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Summer Travel: Seven great luxury beach getaways
The weather is warming and we're itching to hit the sand (after a few more weeks in the gym, naturally). Summer travel stories are often full of suggestions for budget and family-friendly getaways ... but what if you just want to splurge? Economy be damned. Play up the "luxe" factor at these great summer beach destinations for those seeking to see and be seen, enjoy world-class restaurants and nightlife and enjoy five-star service along the way.
Long Island's stretch of beach towns is sleepy from Labor Day to Memorial Day, but once the warm weather hits, the crowds descend. The truly wealthy helicopter in, while the rest of us will fly to Islip airport and drive or take the Long Island Railroad and Hamptons Jitney in from New York City. By day, relax on the white sand beaches, stroll the tony shops in East Hampton or South Hampton. By night, relax at a private estate rental or the posh lodging at The 1770 House or the Mill House Inn.
Hie thee to the Vineyard and you just might have a famous neighbor - or four. Members of the Kennedy clan, Oprah, and even President Obama have spent vacations on this famous New England paradise. Much less flashy than The Hamptons, beach-seekers arrive via ferries from locations like New Bedford and Hyannis. A ferry boat from Manhattan operates seasonally, and select regional carriers offer flights from cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Providence and Washington. Rest your head at the island's Relais & Chateaux property, The Charlotte Inn.
Relax in the sunshine amidst the shadows of America's Castles - the summer homes of the country's robber barons and wealthy elite, most of which are now museums open to the public for tours. Not sure you "know" Newport? Picture The Great Gatsby. In summer months, the harbor fills with yacht and sailboats and the well-heeled stroll the town. Fly to Providence (40) or Boston (70 miles) and enjoy the drive. Stay at Relais & Chateaux property Castle Hill inn & Resort, offering beautiful ocean views. Newly re-branded Grace hotel, Vanderbilt Grace, offers another option.
Just a short direct flight from many East Coast cities, Bermuda draws rave reviews from travelers seeking Caribbean-like beaches and a relaxed atmosphere without the long travel time. Lounge on pink sand beaches, sip a Dark n' Stormy and frolic in the turquoise waters. By night, party in Hamilton, the island's main city and popular cruise port. Rest your head at new Rosewood resort Tucker's Point, Mandarin-managed Elbow Beach or intimate boutique property The Reefs. Bermuda's closest land mass is North Carolina, meaning it enjoys a similarly temperate climate.
The French Riviera
Really need to get away? Try the French Riviera. Crowds descend as early as May for the Cannes Film Festival and then spend the summer flocking to the ritzy beach town of St. Tropez, where as many as 80,000 tourists visit each day. Marvel at the massive yachts docked in the harbor, sample a traditional Tarte Tropezienne, or browse the luxury goods at Louis Vuitton or Hermes. Then get out - even the three-star hotels are overrun this time of year.
Midwesterners spend summers on this grande dame of luxury island getaways. The car-free island transports visitors back to a more genteel time, where the island's Grand Hotel is king and the pace is slower and more refined.
Texans and Californians know that their home states are hot all summer long, so they often flee the confines of the United States for our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico. Untouched by swine flu or drug wars, Los Cabos remains a paradise of the rich and famous, who come for the beaches, party life, and ultra-luxury hotels. Our favorites? Stay at Capella Pedregal, an intimate property with the country's only private tunnel, the always-on-top Las Ventanas, a Rosewood property, celeb favorite One & Only Palmilla, or the ritzy Esperanza.
[Flickr via slgckgc]