Are you staying at a property owned by an A-lister?
When it comes to accommodations, jet-set celebrities know what they want when traveling the world, far from the comforts of home. So who better to design holiday abodes for the rest of us? Thanks to these stars in the hospitality biz, you have your pick of celeb-run hotels. Some are all glitz and glam, others are rustic and remote. One thing is sure: You never know who you’ll run into in the lobby.
Gwinganna Health Retreat
WHERE: Gold Coast, Australia
Hugh Jackman planned on staying at the 500-acre Gwinganna Health Retreat on Australia’s Gold Coast for a few weeks to get in shape for Wolverine. He ended up staying two months—and eventually became a co-owner. That’s why it should come as no surprise should you bump into the Australian movie star milling around the wood-beamed lobby, sporting his name tag just like all the guests—who might include other A-list actors and celebrities.
That said, as glamorous as this resort looks and feels, it’s downright serious about restoring balance—meaning, good luck getting coffee, wine, TV, and other distractors of clarity and wholesomeness. Your focus here is to get back on track with the earth’s natural and seasonal patterns—listening to the kookaburras laughing and the trees rustling, perhaps joining a morning Qui Gong class or an integrated flow class, or getting a massage. Whatever your body, mind, and spirit needs.
WHERE: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Legendary Hollywood actress Doris Day has co-owned this gracious hotel in the heart of picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea for more than 20 years. As charming as it is, with 1920s-era Spanish architecture and a garden courtyard, it’s probably even more famous for being one of the country’s dog-friendliest hotels. Day has worked feverishly to rescue animals, and her Doris Day Animal Foundation has grown into one of the world’s largest animal welfare organizations. Which is great news for Fido: Pet bowls and beds are found in all rooms, plus there’s a daily Yappy Hour.
The Cromlix Hotel
WHERE: Dunblane, Scotland
“I’m pleased to be able to give something back to the community I grew up in,” Scottish tennis superstar Andy Murray stated upon the 2014 opening of his five-star Cromlix hotel near his hometown of Dunblane. And give back he does, by offering us the opportunity to experience the luxuriant era of the Lairds of Cromlix (for a rather hefty price tag, that is). The elegant Victorian Perthshire mansion comes with all the plush trimmings, including specially-sourced antique furnishings, a bar with hand-painted chinoiserie-style décor, a conservatory, a snooker room, a private chapel, and even a house loch. An ambitious expansion slated for 2020 has been recently announced, which will include a gym designed by the tennis great himself.
The Greenwich Hotel
WHERE: New York City
“An oasis in the city” is how Oscar-winning actor Robert DeNiro describes his hospitality masterpiece, this cozy brick-and-glass luxury hotel in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood. And every last detail resonates with his meticulous touch from the 30-foot skylights to the 18th-century bamboo spa (brought over piece by piece from Japan) to the Tuscan-style courtyard. Each of the 88 rooms and suites is uniquely decorated with different cultural influences, from Tibetan silk rugs and Siberian oak floors to Moroccan tile mosaics. The best room? The penthouse, of course, with a dining room that has floor-to-ceiling glass windows perfect for watching the sun set over the Hudson River. DeNiro reigns over several properties in the neighborhood, including the Tribeca Film Center, Tribeca Cinemas (host to the annual film festival), Nobu, and Tribeca Grill.
INSIDER TIPAs golden a touch DeNiro seems to have in NYC, his Nobu hotel in Manila was recently named the world’s worst hotel.
Mission Ranch Hotel
WHERE: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
In the seaside village he has called home since first laying eyes on it at 21, Oscar-winning actor and director Clint Eastwood rescued a decaying 19th-century dairy ranch house from demolition in the 1980s. After millions of dollars in renovation, the gleaming Mission Ranch Hotel is a luxurious but low-key retreat with period-style rooms, tennis courts, and a restaurant and patio offering supreme views over green, sheep-dotted pastures to the crashing ocean waves of Point Lobos.
INSIDER TIPEven if you don’t stay at the inn, have Sunday brunch on the brick patio.
WHERE: Basilicata, Italy
Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola purchased a 19th-century palazzo in his grandfather’s village of Bernalda, restored it, and asked the entire family for design advice (as a way to entice them to visit). The result? This personable small luxury hotel, complete with tiled floors, painted frescoes, and a gilded salon for celebrations and intimate teas. Rumor has it famed director and daughter Sofia designed Suite Four, including a hammam in the luxe bathroom. No wonder Hollywood’s A-listers make their way to this quiet, out-of-the-way destination in Basilicata.
“The Palazzo Margherita, for me, is a dream come true,” Coppola has said.
INSIDER TIPIf you like the Coppola style, he also runs two properties in Belize (Turtle Inn and Blancaneaux Lodge), La Lancha in Guatemala, and Be Jardín Escondido by Coppola in Buenos Aires.
WHERE: St. Mary, Jamaica
This bit of paradise overlooking Jamaica’s Oracabessa Bay first belonged to James Bond author Ian Fleming. The World War II vet built his dream villa beneath the Caribbean sun and wrote his 007 spy thrillers here. Then in 1976, along came Chris Blackwell, the legendary founder of Island Records (you know, the independent label that brought us Bob Marley, Bad Company, The Chieftans, Grace Jones, and U2), who expanded the estate into a 52-acre deluxe property with soft-pastel bungalows and suites, a private beach, a treehouse spa, and not one but two stunning oceanfront pools. What guests most love about this luxury resort, however, is what Blackwell tries his hardest to maintain: its hip Jamaican vibe of unassuming friendliness, where guests are invited to “just be.”
INSIDER TIPRather than keeping guests behind security walls, Blackwell encourages you to explore the countryside, spend time with community organizations, volunteer on an organic farm, and eat at local restaurants. Local guides can be arranged at the hotel.
Sundance Mountain Resort
WHERE: Sundance, Utah
It’s no secret that Sundance is golden-boy actor and director Robert Redford’s baby, founded in 1969 to bring together art, nature, and community in Provo Canyon’s north fork. The young Redford discovered the ski valley in the ’60s, traveling between California and Colorado for college. After hitting it big in Hollywood, the then-millionaire actor bought the canyon. But instead of filling it with luxe condos and hotels, he followed a philosophy of environmentalism to create a unique and special place.
And what a special place it is. Today, guests ski, hike, dine, horseback ride, mountain bike, and shop in the shadow of 11,750-foot Mount Timpanogos. You can take watercolor classes, relax in the spa, dine on elk, or listen to an outdoor symphony. Oh, and there’s a little thing called the Sundance Film Festival every January, created in 1978 to help incubate artists.
“Somewhere in our community awaits an experience which belongs to you and we are committed to helping you find it,” Redford has said. Amen to that.
WHERE: Gold Coast, Australia
This gold-plated palazzo on Australia’s Gold Coast re-creates the Riviera’s over-the-top style in a way only Italian-fashion-house Versace can do. Perched on an exclusive waterfront setting, opulence is extravagantly celebrated in everything from the pebble mosaic driveway, created by five Italian master tilers; to the limited edition Versace Line cutlery and china, imported from Europe; to Gianni Versace’s personal crystal chandelier hanging in the marble lobby; to the more than $11.5 million worth of Carrara marble throughout.
And the service is six-star, of course. Need someone to charter a plane to visit a private island? Check. Need someone to unpack your bags? You’ve got it. Need a nibble? With three award-winning restaurants, no problem. No wonder some of the world’s greatest names retreat here—the King of Dubai, the King of Abu Dhabi, and the Rolling Stones among them. Even if you can’t afford a visit (which most of us can’t), it’s worth stopping by just to take a look at untethered extravagance.
INSIDER TIPPalazzo Versace has expanded to two new locations, Dubai and Macau (slated to open in late 2017).
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Marley Resort & Spa
WHERE: Nassau, Bahamas
Bob Marley and his family spent many a holiday at this laid-back Bahamian retreat, since converted by his wife, Rita, into a Rasta-chic, reggae-infused resort. Personal touches abound, including global furnishings handpicked by Marley’s two daughters—not to mention Marley’s music playing non-stop in the background. Each of the 16 rooms is themed after a Marley song, from “Three Little Birds” to “Kinky Reggae” to “Our Love” (the honeymoon suite, naturally). There’s a holistic spa, a secluded beach, and a waterfall-fed pool, but the best part is no doubt the live music, filling the sultry air every evening with the pulsating Caribbean beat.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re a music lover, pick one of the suites overlooking the stage.
WHERE: Stockholm, Sweden
Benny Andersson of ABBA—probably Sweden’s most famous export outside of Swedish fish and Ikea—opened this mod-stylish hotel on the trendy isle of Södermalm back in 2003. There’s not much that hints at the ’70s pop idol, other than an Abba Gold CD and an unusually good sound system in every room. You can rent ABBA-centered DVDs; Mamma Mia! is the natural favorite. The building began life as a 1930s movie theater and is still used to showcase Swedish artists, musicians, and other entertainment.
INSIDER TIPEnjoy the fresh and healthy breakfast buffet (included in most room rates) on the Bistro’s balcony, overlooking gorgeous Mariatorget Square.
Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa
WHERE: Baie-St.-Paul, Québec
Cirque du Soleil began in the artsy town of Baie-St.-Paul in rural Québec, going on to bigger and better things. But local son and circus co-founder Daniel Gauthier never forgot his roots. He has used his creative ideas (and fortune) to create this unique “anti-resort.” Five eco-friendly hotel buildings cluster together on the footprint of a historic farm, though there’s nothing historic here (other than the black-and-white period farm photos on the walls). The structures are modern in a chic and earthy way with plenty of glass and wood and natural coloring. A Scandinavian-style outdoor spa is the perfect place to soothe sore muscles after partaking in seasonal activities, from skiing to hiking to horseback riding to kayaking on the St. Lawrence River. And lest you forget who the owner is, the hotel’s Salle Multi is a full performance theater with exceptional acoustics and lighting, and Les Labours restaurant has the theatrical touch of an open central kitchen.
WHERE: The Bahamas
For anyone looking to rent a private island with all the trimmings, look no further than David Copperfield’s Musha Cay in the southern Bahamas. At this magician’s private playground, life’s greatest luxuries are at your fingertips. Meaning, for the price of a night’s stay, you’re free to use the private speedboat, a tennis court, beachside daybeds, outdoor theater, 28-foot Nautilus Rib Catamaran, and more. You have your choice of five sumptuous guest houses, whether you prefer a mansion or a more intimate villa, each one with a private beach and accented with artifacts from Copperfield’s private collection (letters from Charlie Chaplin and pieces of Harry Houdini’s water torture cell among them). The epitome of paradise, with flourishing tropical flowers and swaying palms, it’s no surprise the magician calls this getaway the “most magical vacation destination in the world.” It’s the type of paparazzi-free zone Hollywood moguls and financial giants book for a dozen or more of their closest friends. The price? Rates start at a mere $39,000 a day for up to 12 persons, with a 4-night minimum.
INSIDER TIPCopperfield also purchased 10 additional nearby islands, creating an archipelago known as the Islands of Copperfield Bay.
House of Jasmines
WHERE: Salta, Argentina
Actor Robert Duvall came to Argentina a decade or so ago to learn the tango. He ended up falling in love and marrying an Argentinean, and the couple opened up their 40-acre estancia outside of Salta, in the northwest part of the country, as a guest house. They sold it in 2008, but this rambling collection of adobe buildings retains everything Duvall loved about the refuge: the homey front rooms ideal for reading a book; the candlelit dining room, with its heavy wood furniture, shining silverware, and cowhide rugs; the heated swimming pool adjacent to blooming rose gardens; walking trails through pastoral countryside of lime trees, olive trees, and plenty of jasmine; and the far-off views of the towering, snow-capped Andes. Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, and other celebrities may no longer frequent the hotel as they did during Duvall’s tenure, but it remains a star-rated retreat.
WHERE: Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
Legendary actor Marlon Brando fell so much in love with French Polynesia in the ’60s when he was scouting locations for Mutiny on the Bounty that he bought a private island on the Tetiaroa atoll, 30 miles north of Tahiti. For 50-odd years, this favorite haunt of Polynesian high chiefs was the actor’s private escape, but he also devoted himself to preserving the atoll’s sublime beauty and biodiversity. His hope was that this little piece of paradise could somehow change the world.
Today, his legacy has evolved into a new concept of ecological tourism with The Brando, a luxurious, exclusive resort with a mission. A deepwater sea system provides air-conditioning, solar power and coconut oil supply energy, and all buildings, as sumptuous as they are, remain unobtrusive to the glorious scenery. Here, it’s more about paddle boards and kayaks than speedboats and jet skis, helping to rescue sea turtles, and sitting at the doorway of your bungalow watching the clouds drift past. Exactly as Brando liked it.
INSIDER TIPEcologists remain on the island at the lodge’s Ecostation, studying local ecosystems in conjunction with major research institutions from around the world. Guests are invited to partake in their work.
WHERE: Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz, Morocco
Hot air ballooning may be what brought Sir Richard Branson to this spectacular corner of Morocco in the heart of the Atlas Mountains, but his award-winning hotel, Kasbah Tamadot, is where he stays. As befitting the billionaire tycoon, the resort is exquisite with tented suites and fountain-graced courtyards and a cliffside infinity pool. There are no TVs, but no one complains given the variety of activities on hand. Linger over board games or read a book in the red-walled salon, play tennis or ping-pong, watch Casablanca in the open air, or simply take in the astounding backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Honestly, we are lucky that Branson has chosen to open this exclusive hideaway to guests. He could have very well kept it all to himself.
INSIDER TIPBranson’s savvy sister, Vanessa Branson, owns the 28-room, artsy Riad El Fenn in Marrakech.
WHERE: Blackadore Caye, Belize
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio bought a 104-acre island off Belize about 10 years ago, and since then he’s injected his ever growing environmental voice into a new model of eco-hospitality. Blackadore Caye, A Restorative Island, will be “the world’s leading example of green hospitality,” he says. It will run on 100 percent renewable energy harvested from solar panels, collect and filter rainwater onsite, and install artificial reefs with fish shelters. DiCaprio is replanting red mangrove trees that had suffered deforestation, setting aside half the island as natural habitat, and establishing a research station where scientists can conduct ecological studies. But don’t worry – all this “doing good” will not hinder guests’ ability to enjoy all the accoutrements of paradise. Set to open in 2018, the exclusive resort—a combo of off-the-grid resort villas and private estate homes—will offer snorkeling, diving, spa facilities, and fine local dining, along with plenty of opportunities to meditate, restore and rewind. Bravo to Leo!
Costa d'Este Beach Resort & Spa
WHERE: Vero Beach, Florida
Grammy-award-winning singer Gloria Estefan and her producer husband, Emilio, fell in love with the quiet seaside village of Vero Beach when they visited more than a decade ago. So they moved to town and opened a hotel where they’ve created the essence of their own home. White circles highlight the “Miami Beach Modern” design of Costa d’Este, reflecting Gloria’s love of nature (where there are no sharp corners). The stylish rooms feature custom teak furniture in a nautical theme, marble floors, and chocolate-and-white décor. Even the bold, graphic artwork is similar to what you’d find in their home. Whether the welcome mojitos to enjoy poolside are something they offer at home, we’re not sure—but they’re definitely a nice touch.
Gaia Retreat & Spa
WHERE: Brooklet, New South Wales, Australia
Grease star and health enthusiast Olivia Newton-John co-owns this legendary, eco-friendly wellness retreat in the emerald-green, frangipani-infused countryside near Byron Bay. In a soothing, Asian-infused setting, you’ll be pampered in the healthiest of ways: spa treatments, yoga classes, meditation, strolls through lush rainforest and gardens (with day beds to rest along the way), organic meals straight from the source, and a sparkling saltwater infinity pool edged with sun loungers. Though, the best spot may very well be your room’s balcony or terrace, sipping a cup of coffee or watching the sun set over rolling hills. However you decide to spend your time, your only task while here is to relax, unwind, and escape the anxieties of modern life. In other words, indulge in a state of bliss.