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Sea Temple Surfers Paradise, Australia

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 07 01:13 PM

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Glitzy high-rises. Minuscule swimsuits. Endless sunshine. Australia's answer to South Beach, Surfers Paradise is a dazzling strip of beachfront populated by hunky surfers and aspiring models and laced with a distinctly laid-back Aussie flavor. The only flaw, until now, has been the stuck-in-the-'80s hotel landscape. But a boutique hotel newcomer, Sea Temple, is set to shake things up.

Spread across levels 4 through 39 of the skyscraping Soul Tower, the two- and three-bedroom suites feel like swanky private apartments, complete with high-tech gadgets, full kitchens, Miami-esque white-on-white decor, and balconies that catch ocean breezes. Both the poolside cocktail bar and the restaurant, with its panoramic views and pan-Asian menu, are sure to be the town's most preen-worthy hot spots. Finally, a scene that lives up to the scenery.

Photo: Courtesy of Sea Temple Surfers Paradise 

The Real Cuba, Austin-Lehman Adventures

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 01 11:14 AM

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For decades, American citizens with a hankering to see Havana had to engage in some serious (and not recommended) 007 business to make that happen. But now, with the launch of Austin-Lehman Adventures' "the Real Cuba" itinerary, visiting Castro country is easy and--more importantly--legal.

The ten-day trip, a far-ranging intro to Cuban life, includes visiting private homes, helping out with community projects, and meeting artists, artisans, and Santería practitioners. After exploring Old Havana, you'll travel via old steam train, vintage car, and even horseback to tobacco farms, coffee plantations, and rural villages. Best of all, Austin-Lehman arranges the charter flight from Miami or Cancún and handles the visa process.

Austin-Lehman Adventures' ten-day trips starting February 2012, from $4,998 per person

Photo: Courtesy of Austin-Lehman Adventures

Dolphin Island, Fiji

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, September 13 10:29 AM

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Sometimes having a 13-acre tropical island to yourself isn't quite enough. At least that's the thinking behind the recent revamp of Fiji's Dolphin Island, which has gone from world-class to stratospheric in a few simple steps. Step one: Take the two slightly careworn bures (or villas) and make them of-the-moment with feather-down sofas and plantation chairs, sculptural stone tubs, and outdoor showers. Step two: Add an ocean-view infinity pool. Step three: Overhaul a third hilltop bure into an open-air romantic retreat--complete with safari-inspired decor, a net-draped bed, and hurricane lanterns--for stargazing sleep-outs.

What remains the same? The warm staff that caters to culinary whims, repositions furniture, plans private dance performances under the stars, and practically shifts heaven and earth to perfect your vacation.

Photo: Courtesy of Dolphin Island

The Residence, Zanzibar, Tanzania

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, September 09 10:13 AM

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When we're on vacation, we like to mix things up, and there's no crazier mash-up than Zanzibar, from its spice plantations to its crumbling colonial facades, its sleepy beaches to its tribal customs. Now you can drink in this cultural cocktail from the luxe new Residence hotel set on 80 lush oceanfront acres.

The 66 villas marry British-colonial-style four-poster beds with Swahili stonework, Omani wall sconces, Indian-inspired nightstands, and a modern palette of cream, honey, and mahogany. If you're concerned that this concoction will cause visual overload, don't be. A float in your private swimming pool puts everything into perspective.

Photo: Courtesy of The Residence

Block Island, Rhode Island

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, August 02 07:00 AM

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Block Island celebrates its semiseptcentennial (that's a 350th anniversary) this year, which means the old gal is livelier than ever. A season-long party is in full swing, including vintage ship displays, concerts, and festivals, such as the Taste of Block Island weekend (September 23-25). And you're invited.

Stay here:
The Atlantic Inn
Built in 1879 on a hilltop just outside the main town of New Shoreham--the smallest U.S. state's smallest town--the Atlantic Inn is a gracious place to enjoy life's little pleasures. Antiques and a ban on TVs and radios lend the 21 individually styled guest rooms a Victorian sensibility. You'll wake each morning to warm pastries and house-made granola served on a wraparound veranda. Children play tetherball in the backyard; a sunny garden provides a relaxation spot for parents. Among all this yesteryear charm, it's easy to unplug and soak up the island's timeless natural beauty.

Eat here:
Three Sisters
Three Sisters, a one-room wooden cottage on Old Town Road, is the sandwich shop of choice for beach picnic-bound islanders with coolers to fill. Favorites such as the Hippie Sister (a roasted vegetable and hummus wrap) and the Twisted Sister (turkey, bacon, Cheddar, avocado, and romaine) are scrawled on a chalkboard. Too lazy to head to the beach? You can chill at the picnic tables outside--or in a hammock--while the kids play with gratis hula hoops and spoil their dinner with gooey chocolate-chip cookies.

Drink here:
The Porch at the National Hotel
Most of Block Island ends up at the National Hotel's scenic wraparound porch at one point or another. Mostly for the postcard-perfect view of sailboats in Block Island Sound silhouetted against sunset-pink skies. But also to throw back a few ice-cold lagers and catch up on the local gossip.

Photo: Courtesy of Block Island Tourism Council

Discovery Adventures, Galapagos Island Cruises

By Conde Nast Traveler Saturday, May 28 07:00 AM

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With the Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week set to make its usual splash starting July 31 (this time with SNL's Andy Samberg as Chief Shark Officer), here's an idea: How about taking the plunge yourself on a shark cruise?

This is your chance to get off the sofa and into flippers and a wet suit to meat--sorry, meet--the toothy predators on their own surf. On Discovery Adventures' Galápagos cruises, you'll see scalloped hammerheads, Galápagos, reef, white-tipped, and whale sharks. Itineraries include snorkeling trips to Española Island (to swim with reef sharks) and to Black Turtle Cove, where the Galápagos Islands' white-tipped sharks hang. Who knows, once you get a taste for shark diving, you might get hooked.

Machu Picchu & Galápagos Islands Trip (14 days), from $4,499, 2011 departures: June 10, July 8, August 12, September 9
Galápagos Islands Cruise (10 days), from $4,199, 2011 departures: June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17
Galápagos Islands Cruise (7 days), from $3,099, 2011 departures: June 21, July 19, August 23, September 20
Galápagos Islands Cruise (6 days), from $2,699, 2011 departures: June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17

Photo: Courtesy of Bill Curtsinger / National Geographic / Getty Images

Harbor Hotel, Provincetown, Massachusetts

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, May 03 04:29 PM

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Quaint
is king in Provincetown, the salty artists' colony and beach resort on the tip of Cape Cod. You can't fling a flip-flop without hitting a lovingly restored B&B or weathered fisherman's cottage. But now there's a fresher catch in town: the newly renovated Harbor Hotel.

The 119 rooms and 10 suites, unveiled this past weekend, pop with lime walls, honey-colored wood, stained concrete floors, and mod amenities (flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, all-day coffee bar). Outside, there's a cozy fire pit and the poolside Cabana Bar, complete with a grill menu; inside, the arty Whaler Lounge serves up pub grub.

But Harbor also plays to Provincetown's classic strengths, with spectacular seaside sunsets visible from every room and easy access to briny tidelands across the street. Free shuttles and bikes help you make short hops to the area's famous dunes and into town for the galleries, restaurants, and quirky nightlife. Because in Provincetown, quaint also means queer, in every sense of the word.

Photo: Courtesy of Harbor Hotel Provincetown

Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Package, Laguna Beach, California

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, April 19 02:12 PM

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The Pacific Edge Hotel's new Endless Summer Ultimate Surf Package channels the spirit of the seminal 1960s travel and surf documentary by pairing you up with one of its stars, Robert August (pictured back in the day, far right), for a one-on-one day of surfing, searching out perfect breaks along SoCal's storied coast.

It don't matter if you're grom, random stander, or bona fide railer, you'll also get a place to crash overlooking Laguna Beach in the 129-room, brightly painted boutique property. Also provided: Endless Summer swag, including a six-pack of lager and a DVD box set. Plus, after a day in the waves, you're invited to chillax with August and his surfer son Sam over sundowners and appetizers on the beach. Righteous!

Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Edge Hotel

Caribiana 23-Foot Sea Skiff

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, March 30 07:19 PM

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Anyone who has seen a James Bond movie knows the appeal of a vintage skiff, its buffed wood deck glinting in the sunlight as it darts through some bustling Italian waterway. Now a new handcrafted vessel by boutique boat maker Caribiana has brought that retro romance into the 21st century.

The slick Caribiana 23-foot Sea Skiff ($95,000) has the timeless buttery leather upholstery, bronze hardware, and teak and mahogany woodwork, but there's also a powerful four-stroke engine and a custom-colored hull. Each craft is personally delivered with a case of Champagne and Steuben toasting flutes--because a boat this handsome should be christened in style.

Photo: Courtesy of Caribiana

Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, March 28 07:09 PM

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If a tropical resort built on a cocoa plantation sounds like someone has dipped into your wildest dreams, we're just about to make your day. St. Lucia's newest arrival is Hotel Chocolat, the brainchild of two British chocolatiers. Go on, pinch yourself.

On this 140-acre, 18th-century plantation, you can learn the entire chocolate-making process, helping to harvest and roast the beans and, of course, taste the finished product. Or you could simply retire to one of the six cocoa- and cream-colored cottages with gauze-draped four-poster beds, ocean-facing chaise longues, and open-air rain showers. (Eight additional villas will open in October.) The restaurant takes its inspiration from the hotel's crop, with dishes like yellowfin tuna with cacao pesto. Talk about a delicious getaway.

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Chocolat

Casa de La Flora, Khao Lak, Thailand

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, March 21 06:44 PM

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Lots of hotels try to up the luxury ante with amenities you never knew you needed, but the decadence of having a private place to float and chill still tops our list of favorite perks. And few hotels do plunge pools with as much style as the new Casa de La Flora in mellow little Khao Lak, Thailand.

Each of the property's 36 cubelike villas opens onto a private ebony-bottomed plunge pool, obscured from view by lush hedges or stone walls. The angular structures, with minimal mod interiors and Apple in-room technology, pay homage to midcentury Brutalist architecture. But we fail to see anything brutal in those floor-to-ceiling Andaman Sea views.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

Raffles Praslin Seychelles

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, March 03 08:42 PM

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Right now, scoring some sunshine and a slice of sand would feel like winning the lottery. As luck would have it, Praslin, an emerald jungle on a crag of granite in the Seychelles, has a winning combination: a tropical location far, far away, off the east coast of Africa, and a brand-new resident, the Raffles Praslin.

The hotel is the embodiment of a shipwreck fantasy (albeit a luxury version), with 86 villas on a gentle slope of green overlooking the clear blues of the Indian Ocean. With a private plunge pool and 24-hour butler service, there are few reasons to leave your room. But when you do, there are miles of deserted beaches, coconut groves, and cinnamon plantations--the perfect combination of sun, sea, and spice.

Photo: Courtesy of Raffles

Hotel Fasano Las Piedras, Punta del Este, Uruguay

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, February 22 04:47 PM

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Beautiful people. Beaches. Polo. Even Marvin Gaye would have had a hard time dreaming up a combo this sexy. But those are the three steamy entities that have become bedmates at the new Hotel Fasano Las Piedras. Set on a historic ranch outside the party town of Punta del Este, this Isay Weinfeld-designed property sprawls over 1,200 acres, from a vast plateau across a cactus-dotted valley to the crystal-clear Maldonado River.

The 20 bungalows (another 12 will be available from mid March) have a please-touch vibe, all leather headboards and shag carpets, with playful touches like vintage school maps. What better place to chill out after riding horses across the estancia with those cute vacationing Brazilians you met by the natural limestone pool? Have the hotel's private car take you to see-and-be-seen beaches like La Barra and Jose Ignacio, five minutes away. Or catch an on-site polo match before retiring to the hotel bar. A few drinks there will encourage you to do what comes naturally.

One and Only The Palm, Dubai

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, February 10 04:12 PM

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Poor Dubai. For a while there, it had the whole world in its hands. Then the world, or at least the man-made island version of it off Dubai's coast, reportedly started to sink into the sea. But now there's reason to turn that frown upside down. Megaluxe hotel chain One and Only has just opened a resort on a neighboring palm tree-shaped peninsula.

Four private beach villas and 90 rooms sit on nearly 1,500 feet of white-sand beaches with the Dubai skyline glittering across the Gulf. In true Dubai fashion, the luxury here is larger than life, with 46-inch plasma TVs, a 26,000-square-foot spa, and a 9,000-square-foot pool. Surprisingly, for a multibillion-dollar tree-shaped island, the Moorish interiors' muted palette shows a bit of restraint.

Waikiki Edition's Surf and Bikini Boot Camp, Honolulu, Hawaii

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, January 03 12:03 PM

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If there are a few feet of snow between you and the local gym, you'd probably rather stay at home and eat take-out under a blanket than hit the weights. But what if you could work out someplace warm, by the sea&like, say, Oahu? Suddenly, getting in shape sounds a lot more appealing.

Starting this month, the 353-room Waikiki Edition in Honolulu--a stylish, modern resort by hotel impresario Ian Schrager and Marriott International--offers a four-day Surf and Bikini Boot Camp. Waterfall hikes, kayaking trips, surfing and paddleboard lessons, and yoga sessions will be led by a crack team of pro surfers, naturalists, yogis, and personal trainers.

But this trip isn't all work, no play. The resort offers plenty to do (four bars, a spa, an outdoor movie theater) during your "rest" period. Never has losing your post-festivities paunch been so enjoyable.

Photo: Courtesy of Waikiki Edition

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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