There are houseboats, hostels, retreats and golf courses — and then there are truly amazing travel experiences that take those simple delights to new levels and new places, like Scotland, South Africa, and Baja.
Connoisseurs of fine travel know the difference. For those who seek the best of the best, here are a few intoxicating suggestions. Sip slowly, breathe deeply. Drink it in.
Scotland’s Old Course the Luxe Way
You’ve flown halfway around the world to step onto the hallowed links at St. Andrews, Scotland — the Home of Golf, where the game evolved.
You have seven days to warm up for the magic day, when you will play not one, but two rounds: The Old Course in the morning, and the Jubilee Course in the afternoon. Like a fine brandy, why guzzle it down, when you can stretch out the experience and savor it to the last drop?
SGH Golf, the preferred tour company of discriminating golf travelers, spends seven days getting you warmed up on the most revered Scottish courses, with sleeps in the best hotels and hearty gourmet fare along the way.
You’ll start with a drive down the Ayrshire coast to play the famed Turnberry and Royal Troon courses, then on to Gleneagles for a round on the Kings Course.
Before you arrive for your two days at the holy grail of golf in St. Andrews, you get one more day of practice, this time at Carnoustie. At the end of the week, if you still haven’t had enough, take a quick trip up to Royal Dornoch, or — why not, you’re nearly there anyway — to the fabulous courses of Spain and Portugal.
The eight-day SGH Golf luxury package, including rental car, hotels and meals, starts at $4,295 per golfer. Just ask and they’ll custom-design an itinerary exclusively for you. Uncork the genie at www.sghgolf.com
Wildlife, Yoga and Wine in British Columbia
To paraphrase the ancient proverb, “All wolves and no Chardonnay make Jack a dull boy.”
So the management of King Pacific Lodge, in the wilderness of the Great Bear Rainforest on Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, offers its well-heeled guests a balance of the two. And infinitely more.
Besides the world-class fishing and wolves, bears, eagles and humpback whales that practically pose in front of your lens, you can try heli-yoga (yoga in extreme places, like snowy mountain tops, reached by helicopter), kayaking, hiking and heli-hiking.
There’s spa pampering, too, high-powered telescope star gazing, and world-class cuisine centered on salmon, scallops and other bounty from the sea.
The lodge is every sportsman’s dream, without sacrificing the posh. All 17 rooms and suites are sublime, but when none but the best will do, go for the two-level Princess Royal Suite, with views of the wilderness, the ocean and a waterfall.
Rock fireplace, slate-lined Jacuzzi… need I really go on? Seven nights all-inclusive: $28,000. www.kingpacificlodge.com.
South Africa’s Taj Majal of Hostels
Fine linens? Maid service? Toss out your preconceived notions of city hostels — you know, boot-smelling bunkhouses with cold showers down the hall. Daddy Long Legs, in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa, is not your mama’s hostel.
As artsy as its neighborhood of antique shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants, the charming Victorian building on Long Street has adorable mini-hotel rooms and loft-style micro-suites that attract traveling writers, artists and musicians.
No wonder. Each of the five suites was personally designed by one of these creative types. Each tiny suite, complete with kitchen, bath, TV and DVD player, and — what a concept — washers and dryers, feels like a miniature art gallery.
Balconies overlook the vibrant street life below. Travelers and locals mingle at the communal bar/lounge.
Rest easy, Mama, the kids are backpacking in extreme luxury. They take plastic, too. About $88 at www.daddylonglegs.co.za.
Decadent Houseboating Out West
Imagine the intense and spiritual reds and golds of steep canyon walls rising around you as the sun sets on a mirror-smooth lake.
Visualize the breathtaking views where the Colorado River flows into the Grand Canyon.
Now picture yourself, witnessing all this from your hot tub on the top deck of your decadent 75-foot houseboat. You know, the one with the six queen-size staterooms and the wet bar on the flying bridge.
You’re aboard Forever Resorts’ top-of-the-line Silver XTreme houseboat, and home base is your own private, secluded cove on Lake Powell, Arizona or Lake Mead, Nevada.
The base price for all this decadence is $10,995 (Lake Powell) and $12,995 (Lake Mead) plus fuel for 7 days. You’ll want to add the ski boat, the jet skis, kayaks and other water toys, a fishing guide, driver, a private chef, and perhaps a privately catered beach party (with music), so I recommend you budget an extra $10,000 to $12,000.
Book ASAP for fall or you’ll miss the boat. www.foreverresorts.com.
Baja California Wine Spa
Uncork the fountain of youth at the Somma WineSpa in Mexico’s emerging wine country at the very end of the earth in Baja California.
The secret is vinotherapy: anti-aging treatments using the fruit of the vine (including the seeds) for massages, facials, and exotic body treatments. The Purple Wrap, they say, “restores the skin’s texture and firmness while releasing the rich, creamy aroma of a fine Cabernet.”
Drink in all the healing rituals of the Somma WineSpa at the Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Hotel. The best sleep in the house is the $3.5 million freestanding Imperial Suite, with panoramic views of the deep blue Sea of Cortes and the rugged desert landscape. It comes with its own private pool and a key to the hotel’s ultra exclusive concierge-level lounge.
Do book the Barefoot Dining Experience, which includes a welcome martini, canapes and wine tasting of the best wines of the Valley of Guadalupe, a reflexology massage, a three-course wine dinner and a half bottle of Champagne Moet & Chandon.
Just for fun, you can slip off your sandals and smash some grapes, “I Love Lucy” style.
The suite is $5,000 per night. Barefoot Dining for two, $300. A Purple Wrap runs $140. More intoxicating choices at www.posadas.com.
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