Bold, crazy, ambitious, foolhardy, visionary – any number of adjectives could have been used to describe Australians Rory and Melita Hunter when they formulated their plan some 12 years ago to create a destination hotel on two tiny islands in the little-known Koh Rong archipelago, 20 miles off the coast of Cambodia. Yet the sublime result was Song Saa – the first opening outside of Siem Reap to rekindle an interest in travel to Cambodia after decades of oppression (their next project is 200-hectare Song Saa Reserve at Siem Reap). Nine of the 27 standalone villas (each with a private pool) are on stilted platforms over aquamarine water, the rest dotting the shoreline or tucked into the jungly interior of the larger island; the smaller island, linked via a wooden walkway, remains an unblemished nature reserve. But it’s Melita’s creative touch that really defines the look and feel of Song Saa: driftwood and bamboo from broken-up fishing boats and abandoned houses have been recycled into walls, floors and furniture. The Song Saa Foundation runs in conjunction with the hotel, championing health, employment and education among local communities, and tackles issues such as waste management and marine protection. So staying at this top-class island hideaway also means supporting social and environmental change. A meaningful blueprint for sustainable travel. By Pamela Goodman
Hôtel le Priori is close to Old Québec’s main attractions, and though the building is quite old, the décor inside does not only reflect the history of the surrounding district. Instead, the décor expertly blends old and new, with antique bathtubs in the bathroom complementing the Art Deco furniture and bright, contemporary colors. Each room is individually decorated. There are also multiple loft-style suites for extended stays. Like many other hotels in the old city, reservations are a must. The hotel restaurant, le Toast, is also exemplary.
According to recent visitors, the best thing about the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York is the service, from its white-gloved bellhops to its personal 24-hour Trump Attaché service. Along with the attentive hotel staff, the spacious accommodations, the 6,000-square-foot spa and the world-class cuisine served at the on-site restaurants also earn praise from guests. This Trump property earns the No. 6 Best Hotel in New York City title for 2017. (Courtesy of Trump International Hotel & Tower New York)
Nestled in Québec City's Old Port, the Auberge Saint-Antoine complements the quaint Petit-Champlain district with elegant decor featuring European artifacts and modern accents. Additional touches, such as minibars, coffee machines, and bathrooms equipped with heated floors and no-fog mirrors earn an extra nod of approval, but recent guests particularly applaud this Relais & Châteaux property's warm and courteous hotel staff. After strolling along Québec City's cobbled streets, you can cozy up at Chez Muffy, an intimate dining room that stuns with gorgeous St. Lawrence River views and an eclectic assortment of seasonal French-Canadian dishes. For lighter fare, grab a table at Bar Artefact, which dishes up small dishes like poutine and grilled cheese. You can also take advantage of the hotel's unique amenities, such as the private movie screening room and LeGYM fitness center and private spa treatment rooms, which all receive high marks from previous visitors.
After three decades, this wine-country pioneer, balanced on a hillside overlooking Napa Valley, remains a favourite. Even for jaded souls who think they've seen it all, the light-filled rooms - just 52 of them, mostly intimate, Mediterranean-style stucco cottages - are a delight. With French doors, private terraces and fireplaces, they're designed for comfort, privacy and relaxation. An olive grove shades the grounds, and a large sculpture garden makes for a pleasant walk to and from the main house, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant. Dinner on the patio is a must: choose from chef Robert Curry's seasonal menu - the excellent roast pork belly, kampachi sashimi and seared tuna with fava purée are standouts - and say yes to head sommelier Kris Margerum's thoughtful wine pairing. The massive spa has a central courtyard lined by hammam-style sauna and steam rooms, outdoor showers and hot and cold plunge pools. A leisurely afternoon here is a treat, not least because of the sunshine-soaked views.
There are plenty of wellness-focused hotels out there nowadays, but this private island hotel has been around longer and does it better than most. Just ask its fan club, who travel from far and wide for the daily yoga sessions, early morning meditations on the pristine beach, healing massages, and Ayurvedic consultations with Dr Parth, who hails from Goa. Check into one of the whitewashed beachfront villas simply furnished with Indonesian four-poster beds swathed in Italian linens and that’s more or less what your days will consist of – not to mention biking around the island, snorkelling expeditions, kayaking and dawdling over long feasts. The only reason to wear a watch is to make sure you don’t miss yoga. For those who prefer their Caribbean hotels a bit more hedonistic, you can always skip the green juice and slurp a Mojito at the bar, which Keith Richards has been known to frequent when he’s in residence. The Rolling Stone is just one of the island’s famous homeowners. Donna Karan has called her Balinese-inspired villa on Parrot Cay ‘a sanctuary where I go to create awareness’. Bruce Willis and Christie Brinkley own estates nearby, which can be rented should you need more space than COMO’s beachfront villas can provide. This is a wide-open, big-hearted place that puts beach life first. By Laura Itzkowitz
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
The Greenwich Hotel has claimed the No. 1 Best Hotel in New York City honor for 2017. This trendy Tribeca property (owned by actor Robert De Niro) earns nods of approval for its unique accommodations, which feature Moroccan-tiled bathrooms and fine Tibetan silk rugs, among other amenities. The Greenwich Hotel houses an Italian restaurant, a spa and a tranquil indoor pool. (Courtesy of The Greenwich Hotel)
Book hotels near me acquires a new meaning all together with these available options. ‘Nearby landmarks’ is another extremely useful category in the hotels page, and shows you the nearest points of sightsee, whether it is a museum or a beach and at what distance. The penultimate tab is about hotel amenities, and gives out an extensive list of amenities in terms of services, security, parking and transportation, languages spoken by its staff and payment modes it accepts. Read up the check-in and check-out timings, the number of rooms on the property, total floors and slots in the car parking. The hotel policies and FAQs are at the bottom of the page.
'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