Situated on a flat, woodsy enclave along the Rio de La Plata in Uruguay, the Madison is the two-year-old, $30 million creation of Laith Pharon, a young entrepreneur whose goal was to create the first Latin American resort. The 20 bungalows and 24 duplex suites have exposed-beam cathedral ceilings, slate showers, and king-sized beds. Duplex suites have curtained fourposter beds.
The spa and fitness center has a gifted staff and such a varied menu of healing therapies and beauty treatments that you could stay a week and never duplicate one, although that would be a mistake. The aptly named Harmony Fusion, during which two massage therapists work in sync, certainly merits a repeat performance.
Chef Thierry Granero, who worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Germany, turns out wonderfully bold food, making every meal—even breakfast—a yin-yang spin on Asian, Latin, and French cuisine. The Champagne is French; the wines are among Argentina's finest. A typical entrée of surubí (a local fish) with smoked bacon, zucchini spaghetti, and sautéed pumpkin is quite memorable.
The flight from Buenos Aires takes 20 minutes. A newspaper clipping of Pharon's racing-car victory is posted next to the one immigration desk at the nearby tiny airport. The bare landing field is so reminiscent of East Africa one nearly expects to see zebras on the runway. But upon opening the massive hand-carved Cedro wood door of the Madison's main lodge, guests are fixed firmly in the world of Indonesia, one of Balinese masks, gilded shadow puppets, and singa (lion) sculptures.
Buenos Aires insiders, golf enthusiasts in particular, have already discovered the Madison, a year-round resort that is nestled among 40 acres of towering eucalyptus and pine. Its floors and most of its furniture are crafted of South American lapacho and vilaro woods, similar to teak but with a more burnished patina.
Although the Madison has four tennis courts, a cascading pool, and horses available for trail rides and picnics, the 18-hole golf course provides the main attraction. Designed for walking with a caddy rather than riding in a cart, the par-72 course fits the landscape well. Its eighth hole is a dead ringer for the 18th at Pebble Beach. Clinics are available with head pro Eduardo Frend, formerly the pro at Club Nautico Escobar in Buenos Aires. Rooms: $285, including a sumptuous breakfast. A member of Relais & Châteaux. Ruta 21, km 262, Carmelo, Dpto de Colonia, Uruguay; 800-735-2478; www.madisonresort.com.