When many of us dream of the beach, we're not just dreaming of fine white sand and clear blue waters. (Well, sure, we are dreaming about that part quite a bit.) But we're also imagining thatched roof bars, decks with hammocks, and rooms with lots of wood or stone. Resorts that blend modern luxuries with a rustic vibe help set just the right tone for relaxation and serenity. Take a look at our faves.
Aqua Wellness Resort, Nicaragua
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redondo Bay on Nicaragua's Pacific coast. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), and rooms adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. The white-sand beach is secluded and beautiful, the restaurant serves simple but tasty local dishes, and group yoga classes on the ocean-view wooden platform are free. For a tranquil, unplugged getaway, this is one of Nicaragua's premier options -- just note that there's no common pool (yet) and the climb from the beach to reception is extremely long and steep.
Turtle Inn, Belize
Turtle Inn, owned by the Coppola family and sister property to Blancaneaux Lodge, is an intimate luxury resort set alongside a beautiful stretch of the Caribbean Sea near Placencia. Kids are allowed to stay here, but it mostly caters to couples -- and it's easy to see why. The resort offers a peaceful setting and Balinese-style private cottages and villas -- each with a fabulous indoor/outdoor bathroom -- separated by sand and stone walkways. Three restaurants, two bars, two outdoor pools and a number of guided tours and excursions make the resort feel much bigger than it actually is. Wi-Fi is spotty, but most guests are focused on unplugging outdoors: Excellent snorkeling and scuba diving at the Belize Barrier Reef is a short boat ride away.
Haramara Retreat, Mexico
Haramara is arguably one of the most special hotels in Mexico. It is a luxurious yoga retreat located on 12 seaside acres of wild vegetation just outside Sayulita. The structures have been built using traditional construction techniques to minimize the environmental impact, and there is no electricity anywhere besides the restaurant and the yoga studio -- not even in the rooms. Each room is housed in a private standalone thatched hut with no window panes or screens separating it from the jungle, and only gauze curtains and mosquito nets to avoid bugs and critters. It is geared towards those in need of some detoxification and relaxation, with yoga and meditation classes, an open-air spa, a vegetarian and seafood restaurant, unpaved trails, and limited cell phone service.
This unique luxury resort in St. Lucia is made up of 32 one- and two-bedroom villas, each carefully carved into the surrounding hillside overlooking the island’s iconic twin Pitons. The villas -- which have missing fourth walls, and in most cases, private plunge pools -- are a main draw, as are the spectacular views and lush grounds. The resort also features some fabulous amenities, such as an infinity lagoon pool, a gorgeous open-air restaurant and bar, a (tiny) open-air fitness center, and a lovely spa with black water soaking baths. It's not right on the beach, but the resort provides a free shuttle to and from.
Hotel Punta Islita, Costa Rica
This ultra-remote, rustic luxe hideaway is worth the bumpy, two-and-a-half hour drive from Liberia Airport. The rooms aren't as impressive as those at larger luxury resorts in the region, but the unparalleled views, stunning infinity pool, and ruggedly beautiful (if rocky) beach more than compensate. Plus, this is a hotel with a heart: Punta Islita is environmentally friendly, and gives back to the local community.
With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake's is a member of Bespoke Hotels, a trendy, luxury hotel group. Guests come to unplug -- there's no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. The black-sand beaches aren't Jamaica's most impressive, but the Driftwood Spa, on-site painting and yoga classes, and excellent food make this a particular favorite.
Bitter End Yacht Club, British Virgin Islands
The Bitter End Yacht Club, snuggled into a steep hill on the scenic North Sound, is a relaxed, family-friendly resort. The tech-free rooms (no TVs or Wi-Fi here) feature stunning views from the balconies, and the sliding doors allows breezes to sweep through; some rooms do not have air-conditioning but most guests find they don't miss it. The white-sand beaches at the hotel are narrow, but they are still the highlight here, offering plenty of water sports and relatively calm waters.
Natura Cabanas, D.R.
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that's the point.