World’s Best Beach Hotels

Weary of the politics and stresses of Ancient Rome, Emperor Tiberius fled to Capri, where he spent his last decade in sumptuous villas enjoying a secluded island life.

Two millennia later, most of us can relate to the emperor.

We also seek refuge from our daily routine at seaside resorts — if only for a week, rather than 10 years. And while Tiberius had to first build himself a dozen palatial retreats, today’s beachgoers don’t need to do any heavy lifting. Luxurious hotels and resorts dot the world’s coastlines. You’ll even find them on the emperor’s beloved Capri.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated hotels on their rooms and facilities, location, service, food and drink, and overall value.

When it came to their favorite hotels on the beach, T+L’s sun-seeking readers showed global ambition in 2016. One of this year’s winners is a 19th-century resort on the shores of New England, where guests spend days playing croquet, shuffleboard, and learning the general art of “summering.”

Another is an ultra-modern new build on the southern coast of Australia, where nature lovers can spot kangaroos and penguins. In between, there are resorts that offer endless amounts of wakeboarding, surfing, and lounging.

Read on for this year’s World’s Best beach hotels, just in time for summer.

1. Nihiwatu in Indonesia

T+L readers voted Nihiwatu, on Indonesia’s remote Sumba Island, the World’s Best Hotel this year. For beachgoers, it’s a suitable choice. The resort, a 567-acre estate (over 90 percent of which remains lush tropical forest) has a pristine beach on the warm Indian Ocean. Surfers have flocked here since the 1980s to ride Occy’s Left: a challenging reef break. But Nihiwatu is no longer the sole domain of surfers. Today, well-heeled sunseekers don flip flops and enjoy the resort’s Sumbanese thatched villas, infinity pool, and dreamy white sands.

2. Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia

Animal lovers will be delighted to learn a place called Kangaroo Island exists, and that, true to its name, you can see the famous marsupial there (along with koalas, wallabies, wombats, penguins, cockatoos, and sea lions). Throw in the secluded Southern Ocean Lodge, a super-luxe eco-resort above cliff-lined beaches, and you won’t need another reason for traveling to this island off the coast of Adelaide. Each of the Lodge’s 21 suites has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the rugged coast. Hiking trails on-property lead to several beaches (watch for dolphins) and link up with neighboring preservation land.

3. Montage Kapalua Bay in Hawaii

Like The Brando’s Tetiaora atoll, Maui’s Kapalua Bay also has a history of local royalty deeming it sacred. With picture perfect turquoise waters, palm trees billowing in the Pacific breezes, and a crescent of golden sand flanked by two lava outcroppings, it’s easy to see why. Guests at the Montage have the bay and its beach as their backyard to explore. The resort’s beach crew can arrange for activities like snorkeling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and fishing. Visit the spa for a more indulgent sea experience, like a seaweed cocoon in an open-air treatment room.

4. The Brando in Tahiti

Tahitian monarchs considered the Tetiaora atoll sacred. When Marlon Brando, while in French Polynesia filming Mutiny on the Bounty, stepped foot on the island in 1960, he agreed, and eventually turned it into his private refuge. Today, the late actor’s retreat has been transformed into the Brando, open to anyone so long as they can afford airfare to Tahiti and a nightly rate that starts at about $2,700. But once visitors arrive at one of the all-inclusive resort’s 35 spacious villas — which start at 1,000 square feet — and touch the island’s unspoiled white sand, the price tag won’t matter anymore.

5. Wequassett Resort and Golf Club

On the outer elbow of Cape Cod, Wequassett Resort is a sprawling compound of whitewashed buildings and clapboard cottages. Woodlands, salt marshes, and manicured gardens make up most of the 27 acre grounds, but T+L readers also love this Massachusetts resort for its beaches. On property, guests can bathe in the quiet waters of Pleasant Bay (or choose from two pools). The hotel can also arrange for exclusive visits to Outer Beach, which is part of Cape Cod National Seashore. Only accessible by boat, it’s one of the East Coast’s most secluded stretches of sand. Head here in the daytime for a picnic lunch, or come at night for stargazing.

6. Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island

Surrounded by water on three sides, Rhode Island’s Weekapaug Inn is a Cape Cod-style resort with red cedar shingles and cranberry-red shutters. Rooms have distinct textiles and vintage furnishings (many from the original resort, which dates to 1899). Since its 19th-century opening, the main draw has always been the adjacent beach. This two-mile swath of sand is lined with dunes and freckled with wild beach roses. Guests at the Inn spread out across the beach, but not before stopping by the resort’s Bathhouse for a refreshing bottle of ice-cold Del’s lemonade: a Rhode Island favorite.

7. Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen

The chirping tropical birds flitting around Rosewood Mayakoba sound just as happy as the guests at this jungly Riviera Maya resort. Most suites come with private docks for the boats that ferry guests around the mangrove lagoons. At the eastern edge of the reserve-like property is a white sand beach and an infinity pool that seems to disappear into the Caribbean. Also at the waterfront: Rosewood Mayakoba’s aptly named Punta Bonita (“Beautiful Point” in Spanish), a seaside restaurant serving regional Mexican cooking tapas-style. Look around the breezy dining room or terrace, and you might spot a celebrity. Jessica Alba is just one of the Hollywood A-listers who frequent the resort year after year.