When it comes to looking for luxurious summer vacation ideas, your first instinct might be to turn to social media. But instead of far flung, lesser known destinations or scenic outdoorsy-inclined trips, the most appealing places at the moment have more of a vintage flair. Think Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, where long lines of millennial and Gen-Z customers wait to enjoy martinis while listening to jazz in velvet banquettes. Or if you were watching Coachella content, you might have noticed that Revolve took over retro-inspired hotel The Parker Palm Springs, with its mirrored bathrooms and sleek mid-century decor. You could best describe it as ”attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places,” which was how photographer Slim Aarons referred to his images. Featuring sun-drenched pools, stylish individuals like Grace Kelly, and impeccably designed spaces, Aarons’ work is a constant source of inspiration, but especially now as luxury travel returns with a vengeance.
“After two years of staying home, the pent-up demand is largely focused on a return to classic destinations versus seeking out the newest, undiscovered spots,” explains Henley Vazquez, the co-founder of Fora, a modern travel agency. Aarons’ favorite destinations like Il Pelicano in Italy or Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in south of France definitely qualify as iconic as do other spots he immortalized in photos like The Beverly Hills Hotel. The reason for their continuing appeal? After a prolonged period of life-changing events, we’re all seeking sources of comfort and glamour. “Whether it’s yearning for stability in a time of uncertainty or a search for permanence in the wake of our increasingly throwaway culture, there’s no doubt nostalgia is having a moment,” says Carolyn Addison, Head of Product at luxury tour operator Black Tomato.
Arguably, most of Aarons’ photos take place at resorts that cost upwards of thousands per night but that’s not to say you can’t find a place that has the same vibes for (somewhat) less. Read on for nine luxurious spots where you can live out your Sim Aarons’ summer escape fantasies.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
Also known as The Pink Palace, you’ve definitely seen Aarons’ photographs of The Beverly Hills Hotel’s iconic sign, pink cabanas, striped chairs, and green banana leaf wallpaper. Founded in 1912, the hotel has hosted its fair share of celebrities including Katharine Hepburn, The Beatles, to modern day stars in its 110-year history, which helps add to its allure “People love our iconic aesthetic but they’re also drawn to a hotel’s story. Our guests enjoy knowing that when they walk through the halls of our hotel, they are walking the same steps as virtually every movie star that has ever lived. This is something that simply cannot be replicated,” says Steven Boggs, Director of Guest Relations for The Beverly Hills Hotel. Most recently renovated in 2015, the hotel feels updated without losing its vintage flair. With rooms starting at $1,000 and upwards per night, it’s definitely one of the pricier options so even if you can’t afford to stay, it’s worth coming by for lunch at the Polo Lounge to soak in the ambiance. That said, if you do want to check out the pool, you will need to be a guest so if that’s a priority, it’s worth splashing out for one night.
The Colony Palm Beach
If you’re looking for a similar vibe to the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Colony in Palm Beach is a similar option that starts at $400 a night. With its candy pink and green interiors, including a custom De Gournay wallpaper in the lobby that was inspired by a faded 40s postcard of the original front desk, the hotel has all the Slim Aarons vibes, down to the cabanas by the pool. Originally built in 1947, it served as a vacation spot for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as well as Frank Sinatra and several American presidents. Nowadays you might have seen it if you were looking for all of the details on Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz’s wedding — guests opted to stay here while in Palm Beach for their big event.
Parker Palm Springs
While you might have discovered The Parker Palm Springs via Revolve’s Coachella takeover, the resort has been around since 1959, albeit in different incarnations. Originally it was a Holiday Inn before being bought by country singer Gene Autry to house his baseball team. It wasn’t until 2003 when it became the Parker Palm Springs. Featuring a Jonathan Adler designed interior, the space was recently refreshed by Adler in 2017. You’ll find mirrored bathrooms, striped cabanas at all of the pools, and colorful bedrooms that feature whimsical decor touches. With rooms that start at $300 a night, Addison recommends it as the ideal spot for a desert twist on the Slim Aarons aesthetic.
Palm Heights Grand Cayman
For Gabriella Khalil, creating the Palm Heights Grand Cayman was a design lover's dream. Located on Seven Mile Beach, a strip of land that boasts some of the best views and softest sand, the hotel was founded in 2019 and features furniture from the likes of Marcel Breuer, Pierre Chapo, and Massimo and Lella Vignelli as well as an original Ettore Sottsass rug that hangs as a tapestry in the main lobby. Khalil rounded out the decor by partnering up with designer Emily Bode on the hotel’s now signature yellow-striped employee uniforms, which has been so popular that they’ve also made a version for their merch shop. “It’s the combination of these elements that creates beautiful moments and manifests itself as a naturally framed photo with a sense of nostalgia and a heritage of glamour,” she says.
Khalil also loves to collaborate with buzzy chefs, fitness folks, and musicians, asking them to curate everything from workouts to the menu to soundtracks. If Slim Aarons were looking for a cool place to shoot cool people, this would be it. Rooms start at $450 a night, making it another spot that feels luxurious without the four-figure price tag.
Pink-hued spaces tend to be a recurring theme in Aarons’ photos so it’s no surprise that The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu, which is also called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific,” has the right vibes, even if he did never shoot there. Located in Waikiki, the hotel was built in 1927 and has played host to a slew of icons including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Elvis, as well as featured in movies like Punch Drunk Love among others. While nights can be in the four figures during the peak summer season, if you book around May or June, rates are a much more reasonable $350 and up per night. For a true Slim Aarons moment, stay in their historical wing, which features vintage decor, including pineapple printed wallpaper and then head over to the pool for a Mai Tai among the palm trees. Also, make it a point to also try their pancakes, which like everything else in the space, are naturally pink-hued.
Hotel Belles Rives
When it comes to iconic Slim Aarons photos, there’s nothing like the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the South of France. It’s where the cliffside pool on the cover of Poolside With Slim Aarons is located. That said, while Eden-Roc might be the ultimate Aarons-inspired destination, it’s also not a realistic place to stay, even if you have the budget, according to Vazquez. “They rarely have availability since regulars get first dibs on rooms, and you must have stayed many years in a row to be considered a regular,” he says. Instead, Vazquez suggests Hotel Belles Rives, another classic hotel in the Antibes that also has beachside access. Most notably it’s where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote Tender is the Night, which explains why the hotel retains its 1920s flair in the form of stained glass windows and mosaic floors. With rates that start at $400, the locale has all of the historical glamour with similar beachside views and a stylish piano bar, ideal for cocktail hour.
Hotel La Palma
Speaking of Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Addison suggests that if you do have the budget and want to be ahead of the social media frenzy, to check out a new addition to the Oetker Collection family, Hotel La Palma in Capri. “When it opens later this summer after a massive overhaul, it’ll definitely capture that same sense of nostalgia-meets-new,” she says. With 50 rooms, 18 of which will be suites, the space is an especially fancy way to experience La Dolce Vita in Italy. Originally the first hotel on the island, it’ll have incredible views of the Mediterranean ocean, especially at its beach club and also happens to be a short walk to la Piazetta, Capri’s iconic square. Rates can vary wildly depending on the night and time of year, ranging from 550 Euros per night in the fall to over 4,000 Euros during peak times. That said, it’s completely booked for this summer but worth adding to the wishlist for future travel.
Another iconic Slim Aarons locale is Lake Como’s Villa d’Este, which is where he shot in 1983. Vazquez says if you want the same feel, without spending 1,000 euros a night, head over to a different Northern Italian locale nearby. “Try the lesser known Villa Crespi on Lake Orta for a historic lakefront palace that starts closer to 500 euros per night,” he says. Located in the Piedmont region, the hotel was originally built as a residence in 1879 and features Moorish-style architecture, a nod to the first owner’s travels. It now has 14 rooms and suites, all of which have parquet flooring and lush-colored walls. For those who are into medieval architecture and art, the nearby town of Orta is a ten-minute walk away and full of colorful buildings and churches worth exploring.
Il Pelicano in Porto Ercole was immortalized by Aarons’ photo of its colorful bathing deck next to the Tyrrhenian Sea. If you’re seeking that same vibe, for a little less, Vazquez suggests heading to Ischia, where the owners have a property called Mezzatore. It might be in a different part of Italy, but it still has the same stunning scenery. Featuring pink parasol-lined thermal pools, tree shaded tennis courts, and lush jasmine and thyme plants surrounding the property, the hotel is a lesser known but still luxurious summer escape. Rates start at $600 and up for their standard rooms but if you want to gather up a group, the property also has a private cottage that can accommodate up to six guests.