The 100 Best Hotels in the World - Fodor's Finest Hotel 2019 Awards
We hear it year after year: The number one thing our readers want when they travel is a unique experience. You’re not interested in simply elbowing your way to a famous tourist attraction or being escorted around with a crowd of strangers—you want to experience something new, something undiscovered. You want to be surprised, swept away. But why should that sentiment be limited to the adventures encountered outside your temporary home-away-from-home? Why expect so much and then return contentedly to a cookie-cutter room? That’s why we’re introducing our Fodor’s Finest list. The 100 properties on this list are certainly some of the best hotels in the world, but they’re also some of the dreamiest, most swoon-worthy, and sometimes, most unusual this world has to offer. Ultimately, each and every one is entirely glorious and utterly memorable. We also wanted to pay special attention to pricing. What’s an incredible experience if you can’t afford it? Too many “best hotels” lists feature properties that are impossibly expensive. And, though we do have a few of those (probably more than a few), we also have plenty of affordable options. Lastly, we want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] and let us know what we got right and what we got wrong. We’ll be making this list annually, so your opinions matter.
Secret Bay Domenica
WHERE: New Orleans, Louisiana
Sure the rooms are nice—chic, sparse decor, retro Smeg refrigerators and a curated selection of records. But honestly, the best part of the Ace is not that it’s a hotel—and that’s okay. While still maintaining a boutique feel, this Art-Deco building in New Orleans’ Warehouse District (a 10-minute walk from the French Quarter) includes three restaurants, a rooftop pool and lounge, an art gallery, music venue, coffee shop, barber shop, private dining room, and local storefronts. They even have a cultural coordinator on staff in charge of making sure the latest local drag performers, DJs, poets, and artists fill the art and performance spaces. The Ace knows you came to New Orleans to experience New Orleans—and it provides.
WHERE: Canyon Point, Utah
Like much of the world’s best architecture, structures at the sprawling Amangiri resort pay homage to their natural surroundings, blending into the high desert rather than sticking out. In fact, everything about this resort respects the unique landscape of Southern Utah, with its glowing swimming pool built into rock; walls of glass and outdoor decks for easy viewing of the mesas, deserts, and ancient rock formations; and extensive work with Navajo artists. In the area’s incredible, otherworldly beauty, you’ll quickly realize its sacredness: rock formations of the Grand Escalante light up in an unbelievable range of colors depending on time of day, and the rolling arid acres of slot canyons, hoodoos, arches, and gorges call back a million years of life and a desire for exploration.
WHERE: Asbury Park, New Jersey
The Asbury Hotel is the new kid on the block in ultra-hip Asbury Park, making this once-seedy seaside destination a popular weekend trip for New Yorkers in the know. Locals have always known about the gritty allure of the Asbury Park boardwalk, but this design-y hotel has turned into a hotspot. The décor is simple and functional—like an extremely chic college dorm—and the hotel is one of the coolest places to see and be seen in Asbury Park. Come for the rooftop cinema, stay for the fluffy white beds and the chill vibes that make this hotel like no other place on the Jersey Shore.
WHERE: Shelter Island, New York
Both style and location factor in at The Chequit: the simplistic, refined choices–from local cuisine to selectively-placed antique rocking chairs and clawfoot tubs–create a smart yet humble harmony. It has the feeling of a bed-and-breakfast stay, but a dreamy one (perhaps in the movie version of your life) with cleaner, more contemporary style. Likewise, its location on Shelter Island, one of the quietest, most “untouched” places in the area, creates what a Hamptons getaway looks like in our imaginations (and more rarely reality): exclusive yet understated, rustic yet luxurious, and far from beach traffic or a crowded train car.
Jane Beiles for The Chequit
Chicago Athletic Association
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Details of the former club are indulgent: boxing robes in each room, cozy leather armchairs, wood panelling, crown moldings, and original windows looking out onto Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park across the street. The restaurant, The Cherry Circle Room, upholds a sense of grandeur and privacy: a wood-paneled cove, inspired by the club’s original restaurant, tucked way in the back of the main floor. But despite its history, this hotel is definitely young: the original billiard room still hosts group games of pool, shuffleboard, and bocce played through the night, as crowds of friends order fresh soft pretzels and local beers. Cindy’s cocktail bar on the roof is full of hip guests and locals on any given night. And another (not insignificant) detail: rooms are affordable.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
WHERE: Cape Neddick, Maine
As its namesake suggests, the hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, and you can watch the white crests smash the craggy bluffs below from nestled in your hooded flannel robe on your balcony. Take a steamy dip in the outdoor hot tub underneath whirling snowflakes or starry summer skies, sit by the fire pit with a hot chocolate, and gobble up all the freshly-caught local seafood and seasonal treats you can eat in one of four eateries on-site. Don’t want to leave your room? Cozy up by the fire and watch the storms come in–there’s no other view like this anywhere.
Courtesy of Cliff House
WHERE: Big Sky, Montana
Surrounded by nature in Moonlight Basin, an hour from Yellowstone National Park and 10 minutes to epic fly fishing on the Gallatin River, this is the premier Big Sky Country experience—especially for the outdoorsman who feels no need to rough it. Instead of laboring over your own campsite, sleep in heated canvas tents, each adorned with antler chandeliers, real wood floors, and oversized king beds. Enjoy deliciously prepared meals in the lodge, a packed picnic lunch, or extravagant multi-course dinners under the stars. All this pampering allows more energy for a wealth of other activities: fly fishing, mountain biking, rafting, horseback riding, and in-tent massages.
Courtesy of Collective Retreats
WHERE: Palm Beach, Florida
The most incredible design and chic decor make up the utterly fabulous Colony Hotel, where every room is a still-life worthy of a #nofilter Instagram. Bold colors and lux fabrics will enchant you at every turned corner, from the pastel poolside Bimini Bar to the fine dining with live piano music at CPB. The hotel is so gorgeously fabulous, you’ll never want to leave–and with wild and flamboyant entertainment and dinner shows from blues and jazz to cabaret and the high-end shopping of Worth Avenue right outside your door, you don’t have to go far for entertainment.
Peter W Cross / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Dunton Hot Springs
WHERE: Dunton, Colorado
Sitting on top of active hot springs by the Dolores River and steps from hiking trails through the San Juan Mountains, this former ghost town was delicately updated to become a resort. With stays in the original log cabins, dining on feasts of foraged goods in the old saloon, and soaks in its natural resources, it’s a pleasant offering of authenticity and rustic comfort. Summer and winter visits are equally pleasant, but diverse experiences, with trail rides, fly fishing, and mountaineering through the summer and fall, and snowshoeing, skiing, and horse-drawn sleigh rides in the festive winter season. The hot springs, both outdoors and housed, are always enjoyable.
Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs
The Gramercy Park Hotel
WHERE: New York City, New York
There’s something about the Gramercy Park Hotel that makes you feel like you’re getting a glimpse into a side of New York City just beyond your reach. Maybe it’s because there’s a celeb-studded roster involved with this property, from hotelier and hospitality guru Aby Rosen to restauranteur Danny Meyer; or perhaps it’s the fact that the artwork of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Damien Hirst have graced the walls. No matter the reason, it’s spectacular. Individually-decorated rooms have a vintage vibe, with jewel-toned velvet fabrics, tufted leather furniture, and romantic lighting. When you’re a guest here, it can feel like the center of the universe, but it’s worth a visit even if you’re not spending the night—the super-exclusive Rose Bar has seen more than its fair share of famous faces, and Maialino is one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, open for boozy brunches, decadent lunches, and late-night dinners.
Courtesy of The Gramercy Park Hotel
WHERE: Idyllwild, California
The attention to detail in this immaculate and wildly creative “motel” pays homage to icons like Dolly Parton, John Waters, and Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin) of Twin Peaks fame. Each chalet is themed and decked to the nines, from ’70s Honeymoon Kitch to Christmas to Haunted Mansion to Geek Culture. There’s even a 420 Room where you can partake in California’s recreational marijuana culture, then sleep in a sunk en bed under blacklight posters. With 10 suites, each in an A-frame cabin nestled in the idyllic pines and cedars of the San Jacinto Mountains, choose your theme and be transported.
Courtesy of Hicksville
WHERE: San Antonio, Texas
In the best renovations, necessary upgrades and style choices don’t let you forget the original charm of the place. Built against the San Antonio River north of downtown, the gorgeous details of this towering stone building and former 19th-century brewery remain. High ceilings with rows of windows let in plenty of light, and the original bricked walls, beautifully tiled floors, and old brew tanks and equipment are all utilized in sophisticated design. Beside chic guest rooms, modern upgrades include the 3,700-volume library housed inside a romantically-lit vaulted room, a rooftop pool, and a restaurant renowned for using fresh local produce for big American and Southern flavors.
Courtesy of Hotel Emma
Palace Hotel San Francisco
WHERE: San Francisco, California
There’s something to be said for an urban hotel that provides an escape from its own surroundings. To enter the doors of The Palace, just minutes from Chinatown and Union Square, is to return to San Francisco’s Gilded Age—though the modern amenities of its suites, fitness center, and indoor heated pool won’t have you missing the present. Perhaps most impressive is the Garden Court, with its ceiling of intricate glass panes, marbled columns and walls, and crystal chandeliers, famous for brunch, tea time and many a photo opportunity. At the time The Palace opened, it was the biggest and most expensive hotel in the world (though the original building was gutted after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake), and memories of its heyday still echo through its opulent halls.
Jason Dewey Photography
WHERE: Denali National Park, Alaska
It’s rare these days to truly feel isolated in nature—but take a helicopter transfer over Denali National Park and the Alaska Range to arrive at Sheldon Chalet, a mountain house perched on top of a nunatak and surrounded by glaciers, and you’ll believe again. At this remarkable location is something perhaps equally hard to find: a family-run luxury hotel, steeped both in history and heart. Just the chance to view the Aurora Borealis from every room and panorama seems worth the high bill of stay here, but the five-star meals of freshly flown-in seafood, fur throws on every bed, and arranged activities of mountaineering, rappelling, and plane tours, all add more to making it a once-in-a-lifetime stay.
Ten Thousand Waves
WHERE: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Ten Thousand Waves began in 1981 as a tiny bathhouse, toting the benefits of hot water bathing and beauties of Japanese customs. Since then, the property, equally close to downtown Santa Fe and National Forest, has expanded to a luxury Japanese inn and izakaya restaurant. Each simplistic room is a little different, but even the basic choice has a private courtyard and a daybed with a view. The izakaya uses sustainably-raised protein to create upscale offerings and omakase (a chef’s choice multi-course menu). And then there are the spa offerings: private and communal tubs, cold plunges, saunas, Thai and deep stone massage, and Japanese organic facials—to name just a few.
Courtesy of Ten Thousand Waves
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
WHERE: Tofino, British Columbia
This place is a tier above glamping. The resort is made up of 25 luxury tents positioned along the water and in the rainforest hillsides of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island in a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Yes, you’re technically in a tent, but this tent features down linens, incredibly gorgeous antique furniture, beautiful lighting, and five-star resort amenities–heated floors and toilets included. It’s like a summer camp in heaven, except you’re not a teenager and there are no terrible activities scheduled. When you stay here, you are truly far away from everything—the resort is only accessible by helicopter, boat, or floatplane (all of which the hotel will take care of for you). A stay here is a chance to experience life at what seems like the very edge of the world, in the middle of the wilderness—in the most luxurious way imaginable.
The Drake Hotel
WHERE: Toronto, Ontario
The Drake Hotel is a chic, 19-room boutique hotel located in the heart of Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West neighborhood. The rooms at this local landmark are affordable, ultra-mod and oft-Instagrammed with plenty of space to relax. If you’re in town to turn up, you’ll find the famous Drake Underground club (and some of Toronto’s best live music) in the basement. On the roof, there’s the Sky Yard patio where tourists and Queen Westers often come from a drink. And the food here is also famous–The Drake is one of Toronto’s most popular places to brunch.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
WHERE: Banff National Park, Alberta
Situated in the heart of Alberta’s Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel is a luxurious escape surrounded by a sparkling lake, mountains, and the mesmerizingly gorgeous Victoria Glacier. It was originally made for outdoor aficionados but now has a little something for everyone. The hotel offers mountain tours and recreational activities (skiing, hiking, canoeing, fishing, rafting, horseback riding) if you’ve got an adventurous side, and a luxury spa and plenty of fine dining if you’d rather just relax. Either way, you’ve found yourself in a wild, mountain oasis you won’t want to leave.
Fogo Island Inn
WHERE: Fogo Island, Newfoundland & Labrador
Fogo Island Inn is “an island off an island”–it’s up on stilts off an area called “Iceberg Alley” on the Northeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Housed inside ultra-modern architecture, 29 suites offer floor-to-ceiling unmissable views of the sea. Inside, you’ll find cozy amenities like a Newfoundland-heavy library and reading room, a cinema, tea room, lounge, and roof deck with wood-fired saunas and hot tubs. On the ground floor is an art gallery in collaboration with Fogo Island Arts, showcasing the works of selected artists who have completed residencies on Fogo Island through Fogo Island Arts. Snuggle up in the custom quilts to–you’ll never want to (or have to) leave the Inn.
Paul Jones / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Free Spirit Spheres
WHERE: Vancouver, British Columbia
A stay here will make you feel as though you’ve entered a fairytale—one located in the middle of a rainforest on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, to be exact. These three (that’s right—there’s only three of them!) sphere homes–basically giant floating eyeballs in the middle of the forest–are billed as “a tree house resort for adults” and no one under 16 is permitted to stay. Spirit Spheres offers lovely, luxurious spherical rooms with loft amenities that are also extremely private and warm (heated!), and have all of the electricity and internet you need to still be connected to the outside world.
WHERE: French Polynesia
It was on the set of his 1962 historical drama Mutiny on the Bounty that Marlon Brando first fell in love with the purity and laid back luxury of Tahiti. Just four years after the film was released, Brando and his Tahitian bride signed a 99-year lease on the island of Tetiaroa with dreams of a secluded, sustainable hideaway. Today the private atoll is home to the world’s most luxurious eco-resort, The Brando, where 35-villas rest on the same sands once prized by Tahitian royalty. Villas come with private plunge pools, private beach access, and media rooms, where guests can enjoy the privacy and supreme luxury that made this place home to one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.
Conrad Bora Bora Nui
WHERE: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Although this exquisite hotel is located on its own private island of rare Tahitian white sand, the most requested rooms at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui aren’t anywhere near the beaches in Motu To’opua. The hotel’s 86 overwater villas come with wall-to-wall windows leading to a deck with an adjoining catamaran net that hovers delicately over the blue waters below, 18 of which include a private plunge pool on the deck. The rest of the 28 rooms at the resort range from Garden Villas to Beach Villas, and many of them offer direct views of Mount Otemanu. Spring for one of the two Presidential Overwater Villas to get the full Conrad experience, with two stories to entertain up to six guests while on the island.
Conrad Hotels & Resorts
Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses
WHERE: Kaikoura, New Zealand
The first decision when staying at the Hapuku Lodge & Treehouses is whether to stay above or below the tree line. Set at the base of the Kaikoura Seaward Mountains, the property includes two “on land” accommodation options, a cozy lodge with oversized suites and a private house in the farm’s renovated olive press facility, and five luxury tree house options that overlook the canopies inside a remote manuka grove. The entire concept was designed and built by the Wilson siblings, who still own and operate the property today and take great pride in maintaining Kaikoura’s Green Globe certified status. Not only was this luxury hotel built with sustainable and eco-conscious practices on a deer breeding farm, but the resort participates in planting native trees, re-introducing native birds, and sourcing more than 75 percent of their ingredients and products from local farmers and craftsmen.
Hapuku Lodge & Treehouses
MACq 01 Hotel
WHERE: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Marked as a storytelling hotel, The MACq 01 hotel aims to unravel the tangled tales of perseverance, heartache, and clandestine activity that made this Tasmanian destination what it is today. This luxury hotel is packed with personality, where each of the 114 guest rooms is dedicated to a specific character that helped define Tasmania, from the indigenous legend Manalagena, who resisted British occupation to singer Frances Amy Lillian Sherwin, who became known as “The Tasmanian Nightingale.” Experiences are immersive at MACq 01, as the historical narrative drips into the hotel’s Old Wharf Restaurant, the Story Bar, the Evolve Spirits Bar, and all of the public spaces with designs by Pike Withers. The hotel employs a team of full-time storytellers, led by a Master Storyteller who guides guest through the hotel for a series of complimentary themed tours.
WHERE: Jervis Bay, Australia
Long before the term glamping was even recognized as a word, Jeremy and Irena Hutchings were welcoming guests to their luxury camp near the sapphire waters and white sand beaches of Australia’s Jervis Bay. The couple first set up Paperbark Camp in 1999, and has since seen the property through expansive growth to where it now includes 12 luxury canvas tents, a full-service restaurant, and a series of walking trails that wind through the properties paperbark, gum, and mangrove forests. Each of the above ground tents at this eco-resort offers an amazing chance to disconnect—none of them include air conditioning, heating, TVs, power outlets, or Wi-Fi—and include wrap-around decks with polished hardwood flooring and solar powered lighting with safari-chic furnishings and natural hand-made toiletries.
Al Seef Hotel by Jumeirah
WHERE: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Set along the south banks of Dubai Creek, the Al Seef Hotel is a reflection of its neighboring Al Fahidi historic district with soaring barajeel towers, Arabian architecture, and centrally situated courtyard. Like its art-centric neighbor, the Al Seef’s design incorporates ancient Emirati aesthetics like woven fabrics, wood beams, and antique light switches in a way that feels entirely modern. The 190 guest rooms are spread throughout 22 buildings, where each room is decorated with a natural color palate and adorned with elements reminiscent of Dubai’s pearl diving and trading heritage. Traditional abras are available for guests to cross the creek for shopping at the Dubai spice souk or the famous gold souk.
Alila Hotels & Resorts
Alila Jabal Akhdar
WHERE: Jabal Akhdar Mountains, Oman
The architecture of this clifftop sanctuary was inspired by the ancient forts of Oman’s rich history, where local stones and heavy wooden beams stand as a reminder of the country’s proud past. This eco-friendly hotel looks out over the Al Hajar Mountains, hovering 2,000 meters above sea level on the edge of a striking gorge. Privacy is key at the Alila Jabal Akhdar, where even with 84 suites and two villas, it’s possible to feel like the only guest in this serene desert oasis. Along with dark wood furniture and curated accent pieces like handmade pottery from Bahla and copper ornaments, each suite features a hand-painted juniper leaf mural by a local artist. The rugged landscape surrounding this property acted as inspiration for many of the onsite activities, including trekking the region’s highest Via Ferrata and exploring a hidden cave along the wadi floor.
Alila Hotels & Resorts
Burj Al Arab Dubaiv
WHERE: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Since opening in 1999, the Burj Al Arab has redefined the physical and luxury landscape of Dubai and the rest of the world with its over-the-top amenities and distinct sail-shaped silhouette. The hotel is estimated have cost $1 billion to construct and a recent addition included importing 1,000 tons of the softest sand in the world from Saudi Arabia to create a luxury beach Terrace. Each of the 202 duplex suites comes with a personal butler (available 24-hours), as well as full-size Hermes toiletries and a pillow menu that lists 17 options to complement the Eiderdown comforters made from the rarest bedding material in the world. Interiors are nothing short of impressive, where their 30 varieties of Italian Statuario marble, more than 1,790 square-meters of 24-carat gold leaf embellishments, and more than 21,000 crystals set inside the largest Swarovski crystal ceiling in the world are just footnotes to this 56-floor hotel’s grand reputation.
Matthew Harvey / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hyatt Zaman Petra
WHERE: Petra, Jordan
Walking through the gates of the Hyatt Zaman Petra feels like walking into an ancient Jordanian village, and that’s because it once was a traditional Jordanian village. This 111-room hotel was created from an abandoned 19th– century village, where local stones and winding pathways guide guests through elaborate archways and communal courtyards. Much of the original architecture remains, while modern updates like free Wi-Fi, heating and air conditioning, a hammam, and an outdoor swimming pool make life at the Hyatt Zaman Petra easy. The hotel offers free shuttles to Petra, located less than eight miles from the property, and welcomes guests back with traditional Bedouin hospitality and food at its onsite restaurant Sahtain.
Link Hotel & Hub Tel Aviv
WHERE: Tel Aviv, Israel
Located on King Saul Avenue, the LINK Hotel & Hub acts as an homage to Tel Aviv’s thriving art scene. Each floor of this hip hotel is a work of art, where French photographer Daniel Siboni curated works from 12 Tel Aviv street artists to line the corridors and guestrooms with bold pieces. There is neither a reception desk nor bellboy when checking in at the LINK, as guests simply use the LinkApp to check in, check out, and access their guestrooms during their stay. The app also functions as the in-room phone for making free calls throughout Israel, as well as serving as the controller for the room’s temperature, color, and lighting. The Hub portion of the hotel functions as a co-working space, living room, and restaurant, where common tables sit paces from retro video games and a craft cocktail bar.
andBeyond Mnemba Island
WHERE: Zanzibar, Tanzania
A little bored of overcrowded beaches and cheesy resorts? How about a private island with its own coral reef, dive school and sites, in-room massages, dolphin sightings, and romantic beach dinners? Ultimate privacy is achieved on this tiny island in the Indian Ocean, about four miles in length and basking in wildlife: bird watching, turtle hatchlings, suni antelope, and coconut crabs. Sure, there are private yoga classes and plenty of water sports to choose from, but with roomy cabanas, beach lounging and gorgeous oceanside dinners by lantern light, there’s plenty of incentive to do nothing at all. Did we mention it’s a private island?
andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge
WHERE: Phinda, South Africa
The genius design of andBeyond’s Phinda Forest Lodge truly brings the outside in, with four glass walls that look out into the ancient sand forest of Phinda Private Game Reserve . The private reserve is one of South Africa’s best kept secrets—a secluded and exclusive natural setting where you can see the famous “Big 5” ( cape buffalo, rhinos, elephants, lions, and leopards ) without hordes of tourists. The 16 impeccably-designed cabins feel like part of an alternate reality, where the sounds of the forest lull you to sleep (or keep you up all night) and a ranger has to escort you to and from your room at night (in case of leopards). Every moment here is wild and magical, starting with breakfast, when the forest comes to life. Giraffes drink daintily from a pond next to the open-air main building while monkeys and impala stroll the hotel grounds like they own the place (they do own the place). On game drives, you might go for hours, spotting elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs without ever seeing another vehicle. As the light fades, it’s time for sundowners while listening to the meditative sounds of the forest.
Mark Ratcliffe / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Bom Bom Island Resort
WHERE: Sao Tome and Principe
With golden beaches, crystal-clear waters, and dramatic junglescapes, Principe Island is the stuff vacation dreams are made of—and The Bom Bom Island Resort makes those dreams come true. The goal of the 19 guest bungalows is simple: they provide the easiest, most comfortable access to the jungle, beach, and sea surrounding you. Amenities are more of an ordeal: the spa offers massage and beauty treatments; the dining room creates exotic, yet simple dishes based on fresh local fruit and ingredients. The resort shows respect to this ancient, beautiful island by making efforts toward sustainability including turtle conservation.
Bom Bom, Sao Tome and Principe
Kasbah du Toubkal
WHERE: High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Surrounded by otherworldy natural beauty, Kasbah Toubkal feels like an impossible dream—a gorgeous yet understated hotel filled with antiques that’s carved into a mountainside. Kasbah Toubkal is far from accessible, but that’s all part of the magic. After driving up precipitous and winding mountain roads that are so narrow it feels like you’re about to scrape the sides of buildings, a donkey awaits to carry your bags. From there, it’s a short but steep hike up to the hotel, a stone and wood fortress that feels thousands of years old. The setting is dramatic, with sheer cliffs, tiny villages, and majestic snow-capped peaks in every direction. The setting is the draw here, but the well-appointed rooms and authentic hammam will make you want to stay forever.
Riad l Orangeraie
WHERE: Marrakesh, Morocco
Tucked away in the narrow streets of the medina, L’Orangeraie is a surprisingly affordable (and infinitely stylish) boutique hotel in one of this year’s travel hot spots. Like many small hotels in Marrakesh, L’Orangeraie is a riad, with a few individually-decorated rooms situated around a stunning courtyard and pool. There’s not a single corner of this hotel that isn’t romantic, from the lush, artsy rooms to the tiled bathrooms and the hidden candlelit nooks and crannies. And while the hotel oozes with character on the inside, one of its best amenities is the serene rooftop where you can enjoy a traditional Moroccan breakfast while drinking tea and listening to the call to prayer echoing off the rooftops of the city. L’Orangeraie is one of those magical hotels that makes you want to quit your job, sell your house, and open up a boutique hotel in a place that’s far from home.
One&Only Nyungwe House
WHERE: Nyamasheke Nyungwe Forest Reserve, Rwanda
Among the best resorts are those that serve foremost to honor their amazing locations. This newly opened luxury resort knows how special it is: Nyungwe House sits at the foot of one of the oldest, most gorgeous, and largest preserved mountain rainforests in Africa. The resort, immediately surronded by rolling green tea plantations and often covered in the mist and peaceful sounds of the rainforest above, markets to a guest seeking not just luxurious amenities but a cultural and natural immersion in an unbelievable place. That’s not to say you won’t experience comfort—the suites and rooms with panoramic views, private balconies and fireplaces are top notch, as is the spa—but the adventures are where it’s at. A dozen hiking trails, African tea tasting, chimpanzee trekking, guided night walks, and community participation celebrations are among the curated ways you’ll experience the Rwandan rainforest here.
WHERE: Throughout Africa
Rovos Rail is not quite a hotel and yet it’s so much more than a hotel. This vintage-chic train is one of the world’s greatest railway adventures, with routes that travel through South Africa to Namibia, Angola, Tanzania, and more. It’s the journey of a lifetime aboard a gorgeous locomotive with wood-paneled interiors, spacious (for a train, anyways) suites with private bathrooms, a sumptuous lounge with an outdoor observation deck, and a restaurant that serves improbably delicious fresh local fare—all decadently paired with South African wines. A stay on Rovos Rail is about the journey, but it’s the destination that comes first, with daily excursions like game drives, bush walks, and city tours.
Schoone Oordt Country House
WHERE: Swellendam, South Africa
Nestled in the South African countryside between peach and apricot orchards and at the foot of the Langeberg mountains sits this sprawling manor house. Owners stumbled upon a crumbling Victorian mansion in the town of Swellendam, on a drive home to Cape Town in 2003, and it soon became a (quite laborious) labor of love. The languorous but welcoming layout of the house, dotted with different sitting areas, feels more like a lucky friend’s mansion than a hotel. Time spent touring nearby Marloth Nature Reserve, riding horses in the Langeberg Mountains, or exploring the cute town of Swellendam are complimented by relaxing hours at the pool, surrounded by a lush gardens and terraced lawns, or in the sunny breakfast room full of hanging plants.
Bruce Geils (Flyinghorse Photography) and Elana van Zyl (Elana van Zyl Photography)
Singita Boulders Lodge
WHERE: Kruger National Park, South Africa
In perhaps a common theme among these ultra-exclusive nature retreats, the architecture here does its best to blend into the outside world as a way of paying homage to it: sandy, neutral colors, thatched roofing, natural wood and stonework open out onto the preserved wildness of a private game reserve. Each suite, with its sitting rooms of natural hide, wood, and stone decor, glass walls, and private pool and deck essentially melts into the impressive outdoor surroundings. Exploring the property includes safari walks, game tours, stargazing, archery, and wine tastings inside the private wine cellar (and option to send favorite Singita wines home).
SS Sudan on the River Nile
WHERE: The Nile River, Egypt
If you seek one-of-a-kind travel, it doesn’t get much better than a 100-year-old cruise along the Nile River. The historic steamship (where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile in 1933) maintains impeccable Old World details: wood-paneled cabins with gold trim, brass beds, and parquet floors; wooden decks covered in rattan furniture and cafe tables; lush interior parlors, a restaurant with breathtaking views, and a sleek piano bar. The steamship makes six-day trips between Luxor and Aswan (offering itineraries in both directions). Schedules aboard are packed with gourmet meals, relaxation, and visits to temples, holy sights, and the Theban Necropolis.
Voyageurs du Monde
andBeyond Vira Vira
WHERE: Araucanía, Chile
What appears as a stack of boxes hidden among the trees, water, and mountain range backdrop of Chile’s Lake District, is actually a stunning modern resort and working organic farm, balancing elements of rustic authenticity and modern sophistication. After a day of hikes, rafting or touring the volcanoes, lakes and waterfalls via helicopter, spend the night soaking in an outdoor hot tub, dining outside along the Liucura River, doing yoga, or nestling in to sip wine in one of the comfortable living areas. Winter here in the warm rooms of rustic wood, natural hides, and wool, spares no magic: skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding are among the best activities.
Courtesy of andBeyond
Aria Amazon River Cruise
Gliding along the Peruvian Amazon, this high-end floating boutique hotel marries contemporary design and five-star luxury and service, with off-ship adventures for an enriching hotel-stay that checks all the boxes: once-in-a-lifetime experiences, high-end pampering, and top-notch dining. Yes, you are floating into the Amazon jungle in a sexy riverboat with 16 high-design suites featuring floor to ceiling windows; a roof deck with a bar and a hot tub; a locally-sourced menu curated by Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (of Malabar and ámaZ, two of Latin America’s top 50 restaurants), but somehow your experience feels intimate, authentic, and not at all superficial. Maybe it’s the carefully curated daily skiff-excursions into the remote black waters of the Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve where you fish for piranha; search for anacondas, sloths, and pink dolphins; and visit riverbank villages. It’s the pauses at sunset to soak in the sounds of this vibrant, incredible place and the depth of knowledge and pride exhibited by the guides as they share and delight in their Amazon with you. Altogether, it’s magical.
Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions
WHERE: Quito, Ecuador
On the corner of San Francisco Plaza, in historically preserved downtown Quito, this mansion-turned-hotel sits across from the city’s premier early church—San Francisco—built in 1680. The Gangotenas, a family of local prominence, had residence here most recently, though it housed other royalty of the republic before that, and even earlier, was the supposed site of an Inca temple. Opened as a hotel in 2010, today it’s home to Baroque and Art Deco elements, opulent marble baths, high ceilings, and grand murals depicting nature and battle scenes. Enjoy views from the rooftop, or relaxing high tea in the garden. The chef takes years of experience cooking in the Galapagos and Ecuadorian rainforest to provide stylish, elevated Quito flavors.
Courtesy of Casa Gangotena
Casa San Agustín
WHERE: Cartagena, Colombia
In Cartagena’s Old Town (a colorful historic district, and convenient jump-off for exploring the city), you’ll find the stately Casa San Augustin, a luxurious haven and well-maintained architectural gem of a colonial home, comprised of white-washed walls, red-tiled roofs, and wood accented windows. Guests end each day in the photogenic pool courtyard full of gorgeous tiling and tropical plants. Then there’s the library, a chic bar, and guest rooms with canopy beds, exposed-wood ceilings and sweeping city views. The staff goes above and beyond, whether it’s breakfast in bed, a thoughtfully prepared cocktail, or expert recommendations for exploring the city.
Courtesy of Casa San Agustin
WHERE: Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
This Uruguayan estancia provides guests with the grand essentials of gaucho life: fantastic horseback riding adventures, fine wine (often from the owner’s own vineyards), and meat cooked over a fire. The drive up and initial walk-through are breathtaking: high ceilings, repeating archways, and exposed natural brick and wood imitating the stark grandeur of the surrounding pampas , polo fields, and grazing plains. Gorgeous art and highly-curated interior design give the resort the vibe of a hip, eclectic mansion. Access to neighboring sister resorts—Playa Vik Jose Ignacio and Bahia Vik Jose Ignacio—make it easy to dive into the surrounding area’s ritzy beach scene.
WHERE: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Walking into the converted brick warehouse known as the Faena Hotel is like walking into an eccentric millionaire’s mansion, if that eccentric millionaire was promising you one of the most luxurious and unique hotel stays of your life. The service is top-notch, and a short list of what you’ll find within these funky walls includes the only hammam in Buenos Aires, an all-white bistro decorated with unicorn heads, and possibly the best tango show in the country. Everything about this place, from the red, luscious decor to the knick-knack-filled restaurants to the pool topped with a gold crown are fun, quirky, and outrageously over-the-top in the best way possible.
Faena Hotel Buenos Aires
Hotel Santa Teresa Rio MGallery by Sofitel
WHERE: Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Hidden in plain view on a windy cobblestone street high in the hills of one of Rio’s coolest neighborhoods, Hotel Santa Teresa is an urban oasis. The coffee plantation-turned-boutique-hotel is one of the most stylish places to stay in the city, with simple rooms appointed with rustic-chic décor. Most of the rooms have a balcony that opens to the courtyard, revealing one of the hotel’s best assets—the absolutely breathtaking view. The location is ideal for exploring Rio off the beach, with easy access to the restaurants and art galleries of Santa Teresa, and a short walk or ride away from Lapa, the heart of Rio’s wild nightlife scene. But you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t laze away a day here, setting up camp by the pool, getting a massage, or ordering room service.
Hotel Santa Teresa
JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
WHERE: Cusco, Peru
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the El Convento Cusco is that you can breathe. At 11,000 feet up, that’s rare in this city. But they pump oxygen in through the vents at El Convento, keeping your lungs happy. The second thing will be the cup of coca tea they hand you at check-in, which despite its ingredients, is wonderfully soothing. And just like that, you’ll be relaxed. And that feeling will linger throughout your stay, as will the wondrous sense of being in the midst of history. As the name suggests, the property was once a convent built in the 16th century. The property does everything it can to remind you of what once was–artifacts are around every corner and local artisans sit in a grand courtyard weaving alpaca knitwear as others in the city have done for centuries. It’s most likely you’re in town to head off to Machu Picchu, but the problem is the El Convento is so relaxing, so beautiful, that you’ll be tempted instead to while your hours away on the grounds.
Courtesy of JW Cusco
WHERE: Patagonia, Chile
You’ve never seen views like this–the scenery, yes, but more exciting, the rhea birds flittering past your room window, wild horses tromping along as you sit on the deck, or even a herd of guanaco grazing in the distance from where you soak in the hottub in the Tierra Patagonia Hotel . All the while, the spectacular Towers of Paine loo m over Lake Sarmiento in the distance on the edge of famed Torres del Paine National Park. There isn’t a bad view to be seen, even at night when the landscape pitches black and the stars bloom across the sky.
UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa
WHERE: Trancoso, Brazil
Sultry, stylish, and secluded, this eco-chic paradise is the epitome of low-key luxury. Perched above the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of quaint Trancoso, Brazil, UXUA is luxury redefined—natural materials, private plunge pools, and handmade details complete 11 individual casitas in a lush jungle setting improbably just a few steps from the town’s main square. It is pure paradise and heaven on earth, with thoughtful minimalist construction that lets the outside in. You could spend a lifetime lazing away under the palm trees and listening to Joao Gilberto, but the beach beckons. And you don’t want to miss this beach—one of the highlights of a stay at UXUA is the chic beach club just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, with plush loungers, a restaurant, and a bar reserved for hotel guests.
Courtesy of UXUA
WHERE: Tulum, Mexico
This eco-retreat in Tulum’s Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve offers barefoot luxury at its best. Azulik’s 48 thatched-roof villas are nestled in the jungle and provide everything necessary for guests to reconnect with nature. The hotel’s natural materials allow it to blend in with its surroundings and create a calm and spiritual vibe. Those wanting to step away from modern conveniences in lieu of rustic luxe will be in for a treat: candlelight instead of electricity, airy rooms that make air-conditioning redundant, mosaic bathtubs rather than showers, and a strict shoes-off policy. The hotel is adults-only and has a clothing optional attitude at the beach for guests wanting to leave their inhibitions behind. Three onsite restaurants, room service, a Maya spa, and complimentary yoga classes each morning complete the experience.
Cayo Espanto Private Island
WHERE: Cayo Espanto, Belize
Just off the coast of Ambergris Caye in Belize, Cayo Espanto provides the ultimate luxury experience: a private-island getaway in the Caribbean. Set on a tiny island, the six seafront villas that make up the property provide a holiday experience tailored to each guest. Celebrities flock to its shores seeking privacy and anonymity, and perhaps also attracted by the private pools, dedicated personal butler for each villa, and $3,000 sheets. The food is also a highlight at the property, as are the panoramic ocean views. Activities include kayaking around the island and exploring the nearby barrier reef, but many guests choose to simply relax and soak in the memorable experience.
WHERE: Merida, Mexico
A restored 19th-century hacienda serves as the starting point of this luxe spa-retreat located 27 miles away from Merida, Yucatan’s colonial gem. Forty villas in impeccable modern minimalist design provide an interesting contrast to the antique tiles and crumbling arches of the original constructions–but it all fits together seamlessly. The spa is a definite highlight of the property, and it comes complete with traditional temazcal sweat lodges and an underground sinkhole locally-known as a cenote. Its three restaurants are overseen by famed chef Jorge Vallejo from Mexico City’s Quintonil restaurant, recently named one of the 50 best chefs in the world, and among the many characteristics setting this property apart is its large tequila collection comprising 5,000 vintage tequila bottles.
Courtesy of Chable Resort
Coqui Coqui Coba
WHERE: Coba, Mexico
Coqui Coqui Coba is part of the Coqui Coqui Residences, a collection of intimate boutique hotels in the Yucatan Peninsula. The five-room property in Coba, one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites, offers incredible views to the Pyramid of Papolchac, nearby freshwater lagoon, and the surrounding jungle. The hotel blends in with its environment and pays homage to its Mayan heritage by serving Yucatan cuisine and offering treatments that use traditional Mayan techniques. The suites are located within two limestone towers that stand tall in the jungle and are decorated in 1920s explorer style: handmade Safari-inspired furniture, antique maps, anthropology books, and stone bathtubs. Guests can while away the time by jumping in the outdoor dipping pools, lounging on a hammock, or checking out the boutique and perfumery, which houses an exclusive collection of fragrances.
Courtesy of Coqui Coqui Coba
Finca Rosa Blanca
WHERE: Santa Barbara, Costa Rica
It’s well-known that Costa Rica produces some of the best coffee in the world, so a hotel with a concept centering on coffee should come as no surprise in this Central American country. Finca Rosa Blanca, an eco-boutique hotel set in the highlands above the capital city, San Jose, is a coffee lover’s dream. There are guided walks through the coffee plantation and coffee tasting sessions on a daily basis, the spa offers full-body coffee scrubs, and the chef might serve coffee-rubbed chicken for dinner. The eclectic rooms and villas are filled with artwork, all have a terrace or balcony, and some have deep-soaking bathtubs decorated with colorful mosaics. Over 130 species of birds live in the vicinity, and excursions include going to nearby volcanoes and a cloud forest.
Courtesy of Finca Rosa Blanca
Four Seasons Punta Mita
WHERE: Punta Mita, Mexico
Set on a white-sand beach within a gated community, Four Seasons Punta Mita is exclusive, luxurious, and down-to-earth all at once. With adults-only areas like the Tamai pool, a slow-flowing river geared more towards families, and an acclaimed golf course, this resort is a top choice for most types of travelers–except those on a budget. Its food options are plentiful, from fresh seafood tacos served by the beach to upscale contemporary Asian dishes at Aramara, its signature restaurant. When it comes to relaxation, the spa offers some of the best treatments you’ll ever find, like the Punta Mita Tequila Stone massage. Guests interested in cultural activities will be delighted to hear there is a Cultural Concierge on site who leads an interesting tequila blending experience and different workshops.
WHERE: Islas Secas, Panama
The nine private villas that comprise Islas Secas Reserve and Lodge are scattered across an archipelago in Panama’s Pacific coast, making it the first private archipelago hotel. The area is known for its marine biodiversity and besides developing a resort for well-to-do travelers, one of the intentions of the billionaire conservationist who bought the islands is to protect the marine ecosystem and support scientific research. Surrounded by lush vegetation, expansive decks and plunge pools abound, and each villa is impeccably designed and fitted with minimalist decor, with private dining areas and showers that partly open to the outdoors. Among the activities that guests can enjoy are fishing, diving, and whale-watching. Wellness treatments can be performed in the privacy of each villa, either indoors or outdoors surrounded by nature.
WHERE: Santa Elena, Guatemala
Owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, La Lancha is decorated not only with Guatemalan handicrafts such as wooden masks and fabric wall hangings, but also with objects once belonging to film scenes. Set in a rainforest overlooking Lake Petén Itzá, and a mere 45-minute drive away from the Mayan ruins at Tikal, the 10 rooms that make up the property uphold an eco-philosophy by not having televisions or air conditioning. The hotel is family friendly, has a split-level pool, library, kayaks that can be used on the lake at no extra cost, and free Wi-Fi throughout. Guests fond of bird-watching would be wise to explore the surrounding rainforest as toucans and parakeets are in abundance. There are also jungle trails that can be explored on foot, mountain bike, or horseback.
Courtesy of Coppola Hideaways
The Lodge at Pico Bonito
WHERE: La Ceiba, Honduras
Located near La Ceiba region on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, the Lodge & Spa at Pico Bonito is a luxury eco-lodge that offers upscale comforts right in the middle of the rainforest. All 22 air-conditioned cabins are decorated in plantation style and each have their own porch and hammock. Guests don’t need to leave the property to get a glimpse of the area’s biodiversity, as there is a butterfly farm on site and plenty of wildlife around, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy bird-watching. There are walking trails starting from the hotel that lead to waterfalls and swimming holes with varying degrees of difficulty, so guests should ask staff before heading out to ensure they pick the right one for their activity level. There is a restaurant offering Honduran and international specialties, as well as a small boutique spa.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Los Almendros de San Lorenzo
WHERE: Suchitoto, El Salvador
Walking into Los Almendros de San Lorenzo in the quintessentially cute town of Suchitoto feels a bit like walking into your home away from home. The 200-year old building has been perfectly restored, bringing authentic colonial charm to this hotel. Rooms are decorated with antiques and situated around a stunning courtyard, complete with a pool and a few tables and chairs where you can relax with a drink in hand. Arrive at dusk to see the hotel at its best, with antique lamps bathing the yellow walls in a warm glow and the garden courtyard illuminated by twinkling fairy lights.
Courtesy of Los Almendros de San Lorenzo
WHERE: Turks & Caicos
With a name that translates to “peaceful place,” it’s no surprise that this tranquil paradise is located on one of Turks & Caicos’ most secluded beaches between a protected nature reserve and a marine national park. The resort’s 38 glass-walled pavilions offer unobstructed views of the property, where guests can choose to look out on the ocean, over the resort’s numerous ponds, or on to the manicured gardens that provide a natural privacy to the wooden sundecks and outdoor terraces. Each of the 20 luxury villas sit on their own one-and-a-half-acre plot along the property and includes a dedicated villa host and a personal chef, as well as two four-seat solar powered buggies to transport guests to and from the resort’s other offerings. Amanyara’s culinary experiences range from private dining in a romantic cove to fresh caught seafood served with an upscale Caribbean flare, but it’s the resort’s iconic circular bar where most guests gather as the sun begins to go down on yet another day in paradise.
Cobblers Cove Hotel
Once the private home for sugar cane planter and politician Joss Haynes, Cobblers Cove is now the home-away-from-home for discerning guests looking to escape to the sunny shores of Barbados’ tranquil west coast. The resort offers 40 suites, each individually decorated to offer personality within this iconic pink and white building with bay windows and a turreted roof. Spend the day at the pool or take to the shores for complimentary waterskiing, swimming with turtles, and watersports. The resort offers live music every Sunday during lunch, where guests can dine inside Camelot Restaurant to experience fresh caught fish prepared in a local Barbadian style.
Nick Smith Photography
The Cotton House
WHERE: Mustique Island, St. Vincent & Grenadines
Originally developed in the mid-1960s as a private hideaway for celebrities, socialites, and the extremely wealthy, the island of Mustique has become famous in its own right for its luxurious offerings, famous residents, and extravagant parties held at The Cotton House. The resort’s New Years’ Eve fete is legendary, but it’s the weekly complimentary cocktail party every Tuesday night on the decks that draws the entire island to this upscale retreat. The Cotton House sits on 13 acres just beyond Endeavour Bay, with a private spa and gym, multiple dining options, and a central Great Room that acts as the heart of the action at the resort. Each of the 17 villas, suites, and cottages drips with colonial charm and features a private veranda and plunge pool.
The Mustique Company
Hotel Villa Marie St. Barth
WHERE: St. Barthélemy
While star-studded St. Barth can sometimes feel a bit too flashy, Hotel Villa Marie is anything but. Serene, classic, and impeccably styled with traditional tropical prints and modern touches, this gorgeous getaway is a perfect antidote to St. Barth’s wild beach clubs. Comfortable yet chic, this hotel is supremely cozy and welcoming, with a plethora of colorful nooks and crannies to spend your day: the open-air living room, the lush palm-lined pool, the sun-bleach porch filled with cool wicker furniture, or the wood-paneled rum and cigar bar. While it’s hard to leave this place, the hotel will also organize a beach picnic for guests—complete with chilled rosé.
Hotel Villa Marie St Barths
WHERE: Port Antonio, Jamaica
Opening the wooden shutters from inside these chic tree houses perfumes the space with a delicate scent of white ginger lilies and fresh morning dew from the leaves of 100-foot-tall banyan trees. That’s because the eight elevated villas at Kanopi House are set high in the hills of a flowering rainforest overlooking Jamaica’s famous Blue Lagoon. The views are incredible, but it’s the air of effortless luxury that surrounds this family-owned and -operated property that keeps guests returning season after season. The entire property was built with an eco-conscious ethos, where no tree was harmed and rooms feature handmade furnishings and décor crafted from local farmers and artists. Days are spent lounging in the open air Living Room, relaxing on any of the nearby beaches, or exploring the jungle through the resort’s many adventurous excursions, like swimming to Monkey Island or floating down the Rio Grande.
Other Side Hotel
WHERE: Eleuthera Island, Bahamas
This solar-powered campus raises the bar on beachfront camping, where guests can select from six deceptively named accommodations that include three Tents and three Shacks. The Shacks at The Other Side appear high on a hill overlooking the private beach, and feature four-poster king beds and oversized sundecks for taking in the amazing views. The three sleeping tents are part of a row of seven total Tents along the beach, where bleached hardwoods line the floor and thick canvas canopies act as the ceilings for these uncompromising units. Victorian dressing mirrors and vintage record players give the accommodations an old-world feel, while air conditioning and rainfall showers keep the eco-luxury tents up with modern times. Guests can lend a hand with the onsite vegetable garden, or simply let owner-and-chef Ben Simmons create something fabulous with his celebrated farm-to-table fare.
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
WHERE: Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
At the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort verdant, natural beauty and sophisticated luxury work hand in hand to create a hotel experience that is unlike any other in the world. The St. Regis is located a little less than an hour from San Juan where it’s snugly ensconced between El Yonque National Forest and the sparkling waters of the Caribbean. Guests can look forward to a number of amenities including a golf course, a full service spa, and a butler service. You can split your time between lounging by the pool and sinking your toes into the pristine Bahia Beach—which is never more than a few steps away. And then at night, you can enjoy the various night songs of the fauna that call his resplendent corner of Puerto Rico home.
St. Regis Hotels and Resorts / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
WHERE: Portsmouth, Dominica
After moving off the island at the age of five, Gregor Nassief returned to Dominica frequently to free climb alongside his cousin in the cliffs above the island’s azure coastlines where he shared his dream of becoming a poet. Now the owner of one of the leading boutique hotels in the world, Nassief’s passion for his childhood home has created a poetic enclave within those same cliffs he once climbed. Secret Bay features six sustainably-built villas that range from 1,356-2,700 square feet on lots ranging from 5,000-8,500 square feet. Expansive yet intimate, this resort remains dedicated to the land by hiring local employees, purchasing local produce, and supporting local artisans and businesses. Rooms are stocked with ultra-modern amenities like Apple TVs with unlocked Netflix accounts and Sonos Bluetooth speakers, where private plunge pools are standard among these eco-luxury freestanding villas.
Secret Bay Domenica
WHERE: St George's, Grenada
Located on a sheltered two-mile stretch of pristine coastline, the Silversands hotel offers an opulent respite for luxuriating along Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach. The rooms, suites, and villas at this upscale resort face west for uninterrupted sunset views each night, where 39 rooms and 13 suites are decorated in a minimalist style with open floor plans and carefully curated furnishings. The resort is home to the longest infinity pool in Caribbean (330 feet), and features two restaurants and a spa with a sauna, hammam, pool, and fitness center. In an effort to give back to its local community, Silversands partnered with the Grenada Network of Rural Women Producers to stock its restaurants with quality local produce while offering a stable income for the women within the network.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
WHERE: St. Lucia
More than 100 acres of rainforests and beaches make up the gorgeous landscape of this expansive resort. Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, is luxury at its finest, where each of the 96 plantation-style guestrooms, bungalows, villas, and residences feature private patios and plunge pools. Personal butlers are available for all villa guests, offerings 24-hour service with everything from unpacking luggage upon arrival to handling personal requests throughout the stay. Rooms are adorned in airy, minimalist décor in a way that allows the details to shine, like the Egyptian cotton linen that delicately drapes over the edges of pure white four-poster beds and the blue-hued reflections that shine in through the glass doors from the ocean below. The resort’s multiple dining venues give guests countless culinary options for longer stays, and the Rainforest Spa offers an immoderate indulgence with its menu of organic treatments and rituals.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Areias do Seixo
WHERE: Comporta, Portugal
On the Portuguese coast, an hour north of Lisbon, is what began as the owners’ vision of a humble meeting place for visitors. What appears today is more of a modern glass palace on the edge of the ocean, a rambling series of outdoor patios, guest rooms and private villas with their own swimming pools and grills. Design and amenities throughout are ecologically inspired, including the spa. The kitchen and daily tasting menus are inventions of the onsite vegetable garden and sustainably cultivated local seafood, produce, and game. Within the superb architecture, views, and offerings, there’s a space to fully immerse in relaxation that can’t be taken for granted.
Areias do Seixo
WHERE: County Mayo, Ireland
Staying in a classic Irish castle for at least one night is as essential to your Irish bucket list as drinking a pint of Guinness and getting stuck behind sheep-traffic on a winding back road. For a taste of classic Irish luxury and hospitality, and a heavy dose of fairytale feels, stay at Ashford Castle on the border of Galway and Mayo in the beautiful west of Ireland. What exactly produces those fairytale feels? A stunning take-your-breath-away setting of this moated medieval-cum-Victorian castle on 350 acres of lush green woodlands hugging Lough Corrib. Pristine, personal service that has been refined and perfected on Ashford’s countless celebrity and dignitary guests. A recent and loving restoration that married the castle’s character and charm with all the expected modern comforts and technology. A private cinema, formal dining room, elegant rooms, and high-end spa, as well as onsite amenities that include everything from archery and falconry to zip-lining and golf. And finally–there’s that authentic warmth and charm which is delivered with every interaction, be it your barman, your local guide, or those two giant wolfhounds who take you for a morning walk in the woods.
Courtesy of Ashford Castle
Four Seasons Moscow
WHERE: Moscow, Russia
Literally dripping with diamonds (there’s a jewelry store in the lobby with display cases scattered throughout), the Four Seasons Moscow is everything you could ever dream of in a luxurious Russian hotel—shiny marble walls and floors, oversized chandeliers, rooms the size of a large apartment, and one of the most over-the-top urban spas in the world. While luxury chain hotels can sometimes feel a bit stuffy and corporate, the Four Seasons Moscow is anything but—it’s dynamic, sexy, and right in the middle of it all, just steps away from the Kremlin, the Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the literal center of the city. Just don’t forget your fur coat.
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Moscow
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
There are few hotels that rise to the description of legend, but the Adlon Kempinski manages to not only live up to its legacy, but to surpass it. Ever since it first opened next to the Brandenburg Gate in 1907, it has been a center point for a nation and a spotlight for culture. It has hosted state-visits from the last Tsar of Russia to President Barack Obama. It’s where a fictional Sally Bowles went to meet her father, where Greta Garbo told the world she wanted to be alone, where Michael Jackson infamously dangled a baby out a window. And though it was destroyed in World War II, it has been lovingly restored to its former splendor down to the reconstructed elephant fountain in the lobby bar, a replica of the one the Maharaja of Patiala gifted to the property in 1930. But beyond its lore is everything that makes a grand hotel grander: divine elegance, supreme comfort, and a staff that is both refined and kind.
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
WHERE: Paris, France
One could award Le Meurice five stars solely based on location—in the First Arrondissement, directly across from the Tuileries Garden, and minutes from the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre—but of course there is much more to it. This palace has hosted artists, royalty, and luxury-seeking visitors alike since 1815 (Dali lived here for years), and today shrouds guests in over-the-top, decadent plein de vie details in a Louis XVI style: crystal chandeliers, gilded panelling and gold crown molding, sky-high murals, and a two Michelin-star restaurant. Though you have your pick of walking-distance gourmet restaurants, making time for cocktails, afternoon tea, or brunch is a must here.
Mama Shelter Prague
WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic
Within minutes of arriving in Prague’s Mama Shelter hotel you will be feeling the love. “Mama Loves You!” and “Come to Mama!” are displayed in the slick lobby. The personal message on the full-length mirror in your cool, compact, well-designed bedroom echoes this sentiment as does the “Mama loves you from head to toe” message on the organic body cream in your modern bathroom. There’s much to love back: the wildly colorful murals and rugs throughout; quirky design touches like cartoon masks on the bedside lamps, tables fashioned from stacks of books, and whimsical furnishings; wallpapered elevators; vintage video games in the lobby (and, um, free porn in the rooms); and those red-tile roof views of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Add an excellent restaurant, lively bar, and outdoor terrace all designed to encourage lingering and socializing; a warm, personable staff who insist you try the goulash (and rightly so) and recommend nearby boutiques and galleries; and a location in an up-and-coming neighborhood just a short tram ride to the heart of Prague and all its top attractions. This hotel manages to be both luxurious and affordable, which is almost as much of an accomplishment as its ability to be both authentically warm and authentically cool.
WHERE: London, England
Earlier this year, we called the Mandrake Hotel the “most mysteriously magical hotel in all of London.” And we absolutely stand by that statement. This is a house of mysticism and charm and it’s apparent from the moment you arrive through its nondescript entry, as though crawling through the rabbit hole, that you’re in a whole new world. Here you’ll find multi-storied gardens, paintings that are perhaps conjured from an ayahuasca fever dream, and a spa where relaxation comes not from touch but from singing bowls. The guest rooms are uniquely and superbly decorated—some have the refined taste of an English drawing room or a modernist New York brownstone, while others are so gloriously bonkers that you’ll feel as though you’re in the fits of a hallucination within a Parisian bordello. The Mandrake is a hotel that will calm your body, wake your mind, and sustain your spirit.
Courtesy of The Mandrake
WHERE: Athens, Greece
A lot can go wrong at a modern-designed hotel—all too often privacy and comfort are forsaken for style (not even the closest of couples want a window from their bedroom to their bathroom). But that’s not the case here, not at the New Hotel. Though it’s incredibly well-designed, even romantic—from the dining spaces to the guest rooms—it’s an exceptionally relaxing hotel. Even the perfume of the lobby manages to supply an olfactory serenity, which is a welcome treat after a long flight to Athens. The rooms are quirky, somewhat whimsical, but will easily bring about a smile. And the bathrooms, which are spacious and beautiful, are compartmentalized to allow as much or as little concealment between you and your sweetheart.
Courtesy of New Hotel
WHERE: Muhu Island, Estonia
On an island off the coast of Estonia is this special little estate, surrounded by views of bays, inlets, and the coastal marshes of the Baltic Sea. The old stone manor today—full of sheepskin rugs, oversized windows, and fireplaces—resembles the low-key country home of Estonian royalty. Guest rooms are in the main manor and private farm or carriage houses. At the Alexander restaurant, you’ll find fresh baked bread, homegrown vegetables, and Nordic Island’s cuisine garnished with foraged flowers and plants. Activities encourage exploring the incredible area, especially known for rare orchids, with birdwatching, helicopter rides, cultural tours, golfing, and spa treatments.
Relais La Suvera
WHERE: Pievescola, Italy
Not far from Siena, in the middle of Tuscany stands the old, crumbling palace of Pope Julius II. It was built as a fortress in the 12th century before its papal upgrade, and in 1990 made into a hotel by Marquis Ricci and his wife, Princess Eleanora Massimo, both of whom live on the grounds. To be fair, it is a very odd property—ancient statues, family heirlooms, and the shadows of history are around every bend—and will not conform to everyone’s taste (we even called it the spookiest luxury hotel in the world). And though it’s possible for it to be outside of one’s taste—it lacks some of the amenities of modern comfort—for those who embrace its old-world charms, it will be impossible to merely like it, but rather, fall hopelessly under its haunting spell. Its unique yesteryear elegance is what ultimately elevates it as a superb luxury hotel.
Retreat at Blue Lagoon
WHERE: Keflavik, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited and beloved attractions, conveniently situated between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport, making it an easy stop between the two destinations. But now, with the opening of the Retreat at Blue Lagoon , visitors can make the extraordinary location homebase and indulge in the holistic spa experience as much as they like. And with one-of-a-kind amenities like geothermal seawater; lava canyons; natural beauty products like silica, algae, mud, and clay masks; and a mineral-rich waterscape at your doorstep, your health and wellness are sure to positively benefit from your stay.
WHERE: Stepantsminda, Georgia
This remote, ’60s-era boutique hotel in the Khevi province of Georgia is set against a backdrop of Mount Kazbek. The town at the hotel’s base is still developing, which belies the grandness of the rustic-chic ski lodge that you’ll find farther up the mountain. During Soviet times it was a haunt for government officials, as well as a sports base. Minimal yet cozy guest rooms have balconies that look out onto the sublime natural surroundings. On the lower level is a 30-foot heated indoor swimming pool with floor to ceiling windows revealing views of the icy mountain range; upstairs you’ll find an open dining room serving traditional Georgian cuisine, a sprawling terrace where you can wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy wine under the stars, and a very small casino.
Courtesy of Rooms Kazbegi
WHERE: Menorca, Spain
This Menorcan farm-turned-chic-hotel is a sleek, sophisticated blend of the historic and modern, with beige and white interior colors surrounded by whitewashed and original stone walls. High quality of care and design here match a location rich in heritage and natural beauty. The outdoor patios, great lawn and pool deck stretch out among arid farmland, native plants and flowers, and the azure of the sky and sea. On a hill surrounded by vineyards (but close to Menorca’s best beaches), rooms with private patios look out to the Mediterranean Sea. Local wine is plentiful, and cuisine make the most of Menorcan flavors, utilizing the parilla and access to fresh, local seafood.
Courtesy of Torralbenc
WHERE: Harads, Sweden
In a little village by the Lule River and high among the forest pines, you’ll find an enchanting series of floating abodes: among them, a wooden cabin, bird’s nest, UFO, and modern glass-panelled cube. Treehouse quarters are relatively small, of course, but necessities like bedding don’t lack in comfort and ease. The kitchen, making dishes out of foraged forest berries and locally caught fish and game, prides itself on expressing the uniqueness of the magical area. Activities range from your favorite regular outdoor pleasures (hiking, biking, fishing, and moose-gazing) to the extra special (horse-pulled skiing, dog sled rides, ice dining, and a treehouse steambath).
WHERE: Lake Como, Italy
Villa D’Este is the setting of a fairytale, starring you. One of Italy’s most exclusive hotels, it’s an improbably gorgeous hotel, filled with priceless artworks in gilded frames, sumptuously over-the-top fabrics, luxurious marble bathrooms, and the famous floating swimming pool built into a dock on Lake Como. The views here are stunning, with glassy Lake Como visible at every turn, and lush green mountains sloping into the sea. And while this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Europe, that’s not the only reason to visit. Villa D’Este is a hotel like no other, where service goes above and beyond—when you’re here, you’re royalty.
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo may seem like an odd choice for a brand that is best-known for its ultra-luxury resorts in remote locations , but the Aman Tokyo is so serene that you’ll forget you’re in the heart of one of the largest cities in the world. Occupying the top six floors of a 38-story high-rise steps from the Imperial Palace, the Aman Tokyo boasts one of the most beautiful lobbies in the world, combining the best of modern and traditional. The rooms are all spacious and stunning, utilizing natural materials and large windows to great effect. They also come with a high price tag, though, so you may find yourself wanting to spend as much time as possible in your room. Fortunately, the spectacular soaking tubs overlooking the city make that easy to do. Aman is famous for their spas and the Tokyo version doesn’t disappoint. Access to the breathtaking pool is free for hotel guests and is worth a visit.
WHERE: Baa Atoll, Maldives
The name Amilla Fushi translates to “my island home” in English, but in its native Dhivehi this tropical resort makes its home on one of the 26 Maldivian atolls in the Indian Ocean. Amilla Fushi occupies the entire Baa Atoll, protected as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, with 67 luxurious homes and residences that include a range of overwater lagoon villas, beach villas, beach residences, and over-the-top tree houses set in the canopies of coconut palms. All accommodations come with private pools and private butlers. Every guest receives a customized experience upon check in, where guests of the beach residences can even customize their license plates to distinguish one Rolls Royce style buggy from the other. The resort is a snorkeling and diving paradise, with onsite PADI courses for guests and a variety of complimentary watersports and daytime excursions.
Carl B / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul
WHERE: Seoul, South Korea
Any trip to Korea isn’t complete without a Korean spa experience–the bathing, soaking, steaming, and dunking in pools of water and rooms of heat. But with gender-segregated spa experiences, it can be difficult to participate with opposite-sex partners. Or, if you feel like having the experience without the crowds? Banyan Tree Spa and Club Seoul offers the most pampering and private opportunity for traditional Korean spa relaxation in your very own room or suite, including a relaxation pool as well as a steam room with rain shower. So whether you want a solo spa experience or don’t want to leave another’s side, you don’t have to leave your room in order to unwind in exclusive luxury.
Luxuori Collection/ Flickr. [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Four Seasons Sayan, Bali
WHERE: Bali, Indonesia
Beyond the sheer exquisiteness of the property, with its rice terraces, rushing river, and serenity spas, the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan offers one-of-a-kind experiences ranging from exhilarating whitewater rafting on the Ayung River to meditative rice planting in a day in the life of a Balinese farmer to the blissful wellness activity of the Sacred Nap and even Balinese cooking lessons, full moon yoga, a guided jungle and town tour with a local and a variety of pools, soaks, and spa services. The incredible design of the hotel, intertwined harmoniously with the grounds, will leave you awestruck with every new view. If you go to Bali, you won’t want to leave Sayan.
Four Seasons Resorts Bali
The Fullerton Hotel
Where the River meets the Bay in this city of East-meets-West stands the Fullerton, a hotel where the past and the present happily collide. Built as the stately home of the General Post Office in colonial times and converted into a luxurious paradise in the years after the turn of the millennium, it’s a glorious reminder of the country’s history and rapid evolution to the future. Though much of the Singapore’s development feels a bit too much like Vegas (the Marina Bay Sands is brought you by the Sands Corporation, after all), the Fullerton presents scale while maintaining sophisticated elegance. And, if you’ve got yourself a room with a view, you’ll find it’s so impressive, it’ll almost be impossible to abandon it come check-out.
Courtesy of The Fullerton
WHERE: Gangtey Valley, Bhutan
Happiness is embedded in the founding principles of the Kingdom of Bhutan, where the country measures its progress through Gross National Happiness. The Gangtey Lodge is a natural extension of the country’s ethos, with immersive experiences and impactful programs designed specifically to incite happiness in all who arrive to this Bhutanese farmhouse-style lodge. Located on the fourth of the five valleys of Bhutan, beneath the 17th– century Gangtey Monastery and overlooking the valley floor below, all-inclusive full-board packages await guests checking in to any of the 12 suites. The intricate details, like hand-cut stone and exposed brickwork and hand-carved beams, elevate the experience in-suite, while luxuries like under-floor heating, woven blankets, and WiFi offer extra comfort without taking away from the experience. Plan to spend at least three days here to take advantage of even just a few of the wellness, culinary, spiritual, and adventure programs offered.
WHERE: Phuket, Thailand
Nestled in the verdant rainforest of Thailand’s largest islands, the serene ambiance of this luxury treetop resort acts as a welcomed respite from the energetic atmosphere of the shores of Phuket. From Keemala’s perch above the Andaman Sea, guests have the option of sleeping within the 38 pool villas, clay cottages, nests, and tree houses spread throughout four locations named after the historic Keemala clans—the Khon-Jorn (wanderer clan), We-Ha (sky clan), Rung-Nok (nest clan), and Pa-Ta-Pea (earth clan). The property is home to a number of trickling waterfalls and lush gardens, but it’s the resort’s holistic programs and healing treatments at the Mala Spa that truly bring about tranquility. Book a Raindrop Healing therapy or Holistic Slimming massage before venturing out to the Keemala meditation cave.
Lagen Island, Philippines
WHERE: Palawan, Philippines
There’s one thing you have to know about Lagen Island and the surrounding area—it is without a doubt the most beautiful natural setting in the world. Limestone cliffs rise dramatically from crystal clear turquoise water, while every available non-cliff surface is covered with lush jungle. It is the stuff of daydreams and fairytales, a place that feels like a private paradise the world has yet to ruin. And here, in the center of it all, is a small and simple hotel that’s somehow luxurious, romantic, and downright fun. It’s not the most stylish hotel in the world, but that’s beside the point. The rooms are crisp and comfortable, but you’ll barely spend any time there—it’s the setting that’s the star of the show here, and the hotel can arrange any excursion you’d like. Picnicking on a private island? Sure. Snorkeling in a hidden lagoon? Definitely. Hanging upside-down with bats in a cave? You bet. This is a hotel for adventurers who also love to drink during the day, run by a group of people so friendly and accommodating that we dare you not to cry when it’s time to leave.
El Nido Resorts
Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge
WHERE: Madulkelle, Sri Lanka
Glamping has become a travel buzzword in recent years, but Madulkelle is the real deal. You’ll find no fairy lights and bell tents here, but instead, a semi-permanent structure with a green canvas safari tent with concrete floors. Inside each tent, there’s a private bathroom (with real plumbing) and a luxe queen-sized bed, but beyond these modern amenities, staying here makes you feel like an old-timey fancy explorer, setting up camp at the end of the world with a lantern to light your way, an elegant desk for writing letters to your loved ones back home, and framed prints on the wall to remind you where you’ve been. A stay here is a thrilling experience from the start, as an old Land Rover picks you up at the hotel entrance and drives you through the lush tea plantations until you get to the hotel—a permanent main house with a bar and restaurant surrounded by tents. High in the mountains, it’s always cozy here, with mist-shrouded peaks in the distance, an unlimited supply of tea, and scratchy wool blankets to keep the chill away.
Madulkelle Tea Plantation
The Middle House
WHERE: Shanghai, China
Fittingly located right in the middle of Shanghai, the stunning Middle House is the newest addition to the much-celebrated House Collective hotel group. Like its legendary siblings the Temple House in Chengdu and the Upper House in Hong Kong, the Middle House excels at delivering understated luxury to its guests, while also making them feel right at home (albeit an extraordinarily well-curated home). The bold yet chic design embraces both the contemporary and the traditional, much like Shanghai itself. Fantastic dining, a high-tech spa, and one seriously impressive lobby chandelier give this place the perfect amount of history, hospitality, and hipness.
The Oberoi Udaivilas
WHERE: Udaipur, India
The Oberoi Udaivilas is heartbreakingly beautiful and truly one of the most stunning properties in the world. The magic begins before you even arrive, as you drive up to a dock on stunning Lake Pichola in Rajasthan. There, guests abandon their luggage to board a wooden boat as refreshments are served and musicians play. As the sun sets on Lake Pichola, the hotel comes into view—a sand-colored palace full of domes and arches on an expansive green property. As you disembark, you’re whisked to the entryway, where an enormous Seussian garden welcomes you to a vast, exquisite palace. The hotel is full of design surprises, like checkered pools, clawfoot bathtubs, and gilded domes. While the hotel is large, it’s far from impersonal—in fact, it’s the exact opposite, with individually-decorated rooms filled with local antiques and textiles, and generous, smiling staff who remember the way you like your coffee in the morning. It’s hard not to fall in love here—with the hotel, with India, and with life in general.
Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve
WHERE: Krabi, Thailand
Craggy peaks loom in the distance as manicured gardens and hand-laid stone pathways greet guests and welcome them deeper into the luxurious world of Ritz Carlton’s signature reserve. Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, opened in 2010 as the brand’s first Reserve property. This pristine resort features 54 spacious suites with oversized bathrooms, walk-in wardrobes, enormous king beds, and 24-hour butler service. The resort specializes in exclusive experiences, where spa treatments and culinary offerings can be customized at any time. Spend the day adventuring off property to Hong Island or Naga Mountain or revel in the poolside butler service at the infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea.
WHERE: Luang Prabang, Laos
Once the childhood home of Prince Souphanouvong, the first President of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, this French colonial guesthouse has since been converted into one of the country’s most luxurious hotels. Satri House was built in 1904, but it wasn’t until 2002 that the property welcomed its first guest to the 31 guestrooms and suites. The hotel is a member of Secret Retreats, and offers an elegance that would make the “Red Prince” proud, with handcrafted wood furniture and antique touches throughout. The hotel partners with local artisans, offering guests the chance to dine on authentic Laotian cuisine, lounge about in handcrafted robes, or even take to the loom with an immersive Laotian weaving class. The hotel also features a world-class spa, as well as an on-site library, garden bar, and outdoor swimming pools.
Modla/Chris Parelon / Flickr, [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
WHERE: Hanoi, Vietnam
The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is an icon, with wrought iron details and green shutters that have weathered the seasons since the hotel first opened in 1901. Extensive renovations have kept this grand dame hotel thriving throughout the years, and today, more than 364 rooms and suites spread throughout two wings (the historic Metropole Wing and the new Opera Wing) welcome guests in with Sofitel’s signature MyBed and Hermes & Lanvin bathroom amenities. A recent renovation uncovered the historic Vietnam War air raid shelter on the property that protected American folk singer Joan Baez during the Christmas bombings of 1972, which inspired her song, “Where Are You Now, My Son?”
Sofitel Hanoi, Vietnam
Three Camels Lodge
WHERE: The Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The 40 gers (traditional nomadic tents) spread throughout the Gobi Desert at 3 Camels Lodge are as Mongolian as the people that built them. This luxury eco-lodge was created with the goal of preserving and protecting Mongolian culture while offering guests the chance to enter quietly into the world of an authentic Gobi Desert camp staffed entirely by native Mongolians. Not a single nail was used to construct the central building, modeled after an ancient Buddhist temple, where guests can gather for sundowners and traditional Mongolian games like shagai after a day of adventuring around the Gobi Desert. Gers come equipped with modern luxuries like hardwood floors and private bathrooms among a space outfitted in hand-carved furniture, camel hair blankets, and traditional wood-burning stoves.
Robert Michael Poole