An exciting array of properties debuted in 2022, welcoming guests with sprawling beachfront villas, prime addresses in some of the world’s coolest neighborhoods, and everything from Aperol spritzes to cleansing sage ceremonies. Proof that hoteliers haven’t stopped innovating in the past two years, dreaming up new ways to impress travelers with their tree-house hideaways, castaway-style excursions, and rooftop bars ripe for midnight dance parties. From Lake Como to the Gold Coast, here’s where we’re checking in next.
The Classic Muse: Lake Como, Italy
Dinners in the garden and trips across Lake Como in a vintage wooden boat occupy prime real estate in our summer-jaunt daydreams. With the debut of Passalacqua – a 24-suite palazzo from the De Santis family, owners of Lake Como institution Grand Hotel Tremezzo – we’re ready to ask when we can move in. Amid terraced gardens and orchards that cascade down to the lake, the property has an unparalleled pedigree: Located on land once owned by Pope Innocent XI, Passalacqua is the former home of legendary composer Vincenzo Bellini, who wrote the opera Norma here. Everything has been meticulously restored, from the palazzo’s frescoes, marble floors, and sculpted fireplaces to a lakeside house with a double-height music room – now Lake Como’s largest suite – where Bellini enjoyed playing the piano.
A suite at the new Passalacqua Hotel.
For all its antique intrigue, updates are deliciously contemporary (Milanese lifestyle brand La DoubleJ draped the solarium in its bold fabrics) and celebrate the glorious weather that has attracted visitors since Roman times. Guests will fall in love with it all, from the pool and the outdoor gym in the olive grove to the lakeside tennis court and private dock. Because of the love and thoughtfulness poured into this dream project by Valentina De Santis and her team, Passalacqua feels made for guests who appreciate a special sense of place and great attention to detail. The hotel is somehow both down-to-earth and ethereal – a hard trick to pull off!
Bonus: Passalacqua is open through the holidays, a rarity in this coveted Italian region.
Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.
The Sofitel Legend’s neoclassical facade is an early 1900s original.
The Time Traveler: Panama City, Panama
With its opening this fall, the 159-room Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama puts guests in the heart of Panama City’s Casco Viejo (Old Town), a sprawl of ornate mansions, grand churches, and cobblestoned streets that’s home to chic art galleries, restaurants, and bars. The new hotel respects history: Housed in a former early twentieth-century social club once patronized by the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, its design details, such as checkerboard marble floors and iron railings, are inspired by the building’s original French colonial architecture, while contemporary Panamanian art, an ocean-front pool, and the rooftop Ammi SkyBar with views of the Panama Canal keep it fresh. Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
Timeless Waldorf Astoria glam in its Cancún lobby.
The Long-Weekend Warrior: Cancún, Mexico
It’s just 15 minutes from the Cancún airport to an oceanfront pool chaise at the new Waldorf Astoria Cancun, offering beach-seeking travelers easy access to one of Mexico’s favorite strands. The 100-acre grounds provide a tranquil buffer from Cancún’s crowds, and the resort’s 173 rooms and suites have ocean views from private balconies, soaking tubs, and floor-to-ceiling windows flooded with sunshine. It’s a game changer for couples and families craving an elevated, one-stop destination, with two pools – one for adults and one that’s kid-friendly – and five restaurants and bars to cater to everyone’s varied cravings. (You’ll find us on the terrace of Ja’o digging into Mexican cuisine, but there’s also a swanky seafood outlet, an all-day brasserie, and even a tropical version of the Waldorf Astoria New York’s original Peacock Alley bar.) The expansive Waldorf Astoria Spa is a big draw, home to 21 treatment rooms, a quiet pool, relaxation gardens, and indoor thermal pools and heat features. Book a session with the resort’s staff shaman, who dispenses Mayan botanical cures through obsidian stone massages and bodywork using herbs and oils made with ingredients from the spa garden. Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.
The Pinch-Me Retreat: Bali, Indonesia
At Banyan Tree’s Buahan on Bali, 16 foliage-shrouded, open-air villas overlook seven forested peaks in the island’s center. Stays here feel like living in a FernGully-esque fairy tale with an emphasis on wellness: Zero-waste cooking classes and treks to secret waterfalls are just a couple of the daily activity options. Here’s how we’d spend a day.
7 a.m.: Greet the morning on a cycling excursion to the neighboring village of Manjangan. Pedal along jungle-fringed roads with views over the surrounding rice fields, stopping en route to observe prayer rituals at local Hindu temples.
Noon: Head out with the resort’s foraging master to collect wild cacao, greens, and aromatics. Then join the chef in the traditional paon kitchen to prep lunch over a wood-fired stove accompanied by a glass of loloh, a local herbal tonic.
5 p.m.: Spend an hour doing yoga at the open-air pavilion, soaking in the last of the day’s rays. Wrap up with a sundowner on the deck while a local storyteller shares Balinese tales around a firepit. Buahan’s villas, with their gorgeous views and private pools, are thoughtfully designed with everything you might need or want, including rain jackets, lanterns, and even a make-your-own-potpourri kit.
Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily, a 60-minute couples massage, and a private well-being experience.
Surf’s up at The Langham, Gold Coast.
The Cool Kid: Gold Coast, Australia
The Langham, Gold Coast offers a prime high-rise perch overlooking Queensland’s Surfers Paradise beach, adding a fresh, modern option for the sunseekers and surfers who love this holiday hub. Draws at the 169-room beachfront hotel include two pools, dim sum from international favorite T’ang Court, and The Langham’s afternoon tea – served beside a lagoon-style pool. We asked head concierge Christian Espino how to spend a perfect day on the Gold Coast.
9:30 a.m.: Have your travel advisor arrange a surf lesson – one of the coast’s best stretches of breaks is right in front of the hotel.
12:30 p.m.: Visit Home of the Arts (HOTA), the city’s cultural district just up the Nerang River, for lunch at Palette, a modern restaurant that champions local farmers and foods with dishes such as Tasmanian sea scallops and Margra lamb. Stroll it off on HOTA’s Sculpture Walk.
6 p.m.: With a Langham picnic basket stocked with Champagne and snacks, head out on a 15-minute drive south to Burleigh Hill for a sunset toast, before going all in on the Aussie-centric tasting menu at nearby Little Truffle.
A Susurros del Corazón beachfront hideaway.
The Bohemian Beauty: Punta Mita, Mexico
Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, and other Hollywood royalty flocked to Acapulco in the 1950s and ’60s, giving the Mexican Riviera its glittering, good-time reputation.Auberge Resorts Collection is bringing that sexy back with Susurros del Corazón, a 59-room, style-meets-surf retreat overlooking the Pacific in Punta Mita, 45 minutes northwest of Puerto Vallarta. Susurros del Corazón translates to “whispers of the heart,” and everything here hints at the property’s seductive ambitions, from its perch on a virgin stretch of Bahía de Banderas to its infinity-edge pool’s swim-up bar and the daybed swings on guest rooms’ private terraces, designed to let nature in. Dining choices are rooted in Mexican traditions, including a locavore, farmhouse-inspired restaurant and an open-air taqueria, which, after sunset, shifts the focus to margaritas and raicilla (tequila and mezcal’s buzzy cousin). There are surf lessons, of course – plus whale-watching, sailing, and spirits-tasting excursions – and while the Onda Spa won’t fully open until early next year, guests can center themselves with sunrise meditation sessions and seaside yoga. Do nothing or do it all – we love a place where both speeds look equally attractive. Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.
The Wild One: Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
Travelers come to Phu Quoc, off Vietnam’s southern coast, for its unspoiled beaches, excellent diving, and lush national park, blanketed with old-growth forest and occupying about 50 percent of the island. Tourism is gaining traction here, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that the island got its first ultra-luxe retreat: The 302-room Regent Phu Quoc is a serene space with open-air accommodations, a holistic spa, and a palm-fringed pool that, in our book, is in the running for the world’s most gorgeous. The resort makes the most of its idyllic location on a stretch of white, sunset-facing sand, furnishing kayaks, sailing dinghies, and paddleboards for exploring. A catamaran ferries guests to some of the neighboring islands in the An Thoi Archipelago and for private drop-offs on castaway beaches – although, given the resort’s secluded location, you might already feel like you’re the only one around. Book with Santa Barbara Travel Bureau to receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.