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
According to previous visitors, the No. 3 Best Hotel in Chicago offers a refined atmosphere and proximity to the shops, restaurants and nightlife of the city's Magnificent Mile. Inside this Travel + Leisure World's Best-awarded property, guests will find numerous facilities to take advantage of, including an indoor swimming pool, 24-hour fitness and business centers, a game-filled lounge for kids and the Allium Restaurant and Bar, which dishes up contemporary American cuisine. What's more, rooms and suites feature neutral color palettes with jewel-tone accents, Malin + Goetz bath amenities, flat-screen TVs and minibars. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and Peter Peirce)

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.
The Hay-Adams is steeped in American history. Originally built in the 1920s, the property occupies an enviable location in the nation's capital. The No. 2 Best Hotel in Washington, D.C. puts guests just a short walk from the White House, the Washington Monument and the museums and sites along the National Mall. The property's rooms and suites are classic and elegant, with beds dressed in Italian linens, down pillows and duvets. Accommodations are also equipped with Bose music systems and iPads. (Courtesy of The Hay-Adams)
A short, cobblestoned walk up from Cusco’s central plaza sits an elegant hotel with ancient roots. The story of this Belmond all-suite property—which opened in 2012—is reflected in its décor: Original Inca stone walls from the building’s footprint give way to the colonial-era frescoes and gilded 17th-century décor of its private mansion days, while a small restored chapel and serene arcades reveals its time as a convent. Now, tucked-away terraces and gardens, bubbling fountains, and Cusco’s first heated pool encourage contemplation of another kind to guests of the 55 accommodations. With butler service included for all rooms, checking in and getting acquainted with your suite is a breeze. Despite the historic air, all the technology is up-to-date, so enjoy the in-room iPads, espresso/tea machines, heated bathroom floors, and pumped-in oxygen to help ease any altitude issues.
According to recent guests, the best part about staying in the downtown Wedgewood Hotel & Spa –which is just steps away from Robson Street's high-end shops – is the impeccable service. Travelers describe the staff at this Relais & Châteaux property as especially attentive, gracious and personable. Visitors also gush over the well-appointed rooms, which are outfitted with complimentary Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs, Nespresso coffee machines and more. The spacious bathrooms, which boast Frette towels, marble accents deep-soaking tubs and L'Occitane toiletries, also receive a nod of approval from guests. For a little extra pampering, head to the on-site spa or the award-winning Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge. Guests describe the restaurant's ambiance as elegant and serene, and the seafood as delicious.

Auberge aux Deux Lions is close to the most popular areas of the city without being in the heart of the action. This small, urban hotel is located in the Montcalm district and is not far from the old city. Certain rooms show off the stone walls from the oldest parts of the hotel, which date back to 1909. As this hotel is quite small, reservations are an absolute must, and the staff is willing to help with anything and everything, including a free walking tour of the city to help adjust to Québec City.

The No. 2 Best Hotel in Chicago combines Asian flair with Midwest charm, winning over visitors with chic accommodations and ample amenities. Guests love The Peninsula's two-story health and wellness center, which includes a spa, a fitness facility and a large indoor pool with floor-to-ceiling windows. Plus, the hotel occupies prime real estate on Michigan Avenue, along the Magnificent Mile, putting guests near plenty of shops and eateries. (Courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago)


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'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
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