Six blissful beach trips for 2017
From Malibu to Mexico, Santorini to the Seychelles, to Canouan and the Cayman Islands, Robb Report presents the hottest beach trips for 2017.
Making Room in Malibu
The 35-kilometre squiggle of Southern California coastline that is Malibu receives 15 million tourists annually — despite having a total of only four small hotels. For 2017, however, new offerings along the beaches and in the wild hillsides are making the city more accommodating to overnight guests, without sacrificing any of its storied exclusivity.
Scheduled to open early this year, Nobu Ryokan (nobuhotels.com) is an 18-room Japanese-style inn from the Nobu Hotels group. The beachfront retreat — set next to Malibu’s wildly popular Nobu restaurant — channels its ryokan lineage with custom teak soaking tubs surrounded by sea pebbles in the accommodations, no two of which are alike.
To keep up with its Carbon Beach neighbour, the 47-room Malibu Beach Inn (above and below, malibubeachinn.com), by far the largest of the city’s four existing hotels, commissioned Waldo Fernandez for an art-filled redesign that was completed last year and included an expansion of the hotel’s restaurant. (The property is planning to develop new villas nearby.) Also on Carbon, the so-called Billionaire’s Beach, London’s Soho House group has opened Little Beach House Malibu (littlebeachhousemalibu.com), a private club where even current Soho House members need to apply for privileges.
In the Malibu mountains, wellness retreats offer a counterpoint to the beach’s sybaritic escapes. Newcomers include the intense XPT (xptlife.com), a $US5000 (or about $A6620), three-day training program created by husband-and-wife athletes Laird Hamilton and Gabrielle Reece and conducted at their home. The serene Ranch Malibu (theranchmalibu.com), in a remote canyon at the northern end of the city, offers private cabins, acclaimed vegan cuisine, and relentless boot-camp regimens. - Michalene Busico
Sprucing Up Santorini
Scattered above the lapis-lazuli waters of the Aegean Sea, Santorini’s whitewashed resorts are an almost clichéd picture of paradise. But it appears even paradise can be improved upon, as several new and recently renovated retreats on the fabled Greek isle are giving new life to the caldera-top experience.
Travellers returning to the 21-room Grace Santorini (gracehotels.com) this season will find the hideaway immaculately restyled, with contemporary interiors punctuated by Greek Statuario marble and punches of purple and baby blue. The resort is also set to debut an extensive spa and wellness facility and two sprawling suites with private plunge pools and terraces.
Nearby, the new Cavo Tagoo Hotel Santorini (cavotagoo.com) is bringing a trendy vibe to local barefoot luxury with 13 breezy suites adorned with minimalist furnishings, a sweeping pool deck with floating daybeds, and a sleek Ibiza-inspired lounge overlooking the caldera.
Perhaps most alluring this season is the island’s new Erosantorini (erosantorini.com), an exclusive-use estate that opened in October on two acres high above the sea. The all-inclusive villa, which sleeps 14 guests in four suites, promises pampering and privacy at every turn with a wine cellar, a personal chef, a yoga pavilion, a spa, an outdoor cinema, an infinity-edge pool, and excursions that include sailing and archaeological tours. - Kathryn Romeyn
Quiet Time in the Yucatán
The mega-resorts of Mexico’s Riviera Maya are making way for more intimate options up and down the region’s sparkling Caribbean coastline. Hotel Esencia (hotelesencia.com) underwent an inspired renovation after its acquisition by the American art collector Kevin Wendle, emerging with 29 art- and light-filled rooms located along what is arguably the area’s best beach. The update included the addition of two villas that have their own private stretches of sand and can together accommodate groups from eight to 22 people.
New villas are also taking shape at Rosewood Mayakoba (rosewoodhotels.com), which in November added eight multi-bedroom residences—ranging from 8000 to 20,000 square feet—to its collection of 130 lagoon and oceanfront suites.
Just next door, Andaz Mayakoba (andaz.hyatt.com) was scheduled for an end-of-2016 debut. The 214-room resort, which is set on 590 acres of beach and jungle, includes 41 suites with plunge pools.
Those in need of a break after all that beach and pool time can head inland to the new Chablé (chableresort.com), a 40-villa, 750-acre destination spa where “shamanism meets luxury” in the jungle outside Mérida. - Bruce Wallin
Setting Sail in the Seychelles
There’s a new way to experience the Seychelles islands — and it’s 20 metres underwater. Seated in a U-Boat C Explorer 3, travellers can venture below the Indian Ocean’s surface, scuttling alongside neon fusiliers and black-and-white-striped sergeant majors. The flying-saucer-like submersible darts in and out of coral clusters and speeds past streaks of pink, blue, and green before returning to the mothership: Crystal Cruises’ new Crystal Esprit (crystalcruises.com). Long a leader in luxury ocean cruising, Crystal ushered in a new era with last winter’s launch of the Esprit.
The yacht is part of an ambitious plan that calls for everything from riverboats in Europe to a private jet for around-the-world journeys. The 31-suite Esprit — which will spend January through March island-hopping in the Seychelles — embodies Crystal’s new direction, offering an experience more akin to that of a charter yacht than an all-inclusive ocean liner. There is Château Lafite Rothschild in the wine cellar, butler service for every spacious stateroom, and, of course, plenty of high-tech water toys like the U-Boat submersible at the ready. A staff of 91 takes care of a total of just 62 guests, facilitating everything from outings on the yacht’s cherry-red Wider 32 tender to Champagne-and-caviar lunches.
That Esprit is setting sail in the Seychelles — a 115-island nation located some 1600km off the east coast of Africa — is a by-product of not only Crystal’s new focus but also the yacht’s nimble size. The country’s isolated setting in the middle of the Indian Ocean makes it a rare stop on any cruise itinerary, and its small coves and lack of ports render its islands mostly inaccessible to larger ships. But the seascape is no hindrance to the Esprit, whose 9.8-foot draft allows it to anchor in the shallow waters off even the smallest isles. - Laurie Kahle
Class of the Caribbean
If the celebrity playground of Mustique isn’t exclusive enough for you, it’s time to try Canouan. The Caribbean upstart, located roughly 27km south-west of Mustique in St Vincent and the Grenadines, is poised to replace its better-known neighbour as the country’s elite isle.
In October, the long-awaited Pink Sands Club (pinksandsclub.com) debuted on Godahl Beach with 32 over-the-top suites and villas. The rose-hued resort sits at the heart of the island’s recently launched Canouan Estate Villas & Residences (canouan-estate.com), a luxury community covering two-thirds of the three-square-mile island and featuring a Jim Fazio–designed golf course, four restaurants, and a clutch of villas available for rent. Ensuring that jet-setters arrive in style is a newly expanded 1800-metre-long runway that can accommodate private aircraft as large as a Boeing 737. For those wishing to make their Canouan arrival via yacht, an 80-berth marina is set to debut later this year. - Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
Come Back to the Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands, long known primarily as a tax haven, are emerging as the latest laidback but luxurious escape thanks to a new wave of development that, more than a decade after Hurricane Ivan, includes extraordinary and distinct resorts.
Opened in November on Seven Mile Beach, the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa (seafireresortandspa.com) represents an architectural departure for Grand Cayman but also stands as the vanguard of a new wave of upscale development transforming this destination into an epicenter of laidback luxury.
At the long-established luxury leader, the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman (ritzcarlton.com), a new 8000-square-foot penthouse is the Caribbean’s largest, featuring three bedrooms, a screening room, a chef’s kitchen, and a breathtaking wraparound terrace with a 180-degree vista of blindingly blue water.
And on Cayman Brac, the beachfront Le Soleil d’Or (lesoleildor.com) offers guests the absolute privacy enjoyed by castaways but without the deprivations. Essentially a farm with a boutique resort and spa attached, the relaxing retreat specializes in farm-to-table cuisine of exceptional quality. - Brett Anderson