While surrounded by an ever-growing cadre of worthy pretenders to the throne, this reigning monarch of luxury resorts is still the one to beat. The elegant (but overwhelmingly beige) guestrooms, little changed since the resort opened 20 years ago, were renovated in 2014. Within architectural lines borrowed from a European palace, many rooms have already traded their staid carpets for a subtle but lively wave pattern in beachy tones of sea and sand, and flared Victorian-style lampshades and curvy headboards for streamlined furnishings. Changes have also come to the hotel's famous Culinary Center, which has a new Bolivian chef, Carlos Garcia. Cooking classes now share the stage with a part exhibition-part dinner chef's table, team-building Extreme Chef competitions, and market tours that include instruction on preparing the bounty. What hasn't changed is impeccable service, the long lineup of activities, kids' amenities, soothing spa treatments based on local ingredients, the sublime white beach, and the five-diamond awards for the resort as a whole (an unprecedented 16 years running) and two of the restaurants.
- Christine Delsol