sky’s the limit regarding special requests. The staff will arrange a day on a private yacht, whale watching, off-roading or even a tour of nearby lands while riding a camel. On property, my fondest memories are of private dinners arranged atop a bluff and a beachside massage for two. Every guestroom boasts a stunning Pacific Ocean view and private patio on which to soak it all in. The crème de la crème is the four-bedroom villa, which sits on its own private stretch of beach. It comes with an iPhone to call your butler, who’s available 24/7, plus a fire pit, private infinity pool, spa and outdoor rain shower. Non-villa guests have two pools to choose from—one that’s family friendly, and its original infinity pool with swim-up bar that’s for adults only (a very good thing). Find time to visit the award-winning spa, which offers all the pampering under the sun, plus 13 private treatment villas that are perfect for couples. Whirlpool baths, private gardens and rain showers get visitors in the mood for their private treatments.
The islands of Fernando de Noronha, off the most northeastern point of Brazil, beckoned my friend Andi Perullo de Ledesma for her honeymoon, and paradise it certainly is. The resort is decked out in tropical furniture made of local woods, and the archipelago itself is so environmentally protected that there’s a quota on how many people may visit each day. The views of lush jungle and clear blue water make it difficult to leave the patio in the guest bungalows (there are only eight in this secluded resort)—in fact, breakfast can be set up there every morning at your request. But you must make it outside to the pool. Andi and her husband, Lucas, could barely drag themselves away, forgoing many of their plans to explore the islands’ famously perfect beaches. The water is kept at a steady temperature day and night (just refreshing enough!), drinks and snacks may be ordered poolside and the sprawling infinity design overlooking those blue Brazilian waters has to be seen to be believed. The romantic property has little surprises throughout, such as hammocks and shaded sunbeds, in addition to the in-room hot tubs. Squeeze in a massage, and dine at the hotel’s restaurant for the freshest local seafood.
See the Wild West in a whole new light at the famous Amangani resort in Jackson Hole, WY. Amangani’s high altitude on the East Gros Ventre Butte (it’s a top ski resort December to March), boasts wow-factor views of Wyoming’s (completely justified) world-famous attractions, the Grand Tetons and Snake River Valley. In the summer, use the hotel as a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, although the grounds are so beautiful it will be next to impossible to even think about leaving. The luxury resort’s superior suites have a deck and soaking tub overlooking the mountain and valley views (amazing), faux wolf throw rugs and authentic cowhide chairs. And the hotel’s amenities only increase and get a lot better from there. Once you fall in love with Amangani, and want to make a more permanent arrangement, there are even homes for rent for those who want total privacy. There are even homes for rent for those who want unparalleled privacy; expect four bedrooms, vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and neutral earth tones to mimic the surrounding mountains. Activities highlight the area’s wildlife, from biologist-led safaris (bears, bison, elk, mule deer, moose and coyote habitat the area), to bird watching and photography classes. The Snake River offers excellent fly-fishing, as well as kayaking and other water sports. Guests may also choose to take in the national parks from a hot air balloon, tee up at one of two 18-hole golf courses or attend the rodeo, which stops in town twice a week all summer. Who doesn’t love a rodeo or cowboys?