Beyond the little somethings and sweet nothings, the best gift you can give in the year of confinement is the gift of exploration. Fortunately, for the crowd-weary adventurer, the pandemic era has given rise to the trend of the travel takeover, where more destinations are offering to book out entire islands, wild west camps and high mountain retreats just for you and your trusted few. Here are four over-the-top escapes that are within easy reach of Southwest Florida, but take you and your loved ones worlds away from everyone and everything.
Go Off The Grid
Taylor River Lodge, Almont, Colorado
Eleven Experience’s Taylor River Lodge in Colorado’s Taylor Canyon—a 30-minute drive from Crested Butte—takes the feel of camping and gives it a five-star spin, with chef-prepared meals and an onsite team ready to arrange everything from spa treatments to Nordic skiing and snowmobiling.
Named after the river it’s built along, the eight-cabin lodge once served as a general store before the Colorado-based adventure collective took over three years ago. The original, 1940s structures have been modernized with amenities like steam showers and decor sourced from across the globe, but the rustic feel hasn’t faded.
Activities vary depending on the season, but the tailor-made itinerary gives groups the flexibility to make plans each morning with the lodge manager, and take their days one at a time. In winter, spend the morning snowshoeing or skiing in the nearby resort town, followed by a steam session in the onsite bathhouse, which also has an indoor saltwater pool and hot tub. In summer, guides can take you mountaineering, rafting or fly fishing through the Gunnison Valley—one of North America’s premier spots for the sport.
End the afternoon with cocktails prepped by your private bartender before easing into an evening of stargazing around the firepit while dining on locally sourced meals. $21,100 per night for up to 24 guests in summer; $10,500 per night in winter. elevenexperience.com
Photos Courtesy Eleven Experience (2)
Hit the Desert
Camp Sarika by Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah
Amangiri’s new sister property, Camp Sarika by Amangiri, is a short hike or drive away from the resort’s unique, block-shaped suites in southern Utah’s Canyon Point, but feels even more insulated.
Ten canvas-topped pavilions sit beneath 600-foot-high mesas on 600 acres of desert canyons that serve as a private playground for personalized backcountry tours, horseback riding and hot air ballooning. “It’s a place where guests enjoy privacy, connect with nature and experience untouched wilderness,” Lynne Adams, a luxury travel advisor for Naples-based Direct Travel Luxe, a Virtuoso Agency, says.
The one- and two-bedroom “tents” are just as well equipped as a high-end hotel, with soaking tubs, outdoor showers, heated plunge pools, personal bars and outdoor living spaces with firepits.
The camp’s name comes from the Sanskrit word for open space or sky because that’s one of the major selling points: fiery sunsets across the eastern mesa are replaced by a curtain of constellations come nightfall. For one of the best views across the towering eastern mesa, opt for the two-bedroom Grand View Pavilion, where the outdoor lounge shows off 270-degree desert panoramas.
Dine fireside at the main pavilion (which also sports a pool, lounge and pair of spa suites) on a daily changing menu of local, “wilderness-inspired” cuisine roasted on a rotisserie or over the firepit for a refined version of camp fare (think wagyu beef burgers and duck confit with toasted pumpkin seeds and wild sage vinaigrette).
Sitting at the foot of five national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation, Camp Sarika is like a time capsule of the Old West. Guests can explore the rust-colored ridges by foot on Navajo-guided hikes or along “iron roads,” cable bridges that connect the canyons. Adams recommends taking the East Coyote trail from the camp to the hotel and walking along the Rincon loop. “It’s one of the highest elevations on this side of the property with a great view of the hotel and the 10,000-year-old cave,” she says. While you’re here, don’t miss a trip to the spa, which nods to the native Navajo with treatments inspired by healing traditions. $67,000 per night for up to 30 guests (3-night minimum), plus access to facilities at Amangari; reservations taken up to a year in advance. aman.com
Photos Courtesy Amangiri (5)
Calivigny Island, Grenada
Bali and Bora Bora may be off the table for now, but there’s another island that’s just as exotic—and only a 3.5-hour flight from Miami. The 80-acre Calivigny Island was deserted until 2001, so it still feels like an untouched secret—one with Michelin-starred chefs, private trainers and state-of-the-art suites overlooking tropical gardens and sea.
The island is a 10-minute boat ride from mainland Grenada, but guests arriving by private yacht can cruise right up to the dock. Post up in the 10-suite Beach House, a blend of Balinese and French colonial design, where the master suite features its own marble-clad jacuzzi room. A resort-style pool sits steps from the sea and features a swim-up bar and plenty of entertaining space for the group to gather in between alfresco massages, jet skiing, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing.
Accommodating up to 40 guests, Calivigny also features a trio bungalows on the sand, and a beachfront villa with interiors by the award-winning British designer Christopher Guy (also behind Dubai’s gilded Burj Al Arab Hotel).
For activities, the island has a yacht ready to whisk you through the crystal-clear waters to explore coral reefs and nearby islands. Or, the staff of 65 can arrange everything from a tennis coach to a beach bonfire to cinema under the stars. Adams recommends booking at least a month in advance for any time of the year except September. The Caribbean is typically seen as a winter destination, but because Calivigny is below the hurricane belt “you can enjoy fantastic summer months,” she says. If you’re traveling with kids, she plan your stay during turtle-hatching season, she says, when four types of turtles lay their eggs from March to June. $132,000 per night for a buyout; 7-night minimum stay. calivigny-island.com
Photos Courtesy Calivigny Island/Guillaume Plisson (3)
Get Lost in Lowcountry
Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina
Located on stretch of coastal South Carolina between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Montage Palmetto Bluff sits on a 20,000-acre historic community that’s home to a nature preserve, two villages, eight Southern-style eateries, a marina and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
The sprawling property is far too large for a complete buyout, but you can still get that level of privacy and seclusion by booking one (or multiple) Residences, a collection of two- to five-bedroom homes designed in Lowcountry style and outfitted with firepits, home theaters, private boat docks, tree swings and screened-in, wraparound porches. Residences include in-house dining, or you head “in town” to Wilson Village, where you can sit for an alfresco breakfast at Buffalo’s or go antiquing at the boutiques along the lantern-lined streets.
Rise early and hop in a kayak on the May River, where you’ll be greeted by the resident dolphins, or let someone else do the rowing and relax on board the Grace, an antique motor yacht dating back over a century. “Read the activity brochure prior to arriving and have your travel advisor book this ahead of time,” advises Jen Mitchell, founder of Naples-based concierge travel agency Jen Mitchell Travel, who adds that while the resort is open, the number of people allowed in each restaurant or activity is limited (due to COVID-19 restrictions).
The best way to experience the backcountry is by bike, especially when there’s a Champagne picnic at the end. Pedal along the scenic paths past towering oaks to a riverside perch where you can indulge in shrimp cocktail and caviar blinis and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Rates from $1,230 per night. montagehotels.com
Photos Courtesy Montage Palmetto Bluff (2)