LONDON Feeling that northern hemisphere chill? Luckily, boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith have rounded up 10 of the best escapes for winter sun, from Caribbean coastal retreats to beach-blessed beauties in Miami and Mexico. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Surfing: The Modern Honolulu, Honolulu, United States
Serious surfers, or those who like the vibe, should check into designer-den The Modern Honolulu boutique hotel in Hawaii, a hip white haunt near buzzy Waikiki Beach. Set by the marina, it flaunts four bars, a nightclub and the most in-demand restaurant in town (sushi-serving Morimoto Waikiki, headed up by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto). Many of the 353 bedrooms sport sea views, as well as cute Hawaiian touches such as ukuleles and tropical-print sarongs. Enjoy a local Lomi Lomi massage at the spa, unwind in one of the two gorgeous pools (sunrise- or sunset-facing, your call) or take a surf class on the beach.
2. James Bond: Goldeneye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica, Caribbean
Once the home of James Bond author Ian Fleming, Goldeneye Hotel & Resort in Jamaica offers a combination of romance, hedonism and action worthy of the British spy himself. Fleming penned all 14 of his Bond novels in his house here, now dubbed the Fleming Villa and sleeping up to 10. Set amid banyans and beaches, there are also six one-bed and five two-bed cottages. Flex your muscles walking, mountain-biking or kayaking up to the Field Spa, or work out with guided runs or open-water swims. Afterwards, treetop restaurant Gazebo and shoreside Bizot Bar beckon, with Jamaican-inspired organic dishes and cheeky rum cocktails.
3. Sophistication: King & Grove Tides, Miami, Florida
Languishing on opulent Ocean Drive, 45-room Miami boutique hotel King & Grove Tides radiates old-world tropical glamour as soon as you set foot in the grand art deco entrance. Let your personal assistant guide you to your ocean-view suite or secure you a table at La Marea restaurant, where seafood risotto and luxe lobster celebrate coastal cuisine. If Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack were around today, you'd be sure to spy them lounging in the pool cabanas or slugging Miami Mojitos in the lobby bar. You'll also love the Coral Bar, a cream- and gold-hued wateringhole for stylish sips.
4. Jungle-meets-beach jaunts: Cuixmala, Jalisco, Mexico
Set on a sprawling plantation estate fringed by the jungle and beach, Cuixmala boutique hotel in Jalisco is just a few hours' drive from Puerto Vallarta on Mexico's Pacific-hugging west coast. It resembles a magnificent Moorish palace for good reason; once home to British billionaire James Goldsmith (and now run by his daughter), this plush pad has hosted Kissinger, Nixon and Reagan. With just 13 rooms, including nine casitas and four private villas, you'll have plenty of space to roam. Go sailing, saddle up for a horseback jungle trek, admire the wildlife or seek out the beach for snorkelling and sunbathing sessions.
5. Chilling: Cotton Tree Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
If you had to dream up your ideal Caribbean Eden, Cotton Tree Grand Cayman boutique hotel in the Cayman Islands would probably spring to mind. There's a real intimacy here, with just four pastel-pretty two-bedroom cottages dotted around seaside gardens, shaded by banana trees. Each comes with vibrant art, gourmet kitchens and a spa-style ensuite. Foodies can enjoy a cooking lesson using local produce or art, yoga and Pilates classes are all up for grabs. Then again, you could just lie back on that sunlounger, in between dips in the freshwater pool, Jacuzzi and nearby ocean (there are two tempting beaches nearby).
6. Barefoot bliss: The Harmony Hotel, Costa Rica, Costa Rica
If you want to swap stress for serenity, The Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica is for you. At this barefoot-luxe, 24-room beach retreat howler monkeys signal sunrise, when surfers can catch some of the best waves on this side of the Pacific. Prefer to chill out? There's a refreshing pool and the Healing Centre offers daily yoga, guided meditations and massages using tropical plants. Spend the days slumbering in your hammock, smoothie in hand, before strolling to the restaurant where ceviche, grilled fish and plantains are served under whirring fans. Wrap up the night at the open-air bar, quaffing a cool daiquiri and dreaming of your next wave.
7. Desert design: The Saguaro Scottsdale, Scottsdale, USA
A desert mirage of bright colours and pop art, The Saguaro Scottsdale hotel near Phoenix was named after the cactus that produces Arizona's state wildflower. Inspired by artists David Hockney and Matisse, this bold resort boasts two palm-fringed pools, a Nueva Latin spa and a sizzling restaurant serving Mexican street food. The 194 rooms continue the rainbow colours you'll spot around the pools (think hot pink, orange and sun-kissed yellow). Make time for slow-roasted meats and tacos at Distrito eatery, before ordering Prohibition-era cocktails at Old Town Whiskey bar, where the outdoor fireplace will keep you cosy come nightfall.
8. Island idyll: Laluna, Grenada, Caribbean
Set between verdant hills and white sands, Laluna boutique hotel in Grenada is as enticing as the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Given the owner and interior designer both have serious fashion credentials (one's a former Prada consultant, the other worked on a villa for Armani), it's no surprise that the 16 boho-Balinese beach cottages here are pretty stylish. Expect floaty four-poster beds, monk-made Italian toiletries and private pools on the veranda. Snorkel, sample the Sanctuary Spa or cool off after exploring the island at the deck-fringed main pool down by the beach. Italian delicacies await at the restaurant, washed down with chill prosecco.
9. Kicking back: Casa Morada, Florida Keys, USA
Florida Keys boutique hotel Casa Morada is a minimalist bayside beauty on a palm-shaded strip of Islamorada. The soothing, serene decor in the 16 suites is a refreshing antidote to the kitsch of the Keys, with the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico just a meander away. Simple rooms star Mexican antiques, but only Sea View Suites proffer picture-perfect views of the bay and private terraces for sipping sundowners. Don't miss the island-set freshwater pool, flanked by a snack cabana, gazebos and hammocks. Breakfast and lunch are served at the hotel, but head out to town for dining at night.
10. Beach: Inn at English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua boutique retreat Inn at English Habour is just minutes from Nelson's Dockyard, the spiritual heart of this most English of Caribbean islands. Famous for cricket, carnival and its colourful colonial past, Antigua is also beloved for its blissful beaches. All 28 airy, indoor-outdoor cottages here face the ocean, but opt for a Beach Suite if you want to be mere steps from the shore. And what a beach it is, with a sweep of white sand seducing you to swim, sail or try your hand at watersports. Landlubbers can take to the tennis courts; sybarites will love the Asian-influenced spa.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)