Photo: Island Outpost
A room with a commanding view demands attention.Some of the world’s most desirable lodgings are clifftop aeries that transport guests far above the fray, affording unobstructed panoramic views and an unparalleled sense of privacy without the feeling of total isolation.
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Cliff dwellings have historically offered attributes that lowland abodes can’t match. As far back as A.D. 600, the Anasazi people, who once lived in what is now the American Southwest, built precipitously high in the sandstone cliffs—likely for protection from enemies. In medieval times, as barbarian hordes wreaked havoc across Europe, monastery towns perched high up on the Amalfi Coast afforded excellent vantage points from which to observe the gathering militias. (Today the cliffs are more likely to attract armies of jet-setting moguls.)
In peaceful times, a clear view from high atop a cliff was deemed spiritual, bringing pilgrims closer to God.
Protection aside, a clifftop perch sends a clear signal to the world that you are commander of all you survey. New England’s 20th-century captains of industry recognised this and built palaces along the cliffs of Rhode Island to show off their vast fortunes. Thanks to hotels like The Chanler in Newport, Rhode Island, guests see the world through the eyes of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, whose mansions line the town’s storied Cliff Walk.
There is also something utterly romantic about waking up to uninterrupted ocean views, especially when the waters in question are as captivating as the ones surrounding our 10 choices.
Nothing beats the bird’s-eye perspective one gets when admiring the vast Indian Ocean from 1,000 feet above at the Bulgari Resort in Uluwatu, Bali; the dazzling views of the Caribbean Sea and magnificent dual-peaked Pitons at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia; or the moody Bay of Naples, 1,000 feet below the Caesar Augustus in Capri. Rarefied air, indeed.
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Breathtaking views were not what the founding fathers of Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast, had in mind: The town was hacked from the cliff during the fifth century to protect its citizenry from barbarian hordes. Perched on the Monti Lattari mountain range, Hotel Caruso Belvedere takes in picture-postcard Mediterranean views of the city of Salerno and Amalfi bay, a sheer 1,150 feet below.
Walking paths connect the hotel to the seaside town of Amalfi, and (fortunately) a free shuttle is available for the uphill climb.
Rooms, from $852 (includes breakfast, lunch or dinner); 2 Piazza San Giovanni del Toro; 39-089/858-801; hotelcaruso.com.
A three-tiered pool that echoes the region's rice paddies forms an extraordinary centrepiece at Amankila, the iconic resort that architect Edward Tuttle designed to take in the full splendor of the Lombok Strait. A paved path descends 75 feet from the hotel to the beach club, which features a 134-foot lap pool set amid a grove of coconut palms and shaded by a giant frangipani tree. Even the library maximizes the dramatic setting, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the top tier of the main pool.
Suites, from $950; 62-363/41333; amanresorts.com.
The unassuming exterior of Birkenhead House, just 100 miles southeast of Cape Town, conceals a hotel built around a central pool that cascades down to the clifftop restaurant and plunge pool. Though the cliff itself isn't particularly high, staying here is like having dress-circle seats to the best show in town: the region's most idyllic swimming beaches, Voëlklip and Kamma Bay, are home to calving whales from June till November. At the base of the cliff, a six-mile path from Birkenhead House leads into town, and the hotel offers a shuttle for the return trip.
Rooms, from $520 a person (includes all meals); 11th St. and Seventh Ave.; 27-28/314-8000; birkenheadhouse.com.
The Italian luxury house's second resort, located on the rugged Bukit Peninsula at the southern tip of Bali, in an area that was once royal hunting grounds, makes the most of its drop-dead-gorgeous location. From nearly every point--the glamorous, ultra-private suites tucked into the terraced hillside; the elegant Sangkar restaurant; the vast horizon pool and spa--guests are treated to unforgettable vistas of the Indian Ocean.
A glass elevator makes the 500-foot journey down the cliff face, stopping off at La Spiaggia restaurant and the Beach Club. The mile-long beach cannot be accessed by land or sea (a reef prevents boats from mooring), which makes for the ultimate secluded cove. The only visitors you're likely to encounter are friendly dolphins.
Villas, from $1,000; 62-361/847-1000; bulgarihotels.com.
At the westernmost tip of Jamaica rises the honeycombed cliff of natural limestone caves after which this hotel is named. The 12 villas are built into the rock shelf with expansive views over the impossibly blue Caribbean Sea, facing west to absorb Jamaica's flamboyant sunsets.
Some villas have steps leading down to swimming platforms, and jumping platforms offer braver guests the chance to take the plunge from 30 feet up.
Rooms, from $385; Lighthouse Rd.; 800-688-7678; islandoutpost.com.
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