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As the country continues its path to reopening more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and more and more people are vaccinated by the day, travel once again seems possible. With case numbers still high and the pandemic far from over, though, any travel we do embark on must be done safely and responsibly—and one such way to get away for a bit while still enjoying the company of friends and family is to travel in pods. While traditional hotel rooms and overcrowded pools may not be an option, there are a number of luxury resorts across the United States that are absolutely ideal for groups. From free-standing villas and homes to enormous multiple-bedroom suites, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite properties for pod travel.
Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
Nestled at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, Blackberry Farm is truly a hidden gem. The sweeping 9,200-acre property is best known for its celebrated culinary program, which includes seasonal produce from the farm’s four-acre garden, an on-site creamery and bakery, and an award-winning 160,000-bottle wine collection. Between meals, guests can enjoy a long list of activities offered at Blackberry Farm, from horseback riding, fly fishing, and sporting clays to hiking, yoga, cycling, and more. In addition to 68 intimate rooms and suites, the hotel boasts larger accommodations ranging from two-room cottages to five-bedroom houses. Ideal for families, groups, and those traveling in pods, these houses vary from traditional rustic to modern, but all include fully equipped kitchens, which can host guest chefs and cooking demonstrations, and plush living spaces, where you and your crew can unwind after a busy day exploring the Farm.
Timbers Kauai, Lihue, Hawaii
While the sprawling resort and residences at Timbers Kauai were not actually built for a pandemic, they might as well have been. Spread across 450 oceanfront acres on the southeast coast of Kauai, the property is home to 17 miles of hiking trails, the only Jack Nicklaus course on the island, and an ever-expanding farm that supports the dining, bar, and spa programs with fresh ingredients. Timbers has only 40 accommodations in total, which would make for a private feel in any circumstances, but each of these is in fact its own residence with two to four bedrooms, fully stocked kitchens, large living rooms, oceanfront or ocean-view lanais, and in-unit washers and dryers. While any of the resort’s three residence styles would be great for group travel, the three- and four-bedroom Laola townhomes are especially ideal, with their bi-level layout, private outdoor area and plunge pool, ample dining space, and breathtaking views.
The Point Resort, Saranac Lake, New York
Built in the 1930s as a private retreat for a Rockefeller, The Point has a long, illustrious history and is one of the only Great Camps of the Adirondacks that is open to guests. The intimate, lakefront estate offers 11 unique guest rooms across four cabins, each of which has its own decorative personality, a stunning lake view, a wood-burning fireplace, and outdoor sitting areas. The 75-acre property and lake are obvious destinations for naturally spaced-out activities, like watersports, swimming, and hiking, as well as ice skating and ice fishing in the colder months. Great for pod travel, The Point is available for exclusive buyouts, whereby guests can rent the resort in part or in its entirety.
Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina
Tucked along coastal marshland of the May River in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the Montage Palmetto Bluff is a true southern escape. As part of a 20,000-acre community between Savannah and Hilton Head Island, the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property is home to an expansive nature preserve, two picturesque villages, a Jack Nicklaus golf course, and a riverfront marina. Guests can take advantage of Palmetto Bluff’s myriad outdoor activities, including sunrise kayaking, paddleboarding, biking, tennis, croquet, and much more. Alongside various rooms and suites at the main Inn, the hotel offers secluded cottages as well as one- to five-bedroom homes in two separate villages. These spacious accommodations give the feel of a neighborhood and include private screened-in porches, charming sitting and dining areas, fully equipped kitchens, and washers and dryers.
Camp Sarika by Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah
Utah’s iconic Amangiri has long been synonymous with all things luxury and seclusion and is a favorite destination among many celebrities, business moguls, and anyone seeking an unparalleled retreat. Now, the resort has expanded to include a top-of-the-line glamping experience, too, at Camp Sarika by Amangiri. With a total of 10 tented accommodations—five one-bedroom and five two-bedroom tents—the safari-like experience offers the oft-coveted sense of privacy that comes with pitching a tent in the wilderness but with Aman’s signature opulence. Each tent has its own plunge pool, outdoor terrace, and beautifully decorated, large indoor space, and guests can enjoy all of Amangiri’s incredible activity, culinary, and wellness offerings. The Camp is available for buyouts through the ‘Camp of Your Own’ concept, which hosts up to 30 guests and includes all meals, one activity per person per day, and a dedicated spa therapist.
Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, Montauk, New York
A true Hamptons icon and a second home to seemingly all of New York City in the summer months, Gurney’s Montauk is a haven for oceanfront relaxation. With year-round programming, like live music, beach bonfires (with s’mores), horseback riding, and hiking, and a 2,000-square-foot private beach, the resort is great for families, friends, and couples alike. Gurney’s Montauk has no shortage of beautiful rooms and suites, but for those traveling in larger groups or pods and in need of a more secluded setup, one of the hotel’s two-bedroom residences or one- to three-bedroom cottages is a wonderful alternative. Each of these private options has a full kitchen, fireplace, terrace, spacious common areas, direct beach access, and dramatic ocean views, marrying all of the amenities of the resort with the privacy of your own Hamptons home.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lanai City, Hawaii
While many beach resorts give the illusion of a private island, the Four Seasons Lanai is quite literally set on a private island. Purchased in 2012, alongside 98 percent of the Hawaiian island, by billionaire Larry Ellison, the understated American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property underwent a major overhaul in 2016—rooms were refreshed, a new pool was added, and Malibu Farm and Nobu outposts were opened. Guests of the Four Seasons Lanai can partake in traditional Hawaiian activities, like Hula dance, lei-making, and coconut weaving, and the property’s various wellness offerings, including aerial yoga, tai chi, and reiki, as well as tennis and golf. The hotel grounds are littered with waterfalls, gardens, ponds, and streams, but what makes the Four Seasons Lanai so unique is that there are truly no boundaries, and every part of the island feels like it’s all yours. For those traveling in pods or groups, the Alii Royal Suite is an undeniably alluring choice, as the extra-spacious accommodation features two King bedrooms and an option to add a third bedroom, a formal living room, media room, library, separate dining room that seats six, and a large private lanai. But the Ohana Prime Oceanfront Suite and many of the resort’s other offerings are also great alternatives and can all be placed near other rooms booked by your group.
Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia
Just 90 minutes from downtown Atlanta, The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee is set along 30 acres of shoreline and serves as the ultimate lakeside escape, where guests can cozy up by the fire and explore the gorgeous surroundings with endless outdoor activities. The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property is home to more than 200 rooms and village homes, including 50 spacious cottages that feature gas fireplaces and huge porches. The perfect hideaway for families, groups, and pods, these two- and three-bedroom accommodations provide the feeling of a personal, private home with all the amenities of a luxury hotel. The true jewel of The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, however, is its Lake House, a secluded oasis with four master-bedroom suites, a private pool, dining room, chef’s kitchen, and spacious great rooms, where guests can convene after a day of fun on the property.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, California
For over a century, The Beverly Hills Hotel has been the ultimate beacon of Old Hollywood glamour, where the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Grace Kelly, and countless others frequently stayed and dozens of modern-day stars can regularly be seen. Affectionately dubbed the ‘Pink Palace,’ the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property has long been celebrated for its privacy, despite its setting in one of the most crowded (and heavily photographed) cities in the world. While all of The Beverly Hills Hotel’s rooms and suites boast a certain level of seclusion, it’s the famous bungalows that offer the true Hollywood experience. Hidden amongst the 12-acre gardens and each individually designed and inspired by the famous guests who’ve called them home, the 23 bungalows feature large living spaces and private outdoor areas, and some even have their own pools, perfect for lounging in the California sun with your pod.