A former 15th century monastery, the storied San Domenico Palace is now the most luxurious hotel in Sicily-- with sweeping views of snow-capped Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea that were described by Goethe in 1767. Perched on the hills of Taormina, the palace has long attracted patrons like Wagner and Guy de Maupassant who found inspiration in the fragrant gardens of jasmine, bougainvillea, lemons and oranges. Guest rooms are distinguished by splendid historical details: vaulted ceilings, cloisters, courtyards. Lounge by the outdoor swimming pool, while soaking in the views of an ancient Greek theater and the smoldering volcano in the distance. Hit the 24-hour fitness center, followed by a relaxing massage. Delightful dinner options include Les Bougainvillèes for traditional palace cuisine, Principe Cerami for gourmet dining (seasonal), the Pool Restaurant "Giardino dei Limoni" for seafood and Sicilian specialties (lunch only, seasonal), and the Lounge Oratorio dei Frati for light meals and cocktails with live entertainment.
The glamorous desert boutique resort is known for its sexy vibe and playful attitude. Where else can you sip a Popsicle Tini? (Yup, that's a watermelon martini with a popsicle.) Or indulge in a chocolate sun spray tanning? Or jump start the circulation with a dip in the icy plunge pool? The fun never stops at this fabulous desert oasis. In addition to the summer's Film Noir Summer Series (al fresco movies galore), the Viceroy Palm Springs has introduced the Ice Haus--an extension of the full-service Estrella spa-- for a wonderful summer cool-down. This new open-air, outdoor treatment room (for one or two people) is set up for a "do it yourself" one-hour treatment. Start with a detoxifying full-body clay mask (painted on by yourself or your partner), take 20 minutes to recline on your private chaise lounge to set the mask, then follow with a full-body ice exfoliation. Shower off with the seaweed scrub bar, spritz your on-fire skin with spearmint misters, then finally sooth and cool with Estrella's house-made all-over body lotion. 60-minute treatment: Single-- $85; Double-- $125.
It's not too late to plan a Labor Day escape. Soak up the sunshine rock 'n roll style at that most sophisticated West Hollywood hideaway: the Sunset Marquis Hotel and Villas. Contemporary elegance with no attitude in a totally unique environment: no wonder the rock stars camp out for weeks in the swanky Mediterranean-style villas. Sure the on-site private recording studio is cool, but the heated pools and gorgeous landscaped terraces are even more exciting. After all, this is a hidden oasis just steps from all the Hollywood action. Guests are also stoked about the warm and attentive personal service. This place is unique, even by Hollywood standards. And from now through Labor Day weekend, the longer you stay, the more you save. So try 10 percent off for three nights, 15 percent for four nights, or 20 percent off for five nights. And rates are truly a steal, starting at $350 for a Junior Suite.
The summer's winding down, which means it's time to start making plans for a winter getaway. Wyoming's Amangani is easily one of the most sought-after destinations on the planet, its ski and spa experience unparalleled on the North American continent. Perched atop a butte 7,000 feet above sea level outside Jackson Hole, Amangani is surrounded by a magnificent panorama of the snow-capped peaks of Grand Teton National Park. Amangani's Ski Lounge is conveniently located at the base of the Bridger gondola in Teton Village and some of North America's most acclaimed ski-runs at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. A private meeting and resting place with racks for storing skis and warming boots, Amangani's Ski Lounge also provides complimentary snacks, hot beverages, wash rooms and concierge service-- all designed to keep Amangani's guests on the slopes longer. After a great day skiing, unwind with a mulled wine or ginger tea before the large wood-burning fireplaces of Amangani's Lounge, the two-storey window wall offering beautiful views of the Snake River Range. Or hit the open-air heated pool and whirlpool, where you can soak your muscles while contemplating the gorgeous views. The Amangani Ski Experience includes five nights accommodations, airport transfers, daily continental breakfast, a four-day ski pass and a 60-minute massage. Available December 4, 2007- April 6, 2008, priced from $3,700.
The Maldives is almost bursting at the seams with swanky hotels. From the One & Only to the W Retreat and Spa, The Maldives are the islands du jour. Now Conrad has announced an exciting rebranding of the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa Rangali, which will move under the Conrad umbrella of luxury hotels starting December 18, 2007. Renowned for its attentive service and breathtaking natural beauty, the resort is an idyllic piece of paradise, situated on two islands enclosed by a coral reef and lagoon. Spa aficionados will be thrilled by the spas-- as there are two, one on each island, with different product ranges and philosophies. Experience sophisticated barefoot luxury at this romantic retreat. Dive and snorkel the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean, take Pilates and yoga classes, plan an excursion island hopping on the resort's private yacht.
The Vegas restaurant scene is seriously mind-blowing. The best chefs in the world have been lured to the desert to open the finest restaurants anywhere. Case in point: Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace, the first Vegas restaurant to be given the prestigious "Best New Restaurant 2004" award by the James Beard Foundation. Famed Bay Area chef Bradley Ogden, mastermind behind One Market in SF and The Lark Creek Inn across the bridge in Marin County, opened his first restaurant outside California at Caesars Palace where it promptly won the Mobil Four-Star award. His new take on classic farm fresh American cuisine earned Ogden national acclaim and a host of top culinary awards. His Vegas restaurant is "a sure bet" in the city, to quote Mobil. "High rollers may still rule the poker tables in Vegas, but the true winners are those who reserve a dining table at Bradley Ogden."
The old port city of Marseilles, thriving since the Greeks from Asia Minor established a settlement in 600 B.C., has a chic, new hotel which landed a spot on Conde Nast Traveler's 2007 Hot List. The New Hotel of Marseille- Le Pharo is close to the Vieux Port and just five minutes walk from the city center. A high design hotel, Le Pharo is splashed with color and bold graphics. In the "Victor Kitchen Garden," guests are delighted to discover the aromatic herbs, tomatoes, chilies and peppers which supply the hotel's kitchen, overseen by Jérôme Polio, a disciple of Alain Ducasse. Filled with contemporary art, the hotel is sleek and highly refined. There are 100 rooms, "Le Victor Café" restaurant with a summer terrace, a bar, and a wood-decked swimming pool with solarium. The lobby is a mix of genres, built inside the 19th century Institut Pasteur, and linked to the ultra-modern main building by a long glass corridor.
The beloved luxury hotel brand is making waves with a host of new hotel openings in the next few years, and it looks like Costa Rica--the world's premier destination for eco-tourism-- is getting a luxury addition. Mandarin Oriental, Costa Rica will open in 2009 in the Guanacaste province, known for its beautiful Pacific coastline, stunning volcanoes, excellent hiking, and bird (and monkey) watching. Situated just 25 minutes from the Liberia airport, the 130-room beach resort will be the cornerstone of a gated golf and residential development called Rancho Manzanillo. Leisure activities will include an 18-hole Fred Couples Signature Championship golf course, 20,000 square foot spa, multi-level outdoor swimming pools, water sports from the resort's natural beach, and exotic wildlife viewing from the property's 200 acres of protected tropical dry forest. The best part of all? The Tree House Suites, nestled high in the canopy of Guanacaste trees.
Shangri-La continues to raise the bar for Asian luxury hotels with the launch of CHI, The Spa at two additional properties. After successful launches in Bangkok, Beijing and Pudong Shanghai, the spa brand CHI will open in hotels in Guangzhou, China and Manila, The Philippines. Guests go gaga over the signature spa services inspired by Chinese and Himalayan healing philosophies, along with traditions associated with each specific hotel destination. In Manila, for example, the treatment menu features Hilot, a healing massage based on Filipino folk medicine, and Dagdagay, a traditional foot massage using bamboo sticks practiced by indigenous mountain tribes in the Philippines. The spa also offers rejuvenating body scrubs like the Himalayan Goji Red Berry Scrub and Tropical Coconut Scrub. CHI spas are tranquil retreats, modeled on the "spa within a spa concept" so that each private suite is a refuge in and of itself. Each suite offers herbal steam rooms, infinity baths with color therapy, rain showers, and vanity areas. The Lotus Pond is a striking architectural feature unique to CHI spas. As guests are led to their treatment suites they come to a serene pool adorned with dramatic, sculptural flora. (Pictured at right.)
The newly opened Melenos Lindos has already been listed on Travel and Leisure's 2007 "It List." Inspired by 17th century Lindos architecture, this Aegean clifftop hotel is set among picturesque gardens overlooking the sparkling bay. The historical backdrop of small winding streets and the magnificent Lindian Acropolis is just as magical as this lovely gem of a hotel. Described as "a village within a village," the 12 white stucco guest rooms are connected by terraces decorated with pebble mosaics. An abundance of artifacts from Turkey and Greece are found throughout the hotel. There are sea-view terraces from the beautifully furnished suites, an open-air restaurant serving the freshest Mediterranean cuisine, and all the latest luxury amenities.