Six Luxury Resorts Worthy of a Post-Pandemic Splurge

When you’ve gone without something for a while, it becomes even more special and precious. If I give up dessert for Lent, that first allowable “splurge” on Easter Sunday takes on great significance. I’m not going to just have a cookie or a dish of frozen yogurt – I want gelato, crème brulee, or a decadent slice of cheesecake!

6 luxury resorts worthy of a post-pandemic splurge pin
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We’ve been stuck at home and deprived of the ability to travel for several months now, and I am dreaming of how to break that particular “fast”. For my first post-COVID trip, I’m not going to be staying at a Motel 6 or any old Hampton Inn. I want someplace special, and memorable, with at least a touch of luxury. But I also want to be safe and responsible, so I’m looking for fresh air, lots of outdoor space, and no crowds.

If you want some inspiration for outdoorsy US resorts that are worthy of a post-pandemic splurge, here are a handful on my list from three distinct parts of the country:

The Southeast – For Southern Charm

Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Resort southern mansion front lawn with large southern trees, south carolina
[ Photo Credit: Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, South Carolina]

Sanctuary at Kiawah Island– If the ocean is calling you right now, consider The Sanctuary at Kiawah. This grand sea-side hotel is both elegant and welcoming.

main lobby of the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Resort with a southern decor

You’ll feel like you’re arriving at a friend’s Southern mansion.

[Photo Credit: Sanctuary at Kiawah Island]

There are unobstructed ocean views (even from the ground floor) and a balcony or terrace in every guestroom, so you can enjoy the tranquility and fresh sea air. Just 21 miles from downtown Charleston, and convenient to all the shopping/dining/sightseeing that the “Holy City” provides, this is the pampering escape you need after these past few months. The overall decor is calm and serene, and the rooms have a breezy traditional feel with large tubs, plantation shutters, and neutral color palettes.

areal view of the Sancutary at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina
[Photo Credit: Sanctuary at Kiawah Island]

With more than a dozen eateries, separate adult and family pools, a beach, and a golf course, this relaxing resort lives up to its Sanctuary name. But it’s the little touches like complimentary shoe shines, that really set this Southern resort apart. As an example of their commitment to guest wellness, they are partnering with a team of doctors from MUSC to develop health and safety plans and protocols that go above and beyond the CDC COVID-19 recommendations. Staying here is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and well cared for.

Montage Palmetto Bluff– Spend a relaxing afternoon on the veranda with a cool glass of sweet tea at this river-side resort. Located in the South Carolinian low-country, the resort features vaulted ceilings, wide porches, and classic Southern charm. They offer a huge variety of accommodations, from guestrooms to spacious stand-alone cottages. Add in their eight different dining locations, and they have what you need for every type of trip.

sunset on the river in south carolina

This is a quiet “hide-away” right on the river where you can enjoy the slow pace of southern life.

[Photo Credit: Everett Petronio]

While this sprawling 20,000-acre resort prides itself on an unhurried atmosphere, there’s still plenty to do. Included in the resort’s grounds are a nature reserve, two villages, a golf course, and 32 miles of riverfront. They provide guided activities and tours, or you can explore on your own.

river edge with high grasses and small white heron at montage palmetto resort south carolina

Take tennis and fly-fishing lessons, spend an afternoon at the shooting club, learn about their conservancy program, or go on a dolphin cruise to spot local wildlife. You can find yourself hiking, biking, paddle-boarding, or kayaking.

[Photo Credit: Everett Petronio]

For something a little quieter, chill out by the pool, hop onboard one of their yachts for morning mimosas on the water, or make your own s’mores around the fire pit at night. There’s plenty to do at this huge resort, making it a great all-around getaway.

The Pacific Northwest – For Tranquil Contemplation

blades of tall grass near water columbia gorge oregon
[Photo Credit: Lauren Neiheisel]

Salish Lodge and Spa – A quintessential Pacific Northwest experience, the Salish Lodge and Spa will make you feel like you’re on your own personal mountain retreat. Just 30 minutes east of Seattle, it overlooks the impressive 268 ft Snoqualmie Falls and river gorge, and is surrounded by a lush northwest forest. This will truly feel like an escape from the everyday.

couple's massage at the Salish Lodge & Spa in Washington

With gas fireplaces and spa-like showers in every room the real focus here is serenity.

[Photo Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa]

Perfect for a relaxing yet outdoorsy getaway, the Lodge features northwest-inspired spa treatments, easy hiking trails, trout fishing and two restaurants with local home-grown food.

dining room overlooking the pacific northwest river gorge and snoqualmie waterfalls at the Salish Lodge & Spa in Washington
[Photo Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa]

Founded in 1916 and owned by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, it is truly unique. The Lodge was the setting of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks mystery series, and it has an onsite apiary which they use to make a huge variety of fresh honey products — ales, sweets, and main dishes.

living room area of the patio suite at the Salish Lodge & Spa in Washington State

Be sure to get a River View room so you can relax on your balcony to the sound of the rushing water.

[Photo Credit: Salish Lodge & Spa]

Stephanie Inn – For a romantic adventure on the Pacific Ocean, look no further than the Stephanie Inn. This adults-only ocean-front hotel offers the best in boutique luxury. Combining comfort and elegance with oceanfront and mountain views, this intimate retreat has a focus on all things culinary.

couple relaxing on their beachfront terrace at the Stephanie Inn, Oregon

Being only 28 steps to the beach, providing beach cruiser bicycles, and luxurious Jacuzzi “pure air” baths in every room is just the beginning.

[Photo Credit: The Stephanie Inn]

The Inn also offers several specialized excursions and experiences (“Stephanie Inn Sojourns”) with their executive chef.

You can take cooking classes, travel the Craft Ale Trail, go salmon and crab fishing in the Pacific, learn to blend your own wine and head to the local farmer’s market. All under the guidance of executive chef Aaron Bedard.

[Photo Credit: The Stephanie Inn]

The beachfront setting, pampering service, and the “foodie” experiences certainly set Stephanie Inn apart from the competition.

[Photo Credit: The Stephanie Inn]

This is a resort that really understands their clientele. Guests can enjoy a bonfire or picnic lunch on the beach, onsite massages, and free transportation into Cannon Beach (in a cool Tesla sedan) to explore local galleries, secret gardens and boutique shopping.

The Rocky Mountains- For Something Rugged

panoramic shot of Colorado meadow and moutains at C Lazy U Ranch
[ Photo Credit: C Lazy U Ranch]

C Lazy U RanchIf you’re itching to be active, experience a real dude ranch, or you’re traveling with children then the C Lazy U Ranch is the place. This luxury dude ranch in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is the Wild West family adventure you’ll be talking about for years to come.

three people horseback riding on a trail through a beautiful forest and next to a lack at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado
[Photo Credit: C Lazy U Ranch]

With a herd of over 200 horses, they’ll take you on daily trail rides among the wildflowers, lessons in the horse riding arenas, and cattle pushing clinics in the meadows. They also offer a ropes course, archery, zipline, hiking, tennis, and two miles of private riverfront for fly fishing.

two boys high five halfway up a rock climbing wall at the ropes course on the C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado

Balancing family time and scheduled adventure time, this 101 year-old ranch has an excellent kids & teens program.

[Photo Credit: C Lazy U Ranch]

Plus there’s still plenty of time to relax on the ranch.

Two large copper tubs await in the spa tent at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado

Enjoy their spa with unique copper soaking tubs and glass-floor tents, letting you watch the river drift by while enjoying your massage.

[Photo Credit: C Lazy U Ranch]

Chill by the pool, pond, or river and spend your evenings sharing stories by the open fire. This Ranch has it all and more.

Dunton Hot SpringsNestled in the San Juan Mountains, in the southwest corner of Colorado, sits a restored mining ghost town. Taking rustic luxury to a whole new level, this hot-springs centered resort perfectly combines nature, whimsy, and elegance. Thirteen hand-hewn log cabins circle the Saloon and Dance Hall, just steps from the bathhouse. Don’t let the rustic exterior fool you — each of these cabins features heated floors, large baths, glass showers, wifi, and all the other modern luxuries you could desire. One cabin even features its own hot springs tap!

San Juan Colorado Rockies snow-caped in the distance with a wooden fence and overgrown meadow in front

This perfectly-restored ghost town gives you views of mountains and meadows.

[Photo Credit: James Obernesser via Unsplash]

Enjoy hiking, biking, and fly fishing on your own. Or take along a guide for rock climbing, river rafting, horseback riding, and climbing to the top of the San Juan peaks. After all these outdoor activities, you’ll love coming back to restore and refresh in the hot springs before enjoying farm-fresh food and world-class wines in the saloon.

men's legs floating in a natural hot-spring surrounded by rocks and  a fir forest

The resort offers five ways to enjoy its ancient rejuvenating hot springs, which range from 85F to 106F.

[Photo Credit: Alexander Mcferon via Unsplash]

Staying at the Dunton Hot Springs is not only a unique experience but a perfect way to commune with nature and focus on your wellness.

Whether you’re feeling like what you need most is calming tranquility or an action-packed adventure, your first post-COVID trip should be someplace special, memorable, and a little bit luxurious. With lots of fresh crisp air and remote settings, we hope these six resorts have inspired you to dream big. Let us know when and where you’d like to enjoy your first post-pandemic ‘escape’!

Sunsets and smiles

Long-time clients Kyle and Keith just came back from an anniversary “escape” to Sandals Ochi Beach in Jamaica, and had some great feedback to share with me about their experience. They honeymooned a year ago at the brand-new Sandals La Source in Grenada, which made for an interesting comparison with this larger, older property. But the key thing is that, with each trip, they learn a little more about themselves and their preferences, and they keep coming back to Annie’s Escapes to help guide and advise them 🙂

Hi Ann

We had a great time!! Always thanks to you and your insight and details, so thanks so much!

The resort (Sandals Ochi Beach) was great, though as you had warned us when booking, the split resorts is a bit of a challenge. We didn’t quite grasp that until we were there. The shuttles to the beach area can be very delayed, but they do try their best. We absolutely loved our room, and spent almost every afternoon there, when the sun got to be too much for our New England skin! The pool was great, as was the hot tub. The extra space with the living room and bedroom were awesome.

private pool at the Sandals Ochi Resort in Jamaica

Our butlers took care of our every need, and were so sweet to us- Melissa and Ladonna. The food was amazing, the drinks were plentiful and the atmosphere was great! The favorite restaurants were Kelly’s on the pier, and the French. We had the perfect time, day and seating for the most amazing sunset at Kelly’s on the pier- pictures attached. We are pretty laid back people on vacation, so  we didn’t take part in most of the entertainment/ games and such- as Keith says, we travel to not spend time at the pool, since we could do that at home!

stunning sunset over the ocean in Jamaica

There was simply no comparison to Grenada though, which we were sort of surprised about. Keith thinks there’s about 3 steps between this and Grenada, just from the level of service, and the beauty of the resort. I think since the resort is so large, it’s just very hard to keep up with. The level of grounds-keeping, cleanliness of the common areas and the beach were far below what we experienced in Grenada- basically you spoiled us rotten! If we had never been to another resort, I’m sure we would think this was incredible, but both the Dominican at the Iberostar Grand, and Grenada were just heads above this (totally our fault as we picked it!) They never cleaned the beach, so that there were gobs of seaweed and rocks everywhere, it was never raked. The first day we were at the beach there were only 6 chairs out (all full), and it took until around noon to actually have a seat. None of this stopped us from having a good time, but since you asked in comparison, this is definitely not what we expected from a Sandals property. Having said that, we would still recommend it to people who had not been to Grenada- or as we understand St Lucia.

As always however, we are looking forward to our next escape, and look forward to planning it with you! We are definitely realizing and learning the things that we value over others. We put the beach above all other things. We love a good beach, one that we can walk is great! Our favorite beach so far is Bavaro in the Dominican. We also love good food, and great service. We do spend a fair amount of time in our room, if it’s a little nicer than a regular room. No matter what, we love working with you, and look forward to working with you for the years to come!!

Keith and Kyle

Move over, honeymooners!

Why should honeymooners have all the fun? I think it’s important for couples of all ages and stages to be able to get away for a romantic “escape” every once in a while 🙂 Mike and Jo-Anne just spent a week at the very romantic Couples Swept Away in Negril (Jamaica), and were kind enough to send me their candid feedback about the resort. And some gorgeous sunset photos!

Hi Ann,


We had a fantastic, especially relaxing time and the resort [Couples Swept Away] was really great.  While it seems to be an older resort, it was very well kept and constantly being cleaned by a staff that was as friendly and happy to wait on you as any I’ve ever seen in the many resorts we’ve travelled to.  Our room was a beach front veranda 3rd floor room 3317 and was centrally located almost dead center of the complex which made it an easy walk to anything.  We were a roughly 30′ walk to the beach and every night from our balcony, we had a perfect view of the prettiest sunsets you could ever wish to see.  The beach was as beautiful as almost all others I’ve stayed on, with maybe the exception of Aruba.  I probably wouldn’t recommend the ground level suites because the walking paths are literally only feet from the front door or rear balcony so they didn’t seem to offer much privacy.  For the first five days, there was absolutely no (zero) seaweed and when some rough waters did blow some ashore, the staff had it raked up and buried within hours. The food at Swept Away was also as good as any resort we have ever visited and I tried and enjoyed things that I would never have thought about eating.


No resort is perfect and while I absolutely loved our stay here, I figure you want to hear the things people don’t like.  The resort was definitely an older crowd and I’d guess that we were middle to younger crowd and we are in our early 50’s.  The night before we left, a group of about 10 people in their mid-early 20’s came in but they were few and far between.  I’m sure they were going to be shocked to find that most of the entertainment is over about 10:30-11 and the place is a complete ghost town after 12.  I really would have liked a few more entertainment options available at night but it did make for a relaxing vacation.  The casino was very small and we did pretty well but they no longer have the video roulette table so they are limited to roughly 20 slot machines.  The biggest negative in the casino is there is no attendant or automated teller machine so if you win you have to hold the slip and cash it at the front desk the next day.  The drinks were plentiful at the bars and on the beach but you really had to beg the beverage staff to stock the mini bar in the room.  The last thing I would like to mention is the long ride to and from the airport.  Please stress to people that they have to leave a minimum of four hours in advance of their flight so an early morning return flight has you leaving the resort at an ungodly hour.  We were booked for an 8:45AM flight and would have put our luggage out at 3AM with a 4AM shuttle so I changed our flights at an added cost.


Overall, the place was great and we really did enjoy ourselves.  We both agree that we would go back and maybe in a couple more years we’ll be just fine with the ultra quiet nights.


Thanks again Ann for all your help, we’ll be sure to contact you for our future travel.



Mike & Jo-Anne

All the right ingredients

Choosing the right honeymoon destination can be difficult…especially when you have to take into account special needs, like a serious food allergy. When I met with these lovebirds, we quickly focused in on all-inclusive resorts, in  English-speaking destinations (no risk of mis-translating a menu), with lots of restaurants to choose from, and plenty of hand-holding from attentive staff (can’t get much better than a dedicated butler!)  From the post-trip email I just received, it sounds like we made the right choice. Sandals La Toc in Saint Lucia had all the right ingredients for the perfect honeymoon 🙂


We are SO sorry we have taken so long to get back to you – it’s been quite the whirlwind getting back to the real world! But, we’d love to share our thoughts about the honeymoon.

First of all, thank you so much for all your help. We absolutely loved our honeymoon. Sandals Regency La Toc ended up being the perfect place for us in every way. Our room was wonderful – very spacious and comfortable, and remarkably quiet. We were so impressed by the lack of noise from neighbors, which led to us feeling like we had a much more private bungalow, rather than a room in a block. Also, we were indeed upgraded to a room with a sunset view, and WOW was it amazing! Every night, we had the most spectacular sunset view from any window in our room, as well as the balcony.

sunset over the ocean at Sandals Regency La Toc resort

The resort itself ended up being a perfect fit for us. We spent most of our time in the Sunset Bluff area. We loved the pool up there and preferred it to the main pool (much quieter and less crowded). We also rented cabanas twice on the beach, which was such a special, wonderful treat. We thought the landscaping was beautiful, and we loved the hilly nature of the property. It made it feel quite spacious and quaint all at the same time. We also liked that there were a variety of ages, from newlyweds in their 20s to older couples in their 60s and up. We weren’t really sure what to expect in that arena, but we felt very comfortable right in the mix with everyone else. We did notice that the Sunset Bluff area skewed a bit older, which we liked, whereas the main resort area had many more young couples.

firepit and couches look out over the ocean in st. lucia

As for the food at La Toc, our favorite restaurant far and away was Armando’s. We found the food to be phenomenal and on par with some of the best Italian food we’ve had elsewhere. We really enjoyed the rest of the restaurants as well, but none of them compared to Armando’s in our opinion. The main buffet was spectacular for breakfast, though we didn’t visit it for any other meal. Also, I felt like my food allergies were handled as well as, if not better than, they would have been in the US, which made me very happy!

We were really glad we chose to have butler service, though we did experience a little bit of nervousness about how to best handle tipping. We ended up having 4 different butlers throughout the week, and we never were sure when we would see someone for the last time, or when it would be appropriate to tip them. We saw other guests tipping per service (as in, cash in hand for a ride down the hill), but we weren’t really prepared to do that nor did we want to carry cash around all week. We ended up giving envelopes for all our butlers to our final butler at the end of the week (some advice we received from another couple who were Sandals pros), but it left us wondering if we would have received more attentive service had we been tipping throughout. We had one stellar butler (Tana), and the rest were pretty mediocre, and we weren’t sure if we would have had more responsive service had we been tipping throughout the week. I think, should we go back to a Sandals, we would probably come better equipped to tip throughout if needed.

a view down the sandy beach with beach-side cabanas in St. Lucia

While we were there, we did visit both Halcyon and the Grande and were really glad we did! We totally understood what you said about Halcyon having the more traditional Caribbean vibe. It was so relaxed, and everyone was congregating in the middle at night, even swimming at night in the middle of a torrential downpour. We loved eating at Kelly’s and visiting, though we were glad we stayed at La Toc in the end (we enjoyed having a little more space from the main entertainment area than would have been possible at Halcyon). The Grande was amazing – we had no idea how glitzy it would feel in comparison to La Toc! We didn’t spend too much time there, but we really loved eating at Gordon’s, and we definitely would consider returning to the Grande at some point for a visit. That said, we still really felt great about our decision to stay at La Toc. It felt more secluded and quiet than the other two, which really was the perfect speed for us.

breakfast from a balcony that looks out over the ocean Sandals La Toc St. Lucia

We didn’t do any excursions because we were so tired, but we would consider them on a return trip. We just stayed by the pool and beach and were very happy. It really was a wonderful honeymoon, and we would love to have the chance to go back to the Caribbean sometime. If we were to go back to St. Lucia (which was stunning and beautiful!), we would probably try to split our time between La Toc and the Grande in terms of a stay. We’d be curious to try out the Grande, but would definitely want to go back to the Sunset Bluff area of La Toc.

Thank you again for all your help – it was a magical, wonderful vacation!

– S&J

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)