The top Fairmont property in the country and the No. 1 Best Hotel in San Diego is the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Nestled within Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve on 400 acres, this tranquil property charms guests with its Mediterranean-style architecture, friendly employees and award-winning cuisine. Each room and suite overlooks the surrounding canyon or the on-site golf course and is outfitted with dark wood furniture, a Nespresso coffee maker and a bathroom with marble accents. Outside the rooms, travelers can stay active at the Equestrian Center, in the fitness center or on one of two tennis courts. Meanwhile, R&R-seekers can visit the spa or lounge by the adults-only pool. (Courtesy of Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
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
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
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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