Great Getaways The Best of the Best Places to Visit in 2014 Andrew Harper01.07.14Great Getaways The Best of the Best Places to Visit in 2014 To help with 2014 vacation planning, the Andrew Harper team has rounded up the best of the best bars, restaurants, spas, adventures, and more from its 2013 travels. Andrew Harper01.07.14 10:45 AM ET Each year, the team at Andrew Harper has the pleasure of recalling our travels over the past 12 months and singling out a number of particularly memorable hotels and experiences. From finding a beautiful beach on an uninhabited island in Puerto Rico to drinking with a whiskey sommelier at a bar in South Africa to getting a full-body scrub at a luxurious spa in Bavaria, here is a look at the properties and events that made our well-traveled editors’ list of the best of the best from 2013. And to help celebrate our annual awards, tell us where you want to stay in 2014. Choose your favorite hotel from those we visited in the past year, and you could win a four-night stay at a Harper-recommended, award-winning hotel. Cape GraceBest Bar: Bascule BarCape Grace, Cape Town, South Africa Among the many pleasures of a stay at the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, one stands out: there is no more alluring stop before or after dinner than the extraordinary Bascule Bar, tucked below the hotel’s restaurant. Here, a trove of more than 500 whiskies, said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, awaits. For a devotees, heaven might not be much different. We especially enjoyed our first opportunity to taste the local South African product. We also heartily recommend the tastings under the tutelage of a whiskey sommelier, which are easily scheduled with the concierge. Andrew HarperBest Beach: CulebritaPuerto Rico Puerto Rico is not renowned for its beaches, which tend to have slightly coarse golden sand. Our first stop aboard SeaDream I, however, was the uninhabited isle of Culebrita, located about 50 miles east of San Juan. It proved a perfect desert island, where a cache of pirate treasure seemed well within the bounds of possibility. We boarded a Zodiac, landed, and after a short forest hike, emerged onto an unspoiled crescent of dazzling white sand backed by luminous, aquamarine water. Large, feathery palms provided a refuge from the sun. It was the kind of beach you dream of on rainy winter evenings. For an entire morning, we strolled, splashed, swam and snoozed. Bliss! Shangri-la Hotel ParisBest Hotel Restaurant: L’Abeille, Shangri-La HotelParis, France With a service style that combines European elegance with Asian grace, L’Abeille at the Shangri-La Paris has emerged as one of the best tables in the French capital. The intimate dining room overlooks the hotel’s newly planted private garden. Chef Philippe Labbé, who has two Michelin stars, dazzles with dishes such as steamed langoustines with Meyer lemon cream, walnut oil and roasted coffee; sea bass with ceps and figs; partridge roasted in grape leaves with spiced orange purée; and what might just be the most delicious mille-feuille in France. AmanresortsBest Pool: Amanzo’eThe Peloponnese, Greece Not only does the Beach Club at Amanzo’e in Greece have a magnificent setting on a serene Aegean bay and attentive service from a young staff dressed in immaculate whites, but its guests are spoiled by a pair of long, green stone-lined freshwater pools that run parallel to the sea. A separate children’s splash pool ensures tranquility, while loungers on the large surrounding deck are widely spaced to provide privacy. At the adjacent restaurant, enjoy a memorable lunch; we recommend the grilled red shrimp on mixed greens, griddled halloumi cheese sandwich with arugula, and the best taramasalata ever eaten. Schloss ElmauBest Spa: Schloss ElmauBavaria, Germany Few spa treatments are as reviving to the jet-lagged traveler as a Turkish hammam ritual, particularly when it is performed in a setting as spectacular as the spa at Schloss Elmau in southern Bavaria, overlooking wildflower-speckled meadows and tracts of pine-forested countryside. This 32,000-square-foot facility is one of the resort’s main draws. In addition to a family area with a rooftop pool, indoor pool, and fitness center, an adults-only section contains an outdoor saltwater pool facing the mountains. The spa’s immense hammam is reportedly the largest in Europe west of Istanbul. It certainly feels authentic, with platters of dates and nuts laid out beneath vaulted ceilings. In a private domed room, get treatments like an invigorating full-body scrub followed by a soap massage, and find yourself covered by a warm blanket of soap bubbles more than a foot thick. Kwandwe Private Game ReserveBest Wildlife Experience: Leopard Tracking at Kwandwe Private Game ReserveEastern Cape, South Africa During our stay at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, lions, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos all obligingly appeared as if on cue. But, as is often the case, leopards were nowhere to be seen. Then, late one morning, our ranger’s radio crackled with news: a leopard had been sighted entering a ravine not far away. In tandem with another vehicle, we began to search. Time passed, and it seemed that the animal must have eluded us. But then, scanning the 500th tree with binoculars, we found ourselves staring into tawny yellow eyes glaring crossly down at us. Groot ConstantiaBest Wine Tasting: Groot ConstantiaCape Town, South Africa South African wine is synonymous with the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek regions east of Cape Town. But wine production first began in Constantia, now one of the city’s southern suburbs. There, Groot Constantia still makes superb wines. In a handsome facility that would put many Napa wineries to shame, we enjoyed notable bottlings such as the 2012 Blanc de Noir and the 2010 Gouverneurs Reserve, a fine red blend. Ask to taste the coveted Grand Constance, a sweet wine of great distinction. Fisher IslandMost Family-Friendly: Fisher IslandMiami, Florida After playing an early-morning set of tennis on one of the 18 courts at Fisher Island, a private enclave just minutes by ferry from Miami Beach, it became our habit to drive along the shoreline to savor the breeze off the ocean, and also to watch for dolphins, which were regularly to be seen cresting the light swells of Biscayne Bay. Invariably, we would also stop in at the aviary, home to a small flock of flamingos and a number of exceptionally tame macaws. Breakfast would follow at the Beach Club, where we would sit at a table overlooking the newly raked sand. Fisher Island feels calm and extremely safe. Cars are abandoned at the ferry dock, and residents and hotel guests alike drive golf carts at a sedate speed. For both children and their parents, this manicured microdot is a kind of mini-paradise. Saffire FreycinetMost Memorable Hike: Wineglass BayTasmania, Australia Since our stay at Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet resort, a day rarely passes when we don’t recall our first glimpse of Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park (a preserve named for the French navigator Louis de Freycinet, who explored this coastline during the early 1800s). Viewed from a pink-granite lookout tower after a 50-minute hike in light rain that caused the surrounding eucalyptus trees to release their refreshing mentholated scent, this perfect crescent of white sand, lapped by a deep indigo sea and backed by thickly forested mountains, induced an immediate sense of elation. Capella GeorgetownMost Glamorous Bath: Capella Washington, D.C. Attention to detail proved to be the hallmark of the Capella Washington, D.C. in Georgetown, and nowhere was this more evident than in the bath of our refined Deluxe Room. A black marble floor and cream Venetian plaster walls created an understated but elegant setting, the highlight of which was a sculptural white freestanding limestone tub. It was a welcome sight at the end of our long walks around the nation’s capital. Perfect lighting, well-stocked towel racks, numerous convenient hooks, and a generous supply of Acqua di Parma toiletries were all much appreciated. Pacuare LodgeEco-Adventure of the Year: Rafting Out of Pacuare Lodge Costa Rica To depart Pacuare Lodge, a Costa Rican property inaccessible by road, we embarked aboard one of the resort’s inflatable rafts for an unforgettable 18-mile, four-hour float down the Pacuare River. Dinosaurs would surely have felt at home in the thriving primary rain forest clinging to the vertiginous riverbanks, which sometimes narrowed into dramatic gorges. The Class III and IV rapids we braved required more courage of spirit than physical stamina, and often we could simply relax, spying clusters of orchids clinging to towering hardwoods. When we did encounter rapids, our guide ensured our safe (and exhilarating) passage. White-water rafting can sound daunting, but on this warm river, surrounded by breathtaking scenery and in the hands of an expert guide, I felt nothing but delight. SeaDreamCruise of the Year: SeaDream I Preparing for our special cruise edition this year, we found ourselves in search of a smaller vessel that would offer all the comfort and pleasures of a traditional cruise ship, but on a much more intimate scale. Our quest ended upon boarding the SeaDream I. With sleek lines, smart dark-blue and white livery, and space for just 112 passengers, this lovely vessel is a model of sophisticated design. The cuisine was reliably superb, and the courteous crew fostered an exceptionally convivial spirit on board.