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.
Occupying prime real estate on Chicago's coveted Magnificent Mile, The Peninsula Chicago combines Hong Kong's cosmopolitan flair with the Windy City's Midwestern charm. Travelers describe the guest rooms as comfortable thanks to their creamy color palette and plush furniture, not to mention their modern techie touches, like a bedside remote command station that controls the lights, television and room temperatures. Meanwhile, the renowned Peninsula Spa is in a class by itself: earning The Peninsula Chicago many accolades from health and leisure magazines. Another honorable mention goes to the afternoon tea served in the lobby bar, which visitors say is a nice and welcome touch. During your stay, guests recommend making time for the tasty Cantonese dishes served in the Shanghai Terrace restaurant. However, for many travelers, it was The Peninsula Chicago's friendly service staff that convinced them to stay here again.
The building’s textile-clad façade and verdant latticework by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma creates a palpable sense of calm – ideal for meditating on the deeper cultural meaning behind contemporary Chinese artworks in the atrium, such as Beijing Memory No. 1 and No. 2, Li Xiaofeng’s wearable cheongsam and military breastplate covered in Ming and Qing-dynasty porcelain shards, and ceramicist Fiona Wong’s ghostly, lace-like White Wings. There’s also a 20ft-high Chinese apothecary chest of 6,000 drawers in the lobby, and the multilingual staff shuffling around in all-black outfits further add to the art-gallery vibe. More straightforward are the 99 open-plan guestrooms finished in oak wood and Turkish sandstone, with Japanese-style furo soaking tubs and powerful overhead rain showers. The complimentary ‘maxi-bar’ features craft brews from the nearby Arrow Factory and bottles of orange-flavoured Arctic Ocean soda, the nectar of any Beijing childhood. A decade after the hotel opened, the Sanlitun area surrounding the House has blossomed. Cross the street to Dover Street Market, where you’re likely to spy staff nipping out to pick up niche items at pop-up events. Follow the scent of date wood back to the hotel’s Jing Yaa Tang restaurant: cumin-laced lamb skewer and fiery kung pao chicken from a cage-free farm south of Beijing deliver just the right amount of anticipation while the master roaster glazes your duck with his secret combination of osmanthus, honey, vinegar, molasses and crushed dates. Order an Old Peking as nightcap, made with Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum, Mancino Vecchio vermouth and finished in a cloud of date wood smoke – the only type used by serious Beijing duck roasters. By Cynthia Rosenfeld
Just three blocks from the mighty Mekong River, surrounded by gilded Buddhist temples, and in the upscale heart of the city center, Villa Maly has a coveted address in Luang Prabang. The two-story house, awash with white paint and deep wood accents, feels like entering the home of your chicest Laoation friend—that is, if your friend were a grandson of a 19th-century Lao king. (And, actually, it was Prince Khamtan Ounkham who built the house in 1938, and prominent French nouveau details are a nod to the years he spent studying in France.) Belly up to the Maly Bar for cocktails and light snacks, or enjoy a D.I.Y poolside barbecue with marinated meats and vegetables; and don't forget to make use of the hotel's complementary bike rentals while you're at it.
Readers declared this 85-room hotel in the Willamette Valley to be one of the best values among American wine country inns—perhaps not a surprise, since Pinot fans tend to love Oregon wineries for their laidback (and less costly) ambience. And while the hotel is nobly LEED Gold-certified—for such features as solar water heaters and glassware made from reclaimed wine bottles—it also offers decadent, you're-soaking-in-it spa treatments, like baths of local wine, honey and roses. Set on seven acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapevines, the Allison also got high marks for its idyllic location and a top-10 ranking for cuisine: its locavore restaurant Jory is named after the region’s fertile soil.
‘Coûte que coûte’ goes the punning family motto of Sir Charles Coote, for whom the opulent Ballyfin estate was conceived in the early 19th century. ‘No matter the cost’ is how this loosely translates, proving as apt an adage in the 21st century as it was then. Many millions of euros may have been lavished on this stately pile in County Laois, both in its original construction and, more recently, its painstaking restoration. For the architectural historian, the house is a head turner – the culmination of Regency craftsmanship brought together in lusciously modelled plasterwork, scagliola in varying colours, stained glass and staggeringly intricate parquetry. For the sybarite, the house is a place of comfort and grandeur, not least in the Gold Drawing Room where walls are hung with lustrous silk and vast windows frame views of the 28-acre lake. Bedrooms are also decorated with rich fabrics and wallpaper, fine antiques, fresh flowers from the garden, art and books – a fabulous amalgamation of Anglo-Irish panache. New this year is Ballyfin’s 21st room and first standalone property: the tiny Gardener’s Cottage overlooking, to the rear, the walled gardens, which supply Ballyfin’s kitchen with organic fruit and vegetables. The grounds are made for strolling in the complimentary wellies, with grottoes and rockeries, a folly and a fernery, a rose garden and an aviary. There is no finer Irish-country house experience. By Pamela Goodman
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Just northeast of Kekaha Kai State Park, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is one of the most luxurious resorts on the Big Island. Recent visitors suggested indulging in the Hualalai Spa, which features spa treatments with island twists, like a Polynesian Niu (Coconut) Scrub or a Sun Relief Ti Leaf Wrap. Meanwhile, the resort's seven unique swimming spots – from a saltwater pond with a few friendly manta rays to an oceanfront infinity pool – earn high marks across the board. Should you be interested in learning more about Hawaiian life, the Ka'upulehu Cultural Center offers interactive programs that give insight into the island's history, traditions and even music. After a long day of learning (or relaxing), enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of three restaurants or two lounges before retiring to your room. Accommodations at this Four Seasons resort feature nature-inspired hues and Hawaiian art, as well as balconies, granite bathrooms and plasma TVs. Although recent guests won't deny that room rates and dining costs here are high, they say that the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai's facilities and customer service are worth the price.
Set in 60 acres and within a scrim of fluttering white birches, majestic balsam firs and organic farms, Hidden Pond in southern Maine offers 'rustic' with a difference. Forget soggy tents and mouldy camp shacks, this place has 36 stunning one- and two-bedroom clapboard cottages beautifully orchestrated by some of the state's top designers. The 20 one-bedroom bungalows have vaulted ceilings, gas fireplaces, outdoor rain showers and sleek bathrooms; the 16 two-bedroom options also have proper kitchens. After checking in at the Arts and Crafts-style lodge, head to the pools, trails and beaches for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, biking and hiking. Yummy Continental breakfasts are delivered to the cottages by golf cart, cocktails are served at the Back Porch Bar, and light meals at the family-friendly Sand Bar Grill and Farm Bar. But supper at the main restaurant, Earth, is something special, with fresh handmade pasta and wood-oven pizzas as well as diver scallops, swordfish or crispy duck, served in an outdoorsy setting (there's a nightly bonfire, and the restaurant walls are made from trees that were felled to clear the site). None of which should be an excuse to miss dining in the local seafood shacks and at famous restaurants such as the nearby White Barn Inn, sometimes frequented by George and Laura Bush, who live in the area.
The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a small, boutique property situated in downtown Victoria. Its enviable location in the city's center makes the hotel suitable for both business and leisure travelers; however, some say city noise can seep into the accommodations. Rooms are equipped with free internet access, minibars, marble bathrooms with glass showers, deep soaking tubs and sweeping views of the city or Inner Harbour. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at Magnolia's on-site eatery, The Courtney Room, which serves up French dishes. As for customer service, recent guests enjoy the attention to detail – travelers are treated to a welcome gift of fruit and handmade chocolates – and praise the staff for being exceptionally friendly and helpful. The Spa Magnolia is also lauded for coupling a relaxed atmosphere with a versatile array of treatments.
At the far reaches of the Punakha Valley, on the Mo Chu River in central Bhutan, is this COMO retreat. The 11-room hideaway gives harried guests views of terraced rice fields, the temple of Khamsum Yuley Namgay, and snowcapped Himalayan peaks. The restaurant Bukhari, so named for the traditional Bhutanese fireplace, might be the best place to savor these vistas. Park yourself on the outdoor terrace, preferably by a smoking, standing fireplace, for a seasonally driven dinner made with local organic ingredients—red rice, hand-ground buckwheat flour, apple cider vinegar, and hand-moulded farm cheese.
Right on Xpu-ha beach, the best stretch of white sands on this part of the Caribbean coast, Esencia is one of those hotels that is spoken about in hushed tones by those in the know, none of who want to let this secret get out. But those who do make it here discover a small, natural beauty of place set on a palm-swaying estate on the edge of the tumbling sea. There are hammocks to laze in, and a dimly lit spa where lotions and potions made from garden herbs are crushed into poultices to smooth out knots. For snorkeling among rainbow-colored fish, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is a five-minute hop on the hotel’s catamaran. There are ceviches and tiraditos to try at Mistura, a restaurant with views of the moon-dappled sea, and a wooden beach bar that does the best Margaritas in Mexico. And then there are the rooms. The interiors of the house, originally built as a hideaway for an Italian duchess, have splashes of fifties art and huge bedrooms with generous terraces. There are brand-new Jungle Rooms with plunge pools and beach suites that are a study in white. All in all, it is perfect. By Mary Lussiana
Ideally located inside the walls of Old Quebec, the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac has undergone a multimillion dollar renaissance project that will reposition it as one of the world’s leading hotels. The restoration blends the charm of the hotel’s enchanting past with modern innovations, creating an allure that is fresh & seductive, balanced with the hotel’s rich history & dynamic future.
This will stop even island regulars in their tracks: on the way to breakfast when they see baby sharks swimming right there in the shallows; passing the giant, gnarling, Tomb Raider-esque banyan tree near the tucked-away spa; at sunset when the pool becomes a mirror for the sky and the only colours that exist in the world are orange and blue. Amilla is a minimalist and clean-lined version of the Maldives, with low-rise buildings in a white wood the same shade as the flour-fine sand. Nothing pokes above the palm trees, even the treehouses high up in the canopy (for those who prefer to fall asleep to the sound of birdcall rather than waves) cleverly blend into their surroundings. Being in or near the water is what it’s all about: the snorkelling is sensational and the house reef is home to a coral-lined underwater chimney where hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and guitar sharks schmooze. But there’s also a knockout spa where trainers from hit London outfit Bodyism lead guests through a gym session to get hearts racing and then brilliant therapists from Bhutan calm them back down again. All is mellow and fairy-lit when it gets dark and everyone seems to be wearing something floaty. Among the half dozen restaurants, Japanese Feeling Koi, set right out over the ocean, is a highlight: reef-fish ceviche with pomegranate; crispy crab roll with green-tea powder. Amilla has some of the most knockout villas in the archipelago. Any which way, it’s a very fun, very glamorous place to stay. By Grainne McBride
Have you ever noticed how those lovely old revolving doors at Claridge’s offer practically no resistance? They seem almost to spin themselves around at your approach, as if to draw you in, like a welcoming whirlpool. Once inside, the splendour swirls all about you in a blur of chequered marble tiles and soft chandelier light. Straight ahead, there is the bustle of the Foyer and Reading Room; a little off to one side, you might detect the reassuring rattle of cocktails being vigorously shaken in the Fumoir and expertly stirred in the Bar; round the corner, a sculptural arrangement of spectral white branches stands stock-still and silent in the middle of the Michelin-starred Fera restaurant like the remnants of some enchanted forest, just willing you to book a table for later that evening. Claridge’s is usually described as Art Deco in style, but this is only approximately correct. Most of the building predates the Art Deco moment and most of its life as a hotel has of course followed it. And while it does, undeniably, possess the impeccable manners, the aristocratic good looks, the sybaritic heart and the sequinned soul of a Twenties flapper, collaborations with designers such as Thierry Despont, Diane von Furstenberg and David Linley have introduced more contemporary qualities as well. Claridge’s is not one thing but many, at once impossibly grand and irresistibly cosy, both a glorious throwback and as perfectly fresh as a daisy. By Steve King
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
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Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa is a four-star resort located in the south of Karon Beach along Phuket Islandâ€™s verdant and winding west coast.Horizon is within strolling distance of Karon Beach, its southern nightlife, and Kata Beach.This area is much better suited to vacationing families than its noisy neighbour Patong Beach, some seven kilometres to the north.Patong is the island hub for entertainment, shopping and fun whereas Karon still has good shopping and restaurants but proceeds at a more leisurely pace.Accommodation choices at Horizon are many: The resort offers Superior Rooms with Pool View; Sea-Facing Superior Rooms; Deluxe Rooms; Club Rooms; Club Room Pool Access, and Honeymoon Suites. Read More...
On paper it shouldn’t work. An entire Puglian village, built from scratch. A reimagining of townhouses and a square, a colonnade of shops, villas dotted around the grounds, a little farm area with horses and chickens and rabbits. How could it possibly be anything other than pastiche? And yet… at the grand old age of 10, Borgo Egnazia has carved a name for itself as one of the loveliest places to stay in all of Italy. It is dreamily beautiful, the way the harsh Mediterranean sun hits the mellow tufu limestone from which the buildings have been honed, the shock of bougainvillea that has crept up every wall, the softness, the shadows, the dusky lanes between the hotel rooms. It is of course a hotel, but feels far from formulaic. Rooms are soaring and elegant, cool stone underfoot, mini posies of dried lavender on shelves, huge linen cushions and sun-trap terraces. They are retreats in themselves, some with their own little kitchens, others with swimming pools, or sea views from the rooftops. The restaurants are smart, with the most covetable traditional Italian splatterware plates and bowls, and food made straight from the fields you see around you: broccoli, tomatoes, aubergines, pasta made with the local semolina flour, very good olive oil. There is the sweetest children’s club you’ll ever stumble across, and a supremely cool beach hangout, and a spa that is mesmerising and magical. At night the entire place is lit by citronella lanterns, smoking into the warm air. Sometimes a bonfire crackles in the central square. A deeply special place. By Issy von Simson