Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts' Bedwell River Outpost,
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Toss out everything you remember about camping: restless nights with twigs digging into your back, the ever-unpopular tent-raising ritual, canned soup eaten straight from the tin. At the Outpost, one of two Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts on western Vancouver Island, the only twigs you'll encounter are the ones decorating the headboard of your four-poster bed. And the only tents are canvas cathedrals appointed with antique furnishings and propane stoves. Canned soup? How about island delicacies like hours-fresh Pacific halibut, goat cheeses from the nearby village of Ucluelet, and fresh-baked salmonberry cobbler—all served up on china and crystal in the rustic-yet-chic surroundings of the dining tent. Better clean that plate: Ecoluxury this good doesn't come cheap.
But as fabulous as it is to wake up each morning to asparagus-brie omelets and fresh fruit, the real reason to visit the camp lies a stone's skip beyond your private deck—Strathcona Provincial Park and the crystalline waters of the Bedwell River. The property is so gorgeously isolated, you have to take a 20-minute boat ride from Quait Bay, the Outpost's floating sister resort, to get here. So go ahead: Stroll along the river banks or go mountain biking on old mining roads; paddle off on a guided whale-watching expedition or saddle up for a horseback ride past ancient spruce groves. (Peek in the knapsack with your names on it and you'll find salmon-salad sandwiches and rain gear, just in case) Or simply settle into a cedar-plank hot tub to sip some local ice wine and soak in that showstopping Vancouver Island view. All-inclusive doubles from $6,912 for three nights, the minimum stay, May through October; 888-333-5405, wildretreat.com.
Four Seasons Guanacaste, Costa Rica
At first glimpse, the province of Guanacaste, with its lush tropical forests and pastures of cattle, appears an unlikely host to a new Four Seasons. But though this Pacific-coast region has been home to ranchers for centuries, today's plainsmen are joined by ecoluxurians who venture to the tip of the Papagayo Peninsula for a new brand of ritz and relaxation. As howler monkeys play in the trees, iguanas bask on the rocks, and leatherback turtles nest on the beach, guests quickly slip into Costa Rica's patented spirit of pura vida (pure life).
Your initiation begins with a slow round of golf at the Arnold Palmer-designed course, followed by an up-tempo afternoon of outdoor adventure—horseback riding, diving, and deep-sea fishing are all offered here. Still no goosebumps? Venture inland, strap yourself into a harness, and glide along cables through the forest canopy, or take an excursion to the majestic—and very active—Rincón de la Vieja volcano.
As your week winds down back at the "ranch," so will you, with long soaks in the ubiquitous plunge pools and long looks at the extensive spa menu. Rain-forest mud mask, anyone? Languorous paddleboat rides on the bay side of the peninsula prove the perfect counterpoint to vigorous swims in the open ocean. But if you're too tuckered out to try either, a seaside dinner for two by tiki-torch light will help you build up some precious energy for later. Doubles from $435, January through April; 800-332-3442, fourseasons.com/costarica.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California
Think strolling down the aisle is a thrill? Wait till you step onto the flower-edged pathway that connects the rooms and cottages at the Post Ranch Inn. Perched atop one of Big Sur's jaw-dropping cliffs and attended by prehistoric redwoods on one side and the endless Pacific on the other, the Post Ranch's main road leads toward sheer bliss. The inn's Mickey Muennig&-designed architecture blends redwood and stone with steel, curves, and plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass—making it the perfect place to catch poppy-colored sunsets dropping over frothy wavecaps. The best displays are from the sod-roofed Ocean Houses, positioned 1,000 feet above the water. But all rooms have fireplaces, private decks, organic linens, and extra-deep spa tubs.
You could stay ensconced in your boudoir for an entire week, though that would mean missing the complimentary yoga classes held every day at the Mongolian-style yurt, the forest-and-field hikes around the property, the basking pool at the ridge's end, and spa treatments like Big Sur Jade Stone Therapy. And, of course, Post Ranch, one of the few luxe accommodations in Big Sur proper, provides a perfect home base for renowned attractions like the painstakingly restored Point Sur Lighthouse and the Point Lobos State Reserve, a playground for seals, sea otters, and sea lions—not to mention whales in season. After a day in the wild, savor dinner at Sierra Mar, where local artisans have crafted the table settings, and the seasonal specialities—like California red abalone with tomato-basil brown butter—compete with the Pacific panorama. Doubles from $495, June through October; 800-527-2200, postranchinn.com.
Winterlake Lodge, Anchorage, Alaska
If you want to get away from the craziness of postmillennial life, it's hard to find a place more gloriously remote than Winterlake Lodge. Like all provisions that aren't fished, hunted, or grown on the premises, guests arrive on a plane that—depending on the season—either splashes down or skids to an icy landing on the lake that gives the hotel its name. Owner Carl Dixon, a jovial veteran of the Alaskan backcountry, will be waiting to transport you to the A-frame log lodge he built himself. There, you'll meet his better half, Kirsten—cookbook author, culinary award winner, and all-around gracious hostess—ready to hand over a cocktail and a taste of whatever's just popped out of her stainless-steel kitchen. (Think homemade elk sausage and still-warm cherry-chocolate-chip cookies.)
If you're visiting during winter, you can try dogsledding on the Iditarod trail—which bisects the property—as well as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and scoping out the Northern Lights. Summertime visitors head out with Carl for fishing, hiking, and wildlife-watching expeditions in his massive backyard—the ponds, woods, and wildlands of the Alaska Range. This being Alaska, though, even summer has its wintry side. With a quick satellite call to Anchorage, Carl can summon a chopper and whisk adrenaline junkies to the Tordrillo Mountains, where surviving your first descents on skis will make you appreciate the miracles of Kirsten's kitchen even more. All-inclusive doubles from $1,220, June through October; 907-274-2710, withinthewild.com.
Wit's End Guest Ranch, Resort & Spa, Bayfield, Colorado
Sometimes the best surprises appear at the end of the road. Witness Wit's End, a gem of a hideaway that's tucked into the edge of Colorado's largest wilderness area, just 24 miles northeast of Durango. Couples retreat into turn-of-the-century log cabins with stone fireplaces, knotty-pine woodwork, and fluffy down comforters, emerging to find luxuries that the early homesteaders never could have imagined: elaborate, multicourse meals, outdoor whirlpools, and soothing massages. Surrounded by the majesty of aspen and pine trees, meadows, and 12,000-foot granite peaks, the 550-acre property is home to an Orvis lodge that specializes in fly-fishing. If angling isn't your thing, you can always opt for challenging trail hikes through the high country, or—if you're rodeo-curious—stunts like calf roping, barrel racing, and steer wrestling.
The staff at Wit's End serves up romance with an outdoorsy spin, whether it's a morning saddle-up followed by breakfast in a meadow; a horse-and-carriage transport to a private dinner; or an overnight trip to a secluded spot with campfire meals cooked by a personal chef. Back at the ranch, enjoy candlelight dinners, dancing, and even karaoke at the Old Lodge at the Lake, a hand-hewn log barn dating back to 1859, which is now the centerpiece of Wit's End life. After dinner, guests shoot pool in the converted hayloft, eventually migrating to the Colorado Tavern's cedar-log bar, with its dance floor, antique player piano, and cut-glass mirrors salvaged from London's 19th-century Crystal Palace. As for which cottage to waddle home to, cabin 7 does have its own waterfall and wraparound deck. But there's also cabin 17, where you can sway on the porch swing while looking out at a trout pond, and cap off the night with a blaze in the massive stone fireplace. Doubles from $225, May through August; 800-236-9483, witsendranch.com.
Footprints Eco Resort, Tobago
You shop at EMS. You've been known to hike. But how much do you really love nature? You'll find out for sure after a stay at Footprints Eco Resort, a seven-room hideaway blended into the forest along the shore at Tobago's Culloden Bay. The designers were dedicated to conservation, so the buildings are constructed from rough-hewn, unfinished teak and recycled local hardwoods. You can stay in the main house or try a thatched-roof villa—some front the Caribbean, others are higher up on a ridge. To minimize the impact on the environment, all are built on stilts and connected by elevated walkways.
The hotel offers plenty of ways to bond with Mother Earth. You might snorkel along the rocky shore, or swim in the island's only saltwater pool. Hike among the birds, butterflies, and flowers of the forest. Marvel at the views of the Caribbean from the hammock on your deck or your villa's solar-heated hot tub. Sample tasty Afro-Creole specialties like coo coo served with callaloo dip while dining under the stars. Then, as you retire to your air-conditioned cottage, or head for a dip in your plunge pool, you'll agree that even in the wild there is a place for creature comforts. Doubles from $115, December through April; 800-814-1396, footprintseco-resort.com.
Sonesta Posada del Inca Yucay, Peru
Like everyone who comes to Peru, you'll be visiting Machu Picchu. But unlike most tourists, who travel from Lima or bunk in nearby tourist lodges, you can sample serenity of another era at the Posada del Inca Yucay. The lodge, within day-tripping distance of the ruins, is sequestered in the Sacred Valley, on the site of a 350-year-old monastery whose chapel and multihued flower gardens create the kind of ambience that makes people whisper. For active visitors, the posada serves as an ideal base from which to explore the mountain and valley in the same manner that locals have for a thousand years—by foot and on horseback. Okay, maybe the ancient Incas didn't mountain-bike near the swift-flowing Urubamba River or ride its rapids in a rubber raft. But you can. And you'll come away with the same awe they had for the landscape.
If you're less actively inclined, take painting lessons, have your fortunes read in cocoa leaves, or learn to prepare nuevo-Andean cuisine. But even if you just burrow in your room (ideally one of the four suites with lovely garden and courtyard views), you'll soon realize, as the monks did, that this spot is very close to heaven. Doubles from $90, including breakfast; 800-766-3782, sonesta.com.