Travelbinger’s 10 Best Luxury Resorts In The World

Jumeirah vittaveli beach villa

Having traveled to 113 countries, and stayed in over 650 luxury hotels, in my career as a prolific travel writer, I’ve stayed at some of the best resorts in the world. If we do the math, I’ve checked into an average 36 to 50 five-star properties annually in almost 15 years, so I qualify as an expert in ranking the best luxury resorts in the world.

Considering I’m old-school (pre-social media) and started in my early twenties, and I was always freelance—unlike travel editors who can’t leave their desk all the time—I’ve had this amazing opportunity to stay in more than 650 luxury hotels and so many will always be iconic.

Through my career, I’ve covered the best of the best resorts for a slew of luxury travel magazines, which you can see just by Googling my name, and some resorts stand out more than others. When I rounded up my list of best luxury resorts in the world, I thought “evergreen” and classic” (yes, I can think of about 10 resorts I’ve visited since writing this story that deserve to be on this list, and I’ll do a Part 2).

That said I decided to put together a list of my absolute favorite resorts in the world. (FYI: These are only resorts, not castles, safari lodges, hotels, specialized resorts or vacation rentals, as I’ll make those lists later). This was not easy; I spent weeks whittling it down to my top 10 best luxury resorts in the world.

For my methodology, I took into account design, amenities, service, location, dining and that special *something* each property had. After staying in hundreds of luxury resorts, these are the ones that blew me away, and I still remember them vividly. In no particular order, here is:


10. Amanoi, Vietnam.

In 2013, I was invited to be the first travel writer to stay at Amanoi just outside Danang, Vietnam. It had been open a week, so I was literally the only guest at the property at the time (I felt like I had the entire resort to myself). Even though guests hadn’t arrived yet, my experience, interaction with staff and the resort’s amenities proved it trumped the hundreds of resorts I’ve already stayed at.

Amanoi is inside a national park, which already sets it apart, and it has a private, white-sand beach on a bay, infinity pool and restaurants with commanding views. My villa was massive with a private pool that caught the sunset in the most beautiful way. I basically never left this pool, but I was more impressed with the good energy all around.

My favorite suitcase brand is Samsung, btw. It’s reliable, durable, and worth it. Take a look at their collection on Amazon.

Most of the staff were handpicked straight from the local village, and they were eager to be the best at service. Here, you truly feel off the radar but there’s also sense of place. That gives the resort so much identity, but there’s appreciation for the local culture woven through the property.

I should also mention Intercontinental Danang is up there as a close second. It’s not like any other Intercontinental in the world, mostly because it’s designed by Bill Bensley (think Philippe Starck meets Alice in Wonderland).

Click here to book.

9. Six Senses Ya Noi, Thailand

I know I said these resorts are in no particular order, but I would definitely say Six Senses Ya Noi in Thailand is my favorite, if not among the best resorts in the world. It’s located on a small island (Ya Noi) right on the beach, with gargantuan villas that are perched on the hill, so guests have unobstructed views of the sea (the main infinity pool is at the peak of the hill, so imagine the views from there!).

My villa had a separate outdoor seating area, infinity pool, outdoor bathroom, sunken living room, free mini-bar, fast WIFI, the works. Further, all the restaurants’ ingredients and produce come from their very own farm or gardens (there’s an actual chicken coop where you can pick your eggs). The amenities here are elevated, and you can tell the hotel put a lot of thought into making the experiences truly unique. Also, it’s extremely exotic. Thailand can feel commercialized now, so this truly makes you feel a sense of old-school Thailand, no matter how luxury the resort is.

The outdoor spa is thoughtful, there’s a waterfall running through the restaurant (you can see it via glass floor), you can explore the authentic Thai village on bikes, pull coconuts from trees, and even downward dog every day in group classes. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Click here to book.

My view at Six Senses Ya Noi.

8. Amangiri, Utah

As soon as I arrived at Amangiri in Utah, I found out I had to fly to Hawaii the next day to interview Kerry Walsh, so my time here was short, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. As soon as I arrived, I could feel the great energy. It’s the type of property you know staff love working there, guests love being there and everything is just completely sublime.

Amangiri is typical Aman (gorgeous, in the middle of nowhere, killer views), and the heart of the resort is the pool, which is built around a rock outcrop. The food is refined and staff is excellent, and there are plenty of outdoor activities (from hiking to climbing) to do during the day.

There’s about 40 rooms, so it’s hard to get a booking (plan off season), which makes it rather exclusive.

If you’re going to book here, like all the celebrities who do, might as well do it in style. Bloomingdales has the best sunglasses for that hot Utah sun and when you’re chilling at the pool.

Click here to book.

The pool at Amangiri.

7. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

There’s not much to see in Abu Dhabi (OK, that’s a bit dramatic, but you can see Abu Dhabi in a day). For me, Abu Dhabi was all about the beach resorts (like Dubai, there are five-star beach resorts in addition to a cityscape), which not a lot of people know about. Because Abu Dhabi is still such a young destination, most people identify Abu Dhabi with Guggenheim and Ferrari race tracks.

Park Hyatt had just opened, and I was the first journalist to stay. There was something here that I really couldn’t put my finger on. It was simple and chic, yet opulent and glam. That’s masterful design, something I rarely see (even in Morocco). It felt like a movie set.

The only other guests were rich-looking sheiks and Russian honeymooners, so it had that vibe, but man, did the resort have a lot of heart.

The resort was a true oasis in the desert with delicious Middle Eastern food, thoughtful service, gorgeous rooms and some of the best beaches I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I still think about the resort time to time, wondering when I can return.

Click here to book.

The beach at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.

6. One & Only Palmilla, Los Cabos

If you only knew how deep my love for One & Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico goes. Everything here is done right (Jean Georges restaurant, decadent spa, backbending service, pet-friendly, beach cabanas, swank bars), but that’s not what gets me. The resort has tons of soul, and you can tell everyone who works here really loves being here, which helps contribute to the good energy. I know I say that a lot, but it’s very rare, especially when a good number of resorts put $$$ as priority, not heart.

Here’s the best beach bag I’ve ever used.

The resort is impeccably clean, the landscaping is perfect down to the last leaf, and the location next to one of few swimmable beaches in Cabo is *unbeatable.* You just feel like a VIP here, and that’s how every resort should treat a guest.

One & Only is also *very* pet friendly. I brought my pup, Ruby, and not only are there over-the-top dog amenities (in-room pet menu, dog beach cabanas), the staff happily walked her several times (no cost).

Click here to book.

The pool at One & Only Palmilla.

5. Las Ventanas, Los Cabos

The only reason I’m including Rosewood’s Las Ventanas in Los Cabos, Mexico on this list is because of its beach villas. I had stayed at the property before, but when I went back to stay in the 1,600-square-foot beach villas, I dropped everything. has the best deals on Mexico resorts

As soon as my friend and I checked in, we canceled *EVERYTHING* on our Cabo itinerary because we never wanted to leave. And, guess what? We didn’t. The beach villas are the only villas literally on the beach in Cabo. Guests have their own beach “section,” villas are equipped with massive infinity pools with built-in hot tub and bar table, the outdoor bathroom is as big as my apartment back home and they’re also equipped with Japanese electronic toilets.

There are also little touches, like sunglass wipes left next to your sunglasses when you return and cute collectibles for turn-down service.

Guests are also buddied up with a 24-hour butler their entire stay. I think this is the first time anyone has ever prepared 20 bowls of fresh guacamole in three days.

Click here to book.

Me posing like a boss at Las Ventanas beach villa.

4. Jumeirah Vitavelli, Maldives

Maldives has some of the best resorts in the world, and it was hard picking one or two for this list. I’ve stayed at One & Only Reethi Rah, Conrad and Huvafen Fushi, among others, but I have to go with Jumeirah Vitavelli—and here’s why.

It’s on the smaller side, so you feel like you’re on a deserted, private island (stand in the middle and you can see both sides of the island, basically), and it manages to be incredibly glam but also incredibly rustic. One of my favorite things about the Maldives is that beach villas are literally on the beach, no more than 15 steps. You rarely find this anywhere else in the world (for instance, at any other beach resort, you’ll have to cross a street, a boardwalk, go into an elevator to get to lobby level, etc etc). Here, you wake up, open your sliding glass door, and walk 15 steps into the water. That’s the beauty of Maldives, but Jumeirah Vitavelli takes it to a whole other level.

The beach villas sport massive pools that run the entire length of the villa that attach to an outdoor bathroom area so big it has its own hammock. Also, we need to talk about the ocean suites. The only one of its kind in the Maldives, these bi-level villas floating in sea (you can only reach them by boat) have their own pool, glass floor, bathrooms with balconies, the works. It makes the overwater bungalow look like, well… JUST an overwater bungalow.

I wrote a story on 4 ways you can afford the Maldives if you want to get there on the cheap, as well as the craziest things you can find in the Maldives (and the YouTube video above).

Click here to book.

Jumeirah VIttaveli, Maldives.

3. Kamalame Caye, Bahamas

I visited Kamalame Caye in the Bahamas back in 2011 (!!), and I remember thinking at the time: how does NO ONE know about this property??

I’m so happy they made this year’s Conde Nast Traveler Best Resorts in the World, clocking in at number ONE in Bahamas, Bermuda and Turks & Caicos (Caribbean islands that have insanely high-end properties). How can you go wrong with “sand chariots,” villas on the beach, breakfast baskets every morning, fresh fish for meals and the only overwater spa in the Caribbean accessible by boardwalk? I’ve always wanted to go back.

It’s also truly private and romantic, so it’s a magnet to honeymooners.

Click here to book.

Villa at Kamalame Cay.

2. COMO Shambhala, Bali

Ubud is the heart and soul of Bali, and all the top Bali resorts are here. In terms of luxury, I don’t think any of them come as close to COMO Shambhala. It’s all stone, natural wood, rushing river, forest, shrines… I mean, it’s oh-so-Bali, but it’s also oh-so posh. Celebs fly in on private jets (like Donna Karen, Ralph Lauren, etc).

Here, I just chilled TF out, tapped into my holistic side, ate incredible food, did Pilates every day, the usual. It’s one of those resorts that can feel intimidating since it’s so expensive. However, it’s deeply rooted in Balinese culture, and you avoid the crowds that Ubud has been getting these days.

Click here to book.

Terrace suite at Como Shambhala Estate.

1. Montage Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

I love a good cottage. I love a good boardwalk. And I love Southern charm. I grew up outside Atlanta, Georgia, so going back to the South is nostalgic for me—but having this type of Southern hospitality is off the charts.

Montage Palmetto Bluff, thirty minutes outside of Savannah, is handsome, inspiring and soulful. I loved everything about it. I wanted to buy a residence here.

Montage Palmetto Bluff is a self-contained oasis where everyone says “y’all,” rides bikes under trees with hanging Spanish moss and sits on their porch to read novels. MORE, please.

Click here to book.

The boardwalk at Montage Palmetto Bluff.

More Travelbinger stories:

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Hotel Review: Palmaia, The House of Aia, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Hotel review: Four Seasons Washington D.C.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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