Year to year, we see our readers’ travel habits shift, as some destinations suddenly explode in popularity (hello, Portugal and Iceland) and others experience a cooling, perhaps due to geopolitical events or an unfavorable exchange rate. And this, of course, trickles down into our World’s Best results, particularly when it comes to ranking the top 100 hotels on the planet. But one thing remains a constant: the properties that make this selective list are all incredible ambassadors for their home countries, delivering intuitive service and luxury experiences that can truly make a vacation.
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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.
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.
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.
People talk about old classics, but this one has roots dating back to the 11th century. Shipwrecked en route to Constantinople, a wealthy Italian family built the foundations of the Caruso on a limestone bluff above Ravello, a symbol of their power and good fortune to have escaped unharmed. And here, their high eyrie remained, withstanding the wars of the Middle Ages, neglected, repaired, neglected again, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso stepped in and turned it into a hotel. Belmond (then Orient-Express hotels) took over in 2000 and began a serious restoration: art historians were shipped in to unearth the building’s arcadian frescos, archaeologists arrived to uncover the original medieval foundations. Today, Old Masters hang in the marble corridors and the 50 bedrooms have been brought up-to-date, but not charm-crushingly modernised. They retain their original vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta tiles, and have bathrooms stashed with bottles of Penhaligon’s. It has just opened Villa Margherita too, a two-bedroom retreat deep in the heady gardens. Guests feast on lunches of lobster, langoustine and truffles, or head down to the water to explore the craggy coastline on the hotel’s pretty wooden boat. It’s a place synonymous with seclusion, with its lemon-scented air and hanging gardens spilling down onto the Tyrrhenian Sea, stony nooks and quiet spots to sit and take in the dizzying views. And romance: it is said to be where Jackie Kennedy and Gianni Agnelli began their affair, where Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf came to hide out. A truly brightening, timeless place. By Martha Ward
While the Fairmont Pacific Rim features a long list of luxurious amenities, its downtown Vancouver location is what helps it stand apart from competitors. Set on the Coal Harbour waterfront, the hotel sits across the street from the Canada Place cruise ship terminal. Thanks to the hotel's location, recent guests say the views from the rooms and rooftop are spectacular. When you're not gazing out across the harbor, relax poolside in one of the private cabanas or by one of the cozy outdoor fire pits. For even more serenity, visitors recommend booking a treatment at the Willow Stream Spa. Continue the pampering at Botanist, which serves regionally sourced dishes. Craving a pick-me-up? Venture to giovane cafe + wine bar, which offers house-made pastries for breakfast and Italian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you've refueled, retreat to your digs where you'll find a Stearns & Foster bed, an iPod docking station and an iPad2, which you can use to order room service and operate various controls in the guest room. Although this Fairmont's high-tech amenities are an added perk, according to recent visitors, it's the hotel's exceptional service that makes a stay here memorable.
Just minutes walk from the pier at Pra Athit, Riva Surya is a visual delight, with as much consideration put into the hotels public spaces as the rooms.French windows open on to a large courtyard behind the hotel, with a swimming pool and plenty of room to lounge, either on the daybeds that fringe the river or under the shaded veranda.Babble and Rum restaurant and bar is the ideal location for a riverside evening drink or a hearty plate of high-quality Thai or Western fare.There are also plenty of decent restaurants and bars in this area, and famous backpacker street Khao San Road is only five minutes walk away. Read More...
Previous lodgers rave about this North Michigan Avenue hotel's refinement and unbeatable location. Sitting just steps from Chicago's Magnificent Mile, the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is central to all of the city's best restaurants, shops and nightlife. After you've sufficiently tested the limits of your credit card, retreat to one of the hotel's soundproofed spa treatment rooms to enjoy a relaxing massage or skin renewal treatment. Before you call it a night, previous guests highly recommend sitting down to dinner in the Allium's dining room, where diners are treated to fresh, farm-to-table Midwest cuisine. When it's time to bed down, this Four Seasons hotel's well-appointed accommodations provide a comfortable escape. Previous guests love the elegant decor, which combines contemporary fittings (like flat-screen TVs and iHome stereos) with 20th century-inspired design accents and spacious marble bathrooms. Recent visitors recommend splurging on the lake view accomodations, rather than the rooms with the city skyline vistas.
The recipient of numerous industry accolades, including Frommer's Exceptional and AAA Four Diamond awards, the No. 1 Best Hotel in New York City sits in the heart of lower Manhattan. Along with its desirable address, travelers also praise The Beekman's superb service, tasty cuisine and trendy vibe. Acclaimed American chefs Tom Colicchio and Keith McNally have outposts here, and guest rooms and suites boast modern features like custom leather headboards, aged oak floors, curated artwork and bathrooms with Carrara marble accents. (Courtesy of The Beekman, A Thompson Hotel)
White Elephant Village's close proximity to Nantucket's Children's Beach and ample complimentary kids amenities (think: video games, boogie boards and coloring books) make this a popular option for families. However, visitors of all ages enjoy staying at the No. 1 Best Hotel in Nantucket, citing the property's superb service and spacious accommodations as highlights. Rooms, suites and residences offer island-inspired decor, minifridges and high-definition TVs, among other perks. Plus, all guests have access to an outdoor pool, free loaner bicycles, a spa and daily treats in the lobby. (Courtesy of White Elephant Village)
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)
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)
This gorgeous property is located inside an old ceramics factory in the heart of Mexico's Puebla, set between brightly painted colonial homes and storefronts. Beautifully restored into a luxury hotel, the Cartesiano does a brilliant job of fusing old and new, knowing exactly where to preserve and where to introduce modern features—the annex, which has whole walls impressed with colorful, hand-painted ceramic tiles that were produced by the century-old factory, visible from the rooftop pool, is just one such example.
The 39-room Post Ranch Inn is one of the most beautiful hotels in the United States -- if not the entire world -- and offers a romantic, intimate stay amid gorgeous natural surroundings. The hotel is built into the cliffs of Big Sur, and the organicarchitecture is breathtaking, seeming to grow out of the ground beside the hotel's surrounding redwoods. The spacious, eco-sensitive rooms have ocean or mountain views (that are sometimes obstructed by the pervasive fog that the area is known for) and many feature floor-to-ceiling windows to better show them off. Rooms also have wood-burning fireplaces, radiant floor heating, outdoor showers or hot tubs, private decks, and organic bath products and linens -- but no televisions or alarm clocks as the hotel strives for a peaceful environment. The award-winning spa focuses on rejuvenating services and even has a shaman on-site; the restaurant, Sierra Mar, is one of the best in Big Sur; the hotel's cliff-top pools are stunning; and free amenities (such as yoga and stargazing) are abundant.
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.
'If we want things to stay as they are,' Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa famously wrote, 'things will have to change.' Anyone who knows and loves The Carlyle will want things at this Upper East Side institution to stay as they are, while also understanding that a certain amount of tweaking is, alas, necessary. Designer Tony Chi, who did such a fine job at The Carlyle’s sister property, Rosewood London, is currently overhauling 80 percent of the hotel’s 190 rooms. The first of these will become available in early 2019. Renovations here have always been a fraught business, not least because, as well as being a hotel, it also contains 50 or so privately owned apartments spread across its 35 floors, making it impossible to do the whole place up all at once. Thus some rooms are florid and chintzy; some are 1920s time capsules; some are slick and steely; and still others are something in between. Broadly speaking, they get better the higher the floor. Plus, you get to spend more time in the elevators —not an activity to enjoy in everyday life, but this is not everyday life. The ones at The Carlyle are the stuff of legend, as much admired as the astounding Dorothy Draper lobby or Bemelmans Bar. Imagine if you had been there when Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, and Steve Jobs all piled in (true story). You would have been in awe. Not of them, of course, but of the real superstar – the unflappable, icy-calm, white-gloved Carlyle elevator operator. By Steve King