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Image: Beach and pool at Hayman Great Barrier Reef
Courtesy of Hayman Great Barrier Reef
Hayman is one of the Great Barrier Reef’s big resorts, with 234 guest rooms, 500 employees  and five dining venues. It takes full advantage of a sensational crescent of beach.
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updated 3/5/2011 3:46:59 PM ET 2011-03-05T20:46:59

It’s so idyllic it’s almost cliché: a South Pacific bungalow that stretches out over clear blue water, with a bedside picture window to take in the view. That’s exactly what you’ll find at the InterContinental Bora Bora, along with a seawater-centric spa and Bora Bora’s chicest lounge.

Slideshow: World’s Best Island Hotels

The combination of luxury and location got this InterContinental the nod as one of the world’s best island hotels by Travel + Leisure readers. The results are culled from T+L’s World’s Best Awards Survey, where we ask readers to vote on their favorite hotels around the globe. In other words, if your travel plans include an island escape, this is the list to consult.

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Of the 20 best island hotels, Caribbean properties made the biggest splash this year, with seven on our list. Coming in at No. 11, Jamaica’s Couples Swept Away in Negril, epitomizes the destination’s couples-only, all-inclusive appeal in its 312 romantic suites with louvered windows overlooking the soft sand and gentle surf of Seven Mile Beach.

The sand’s a bit grittier at Chesterman Beach on British Columbia’s wild Vancouver Island. That’s the setting of the No. 4 best island hotel, the 75-room Wickaninnish Inn. A haven for nature lovers year-round—even during winter’s tumultuous “storm-watching” season—the Wickaninnish charms guests with its in-room fireplaces and soaking tubs, plus a hotel restaurant that serves seasonal dishes with 240-degree views of the crashing waves.

Further out in the Pacific, Hawaii lays claim to five of the 20 best island hotels. One of the winners: The Lodge at Koele—the Four Seasons resort on the island of Lana’i. You’ll find rattan armchairs on covered porches, shaded forests and gardens, and the charming sensibility of an upland plantation estate. Although it’s not a beachfront paradise, the 102-room Lodge at Koele has its own trump cards: a tranquil vibe, world-class golf and room rates below those found at five-star hotels on neighboring Maui. For those unwinding at the Lana’i hotel in the island’s central highlands, the scene is indeed mai ka lani (“heaven sent”).

Want to know which property is No. 1 of the best island hotels? Read on for the winners.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Video: Spring break escapes near and far

  1. Transcript of: Spring break escapes near and far

    KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, co-host: We're back on this Tryday Friday with TODAY'S TRAVEL and spring break getaways for every traveler.

    HODA KOTB, co-host: Whether you want to stay local or get adventurous, bring the kids or escape with just your other half, Laura Begley Bloom has some great trip ideas for you. She's the deputy editor at Travel Leisure magazine. Hey!

    Ms. LAURA BEGLEY BLOOM (Deputy Editor, Travel Leisure Magazine): Hi .

    GIFFORD: How are you? Awfully nice to think about these great places at this time of year.

    Ms. BLOOM: Oh, don't you want a getaway right now?

    KOTB: Yes!

    GIFFORD: Yes, very much.

    KOTB: Well, we like the ones on your list. I was struck by the first one, which is Panama .

    Ms. BLOOM: Panama .

    KOTB: A lot of people don't think of that right away.

    Ms. BLOOM: Great undiscovered location. Great food in Panama .

    KOTB: Yeah.

    Ms. BLOOM: And we've got a deal that you will not believe, $86 a night...

    KOTB: What?

    Ms. BLOOM: ...at Las Olas beach resort . It's 50 minutes from Panama City . They've got surfing, they're on 14 miles of beach.

    KOTB: Beautiful.

    Ms. BLOOM: There's a national park nearby. You can go fishing.

    GIFFORD: It looks like it's lovely. How is it so inexpensive?

    Ms. BLOOM: It's Panama . They, you know...

    KOTB: Gorgeous. Yeah.

    GIFFORD:

    Ms. BLOOM: Nobody has discovered this yet.

    GIFFORD: Wow.

    KOTB: Wow.

    Ms. BLOOM: So now we've spread it to the world.

    KOTB: Now, the US Virgin Islands , another nice warm destination.

    Ms. BLOOM: Yes.

    KOTB: What do you guys like about that?

    Ms. BLOOM: We love the Maho Bay Camps on St. John .

    GIFFORD: St. John.

    KOTB: Oh. Beautiful.

    Ms. BLOOM: And these are not your average tented camps. These are up in the trees with beautiful views of the water.

    GIFFORD: St. John 's is gorgeous. Yeah.

    Ms. BLOOM: It's so relaxing. This is really a fantastic getaway and just $135 a night.

    GIFFORD: So great for families.

    KOTB: Great ideas.

    Ms. BLOOM: Really good for families.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. BLOOM: But also good for couples. It's really sort of a place that anybody would love.

    KOTB: OK.

    GIFFORD: OK.

    KOTB: Hawaii is another. It's a long flight.

    GIFFORD: Hoda 's still never been there.

    KOTB: I just -- it always looks so long to get there.

    Ms. BLOOM: You're kidding?

    KOTB: If I'm going to go somewhere that far...

    GIFFORD: You've been to China . That's further.

    KOTB: No!

    Ms. BLOOM: Well, I've got a place for you that's absolutely worth the trip.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    Ms. BLOOM: This is the Hilton Hawaiian Village on the widest strip of Waikiki Beach .

    GIFFORD: That's been there forever. Right.

    Ms. BLOOM: It has, and it is an amazing resort. They've got 20 restaurants, and it's great for families. They do ukulele lessons, they do hula lessons.

    KOTB: Hm. Yeah.

    GIFFORD: And it's been redone, too, over the years.

    Ms. BLOOM: You can learn lei making. It has. It's a really...

    GIFFORD: So it's not an old, stodgy place at all.

    Ms. BLOOM: ...lovely place.

    KOTB: Great.

    GIFFORD: Look how nice it is, yeah.

    KOTB: This next one isn't very conventional. We're talk -- what's the Dove Mountain ? What's that area?

    Ms. BLOOM: This is Ritz-Carlton , Dove Mountain .

    KOTB: Yeah.

    Ms. BLOOM: It's in the Sonoran Desert . So, again, you're going to have warm weather. Great for adults, great for kids. You can go hiking. They've got an amazing tennis package for $214 a night where you have unlimited tennis. And it also includes your breakfast every day. Just a really quiet respite from the winter.

    KOTB: Is it important to start booking the flights like right away?

    Ms. BLOOM: I think it's important to book flights. They're really booking up fast, especially with spring break. Everybody wants to get away right now.

    GIFFORD: And what people should know, too, that -- is that if they do the Arizona one, you know, it can be very, very chilly in Arizona ...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: ...in the mornings and the evening. So people think it's desert so they don't sometimes pack correctly.

    Ms. BLOOM: Right, it does cool off. I think anywhere you're going it's really important to check in, to find out what's good to wear on a trip because, I mean, I've definitely been caught by surprise going someplace in June, and all of a sudden it starts snowing. So you never know.

    GIFFORD: Right.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And also there are dress codes at certain hotels and things for different restaurants, and they -- you should be prepared for that.

    KOTB: Right.

    Ms. BLOOM: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

    KOTB: One of our last destinations you have, the last one is in Mexico .

    GIFFORD: Mexico !

    KOTB: And that's a -- that's always a great spot. Guaranteed good weather.

    Ms. BLOOM: Yeah. And this is on Isla Mujeres , which is right near Cancun .

    KOTB: Hm. It's beautiful.

    Ms. BLOOM: It's a brand-new hotel called the Palmar , and they've got an all-inclusive rate. For $132 a person for adults, about half that for kids. And it's a fantastic option because they include all your meals. There are also kitchenettes in the room, they have laundry in the rooms. So...

    GIFFORD: Look how pretty that is.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. BLOOM: ...beautiful beach and a really -- also a great, quiet hideaway.

    KOTB: Perfect.

    GIFFORD: All right, great idea. Thank you very, very much.

    Ms. BLOOM: Thank you.

    KOTB: Those are terrific. We really appreciate it.

    GIFFORD: And congratulations on your marriage.

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