The ancient lava fields and low-lying scrub of the surrounding area make it feel more like Namibia than Hawaii. But as soon as driver pulls off Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway onto a private lane and the landscape shifts from Martian to tropical – lush with palms, canary-yellow hibiscus and musk ferns – and you inhale the plumeria-infused cold towel, bowing to receive the simple kukui nut lei, you know exactly where you are. Creating this distinct sense of place without employing gimmicky tropes (all too easy to do in a place like Hawaii where a little puka shell goes a long way) is what makes Hualalai stand out on an island of upscale hotels. The Hawaii-ana is restrained – hand-woven palm mats, tropical wallpaper in neutral tones – and the buildings are modelled on classic architecture that really pushes the indoor-outdoor living. The soaring lobby opens onto teak lanais overlooking the secluded stretch of coastline, miles from touristy Kona to the south and the resort village of Waikoloa to the north. Authenticity shines through, too, in the way this place interacts with its environment; for example, rather than clearing the hardened lava from various eruptions, Four Seasons used traditional hand-stacking techniques to build walls, stocked the King Pond with injured rescue fish from the ocean, and implemented a commercial fishing ban to allow the depleted waters in front of the property to recover. And the staff emit the characteristically chill aloha spirit while being super-attentive to the overworked tech couple from Silicon Valley and the stylish family of five escaping an endless New York winter. By Rebecca Misner
With a flotilla of boldfaced big-hitters hugging its sunny shores, Dubai isn’t exactly short of luxury digs. But what makes the newly opened Bulgari stand out is its location on its own seahorse-shaped manmade island, and its low-slung layout, a pleasing retort to the city’s ubiquitous canyons of skyscrapers. This is down to the group’s Milan-based architects, who anchored the hotel so it separates two bays: one an oh-so-quiet stretch of beach lined with villas; the other a super-smart marina with a sweep of restaurants and the Bulgari Yacht Club – a first for the brand. Structures are topped with layers of coral-like latticework; other marvellous textures that draw the eye include backlit green onyx, black granite and woollen Beni Ourain rugs from Morocco, picked out with covetable objects from B&B Italia and Flos. The city centre thrums on the other side of a 300-metre bridge, but with six bars and restaurants at the hotel, there really is no reason to cross it. La Spiaggia is a poolside crowd-pleaser that flips out wagyu beef burgers during the day, while in the evening, a Negroni from the oval Bulgari bar is a punchy aperitif for oysters and bottarga risotto at the neighbouring Niko Romito restaurant. The wow factor, though, is provided by the immense spa, with its ice fountains, hammam and an indoor pool – lined with a mosaic of real gold tiles, naturally – that has far-reaching views of the sea and the Dubai cityscape through floor-to-ceiling windows. The sense of contented wellbeing isn’t limited to the spa. In a land of hyperbole, this is understated perfection that thinks big. By Lauren Ho
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.
Not only do Mr and Mrs Robert Wtterwulghe share an extraordinary surname, they also hold the world record for the most visits made by paying guests to One&Only Le Saint Géran. The Belgian couple made their 88th pilgrimage here this past year. Few hotels inspire such loyalty. When it opened in 1975 it was, if not the only place to stay in Mauritius, the only one you would have wished to stay in. Its proprietor, South African Sol Kerzner, announced his intention to ‘blow the guests away’. In a sense, he achieved the opposite. They came in droves. They are still coming in droves. These days it is not uncommon for three generations from the same family to arrive simultaneously. Now Mauritius has the greatest concentration of five-star hotels of any island in the Indian Ocean and yet Le Saint Géran has in no way been overtaken. The changes made during a 2017 makeover were uncontroversial, either merely cosmetic or merely sensible. The number of rooms has decreased, and they are the very definition of tasteful neutrality, taupe and teal, as soothing as a sea breeze. The spa has expanded and there’s a new pool. But the essentials remain the same. The location – on 60 acres with a mile of flawless beach – is unbeatable. The spangled Alice Temperley teepee is still available for seaside revels. The adored tree in the lobby continues to grow. By Steve King
Hôtel 71 is located in a building with plenty of history: it was formerly the first head office of the National Bank of Canada in Québec City. The outside has a great example of 19th-century Neoclassical architecture, while the inside is decorated in an elegant urban style. An espresso lounge serves coffee throughout the day. The hotel is ideally located for cruises, as it is close to the terminals. It is also close to the funicular. For delightful Italian cuisine, eat at the attached restaurant, Il Matto.
In a city awash with much-loved legends – the Cipriani, the Danieli, the Gritti Palace – it takes something special for a newcomer to turn heads. But Aman, which splashed down here in 2013, as ever, had a trump card: Palazzo Papadopoli. Not only is this 16th-century confection right on the Grand Canal, just past the Rialto Bridge – which guests whizz under in the hotel’s glossy Riva to arrive at the palazzo’s jetty flanked by cerulean bricole – but it has also been home for the last two centuries to the Arrivabene family. Proper Venetian aristocracy, the current count and countess (Giberto and Bianca) still live here with their five children in a sprawling apartment at the top of the building. Beneath it, the first-floor piano nobile – redesigned, along with the whole of the palazzo, in the early 19th century by master of rococo Michelangelo Guggenheim – is a breathtaking, silk-draped, gilded space lit by enormous Murano glass chandeliers. The 24 bedrooms have been slotted into many of the palazzo’s original spaces, so they are all unique. But the opulence does not compete with Jean-Michel Gathy’s minimalist B&B Italia furniture. The Clooneys settled on the Alcova Tiepolo room, with precious frescoes above the bed and a hand-painted Chinoiserie sitting room, for their wedding night. Outside are two private gardens – another rarity in Venice – one of which butts up against the canal’s edge, and soon to be home to a teppanyaki restaurant. This is hands down the most splendid hotel in Venice. By Fiona Kerr
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.
The fourth-generation, family-owned Hotel Continental is one of the oldest and most established hotels in Oslo—but it's not just its pedigree that makes it a notable stay. Located on the doorstep of some of the city's main tourist attractions, including the Royal Castle, the parade street Karl Johan, the National Gallery, the waterfront, and the Aker Brygge neighborhood, it's in a veritable hotbed of activity. The five-star spot caters to an accordingly upscale crowd, with plenty of business travelers in the mix, but there are also locals swinging by for pre-dinner cocktails at Bar Boman, the stylish hotel bar—so you won't feel at all sequestered from the scene.
Overlooking an untamed strip of Pacific coast on Vancouver Island (about 195 miles northwest of Victoria), the Wickaninnish Inn is a Relais & Châteaux luxury amid the pines. Guests adore this hotel's rugged setting and isolated locale. All guest rooms boast ocean views, and include balconies, fireplaces, soaker tubs and heated flooring in the bathrooms. Guests can dine on fine, locally-sourced fare at The Pointe Restaurant for Brunch and dinner while the Driftwood Cafe features drinks such as coffee and smoothies, snacks and lunch options. For a bit of relaxation, hotel guests suggest heading to Ancient Cedars Spa, which offers treatments like West Coast Sacred Sea body wraps, or grabbing a drink at sundown at the On The Rocks Bar.
This fashionable hotel earns acclaim for its elegant design and prime location in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. The No. 4 Best Hotel in Chicago boasts exceptional customer service, an indoor pool, a spa and a health club. Accommodations within the Waldorf Astoria Chicago are dressed in stylish gray tones and contemporary furnishings. (Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Chicago)