You know those resorts you see on the pages of Us Weekly? The places where Jessica Alba lounges by the pool and Nicole Kidman unwinds after her wedding? Well, they're not as exclusive as you may think. Here's why you'll love them — and how to snag your own luxurious vacation for a steal.
St. Regis Resort, Bora Bora
Why you've seen it: This resort opened in June 2006 and has quickly become one of Hollywood's favored escapes. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned in the resort's secluded Royal Estate. Eva Longoria and Tony Parker reportedly had a romantic getaway here as well.
What you'll love: There is nothing quite as romantic as an overwater villa, and these are some of the most extravagant in French Polynesia, with private terraces (some with Jacuzzis), outdoor showers and a minimum of 1,550 square feet so you can truly spread out. Push the "butler" button on the phone, and the 24-hour concierge will arrange anything from room service to a day-long picnic on a private island. It's all about the water here: Snorkel off your private deck, have a drink at the swim-up Aparima bar or test your mettle on a shark-feeding excursion. You can even dine over the water at chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Lagoon, which has an amazing view of Bora Bora's iconic Mount Otemanu. At Spa Miri Miri, located on its own private island and connected by a footbridge to the resort, you can experience facial and body treatments incorporating warmed black pearls, pearl powder and mother-of-pearl salve for a unique, only-in-Tahiti experience.
When to indulge: Winter in North America means summer in French Polynesia. It can get a bit hot, with daytime temperatures in the 90s, but who cares when you're surrounded by all that blissful water? An overwater villa will run you about $895 from December to May; they soar to over $1,000 in the high season. Or book the Tahiti Tantalizer package, which starts at $1,383 per night but includes almost $500 in resort credits and your sixth night free.
Cap Juluca, Anguilla
Why you've seen it: Few places are as star-studded as Cap Juluca. Courtney Cox and David Arquette celebrated here after their wedding in 1999. Other big names who enjoy the seclusion include Denzel Washington, Donatella Versace, Eddie Murphy, Kevin Bacon and Janet Jackson. Small wonder that Today viewers chose it as the site for the first destination wedding featured on "Today Throws a Wedding" in 2004.
What you'll love: The 18 Moorish-style, gleaming white villas hold no more than six rooms apiece, most with oceanview terraces and enormous indoor/outdoor bathrooms with a private sunning area. Enjoy your couples massage in one of three treatment rooms, or ask the therapist to come to you. When you feel like exploring, hit the eclectic galleries in The Valley, or take a 20-minute boat ride to St. Maarten for duty-free galore. Dinner at Pimms is a near-perfect experience, where you'll dine on stellar Caribe cuisine with a gorgeous view of the sea from your perch on an outcrop only six feet from the waves. There's a full complimentary minibar set up for every guest and a myriad of available water sports. Some larger suites and villas also have private pools.
When to indulge: Like most Caribbean resorts, summer is the time to score a great deal. The resort closes for refreshing every September and October; outside of these months from May 1 through November 15, you can get a superior room for as little as $400 per night ($825 a few months later). Consider adding on the meal plan for $130 a day per person. That may sound steep, but with the high prices on this sleepy little island, you'll end up saving big.
Bacara Resort & Spa, Santa Barbara
What you'll love: The resort's location, in tranquil Santa Barbara nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, leaves little to be desired. You can hit the nearby Santa Ynez Valley wineries for tours and tastings a la Sideways, go on a Pacific whale-watching cruise (the season runs from February through May), or have a picnic at the resort's private ranch, 1,000 acres of natural terrain adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest that boasts hiking trails, a lemon grove and an organic garden that supplies the resort's produce. The PGA-hosting Sandpiper Golf Course is right next door, with preferred tee times for Bacara guests. The aquatically inclined can relax in one of the 26 full-service cabanas by the three saline infinity pools — keep your shades on for some incognito celeb-spotting — or hit the resort's two-mile stretch of beach with a surfboard and try to conquer the Pacific swell. The 311 rooms and 49 specialty suites all have Old Hollywood charm, with Spanish tile and balconies overlooking the gardens or the ocean. (About half also have fireplaces.) The huge spa has 36 treatment rooms; indulge in the signature Bacara Body Melt, which incorporates exfoliation, a Swiss shower and a full-body massage.
When to indulge: California doesn't have much of an off-season per se, but your best option is fall or early winter, after the summer traffic dies down and before the holiday rush. During these times you can book a Garden View room for $475 (usually $550). Or do a shorter stay but totally splurge: The Bacara Amour package offers one night's stay, two spa treatments, dinner and a breakfast in bed, plus all taxes and service charges for $900 per couple.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos
Why you've seen it: Cabo is one of the biggest celebrity hot spots, thanks to its close proximity to Los Angeles. When One&Only Palmilla opened in 1956, early guests included John Wayne, Lucille Ball and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A $90 million renovation in 2004 restored its luster, and today's celeb fans include Kate Beckinsale, Adam Sandler, Christina Aguilera and Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.
What you'll love: The resort sits at the tip of the Baja Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. (From January to March you can actually watch gray whales breaching offshore from your private veranda.) Fountained courtyards and vivid interiors with wrought-iron furnishings and handpainted tiles exude Mexican charm. The 172 rooms all face the sea so it's impossible to get a bad view. With optional desert ATV tours, snorkeling and sailing, sunset cocktail cruises, cooking classes, a serene spa and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, you definitely won't get bored. In the charming town of San Jose del Cabo, only 10 minutes from the resort, you can tour an 18th-century mission or shop for local crafts. If you need a little more action, head to Cabo San Lucas, 20 minutes away, for jet-set nightlife, including Sammy Hagar's rambunctious Cabo Wabo.
When to indulge: The best deal here occurs midweek during the low season (mid-June through mid-October), when you can snag an oceanfront superior room for $450 per night (usually $600).
The resort also runs an ever-changing list of specials throughout the year, such as the current Couple's Sanctuary package, which includes seven nights' accommodation, most meals and lots of spa time for $6,710 through November 15, 2007, and a pay-for-five, get-two-nights-free deal. Check their website to see what's available for your specific dates.
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
Why you've seen it: Parrot Cay is the exclusive private island where Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck said their I dos in 2005 and Eva Longoria and Tony Parker honeymooned in July 2007. A long list of celebrities — Julia Roberts, Jerry Seinfeld, Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, Britney Spears, Bruce Willis — have lounged in the resort's beach chairs.
What you'll love: Parrot Cay is all about escapism. This 1,000-acre enclave is only reachable by boat so you'll find all the privacy you could hope for (a big reason why celebs love it, too). The turquoise water is some of the most vibrant in the Caribbean, and the resort has over a mile of powdery-sand beach. Rooms are effortlessly chic, with Balinese-inspired teak furnishings, linen-draped four-poster beds and private terraces; for the ultimate splurge, book a Beach House, which has an outdoor shower and plunge pool. The world-renowned COMO Shambhala spa — a favorite of yoga devotees Donna Karan and Christy Turlington — is a must-do. For a day-trip, island-hop and picnic on some of the nearby uninhabited cays.
When to indulge: The best time to find a deal is during their summer season when the rates are close to a third lower. During these times you'll be able to stay in a garden-view room for $525 per night (usually $760). The Summer Honeymoon package is an even better deal. You'll get seven nights of accommodations, all meals and airport transportation, plus a half-day of indulgence at the spa. Cost is $5,292 for a garden-view room or $13,405 for a Beach House per couple.
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