World's best beach hotels

How to explain the difference a beachfront hotel makes? “More than unobstructed views, it’s about the freedom of not having to look both ways to cross the street before feeling sand between your toes,” says Matt Thomson, founder of Wavecation.com, a surfing-focused vacation rental company.

That’s the thrilling sense of liberation that comes with a stay at beachfront hotel properties like Lizard Island Resort in Australia, where your suite’s private terrace overlooks the Great Barrier Reef

Travel + Leisure readers were so taken that they voted Lizard Island Resort the No. 3 best beach hotel in the world, as part of our annual World’s Best survey. The top-scoring hotels and resorts all offer a captivating beach setting, and their interiors range from minimalist to cozy and traditional.

No. 1 Southern Ocean Lodge,<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Southern Ocean Lodge)</p>
Kangaroo Island, Australia

Contemporary in design and green in attitude, this lodge sits on a wildlife-rich island 30 minutes from Adelaide. Each of the 21 suites offers limestone floors, an outdoor terrace, and works by local artisans. (Air conditioning is unnecessary; the property was constructed to take advantage of natural weather patterns.) For a spectacular ocean view from a hand-carved granite bath, book the glass-walled Osprey Pavilion suite, which also features a private plunge spa and sunken lounge.

No. 2 Discovery Shores Boracay,<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Discovery Shores)</p>
Boracay, Philippines

The 2 1/2-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for having the softest sand in the world—and it’s the setting for this resort and its 88 suites (some with private Jacuzzis). The water’s fine, whether you want to take a dip in the infinity pool or Jet Ski on the Sibuyan Sea. For people-watching, head to the Sandbar, where bartenders stir up lychee- and mango-infused mojitos.

No. 3 Lizard Island Resort,<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Lizard Island Resort)</p>
Great Barrier Reef, Australia

With 24 beaches fringing the Great Barrier Reef and accommodations for just 40 couples, Lizard Island is in a category all its own. Open-plan suites are done in royal blue, turquoise, and stark white to mimic the Coral Sea below, with hammocks and decks discreetly hidden from view. Count on sunset cruises, torchlit beach dinners, and complimentary gourmet picnic baskets. Book an Anchor Bay Suite for a direct pathway to the beach and daybed sunbathing from a personal veranda.

No. 4 Hotel Santa Caterina,<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Santa Caterina)</p>
Amalfi, Italy

Now in its fourth generation of Gambardella family management, this 1904 looker still reigns in Belle Époque splendor. Rooms are spread across the main building, two villas, and a triplet of honeymoon cottages and decorated with local antiques. An elevator descends to a private beach, saltwater pool, fitness center, and thatched-roof pizzeria and fish grill. As you stroll through the secluded terraced gardens and citrus orchards, it’s obvious why Liz Taylor and Richard Burton chose to hide out here.

No. 5 Live Aqua,<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Live Aqua Cancun)</p>
Cancún, Mexico

For those seeking a calmer Cancún all-inclusive experience, Live Aqua delivers. An outdoor contemplation area uses eucalyptus and lavender aromatherapy to help you de-stress during the day, while mini-Japanese sand garden boxes are left in the room at turndown. All 371 rooms are done in neutral tones and natural materials, so your eyes are drawn straight to the hotel’s eight varying-temperature swimming pools. Book a corner suite for your own private Jacuzzi.

No. 6 Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort, <p>(Photo: Courtesy of Grand Velas)</p>
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Located inside an 80-acre mangrove and jungle reserve, this all-inclusive resort spreads across a white-sand beach and has an exotic, faraway feel even though it’s within an easy drive of Playa del Carmen. The resort features both adult-only and family areas, and the 89,000-square-foot spa is one of Mexico’s largest, with 40 treatment rooms, some with hydromassage tubs. After a day of pampering, dine at one of eight restaurants, including Sen Lin for Asian fusion and Cocina de Autor for molecular Mexican Caribbean cuisine.

No. 7 Four Seasons Resort,<p>(Photo: Don Riddle / Courtesy of Four Seasons)</p>
Hualalai, Big Island, Hawaii

All 228 rooms at this gorgeous, isolated resort are situated in low-rise bungalows with ocean views. The grounds border the dramatic volcanic rock coast with seawater and freshwater swimming pools; an open-air spa teems with tropical vegetation; and yoga, personal training, and a full menu of fitness classes are offered daily. The private 7,100-square-foot oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved into the underlying black lava, which serves as a occasional bunker.

No. 8 Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora,<p>(Photo: John Sinal / Courtesy of Four Seasons)</p>
Bora-Bora, French Polynesia

Although overwater bungalows are the most enticing lodgings at the Four Seasons, the hotel has 107 different rooms scattered along the beachside and lagoon of its private motu (small islet). Walls are made of volcanic stone, and thatched-roofed spaces are decorated with teak and merbau-timber furnishings. All have extraordinary views over the turquoise-blue, coral-filled South Pacific, and some offer a glimpse of the majestic black-rock peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia.

No. 9 Palazzo Avino,<p>(Photo: Genivs Loci)</p>
Ravello, Italy

From the gym to the underwater window in the heated pool, sea views abound at this ornate 12th-century palazzo along the Amalfi Coast (formerly known as Palazzo Sasso). For the finest panoramas, head to the rooftop solarium with its twin Jacuzzis. The rooms are layered in 17th- through 19th-century antiques, Vietri tile floors, and Frette and Bulgari appointments. Chef Pino Lavarra’s eclectic/nouvelle-Italian cuisine has garnered two Michelin stars for Rossellinis Restaurant (open April-October).

No. 10 Lodge at Doonbeg,<p>(Photo: Patrick O'Brien, Kiawah Partners)</p>
County Clare, Ireland

This grand manor is hidden along the Emerald Isle’s remote and rugged Atlantic shores. Inside, a peat-log fireplace illuminates the wood-beamed lobby; goose-feather duvets adorn guest beds; and teapots of piping Irish Breakfast tea are served each morning. Staff will arrange outings to County Clare attractions, from the Cliffs of Moher to St. Tola Goat Cheese farm and the world-renowned Burren Smokehouse. Fancy something more restful? Go for a seaweed scrub at the Clodagh-designed White Horse Spa.

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