Guests may be surprised to hear that this exquisitely restored 1835 palace, with all its courtyards and pageantry, wasn’t built for a queen—but rather, for the queen’s favorite handmaiden. Later on, it was used as a royal guesthouse and hunting lodge, though it’s since comfortably taken its place as one of Rajasthan’s most luxurious hotels. Enjoy an evening of Champagne, moonlight, and candles in a private dining tent illuminated by flaming torches and pitched on the palace greens, and make sure you get to the Steam bar, which occupies a restored train.
Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling like royalty, sleeping in some of the world’s most expensive suites, and eating in Michelin-starred restaurants? The time and money for that kind of trip can be tricky to come by, but it’s always good to be ready just in case the opportunity arises, right? We here at Oyster have been lucky enough to have visited thousands of hotels around the globe and across the states. The U.S. is known for having high standards when it comes to hotels, and hotels stateside offer some of the most decadent services around. So we’ve put together a list of the best luxury properties in the States for those planning a luxe trip -- and for those who just like to dream. Enjoy!
The best hotels in Karon Beach take full advantage of their setting in this beautiful resort town on Phuket’s west coast. This lovely destination has the island’s third-longest beach and first most squeaky sand. There are plenty of activities available on the beach and many shops and restaurants behind it. Shaded by trees, it is one of the more picturesque shores on the island.
This Four Seasons property attracts beach lovers. Positioned along a beautiful stretch of Hulopoe Bay sand overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this resort offers breathtaking ocean views, manicured grounds and top-notch customer service. During their stays, guests can enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as snorkeling, deep sea fishing, hiking, whale watching, scuba diving and more. Visitors use terms like "paradise" and "heaven on earth" to describe the property. Guest rooms all feature private patios, as well as amenities like 75-inch flat-screen TVs with Blu-ray players, Nespresso machines and free internet access. One of the most loved features is the complimentary shuttle, which will cart you to and from Lanai Town. Recent visitors do say you should brace yourself for the high cost of meals at the resort's multiple restaurants and treatments at the in-house spa. Still, most travelers enjoy this Four Seasons resort's piece of shoreline and its world-class golf course.
To stay in a charming European area that is full of small bistros and traditional pastry shops, book a hotel in the neighborhood of Petit Champlain, such as the Hôtel Champlain Vieux Québec. In Petit Champlain, you can see some of the first houses built in Quebec City, or you can visit specialty stores like Charlevoix Pure Laine, a local wool accessory shop.
Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton
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 40-room, luxury Lodge at Sea Island is on the site of a former cotton plantation, accessed via an avenue of historic antebellum oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Outside, the lodge resembles an English manor; inside, it feels like a 1920s-style golf clubhouse or hunting lodge, with personal butlers who deliver milk and cookies to guest rooms at bedtime. Golfers will be in heaven, but there are plenty of non-golf-centric activities, too. Rooms are huge and packed with amenities -- some havebalconies with beautiful views of the St. Simons Sound. Listen for the nightly bagpiper who performs at sunset. Guests should note that some features -- such as the beach, spa, and swimming pool -- are located at the sister property, The Cloister, which is too far to walk to; however, there's a free regular shuttle there and back.
This former 17th-century convent mixes elements of its past (exposed wood ceilings, beautiful arched walkways) with modernity in a very graceful way: Rooms are either contemporary or colonial-style, and while the newer ones offer views of the pool or the Caribbean, colonial suites have antique furniture and overlook the Old Town or interior gardens. To play at being pious, check out Restaurant 1621, once the Clarist nuns’ dining room, which now serves French-inflected cuisine.
The Embassy Hotel and Suites (25 Cartier St.) is a small 130-room hotel in downtown Ottawa less then five minutes from Parliament Hill. It is a short distance from Elgin St., Somerset St. and Chinatown. A number of surrounding parks create a suburban atmosphere for this centrally located hotel. Confederation Park, Minto Park and Jack Purcell Park are within walking distance. Average rates start at CAD$123.
Located in a classic pre-war building, this Manhattan Ritz-Carlton ranked at No. 1 among big-city hotels in the U.S., and also made the top 10 for business hotels. Whether or not readers came here to cut deals, the hotel made them feel like insiders: Each member of the multilingual concierge team belongs to the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, and readers repeatedly wrote that the service feels warm and natural, despite the grand setting. Indeed, one of the daily activities is a standing invitation to help feed the hotel’s carriage horses across the street. Its La Prairie day spa, meanwhile–where one treatment is the decidedly-non-fishy Caviar Back Massage—ranked at the top of the U.S. survey for hotel spas.
Often referred to as the USA's best small hotel, this 20-suite Relais & Châteaux property - with cottages and outbuildings anchored by a 1795 New England farmhouse - sits in 300 acres of breathtaking wildflower meadows, pine forests, lakes and orchards. Its sophisticated style is the result of a long and fruitful relationship with the cream of NYC's interior-design world. In the 1990s, the original owner, Hawaiian newspaperman Thurston Twigg-Smith, commissioned designer and one-time Warhol apostle Jed Johnson to work his magic on the first 15 rooms. Cue chinoiserie toile pelmets, hand-carved ravens atop barley-twist bedposts and a trompe-l'oeil tented ceiling. Johnson's rooms are still marvellous, but when Twin Farms added another five bedrooms in 2005, plus spa treatment rooms, architect Peter Bohlin (known for his Apple stores) and interior designer Thad Hayes were called in. Their suites - such as The Aviary, with its Douglas-fir panelling, shag rug and buttoned-leather headboard, all in orange - are as luxurious as Johnson's, though less zesty. As delightful as the rooms are, the farm-raised, seasonal food (veal with butternut-squash purée in winter, grilled halibut and prawn gnocchi in summer) from chef Ted Ask and pastry honcho Christopher Wilson possibly tops it all. There's also access to deserted hiking trails, private ski slopes, fly-fishing, the Out of the Woods Spa and a 20,000-bottle wine cellar.
With standout service and an excellent location, the Montage Beverly Hills is the epitome of luxury. The No. 4 Best Hotel in Los Angeles, the Montage Beverly Hills is just a short walk from Rodeo Drive's high-end stores. This hotel offers a 20,000-square-foot two-level spa, a rooftop pool surrounded by cabanas and guest rooms and suites that evoke old Hollywood glamour. Luxe touches such as complimentary Champagne on arrival and car service in a Rolls-Royce are just a few of the amenities guests love. (Courtesy of Montage Beverly Hills)
A new breed of Las Vegas luxury, with 392 elegant rooms and some of Vegas' best service, the Mandarin Oriental is a quiet haven on the glitzy Strip. The hotel lacks the characteristic excess that many people come to Vegas for (including a casino), opting instead for a more restrained approach: a beautiful spa, two fine dining restaurants, a peaceful pool, meeting space, and the rarest of Las Vegas features -- serenity. But the convenient City Center location means easy access to all the excess you want.
The Mandarin Oriental is set in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Travelers appreciate the classy and laid-back atmosphere of this property – the No. 2 Best Hotel in Las Vegas – citing elegant decor, a relaxing spa and the elevated customer service as particular highlights. The hotel also has multiple pools and several restaurants, and sits within walking distance of other top Sin City sights such as the Bellagio Fountains and casinos. (Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas)
Long before the influx of American billionaires preparing for the apocalypse by constructing mega-million-dollar retreats in the remotest reaches of New Zealand, there was the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. American hedge-fund billionaire Julian Robertson created this hotel on a 6,000-acre working sheep farm set above the Pacific Ocean. For golfers, it offers the round of a lifetime. Created by late, great course designer, David Harmon, 15 of the 18 holes look out across the ocean, while six play alongside cliffs which drop 200 metres into the sea. Tee-offs require blind hits of faith across coastal chasms. But Robertson’s vision was hardly limited to golfers. There’s a day spa built within a native forest, and sunset barbecues on Friday evenings on the property’s pink-sand beach; more formal suppers are served inside the main lodge, which is designed to feel like a traditional farmhouse (albeit one which requires guests wear jackets for dinner). A farm-to-table ethos rules the kitchen, fresh produce from the sea and surrounding farms dictates daily changes to a menu regarded as northern New Zealand’s finest. Spacious rooms are neutral-toned and comfortable – fancy elements would be negated by the elevated views out to the Cavalli Islands. Those seeking even more space should try the 4,200-square-feet Owner’s Cottage, and then wander around the property, through ancient Kauri woodland, and down trails onto deserted white-sand bays where orcas and whales pass by. By Craig Tansley
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.