A good beach resort isn’t just about umbrella-topped cocktails and screensaver-quality white sands. It’s about living out a fantasy.
“Beach resorts take paradise to the next level,” said Tom Marchant, the founder of luxury travel company Black Tomato. “Perfect weather, white sands and clear waters elevated by exceptional service, spa amenities and top-tier food & beverage”—all have to be a given.
That’s why, from Maldivian private islands to ultra-luxe Honolulu hideaways, beach resorts engage in fierce competition. The race to up the ante and win over guests is never ending and the results can be spectacular.
“Villas with soaking tubs overlooking the ocean and private stargazing decks are only steps away from the ocean and pool, and cocktails and seafood feature fresh, local ingredients,” said Marchant. “There is no compromise.”
Now, how to your choose your next 5-star beach holiday? There are thousands of options with similar offerings packed along every coast across the lagoon-laden globe. But there are also differences that can turn basic into better or best.
Here is a look at 14 Robb Report-vetted beach resorts representing the absolute cream of the world’s crop.
There’s no shortage of spectacular stays in the Maldives, and Hyatt’s Alila Kothaifaru is amongst its newest. Opened in May 2022, it has 80 all-pool overwater and beach villas dotting a natural island teeming with eagle rays, black-tipped reef sharks, and graceful flying foxes.
Alila’s design is a major part of its relaxing allure—a sleek and sexy blend of tropical brutalism meets Japanese minimalism. Each villa is outfitted with slabs of charcoal granite, light timber, and matte black fixtures. Beach villas have an open-air bathroom with a cascading vertical garden and direct access to a sugar-white slice of sand. Muted tones carry through to its overwater villas, where all eyes go to the ocean and the infinity plunge pool, an array of paint-swatch blues. Alila’s two restaurants include Seasalt, for crowd-pleasing comfort food and Umami, for Teppanyaki and exceptional Japanese fare. Next door, Yakitori Bar crafts Japanese bites and refreshing sake cocktails.
From its black sand beach clubs to its rice terraces, Bali beckons the big spenders. On the island’s southwestern boot, Bulgari Resort hovers 150 meters above the surfer-speckled Indian Ocean. Guests can relax by the cliffside pool or take the inclined elevator down to its rock-scattered beach spanning nearly one mile.
Back up at the resort, 58 villas, five mansions and one palatial 14,000-square-foot estate dot the cliff’s edge. Each includes a private plunge pool, a frangipani-fringed garden, and a refined combination of Balinese and Italian design. All of the resort’s accessories have been designed and made on the island, from its mahogany wood furniture to Songkets, local ornate hand-woven silk textiles. The melding of cultures carries into its two restaurants—all-day Indonesian and sophisticated Italian.
Rates start at $905 per night, including breakfast.
Located directly across from world-famous Waikiki Beach, Espacio is Honolulu’s most luxurious hideaway. Each of the hotel’s nine suites clocks in at 2,250 square feet, spanning the entire floor. The palatial apartment-style accommodation includes multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a chef’s kitchen, a private sauna and an expansive balcony with a hot tub and surf views. The design is a combination of Moroccan and Japanese with light and airy jewel tones that coincide with the gemstone each suite is named for.
While there’s no designated beach space, the hotel has a compact rooftop infinity pool that your butler can book for you. And when you want to explore Honolulu, guests get free behind-the-scenes tours and after-hours access to the Honolulu Museum of Art and Bishop Museum.
Rates start at $3,500 per night.
A perennially popular honeymoon escape, Koh Samui is an island jewel in the Gulf of Thailand. Surrounded by emerald-colored waters, the Four Seasons Koh Samui has 60 all-pool villas and 11 multi-bedroom private retreats, each with pinch-yourself sea views.
Get in the ring for a Muay Thai lesson, snorkel its Coral Conservation project with the resort’s dedicated marine biologist or sail off for a sunset cruise aboard its yacht, Minor Affair. No trip to Thailand would be complete without stir-fried dishes and sublime mango sticky rice, so book at the resort’s signature Thai restaurant, Koh Thai Kitchen, or order just-caught seafood and prime steaks at Pla Pla. For a nightcap, head to Rum Vault, Asia’s first rum library.
Rates start at $912 per night.
A stalwart of Belize’s luxury resort Rolodex, Cayo Espanto is arguably the most private. Located a few miles off popular San Pedro, this private island has seven unique villas. Each comes with a personal houseman who helps attune every meal and experience to each guest’s tastes. And like the pre-arrival preference sheets, each of the island’s villas, or “casas,” is different. The overwater Casa Ventanas has a glass-bottom floor, while Casa Estrella includes an open-air primary bedroom and a private plunge pool showcasing Caribbean Sea views.
Private docks hang above crystal clear waters bordering the world’s second-largest barrier reef. A prime place for snorkeling and scuba diving, non-motorized water sports such as kayaks, sailboats, stand-up paddleboards, and water trampolines can be arranged on a whim.
Rates start at $1,995 per night.
Helicopter or seaplane? At this private Fijian island, you can arrive by either. Set on 140 lush, palm-covered acres, Kokomo’s far-flung locale in the Kadavu Islands means serenity is easily achievable. There are 21 thatched-roof villas located directly on the beach and five palatial residences dotting the hill with panoramic ocean views, each with custom-made Fijian touches.
Perhaps more exciting than the lapping turquoise shores and the unrivaled hospitality is the food. The island has a whopping 5.5-acre organic farm and hydroponic garden where its tropical fruits and vegetables are picked for its three restaurants. Free-range chicken and beehives provide fresh eggs and honey for breakfast, while its sustainable “Dock to Dish” program delivers just-caught seafood from local fisheries to your plate.
Rates start at $2,100 per night, all-inclusive.
The U.S. Virgin Islands had a 30-year lull on newly built resorts before Lovango arrived on the scene. Sandwiched between St. Johns and St. Thomas, each island is a short speedboat ride away. But you may find it hard to leave once your toes touch down on Lovango’s shores. Did we mention you don’t even need your passport?
Sans cookie-cutter accommodation, you can choose between boutique hillside options like a multi-bedroom private villa, wood-clad treehouses, and treetop glamping tents with outdoor showers and views of Congo Cay. While the resort is private, its beach club is not. Beachgoers can arrive via yacht to partake in caviar bumps by the beach or play games on the sand. Guests staying at Lovango get first dibs when it comes to lounge chairs and tropical cocktails mixed with their own island-infused spirits.
Pops of flamingo pink against Tiffany turquoise waters welcome you to this unique island escape. Located on Canouan, a lesser-known island on the up and up in terms of luxury accommodation, the Mandarin Oriental is a mix of 26 ornate beachfront Italian suites and nine Balinese-inspired hillside villas.
While Caribbean escapes are synonymous with doing as little as possible, there’s a myriad of activities at this Mandarin Oriental. Its long stretch of sand is primed for swimming, as is its infinity pool. Water activities include kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, and boat trips to nearby deserted islands where pirates’ treasure is said to be buried. It’s also home to the country’s only 18-hole golf course, designed by the famed Fazio, three tennis courts, and a two-pool kids’ club that you’ll have a hard time tearing them away from.
Exclusivity is synonymous with North Island’s 11 sumptuous villas. As the name suggests, this private island is located in the north of Seychelles, offering wildly private abodes and completely bespoke service. In fact, each experience is tailor-made to suit each guest’s preferences and vacation goals.
The rustic beach houses span nearly 5,000 square feet and were built using local materials salvaged while building the resort. Its open-air concept means ethereal white curtains flap in the ocean breeze while plush seating, artisan furniture, and a fully-stocked personal kitchen are added indulgences. Villa 11 sits atop Seychelles’ signature granite boulders, covering more than 8,000 square feet. It’s reachable by a private wooden bridge and punctuated with multiple levels of lounge space.
Rates start at $6,924 per night, including breakfast, with a minimum four-night stay.
Live out your best Robinson Crusoe fantasies at this remote Baa Atoll resort. Once a coconut plantation—Vakkaru means “coconut timber” in Dhivehi—the island’s lush interiors are best explored on your personal bicycle. In the water, its enviable location puts it a quick speedboat ride from a turtle reef and UNESCO-famous Hanifaru Bay, where snorkelers can spot dozens of manta rays from May to November.
Vakkaru has a near-even split of 113 thatched roof overwater and beach villas decorated in timber and natural earth tones hand-picked by the owner’s wife. High-tech touches such as an iPad that controls the villa’s lighting, temperature, and curtains are an added luxury. Outside of the villas, you can visit the kids’ club, artist’s area, jungle cinema, overwater spa and gym, tennis courts, or the wine reserve. Here, choose from 4,000 bottles, including a 2008 Petrus selling for $12,000.
Sitting on the craggy cliffs of north Anguilla, Àni is a getaway for you and up to 20 of your closest friends. Ten suites and guest rooms are spread between two massive villas outfitted with airy whites and beiges accented by sparkling views of Little Bay. Plus, there’s a staff member for each guest, ensuring want-for-nothing service. The team here can organize nearly any activity, from local steel drum lessons to rum tastings to horseback riding on the beach.
Included in the stay are two customized meals per day, free-flow drinks, spa treatments, and homemade ice cream for a post-beach pick-me-up. When it comes to the water, there are two infinity pools and two golf buggies to drive you to Crocus Bay Beach. Adventurers can also lace up their sneakers for a four-minute cliffside walk to remote Little Bay Beach.
Rates start at $15,000 per night.
Is there anything more soothing than waves washing over a pebble beach? Anyone who has stayed at Villa Sant’Andrea knows the answer. The hotel’s private beach on Sicily’s Bay of Mazzarò comes with lounge chairs, and complimentary boat trips around the island during the summer months.
Filled with history and Italian grandeur, Villa Sant’Andrea was built in 1919 by an aristocratic family. Parts of the resort still feel like a private villa with fragrant terraced gardens speckled with hot pink geraniums and Italian-style fountains. Today, it has 70 guestrooms and suites decorated with pops of blue, Roman columns, marble bathrooms, copper tubs and balconies with dreamy sea views. The resort’s main restaurant, Ristorante Sant’Andrea, serves the same sweeping views alongside fresh-made pasta and even fresher Mediterranean seafood.
Rates start at $458 per night, including breakfast.
Gliding across an emerald lagoon aboard an amphibious seaplane feels a world away from Singapore, but the four-hour journey to Bawah Reserve is worth it. Its remote location in Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago adds to its castaway appeal, where shoes are a thing of the past.
The resort comprises six tropical islands, 13 white sand beaches, three lagoons, and 36 suites ranging from overwater bungalows to three-bedroom pool villas. Dining here prioritizes sustainability, sourcing seafood locally and picking vegetables from the island garden for its two restaurants and new private island residence Elang. And with water stretching as far as the eye can see, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and boat trips are a must while on private island time.
Rates start at $1,980 per night on a full board basis, including daily spa treatments, laundry, in-room minibar, and an array of land and water-based activities.
When the resort’s founder is Marlon Brando, you know you’re in for a glamorous retreat. North of Tahiti, the Brando sits on the sparkling lagoon of Tetiaroa atoll. Each of its 36 villas is supremely private, covered by leafy palms with direct beach access and a plunge pool. Built using natural, eco-friendly materials, the resort takes its groundbreaking LEED platinum certification seriously. Up to 70 percent of the resort is run off solar panels, its air-conditioning is fueled by seawater and the resort has a zero-carbon goal.
Most guests here opt for the all-inclusive package to gorge on fresh Poisson Cru and French cuisine at the island’s two restaurants. Served by its organic garden, all the restaurant’s food waste is composted within 24 hours. But while the Brando is as green as its towering palms, it doesn’t skimp on splendor.
Rates start at $3,600 per night with a two-night minimum, including breakfast.