Luxury Hotels: 17 Resorts Worth the Splurge

Astra Private Villa in Santorini, Greece Astra Apartments and Suites
By Carrie Havranek

For the special occasions when you've decided that life is too short not to splurge, we've rounded up a list of 17 luxurious hotels that reflect a range of experiences (and prices). From secluded hideaways to castles fit for royalty, these top hotels are worth every penny. Feel free to start dropping hints now.

Photo Caption: Astra Private Villa in Santorini, Greece
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Outside Great Bear Lodge in Port Hardy, British Columbia Tom Rivest
Where: Port Hardy, British Columbia

How Much: From C$1,350 ($1,311 US) for two nights to C$3,630 ($3,527) for seven nights

Why Splurge: Corral up to 10 of your favorite nature lovers for the chance to see grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Each day, there are three guided tours to view the bears and other wildlife. With civilization 50 miles away, the lodge provides the ultimate reason to unplug. A wrap-around deck invites lounging after a day of hiking or kayaking.

Contact: tel. 888/221-8212; www.greatbeartours.com



Photo Caption: Outside Great Bear Lodge in Port Hardy, British Columbia.
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Zambezi Queen on the Chobe River, bordering Botswana and Namibia. Zambezi Queen
Where: Chobe River, between Botswana and Namibia

How Much: From 8,000 South African rand (about $1,050) per person for two nights in the master suite.

Why Splurge: This luxury African river boat offers a different type of safari experience: you can glimpse wildlife (including one of the largest populations of elephants) from the comfort of your master suite's private balcony. The river boat uses solar water heaters and an onboard filtration system, and the engines are designed to not disrupt aquatic life.

For more information: tel. +27 (0) 21 438 0032; www.zambeziqueen.com



Photo Caption: Zambezi Queen on the Chobe River, bordering Botswana and Namibia.
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The ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. Ben Nilsson/Big Ben Productions
Where: Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

How Much: 4,300-5,800 Swedish krona ($553-$746) per night for the Art Suite

Why Splurge: Located at a point 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden's Lapland, the Ice Hotel is all about the architecture. Every December, the hotel is carved out of the ice, only to melt away in late April upon spring's arrival. Settle into your thermal sleeping bag on reindeer pelts, and wake up to a cup of hot lingonberry juice. Summer brings the land of the Midnight Sun. There's an Ice Hotel in Quebec, too, but this hotel is the original inspiration.

Contact: tel. +46 (0) 980 66 800; www.icehotel.com

Photo Caption: The ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.
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Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora Four Seasons
Where: Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Why Splurge: Staying on an overwater bungalow over a lake-smooth lagoon is the ne plus ultra of South Pacific resort vacations, and Bora Bora is the premier destination for that unforgettable experience. The Four Seasons opened its 100 thatched-roof bungalows and 7 villas in 2008 on a private island off Bora Bora, whose jagged peaks you can admire over breakfast on your private balcony. Amenities include the Floating Love Seat, in which you can lounge and doze on the water while remaining tethered to your private cabin.

How much: From $967 a night. www.fourseasons.com/borabora/
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Hotel Commonwealth's baseball suite in Boston, MA John Bellenis
Where: Boston, Massachusetts

How Much: Rates start at $755, which also happens to be the career home-run record set by Hank Aaron in 1970s

Why Splurge: The Baseball suite at the Hotel Commonwealth is perfect for all sports nuts, but Red Sox fans will be especially impressed since it's close to Fenway Park. With wood accents and Frette sheets, the themed room covers all the details -- sports memorabilia, a selection of baseball-themed movies, baseball cards, and a nostalgic snack (Cracker Jacks, anyone?). Don't be surprised if you can't find the suite listed on the hotel's website; you need to call or e-mail the hotel to reserve this special spot.

Contact: tel. 866/784-4000; www.hotelcommonwealth.com

Photo Caption: Hotel Commonwealth's baseball suite in Boston, MA
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Pezula Private Castle in Knysna, South Africa. Pezula Resort Hotel and Spa
Where: Knysna, South Africa

How Much:
From 59,810 South African rand ($7,858) to 104,955 South African rand ($13,790) per person per night

Why Splurge: A castle on a beach is not the most obvious pairing, but this secluded spot on the Western Cape is a stunner. Executive butler? Check. Private chef? Check. Whether you choose the main castle, the honeymoon castle, or the cliff castle -- or take over the whole complex during the holidays as Nelson Mandela reportedly did -- these palatial digs on Noetzie Beach are fit for a king.

Contact: tel. +27 (0) 44 302 3311; www.pezulaprivatecastle.com

Photo Caption: Pezula Private Castle in Knysna, South Africa.
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Green Craig in East Lothian, Scotland Green Craig
Where: East Lothian, Scotland

How Much: Three nights for up to a party of eight people ranges from £3,400 ($5,099) in off-season to £4,440 ($6,599) in high season. Seven-night stays are also available.

Why Splurge: It's not a castle, it's not a resort, it's not a spa -- nor is it all of those things rolled into one. It's a fully staffed house about 15 miles east of Edinburgh at the entryway to golf country, the fabled greens of which players dream. Full Scottish breakfast greets you (and up to eleven others) in the morning, and you'll be treated to maid service daily and a fully stocked cupboard, including a cheeseboard. Golfing packages are priced separately based on individual preferences.

Contact: tel. +44 (0)1875 870301; www.greencraig.com

Photo Caption: Green Craig in East Lothian, Scotland.
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Hilton Waikoloa Village along the Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Hilton Waikoloa Village
Where: The Big Island, Hawaii

How Much: $499-$1,199 per night for the Bay View suite

Why Splurge: The sprawling Hilton Waikoloa Village is on the Kohala Coast, with three freshwater swimming pools (including one with a dramatic waterfall), an ocean-fed lagoon with sea turtles, and a mile-long museum hallway with 1,800 works of art. Take hula and ukulele lessons, or swim with dolphins without ever leaving the property.

Contact: tel. 800/HILTONS; www.hiltonwaikolavillage.com

Photo Caption: Hilton Waikoloa Village along the Kohala Coast, Hawaii.
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Radisson Blue Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland Rezidor Hotel Group
Where: Zurich, Switzerland

How much: $2,330 for the Presidential Suite

Why splurge: This is anything but your typical airport hotel. Watch the planes take off and land from your window in the 970-square-foot Presidential Suite but don't worry about needing earplugs -- it's soundproofed. Modern classics furnish the suite, including white "coconut chairs," tables by George Nelson for Vitra, and a deep bathtub by Philippe Starck. Venture out of the room to the Wine Tower Bar, where a "wine angel" (aka an acrobat) fetches the wine your order from the enormous tower holding 4,000 bottles. Is that whimsical enough for you?

Contact: tel. 800/333-3333; www.radissonblu.com

Photo Caption: Radisson Blue Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland.
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Cal-a-Vie in Vista, California Chris Wooley
Where: Vista, California, just north of San Diego

How Much: $3,995 for a three-night stay (4- or 7-night stays are also available)

Why Splurge: From the health-conscious cuisine to spa, this is one of those places where the whole focus is on mind-body awareness. Stay in a private villa, where a customized wellness program is developed by the five staff members that are assigned to you. You don't even have to pack workout clothes.

Contact: tel. 866/SPA-HAVENS; www.cal-a-vie.com

Photo Caption: Cal-a-Vie in Vista, California.
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Villa & Hotel Majestic in Paris, France Villa & Hotel Majestic
Where: Paris, France

How Much: €1,500 ($1,840) to €3,500 ($4,293) for suites

Why Splurge: This modern Parisian delight, which opened in January, is just steps from the Champs-Élysées. With 52 guest rooms and a collection of modern art, the property has all the usual high-end details (flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi) that you'd expect in a luxury hotel. An unexpected perk? The roomy suites each have a kitchenette with an oven and a fridge -- perfect for making dinner with findings from the market and eating like a local.

Contact: +33 (0)1 45 00 8370; www.majestic-hotel.com

Photo Caption: Villa & Hotel Majestic in Paris, France
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The Boathouse at the Point at Lake Seneca, New York. The Point
Where: Saranac Lake, New York

How Much: $2,600; available from mid-May to October

Why Splurge: The Boathouse at this estate in the Adirondack Mountains has a wrap-around porch with two suspended beds, an open-door pantry (anything you want and at anytime), and nature at your doorstep. One sitting area faces the lake; the other lets you cozy up to a mammoth stone fireplace. Either way, you're utterly secluded.

Contact: tel. 800/255-3530; www.thepointresort.com

Photo Caption: The Boathouse at the Point at Lake Seneca, New York.
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Astra Private Villa in Santorini, Greece Astra Apartments and Suites
Where: Imerovigli, Santorini, Greece

How Much: From €1,500 ($1,818) to €2,000 ($2,423) per night; a three-night minimum is required for all bookings

Why Splurge: Perched 1,000 feet above the sea, this three-bedroom house offers unobstructed views, giving new meaning to the term "infinity pool." The villa is the private home of Nikos Tsembelis, the designer of the Astra Apartments and Suites. A traditional Greek breakfast greets you every morning. The price also includes a car rental with a manual transmission, roundtrip airport transfers, twice-daily maid service, and thoughtful touches like a local cell phone SIM card.

Contact: 011/30-22860-23641; www.astra.gr

Photo Caption: Astra Private Villa in Santorini, Greece.
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Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, CA Hotel Vitale
Where: San Francisco, California

How Much: From $799 per night for a Panoramic Circular suite to $2,000 per night for the Landmark Terrace suite

Why Splurge: It'd be a pity to stay indoors when Hotel Vitale offers three private terrace suites. There are also 180-degree Panoramic Circular suites, and the one-bedroom Landmark Terrace Suite (from which you can see many of the Bay Area's famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge). Enjoy the hotel's friendly service that is "free of attitude or formality."

Contact: tel. 415/278-3700; www.hotelvitale.com

Photo Caption: Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, CA.
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Marley Resort and Spa at Cable Beach in Nassau, The Bahamas. Peter Wesley Brown
Where: Cable Beach, Nassau, the Bahamas

How Much: Master suites start at $565 (summer) and $675 (winter); the One Love Honeymoon Suite starts at $865 (summer) and $965 (winter).

Why Splurge: This five-star boutique hotel lives and breathes the legacies of Bob and Rita Marley. For starters, the Caribbean-fusion restaurant features some of their favorite dishes. You may wonder: why isn't this in Jamaica? Well, Rita Marley purchased this former governor's mansion in the 1980s for family gatherings. With the help of her eldest daughter Stephanie, she turned it into a resort and spa in 2008. The property has two free-form pools, and the rooms take their names from some of Marley's songs.

Contact: tel. 866/737-1766; www.marleyresort.com

Photo Caption: Marley Resort and Spa at Cable Beach in Nassau, The Bahamas.
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Terrace at the Library Hotel in New York City, NY Library Hotel
Where: New York City

How Much: Junior suites and the "Love" room range from $425-$769

Why Splurge:
Beloved by bibliophiles, secret library nerds, and the curiously smart, each floor of the Library Hotel is dedicated to one of the major 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal system. You'll find your room appropriately stocked with titles based on subjects and disciplines within the designated category (social science, technology, the arts, or literature). The Love Room is one of the most popular, and its terrace looks out at the New York Public Library, just a short walk away.

Contact: tel. 212/983-4500; www.libraryhotel.com

Photo Caption: Terrace at the Library Hotel in New York City, NY.
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Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, Ireland Ballymaloe Cookery School
Where: Shanagarry, Ireland

How Much: €160 ($196) to €195 ($235) per person per night, with breakfast and dinner

Why Splurge: Long before the local food movement took off in the States, Myrtle Allen was reinventing Irish cuisine by using fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients whenever possible. Allen's extended family now runs the Ballymaloe House (a classic Irish inn in the south of Ireland just miles from the water) and the on-site cooking school, where it's not just all about the potato. Rooms have garden views, and the property also includes a golf course.

Contact: +353 (0)21 4652 531; www.ballymaloe.ie

Photo Caption: Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, Ireland
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