Image: Lagoon Pangkor Laut Resort
© Pangkor Laut Resort
This luscious resort occupies a privately owned, 300-acre island three miles off the west coast of Malaysia, along the Straits of Malacca. Many of its villas are on stilts over the sea; among these are the Suria and Purnama suites, with a bedroom, lounge and bathroom with an oversize tub and windows that overlook the water. Activities include fishing; jungle-trekking; a cruise on a teakwood, Oriental junk to a sheltered cove, for a lunchtime barbecue or sunset dinner; golf; yoga; and tai chi. Batik painting is also taught daily.
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updated 1/10/2008 1:00:07 PM ET 2008-01-10T18:00:07

Looking to get away from the winter’s cold and live out your vacation fantasy on an island paradise, complete with lagoon-side accommodations?

Your fantasy can become reality at a wide range of posh resorts in the world’s top beach destinations, such as the Maldives, Seychelles, French Polynesia, Mexico’s Riviera Maya and even the Caribbean.

Run by luxury hotel operators like St. Regis, Rosewood, Aman Resorts and Six Senses, many of these resorts offer over-water luxury accommodations, like Soneva Gili’s 1,400-square-meter Private Reserve villa in the Maldives; this has two master suites, a private spa and speedboat with crew and personal butler service. Anantara Resort Maldives’ over-water suites float in the Indian Ocean; some even have their own private, infinity-edge plunge pools.

Although these hotels might be located in remote locations, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice creature comforts or rough it. Villas and other guest rooms at these resorts are elegantly furnished; many use local wood and thatch in their décor. Butler service is frequently available too, not only at Soneva Gili, but also at the St. Regis Bora Bora and Six Senses Hideaway Nin Vanh Bay in Vietnam, among others.

Spa services can be found everywhere, including at Miri Miri Spa at the St. Regis Bora Bora; this 13,000-square-foot facility occupies its own private island and offers both Tahitian and Pacific Rim treatments.

Nor are dining options limited: Many resorts, like Soneva Gili, the Manihi Pearl Resort in French Polynesia and Pangkor Laut in Malaysia, will prepare private picnics or barbecues for you and your traveling companion on a deserted beach. Fittingly called Lagoon, the fine-dining restaurant at the St. Regis Bora Bora has a menu by the world-famous French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. And cuisine at North Island, a private island resort in the Seychelles, is based on a “no-menu” concept: After consulting with guests upon arrival, the chef prepares meals according to their preferences.

For vacationers who want to do more than just watch the fish swim by, the resorts offer numerous water and land activities. Many have snorkeling and PADI scuba-diving courses. The Anantara Resort Maldives has a surf school, while many resorts give guests the option of fishing (everything from deep-sea and hand-line fishing to bone-fishing). Some hotels—like Rosewood Mayakoba and Amanyara—even offer golf, the former on an 18-hole, Greg Norman course.

According to Albert Herrera, vice president of hotels and resorts for Virtuoso, a consortium of high-end travel agencies, the lagoon-hotel concept is really catching—and for good reason. These resorts, he says, are increasingly popular with honeymooners and couples who want “exclusivity, sun, beautiful beaches and water. They‘re for people who want privacy and love nature and the water.”

Image: Lagoon Anantara Maldives
© Anantara Maldives
Spread over two islands in the South Male atoll, this beauty is a 35-minute private speedboat ride from Male International Airport. On the resort's Veligandu Huraa Island are 36 over-water, coconut-thatch bungalows; 92-square meter deluxe ones feature a terrazzo bathtub for two by the lagoon. Dhigufinolhu Island has a variety of over-water suites, floating in the Indian Ocean, including two with private, infinity-edge, plunge pools.
At these hotels, you feel like “You’re at the end of the world,” says Suzanne Hall, senior director of marketing and development for Ensemble Travel Group, another group of high-end travel agencies. “You don’t see people at the next bungalow, you view the aqua and sapphire water,” she says.

Lagoon resorts appeal especially to people in high-stress jobs, Hall says, because they “totally de-stress you, because they’re so removed from everything in the workplace. This is not true elsewhere. Maybe it has to do with being in an over-water environment where you can’t see your neighbors. There’s privacy, and respect for it. You won’t find anything like it on Hawaii.”

What's more, at many of these resorts, guests can jump directly from a private deck and into the water, whenever they feel like it, to swim or snorkel. “You don’t need a wet suit, and the fish are like flowers under the sea,” she says.

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