When it comes to sharing Valentine’s Day with your one true love, don’t think diamonds and hearts and fancy gourmet restaurants. Instead, think getaway, as in it’s the one time of the year to get away from it all and indulge (read: splurge) in one or two or all of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Instead of a dozen roses, here are a dozen romantic escapes scattered from one corner of the world to the other to treat your sweetie.
Kenya’s Fairmount Mount Kenya Safari Club in NanyukiFairmount Mount Kenya Safari Club was born of a love affair with Africa. When actor William Holden traveled to Kenya on safari, he became entranced with the colonial architecture of a 1930s home high on the slopes of Mount Kenya. He and his partners opened the luxurious home that bestrides the equator as a private club in the late 1950s. Today it is a fairy tale hotel with 100 rooms, suites and cottages languishing amid acres and acres of hills, forests, ponds and lush gardens that combine for a peaceful stay. Play golf or ride horses on the Equator, visit an animal orphanage, and breakfast on the slopes or dine in the bush. Visit www.fairmount.com.
Greenwich Hotel in New York City
A hotel with a working fireplace in New York City? Yes. Find it at the spectacular Greenwich Hotel. With just 88 rooms and suites – no two are the same – the trendy Tribeca haven also offers marble bathrooms, some with soaking tubs and rain showers, and plush Savoir beds handcrafted in the United Kingdom and outfitted with Swedish Duxiana mattresses. If you fancy a spa treatment, dive into the subterranean Shibui Spa or the subtly lit relaxation lounge and pool, housed in a pine farmhouse transported from Kyoto. The warm, cozy hotel, brimming with natural light, is filled with charm and character and at the same time hushed and private. Visit www.thegreenwichhotel.com.
Italy’s Bulgari Hotel in MilanIf ever a name suggests the ultimate experience in luxury, it is Bulgari, the historic Italian jeweler. The Bulgari Hotel Milano, in the heart of Milan in the Brera district, is awash in intimacy, swank and style. The boutique hotel, once an 18th century convent and then palazzo, is ensconced in a 43,000 square-foot terraced garden next to the Botanical Garden of Brera. Portions of the décor of the hotel, including the lobby fireplace, are crafted of Zimbabwean marble. The 61 rooms and suites practically sparkle with light, glass and mirrors. Attention has been paid to every detail, including in the Bulgari Suite a bathtub carved from a single block of Turkish Bihara stone. Visit www.bulgarihotels.com.
Scotland’s Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
The spectacular Balmoral Hotel, a Rocco Forte property, is a Victorian-era jewel in Old Town Edinburgh. The castle-like hotel is magical and magnificent with its parade of turrets and towers and striking baronial façade. It’s a beautiful hotel in perhaps Scotland’s most beautiful city. Completed in 1902 as one of the stately railroad hotels of Europe, it now bespeaks of Old World splendor with its richly decorated rooms, kilted doormen and touches of tartan everywhere. The rooms and suites of the five-star hotel offer a range of amenities, among them working fireplaces, inspiring city views and soaring ceilings. Visit www.roccofortehotels.com.
South Africa’s Ellerman House
Cape Town has often been referred to as one of the most picturesque and romantic cities on the globe, and the perfect place to see it is from the Ellerman House. With just 13 rooms and two villas, the Ellerman House offers exquisitely-designed rooms, meticulously-maintained gardens, a gourmet restaurant that offers the best in South African cuisine and wine, and a world-class art gallery including paintings and sculptures. The art is actually the interior décor of the house and not a public gallery, which means you have the collection practically all to yourself. Add in the views of the Atlantic with crashing waves, and quite often whales and ships passing by, a stay at the Ellerman House is the ultimate in lavishness. Visit www.ellerman.co.za
France’s Chateau le Prieure in the Loire ValleyIn the heart of the Loire Valley and with incredible panoramic views of the Loire River below, Chateau le Prieure in Chenehutte-Treves-Cunault is an elegant 12th century castle. The 21-room majestic country chateau, built of white stones that shimmer under blue skies, is steeped in medieval history and Renaissance lore. Benedictine monks founded the castle as a setting for prayers but was updated in the 20th century by the Count of Castellane. The extravagant rooms are uniquely decorated with extra touches including floral wallpaper, heavy drapery, intricately-detailed rugs, period furniture and chandeliers. A cavernous underground cellar houses 3,000 bottles of wine. Visit www.prieure.com.
Florida’s Don CeSar Hotel in St. Petersburg
If ever there is a hotel that’s a horse of a different hue, then it’s the Don CeSar, just the color of the pinkest flamingo imaginable and known as the Pink Palace. The Mediterranean-style hotel on St. Pete Beach opened in the Roaring ’20s, evoking images of Gatsby and Salvadore Dali – the Dali Museum is in St. Petersburg – and has become an iconic Florida landmark during the past hundred years. The guestrooms, suites and penthouses are filled with pastel décor, and the hotel opens up to the silky white sands and pristine emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Newly renovated with six restaurants, two pools and a spa, it stands out for its unobstructed and brilliantly colored sunsets, understated glamour and unparalleled history. Visit www.doncesar.com.
Tanzania’s Singita Sabora Tented Camp
If ever a place captures the soul of Africa, it’s Singita Sabora Tented Camp. The enchanting camp, an oasis of tranquility, is peerless for an under-the-canvas getaway. Set on 350,000 acres of protected wilderness within the Singita Grumeti Game Reserve and part of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, the camp has all the extras including outdoor showers, the handiwork of local artisans, and dining on the open plains. When night falls and reveals an amazing African sky brimming over with uncountable stars, it’s nothing unusual to hear from extremely nearby the thrilling sounds of Cape buffalo snorting, hyenas and jackals barking, and lions roaring. Absorb the culture and essence of the plains with game drives, hot air balloon rides, community visits or guided safari walks. Visit www.singita.com.
If you really want to splurge, opt for an overwater bungalow on a private island in the archipelagic nation of the Maldives. Far-flung and secreted away in the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the by-seaplane-only boutique luxury resort of Milaidhoo is ringed by coral reefs and vibrantly clear turquoise water that laps up to pearl-hued beach as soft as confectioner’s sugar and then verdant tropical forests. It is the ultimate resort for peace and privacy. Expect over-the-top service and private butlers. Walk straight into the water from your bungalow and savor the warm waters of the Indian Ocean with a refreshing swim. It’s an expensive, long trek but, oh, what stories you’ll have to tell for the rest of your life. Visit www.milaidhoo.com.
Argentina’s Four Seasons in Buenos Aires
The Four Seasons, in the lively, upscale Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires, may be a 165-room luxury hotel, but you’ll feel like a happy butterfly in a cocoon because of its comfort, quiet ambiance, and European-style glamour. The opulently French Belle Epoque mansion and 12-story tower combine for a stunning hotel complete with landscaped gardens, sumptuous leather and mahogany furnishings, marble bathrooms, and deep soaking tubs. If you like the ponies and alpacas, icons of Argentina, you’ll like the hotel because of its heavy equine and camillid decor. And when you’re ready to tango, the Four Seasons will connect you to a local instructor. You’ll be dancing like a born Argentinian in no time. Visit www.fourseasons.com.
Fiji’s Kokomo Island
When life has you wanting to leave the world a million miles behind, Kokomo Private Island Fiji among the pristine Kadavu Islands tempts like a siren. Lying south of the mainland and surrounded by the Astrolabe Reef, every one of the 21 villas has a view of the ocean and, to entice you further, an infinity pool. The philosophy of all-inclusive Kokomo is three-fold: sustainability that includes such essentials as a 5.5-acre organic farm and beehives; wellness with yoga classes, spa treatments, and meals created from seasonal island-fresh ingredients; and conservation of local treasures of coral and manta rays. The airy villas are secluded and South Pacific-idyllic, with lots of white and pastel décor. You won’t think of life back home at all with Kokomo’s sun-splashed days and romantic nights. Visit kokomoislandfiji.com.
New Zealand’s Rosewood Cape Kidnappers at Hawke’s BayThere’s just something special about the soft light and rarefied air of New Zealand, and its essence is captured best at Rosewood Cape Kidnappers on the North Island at Hawke’s Bay. With just 22 suites and a 4-bedroom cottage as the heartbeat of some 6,000 acres of sheep and cattle farm and rugged terrain, the grand yet understated destination is nature’s classroom with ample opportunities to see beloved kiwi and gannet birds, ride horses through the thick woods, or during the nocturnal hours see glow worms. The farm overlooks the Pacific, and it’s all quite dramatic with towering sea-toned cliffs soaring against cerulean skies. The oversized suites include private balconies and walk-in closets, and dinner and nightly cocktails are included in the rate. The chicly rustic farm is at the heart of New Zealand’s wine country, always a nice bonus. Visit www.rosewoodhotels.com.