There are other cities that possess a comparable crackle and fizz, a similar quotient of what Martin Amis once referred to as ‘italics in the air’. New York, naturally. Tokyo. London on a good night. Sydney. São Paulo. But nowhere else on earth does confusion, complication and contrariness quite like Shanghai. Here is a place that is neither completely Chinese nor wholly Western; where foreign-ness has been courted, embraced, shunned and then courted and embraced again; where unobstructed expansion and unpredictable change are the only constants. These qualities are quite thrillingly visible to the naked eye. The best vantage point from which to take them in is this hotel, at the northernmost end of the Bund, directly across the Huangpu River from the dense forest of skyscrapers that has lately popped up in Pudong. Any room in particular? No – practically all have excellent views. Otherwise Sir Elly’s rooftop terrace bar is perfect, especially in the evening. With its understated opulence – muted silks and vivid Art Deco flourishes – the hotel mirrors the hybrid aesthetic of the city itself, cosmopolitan, polyglot, at once nostalgic and contemporary. Shanghai may not have looked so good or felt so energised since its first period of explosive growth in the 1920s. And nowhere else allows you to savour its beauties and ironies in such fine style as the Pen. It embodies much of what made this beguiling, elusive, maddening city great – and still does. By Steve King
Casa Tua isn't the most obvious choice for a hotel in Miami - it's not beachfront and it lacks the city's signature Art Deco style - but that's pretty much the point. There's something wonderfully idiosyncratic about this red-roofed, Mediterranean-style villa, an appeal that draws the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson. While the rest of South Beach is all splash factor and excitable Kardashian clones, this place remains as peaceful and detached as a Tuscan hideaway. With their big marble bathrooms, overstuffed sofas and canopy beds, the five all-white suites manage to feel both homely and luxurious. But there can be little doubt that the downstairs restaurant is the biggest draw, with a fabulous courtyard lit by dozens of antique lanterns and a living room-like interior filled with framed black-and-white photos. The food fits in perfectly with this smart but homespun vibe: seared seabass with olives, tomatoes, artichokes and asparagus; tiramisu for pudding. Casa Tua doesn't have a pool, but it's possible to book a spot at the Delano hotel's beach, a block and a half away.
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
Built on the bones of an old temple (hence the name), this 142-room hotel is a haven for the hip and slightly edgy, and reflective of wider development in the Chengdu area. Designed by U.K. architecture firm Make, the hotel comprises two L-shaped halves separated by a verdant courtyard evoking Sichuan’s rice terraces. Rooms are minimalist and incorporate local materials (timber, bamboo, step stones) and architectural elements—ask if you can get one facing the courtyard. And while the hotel offers French bistro-style plates at its Temple Café and regionally inspired Italian fare at Tivano, head for the wood-lined Mi Xun Teahouse, whose design is inspired by Chinese medicine. With its vegan/vegetarian menu, it’s the hottest seat in the house—if you can get one.
To some readers, a great hotel room is merely the place where you rest up between memorable meals. This plush country-style inn has an English country home vibe—it was decorated by a London set designer— but many guests initially came for the menu, created by inn founder and James Beard Award-winner Patrick O’Connell. Indeed, the inn won the survey for the best hotel dining in America: it has a 14,000-bottle wine cellar and a French-influenced menu featuring “munchies” like foie gras with pear butter, or a Tin of Sin with American Osetra caviar and peekytoe crab. The hotel also tied at No. 1 in the U.S. for service, with such attentive amenities as afternoon tea, kitchen tours, and three housekeeping visits for your room per day.
Situated on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Hideaway at Royalton Punta Cana offers elegant, adults only getaways along stunning golden-sandy shores. During your stay, savour gourmet cuisines, artfully-prepared cocktails and stunning oceanviews while doing as much or as little as you’d wish. Delight in thrilling water sports or escape to the spa offering pampering treatments for a small fee. Afterwards, luxuriate on a comfortable beach lounger or delight in afternoon hors d’oeuvres served poolside with fresh towels and wait service. When it comes time to grab a bite to eat, choose from a variety of dining options including Dorado, Hideaway’s main restaurant serving à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the most notable features of this boutique-style resort are the lavish accommodations, with preferential suites featuring Royalton premium DreamBeds™ with high thread count sheets. Guests can also upgrade to Diamond Club to enjoy added amenities such as butler service, a selection of in-suite liquors, upgraded room service and exclusive reservations at the resort’s esteemed à la carte restaurants.
Music producer Chris Blackwell, who introduced the world to Bob Marley back in 1973, also founded this oceanfront island hideaway a few years later, based around the clifftop villa where Ian Fleming wrote all his Bond novels. In the decades since its reach has grown and grown. There’s no sign at the entrance, which is part of the low-key charm. It’s easy to see why many music and film stars make their way here: this is a sweet spot with a very independent flavour, a world away from the oversized all-inclusives, and more honed than Blackwell’s companion hotel, Strawberry Hill, in the Blue Mountains. Couples tend to hole up in the wooden beach huts; families and friends take over the massive villas; industry bigwigs feel right at home in Fleming’s former house, which has three bedrooms and a personable, clued-in staff. There are a few nods to 007 – black-and-white photos of Bond in reception plus novels and films on loan – but GoldenEye is mainly about Jamaica, a sensibility found in the blazingly coloured fabrics, breezy breakfasts on the verandah with cups of Blue Mountain coffee, and heaps of tropical fruit. The sheltered bay for morning swims is just a few paces away across immaculate sands. It says everything that Blackwell still lives here (guests have been known to unwittingly roll up to his villa and ask for a drink, which is always obligingly provided). And why would he leave? He gets to enjoy a highly original hangout that is entirely of his making. This is that rare beast: a hotel that balances heritage and hip and gets away with it. By Nigel Tisdall
It’s a desert conundrum. You visit the driest, emptiest place on the planet to ogle the Martian landscapes, squint at the shimmering salt lake, gawp at the cosmos – this is world-renowned stargazing territory, home to the ALMA radio telescope. But at this hotel just outside the hip hiker-hub of San Pedro, part of you just wants to stay put. Inspired by pre-Inca ruins, this Awasi – the first of the tiny rootsy Chilean chain, open since 2007 – is all pale wood and tan adobe walls, with shade-giving trees pressing in on all sides. There are plenty of alpaca blankets and books in the public spaces, and a fire-pit and candlelight encourage intelligent idling after dark. The 10 suites have bathtubs, chaise-longues, more blankets. The restaurant serves up sublime octopus causas. It would be too easy to indulge in all of this and then join fellow wanderers at the bar and talk about expeditions to undertake, maybe tomorrow, over a glass of Maule Valley Merlot. Fortunately, Awasi insists all guests have a private guide – invariably an expert on Andean geology or geyser physics – and their own four-wheel-drive, so spending a little time away from the retreat is pretty straightforward too. This is a place made for hedonistic hermits, part of a new breed of superior and polished wilderness hotels. By Chris Moss
Not since the Vietnam War have the outdoor café tables immortalized in Graham Greene's The Quiet American graced historic Lam Son Square. In 2015, Park Hyatt Saigon brought al fresco dining back to the neighborhood at Opera, one of two restaurants designed by Japan’s acclaimed Super Potato at the 245-room property. The Italian eatery offers the ideal vantage point to appreciate the capitalist vibe zooming through this city like the endless stream of motorcycles streaking past.
For an upscale twist on the classic ranch experience, consider bedding down at the No. 1 Best Hotel in Montana: The Ranch at Rock Creek. This Forbes Five Star-awarded property in Philipsburg, Montana, offers a plethora of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, including horseback riding, naturalist classes, ice fishing and archery. All of these experiences are free for guests to partake in, plus room rates also cover nightly entertainment (like bowling and s'more-making) and meals and drinks at two on-site restaurants. Meanwhile, the ranch's rustic accommodations boast stocked minifridges or minibars and Frette linens and custom duvets. (Courtesy of The Ranch at Rock Creek)
Travelers love the elegant Mediterranean-style facade and ample amenities available at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the No. 1 Best Hotel in San Diego. Situated about 20 miles north of San Diego amid Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the hotel offers a golf course, an award-winning spa, a palm tree-lined pool and multiple dining options. What's more, guests rave about the spacious accommodations and the friendly employees, from the bell staff and the valet to the concierges and the restaurant servers. (Courtesy of Fairmont Grand Del Mar)
Set in the Arashiyama district on the western side of Kyoto (an area frequented by Japanese nobles of years gone by), Suiran sits seamlessly on the jade waters of the Katsura river. The original buildings, which now house the restaurants and lobby, are constructed around beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and sunlight-dappled pebble-stone pathways lead the way to the more modern low-rise buildings that house the rooms. Yukata-clad staff welcome you warmly with a hot towel and tea whilst discretely whisking your luggage off to your room, leaving you to enjoy the serene surroundings, bathed in light and soothed by the sounds of flowing water. Here, chaotic city life is a distant memory and the deliberate and un-rushed pace is the catalyst for achieving a state of repose.