Herbert Ypma is the author of the Hip Hotels series of books and founder of www.hiphotels.com
James Lohan is the co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith, which publishes guides to luxury hotels and www.mrandmrssmith.com
Michael Cullen is the editor of boutique hotel website www.i-escape.com
Lulu Townsend is the founder of Chic Retreatswww.chicretreats.com.
The Atlantis, Barbados
For me, Barbados is the most charismatic island in the Caribbean, and it’s blessed with plenty of daily direct flights as well as year-round sunshine. Head to the wild eastern coast to escapethe package touristsat this eight-room hideaway, which opened last year. A gracious wood and coral-stone house is perched above the sea on tiny Tent Bay. It’s relaxed, charming and, as you would expect from a property related to the island’s acclaimed Fish Pot restaurant, the food is astonishing with a fantastic range of local produce going into the menu. I’d warmly recommend the pickled sea-cat (octopus), pepperpot stew, and bread-fruit cheesecake to finish.
Doubles from $300; www.atlantishotelbarbados.com
Estancia Vik, Punta del Este, Uruguay
During Punta del Este’s lively and extremely short peak season, this hedonistic hotspot becomes a magnet both for lean, tousle-haired surfers and Cavalli-clad millionaires, who flock to its flawless beaches and glittering late-night scene. It’s all very St Tropez, and ideal if you love to people-watch in the sun. After mingling with the cool crowd, head to Estancia Vik for some splendid isolation. This innovative, all-white, art-adorned dream home is the creation of a half-Norwegian, half-Uruguayan mogul with a fondness for privacy, modern design, and char-grilled meat. Each of the 12 suites has been designed and decorated by a local artist, and if your interests include polo, barbecues, modern art, outdoor pursuits or just soaking in the sunshine, you've come to the right-place…
Doubles from $240; www.posadadelfaro.com
Uxua Casa, Bahia
Situated in the centre of the picturesque Bahian fishing village-turned-boho-hangout of Trancoso, are the colour-splashed thatched cabins of Uxua Casa. Designed and built in collaboration with local craftsmen working largely with traditional materials and techniques, it’s one of just a handful of hotels sitting on the historic quadrado – a grassy hilltop square looking out over the Atlantic. This great getaway offers all the five-star luxe you’d expect from a hotel at this level, but blends it with a refreshingly low-key and laid-back atmosphere. The beachside lounge, between the water and the mangroves at the confluence of the Trancoso River, is the perfect place to attack the cocktail menu while watching sea turtles raise their heads above the waves. With its dedication to sustainable tourism – those turtles all live within the hotel's sanctuary – insistence on car-free living and an obsession with fresh, locally sourced food, the hotel offers one of the most eco-minded tropical breaks on the planet.
Doubles from R1,350 (£495); www.uxua.com
La Residence, Franschhoek, South Africa
With hardly any time difference, South Africa makes the perfect winter-sun break: the perfect climate and no jet lag to prevent you enjoying it. On the heart-stoppingly beautiful Garden Route, La Residence in Franschhoek is one of my all-time favourite places to stay. It’s luxuriously comfortable, with a home-from-home quality that explains its star-studded guestbook. The bad-taste police would have a job unearthing anything here that isn’t utterly classy. Luxury means different things to different people – facilities, space, service – but the treat of having a bathroom as big as the bedroom must be a big plus point in anyone’s books.
Doubles from R8,200 (£735); www.laresidence.co.za