The Top 5 Luxurious Summer Vacation Spots

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Ahh, summer is finally here. Take a moment, close your eyes and think of what this time of year means to you.

For most it brings only good thoughts to mind: golden, sun-kissed skin, crowded boardwalks by the beach and cold ice cream cones.

Summer is a time to enjoy long, sunny days and languid, firefly-lit nights. It's a time to spend your weekends relaxing poolside or firing up the grill for a backyard barbecue.

And best of all, it's vacation season and time to start traveling the globe and discovering exotic new places.

From calming retreats to adventurous escapes, here are five luxurious destinations to get you started in planning your next summer getaway:

Hula in Hawaii

Escape from the everyday chaos and settle into the everyday serene at the Four Seasons Maui resort in Wailea.

Treat yourself to a signature mele Wailea massage or a Hawaiian healing wrap at the resort's spa. Go snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing or whale watching. Take a dip in the pool, lie out on the beach with cool drink in hand or hit the ball on the resort's tennis courts or the nearby par-72 Wailea Gold Golf Course.

Dine at the resort's newest addition, Duo, which just opened its doors in March. Try the double chop salad or the caramelized onion soup, topped with a rich three-cheese crust, as an appetizer. For your main course, choose between an array of surf and turf dishes, which come complete with a selection of mouthwatering dipping sauces, including green peppercorn, horseradish cream and herb-garlic butter, to name a few.

A standard room at the Four Seasons Maui starts at about $440 per night and can run up to $11,500 per night for the Maile Suite, which boasts three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms with a whirlpool tub and rain shower, dining room, butler's kitchen and a living room complete with a 50-inch flat-screen TV, DVD player, stereo and music and movie library.

Indulge in Ireland

For an experience and site that will take your breath away, visit Ireland's Ashford Castle Hotel in County Mayo.

Although it's a bit of a drive into the countryside, this enchanting retreat provides the perfect alternative for vacationers looking to get away from the hustle of crowded summer hotspots.

With its majestic setting on the shores of Lough Corrib, the second largest lake in Ireland, the castle's 350 acres of verdant, sprawling land make it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.

Spend your morning biking, touring the grounds or clay shooting and after a leisurely lunch and elegant afternoon tea, go horseback riding or fly-fishing.

At night, dine on smoked Connemara salmon, organic goat-cheese mousse or chilled Champagne soup. Then order up a whiskey or Guinness and sing along with other guests in the castle's Dungeon Bar.

In between activities, definitely plan to spend some time pampering yourself in the resort's full-service day spa, which offers a range of outstanding massages, facials and other treatments, from a revitalizing herbal body detox to a soothing phyto-marine wrap in either rich clay or seaweed.

The nightly rate for a Riverview Corrib room is 430 euros(about $580), while master suites go for 1130 euros ($1,525) during the month of July.

South African Safari

The months of June through September are the dry season in South Africa, and therefore the best time to go on a wild safari adventure.

For the royal treatment and game-viewing at its finest, spend some time at the Singita Private Game Reserve, located in the Sabi Sand Reserve.

Here your days will be filled with amazing safari trips, gorgeous contemporary African accommodations, delectable cuisine and delicious wine tastings.

In between thrilling wildlife trips, spend three to four hours at your leisure -- go for a stroll or swim, take a nap or get a spa treatment.

Singita has four luxurious, comfortable lodges, each uniquely decorated with rich colors and exquisite fabrics. Rates are 15,000 rand (about $2,155) per night for two people in a double room and include three daily meals; two Land Rover game viewing trips a day, in addition to walking safaris with game rangers; all drinks, including wine, liquor, spirits and minibar beverages; and laundry and valet service.

The resort also has the Singita Castleton Camp, which accommodates up to eight people and costs 26,400 rand ($3,790) per night.

Charter planes between the resort and nearby airports are also available.

Breathe Easy in Bali

For those looking to rejuvenate their mind, body and soul, look no further than the Amandari Resort in Bali.

Nettled on a lush hillside by the edge of the Ayung River gorge, the resort, designed after a traditional Balinese village, is set in the midst of rice fields, wildflowers and exotic greenery.

The getaway consists of some 30 thatched-roof suites, each complete with a private garden, four-poster canopy bed, outdoor sunken marble tub and open rain shower.

Wake up to panoramic views and enjoy in-room breakfast service. For a higher price, sink into your own private plunge pool, or take a stone path to the resort's main infinity pool overlooking a valley of tropical vegetation.

To ease your mind, relax your muscles and for your general well-being, enjoy a consultation with a local bomo or faith healer, take a private yoga class or indulge in a healing body treatment, offered using natural Balinese ingredients such as grated coconut, crushed cloves, ginger, sweet sandalwood and other aromatic oils.

During the afternoon, engross yourself in a local cooking class, go white-water rafting down the adjacent Ayung River or go on a cultural tour. At night, sip an exotic cocktail and enjoy a fragrant, spicy Indonesian meal at Amandari's open-air restaurant.

The resort's village suites start at $700 per night. Amandari suites, featuring one bedroom and a private pool, cost up to $2,100 a night, and Amandari villas, consisting of three bedrooms, a private pool and butler service go for a nightly rate of $3,600.

Find Pleasure in Peru

Immerse yourself in the Colonial Spanish and native Quechua Indian cultures in the historic city of Cuzco, situated over 11,000 feet above sea level.

Stay at the legendary Hotel Monasterio, originally built as a monastery in 1592.

Awake to soothing Gregorian chants echoing in the stone hallways and enjoy the included full buffet breakfast, ranging from South American traditional dishes to the finest Continental cuisine.

During the day, go river fishing in the glittering Rio Vilcanota or white-water rafting down the Urubamba River. Enjoy mountain biking in the Vilcanota River Valley or hang-gliding off the dramatic Mirador de Chinchero.

Plan a city excursion and visit Cuzco's amazing archaeological sites, or take the hotel's Sacred Valley tour and venture to the fortress of Ollantaytambo and Pisac ruins. You can even take a one- or two-day tour to the breathtaking Machu Picchu or camp and hike your way along the Inca Trail on a three- to four-day trek to the historical site, also known as the Lost City of the Incas.

Afterward, return to Hotel Monasterio and indulge in luxurious bath butler service or have an Andean Massage to soothe those sore muscles.

Surrounded by lush, charming courtyards and decorated in exquisite colonial art, the hotel's oxygenated rooms and gracious service always provide a tranquil oasis after a day of sightseeing.

Hotel rates start at $470 per night for a deluxe room and go up to $1,240 for one of the two royal suites.

Bon voyage!

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