It's wet in L.A., snowy in Chicago, and soggy in New York and London. But as we shiver up here, the Southern Hemisphere is sizzling, with a hot new crop of hotels opening for its summer season.
Hamilton Island, Australia
A short two-hour flight from Sydney, Hamilton Island is home to one of Whitsunday's glitziest new retreats.
Qualia is a secluded resort tucked into the northern tip of the island, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef and views of the Coral Sea. Its name is Latin for "a truly sensorial experience." The place is cantilevered above a forested beach with open-air lobby, and offers two infinity pools, a restaurant and an in-house spa with lavish homemade oils.
Guest pavilions are individually crafted of exotic lumber and natural stone quarried from the area. Entry-level rooms feature a minimalist design with ample views, while upgraded pavillions offer perks like private plunge pools and larger bathrooms. While local temperatures are warmest during January and February, you'll be using those pools instead of the ocean, which will be virtually unusable amid the jellyfish infestation.
Fasano Hotel and Restaurant
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
From Sao Paulo's Fasano hoteliers and Philippe Starck comes a sophisticated and tasteful
luxury hotel located along an up-and-coming strip of Ipanema Beach. The glassy institutional facade offers a sleek entryway leading to a masculine lobby area with antiqued brick walls, hand-sewn Iranian carpets and '50s honey-wood chairs assembled from local antique shops that feel far more Ralph Lauren than flamboyant Starck.
Diners get a new it-restaurant with the eagerly awaited Fasano al Mare, a stylish gastropub with groovy white-marble decor with billowing curtains. Adjacent to the restaurant is a more subdued lobby lounge, called Londra, with its flickering candle ambiance of dark brick walls and banker club chairs. Don't miss the rooftop resort area where Rio's sexiest gatecrashers surround a beefy marble-edged infinity pool.
En Rapa Nui
Explora, Easter Island
With locations in Patagonia and Atacama,
Explora is a series of cutting-edge resorts that encourages the exploration of South America's remote natural and cultural environments. Its newest outpost on Easter Island is a five-hour flight from Santiago or Tahiti, on one of the most mysterious and secluded islands in Pacific Ocean. In search of the gigantic sculptures of Moai, guests mix tailored explorations of nearby ruins with posh picnics and gourmet lunches.
The hotel is an architectural masterpiece, located on a secluded hilltop in the Te Miro Oone sector overlooking the tumbling sea. The hotel's circular lobby is a curved world of volcanic rock and local woods extending into an in-house restaurant, small bar and lounge area.
A separate spa wing features luxury amenities like a massage salon, open-air Jacuzzis and dramatic pool area. Don't expect to go island-hopping in the area -- the nearest neighbor is about 1,200 miles away.
Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Jose Ignacio is a glittery bohemia of sleepy beach architecture and high-fashion residents who would prefer the rest of the world vacation elsewhere. With only a few hotels to choose from, fashionable winter birds are humming about the latest beach escape by L.A. restaurateur Adolfo Suaya. This rambling beachside estancia offers four acres of rolling pampas, horse pastures and sandy dunes.
Casa Suaya's stacked-stone facade began with a single structure - namely, the owner's beach house -- and expanded to include two swimming pools and six guest suites. Suyara creates an authentic design aesthetic that incorporates antique carved woods, exotic parchments and B&B Italia furnishings all but unheard of in South America. Large picture windows look onto a sweeping panorama of rolling hills and seemingly endless private beach.
From the owners of Sydney's Kirketon, one of the city's first boutique hotels, comes a luxury offshoot located in the former red-light district of King's Cross. On the doorstep of Sydney's nightlife district,
Diamant is the first luxury property to hit an area far more familiar with motels and strip bars than luxury mammoths.
The façade resembles a manicured office building with floor-to-ceiling windows and elongated staircase running the width of the lobby decorated in masculine-leather sofas and polished natural floors.
British-born chef Alastair Smith runs the hotel restaurant, Penny's Lane, with its eclectic décor of mosaic floors and cowboy-color scheme reminiscent of the modern Aussie outback.
The crowd is a mix of Sydney lounge society, hurried businessmen and weekend frolickers who have to be expelled from the in-house bar. While amenities like an in-house gym are nonexistent, there are passes to a nearby fitness center and plans for a small spa.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Move over Palermo, San Telmo is the latest up-and-coming neighborhood of Buenos Aires luring fashionable portenos. One of the city's oldest residential areas, San Telmo has long been associated with its famous antique market and historic arts district. The area has yet to be gentrified much, with boho art galleries, antique shops, pubs and restaurants still offering that edgy urban vibe.
San Telmo's first boutique hotel, the
Moreno Hotel includes 39 rooms with period art-deco details, red-leather furnishings and loft-style décor. A lobby bar and restaurant area seems a bit posh for the surrounding area, with its sleek supper-club vibe and white-glove service.
An in-house theater features nightclub-style entertainment with local bands and live tango shows, contained in a cozy-dark salon and snug booths. A 24-hour gym is available for those looking to get their fitness on, but sadly no pool to go show off the results.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.