Platinum List 2018: Best Beach Resorts
The Brando, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Palm Island, The Shore Club, Turtle Inn
Whether your taste runs to the pristine Caribbean or Hawaii’s Pacific swells, these seaside oases are the perfect place to take the sun.
Onetahi, French Polynesia
Discovered and purchased in the 1960s by actor Marlon Brando, the atoll of Tetiaroa is now home to one of the world’s most exclusive sustainable luxury resorts, set on a breathtaking blue lagoon 30 miles north of Tahiti. Celebrities from Margot Robbie to Ellen DeGeneres have visited the 35-villa property, which offers snorkeling, diving and excursions with naturalist guides.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, United States
Built on the site of an ancient fishing village, this 243-room retreat captures the spirit and traditions of Hawaiian culture, with offerings such as hula and ukulele lessons and star navigation. A pool carved from lava rock and a snorkeler-friendly aquarium stocked with tropical fish are among the property’s many water features, while a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course positioned directly on the Pacific offers a series of dramatic vistas. Experiential cuisine options include a
tour of the resort’s oyster pond before a mollusk feast, and a visit to a boutique Kona coffee farm to learn about artisanal production methods prior to an expert-led tasting.
The Grenadines, Lesser Antilles
With no television or internet connection in guest rooms, visitors can fully unplug at this award-winning Caribbean resort, where signs announcing, “Shhh,” hang from trees—a reminder of the property’s ban on mobile phones at the beach. The 135-acre private island is home to five white-sand beaches, a freshwater pool and waterfall, but for more active travelers, nearby Union Island offers kitesurfing lessons.
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands
When it opened in 2016, The Shore Club became the first (and remains the only) resort on the pristine and secluded Long Bay Beach on Providenciales. The bright turquoise water and colorful abstract art stand out against the 106-suite resort’s contemporary white-on-white palette. Six spacious villas boast an outdoor shower and sauna off the master bedroom balconies. The property offers four pools, a fleet of watercraft, and Sui-Ren, a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant by chef Daniel Delgado serving conch and other fresh seafood dishes.
As soon as I arrive at Turtle Inn, stepping across a small wooden bridge over a terrapin-filled pond to the welcome desk, I am transported to a paradise that’s equally luxurious and rustic. The open-air lobby overlooks a glistening oval pool with the Caribbean Sea lapping in the distance. I’m served a cup of rum punch, and I feel as if I’ve won one of those reward challenges on Survivor, although I’m sure the inn’s proprietor would prefer a much higher-brow cultural comparison.
Turtle Inn is one of five hotels owned by The Godfather and Apocalypse Now filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. He purchased the property on the coast of Belize near the fishing village of Placencia in 2001, adding a layer of cinematic drama to the sandy 25-room retreat in the form of exotic furnishings, indulgent amenities and many, many bottles of his trademark wine. (For anyone who wants absolute seclusion, Coppola’s nearby private island, Coral Caye, is available to rent.)
I’m led to my one-bedroom seaside bungalow by Dutch-born general manager Martin Krediet, who traded Miami Beach’s party scene for Belize’s tranquil serenity eight years ago. Inside, Krediet points out the hand-carved doorway leading from the cottage’s ample living space into a tiled bathroom with a Japanese bath, out to a private garden with an outdoor shower surrounded by seven-foot-tall stone walls. He warns me to watch out for the protruding bottom lip of the door, which—like many of the inn’s features—was imported from Bali “by Francis himself.”
A screened porch and a series of louvered shutters surrounding the cottage allow for as much or as little balmy sea breeze (and privacy) as one might desire. The star of the accommodations, however, is a conch-shell gizmo resembling something the Professor might have invented on Gilligan’s Island. I’m told I can use the shell phone to buzz reception for any request. I resist the urge to immediately embody Thurston Howell III and order a martini. It’s dinnertime, anyway.
While Mare, the main restaurant connected to the lobby, boasts an Italian menu, I’ve arrived on a Thursday, when a traditional Dutch-Indonesian feast called rijsttafel is offered. A lazy Susan the size of a flying saucer is piled with such dishes as rendang (braised beef shoulder in coconut milk), opor ayam (chicken coconut curry stew) and gado-gado (a salad of string beans, cabbage and tofu). I don’t let any of the delicious pockets of bebek betutu (roasted duck with ginger, lemongrass and onion wrapped in banana leaf) go to waste.
I realize that I am not having an indigenous experience. Coppola and his team have created a fantastically laid-back eco-escape by fusing together Mayan and Spanish customs with flair ranging from Asia to Europe. It’s a cultural muddle that if not crafted so exquisitely would be a total train wreck.
The next morning, I walk along the narrow, white-sand beach outside my chic hut for a yoga session at the end of the dock above turquoise waters. The next few days are an exotic blur of snorkeling along pristine coral reefs, lounging in seaside hammocks and sampling almost every wine varietal that Coppola has put his name on. It is an escape to end all escapes—and I don’t want the credits to roll.
After my long, relaxing weekend, I remember on my last night that I have yet to request anything of my shell phone. I flip the switch. “Yes, Mr. Derrik, how can I assist you?” a sweet human voice that sounds nothing like Siri asks. I order breakfast delivered to my room the next morning.
As I’m sipping coffee and dunking a fry jack—a deep-fried, beignet-like Belizean treat—into some syrup, I gaze out from my porch at the endless horizon and think again about Gilligan’s Island. Those goofy castaways spent years on their hideaway. Me? I’d be content with just a few more hours at Turtle Inn. —Derrik J. Lang