There’s no escaping it: after a day hoofing it around Paris from Montmartre to Montparnasse; off-roading in a bare-bones Land Rover on safari in Botswana; or attacking moguls in Vail, CO, the day’s activities are bound to haunt you. One of the oldest, most common ways known to man to relieve aches and pains is also one of today’s most luxurious and coveted amenities. In ancient times, the Romans named it the caldarium; we simply call it the hot tub.
Today, hot tubs are tucked into balconies and placed like ornate centerpieces on white-sand beaches. Hotels are increasingly charging architects with creating steaming jet-powered oases that will fuel guests’ imagination and allow them to while away their vacation in warmth—and turn to Jell-O.
And that’s exactly what happened when Resorts West partnered with Ski magazine and Deer Valley Resort to build the most idyllic ski-in, ski-out home possible. Resorts West CEO and cofounder Joe Ballstaedt wanted to one-up the extravagant lodges he had visited in Europe and South America—especially when it came to the après-ski amenities.
"Our Ski Dream Home—a six-bedroom luxury home atop Deer Valley Resort’s Little Baldy Peak with a stunning kidney-shaped hot tub for 12—improves on Chile’s top resort lodges with natural grottoes and epic mountain backdrops," says Ballstaedt.
The view, though, is just one measurement of a great Jacuzzi. For John DiScala, owner of the travel Web site JohnnyJet.com, the hot tub also needs to be secluded. And DiScala has seen plenty of hot tubs, good and bad—he travels about 150,000 miles and visits around 20 countries each year, from Brazil to Malaysia.
So we consulted him and other hot tub aficionados to compile a list of the world’s best hot tubs, which stretch from Jackson, WY, to the Maldives. Some tubs sit on the edge of pristine, white-sand beaches, while others are hidden behind deep jungle foliage. A few will take hours and a tiny seaplane to reach, and one was even created by film icon Francis Ford Coppola.
The Molori Safari Lodge, South Africa’s North West Province
You can watch elephants, zebras, African wild dogs—even lions—from the six-person in-ground tub at this five-suite lodge, situated below the red-hued Dwarsberg Mountains on 12.4 acres deep inside South Africa’s 185,329-acre (malaria-free) Madikwe Game Reserve. Personal butlers supply soakers with Amarula, a South African cream liqueur made from the fruit of the African marula tree, on crushed ice, and “Biltong and Droewors,” a traditional cured-beef snack. —Christina Erb
Nimmo Bay Resort, British Columbia, Canada
At Nimmo Bay Resort, two idyllic red cedar tubs, heated to 104 degrees, are secreted away in a wooded inlet, 200 miles north of Vancouver. After a day of wildnerness adventures or heli-fishing the area’s remote rivers and lakes, rotate between the naturally cold plunge pool and one of the two eight-person hot tubs for an exhilarating hot-cold rush. The tubs are filled by Nimmo Bay’s cascading waterfall, whose clear water trickles down from the top of Mount Stephens. —Christina Erb
Amangani, Jackson, WY
This 40-suite resort’s hot tub clings to the western edge of Jackson Hole’s East Gros Ventre Butte and is a mere 20-minute drive from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The slate tub is 103 degrees and was designed, alongside the 35-meter, quartzite-tiled pool, to be the resort’s centerpiece. Since the winds can howl at 7,000 feet, it’s not uncommon for one of the resort’s staff to bring guests hot beverages in the colder months and cold beverages and assorted treats like sorbets and snow cones in the warmer months. —Christina Erb
Blancaneaux Lodge, near San Ignacio, Belize
Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge has a hydroelectric plant that heats the 11,000-gallon hot tub with the excess electricity it generates. The tub itself was designed by Oscar-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis. Made from thousands of pieces of local granite and built by local stone craftsmen, it sits in a hillside amid the same kind of lush jungle paradise Coppola fell in love with while filming Apocalypse Now. —Christina Erb
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives
Overlook the Indian Ocean from the ultra-private two-person, 104-degree hot tub outside of Conrad Maldives’ Over-Water Spa on Rangalifinolhu Island. The resort is set on two private islands, linked by a bridge, and surrounded by a vibrant coral reef, among miles of idyllic white-sand beaches. Each secluded tub gives guests uninterrupted views of the bright blue water. Hotel staffers supply cool aromatic towels and fresh fruit juices. —Christina Erb
Regent Palms, Turks and Caicos Islands
The Palms’ multimillion-dollar infinity-edge pool and 10-person hot tub overlook the North Atlantic and sit on the coveted Grace Bay Beach. The 72-suite resort is home to a 25,000-square-foot spa and is just steps away from fine-sand beaches and turquoise waters. You might find yourself enjoying a chilled scented towel next to such high-profilers as Jamie Lee Curtis and U.S. Senator John Kerry (both former guests). —Christina Erb
Banyan Tree Lijiang Resort & Spa, Lijiang, China
At the 125-room Naxi-influenced Banyan Tree, in Lijiang, in the Yunnan province of southwestern China, each Garden Villa features a lush private courtyard complete with its own two-person, 100.4-degree hot tub that looks out on the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Ask for local plum wine and Chinese tea while you soak. —Christina Erb
Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand
The hot tub at this alpine cedar-and-schist stone lodge is nestled in native bush on the edge of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors lift to expose the simple, cedar-timber hot tub to the elements—alfresco access to the garden and commanding views of The Remarkables mountains. It’s just minutes away from fly-fishing, bungee-cord jumping, and glacier adventures. —Christina Erb
The Hotel on Rivington, New York City
Settle into this coveted cedar hot tub—perched far above the Lower East Side’s bustling streets—with nine of your favorite friends and an order of Pearadise champagne cocktails. Visionary developer Paul Stallings (a catalyst for much of the downtown NYC neighborhood’s revitalization) also designed the hotel’s centerpiece tub with lofty extras: cool off in the outdoor shower in summer, or, in winter, toast your toes near the outdoor fireplace. —Christina Erb
The Ski Dream Home, Park City, UT
At nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, the 12-person stone hot tub at this opulent ski-in, ski-out home atop Deer Valley Resort’s Little Baldy Peak is ideal for an après-ski cocktail party. Guests can watch the sunset turn the Wasatch Mountain Range purple from the hot tub, which is surrounded by 1,000 square feet of heated outdoor pool, grotto, fireplace, and radiant-heated concrete flooring for below-zero-degree winter nights. —Christina Erb