Forget the beach—nature lovers know that the best way to experience the great outdoors in the summer is to spend some quality time in the mountains. If your idea of summer bliss involves hiking, biking, and swimming, these gorgeous resorts should be just the ticket. And if exotic scenery is a must, you'll be happy to know that great mountain escapes can be found in tropical locales, too.
Nestled deep amongst the pine trees, cliffs, and canyons of Yosemite is the 123-room Ahwahnee Hotel. The impressive stone and wood structure, built in 1927, is considered a National Historic Landmark. Rooms with views of the Half Dome and El Captain summits are filled with wood and rich tapestries of Native American design. Highlights here include the Great Lounge with 24-foot-high ceilings and a large stone fireplace along with the light-flooded dining room. This hotel is on the expensive side — and parking is limited — but the prime location and views are worth the price tag.
Located in Mountain Village, Mountain Lodge at Telluride is a classic Colorado mountain getaway. This log-cabin style lodge offers spacious condo and cabin rentals for groups from two to 14 people. Most rooms have kitchens, gas fireplaces, and private balconies in addition to small touches like humidifiers to battle the dry Colorado air. One highlight of this hotel is the year-round outdoor pool and hot tub with sweeping mountain views. A cozy restaurant, called the View, has a huge fireplace and plenty of space to lounge over a local beer. Additional perks here include a small fitness center, steam rooms, and free Wi-Fi.
The 106-room Hope Lake Lodge is practically a town unto itself. Guests have access to an attached water park (for a fee), and free access to a pool and whirlpools. Ample activities in the area abound, as the property sits next to the highest point in the county — the ski resort — which is attached to a year-round adventure center for zip lining and snow tubing, to name a few. While it’s easy for kids to stay entertained, adult activities include signature cocktails next to the lobby’s cozy fireplace and spa treatments. The property has a Northwoods decor throughout, and many details were crafted from vendors in the area. The staff is made up of family members, students, and long-time locals, and the resort exudes a relaxed home-away-from-home environment.
The 121-room Fretheim Hotel is the main hotel in tiny Flam, a village that’s the jumping off point for a number of fjord cruises. The property has a rich history — it dates back to the late 19th century — and the common spaces have charm to spare. American Wing Rooms are contemporary, while Historic Wing Rooms — though lacking TVs for added authenticity — are lovely and quaint. The hotel makes the most of its unique, naturally beautiful location with soaring glass windows in the lobby and restaurant that frame the steep surrounding mountains.
Jade Mountain has an isolated mountaintop location nearly 300 steps up from the beach, with stunning views of St. Lucia’s iconic Piton peaks. The resort is an architectural marvel, and the 29 enormous suites have innovative, open fourth walls overlooking the sea and, in most, private infinity pools. Getting to Jade Mountain requires a bumpy, windy drive, but its organic cuisine, doting service, unwavering silence (no TVs, radios, or children), and extraordinary design make the long journey worthwhile.
The Resort at Squaw Creek is one of the biggest resorts in Squaw Valley, with more than 400 rooms and a services and amenity offering that is easily among the most comprehensive in all of Tahoe. Its beautiful location means fine views of the mountains and valley, whether guests are playing golf, swimming, eating at one of the five restaurants, or simply gazing from the spacious rooms.
One of two resorts in Belize owned by movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Blancaneaux Lodge enjoys a splendidly lush location beside a creek in the country’s Mountain Pine Ridge. This fabulous hideaway features decent amenities (including horse stables), and wonderful wooden cabanas with thatched roofs and rustic luxe decor that includes colorful Guatemalan textiles. There are two pools, one of which is heated and overlooks the brook.
Set in a wildlife refuge more than 700 feet above the Jackson Valley, the Spring Creek Ranch has arguably the most stunning views of the Tetons in the area. It has a wide array of room categories, from standard hotel rooms to immense two-bedroom condos, and the delicious, popular restaurant and the excellent heated outdoor pool are not to be missed.
Located in the heart of Lake Placid mere moments from all of Main Street’s offerings, this 133-room lakefront resort manages to feel both central and secluded at the same time. Most rooms offer scenic views over Mirror Lake (don’t miss the stunning sunrises), as well as modern amenities and bathrooms. Downtown Lake Placid is steps away with plenty of shopping, restaurants and cafes — and the Olympic Center, site of the 1980 Olympics, is a mere four blocks away. Of course, there’s plenty to keep guests occupied on-site, including the Aveda Concept Salon and Spa, four pools (two indoor and two outdoor), a lakefront area with free use of kayaks, and a modern fitness center overlooking the pool courtyard.
The 419 rooms at the Westin were updated to accommodate the masses that descended upon Whistler for the 2010 Winter Olympics: They’re all large and well suited for families or groups, with kitchenettes, pull-out sofas, and fireplaces. Although not all rooms come with balconies, it’s hard to find a bad view; most guests will look out over snowcapped mountains (even in the summer) or the charming village. And the location just steps off of Whistler’s Village Stroll is close to the action.
For outdoorsy types looking for an authentic eco lodge experience, Selva Negra is the real deal. This family-run organic farm and coffee estate has accommodations ranging from hostel rooms to private bungalows, as well as a lush, cool mountain setting that’s rich with wildlife (expect howler monkeys, lizards, agoutis, and all types of birds). The sustainable practices are everywhere evident, from the excellent farm-made cheeses at the restaurant to the solar water heaters. The lodge is charmingly rustic rather than luxurious, featuring buildings designed in a quaint German style, and the friendly owners help make it a truly special place.
Stein Eriksen Lodge is one of the top luxury hotels in Deer Valley. Rooms are spacious with lodge decor, comfortable bedding, and clean bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries. Besides the highly reputed spa, the two restaurants and year-round outdoor pool with a large fireplace add to the lodge’s popularity.
If views are what you’re after, the Arenal Kioro, which abuts Arenal Volcano National Park, is tough to top. The hotel’s developers used a laser to align each room with the volcano, so there’s not a bad view in the house. Big suites all come with large hot tubs and two terraces. This mountainous region offers great hiking, biking, and thermal hot springs.