Each year, Hideaway Report editors relive their travels and single out a number of particularly memorable amenities from the hotels and resorts they visited. From beaches and baths to spas and pools, these are our Editors’ Choice award winners for Best Amenities.
Like everything else at the Royal Mansour, the spa is breathtakingly beautiful and flawlessly serviced. A candlelit entry tunnel opens theatrically onto a soaring lounge, centerpieced by a flower-filled marble fountain. We decamped to the glass-enclosed indoor pool, which might have been designed by Gustave Eiffel. A traditional hammam treatment — a scrub and soap massage — was conducted in a private marble hall. The treatment itself took only an hour, and the remainder of the time was spent sipping lemon-ginger infusions on a daybed in the relaxation lounge amid whitewashed wood screens and creamy raw-silk drapes. Even if you don’t stay at the Royal Mansour while in Marrakech, the resort’s spa is eminently worthy of a visit.
U Capu Biancu is a low-slung stone resort with an appealingly rustic look created by terra-cotta tile floors, beamed ceilings, wicker lighting fixtures and driftwood-finished accessories and furniture. The hotel’s public rooms, including the restaurant and bar, spill onto large terraces with superb views of the sea. One of the best features of the property is its large and stunningly beautiful heated infinity pool. To make it blend in with the surrounding landscape, the pool is surrounded by huge stone boulders and flowering vegetation, which means it is peaceful even when all of the loungers on the terrace are occupied. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon reading, swimming and soaking in the spectacular views of the bay below.
Sumba Island, Indonesia
From the wide balcony of my villa, flanked by palm and banana trees, I could gaze along a mile and a half of tide-swept sand, edged by aquamarine sea and backed by forested hills. Long, relentless lines of surf rolled in from the Indian Ocean, pushing fingers of foam up the unblemished beach. Although it was only just past dawn and the landscape still had a platinum sheen, I decided to head down for a swim. Having plunged into the sea and washed away any lingering torpor, I set off for a morning jog, leaving a line of crisply defined footprints in the soft white sand. The only other person around at that hour was a groom, exercising half a dozen horses, which frolicked and cantered and dashed in and out of the surf. Reaching the end of the beach, I sat on a rock and gazed back, feeling the warmth of the morning sun increase and providing a foretaste of midday’s tropical heat. I found myself laughing out loud. Could there be anywhere in the world more beautiful than the Nihi Sumba beach? I decided that the answer was “probably not.”
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
The remote safari lodge Azura Selous is set beside rapids on the Great Ruaha River in Tanzania’s huge Selous Game Reserve. On arrival, I was shown around my semi-tented villa by my “safari butler.” To one side of the entry was a bright and surprisingly spacious bath, which came with two sinks, a generous expanse of counter space and a sizable walk-in shower, plus an outdoor shower that delivered a gratifying deluge of water. While washing or shaving, I was able to gaze past the mirror through a screened window to the river, where members of a resident pod of hippo were usually in noisy disagreement. Occasionally, an antelope would wander past, pause and stare in at me. And one morning, heading to the outdoor shower, I discovered the fresh tracks of a pack of wild dogs that had passed by just a few minutes earlier.
Everything at L’oscar is over-the-top, and the bedding is no exception. The last thing our butler showed us in our Junior Suite was the duvet, which, he proudly told us, was stuffed with eiderdown, the finest and rarest down in the world. Eiderdown comes mostly from Iceland, where female eider ducks molt in order to insulate their eggs. Eider “farmers” guard the well-feathered nests until the adult ducks and the hatchlings depart, at which point they can hand-gather the down left behind. The ducks themselves are never physically handled. I can’t deny that I slept exceedingly well beneath the cloudlike comforter; it was at once ethereally lightweight and incredibly warm. Guests sometimes ask if they can buy a duvet to take home, L’oscar’s manager told us, but most change their minds once they learn of the $16,000 price tag!