Explora en Rapa Nui
Address: Sector Te Miro
Neighborhood: In between the Southwest and Southeast corners
City: Easter Island
A 5-hour flight from Santiago, Easter Island is famous for its mysterious Moai, hulking stone statues created centuries ago by the Rapa Nui people, whose ancient society remains largely unknown. The Explora single-handedly ushered in a new era of comfort on Easter Island when it opened in 2008. Where "luxury" used to mean A/C and hot water, it now means individual temperature control, hydromassage bathtubs, ocean views from every room, and exquisite Chilean cuisine prepared by in-house local chefs.
The lodge is a long, low building perched on a remote outcrop overlooking the ocean near Rano Raraku volcano, location of the quarry where the towering Moai were carved (it's one of the only hotels located outside the island's main town, Hanga Roa). The 30 crisp, modern rooms favor light woods and pale tones, while Pacific views flood through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The creature comforts alone are reason enough to stay, but the real reason to splurge on the eco-friendly Explora is for its comprehensive guided tours of the island's sites - one of the best organized programs on the island. These excursions, along with meals and open bar, are all included in the rates. Take a leisurely bike tour through forested sections along the coast or opt for the more strenuous trek to Hanga Oteo, where you can relax in natural pools, wander amid the Moai, and enjoy a picnic of local tuna seviche and Chilean wine. Best season for value: fall. 2008 Smart Luxury Award winner
Great Value Alternative: The cottages of Cabañas Pikera Uri are spacious, clean, and just outside Hanga Roa. www.pantupikerauri.cl
Tags: luxury | expensive | smart splurge | smart luxury winner | views | all-inclusive | culinary