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Acqualina, Miami Beach, Florida - © Troy Campbell

Readers' Choice 2015: Top 20 Beach Resorts

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After a two-year absence from this list, Acqualina in Miami returned in force to claim the top spot. The Four Seasons Hualalai and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel maintained their positions in the top five, but even more noteworthy is the impressive rankings of Esperanza and One&Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas, both of which completed major repairs and refurbishments following damage from Hurricane Odile in late 2014.


1. Acqualina

Miami Beach, Florida — Lavish 98-room resort within a 51-story tower on four-and-a-half acres fronted by 400 feet of white sand. Rooms and suites have been decorated in a sophisticated style that combines traditional and contemporary elements with a dash of art deco.

2. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Kohala Coast, Hawaii — Renowned 252-room resort founded in 1965 by Laurance S. Rockefeller, overlooking an exquisite white-sand beach on the Kohala Coast. The property features a revitalized 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course, plus clubhouse.

3. Four Seasons Hualalai

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii — Grand resort in dramatic grounds along a half-mile rocky shoreline on the north Kona Coast. The property features a spa (the island’s best), as well as a gym, seven pools, tennis courts, and a manicured Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

4. Esperanza

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — Luxurious resort terraced into Punta Ballena’s panoramic bluffs, overlooking two private coves. Clusters of earth-toned casitas contain 57 rooms. The property features oceanfront pool, sandy beach for lounging, refreshed spa and excellent golf nearby.

5. Four Seasons The Biltmore

Santa Barbara, California — Mission-style resort on a 22-acre estate across the street from the public beach. Red tile roofs, lantern-lit brick walkways, courtyard gardens and whitewashed cottages distinguish the 207-room enclave. Spanish Colonial-style spa features 11 treatment rooms.

6. Caneel Bay

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands — Eco-resort founded by Laurance Rockefeller amid 170 verdant acres bordered by seven secluded white-sand beaches. The 166 accommodations feature private patios or balconies with views of the landscaped grounds and the Caribbean Sea.

7. Four Seasons at Wailea

Maui, Hawaii — Luxurious resort on 15 oceanfront acres at the south end of Wailea Beach. A U-shaped building contains spacious rooms overlooking landscaped courtyards. The property features three tropical saltwater pools and an attractive beach with the usual water sports.

8. Four Seasons Punta Mita

Nayarit, Mexico — Seaside hotel on a scenic 1,200-acre peninsula with two pretty beaches. A dozen casitas contain 173 guest quarters, most sporting a clean, contemporary design and furnished terraces providing memorable views of the sea.

9. Peter Island Resort & Spa

British Virgin Islands — Romantic resort on a private island south of Tortola. The dramatic 1,800-acre mountainous islet is fringed by white-sand beaches. The property offers snorkeling in protected coves, scuba diving excursions and yacht cruises.

10. Halekulani

Honolulu, Hawaii — Oceanfront 453-room hotel set in a quiet five-acre enclave on Waikiki Beach near the prime shopping district. Amenities include a large 82-foot oceanside freshwater pool, a sophisticated spa, fitness facilities, a small beach and truly exceptional concierges.

11. Rosewood Little Dix Bay

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands — Classic resort set on 500 acres curling around a picturesque beach. The 100 lodgings come with native stone, purpleheart hardwood and rattan furnishings. The property offers guided snorkeling tours and yacht day sails, as well as a spa with cliffside treatment rooms.

12. Petit St. Vincent

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Privately owned 115-acre islet rimmed by coral reefs and white-sand beaches. A new diving center opened by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is staffed with resident naturalists and marine biologists.

13. Eden Rock

St. Jean Bay, St. Barths — Chic boutique resort atop a small rocky promontory bordered by the pristine white sands of Baie de St-Jean. Of the 34 colonial-contemporary accommodations, the most atmospheric quarters are on the Rock. Aquatic activities include boating, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and windsurfing.

14. One&Only Palmilla

San José del Cabo, Mexico — Impressive resort on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, with both a walking beach and a swimmable beach. All guest rooms have expansive oceanfront or beachfront views. Leisure activities include snorkeling, kayaking, tennis, hiking and deep-sea fishing.

15. The Sanctuary Hotel

Kiawah Island, South Carolina — Beautifully appointed resort set along a 10-mile beach on private Kiawah Island. The hotel contains casually elegant accommodations outfitted with every conceivable amenity.The beach is com­plem­ented by two seaside swimming pools.

16. Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo

Guanacaste, Costa Rica — Gracious 181-room resort overlooking two beaches from the hilly Peninsula Papagayo. The property features a full-service spa and three pools, as well as seaside a par-72 Arnold Palmer championship golf course and four Har-Tru tennis courts.

17. Amanpuri

Phuket, Thailand —Renowned, visually striking resort terraced into a palm-shaded hillside above an exquisite white-sand cove on the west coast of Phuket. A maze of walkways and steep stairs provides access to the 40 accommodations that feature sundecks and dining terraces.

18. Lizard Island

Queensland, Australia — This sophisticated resort is on a remote 2,500-acre island surrounded by white-sand beaches and crystalline lagoons, accessible only by private plane. Forty guest quarters offer spacious living areas leading onto private decks.

19. Las Alamandas

Costalegre, Mexico — Romantic oceanfront hideaway amid lush gardens on 1,500 acres of nature reserve. Cliffs enclose the resort’s private half-mile beach. A beautiful 60-foot outdoor seaside pool complements the ocean beach. An idyllic, low-key tropical sanctuary.

20. Cap Juluca

Maundays Bay, Anguilla — Stylish resort on its own 180-acre garden peninsula, fronting one of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. Whitewashed archways, domes and mock parapets create the look of a fanciful Moorish oasis. Spacious guest quarters are housed in oceanfront villas.

3. Four Seasons Hualalai - © John C. Russell 4. Esperanza - © Trinette Reed Photography 7. Four Seasons at Wailea - © Christian Horan Photography 11. Rosewood Little Dix Bay - © Michael Grimm 12. Petit St. Vincent - © Mike Toy 13. Eden Rock -  © Pierre Carreau 14. One&Only Palmilla - © Nickolas Sargent 15. The Sanctuary Hotel - © Steve Uzzell 16. Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo - © Diana Klein 17. Amanpuri - Courtesy of Amanresorts

Andrew Harper Photo Andrew Harper is the editor of The Hideaway Report, a luxury travel newsletter that first appeared in 1979. He travels anonymously and pays his own expenses in pursuit of unique properties that offer unusually high levels of personal service. Hotels have no idea who he is, so he is treated exactly as you might be.

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