REST AND REPOSE
Resorts Within Reach: Best of the U.S.
Forget everything you thought you knew about resorts. These 10 escapes deliver thrilling activities, plush amenities, and sweeping views, from $119 a night.
Casa Marina Resort
The 311-room beachfront Casa Marina is in tropical, laid-back Key West, Fla., where Ernest Hemingway bummed around in the 1930s (The Old Man and the Sea is based on his experiences here).The historic resort, built in the 1920s, hosts the largest private beach on Key West, a sinewy strand of white sand over 1,000 feet long. Book a day of water sports—which range from snorkeling with dolphins at a nearby coral reef to jetting around on WaveRunners—or relax in a cabana by one of the two oceanfront pools. On-site Spa al Mare offers treatments like the full-body Sun Soother Water Lily Mask, which soothes sunburned or windburned skin with naturally hydrating water lily oil. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (admission $12) is a 10-minute walk—see the house's original furnishings from Paris, the $20,000 pool, and 60 cats, some with six toes on one paw, descendants of Hemingway's beloved litter.
On the beach? Yes.
Price From $149.
Contact 305/296-3535, casamarinaresort.com.
Earthshine Mountain Lodge
The 10-room, hand-built cedar-log lodge is in Lake Toxaway, N.C., 50 miles south of Asheville, atop an Appalachian ridge. Take the 80-feet-high, two-hour zip-line course through the 82-acre property, which is near Gorges State Park. You can also ascend the 30-foot climbing wall or visit a replica of a Cherokee campsite and learn how to throw a tomahawk. At the lodge's rescue facility for Eastern box turtles, a naturalist will walk you through the ABCs of wildlife rehabilitation. The lodge has two rock fireplaces, and rooms have patchwork quilts and log beds. Some rooms have private balconies and lofts, and there's a private three-room cottage separate from the main lodge that is ideal for families.
All-inclusive? Yes. Three all-you-can-eat meals per day and unlimited fruit and beverages are included in the rate; dinners feature country favorites like prime rib and pecan pie.
On the beach? No.
Price From $170 per night per person for adults; $110 per night for kids ages 10–15; $90 per night for kids ages 6–9; $50 per night for kids ages 6 and under. Open for families summers, major holidays, and weekends in October. Call for availability on other dates.
Contact 828/862-4207, earthshinemtnlodge.com.
Hilton Oceanfront Resort
Hilton Oceanfront Resort is on Hilton Head Island, less than a mile off the South Carolina coast. The resort complex has three regulation-size golf courses—but you can also kayak or canoe in the resort's 10-mile lagoon system, sail catamarans off the quarter-mile-long private beach, or play tennis at the 25-court Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center, a five-minute walk away (court rental $25). The Ocean Tides Spa offers pineapple-oil massages in private ocean cabanas. All 295 rooms, 20 oceanfront suites, and eight inn suites have private balconies and kitchenettes. Savannah is 30 miles to the south and makes a great day trip.
On the beach? Yes.
Price From $129.
Contact 843/842-8000, hiltonoceanfrontresort.com.
Amelia Island Plantation
The 1,350-acre resort is on Florida's Amelia Island, a finger of land just off the state's northeastern coast that is known for its 13 miles of beaches and abundant birdlife—rare Jaeger marsh pelicans, great blue herons, and hummingbirds are everywhere. The resort has managed to preserve its tidal marshes, dunes, and savannas while adding amenities like 72 holes of golf, 23 tennis courts, a full-service salon and spa, two pools, and a nature center. Guests can book a half-day yoga retreat that includes private yoga instruction in the on-site spa's tree house, plus a massage, a nature walk, and a boxed organic lunch. Bike the seven miles of trail (including an Indian burial ground), fish in freshwater or saltwater on a guided excursion, or participate in family crafts like tie-dying T-shirts. All 249 rooms and suites have private balconies with ocean or resort views.
On the beach? Yes.
Price From $199 per night for just a room. All-inclusive packages that include three meals daily at the resort's nine restaurants, plus golf, tennis, and other activities start at $577 per room per night.
Contact 888/261-6161, aipfl.com.