Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton
Secluded among 157 acres of ancient trees and burbling streams, this Northern California retreat got raves from readers for its leafy privacy. The 48 “rooms” are actually cedar-and-glass cabins with huge views of the woods, along with fabulous outdoor living rooms, “bath gardens” and outdoor showers. Given the spa’s mud baths and private mineral-soaking pools, the resort also scored well with readers for its stress-relieving potential.
This 32-room hotel may appear traditional thanks to its colonial facade, but guests know that the sleek Hotel Matilda is anything but: there’s a crazy video installation installed behind the front desk, and the hallways are lined with contemporary artwork. Once you get to your room, you’ll discover crisp white beds dressed with Egyptian cotton linens and adorned slate gray accents, and marble-clad bathrooms hstocked with Malin + Goetz products. The infinity pool and the rooftop bar, though, are the true standouts.
It could be argued that the most significant thing about this hotel is its quite brilliant location, dominating the eastern border of Marion Square, just north of Calhoun and the line dividing old Charleston from new. But that would be missing the point. John Dewberry’s eight-year quest to turn a drab Sixties-era federal building into a modernist work of art – in a city that trades on Southern colonial quaintness – was nothing short of a smashing success. The Dewberry embraces its mid-century roots with class and charm, drawing on elegant geometries – clean, cool lines broken by intervals of density that allude to deep character without getting fussy – and a muted palette of dark woods, hammered copper, Mediterranean greens and blues. Rooms are bright and airy, with high ceilings and wide-frame views of the skyline (catch them too from the deep cast-iron soaking tub in the bathroom). The common spaces shine, with dark panelled wood and low leather seating and made for Daiquiri sipping. This is a hotel for grown-ups – but, being Southern, one that likes to have fun. The proof is in the Living Room bar, where the mixing is done in white jackets and the decor in dry wit. Anywhere else, The Dewberry might border on stuffy, but here, drowned in light from floor-to-ceiling windows that give through gossamer curtains onto Marion Square, it’s just right. By Brad Rickman
Right on Xpu-ha beach, the best stretch of white sands on this part of the Caribbean coast, Esencia is one of those hotels that is spoken about in hushed tones by those in the know, none of who want to let this secret get out. But those who do make it here discover a small, natural beauty of place set on a palm-swaying estate on the edge of the tumbling sea. There are hammocks to laze in, and a dimly lit spa where lotions and potions made from garden herbs are crushed into poultices to smooth out knots. For snorkeling among rainbow-colored fish, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is a five-minute hop on the hotel’s catamaran. There are ceviches and tiraditos to try at Mistura, a restaurant with views of the moon-dappled sea, and a wooden beach bar that does the best Margaritas in Mexico. And then there are the rooms. The interiors of the house, originally built as a hideaway for an Italian duchess, have splashes of fifties art and huge bedrooms with generous terraces. There are brand-new Jungle Rooms with plunge pools and beach suites that are a study in white. All in all, it is perfect. By Mary Lussiana
The Taj Mahal Palace is a 1903, grey-and-white stone, red-domed wedding cake of a building that stands sentry over Mumbai’s harbor. When your taxi pulls up through the throngs of families and tourists who choke the roads near the Gateway to India arch and you’re ceremoniously welcomed by doormen in traditional silk kurtas, you have that pinch-me feeling of Wow, I’m really staying here? You’re in good company, as everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Barack Obama has spent the night here too. Because the Taj is such a landmark, there are tourists and locals who come and go from the hotel’s restaurants, shops, and bars, as well as the daily Heritage Walks around the property. But some parts of the hotel are off-limits to non-guests, so you quickly leave the bustle of the lobby behind. The Taj has the best pool in Mumbai, and a dozen restaurants, bars, and cafés, including Wasabi by Morimoto, Souk for Tagines, and Kraft Masala for Indian.
The Bahama House is the millennial child of Harbour Island, and a fashionable one at that; a relative newcomer among a clutch of older hotels that have been around for generations. To be fair, this Bahamian outpost needed the provocation this slick upstart has brought. The unremarkable exterior along the main drag of Dunmore Town, with its buzzy street-life where roosters roam free and locals play dominoes at sundown, feels no different from the surrounding low-level houses. But inside the New Orleans-style courtyard, leafy vegetation conceals super-smart interiors. There’s more than a nod to an old-school Palm Beach aesthetic – beautiful patterned fabrics, bamboo mirrors and antique wicker chairs, Martinis made to perfection at the sunken bar and a discreet shaded pool providing welcome relief during the intense heat of the afternoon – but with an infrastructure that is reassuringly slick. There is no restaurant and yet the best food on the island is made to order by chefs whenever and wherever you want it. The hotel is part of Eleven Experience, a group that specialises in one-off adventure trips – if it’s kite surfing on wild beaches or fishing in secret coves that you want, or a beautifully curated picnic in an isolated seaside spot, you only have to ask. It’s the perfect vantage point, between the pretty harbour front with its pastel cottages and the unimpeachably perfect Pink Sands Beach, from which to people watch and experience this brilliant Bahamian find. By Vassi Chamberlain
Admittedly, the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel is the most expensive spot on my list of cheap hotels in Tokyo, but it’s easily the best place to stay in Tokyo since it’s located in the heart of Shinjuku. The hotel was built in 2013 and added new rooms in 2016, so it’s a pretty modern property. Rooms have free WiFi, a mini-fridge, toiletries, and an ensuite bath. There’s also a 24-hour front desk, coin laundry, free luggage storage, a rooftop bar, and a modern-style restaurant on the 12th floor. The closest subway is Shinjuku Sanchome which is a 7-minute walk while JR Shinjuku Station is just 10-minutes away.
The Hôtel le Clos Saint-Louis offers a romantic experience in old Québec City. The ambiance is cozy and the décor honors the building’s history: this is a former pair of Victorian houses renovated into a small boutique hotel. As the building is historic, ask for a ground floor room if you have mobility issues; there is no elevator. The rooms all come with a tea service set and are also decorated in Victorian-inspired furniture. The Hôtel le Clos Saint-Louis also specializes in romantic packages for couples, ensuring a true taste of Québec City’s culture.
Since starting out in 1993 with one lodge, Singita has grown into an outfit that is now responsible for a million acres in five wild regions across three African countries. But what still matters most is the desire to preserve that pristine land and the animals that live on it. Its turbo-smart lodges and camps are scattered across private concessions in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Sasakwa, set in 140,000 hectares on the border of the Serengeti National Park, is the grandest of them all. Built from stone, it’s like a stately Edwardian manor house, with elegant colonial-era style: polished parquet floors, Persian carpets, chandeliers, bookshelf-lined walls, enormous fireplaces and a mix of African collectibles and European antiques. The service is faultless, orchestrated by Frank Louw, who started out as the executive chef many years ago and has dozens of stories to share about Tanzanian staff rising up through the ranks. As well as an entire reserve to explore, there’s tennis, archery, biking, hiking and top-notch treatments in the spa. Diet-defying meals are served wherever you want them, always with a view. Wines are plucked from the best of South Africa’s vineyards. Ten guest cottages each have separate living rooms, enormous bathrooms and private plunge pools. As impressive as all this is, though, the greatest draw is the exclusive game viewing – in the middle of a privately funded reserve that’s as big as the Maasai Mara. It continues to guarantee the survival of the western corridor of the annual migration of a million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. And year-round, it provides the ultimate luxury to the lodge’s high-flying guests: not having to share wildlife sightings with anyone else. By Jane Broughton
The No. 2 Best Hotel in Aspen sits in the heart of town, within walking distance of Aspen's boutiques, restaurants and ski slopes. Back at the hotel, travelers can soothe their aching muscles with a Rocky Mountain-inspired treatment at the spa. Additionally, guests have access to three on-site eateries and watering holes, including a modern American bistro, a cozy lounge and the Old West-themed J-Bar (a traveler favorite). Aspen influences are also on display in the property's guest rooms, which blend rustic decor (think: cowhide chairs and contemporary animal busts) with modern perks, such as plasma TVs and work desks. (Courtesy of Hotel Jerome, An Auberge Resort)
At the No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui, guests are greeted with panoramic views of Wailea Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Accommodations are spacious (each room measures at least 600 square feet) and include lanais, locally inspired art, deep-soaking tubs and Nespresso coffee makers. On the resort grounds, travelers will find three saltwater pools, two tennis courts and a spa, but this resort's best attribute is its kid-friendly atmosphere. One of the island's most family-friendly properties, the Four Seasons Resort Maui offers everything from a game room to a waterslide to the brand's complimentary Kids For All Seasons activities program. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)