This story first appeared in the Dec. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Longtime fans of Las Ventanas al Paraiso, including ICM's Toni Howard (with such clients as Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Walken), TV producer Robert Morton and his wife, restaurateur Jennifer Morton, and Edie Falco's producing partner Richie Jackson might be pleased to know that on Dec. 15, the Rosewood Resort officially will debut its new luxury beachfront villas (rates per night from $5,175). But some things shouldn't change: "Las Ventanas is simply elegant and intimate with spectacular service without being pretentious," says Jennifer, while husband Robert cites the "best-smelling air" and Howard jokingly praises "the groveling, since I have to grovel all year long. The minute you walk in, they know what you drink; we have certain chairs that everybody knows are our chairs."
The renowned five-diamond property, with its 12 residential-style, sumptuous villas that cost $55 million to build, will be the first of its kind in Los Cabos. Each villa -- ranging from one to three bedrooms -- houses at least 4,500 square feet on top of at least 1,800 square feet of private grounds, integrated into a seamless indoor-outdoor design. All villas come with infinity pools and swim-up bars, a 24-hour butler, a choice of wellness or screening room (for those Oscar screeners, but only in the one-bedrooms) and such in-villa amenities as cooking classes with the resort chef and a massage upon arrival.
Around town, the 96-room luxury resort Capella Pedregal recently partnered with Jose Cuervo Distillery in Guadalajara to create a specially designed tequila blend exclusively for resort guests. The 100 percent agave plata tequila once was reserved only for the Cuervo family. The hotel has also teamed up with Yifat Oren, wedding planner for Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore and Jason Bateman.
In April, Grupo Questro, the developer responsible for Puerto Los Cabos, opened the trendy El Ganzo, a 72-room boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and underground recording studio (from $885 for a large suite). Guests include Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen.
Cabo favorite and mainstay Flora Farm, a 10-acre organic playfield notable for dinners booked months in advance (thanks to the likes of Thomas Keller and George Clooney, who sup there) recently added a fine-dining Table restaurant that includes a beer garden and outdoor bar. --Jimmy Im
This winter, the Mexican Riviera benefits from several bold, glamorous updates, including a revamp by All Inclusive Collection, the Hard Rock Hotels' South American resort group, of Aventura Cove Palace (formerly the party destination for the likes of Pretty Little Liars' Tyler Blackburn and American Idol's Blake Lewis). The new Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is the antithesis of a boutique bolt-hole, with 1,264 plush guest rooms (rates from $200), each equipped with a Jacuzzi-style hydrotub and liquor dispenser (essentially a full bar on tap). Ask for a Deluxe Platinum Grand Sky Terrace room for more than 1,400 square feet of space and spectacular ocean views. The hedonism continues downstairs, with six restaurants -- including the rustic French Le Petit Cochon -- three bars and poolside snacking options. Repent afterward at the Yoga Temple or Body Rock Fitness Center.
For a more discreet getaway, the famous and monied (including members of the Miami Heat) flock to Punta Nizuc's elegant new Nizuc Resort & Spa (from $650), set within a 29-acre reserve facing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Ocean suites have jaw-dropping views, but the garden pool villas offer privacy and up to 2,750 square feet of lavish space amid tropical gardens with an infinity pool and waterfall. The spa offers Mayan cacao oil massages, the perfect preparation for an evening of cocktailing at Terra Nostra rooftop bar.
Expect Hollywood types to be drawn to the Viceroy Riviera Maya (from $1,005) this season. The swish seafront outpost of the beloved boutique brand (its 13 properties include those in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and a newly opened New York hotel) is already a fave for Rashida Jones, Jaime King and Molly Sims, who says, "I was there recently for a girlfriend's birthday party -- it was the perfect oasis." Now it has added five posh 1,400-square-foot villas with thatched palapa roofs for an indigenous "jungle" feel. But there's no chance of roughing it, with heated plunge pools, private sundecks and VRM's La Marea, one of the region's most exquisite dining experiences. --Ken Scrudato
Hollywood and Maui go together like coconut and cream: If a star doesn't own a home here (Oprah Winfrey, Woody Harrelson, Steven Tyler), they're making frequent jaunts (music manager Shep Gordon). The latest resorts to raise the bar include Andaz Maui at Wailea, a 297-room, Rockwell Group-designed hipster outpost (from $599) that opened in September. In the lobby, guests can dip toes in a sandpit while awaiting check-in. Chef Masaharu Morimoto opened Morimoto Mauihere, already a hotspot. After a 2011 management change, Travaasa Hana, formerly the Hotel Hana Maui -- which had seen guests like Lady Gaga, thanks to its secluded location -- added an all-inclusive option (from $600), a Maui first. Mayim Bialik tweeted that Travaasa was her "best vacation ever," and The Help producer Brunson Green stayed there in October.
At the chic, 24-room Lumeria Maui, where Marcia Gay Harden and Elysium executive producer Bill Block have vacationed, stays include daily yoga and meditation (from $329 in 2014). Montage Hotels took over the Ritz Carlton Residences at Kapalua Bay and will open Montage Kapalua Bay in early 2014. The 24-acre property will offer 50 suites with 56 residences for sale, a 30,000-square-foot spa and a multitiered lagoon pool cascading through the resort. --J.I.
When Hollywood's A-List wants to mix business with pleasure, they often go to the Four Seasons on the Big Island of Hawaii. But when they want to avoid business altogether, they jet farther west to the hotel's outpost on the island of Bora Bora, with its signature passion-fruit mojitos and bungalows poised over cut-glass water. (Bora Bora is nine hours from LAX and requires two flights but is in the same time zone as Hawaii.)
Once thought to be an exotic destination for honeymooners and reclusive movie stars like Marlon Brando, the French Polynesian island has become a go-to destination for industry types who, having made the scene, now wish to escape it. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban were among the first to catch on to Bora Bora's allure when they honeymooned at the then-brand-new St. Regis Resort in 2006. As Laura Ziffren, music supervisor of films like Moulin Rouge!, explains: "The Four Seasons in Hawaii is like camp. It's all about seeing old friends," she says. "In Bora Bora, it's not as social, but there are amazing water sports, and the sea life is incredible." Who wouldn't want a reprieve from swimming with Hollywood sharks to snorkel with actual ones in the gentle waters of French Polynesia?
But what once was a true hideout might soon turn into a Hollywood haunt: Boutique airlines like Air Tahiti Nui, having sussed out Bora Bora's increasingly "It" island status, now are tricking out planes with more business-class seats than economy and a new four-star menu. No doubt run-ins will become more inevitable. When the COO of Lava Bear Films got married at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora two years ago, he ran smack into a big network executive sunning on the pure white sands. "We had the same idea and had to laugh," says Adam Rymer. "But here's the thing: It's still much more private than the Four Seasons on Hawaii." --Susan Campos
As THR's hotel blogger, I must say that a visit to Saint Barthelemy has to be all about the white-marbled gem Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France, purchased in July by luxury giant LVMH. Its oak-floored 40 rooms, suites and villas (from $685) are situated on the famous sugar sands of Flamands Beach; try Room 41 in the two-story Beach Suite (from $2,420) for tremendous views and its own plunge pool with infinity edge (on the second floor!). Says Isle de France regular Rachel Zoe, "We've gone every year for 15 years. It's one of the most beautiful spots in St. Barts (but not during Christmas; so crowded)." Slip off your sandals to lunch at the hotel's La Cabane, set in the sand, where chef Yann Vinsot respectively fed Jay Z and Beyonce pea soup and ribs and breast of chicken with lemon, rosemary, ginger and sauteed vegetables.
For a more bohemian stay, there's the Hotel Taiwana at the end of Flamands Beach. Home to St. Barts' first tennis court, the boutique hotel reopens in November after a soup-to-nuts renovation, its 22 rooms, suites, beachfront villa and four-bedroom penthouse (from $50 to $6,500) accompanied by an outpost of London's Neville Hair Salon.
Other news: Daniel Boulud protege Laurent Cantineaux brings his continental/Latino roots to Bonito, his very new, very chic beach-house restaurant overlooking the Gustavia harbor (also the place to be Friday nights when DJ Maxx spins). Barely a month old, Black Ginger delights with traditional Thai cuisine spiced up with local fish and open-to-the-sky roof treatments, while O'Corail is where chef Vinsot goes for a beach-shack Caribbean-Creole lunch, complete with French wine list. Saturday nights, celebrities hit myth-making Le Ti, where guests like Zoe "danced on many tables -- before I had my son. It's so fun, you get crazy. You can't not dance."
Destination Happiness founder Melissa Schwartz writes THR.com's Room Number blog and is the ultimate travel fixer for VIP clients.