Resorts have come a long way from over-crowded swimming pools where only those that rise at dawn snag a sun lounge, long lines for mediocre buffets (soggy scrambled eggs anyone?) and unimaginative (read boring) activities. Today you can dine under the stars with your feet in the sand, paddle a glass bottomed kayak, snorkel with whales, get colonic irrigation if that's your bent, and enjoy gelato from a roving cart. Young ones can spin the decks in special DJ zones, fly on a circus trapeze, and even order drinks from swim up mocktail bars (I kid you not).
Resort guests today expect more than ever, says Sylvain Pasdeloup, general manager of the Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua; a fully integrated destination resort with two spas, a kids club, beach club, wedding chapel, along with multiple bars, restaurants and pools.
"People are busier than ever and resort holidays have become their ultimate escape; where all their needs can be met in one place."
Pasdeloup said it's no longer enough to call yourself a resort if all that's on offer is a pool. "Today's resorts need to offer a perfectly self-contained environment to relax and indulge in the luxury of time with loved ones".
Luxury Escapes general manager Blake Hutchison agrees. Hutchison said yesterday's resort "luxuries" are today's standard offerings, and experiences reserved for the wealthy even a few years ago are considered mainstream today. He said indulgent experiences, such as having a chef prepare breakfast in your own private villa, were now accessible to most Australian travellers.
Today resorts come in every size imaginable, accommodating all tastes and budgets. Traveller has scoured the globe to bring you 20 resorts for every occasion. Mojito anyone?
NO FUSS FLY AND FLOP
I really need to get away from it all
THE PLACE QT Port Douglas
EXPERIENCE Check-in to this quirky tropical resort and you may find you venture no further than the pretty sun lounges by the lagoon style pool. Swim up bars, trilby hat wearing staff, and a restrained pastel palate lends a Mad Men meets Hamptons vibe.
THE FACILITIES There's 170 resort rooms and one and two-bedroom apartments, tennis courts, retro bikes, gym with lap pool, concierge, cool restaurant and cocktail bar, outdoor cinema (in winter) and more.
DON'T MISS Book a time at spaQ and you can opt for a "Freshly Picked" treatment, depending on how you feel on the day.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Winter's the ideal time to head this far north; summer months coincide with stinger season. Pack swimmers, sunscreen and mosquito repellent. From $200 a night. See qthotelsandresorts.com/port-douglas
THE PLACE Doubletree Hilton Fiji
EXPERIENCE If you're in serious need of pool, cocktail and spa time, the new Doubletree Hilton Fiji fits the bill nicely. Built on a former copra plantation, relax on swing seats or flop in a hammock strung between palm trees.
THE FACILITIES Two dining options, including the feet in the sand Tavu Bar and Grill (try the duck curry), 120 newly refurbished rooms and bures, gym, spa, lagoon style pool, swim up bar and (basic) kids club.
DON'T MISS Take a seat at the bar and marvel at the incredible sunsets Fiji's famous for.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $FJ359 per night. See fiji.doubletree.com
THE PLACE Anchorage Port Stephens
THE EXPERIENCE Elegant coastal charm, modern Australian cuisine, spa treatments and pool lazing.
THE FACILITIES Eighty Hampton's inspired guest rooms and suites with a balcony or verandah overlooking the marina, fine dining with menu inspired by local produce, spa, outdoor pool and sundeck.
DON'T MISS Sunset views from your balcony; keep an eye out for playful dolphins.
MAKE IT HAPPEN A 2.5-hour drive from Sydney; or 30-minute drive from Newcastle Airport. From $299 per room per night including breakfast. See anchorageportstephens.com.au
THE PLACE Alila Seminyak, Bali
THE EXPERIENCE Sleek resort built at the southern end of Seminyak Beach. Think infinity pools, blazing sunsets, a hip beachfront bar with live music, spa treatments and excellent pan Asian cuisine.
THE FACILITIES There are 240 minimalist rooms, suites, a gobsmacking penthouse, four pools, a fab onsite restaurant (try the delectable Korean ribs if they're on), kids club and spa.
DON'T MISS Join a bespoke tour aboard a restored VW Kombi complete with your own shopping concierge.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $US265 per night. See alilahotels.com/seminyak
THE PLACE Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, Samoa
THE EXPERIENCE Clear, turquoise water, shady coconut palms fringing stretches of white sand tucked away in a pocket of Samoa virtually untouched by commercial tourism. Think Fiji 50 years ago.
THE FACILITIES Twenty-nine fales sit garden, ocean or beachside surrounded by tropical gardens. The open-air spa is on the beachfront for relaxing treatments to the soundtrack of lapping waves.
DON'T MISS A visit to the local village where the Samoan people, perhaps more than any other Polynesian culture, still observe traditional ways.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $US270 per couple per night inclusive of breakfast, head and shoulder massage and golf course use. See sinalei.com
JUST GIVE ME A PACKAGE DEAL
All inclusive stays where the credit card does not need to come out
THE PLACE Outrigger Konotta, Maldives
THE EXPERIENCE Known as the forgotten atoll, this far flung Maldivian resort is surrounded by languid turquoise waters. Days are spent snorkelling, diving, surfing, or relaxing in cabanas by the pool.
THE FACILITIES A choice of incredible two-storey beach and lagoon villas and overwater villas, all with private pools; Asian fusion cuisine, teppan grill, gym, dive centre, kids club and Asian themed spa.
DON'T MISS Sailing across the equator on a "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" adventure. Enjoy a three-course bento lunch, with bodubra drumming and dancing on your return.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $4427 per person twin share inclusive of return airfares from Sydney with Singapore Airlines ($4414 ex Melbourne), five nights' accommodation in a beach or lagoon pool villa, daily breakfast and domestic flight and speedboat transfers from Male. Valid for travel April 16-July 31, 2017. See outriggermaldives.com
THE PLACE Sandy Beach Resort, Ha'apai, Tonga
THE EXPERIENCE Swimming with humpback whales, Tongan culture and lazing in hammocks overlooking a pristine, coral-filled lagoon.
THE FACILITIES Twelve beachfront bungalows (fares) set in lush, tropical gardens with restaurant, kayaking, diving, cultural dancing and a carefree, barefoot vibe.
DON'T MISS Swimming up close with humpback whales just off the resort.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
A seven-night package inclusive of accommodation, inter-island flights, all main meals, transfers and five guided days of snorkelling with whales from a catamaran from $4350 per person, twin-share (August and September, 2017). Fights from Australia additional. See majesticwhaleencounters.com.au
THE PLACE The Lind Boracay, the Philippines
THE EXPERIENCE Luxe beachfront resort on the island of Boracay.
THE FACILITIES This newly opened, ultra-luxurious resort offers 119 rooms with complimentary Wi-Fi, sprawling swimming pools (including a rooftop one), wellness spa, fitness centre, restaurant, beach cafe and bar overlooking the Sulu Sea.
DON'T MISS The white sand and crystal blue waters of Boracay.
MAKE IT HAPPEN December-June is the best time to visit. From $1956 per person including return, economy flights from Sydney, transfers, four nights' accommodation twin share in a garden view room and breakfast daily. Deluxe seaview upgrade from $130 per person. Flights from Melbourne include a stopover in Manilla. See activetravel.com.au/luxuriously-inactive
THE PLACE Explora Rapa Nui, Easter Island
THE EXPERIENCE Boutique eco resort on the world's most remote and mysterious island inclusive of all meals, open bar and small group excursions.
THE FACILITIES The 30 stylish rooms are designed to complement the surrounding landscape, and therefore don't offer TV or Wi-Fi (available only in the resort's common areas). There's also an outdoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna, restaurant and bar.
DON'T MISS Easter Island's world-famous statues, (known as Mo'ai), monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people centuries ago.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $3338 per person twin-share for a three-night all-inclusive stay including small-group exploration and activities such as hiking, snorkelling, boat trips and horse riding. Easter Island is a five-hour flight from Santiago, or you can fly via Tahiti. Travel is ideal year-round, however, visiting during the traditional Tapati Festival January 27-February 12 is extra special. See contourstravel.com.au/tours/explora-rapa-nui-easter-island
THE PLACE Grand Hyatt Bali, Nusa Dua
THE EXPERIENCE Luxurious five-star digs along a 650-metre stretch of beachfront, that has played host to Barack Obama, Luciano Pavarotti and Hillary Clinton.
THE FACILITIES Five swimming pools, 50-metre water slide, three flood-lit tennis courts, nine-hole putting green and private beach with plethora of water-sports.
DON'T MISS Dining at Pasar Senggol, inspired by Bali's bustling open-air food markets, accompanied by a live cultural show.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Eight nights for $1998 (valued at up to $5024) for two including private airport transfers, daily breakfasts, nightly cocktails, spa treatments, dining experiences and more. Phone 1300 889 900 (use code word "luxury").
ALL TOGETHER NOW: THE FAMILY ESCAPE
For the holiday with immediate family or multi-generational
THE PLACE Novotel Twin Waters Resort, Twin Waters, QLD
THE EXPERIENCE A kids club, jetpacking adventures and a phenomenal onsite water park make this a no-brainer for families.
THE FACILITIES One and two-bedroom self-contained suites, kids club, day spa, restaurant and bar, games room and the Aqua Fun Park.
DON'T MISS Jetpacking on the resort's private lagoon.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The onsite water park (entry from $15), open weekends and school holidays, is suitable for guests six and over; jetpacking for those eight and over (30kg weight minimum). From $159 per night. See novoteltwinwatersresort.com.au
THE PLACE Toberua Island Resort, Fiji
THE EXPERIENCE Tiny boutique island resort in Fiji's Lomaiviti Group with terrific food, diving, snorkelling and daily excursions including village visits, mangrove tours and more.
THE FACILITIES Sixteen traditional bures, small gym, central swimming pool, restaurant and beachfront bar, watersports plus rustic waterfront spa.
DON'T MISS A boat trip to Mabualau Island (Bird Island), a sanctuary for the red-footed booby, noddys, crested terms, the delicate black-naped tern, reef herons, frigates and docile sea snakes.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $FJ480 per night until June 15, 2017 (blackout dates apply). Meal packages extra. Alternatively book the entire island, all-inclusive, from $FJ18,749 per night for up to 36 adults. See toberua.com
THE PLACE The Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa, Phuket
THE EXPERIENCE Designed with families in mind, this Thai resort offers a dedicated kids menu and kids club with fun activities including yoga, Thai dance, craft and nature walks. Teenagers can enjoy windsurfing lessons, beach soccer and volleyball, or snorkelling in Siray Bay. Young guests receive a welcome gift.
THE FACILITIES All 257 contemporary guestrooms, suites and pool villas offer sea views, as well as the Westin's Heavenly beds and baths. Adjoining rooms available. There are three pools, six restaurants (offering Westin's Eat Well Menu for Kids) bar, spa and 24-hour gym.
DON'T MISS A parent-child spa treatment in the Heavenly Spa, including flower sprinkled bubble bath and relaxing massage.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Avoid September-October when there's lots of rain. From $222 per night. See westinsiraybay.com
THE PLACE Rivershore Resort, near Maroochydore, QLD
THE EXPERIENCE Love the feel of an old school holiday park, but want life's little luxuries too? This is your place in the sun. Throw in a fishing line, go kayaking or simply watch life on the Maroochy River pass by. How's the serenity?
THE FACILITIES This is no ordinary holiday park. The usual camping and caravan sites are on offer, but luxury safari tents, a vast pool with slides, terrific onsite restaurant, bar, games room, mini golf and organised activities take it to another level.
DON'T MISS The luxury safari family tents are bigger than many apartments and come with four poster king-size beds, en suites with oversized bath, kitchenette, TV, and private balcony overlooking the river.
MAKE IT HAPPEN The Sunshine Coast has a warm, year-round climate. Avoid school holidays if you can. Luxury safari tents from $224 a night. See rivershore.com.au
THE PLACE Ayers Rock Resort, Northern Territory
THE EXPERIENCE Discover Australia's indigenous culture and enjoy quintessential outback fun with dot painting, sunrise over Uluru and Kata Tjutu, bush yarns, traditional Putitja dancers, camel rides through the red desert and more.
THE FACILITIES Accommodation ranges from the premium Sails in the Desert hotel, through to camping. There are four swimming pools, the Red Ochre Spa and 14 restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual fare. The chocolate fountain at Ilkari Restaurant is a hit with kids.
DON'T MISS Bruce Munro's Field of Light, Uluru – an immersive light installation featuring 50,000 colourful glass spheres that bloom as darkness falls over Australia's spiritual heart.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $198 per room per night, including buffet breakfast (min three-night stay) at Outback Pioneer Hotel; unpowered campsites from $37 a night. See ayersrockresort.com.au
LOTS OF LUXE: WHEN THE BUDGET IS NO OBJECT
For that very special occasion
THE PLACE LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives
THE EXPERIENCE Sparkling lagoons, an indulgent tropical spa, whale shark watching and off the grid luxury make this Maldivian resort ideal for the five-star family.
FACILITIES Ocean-facing beach pavilions, some with private pools, four kilometres of beach, a tropical fish-filled lagoon, two swimming pools, seven restaurants, five bars, world class PADI dive centre, water sports and more. The resort offers two impressive kids clubs – one designed specifically for under 12s; the other where teens (12 to 17) can spin the decks in the DJ Zone.
DON'T MISS Sinking into a beanbag on the beach and taking in an outdoor movie with a treat from the roving gelato cart.
MAKE IT HAPPEN September-May is considered the best time to visit the Maldives. Interconnecting rooms available; while the resort is a 25-minute seaplane flight from Male. From $1224 per night all inclusive for a family of four in a beach villa. See luxresorts.com
THE PLACE Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand
THE EXPERIENCE Secluded luxury, phenomenal Thai food, batik art classes, snorkelling, yachting and decadent spa treatments are on the menu at this five-star getaway perched atop Cape Panwa.
THE FACILITIES Eighty-nine suites, private villas and penthouse rooms; ranging from one to five bedrooms, sunrise yoga, spa, fitness centre, five restaurants and rooftop bar. Estate hosts can sort yacht trips to Racha Island, private cooking classes, while 24-hour child minding is available.
DON'T MISS Sunset cocktails at Baba Nest, recently voted one of the world's most stylish and exclusive rooftop bars by Conde Nast Traveler.
MAKE IT HAPPEN From $2402 (64,335 THB) twin share for a three-night Leisure Escape package in a one-bedroom villa, including 60 minute Thai oil massage, five-course dinner at Baba Soul Food, transfers and more. See sripanwa.com
THE PLACE Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
THE EXPERIENCE Heli-fishing, bear watching, late night kayak trips and more at this 40,000 square kilometre eco-wilderness resort in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest.
THE FACILITIES Nine, one and two-bedroom cabins, spa, waterfall-side hot tubs, floating fire dock, restaurant, helicopter and boat tours.
DON'T MISS A bear and dolphin watching cruise followed by an evening spent around the fire dock with favourite drink in hand.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Open May-October. The resort is so remote you need to chopper in. From $CAD1875 per person per night. See nimmobay.com
THE PLACE Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii
THE EXPERIENCE Snorkelling in the Kings Pond, an aquarium carved out of natural lava rock where 4000 tropical fish swim freely, daybeds, Mai Tai's and oceanfront luxury that epitomises Hawaiian design, culture and tradition.
THE FACILITIES Two hundred and fifty rooms, suites and villas, seven pools including spa and sports club; Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, tennis courts, cultural centre, four restaurants and bars. The onsite Ulu Ocean Grill specialises in sustainable dining in consultation with local farmers and fishermen.
DON'T MISS The private luau within the magnificent Hoku Amphitheater framed by dramatic lava-carved terraces, tiki torches, white Chinese lanterns and twinkling stars. Enjoy a five-course meal, some of which is cooked in a traditional imu (underground oven), and dramatic hula and fire dancing.
MAKE IT HAPPEN Avoid North America's peak holiday periods and visit during shoulder season March-May and September-November. From $US895. See fourseasons.com/hualalai
THE PLACE Thanda Island, Shungi Mbili Island Marine Reserve, Tanzania
THE EXPERIENCE This luxe private island is the last word in exclusivity. Lucky guests arrive by helicopter, enjoy drinks at the alfresco cocktail bar, bathe outdoors in a copper roll top bath and explore private coral reefs teeming with sea life – including the recently discovered "sunken city", possibly dating as far back as 50 AD. Depending on the season, whale sharks and nesting turtles can be seen.
THE FACILITIES The eight-hectare island features one vast, five-suite villa, a boat house filled with every conceivable water sports toy and an impressive glass rim-flow swimming pool. The house boasts a library of Hemingway books, a Steinway grand piano, a humidor filled with Cuba's best and a wine list to match. There's also a tennis court, traditional style beach huts and around-the-clock massages.
DON'T MISS Picking oysters straight from the rocks, with a staff member on hand with tabasco and lemon juice.
MAKE IT HAPPEN October-February is the time to dive with whale sharks; avoid April as it's the rainy season. The entire island costs $US10,000 per night. See thandaisland.com
Five new resorts on the horizon
The Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa – the brand's first Caribbean hotel and first luxury resort on the island in more than a decade opened last month in Grand Cayman. From $339 per night per night. See kimptonhotels.com/stay/seafire-resort-and-spa
LUX* North Male Atoll is set to redefine island hospitality when it opens mid-2017 with 60 idyllic villas, sweeping ocean views and a fleet of luxury yachts. From $1608 per room per night on a half board basis for two adults. See luxresorts.com/en/hotel-maldives/luxnorthmaleatoll
The boutique adults only Moso Vanuatu resort is the country's newest addition on the secluded Moso Island in the north of Efate Island, with five premium villas and locally-inspired bistro bar surrounded by idyllic surrounds. From $350 until April 2017. See themosovanuatu.com
Opening in December, the new Crown Towers Perth within the sprawling Crown Resorts complex, will boast 500 rooms, 24-hour butler service, expansive lagoon style pools, private cabanas, poolside bar and dining, spa, fitness centre and Crystal Club lounge. From $413 per night. See crowntowersperth.com.au
The highly anticipated Alila Villas Koh Russey will open in the first quarter of 2017, bringing a world class luxury resort to Cambodia's southern coastline. From $US290 per night. See kohrussey.com
Oldies but goodies: Five perennials worth going back to.
The Oberoi Bali was one of the first luxury resorts on the island of the gods, and still delivers today. From $US370 per night. See oberoihotels.com/hotels-in-bali/
Iconic luxury resort, the Datai Langkawi, designed by Australian architect Kerry Hill, is as wonderful today as when it first opened more than two decades ago. To ensure it retains its evergreen looks, the resort will close for 10 months from September 2017 for an extensive makeover. From $RM2300 (roughly $720). See thedatai.com
A Hawaiian classic, the original bungalows at the Halekulani (meaning house befitting heaven) were some of the first in Waikiki. It still oozes old school resort charm. From $US495. See halekulani.com
Yasawa Island Resort, first opened in 1991, set the benchmark for luxury resorts in the island chain and remains one of Fiji's most idyllic five star getaways. From $1400 a night for two inclusive (except alcohol). See yasawa.com
The swanky Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas, opened in 1987 by the late failed businessman Christopher Skase, is once again having its moment in the sun following a $43 million makeover. From $279 per night. See sheratonportdouglas.com
The writer was a guest of the Halekulani, Yasawa Island Resort, Toberua Island Resort, Doubletree Hilton Fiji, the Datai Langkawi, the Oberoi Bali, the Outrigger Konotta Maldives, Alila Seminyak Bali and the Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa, Phuket.
Sheriden Rhodes is a resort junkie: having tested sun lounges by infinity pools, downed cocktails, swung in hammocks and checked out resort beds everywhere from Hawaii to the Cook Islands. "My favourite resorts are those that go the extra mile: whether it's delivering ice blocks by the pool, a cold scented towel when you need it most, and offering experiences that you remember far more than the sheet thread count or fluffy bathrobe."