Just about everyone living through the year 2020 deserves a vacation, however given the dangers of the pandemic, the types of busy destinations that may have drawn travelers in the past now seem like the last place on earth anyone would want to visit.
The sense of privacy and escapism that accompanies a stay in a unique far-flung boutique hotel or resort feel even more important right now, and thankfully the trend of chic remote lodgings means it’s easy to enjoy the simple luxury of a fabulous room without worrying about social distancing with your neighbors.
From yurts to Airstreams to treehouses, here are ten special destinations to unplug and relax.
The tiny West Texas town of Marfa has become an unlikely tourist hotspot over the past decade, drawing architecture nerds and design-minded travelers willing to drive hours off the beaten path. El Cosmico helped cement that reputation with an effortlessly bohemian aesthetic that still feels very much like Texas. Each lodging choice is a stand-alone structure, with a variety of airstreams, teepees, safari tents, yurts, and even portable tiny houses to choose from. And if you fall in love with the rugged yet colorful furnishings, most everything is available for sale in their El Cosmico Provision Co. Shop.
El Rey Court
Santa Fe, NM
Spread across a five acre campus of vibrant gardens in Santa Fe, the origins of El Rey date back to 1936, but in the early 2010’s hotelier Jeff Burns stripped the motel down to its pueblo revivalist architecture origins and gave it a Georgia O’Keeffe inspired interior makeover. The result is a non-fussy Southwestern atmosphere, close enough to Santa Fe’s shopping districts, but with plenty of room to bask in the wide open spaces.
Canyon Point, UT
With city life all but grounding to a halt the past few months, Americans are finding a much stronger appreciation for the corners of the country where all the eye can see is miles of nature. Amangiri in Southern Utah may be one of the most spectacular hotel sites on the planet, flanked by otherworldly mesas and slot canyons and amenities like swimming pools built into the sides of amorphous desert rock formations. The breathtaking scenery comes with a matching price tag, so expect to spend thousands of dollars a night to soak in the luxurious views.
Big Sur, CA
California has miles of beautiful landscape, but few regions compare to the rolling coastline of Big Sur. The ten historic sea cliff-side cabins of Lucia Lodge are literally a stone's throw from the water, with exteriors that haven’t changed since they were built in the 1930’s. Typically the rooms are booked out months in advance, but with mudslides, wildfires and the pandemic, the last few years have been anything but typical. That unpredictability means you might just score a lucky booking. Rumor has it the property is haunted, and on top of that, it was recently the filming location of Netflix horror drama “Ratched.”
Perched along eight miles of Great Smoky Mountain ridgetop, Blackberry Mountain is an outdoorsman’s paradise that’s essentially a private national park. Lodging options range from watchman cabins with full floor-to-ceiling windows for catching the sunrise, to larger mountain homes suitable for big family getaways. Miles of mountain biking trails, secluded rock climbing areas, and off-road driving challenges mean you’ll never get bored, and also can easily entertain yourself without coming six feet from another soul.
Lake Placid, NY
Adirondack Park is the largest protected natural area in the continental US, which makes it one of the premier places in the country to watch an entire forest change from green to pale pinks and yellows. The lodge, outfitted with rustic wood accents just about everywhere, includes a variety of spacious suites that will make you forget you’re at a larger resort. With Lake Placid within walking distance, visitors can enjoy whitewater rafting, canoeing, and fishing, plus a wide array of nearby ski hills will satisfy those with a taste for fresh powder.
An island sure does sound good right now. The San Juan Islands of Washington State may not be the most tropical destination, but the slice of Pacific Northwest paradise offers the type of private retreat experience that’s perfect for domestic travelers who love the outdoors (but aren’t necessarily beach bums). With a long and storied history which includes a legacy as an agricultural hub in the early 1900s and an alternative medicine institute in the ‘60s, Doe Bay turned into a resort in the early aughts and now boasts 26 cabins, yurts, and campsites, along with a cafe serving produce almost exclusively grown on the grounds. Although their four day music festival is canceled this year, there’s still plenty of other activities to enjoy sans crowds, including chartered whale watching expeditions.
The Drifter Hotel
Revelrous cities like New Orleans may be some of the travel destinations hit hardest by the dip in pandemic travel, but if you want to support the Big Easy with tourism, there’s still plenty of prime places to stay that are slightly less hectic. Located in Mid-City a mile from the lush greenery of City Park, The Drifter is an Instagrammer’s dream. A 1956 motel updated with eye-catching design and amenities like a heated pool with a wet bar serving frosé and rare Japanese whiskey, rotating food trailers and chef-driven pop-ups that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on the chaos of Bourbon Street.
Whichever destination you choose, each of these hotels offers a much needed escape from not only daily life, but the crowds that come with it.
Dan Gentile is a writer and coffee enthusiast based in San Francisco, California.