Image: Marseille, France
Boris Horvat  /  AFP/Getty Images
In Marseille, France, you can expect to see a crowd of wealthy Londoners and Parisians in their 30s and 40s getting away for a long weekend.
By
updated 7/26/2007 11:48:23 AM ET 2007-07-26T15:48:23

There are an awful lot of beaches out there — most of them dull and cluttered up with people you'd just as soon not meet.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Of the many hundreds of seaside destinations around the world, there are a few offering a truly exclusive experience with first-rate people-watching.

"A locale gets labeled as chic because a jet-set crowd frequents it," says Ayse Boykin, a luxury travel specialist at TravelStore Platinum in Los Angeles, Calif. "That could mean celebrities, prominent businesspeople or simply those who are wealthy or hip. It's not necessarily because [the destination] is beautiful or there is lots to see."

First-time visitors to such places as Positano, in Italy, and Malibu, in California, can protect themselves from disappointment by observing a few rules.

"A lot of the people visiting these summer spots have been going for years and go to the same restaurants again and again. They know the scene," says Diane Hilliard, co-owner of Hilliard & Olander, a Stillwater, Minn., luxury travel consultancy. "It can be challenging for people who don't know the restaurateurs or who don't have a friend in town who can help them book a table or guarantee they get top service."

She suggests first-timers skip prime dining hours and book early or late instead. Still can't get the table you want? Then opt for lunch over dinner.

French delicacy
One spot that has started to draw a glamorous set in recent years is Marseille in the south of France. It's quieter than the more overrun areas of St. Tropez and Cannes, less than two hours away.

Wealthy Londoners and Parisians in their 30s and 40s come here for long weekends. Celebrities spotted include Beyoncé.

The chic crowd checks into Mercure Beauvau Vieux Port, a 73-room property decorated with antique Provencal furniture that overlooks Vieux Port (meaning "old port"). They dine at Le Petit Nice, a seafood restaurant housed in a 20th-century Greek-style villa on a cliff.

Image: Cabo San Lucas
Alamy
Thirty-something hedge funders from New York and Greenwich, Conn., trendy Los Angelinos and a steady stream of celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, can be seen at Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.
The hottest table? One of the half-dozen facing the ocean. If you score one, order the seven-course tasting menu or tuck into the local specialty, bouillabaisse.

Mexican masterpiece
Trendy Los Angelinos and hedge-funders from the northeast converge in Mexico's Cabo San Lucas, where celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Keith Richards and Gwyneth Paltrow can be spotted.

Preferred hotel: the Esperanza Resort, a 56-room property that has breathtaking views of the Sea of Cortez. The spacious rooms have terraces, ocean views and DVD players. Preferred restaurant: Canto del Mar, known for its French and Mexican fusion cuisine. It's got only 22 seats, so scoring a table may be tough. Even regulars are surprised every time they eat here; the menu changes completely every four days. You might find duck foie gras with onion marmalade one day and quail in a port emulsion the next.

Beachy keen
The Hamptons in eastern Long Island, N.Y., are a perennially popular getaway for such luminaries as Renee Zellweger, Jerry Seinfield, Kelly Ripa and Katie Couric

If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these stars, book a table at Nick & Toni's, a Mediterranean boite located in a Tuscan-style townhouse. Dry aged New York Strip steak is the dish to order.

Stay at the 20-room East Hampton Point, which has its own marina. The rooms all have Frette linens. Some are cottages with fully equipped kitchens.

At these and other chic seaside spots, exclusivity doesn't come cheap. Expect to pay $5,000 a week or more during peak season, not including airfare. Your biggest expense will be your hotel. A garden-view room at the Esperanza, for example, costs $675 a night.

"I always tell people if they want to visit a trendy destination, they have to be willing to drop some serious dollars," says Boykin. "If they're looking for a deal, they probably shouldn't go."

© 2012 Forbes.com

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