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We’ve got a serious soft spot for any hotel that wears its eco-consciousness on its sleeve, and 1 Hotel South Beach does just that, from the organic bedding and reclaimed furniture to its sea-to-table Habitat restaurant. In addition to the five-star amenities and 600 feet of private beach, regular events—like sunset meditation and terrarium-building workshops—keep guests coming back.
Music producer Chris Blackwell, who introduced the world to Bob Marley back in 1973, also founded this oceanfront island hideaway a few years later, based around the clifftop villa where Ian Fleming wrote all his Bond novels. In the decades since its reach has grown and grown. There’s no sign at the entrance, which is part of the low-key charm. It’s easy to see why many music and film stars make their way here: this is a sweet spot with a very independent flavour, a world away from the oversized all-inclusives, and more honed than Blackwell’s companion hotel, Strawberry Hill, in the Blue Mountains. Couples tend to hole up in the wooden beach huts; families and friends take over the massive villas; industry bigwigs feel right at home in Fleming’s former house, which has three bedrooms and a personable, clued-in staff. There are a few nods to 007 – black-and-white photos of Bond in reception plus novels and films on loan – but GoldenEye is mainly about Jamaica, a sensibility found in the blazingly coloured fabrics, breezy breakfasts on the verandah with cups of Blue Mountain coffee, and heaps of tropical fruit. The sheltered bay for morning swims is just a few paces away across immaculate sands. It says everything that Blackwell still lives here (guests have been known to unwittingly roll up to his villa and ask for a drink, which is always obligingly provided). And why would he leave? He gets to enjoy a highly original hangout that is entirely of his making. This is that rare beast: a hotel that balances heritage and hip and gets away with it. By Nigel Tisdall
The No. 3 Best Hotel in New York City, The Towers at Lotte New York Palace is a hit with visitors thanks to its superb customer service and breathtaking city vistas. The hotel sits on the top 14 floors of its sister property, Lotte New York Palace, in the heart of Manhattan's Midtown East area, meaning every room has a view. Plus, guests of The Towers have access to all of the larger property's amenities, including its spa, restaurant, bakery and bars, as well as free perks, such as car service within a 20-mile radius, Wi-Fi access and shoeshines and clothing pressings. (Courtesy of The Towers at Lotte New York Palace)
Years in the making, this is the first East Coast hotel for Pendry, the off-shoot brand from Montage. The hotel occupies the Recreation Pier, a landmark building in Fell’s Point, that was left empty for nearly two decades before reopening as the Pendry, thanks in part to a big investment from Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. While the “Rec Pier” serves as the frontispiece of the property—and houses the Andrew Carmellini Rec Pier Chop House restaurant and a small whiskey bar called The Cannon Room—the guest rooms are in the new-build addition on the old footprint of the pier, which gives the place a bolted-together feel but also supremely comfortable guest rooms that aren’t jig-sawed into a historic building. The Pendry is probably one of the best places to stay in Baltimore right now, and if you’re coming for nightlife and dining, this is the perfect place to be.
The Mandarin Oriental is set in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Travelers appreciate the classy and laid-back atmosphere of this property – the No. 2 Best Hotel in Las Vegas – citing elegant decor, a relaxing spa and the elevated customer service as particular highlights. The hotel also has multiple pools and several restaurants, and sits within walking distance of other top Sin City sights such as the Bellagio Fountains and casinos. (Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas)
With seven swimming pools, a 28,000-square-foot spa and an epic beachfront location on the Kohala Coast, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii. Accommodations embrace the locale, with bright colors and Hawaiian art. Plus, many rooms include furnished terraces and outdoor lava rock showers. This Four Seasons outpost also organizes special experiences for guests, ranging from private luaus to mixology classes. (Don Riddle/Four Seasons Resort Hualalai)
This spa resort doesn't take any of its five stars for granted, particularly when it comes to delivering first-rate customer service. Recent guests can't help but keep the compliments coming: Travelers say that the resort staff took extra care to personalize each experience. One problem you might face, however, is exclusivity. The Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach only has 98 guest rooms and suites, so be sure to book early for an upcoming trip to Sunny Isles Beach. The rooms come with flat-screen TVs and private balconies, as well as double sinks and glass-enclosed showers. Meanwhile, the property also features three in-house eateries, four pools, a spa and beach amenities. What's more, the hotel is part of The Leading Hotels of the World, meaning Leaders Club members have access to perks here. You'll find the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, about 11 miles north of Miami Beach.
This is a hotel you might've dreamt of when you were little—though we doubt you were this imaginative. The place truly is a palace, though from the front, it's tough to discern its size: You pull into a private, paved drive, with a fairly modest entrance, and a beautiful, if somewhat smallish lobby, and it's not until you make it out to the back of the hotel that you realize its scale. Set on a hill overlooking the aquamarine (yes, actually aquamarine) waters of Lake Geneva, you'll first notice the immaculately manicured gardens, the thin strips of outdoor pools, and the piqued tent tops under which people are taking their lunch al fresco. Hard to believe, but it only gets better from there.
Strolling into this hotel is a rich sensory experience unlike any other in town. The atrium is filled with a dozen ficus trees wrapped in delicate white lights and dotted with lavish ‘Are they real?’ floral arrangements. The answer is, of course. Since opening in 2005, Wynn has remained the high-rolling kingpin of Sin City names, partly because of its money-no-problem approach to design and services, but also because it likes to poach big spenders – as well as newly minted winners on the casino floor. There are nearly 40 designer shops (including two Chanel stores) spread throughout three shopping hubs, the newest of which, Wynn Plaza, just opened this autumn with a Cipriani restaurant and a SoulCycle outpost. Elsewhere, there’s a multiplicity of restaurants, nightclubs, a beach club, pools, spas and bars (our personal tip is the pretty Parasol Down for its fanciful cocktails and waterfall views). Rumour has it the cost to maintain the floral displays at Wynn and its sister tower, Encore, is in the millions. But not everything is gilded fantasy here. Wynn recently opened its own solar field, which offsets up to three-quarters of its energy usage, and every restaurant has a vegan or vegetarian menu. A golf course designed by Tom Fazio will open at the end of the year. The Strip has no shortage of hotels, but despite its size, the Wynn manages to feel intimate and draws a clued-up international crowd who appreciate a player with style. By Juliana Shallcross
When Indian hotels do opulent, they really do opulent. And every inch of this palatial spot in the calm, tree-lined boulevards of Delhi’s Diplomatic Enclave is gilded, mirrored, plumped, embroidered and topped with not-a-petal-out-of-place flower arrangements (14,000 blooms are delivered daily). But while it channels the vibe of the grand residence of a globetrotting Maharaja – huge Murano chandeliers from Venice, hand-woven carpets from Turkey, intricate Rajasthani miniature paintings, sandstone elephant statues carved in Qatar (no wonder if cost hundreds of millions to build) – it was actually all brand spanking new when it opened in 2011, so also has a stealthy undercurrent of techie and green credentials. The 260 gold-hued rooms and suites are some of the largest in the city, treatments at ESPA spa draw on India’s ancient Ayurvedic traditions and the whole hotel is stuffed with so much contemporary Indian art that there’s a dedicated guided walk to take it all in, past Seema Kohli’s layered storytelling canvases, Satish Gupta’s lotus murals and Laxma Goud’s bronzes. An army of ultra-attentive staff fall over themselves to open doors, take bags and present garlands. And at the restaurants (there are four, and two bars), the menus are equally extravagant: hand-cut black truffle fettuccine in black truffle sauce at Italian Le Cirque; lobster nerulli curry at Indian Jamavar; sashimi made with cuts direct from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market at Japanese Megu. A new species of grand hotel, and hugely influential. By Fiona Kerr
The Burj Al Arab may well have been a showstopper when it slapped down in this city of ever-higher skyscrapers, but actually, the greatest thing about the seven-star sail is its bold architecture – and that’s best seen from one of the roomy hotel balconies opposite. The real insider’s choice among Dubai’s proud crown of Jumeirah hotels is the cooler, more understated Mina A’Salam. It is central to the mighty Madinat Jumeirah souk, with its canals and windtowers, home to two other hotels and secluded summerhouses popular with visiting starlets. Mina A’Salam is where every experienced bruncher in town comes on Friday. But hotel guests get to discover another level of service: cruising in a little abra boat for breakfast on the sun deck of the superb Pai Thai restaurant; being served up cold towels, flavoured crushed ice and fresh mango at the pool or beach club; drinking Champagne and feasting on seafood at Shimmers, the barefoot restaurant in the sand. Staying at the Mina A’Salam really does feel like you’ve made it in Dubai – it’s the hub of both its old and new worlds. By Becky Lucas
This isn’t your typical farm. It’s owned by Eleven Experience, the Colorado-based high-end adventure-travel outfit that is one of the most interesting of its kind in the world right now. It has two helipads, an indoor-outdoor, swim-through geo-thermally heated pool, a bar with a pool table and drumkit, and a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, modern art and sweeping views. In fact, there’s really nothing typical about Deplar, among the mountains on Iceland’s remote Troll Peninsula, a place of severe beauty. It’s got some of the best heli-skiing and fishing right at its doorstep. You can roll out of bed and chopper up to the top of a snow-covered volcano which, in all likelihood, no one has ever skied before, zipping through fields dotted with tiny horses that look like toys and finishing your run on the Arctic beach, where, if you do not mind the chill, you can simply kick off your skis and go fishing (then hightail it to the spa to recuperate in a flotation pod). It’s the sort of trip that confers bragging rights back home, from a company that understands such hyper-adventurous yet modern-luxe impulses perfectly. It has an expanding empire of properties and boats in North America, the Caribbean and Europe devoted to these fast/slow, winter/summer outdoorsy pursuits. But Deplar Farm is a standout. The air is pure, the snow powdery and in the summertime the salmon-rich rivers flow clear, fast and free. By Steve King
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
The stunning Harbour Town area is a great place to station yourself during a Hilton Head trip. And its standout accommodations, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town (part of The Sea Pines Resort), is certainly one of the most popular resorts on the island. Guests who choose to make the (somewhat long) trek here delight in the lush scenery, the luxurious rooms and the professional, approachable and welcoming staff. Rooms come with large flat-screen TVs, blackout-lined window treatments and spacious bathrooms with soaking tubs and Molton Brown toiletries. Visitors like to venture out of the hotel to eat (particularly at The Quarterdeck, one of Hilton Head's favorites), but most insist that you stick close to home for Sunday brunch. Harbour Town rests in the bottom boot of Hilton Head Island.
The No. 1 Best Hotel in Los Angeles has been a fixture on the Hollywood entertainment scene for years. A haven for celebrities and the inspiration behind The Eagles' hit song "Hotel California," this Beverly Hills property exudes Old Hollywood glamour inside its guest rooms and suites. All accommodations offer garden or city views, Bang & Olufsen televisions, minibars and marble-accented bathrooms with separate showers and bathtubs. Guests are also treated to chic on-site amenities like an outdoor pool with underwater music, a polo-inspired lounge and a spa that hosts complimentary yoga classes. (Courtesy of The Beverly Hills Hotel)
Tucked in the Virginia countryside amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland attracts travelers looking for a mix of activity and relaxation. There is no shortage of things to do here, from kayaking and golfing to horseback riding and stargazing. The property also has a spa, and hosts yoga and meditation classes. And guests appreciate the variety of accommodation options, too, with a traditional lodge, suites, cottages and even tree houses to choose from. (Courtesy of Primland)