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.

By Colleen Egan, Tuesday, Nov 10, 2009, 2:30 PM

At Casa Marina Resort, book a day of water sports or relax in a cabana by one of the two oceanfront pools
At Casa Marina Resort, book a day of water sports or relax in a cabana by one of the two oceanfront pools (Courtesy Casa Marina Resort)

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.
All-inclusive? No.
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.
All-inclusive? No.
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.
All-inclusive? Yes.
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.

Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa
This 1,500-acre resort in Thompsonville, Mich.—about two and a half hours north of Grand Rapids and set amid two state forests—has 45 ski slopes, 25 miles of cross-country skiing trails, and a 20-person outdoor hot tub for post-skiing decompression. Crystal Mountain is ecofriendly too: It powers its main high-speed chairlift with wind energy tax credits, and the year-old Crystal Spa is the only spa in the Midwest with certified environmentally sustainable construction. There are more than 260 lodging options available, from standard hotel rooms to four- and five-bedroom mountain-view condos and cottages. Summer activities include two 18-hole golf courses and the 250-foot-high Crystal Coaster, basically a 1,500-foot-long slide.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No.
Price From $119.
Contact 800-968-7686, crystalmountain.com.

Canyon of the Eagles Lodge & Nature Park
The 940-acre Canyon of the Eagles Lodge, in the Texas Hill Country about 90 minutes northwest of Austin by car, is state certified as ecofriendly. Guests can hike among wildflowers, rare butterflies, and endangered birds like the golden-cheeked warbler on the nature park's 14 miles of trails. Walk the 80 yards to state-owned Lake Buchanan to play volleyball on the three-mile beach or to rent a kayak, a canoe, or a sailboat. The resort can arrange Vanishing Texas river cruises on the Colorado River, with spectacular views of Colorado River Canyon, waterfalls, and birds like bald eagles and falcons ($19 per person). The 62 rooms have rustic wooden headboards, corrugated metal roofs, and private or communal porches with rocking chairs.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No.
Price From $124, including breakfast on weekdays.
Contact 800/977-0081, canyonoftheeagles.com.

Arizona Grand Resort
Located about 10 miles outside Phoenix in a secluded area near the base of South Mountain, the 640-suite Arizona Grand Resort completed a $52 million renovation this year. There's now an 18-hole golf course, a massive athletic club with more than 45 weekly classes, and the resort's main attraction: Oasis Water Park, organized around an eight-story tower with three water slides, a wave pool, river tubing, and a 25-person hot tub. There are more than 60 miles of trails in the adjacent 17,000-acre South Mountain Preserve for guided hikes and mountain biking (rent a bike at the resort starting at $25 for four hours). The spa and salon offers treatments like lavender milk and beeswax body massages, ideal for moisturizing skin dried by the desert. Each suite-style room has a private balcony or patio facing the Arizona sunset.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No.
Price From $199.
Contact 602/438-9000, arizonagrandresort.com.

Sunriver Resort
Located at the base of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon, about 15 miles from Bend, Sunriver Resort offers year-round outdoor pursuits like skiing at Mount Bachelor, teeing off on the 63 holes at four golf courses, exploring the trails of the 2.5-million-acre Deschutes National Forest by horseback, and stargazing at the resort's observatory. The resort conducts 150 events between Thanksgiving and New Year's, including bonfires, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and tours by dogsled. Children can spend the day with the kids' club, visiting the nature center, the fish hatchery, and the stables. Choose a treatment from Sage Springs Spa, like the Oregon Hazelnut Scrub or an organic espresso rub. Each room has a gas fireplace and a private balcony with views of the resort's 3,300 wooded acres and the Deschutes River.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No.
Price From $159.
Contact 800-801-8765, sunriver-resort.com.

Resort at Squaw Creek
Minutes from Lake Tahoe in California and just below the Squaw Valley mountains, this all-season 195-acre resort provides lift service to Squaw Valley USA, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Ski on 400 acres of cross-country terrain, enjoy a dogsled tour, ice-skate at the resort's rink, or relax in two heated pools and a full-service spa with a sauna, a steam room, and three all-season outdoor whirlpools. Summer activities include guided horseback rides through the Sierra Nevada, guided wildflower walks, and the 120-foot waterslide at the pool. The resort's 405 rooms feature slate and granite accents; some have gas fireplaces and kitchens.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No.
Price From $179.
Contact 800/327-3353, squawcreek.com.

Outrigger Maui Eldorado
The Eldorado is in Kaanapali, near Lahaina on Maui's west coast, an area known for its pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. The resort has three pools and four poolside gas grills and offers discounts on golf, scuba diving and snorkeling lessons, and guided bike rides in West Maui Forest Reserve. Whalers Village, a popular dining, shopping, and art gallery district, is a 10-minute walk away. Families can go on guided nature walks and learn how to read cloud formations and wind directions; kids take home a handy guidebook. All 90 units include a full kitchen, a washer and dryer, and a private balcony with partial ocean or garden views.
All-inclusive? No.
On the beach? No, but public Kaanapali Beach is a five-minute ride north in a complimentary golf cart.
Price From $129.
Contact 808/661-0021, outrigger.com.

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