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Image: The Four Seasons Hualalai on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii
Susan Seubert  /  Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts
The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu on the Big Island of Hawaii is an  intimate isolated resort spread among low-rise bungalows just steps from crystalline Pacific waters and a volcanic rock coast with black lava outcroppings.
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updated 9/29/2010 7:58:14 AM ET 2010-09-29T11:58:14

“The Post Ranch Inn is a serene, almost spiritual, place that feels miles in the sky. The majestic view of the Pacific Ocean and the misty bluffs of Big Sur from its cliff-side patio is like none other in the world,” says Anastacia Maggioncalda, a San Francisco–based film producer who honeymooned at the Northern California property with her husband, Steve.

While hotels and resorts have long leaned on Mother Nature to enhance their guest experiences, few wild assets rival that of prime waterfront real estate — be it on a sugary sand beach or a dramatic rocky bluff. Fortunately for travelers, there’s a lot of choice for those seeking a great coastal getaway.

Slideshow: America's best coastal hotels

Culled from Travel + Leisure’s 15th Annual World’s Best Survey Awards, the following hotels were determined by readers to be among the top hotels in the country — and all come with ocean breezes, water views, and ultra-scenic shores. Asked to rate properties on rooms/facilities, location, service, restaurants/food, and value, 2010 poll takers once again made it clear that a coastal location can also be one of a hotel’s greatest features.

Take The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. The luxurious grande dame of a property, which was built at the turn of the century by oil tycoon Henry Flagler and later remodeled to look like a sprawling spired Italian villa and gardens, sits on no fewer than 140 beachfront acres and has a total of five oceanfront pools. Talk about coastal pomp. Not surprisingly, the hotel has long been favored by couples and families alike looking to escape to the Florida seaside in style.

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“If you really want to experience the Florida coast the way they did during the Gilded Age, then The Breakers Hotel is the way to go,” says New Yorker James Oates, who recently stayed at the resort. “Right on the Atlantic, everything about the hotel is magical; you can almost imagine yourself an old-fashioned oil or railroad baron.”

But not all luxury coastal hotels rely on over-the-top glamour to lure guests. On Hawaii’s Big Island, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu is an intimate isolated resort spread among low-rise bungalows just steps from crystalline Pacific waters and a volcanic rock coast with black lava outcroppings. Bungalow 8 even overlooks a saltwater snorkeling lagoon.

No matter your definition of what makes a great coastal hotel, there’s one clear characteristic — whether you’re in Big Sur or on a Hawaiian island — that all of the properties flaunt: location, location, location.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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