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)
It’s not a Rorschach test. Don’t dwell too long on Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake’s uncommon structure sitting on a grassy patch in São Paulo’s refined Jardim Paulista neighbourhood. Is it a watermelon slice? An ocean liner? Step inside the gargantuan belly of a sunlit lobby, then spread out on one of the International Klein blue cushion couches to imbibe a glass of Champagne. More liquid satisfaction is found along The Wall, the lobby bar with its 60ft high stash of spirits (for bibliophiles, 300-plus titles hide alongside). Guests are sent on a sensory adventure, from the unlit lift and barely illuminated corridor to 95 white-on-white cabin-like guestrooms, where an oversized porthole window continues to play with a sense of scale even as an abundance of natural light flows through (highly effective blackout panels close it at the touch of a button). Most fun are those rooms running along the building’s elongated curve, featuring floors that could almost double as a skateboard park. Surround-sound speakers are hidden in headboards, and in the see-through bathroom is a tub with whirlpool jets; less hi-tech but highly coveted are the complimentary Havaiana flip-flops in the closet. Save your appetite for the plump pink salmon sashimi, spicy Amazonian cassoulet and Portuguese arroz de pato (duck rice) at Dijon-born chef Emmanuel Bassoleil’s rooftop Skye restaurant with its 360-degree metropolitan panorama and ruby-red lacquered swimming pool. Commandeer one of the white double daybeds and order Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, colour-coordinated with the pool with fresh strawberries and raspberries. By Cynthia Rosenfeld
This Spanish-moss-draped resort combines an idyllic beauty with a little bit of history, including antebellum plantation land and the ruins of a Gatsby-era mansion. But readers also ranked it at the top of the survey for families: various ages can go horseback riding, fishing, golfing, paddle-boarding, or swimming, while grownups can engage in such rigorous activities as “porching”—sitting in a rocker out front of the 50 clapboard cottages (the hotel will expand by 150 rooms in 2016). Readers raved about the vacation-home atmosphere, which helped the resort make the top 5 of the world for design. Cottages range up to 1,500 feet, have screened-in porches and make the most of the river, lagoon, or forest views.

That’s why Sharon Cantor loves The Chanler, a sprawling, former summer home in Newport, R.I. “It’s a journey back to the Golden Age of mansions—architectural beauty, timeless elegance, and impeccable service,” says the Miami resident. During one recent stay, Cantor and her husband Steve were invited to a 1930s-themed gala, and Chanler staffers helped them hunt down last-minute costumes. “We have stayed at many five-star hotels,” says the Cantor, “but none of them compares to the personal attention and genuine warmth shown to us by the staff of the Chanler.”


Royal Palms Resort and Spa is a relaxing getaway set in the desert on the outskirts of Phoenix. Guest rooms here boast vibrant, jewel-toned decor, soaking tubs and hand-selected furniture. The No. 2 Best Hotel in Phoenix invites travelers to unwind at the spa, sample Mediterranean fare at the on-site restaurant and admire views of Camelback Mountain from the comfort of the pool or a cabana. What's more, guests rave about the friendly and accommodating staff members. (Courtesy of Royal Palms Resort and Spa)
Choose between lakeside cabins, which date back to the 1920s and ’30s, or the recently renovated main lodge: both channel a rich arts-and-crafts ambience, which helped the resort score well in the survey for its rooms. Readers were also coddled by the high level of service, like having griddle cakes and house-made preserves delivered in a basket to your cottage door each morning. No matter what kind of room you choose, the chances for carefree play abound: snowshoes and cross-country skis are available for guest use, and trails start right outside the lodge.
The Indian ethos that the guest is god rings true of many grand hotels in the country, yet the Oberoi likes to put its own spin on things. Rising like a great gilded cake from the western shores of Lake Pichola, magnificent Udaivilas is just the spot to wash up after a dusty Rajasthan road trip. This particular pleasure palace is a relatively recent arrival but, like the 18th-century mansions it overlooks, it was built to showcase the craftsmanship of the Rajput era: marble-carved lotus ponds; glittering thikri mosaics; delicate miniatures painted on pale gold walls hand-plastered with lime, crushed marble, egg white and tamarind. The spectacular Candle Room contains a dome set with thousands of pieces of mirrored glass. Udaipur’s busy market streets are only a few miles away, but Udaivilas has the luxury of space: 30 acres of what used to be the Maharana of Mewar’s hunting estate, with bird-filled grounds and views of the pretty lake and its floating mansions. All this grandeur could feel cold and overwhelming if it weren’t for the excellent staff. Guests are greeted off the motor boat by doormen with great twirling moustaches and within minutes everyone knows your name. Small, personal interventions include gifts of a metal-wrought tea light or beaded bag, say, left in your room alongside a handwritten note. In the most romantic city in India, this is the most spectacular place to stay. By Pippa de Bruyn
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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)
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