The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami Beach, Fla.

High and low — and the formal and casual — rub (bare) shoulders in South Beach like nowhere else in the United States. So it only makes sense that in the lobby at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, the newly opened $200 million reinvention of the 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed DiLido hotel, you can gaze upon a Joan Mir painting while wearing your swimsuit and flip-flops.

From the moment you walk into that lobby, with its polished-cherry curved wall and stainless steel bullet light fixtures, you realize this is not the usual Ritz-Carlton. Sure, there’s the trademark Ritz service that can make even the most ordinary of us feel like a maharajah. But what’s different is the style and vibe, which is SoBe without being out of central casting (for that, try the Delano, just down the block), and luxurious without being tame.

The hotel’s world-class Latin American and European art collection was inspired by its roots as a landmark Art Moderne creation, and that modern aesthetic is echoed throughout the public and private spaces — in the brightly colored glassware in the Americana restaurant; in the clean lines of the furniture in the two lounges; and even in the guest room bathrooms, which feature hand-carved resin amenity sets created especially for the hotel by designer Barbara Kling, whose work is featured in the Museum of Modern Art.

When the hotel opened in December, rumors circulated that it would allow topless sunbathing at the pool, but those rumors have since been squelched. Guests have to content themselves with glamorous male and female “tanning butlers” who will recommend and apply tanning products — or a soothing aloe spritz, if you’re already burned.

>>The beach: Most of the action happens at the saltwater pool, with its “infinity” views of the horizon and luxe cabanas (king-size beds outfitted with retractable drapes, enormous pillows and an endless supply of champagne) that cost from $500 to $1,500 per day. Don’t miss the Esther Williams-style water ballet at 6 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. The nearby beach is perfect for a stroll on the wide white expanse or a swim in the ocean — but the rip currents can be treacherous.

>>Besides the beach: The 16,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa can prepare you for a night on the town — with facials, manicures, body polishes and signature pedicures — and help you recover the next day with an array of cleansing and detoxifying showers, soaks, massages and anti-aging treatments. The only spa of its kind outside of Paris, it’s modeled on the holistic approach to beauty pioneered by the Carita sisters of Paris 50 years ago.

>>What’s for dinner: The DiLido Beach Club, the only oceanfront restaurant in South Beach, boasts cuisine inspired by tastes found in North Africa and the Mediterranean (as well as a hopping cocktail hour scene and a Sunday beach party from noon to 9). Americana offers “restyled” favorites like Kobe meatloaf with proscuitto and sun-dried tomatoes and potpie of sauteed lobster with black truffle and asparagus ragout, and the Lapidus Lounge has a DJ spinning retro lounge music, and serves gourmet lite fare like a martini ceviche until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Renowned restaurateur David Bouley will open his first restaurant outside of Manhattan adjoining the Ritz-Carlton lobby by the end of the year.

>>Inside information: The design of the 375 guest rooms was inspired by staterooms on a luxury ocean liner. Even the standard rooms are generously sized — the largest on the beach — and roughly half of them have ocean views and balconies. Guests on club level floors have access to a lounge on the 11th floor that features five food and drink presentations throughout the day.

>>Getting there: Most airlines offer direct flights from BWI to Miami.

>>Rates: In-season rates start at $479 and go to $5,500.

>>Contact info: 800-241-3333, http://www.ritzcarlton.com. -Laura Wexler

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, Kiawah Island, S.C.

There’s been a lot of noise on usually quiet Kiawah Island lately. The exclusive getaway, just a 30-minute drive from Charleston, S.C., is getting a brand-new luxury hotel this summer. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, scheduled to open in August, promises 255 rooms and suites, a “nature-based” luxury spa, three restaurants and bars, and access to five golf courses at its sister property.

Kiawah Island, a chunk of land 10 miles long and about a mile wide, has been a favorite playground for Charlestonians since the 1970s, when developers turned the once privately owned island into a planned resort community. But plenty of Kiawah’s natural beauty was preserved, too. More than 30 species of mammals and 200 species of birds call Kiawah home, as well as more than 700 alligators. One golf course even rates as a certified Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

The four-story hotel, owned by the same company that operates the Jefferson in Richmond , Va., and the Hermitage in Nashville, Tenn., has been constructed to resemble a “grand beach home, designed to feel like it has been on Kiawah for centuries, evolving and expanding from one imaginary homeowner to the next.” To achieve this comfortable-as-a-worn-pennyloafer atmosphere, architects used antique walnut floorboards in irregular lengths and widths that purposely give and creak in the lobby. And landscapers transplanted more than 200 live oak trees along the entrance driveway to make the vista appear as if it’s been in place for centuries.

>>The beach: Guests have access to all 10 miles of beachfront — the most of any planned resort community in America, as the official company line goes. It’s a hard-packed beach, as popular — or more — for running and biking as for building sand castles.

>>Besides the beach: Sporting five separate golf courses, Kiawah Island has become one of the top destinations in the South for duffers. (They played the Ryder Cup here in 1991 and the World Cup in 1997 and again last year.) Tennis also shares the spotlight: Kiawah’s program, under the direction of Roy Barth, who was once ranked among the Top 50 in the world, consistently rates among the top tennis instruction programs nationally.

>>What’s for dinner: The main attraction, The Ocean Room, sports a seafood-heavy menu, a private wine room and a large terrace with an ocean view. The more casual Jasmine Porch has both indoor and outdoor seating and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also a grand lobby bar, a cozy martini bar adjacent to the fine dining room and a poolside bar and grill.

>>Inside info: One-bedroom guest rooms and suites feature hand-crafted furniture, Italian sheets and views of the ocean or garden. Really want to splurge? The luxurious Presidential Suite boasts 3,100 square feet, including a vaulted-beam ceiling, living room fireplace, a grand oceanfront balcony, private concierge service and a presidential price tag of $4,500 per night.

>>Getting there: U.S. Airways, Delta and United Airlines fly to Charleston via Charlotte, N.C., or Atlanta. Round-trip rates start at approximately $300.

>>Rates: Range from $275 to $625 depending on room type, weeknight and season.

>>Contact: 877-683-1234, http://www.thesanctuary.com -Joe sugarman

The Sanderling, Duck, N.C.

Spectacularly set on a thin spit of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound, The Sanderling has long been a favorite place to stay in the Outer Banks. In a place where khaki shorts and a golf shirt will get you into most hotels, The Sanderling, with its Ralph Lauren-goes-birding ambience, is still the only Outer Banks resort where you’ll be glad you didn’t leave that blue blazer behind.

The two-story cedar-shingled buildings that make up the resort and the old life-saving station-cum-restaurant lend a certain weathered Outer Banks appeal; myriad Audubon prints and bird sculptures throughout complete the picture.

Nearby, there’s shopping in increasingly tony Duck, N.C., and abundant bird-watching and hiking, biking and kayaking trails at the adjacent 3,400-acre Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary.

Now there are two more good reasons to visit this old friend: a worth-the-trip restaurant and a newly expanded full-service spa.

>>The beach: Miles of dune-studded beachfront is right out the resort’s back door. Pick a room overlooking the beach (make sure you request a room above the first story in order to see above the dunes) and wake up to the sunrise from your balcony.

>>Besides the beach: The Sanderling’s renovated spa boasts a full menu of “life-saving” body treatments (wraps and scrubs), “body rescue” (massage) and “hand and foot rescue” (manicures and pedicures). Couples can get romantic in the two private treatment lounges overlooking the water, and for those seeking isolated relaxation, nothing beats the private “massage gazebo” set over the water in Currituck Sound. If it’s exercise rather than relaxation you want, the sound makes for excellent kayaking. The resort’s eco-center rents kayaks — with or without trained guides. Sport fishing is available aboard Capt. Curtis Josey’s 45-foot Davis yacht, and golf, racquetball, a fitness center and outdoor pools are available to guests off-property. (The Sanderling does have an indoor pool, sauna and hot tub by the spa.)

>>What’s for dinner: The new French-inspired restaurant, Left Bank, is a visual treat: 22-foot ceilings, an open kitchen and a wall of 10-foot windows gives diners front-row seats for the setting sun over Currituck Sound. The prix fixe, three — or five-course menu ($59 and $85 per person) roams from chilled Maine lobster with heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil to Hudson Valley foie gras before arriving closer to home with Albemarle Sound soft-shell crab with fried green tomatoes and baby artichokes. The only real downside to the Left Bank is that you might lose your dinner — or your life — trying to cross over increasingly busy Route 12 to get back to The Sanderling. On the right side of the highway, the Sanderling’s Lifesaving Station Restaurant and bar remains open for fine dining and late-night cocktails.

>>Inside info: The Sanderling encompasses three inns, (different wings of the hotel, actually) and four oceanside villas. All accommodations feature a kitchenette or wet bar, and complimentary baked goods delivered every morning. Opt for an oceanfront room; in a sound-side room, you’ll get an eyeful of parking lot along with the water.

>>Getting there: The Sanderling is a six-hour drive from Baltimore, or fly to the Sanderling’s private airstrip at Pine Island from BWI on Sea Air (252-453-3656, http://www.flyseaair.com).

>>Rates: Peak season (May 17 through Oct. 19), costs range from $254 to $497 per night. Add-on spa packages, $155 per person, include a 50-minute massage and a choice of a sea mud wrap, salt glow, herbal detox wrap, strawberry scrub or honey scrub.

>>Contact: 800-701-4111, http://www.thesanderling.com -J.S.

The Bellmoor Inn, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Those familiar with the old Dinner Bell Inn, a Rehoboth institution that had operated in town since 1938, might not recognize what took its place. The Bellmoor Inn, which opened in 2002, is a 78-room luxury hotel and spa with all the accoutrements. “We wanted to create something that wasn’t here,” says Chad Moore, who operates the hotel with his brother J. B. “We wanted people to take their shoes off, have a glass of wine, and feel comfortable.”

The place is definitely a different kind of beach retreat. Its lobby is all dark woods, buttery leather chairs and Oriental rugs, lending a cozy, cold-weather feel to the place. There’s even a complimentary afternoon tea time (iced, during summer) in the lobby.

What also separates the Bellmoor from your typical seaside resort is that the upscale atmosphere comes with a down-to-earth family feel and personal service that hearkens back to the days of the Dinner Bell. Got a problem? See Chad or J. B., who works the front desk, and they’ll handle it personally. Still not satisfied? Go tell Bob and Dee, the boys’ parents who run the Ocean Motel across the street.

>>The beach: OK, so the Bellmoor technically isn’t located on the beach (you’ll have to walk two blocks down Delaware Avenue to dig your toes in the sand), but it does have two pools — including one for adults only, a nice touch.

>>Besides the beach: Two hot tubs and a tiny but comfortable full-service spa should be enough to keep you pampered. (Massage services also are available behind a screened fence poolside or in your room.)

>>What’s for dinner: The Bellmoor lacks a restaurant, but that doesn’t stop a kitchen crew from serving up complimentary country breakfasts every morning in the airy sunroom. Wake up to the Bellmoor’s heart-stopping eggs Napoleon — layered hash browns, bacon, sausage and eggs topped with melted cheese — and forget about fitting into your swimsuit. And the dizzying choices of Rehoboth’s restaurant scene are all within a few blocks walk.

>>Inside info: There are a lot of different room options here — from opulent suites to more homey garden rooms with quilts on the beds and old-fashioned wooden screen doors — a vestige of simpler times. The family suites thoughtfully include a separate room with twin beds for the kids. The most expensive room is the Carolina Suite with its ocean view down Delaware Avenue, two fireplaces and a 23-foot-long bathroom. Yours for $575 a night.

>>Getting there: The Bellmoor Inn is a 2 1/2-hour drive from Baltimore.

>>Rates: In-season, $265 to $575.

>>Contact: 6 Christian St., 302-227-5800, 800-425-2355, http://www.thebellmoor.com -J.S.

The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.

When Food & Wine magazine refers to a place as “one of the 15 best new luxury hotels in the world,” we tend to pay attention. Open since August 2003, The Chanler at Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I., is a small, 20-room, high-end luxury hotel that offers the only guest quarters in town that adjoin the Cliff Walk, the path that overlooks the mighty Atlantic coastline. The original sprawling mansion that now houses the hotel was built in 1873 as one of the first seaside “cottages” that became the rage by the likes of the Astors, Whitneys and Vanderbilts at the time.

A recent three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation has resulted in a rarefied boutique hotel. What makes it special is the interior design. Consisting of 14 mansion rooms, three ocean villas and three garden villas, each space has been decorated according to a distinct personality. Without stepping over the border into parody, each room is done in a specific theme such as Regency, Greek Revival, English Tudor, French Provincial, Georgian and Empire. Bathrooms feature heated marble floors and the beds are made up with 400-thread-count Fifi D’oro linens. Most rooms have private outdoor decks with ocean views.

Because the property is small, a stay at the Chanler is free of the hustle-bustle of larger hotels. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic getaway or as a central home base for beach access, as well as the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile paved walking trail that winds between the rocky shoreline and the famous mansions that Newport is known for, as well as the local beaches and tony shops.

>>The beach: The beaches of Newport are the familiar sandy Atlantic variety we all know — albeit more pebbly — with bluffs towering over top. The prime beach scene is to be found at the private clubs, so best to know a member. Easton’s Beach and the pageantry of the Newport sailing scene are the other highlights.

>>Besides the beach: Newport Harbor hosts several annual boat shows, as well as the Schweppe’s Great Chowder Cook-Off. And the internationally renowned Newport Jazz Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary Aug. 11 through 15, with acts including Dave Brubeck, Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Wynton Marsalis and Bill Cosby; tickets, 866-468-7619 or http://www.ticketweb.com.

>>What’s for dinner: The hotel’s restaurant, the Spiced Pear, is overseen by chef Richard Hamilton, and is a worthy destination on its own. Meals vary with the seasons, with offerings like a deconstructed clam chowder with smoked salmon, potato and corn, and peeky-toe crab on a cucumber-basil pureŽ. An adjoining outdoor terrace offers cliffside views from every table.

>>Inside info: The three ocean villas — the Martha’s Vineyard, the Nantucket and the Block Island — are the most private spaces at the hotel. Each has a private gated courtyard, ocean views and its own hot tub and sauna. The decor reflects the rustic country cottage style of the namesake islands, with antique pine beadboard wainscotings, wide-plank floors and fluffy traditional featherbeds.

>>Getting there: Drive time from Baltimore is just over six hours, or fly Southwest or US Airways into Providence, then drive the 40 minutes or so on to Newport.

>>Rates: Rooms and suites, $300 to $1,095.

>>Contact: 401-847-1300, http://www.thechanler.com. -Brian Michael Lawrence

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here