WHETHER YOU’RE CRAVING LIVELY BEACHSIDE BONFIRES AND LATE-NIGHT REVELRY OR TOTAL SECLUSION ALONG THE SOUTHEASTERN ASIAN SHORE, THESE VIBRANT SEAFRONT RETREATS OFFER A SUN-FUELED ESCAPE OF A LIFETIME
BY AMANDA McCOY
Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Samui, is exploding with natural beauty; it’s an exotic playground of dizzyingly clear water, powdery sand, and mature palm trees leaping toward the sky. Nestled among the coconut trees that surround the Gulf of Siam on the island’s less populated northwestern edge, Four Season’s Koh Samui retreat comprises 60 Bill Bensley-designed villas plus ten palatial private residences. Th ere’s a private stretch of beach shielded by tropical foliage and giant rocky granitoids, perfect for taking a reflective morning stroll amid the beauty of the sea.
Villas are etched into the hillside to maximize sea views, and they are large and luxurious – even the smallest accommodation still tops 1,100 square feet. All boast ocean-facing decks that are outfi tted with a comfy daybed, marble dining table, lounge chairs, and private swimming pools. Grab the in-room yoga mat for morning sun salutations on the deck before having a breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee, and Th ai noodles delivered to your villa.
Private residence rentals raise the bar to entirely new levels of swank with live-in butlers, massive multi-tiered decks, outdoor dining pavilions, and oversized infi nity pools with plenty of room for laps and leisurely play. The resort’s largest accommodation, the five-bedroom residence, stretches a staggering 16,000 square feet and can sleep up to 15 guests. Dining options run the gamut, from spicy southern Th ai staples like slow-cooked curry and marinated tuna at Koh Thai Kitchen to creative global bites like black ink ravioli and harissa-marinated Australian lamb chops at the oceanfront grill, Pla Pla.
Guests can also feast amid the views from their villas with a range of options available, including an in-room, chef-prepared barbecue featuring starters of hummus, baba ganoush, and guacamole followed by wood-fi red Wagyu rib-eye, jumbo tiger prawns, and free-range chicken. Rooms begin at $660 per night. fourseasons.com/kohsamui
Rising from the sugar sands of Talamanca Bay in Spain’s sun-soaked vacation capital, Nobu’s swanky shorefront resort off ers ultra-luxe reprieve from the famed debauchery of Ibiza. Th ough, do not mistake fi ve stars for stuff y; the boutique hideaway from the famed hospitality power duo Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro is as warm and inviting as it is sumptuous, serenading sun-thirsty travelers with the magic of the Mediterranean.
The resort’s focal point is a spacious fresh water pool deck that overlooks the ocean, where on-call servers are standing by to deliver signature cocktails and refreshing light bites to your lounge chair in the sun. An experience here is a far cry from Ibiza’s neon-soaked club scene, but a trio of lively restaurants
(including Nobu’s signature namesake) still bring the energy. Feast on the chef ’s famed mainstays like black cod miso and yellow sashimi topped with fiery jalapeño, served under the warm amber glow of Nobu Restaurant’s sushi bar, lounge, or main dining hall (guests can also have dishes delivered to the pool) after a day of lounging seaside or indulging in body treatments at Six Senses Spa.
For local flavors, Michelin-starred chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho takes epicureans on a gustatory tour of Spain at Gusto; think homemade tortillas stuff ed with crispy fried artichokes and brothy rice peppered with fresh shrimp, all served with local wine. Rooms are spacious and warm, filled with soft neutral hues and natural materials that mirror the seaside setting, including whites, blues, gold, and aqua, plus local woods and raw stone.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and open terraces bathe overnighters in the seascape, and upgraded suites add private plunge pools, furnished lounge areas, and separate sundecks. Spring for the three-bedroom Penthouse Suite for luxuries like a Persian marble master bathroom, mother-of-pearl accents, and a pair of terraces with landscaping (including a rooftop deck). All suites include access to the resort’s Luxury Ambassador Service. Rooms begin at $400 per night. nobuhotelibizabay.com
CAP JULUCA Anguilla
Upon approach, the Moroccan-style facade of this oceanfront resort will transport visitors back in time to the other side of the Atlantic, its crisp white domes brilliantly juxtaposing the soft blue skies above it. Opened in 1988, its idyllic setting and secluded, oversized villas have long been a siren song for the rich and famous, from Denzel Washington to Liam Neeson. After closing for a year to undergo a $121 million renovation, the Caribbean cornerstone reopened in 2018 to dazzling effects, including five new villas, two new restaurants, and a full-ser-vice spa. While maintaining the resort’s famed “sugar cubed” presence, new management launched a total overhaul of the interior palette, replacing dated fixtures with top-end coastal décor like woven-grass rugs, linen curtains, and arabesque tile floors.
There are 108 accommodations on property (including 23 standalone pool villas), each filled with four-poster beds, private terraces, and lavish spa baths. Guestrooms and suites dwell in the main house, while the villas are located just steps from the surf. The property is large, but guests can hail a golf cart or vintage Volkswagen bus for a ride, or hop on a beach cruiser. Mealtimes are always a sensorial experience. An on-site garden provides a large portion of the herbs and spices, while seafood is wild caught daily. Pimms, helmed by the superstar chef duo Bruno Carvalho and Miguel Gallegos, is a Cap Juluca original and date-night hotspot. Nab a table by an open-air arch and embark on a journey from farm to sea, marked by delicate plates of local goat cheese, prawns breaded in toasted coconut, and Wagyu cheek braised for 12 hours in red wine. Finish with a nightcap at the lively Ushu bar under the stars. Rooms begin at $1,400 per night. capjuluca.com
BAKER’S CAY Key Largo, Florida Keys
Tucked into the feral fingers of hardwood hammocks and swaying palms, set far from the bustle of the Florida Keys’ largest island, this contemporary hideaway epitomizes laid-back luxury. A member of Hilton’s Curio Collection, the former pineapple plantation is a quick 90 minutes from the Miami Airport yet feels oceans away, luring guests with watercolor sunsets that melt into the deep blue waves. Catch the show from your private ocean-facing terrace, where your recently renovated guestroom is outfitted with rich hardwood floors, coastal-chic dressings and décor, and modern bathrooms stocked with all-natural Lather bath amenities (including the resort’s curated salt scrub). Activities on tap are plenty, ranging from languid and leisurely to thrilling. Grab a Patron margarita from the lively Dry Rocks bar before lapping up the sun on the private beach, or try your hand at Hobie Cat Sailing or stand-up paddleboarding.
Each evening, the floating Tiki Bar sets sail on a sunset cruise, gliding through uninhabited mangrove islands around the bay as beer, wine, and soda flows. Conservation is woven into the ethos here, and evidence of the resort’s commit-ment to sustainability is nestled into every corner, from the Proud Source aluminum water bottles in the guestrooms to the use of locally sourced materials throughout the design. In 2019, the resort became the first in the country to unveil the Dock to Dish program, an initiative that takes guests on a private fishing expedition with captain Casey Scott of Sea Monkey Charters through the deep sea or backcountry (or even nighttime lobster netting) in pursuit of the most abundant catch of the day. The catch is then brought back to the resort, where the Baker’s Cay executive chef guides guests through a fine-dining cooking course using fresh herbs hand-picked from the rooftop garden. Rooms begin around $400 per night. bakerscay.com I