At first sight, Tetiaroa looks like a trick of the light, almost an aberration: it has a sci-fi glow. A pale blue of such luminosity, the remote, entirely private French Polynesian atoll’s water can be seen from outer space – astronauts orbiting the earth have enquired what it was. You leave from Tahiti (30 miles away, but it might be 3,000) and descend in a private six-seater directly into the Technicolor incandescence: a four-and-a-half-mile lagoon surrounded by a subterranean wall of living coral reef and circled by 12 cute green islands. Just one is used for the hotel’s 35 villas, the others solely occupied by frigate birds and ancient pandanus trees and honey bees. Tahitian royalty once lived here through the summers, prettifying their daughters for marriage, feeding them giant sea snails and sweet potato. All the islands are hemmed by white sand and shallow water rippling with baby fish. In deeper water are coral cathedrals for giant clams with mouths full of an algae in a trippy neon. The one-, two- and three-bedroom villas are decidedly more lustrous than the usual desert-island design in glass and ironwood, slate and silk. Each is set super-secretively in its own grounds, with a stretch of lonely white sand backed by dense trees. Your lazy eyes catch the occasional bright jags of oleander, jasmine, hibiscus and golden trumpet. Some guests stay put; some congregate at Bob’s Bar by the lodge’s restaurants (there are three, including a tiny new Japanese) and talk about the actor Marlon Brando, who bought Tetiaroa in 1967, having sailed past whilst scouting for locations for Mutiny on the Bounty (he even helped to develop the innovative 100 per cent renewable-energy seawater air-conditioning system here). A species of tilapia in the natural pond near the spa likes to gobble mosquito larvae: you won’t be bitten here. Best are the late afternoons, with the lulling sound of the Pacific crashing against the distant reef, waiting for the dusk, when the sky turns through the softest pastels into a stupefying heliconia red. By Antonia Quirke
Its central address – behind a curving stone entrance and spread over 49 floors above the high-end Pacific Place mall, off leafy Hong Kong Park – is reason enough to book here over the other top hotels that form the city’s skyline. But hands-down it’s the guest rooms and penthouses that really make the Upper House the place to stay in Hong Kong. Because it occupies what used to be serviced apartments, local guru Andre Fu made the rooms feel like someone’s home. Read: comfortable, calming. He did the unimaginable and designed them with real humans in mind. There’s a free, help-yourself minibar; light switches that can be easily found; and a bed so comfortable that guests ask about the make and model so they can order one back home. The same goes for the bathrooms, with their room-for-two tubs and plenty of natural wood and marble. There’s no spa or pool, but deeply pampering in-room treatments can be arranged. In the restaurant on the top floor, Gray Kunz’s Café Gray Deluxe, the lamb tagine is so tender there’s no guilt for skipping a chance to have dim sum and Hong Kong’s signature egg tarts. This showpiece for Swire Hotels’ House Collective (also in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu) is as slick and sophisticated as ever—an original design hotel that’s true to its label. By Ed Peters
The Lowell is conveniently situated near Fifth Avenue and Central Park on the Upper East Side. Offering 74 rooms and suites with cashmere throws, king-sized beds and pantries or kitchenettes stocked with Dean & DeLuca snacks, this boutique property also features an array of drinking and dining venues, including the elegant Majorelle, the oak-paneled Jacques Bar and the cozy Club Room. And no visit to the No. 2 Best Hotel in New York City would be complete without sitting for afternoon tea in the Pembroke Room. (Courtesy of The Lowell Hotel New York)
Readers declared this 85-room hotel in the Willamette Valley to be one of the best values among American wine country inns—perhaps not a surprise, since Pinot fans tend to love Oregon wineries for their laidback (and less costly) ambience. And while the hotel is nobly LEED Gold-certified—for such features as solar water heaters and glassware made from reclaimed wine bottles—it also offers decadent, you're-soaking-in-it spa treatments, like baths of local wine, honey and roses. Set on seven acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapevines, the Allison also got high marks for its idyllic location and a top-10 ranking for cuisine: its locavore restaurant Jory is named after the region’s fertile soil.
Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island where wild key deer roam. It includes 30 luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas. A favorite getaway for celebrities, it provides a secluded place to unplug from the world (use of technology is discouraged) and experience a romantic vacation in a lush, tropical environment.
From its seven pools to its Ka'upulehu Cultural Center, which hosts daily hula and ukulele lessons, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii - The Big Island provides guests a variety of ways to embrace all that Hawaii has to offer. At this Four Seasons outpost's five restaurants and lounges, visitors can savor sushi rolls and American and Italian dishes made with fresh seafood. Meanwhile, golfers can tee off at the oceanfront Hualalai Golf Course. And inside the 243 guest rooms, suites and villas, travelers will find natural elements like bamboo canopy beds, slate floors and bathrooms with granite accents. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is the No. 1 Best Hotel in Lana'i, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii and the No. 1 Best Hotel in the USA for 2018. Overlooking Hulopoe Bay, this luxurious resort offers some of Hawaii's most jaw-dropping panoramas, according to previous guests. Travelers can take in the views from the property's golf course, pools and hiking trails or while dining at one of five eateries, including the AAA Four Diamond-awarded One Forty. Most of the property's contemporary accommodations also feature lanais with ocean vistas. For a complete list of America's top hotels, check out U.S. News' Best Hotels in the USA ranking. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Lanai and Barbara Kraft)
The top Fairmont property in the country and the No. 1 Best Hotel in San Diego is the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Nestled within Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve on 400 acres, this tranquil property charms guests with its Mediterranean-style architecture, friendly employees and award-winning cuisine. Each room and suite overlooks the surrounding canyon or the on-site golf course and is outfitted with dark wood furniture, a Nespresso coffee maker and a bathroom with marble accents. Outside the rooms, travelers can stay active at the Equestrian Center, in the fitness center or on one of two tennis courts. Meanwhile, R&R-seekers can visit the spa or lounge by the adults-only pool. (Courtesy of Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
Past guests find little to complain about at the Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver. Thanks to the convenient downtown location and the personable staff, recent visitors are quick to call this Shangri-La outpost their favorite Vancouver hotel. Accommodations are appointed with floor-to-ceiling windows, deep soaking tubs, free Wi-Fi and 42-inch flat-screen TVs. For total pampering, guests suggest heading to CHI, The Spa or unwinding by the outdoor pool and hot tub. Travelers also recommend grabbing at least one meal at MARKET by Jean-Georges for inventive, locally sourced Michelin-starred seafood dishes. Though the luxurious amenities cost a pretty penny, recent visitors say the experience is worth the splurge. You'll find the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver in central Vancouver, a few blocks south of Coal Harbour.
This 21-room mansion-turned-hotel was the survey’s No. 1 winner among small city hotels, and it embodies that time-machine charm of the Holy City: fireplaces in every room, hors d’oeuvres and sherry in the lobby, and chocolate truffles on your pillow at bedtime. With so many seductive treats, readers also awarded the Second-Empire-style hotel a high ranking for romance. Meanwhile, with Southern-meets-global dishes like antelope country paté, cast-iron poulet rouge and sweet potato doughnuts, the on-site Circa 1886 restaurant helped the Wentworth win the gold medal for small-city hotel dining.
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The best hotels in Karon Beach take full advantage of their setting in this beautiful resort town on Phuket’s west coast. This lovely destination has the island’s third-longest beach and first most squeaky sand. There are plenty of activities available on the beach and many shops and restaurants behind it. Shaded by trees, it is one of the more picturesque shores on the island.
The No. 1 Best Hotel in Los Angeles for 2017, The Peninsula Beverly Hills has a reputation for providing first-rate service and stellar amenities to guests. Accommodations are decorated with custom furnishings and marble bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and showers. The Belvedere is a AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant, and afternoon tea is available in the Living Room Lounge. In addition to the delectable on-site cuisine, visitors love the rooftop pool, Jacuzzi and deck thanks to its views of the LA skyline. (Courtesy of The Peninsula Beverly Hills)
The Hay-Adams is steeped in American history. Originally built in the 1920s, the property occupies an enviable location in the nation's capital. The No. 2 Best Hotel in Washington, D.C. puts guests just a short walk from the White House, the Washington Monument and the museums and sites along the National Mall. The property's rooms and suites are classic and elegant, with beds dressed in Italian linens, down pillows and duvets. Accommodations are also equipped with Bose music systems and iPads. (Courtesy of The Hay-Adams)
With its charming and peaceful streets, chic boutique hotels, and relaxed atmosphere, today’s Quebec City has certainly changed since its original incarnation as a defensive fort during the Revolutionary War. Today’s only invaders are peaceful and excited tourists, visiting what is often considered North America’s most European city. With cobbled streets, delightful architecture and a certain joie de vivre, Quebec City is often associated with French cities and towns.
Right from its opening in 1999, this little gem has punched above its weight, a super-slick alternative to Boston's bigger hotels. With just 63 rooms tucked into a meticulously restored, 10-storey Beaux Arts building, this is one of the East Coast's most stylish boltholes, with finely tuned service to boot. The entrance is a dramatic, black-walled lobby with a charming cage lift from 1902. In the bedrooms, there are gas fireplaces, marble busts and huge four-poster or canopied beds, while corner studios provide views of Boston Common. The hotel keeps a couple of Lexus limos to ferry guests around town, and minibars are packed with Krug (and chilled cucumber eye cream) for post-shopping-trip pampering. Sassy steakhouse Mooo serves buttery Wagyu beef as well as classic seafood dishes (caramelised sea scallops, linguini with white clams) and has a 30,000-bottle wine cellar. Places this good don't keep on top of the game by resting on their laurels, and the hotel recently had a discreet facelift, also adding a rooftop deck with a hot tub. More than a decade after it opened, XV Beacon remains popular with CEOs and visiting actors: a boutique-hotel leader in the heart of Brahmin East Coast America.
At Calistoga Ranch in northern Napa Valley, guests rejoice in the hotel's bevy of amenities, which include complimentary use of a Mercedes-Benz, a private lake, a private wine cave, an on-site vineyard and more. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Napa Valley invites visitors to relax on its 157 acres of land, with offerings such as outdoor spa treatments, an on-site mineral pool and a restaurant dishing out California cuisine with expert wine pairings. (Courtesy of Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort)
This will stop even island regulars in their tracks: on the way to breakfast when they see baby sharks swimming right there in the shallows; passing the giant, gnarling, Tomb Raider-esque banyan tree near the tucked-away spa; at sunset when the pool becomes a mirror for the sky and the only colours that exist in the world are orange and blue. Amilla is a minimalist and clean-lined version of the Maldives, with low-rise buildings in a white wood the same shade as the flour-fine sand. Nothing pokes above the palm trees, even the treehouses high up in the canopy (for those who prefer to fall asleep to the sound of birdcall rather than waves) cleverly blend into their surroundings. Being in or near the water is what it’s all about: the snorkelling is sensational and the house reef is home to a coral-lined underwater chimney where hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and guitar sharks schmooze. But there’s also a knockout spa where trainers from hit London outfit Bodyism lead guests through a gym session to get hearts racing and then brilliant therapists from Bhutan calm them back down again. All is mellow and fairy-lit when it gets dark and everyone seems to be wearing something floaty. Among the half dozen restaurants, Japanese Feeling Koi, set right out over the ocean, is a highlight: reef-fish ceviche with pomegranate; crispy crab roll with green-tea powder. Amilla has some of the most knockout villas in the archipelago. Any which way, it’s a very fun, very glamorous place to stay. By Grainne McBride
Amidst the noise and bluster of so many new British hotel openings, with their sushi chefs and foraging sessions, shiny sit-up-and-beg bicycles to borrow and pristine racks of Hunter wellies, it is worth remembering the enduring classics that are well-loved for a reason. Lucknam Park has serious pedigree. It is deliciously, reassuringly old fashioned. The deeply pretty Georgian manor house, all honeyed Bath stone, sits at the end of an avenue of sky-high beech and lime trees, surrounded by exquisite gardens like a Jane Austen film set. In the grounds there’s a personable cottage for weekending families, a world-class equestrian centre and a serious cooking school. But you don’t have to whip up your own supper. Chef Hywel Jones (who has retained his Michelin star for a 14th year) plates up exquisite food in his eponymous restaurant. That in itself is a reason to stay. As are the roaring fires, the panelled libraries, the swagged four-poster beds and the moody oil paintings. Yet it's not stuffy. A purposeful drive in recent years to make the place feel less formal has resulted in a cheery bounce in the staff's step, a raising of chatter levels to almost a hum in the evenings and a relaxed atmosphere where you can wear your robe down to the ESPA spa and back again without feeling like a terrible slob. Eagle-eyed guests will spot the curious Greek elements dotted around – the urns in the bathroom, the Acropolis paintings in the dining room, the Hellenic motif on the plates. The owners also have Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens in their stable but this country retreat feels resonant and rooted, delightfully British to the core. By Issy von Simson
After three decades, this wine-country pioneer, balanced on a hillside overlooking Napa Valley, remains a favourite. Even for jaded souls who think they've seen it all, the light-filled rooms - just 52 of them, mostly intimate, Mediterranean-style stucco cottages - are a delight. With French doors, private terraces and fireplaces, they're designed for comfort, privacy and relaxation. An olive grove shades the grounds, and a large sculpture garden makes for a pleasant walk to and from the main house, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant. Dinner on the patio is a must: choose from chef Robert Curry's seasonal menu - the excellent roast pork belly, kampachi sashimi and seared tuna with fava purée are standouts - and say yes to head sommelier Kris Margerum's thoughtful wine pairing. The massive spa has a central courtyard lined by hammam-style sauna and steam rooms, outdoor showers and hot and cold plunge pools. A leisurely afternoon here is a treat, not least because of the sunshine-soaked views.
The chic accommodations at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto reflect the charm of its Yorkville backdrop. The property's rooms and suites – designed with elegant decor and modern amenities like an in-room iPad to access Four Seasons services and bathrooms equipped with deep soaking tubs and TVs – hold views of the downtown neighborhood's surrounding shops and cafes. Despite the abundance of nearby restaurants, guests suggest enjoying a meal on premises; both Café Boulud and d|bar lounge offer French-inspired menus from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. Serenity-seekers rave about the spacious, sleek setting in the spa, which comes outfitted with an indoor pool, a steam room, a salon and a long list of treatment options.