Resort vacations can get a bad rap among more adventurous travelers. When you’ve got a perfect infinity pool and a good book, it can be tough to tear yourself away and engage with the destination itself. That’s why these Central American stays are especially crowd-pleasing: you can spend the morning circling the rim of an active volcano in a private jet and the afternoon enjoying a hot-stone massage in your suite. There’s rainforest ziplining, city exploring, and canyon rappelling, but no one will look askance if you’d rather hang back and sip Sancerre in the bathtub.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Hotels were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
Related: The 2018 World’s Best Awards
On Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast, the family-friendly Rancho Santana stood out, wowing readers with its abundance of on-site amenities — yoga classes and surf lessons, riding stables, a spa, a kids’ club, and over 12 miles of hiking trails snaking across the 2,700-acre property. Just a few miles away, Mukul, now part of Auberge Resorts Collection, has lodging options ranging from intimate beach villas to expansive four-bedroom condos, so you can return again and again, be it for a romantic escape or a raucous multi-gen family vacation.
In Costa Rica, readers fell for inland retreats. In the rolling hills of Pérez Zeledón, Hacienda AltaGracia, also managed by Auberge Resorts Collection, offers memorable cultural encounters, like cheesemaking lessons with local farmers or visits to a village of the indigenous Boruca tribe. On the slopes of the Arenal Volcano, the eco-centric Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens has recently created a sloth preserve, where guests can spy the adorable animals that congregate in the resort’s 300 cecropia trees.
Follow a bridge through the canopy and you’ll find our No. 1 resort, a magical spot where toucans perch outside your room, spa treatments are done in open-air rainforest treehouses, and leaping into a 350-foot canyon is just your average Tuesday morning pursuit. Ahead, more on this year’s winner, and our complete list of Central America’s best resorts.