Sitting right up there with sprawling mountain ranges and cascading waterfalls, cliffs rank rather high in the dramatic natural landscapes category. These steep facades are innately precarious, lending a sense of adventure to whomever dares to stand atop one. Or, in the case of the roundup ahead, who dares to build a hotel on one. The best cliffside properties around the world can be found perched in picturesque regions and with outstanding views, some situated along rocky coastlines and others within mountain ranges or escarpments. The unifying trait? A front-row seat to unparalleled beauty.
With 2023 around the corner, planning a memorable getaway in a scenic destination feels all but necessary. And regardless of where you’re looking to travel to — the Caribbean, Mexico, South Africa, or beyond — just about every pocket of the globe boasts a jaw-dropping cliffside hotel to enjoy it from. Below, take in TZR’s favorite properties perched atop a cliff in breathtaking locales around the world and explore the different activities that enhance the drama (think: mountain-top picnics, desert wall climbing, and more). And even if an international trip isn’t in the cards for the new year, there are plenty of equally magnificent cliffside resorts to book a stay at right here in the states. All of that, and more, ahead.
You need little introduction to the natural splendor of Italy’s famed Amalfi coast, a UNESCO-listed region defined by its steep cliffs and dazzling blue Tyrrhenian sea. Along the coastline lie 13 picturesque towns and miles of hiking trails offering panoramic views, like the legendary Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods). In short — it’s the perfect destination to build a cliffside hotel. Perhaps the most iconic is Le Sirenuse Positano, which opened in 1951 and is on every aesthete’s travel bucket list. A few miles away, Borgo Santandrea recently made a splash with its debut (it’s the first Amalfi hotel to open in 15 years). The cliffside property perches 90 meters above sea level and features 29 rooms and 16 suites, all with sea views (two suites even have private infinity pools). Also worthy of a cliffside callout: Monastero Santa Rosa. The property was originally a Dominican monastery built in the 17th century and is perched atop a cliffside at the edge of the fishing village of Conca dei Marini.
California’s vast coastline stretches nearly 900 miles, giving way for countless cliffside hotels to crop up. One such property that tends to top the lists of dramatic view seekers is Post Ranch Inn along the breathtaking Big Sur coastline on Highway 1. The property has been open since the early ‘90s and sits atop cliffs soaring 1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean. A few hours north near San Francisco, The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is nestled on a cliff beside the rocky coastline. The resort was designed by HKS Architects and taps into the nostalgia of 19th-century seaside lodges with its vignette of dormers, gables, and chimneys creating a unique silhouette against the vast blue sky.
The dazzling Indonesian province of Bali is replete with mind-bogglingly beautiful landscapes well-suited for adventurous travelers. Taking it up a notch, Six Senses Uluwatu is located on a dramatic cliffside at Bali’s southern tip, giving visitors front-row seats to the Indian Ocean. The property is also the location of Pura Uluwatu, which is one of this Hindu island’s most sacred temples, all adding to the spiritual quality of this scenic setting. Also in the region, Bulgari Resort Bali is another traveler favorite thanks to its position 150 meters above the sea and breathtaking sunrise and sunset views each day. If you’re ready for a dip, the resort has a private funicular that travels directly to a pristine stretch of beach.
Surrounded on three sides by the Black, Mediterranean, and Aegean Seas, Turkey is a large, beautiful peninsula that bridges Europe and Asia and is home to some of the oldest settlements in the world. Mountains and cliffs are abundant in the country, and at Yunak Evleri guests can stay in this unique hotel that was carved into a mountain cliff. The property is a collection of cave houses dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries beside a 19th-century Greek mansion. There are two swimming pools and and outdoor fireplace to relax and watch the sunset at. If you’re looking for a stepping-back-in-time kind of travel experience, this is it.
One comes to Jamaica for many things — the culture, the history, the food, the scenery, and more. This Caribbean island nation is lush and awe-inducing, and a property that exemplifies all of its best traits lies on the north coast of Jamaica in Negril. The Caves offers 12 cottages perched along limestone cliffs plus unique amenities like private cave dining, a seaview spa, and The Blackwell Rum Bar that’s accessed by taking a coral staircase down to the water’s edge, crossing a wooden footbridge, and arriving at the secret cave. The walls of the bar are the volcanic cliffs, making for a thoroughly immersive cocktail experience.
For a travel locale that delivers on scenery, history, cuisine, and accommodations — Mallorca isn’t a bad place to start. The Mediterranean island has long been a destination for those transfixed by its turquoise waters and limestone mountains, perhaps best experienced at a cliffside hotel. Cap Rocat is located within a fortress and the building is a Heritage Asset and listed as a National Monument. It’s located in the secluded area of the Bay of Palma and the Sentinels room, specifically, offers magnificent views. Jumeirah Port Soller is another cliffside retreat on Mallorca and sits high above the port on the edge of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range.
For those who have explored its many national parks and breathtaking Pacific Northwest beauty, Washington is a slice of heaven right here in the states. One unique way to experience nature here is at Salish, Lodge & Spa — a property that is perched atop both a cliff and 268-foot waterfall (Snoqualmie Falls, to be exact). It’s located 30 minutes east of Seattle for easy accessibility and the dining room is situated right next to the falls for picturesque meals.
For adventurous types, the El Questro Homestead in Western Australia is a dramatic property perched at the very tip of a clifftop in the East Kimberley region. It’s surrounded by avenues of frangipani trees and the nine suites overlook the Chamberlain River. The most luxurious suite has floor-to-ceiling windows, a wraparound veranda, outdoor dining area, plus an indoor-outdoor double bath for two. Take in the rugged ranges and sparkling waters in this magnificent pocket of scenic beauty.
The Baja California peninsula is located in northwestern Mexico and has nearly 2,000 miles of coastline. Whale watching, desert landscapes, and secluded beaches are among the many reasons tourists flock to this unique part of the country. Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection is at the southern tip in Baja California Sur and situated between two scenic bluffs. The property’s natural-toned design motifs blend in and complement the surrounding beaches and rocky cliffs overlooking the Sea of Cortez. At the same time, Made in Mexico decor accents such as textiles and millwork bring the property to life.
A country already famous for its steep sea cliffs, Ireland is a natural fit for those seeking a dramatic hotel. Cliff House Hotel is near Cork and Waterford and is a privately owned luxury hotel that’s been around since 1932, with a complete rebuild in 2008. The property is rooted on a cliff on the south side of Ardmore Bay and offers 39 rooms plus an Irish destination spa and one Michelin-star restaurant. The design is timeless and atmospheric — white walls, cups stone columns, and sedum moss-covered roofs with limestone terracing.
A visit to the Greek islands proves this magical destination is, indeed, vertically oriented. It’s only natural then that cliffside properties abound in this part of the Aegean Sea, beginning with Mystique Hotel Santorini. It was carved into the Caldera cliffs that overlook the water, and is a collection of 41 stone-crafted, cave-style suites and villas located across from an active volcano. Also a staple in Santorini, Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection sits atop a cliff and boasts one of the best infinity pools in the region. The cuisine here is also a major draw, with Michelin-awarded chef Lefteris Lazarou at the helm of the Greek and Mediterranean flavors.
Pacific Coast of Mexico
Referred to by some as the Mexican Riviera, the country’s Pacific coast is an enclave of beach resorts that highlight the region’s arresting beauty. In Acapulco, Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués is an eco resort with 45 private pool villas and residences that cling to the dramatic hillside of Punta Diamante. Here, guests soak in sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean while enjoying amenities like al fresco dining. Just a few minutes from Zihuatanejo, Cala de Mar is a resort and spa perched atop the cliffside of Ixtapa. The property has 59 suites, each with a private heated plunge pool and views of the ocean and the design follows the Zihua style philosophy with minimal straight lines or right angles, just as it is in nature.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are situated in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico and are composed of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gordo, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke (plus many other smaller islands and cays). One of these smaller escapes is Moskito Island — an all-inclusive resort with four grand estates offering striking views and unparalleled beach access. While here, guests can enjoy customized vacations with experiences like picnics on Manchioneel beach to themed dinners with live jazz bands. In 2023, the main house will debut a cantilevered glass-bottom hot tub that extends over the cliff’s edge. Over in Virgin Gorda, Oil Nut Bay is a beloved 400-acre resort with cliffside suites, some as high as 700 feet above sea level. Witness views of the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, plus a picturesque overwater restaurant and bar.
With 21 national parks, 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and remarkable biodiversity, it’s no wonder that South Africa is such an appealing destination for travelers. Here, on the cliffs of the Cape Winelands region, guests at Birkenhead House can overlook the whale watching enclave of Walker Bay from the cliffside pool or from one of the 11 individually designed rooms located in three separate houses that make up the property. At The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town, visitors get the unique vantage point of being positioned above the Atlantic Ocean and between the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and Table Mountain National Park. This luxury boutique hotel has two restaurants, both excellent for watching the evening sunset from.
There’s nowhere on earth quite like Kenya — this east African country has coastlines along the Indian Ocean, mountain highlands, dramatic savanna grasslands, and much, much more. For those traveling here for a safari, Angama Mara is a luxury lodge in the Maasai Mara. It’s placed on the edge of the Oloololo Escarpment and the property’s name is a nod to the Swahili word for ‘suspended in midair.’ While here, guests will stay in 30-foot-wide tens with floor-to-ceiling glass fronts that look out over the Great Rift Valley.
It is said that Fogo Island Inn is located at one of the four corners of the world. This 43,000 square-foot Newfoundland luxury hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and was designed by architect Todd Saunders. The property is perched on stilts and its 29 one-of-a-kind rooms hug the North Atlantic coastline with floor-to-ceiling views. The island has seven singular seasons and offers activities ranging from stargazing and bird watching to hiking and snowmobiling.
To know the Caribbean Island of Dominica is to know unspoiled natural splendor. This lush escape is abundant with rainforests, rivers, and mountains and a visit is nothing short of spectacular. At Secret Bay (a property renowned for its cliffside location), guests can book one of 12 residential style villas. The Zabuco Villa was built on a clifftop promontory and is on the furthest point, lending 180-degree vistas over the mountain peaks. And even if you don’t book it, there are other special spots around the property with cliffside facets like the new Gwiyavye' Lap Pool & Bar and the resort’s Gommier Spa. Coulibri Ridge is a newly-opened property also on Dominica and is a 14-suite, 285-acre resort perched atop a mountain ridge near the village of Soufrière. The resort is off-grid and uses solar energy as its main power source; also, rainwater is collected through their unique roof design and funneled to guest suites and two chlorine-free pools.
Hawaii and its network of breathtaking islands is one of those places with indisputable beauty. It’s an otherworldly destination that celebrates nature in all of its facets, from volcanos and rainforests to coastlines and coral reefs. Not at all shocking: there are many striking hotels here. At Timbers Kauai at Hokuala, the oceanside cliffs of Kauai cradle this luxury resort and private residences. It sits on the oceanside edge of 450 acres and is surrounded by 13 miles of nature trails. On the island of Maui, Montage Kapalua Bay hugs a coastal cliff on the west coast, giving prime views for whale watching and turtle spotting. The resort is set on 24 acres and this past spring it welcomed back Champagne Hale at Cliff House — an intimate cliffside venue that was originally built in 1940 as a facility for the managers of the historic Honolua Plantation.
A regal resort that once hosted Princess Diana, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar in Oman is located a two hours’ drive inland from Muscat and up in the mountains. In fact, it is one of the world’s highest luxury resorts and each of its rooms look out onto the dramatic canyon. Here, you’ll be surrounded by cliffs and can enjoy activities like a climb wall, hiking, cinema under the stars, and yoga atop the scenic lookout of Diana’s Point.