Image: Peninsula, Hong Kong
Courtesy of Peninsula, Hong Kong
Even though the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong boasts a fleet of custom-designed Rolls-Royce Phantoms, the most jaw-dropping way to approach this venerable hotel is by air. It's the only one in the city with a private helicopter pad.
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updated 11/9/2010 11:22:52 AM ET 2010-11-09T16:22:52

Forget the airport taxi: from the Persian Gulf to Punta Cana and Hong Kong to Bora-Bora, upscale hotels, resorts, lodges, and safari camps are perfecting the art of the unique arrival. These days, a “shuttle” to the hotel is more likely to be a helicopter or a speedboat than a lowly minivan. Or it may be something even more dramatic … anyone for some paragliding?

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Whoever said “Getting there is half the fun” was clearly on to something, especially where today’s high-end lodgers are concerned. Whether by sea, air, or ingenious — and often indigenous — overland passage, many travelers these days are being treated to holiday thrills well before they actually arrive at their holiday destination.

Slideshow: World's coolest hotel transfers

Of course, the idea of packing luxury and leisure into every travel moment — while providing hotels a unique opportunity to set themselves apart — isn’t exactly new. Upscale hotel groups such as the Peninsula have long offered their guests airport transfers via Rolls-Royce, while helicopter service to rooftop hotel landing pads is a staple of the jet set in Asia, South America, and the Persian Gulf.

What is new, however, is an increasing focus on authenticity and sense of place — which allows guests to arrive at their accommodations already feeling acquainted with the culture they’re visiting.

After all, what’s more European than a cable car? And when you book a room at the Vigilius Mountain Resort in Lana, Italy — some 5,000 feet above the valley vineyards — you’ll find that the only way to get there is a high-wire act. The vintage cable car takes just seven minutes to climb through the South Tyrolean Dolomites; you’ll end up at a remote Alpine lodge surrounded by jagged peaks.

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If you’d like to savor your transfer, consider heading to the Maldives resort of Dhoni Island. Here, guests arrive at their private island sanctuary after a five-hour sail aboard a handcrafted Maldivian dhoni, where a personal butler will pop open a bottle of bubbly to ease any lingering jet lag. Too slow? Take a speedboat from St. Kitts and in 30 minutes you’ll be awash in the refined, genteel atmosphere of Montpelier Plantation in Nevis.

And if all this still seems too pedestrian, try something truly unique: flying to Oman’s Six Senses Zighy Bay on a paraglider (with a guide) — a James Bond–like entrance that will make you forget there was ever such a thing as a hotel minivan.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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