With each passing year comes a new list of fads and fascinations in the travel world. But the luxury travel space has always blazed a new path, created experiences we never imagined possible. That’s why we suggest this for 2019: Don’t follow the trends this year — instead, try these four travel experiences, perfect for the boldest and most seasoned travelers.
Private Island Escapes
A have-it-all “resort” in the Maldives
Imagine the most lavish, extravagant resort you could dream up. Sprinkle in any of your bucket list activities, favorite culinary indulgences, and most daydream-worthy happy places. Now drop the resort in the middle of the Indian Ocean, totally removed from civilization by sight and sound, and surround it with hibiscus and bougainvillea gardens and manicured sand. Then, count up 11 of your closest friends — you’re the only guests at the resort. That’s Coco Prive, a private island in the Maldives and resort for the stars, where the most successful, rich, and famous go to get away. If you haven’t traveled to a private island before, make it a resolution for 2019.
The first question you may have about Coco Prive is this: Is it really a resort? Well, not the kind you might be used to. It’s a private island designed to deliver the most magical travel experience imaginable for cherished groups. For starters, it’s exclusive-use, so your travel party of 12 (and stays are limited to 12 guests to maintain intimacy) really has the run of the island. Yet 1.4 hectare property is surprisingly well-equipped, so much so that guests almost never have to hear the word “no.” Before arrival, guests can request anything to be added to the itinerary, and during the stay, any request within reason is fulfilled as quickly as possible. After landing at Malé International Airport, guests are whisked across the ocean on a reserved luxury yacht to their new vacation paradise.
There are no menus or wine lists on Coco Prive — instead, a private chef approaches you to discuss your meal cravings, and an exclusive wine cellar holds a select collection of sommelier-chosen bottles. And while guests can do unlimited scuba diving with the resort’s instructor or have as many spa treatments as they desire, there’s no agenda or blueprint for a Coco Prive vacation. Its team of 14 dedicated staff members is there to listen to you and your wildest imagination — and then make it a reality. The island has six separate guest quarters, including a split-level master retreat with its own Jacuzzi, cocktail bar, and wine cellar, plus uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. The layout creates an environment where a group of 12 can bond over outdoor dinners, movie nights at the outdoor jungle cinema, and chef-led cooking classes — and there are also hidden nooks to which each person or couple can steal away to enjoy their own intimate moments.
Elevated Golf Trips
A luxury golf playground on Hawaii’s Big Island
It’s a staple of many golfers’ annual travel schedule: the golf trip. If each year you round up your family or friends, pack your bags (both golf and luggage), and embark on a vacation centered around your favorite sport, then Hawaii’s Big Island should be your destination for the coming year. The Hualalai Resort is not only one of Hawaii’s most luxurious places to stay, but a top golf vacation spot in the world. There’s a reason it’s been lauded by Travel & Leisure, Robb Report, and Golf Magazine — because it’s a triple threat combining world-class hospitality, stylish accommodations, and pristine golf courses. At Hualalai, every moment feels like it was designed special for you. So, while golf trips are certainly not new, this is a twist on the classic — and a vacation you have to add to your bag for 2019.
To get you in the spirit, Hualalai provides you a personal golf cart for your entire stay so you can explore every corner of the resort. Start by grabbing a home brew at Hualalai Trading Company, which serves only locally-farmed and roasted coffee. Next, swing by King’s Pond, a 1.8 million-gallon aquarium where guests can snorkel alongside thousands of tropical fish and its resident 23-year-old eagle ray named Kainalu. Shop the trendiest swimwear and spa products at the resort’s seaside beach boutique or go for treatments at its upscale salon. For dinner, reserve at one of three top-shelf restaurants, and make sure to taste the oysters, harvested in a carefully-maintained pond on the golf course and exclusively served on-resort.
With clubs in tow, tee it up at golf legend Jack Nicklaus’ first ever Big Island design: the Hualalai Golf Club. The scenic 7,100-yarder threads through lava-filled landscape and enjoys ocean views from hole to hole. It’s perhaps at its most scenic from the elevated tee at the signature seventh hole, the highest point on the course which plays downhill through a collapsed lava tube. The elegant Pakui villas line the narrow and winding fairway on the ninth, the course’s toughest-ranked hole. Along with access to the Four Seasons resort amenities, the private vacation homes have their own swimming pools, alfresco dining, and outdoor lava rock showers. There’s still space for this winter and spring at Pakui’s 72-121 address, a spacious five-bedroom retreat on the front nine. While surrounding vegetation keeps the home private, its patio looks onto the ninth fairway so guests can leisurely watch golfers wrestle the hole’s tough approach shot.
Modern Safari Stays
A game reserve lodge amid South Africa’s Big Five
A former family home, Molori Safari Lodge is now one of South Africa’s most luxurious game lodges. Situated in the North West province close to the Botswana border — 250 miles northwest of Johannesburg — on the 75,000-hectare Madikwe Game Reserve, Molori is a rare breed: A personalized safari where you’re surrounded by wildlife, and the accommodations are luxuriously appointed with ultra-modern touches like heated floors and a state-of-the-art gym and sauna.
Molori is considered one of the Big Five game reserves, meaning it has elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards. Unlike most Big Five reserves, it also houses cheetah and wild dog. Guests can navigate open grasslands and bushveld plains, joining twice-daily safari drives or guided bush walks. Interested travelers can even participate in conservation efforts alongside local experts, tagging along to track down and DNA-sample endangered species in order to keep them from going extinct. And when you retreat to your vacation home for the evening, Molori’s top-end hospitality is in full effect. Meals are prepared by gourmet chefs cooking with only the freshest local ingredients and spa treatments are on offer in peaceful African bush surroundings. One of the Safari’s attractive new offerings is the Molori Hide & Whiskey bar, where eager photographers can snap close-up shots of animals visiting the waterhole, all while tasting whiskeys and wines.
The retreat consists of five elegant suites, each with one or two bedrooms. Inside, the decor brilliantly marries African tradition with the most up-to-date furnishings — for example, in one living area a white leather Fendi recliner mingles with a beaded African chair. Outside, the views of the Dwarsberg Mountains and Madikwe Valley are more eye-candy to admire from poolside. The Lodge is designed to create a special connection between guests and their surroundings: Retractable floor-to-ceiling glass walls, fireplaces, open-air showers, private decks, infinity pools, day beds, and a freestanding copper bath all provide an unmatchable opportunity to get up close and personal with animals in their natural habitat.
Beachfront Spa Sanctuaries
An immersive wellness experience in Phuket
At every turn, Banyan Tree provides an opportunity for rejuvenation. The spa resort has implemented a high-touch, low-tech approach to hosting and bettering its guests. During a stay, the emphasis is on connecting with your mind, body, and natural surroundings. A team of wellness professionals offers more than 50 different activities, from body awareness exercises to daily living enrichment routines. The staff takes a holistic approach to helping its guests achieve spiritual, mental, and physical harmony. Banyan Tree’s weekly calendar of activities offers opportunities for learning, self-improvement, and doing good for others. Common Ground is an environmental beach clean-up on Bang Tao Beach and Pay It Forward is a Thai cooking session with a young local. Educational activities include Thai Insight, a lens into Buddhist ways of living, and Counter Tech Moves, which teaches essential techniques for releasing tension. And there is plenty of rejuvenation to be had, like in Ocean Breath, a breathing session by the sea, and a Herbal Therapy moment using Thai Herbal Compress.
And it’s not just the activities — the entire sanctuary is designed to kickstart a fulfilling wellbeing journey. The beachfront community is comprised of 12 luxurious villas surrounding a pond in a tropical garden concept. Both Laguna Beach and Bang Tao Beach are with a half-mile and the Laguna Phuket Golf Club is only steps away. Intimate indoor spaces like yoga pavilions, fitness gyms, and hydro pools mesh with breezy beaches, tall pine forests, and serene lagoons, while, cycling and jogging trails wind through the property. There are five high-quality restaurants on the resort, each offering a unique menu. Banyan Cafe is a scenic spot by the golf course that emphasizes plant-based dining, Saffron is their signature fusion Thai restaurant, and Watercourt serves fresh market fare and local seafood. And there’s always the option for at-home dining compliments of a private chef and served in an intimate alfresco setting.
Staying in is tempting at any of the Sanctuary 12 properties, especially since in-villa spa treatment is included daily during your stay. The single-bedroom Double Pool Villa is ideal for a honeymoon or romantic escape. The estate is perched right in front of a lagoon, walking distance to the beach, and has its own 50-foot pool on its main terrace. In addition, a wading pool surrounds the gorgeous master suite pavilion so it’s easy to get your feet wet to begin each day. A butler and housekeeper round out the staff that makes a stay at the Sanctuary truly sacred.