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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

W Retreat & Spa Bali

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 18 06:40 PM

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In a destination as beautiful as Bali, it's little wonder that traditional architecture blurs the lines between indoors and out. The W Retreat & Spa, opened earlier this month in Seminyak, finds inspiration in that tradition. Sea breezes whistle through the open-air lobby; in the 237 guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, please-touch green stingray headboards, and mother-of-pearl panels allow for constant reminders of the surrounding beach and jungle.

The hotel's scene-y collection of restaurants and bars includes the three-story beachfront WooBar, which is open to the elements, while Fire puts the focus on an open kitchen. But don't worry--the resort has been careful to add plenty of lush coves and hidden corners, because some things shouldn't be on show for all to see.

Photo: Courtesy of W Hotels Worldwide

Epic Tomato Adventure Travel Company

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, February 28 11:17 AM

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The hip kids at Black Tomato, a bespoke British luxury travel company, have long been making U.S. travel agents look lamer than a pair of pleated khakis. Now they've kicked things up a notch with the launch of their new service, Epic Tomato.

The company will help the baddest of badasses plan seriously intrepid trips. Care to slice your own path through the uncharted jungles of Borneo? Pull a pulk across the unmapped tundra of Antarctica? Or perhaps you'd prefer to try your luck outpaddling alligators on the White Nile. If you're cool with pushing yourself to the limit, these guys have got you covered.

Photo: Courtesy of Epic Tomato

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.

Babylonstoren, Drakenstein Valley, South Africa

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, December 08 12:27 PM

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Locavores are likely to think they've died and gone to heaven when they arrive at Babylonstoren, a 300-year-old working farm in South Africa's Cape Winelands that has just opened 14 Dutch-style luxury cottages in its gardens.

Green-fingered types can roll up their sleeves and get to work planting, pruning, or picking produce. But if getting your hands dirty is the last thing you want to do on vacation--no judgment--you can enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor in the seasonal farm restaurant, Babel, or kick back at the hotel's spa and pool. The comfortable, high-ceilinged suites have modern furniture and open hearths and are housed in traditional whitewashed buildings with ornate gables and thatched roofs.

If you think this place can't get any better, think again: Babylonstoren's first batch of wine will be ready in mid-2011.

Photo: Courtesy of Babylonstoren

Oscar de la Renta's Ultimate Wedding Experience

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, December 07 12:31 PM

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Powdery white sand: Check. Azure sea: Check. Personal gown consultation with a fashion legend: Check.

If you book all 15 Tortuga Bay villas at the Dominican Republic's Puntacana Resort & Club for your impending nuptials, not only will you benefit from pearls of fashion wisdom from Oscar de la Renta at his New York atelier, but your wedding will include access to nine restaurants, a Six Senses spa, and a 600-acre forest preserve where you can be at one with nature (as well as each other, in the spring-fed pools). And since the resort also owns the airport, your pre-wedding nerves will be soothed by the smoothest of transfers.

Sun, sea, and style. Now that's what your big day should be all about.

Photo: Courtesy of Puntacana Resort & Club

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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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