Year to year, we see our readers’ travel habits shift, as some destinations suddenly explode in popularity (hello, Portugal and Iceland) and others experience a cooling, perhaps due to geopolitical events or an unfavorable exchange rate. And this, of course, trickles down into our World’s Best results, particularly when it comes to ranking the top 100 hotels on the planet. But one thing remains a constant: the properties that make this selective list are all incredible ambassadors for their home countries, delivering intuitive service and luxury experiences that can truly make a vacation.
This spa resort doesn't take any of its five stars for granted, particularly when it comes to delivering first-rate customer service. Recent guests can't help but keep the compliments coming: Travelers say that the resort staff took extra care to personalize each experience. One problem you might face, however, is exclusivity. The Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach only has 98 guest rooms and suites, so be sure to book early for an upcoming trip to Sunny Isles Beach. The rooms come with flat-screen TVs and private balconies, as well as double sinks and glass-enclosed showers. Meanwhile, the property also features three in-house eateries, four pools, a spa and beach amenities. What's more, the hotel is part of The Leading Hotels of the World, meaning Leaders Club members have access to perks here. You'll find the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, about 11 miles north of Miami Beach.
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After three decades, this wine-country pioneer, balanced on a hillside overlooking Napa Valley, remains a favourite. Even for jaded souls who think they've seen it all, the light-filled rooms - just 52 of them, mostly intimate, Mediterranean-style stucco cottages - are a delight. With French doors, private terraces and fireplaces, they're designed for comfort, privacy and relaxation. An olive grove shades the grounds, and a large sculpture garden makes for a pleasant walk to and from the main house, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant. Dinner on the patio is a must: choose from chef Robert Curry's seasonal menu - the excellent roast pork belly, kampachi sashimi and seared tuna with fava purée are standouts - and say yes to head sommelier Kris Margerum's thoughtful wine pairing. The massive spa has a central courtyard lined by hammam-style sauna and steam rooms, outdoor showers and hot and cold plunge pools. A leisurely afternoon here is a treat, not least because of the sunshine-soaked views.
The arrival of Soho House in this city two years ago caused a fluttering of hearts among cool-hunting locals and the numerous digital nomads for whom this group has become an essential part of the global landscape. Housed in a handsome, 19th-century townhouse in the Gothic Quarter that once belonged to the wealthy Mandri family, it is bursting with original details rescued by architect Hector Restrepo Calvo and given new life by the in-house design team: modernist hydraulic tiles and polished parquet floors; vaulted red-brick ceilings hung with brass petal lanterns like something from a Gaudí-inspired fantasy. But the details couldn’t be more English – hot-water bottles in cable-knitted cosies in the bed-side cabinet, Burleigh porcelain for a proper cup of tea, chintzy velvet sofas to sink into – combined with carefully considered touches such as the ready-mixed Negronis in the mini-bar. The gym is so bright and lovely you might actually use it, the Cowshed spa is a spoiling urban retreat and travellers who love a quiet night can hunker down in the 36-seat, racing-green cinema. The whole place buzzes, day and night, as the city’s movers and shakers linger over coffee while scrolling through their social-media accounts, or sip Lady A rosé and eat sweets from a free giant dispenser. The Catalans have made this modern-British institution their own. By Tara Stevens
This pioneering camp of 10 elegant, khaki-green Rajasthani tents marooned on a grassy island on the edge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans has remained a standout hit for years. Here the intermittent rustling of the mokolwane palm trees is often the only sound breaking the utter silence. Lunar-like, the pans stretch for thousands of kilometres in all directions and are littered with fossils and Stone Age artefacts. Founded by fifth-generation safari operator, explorer and naturalist Ralph Bousfield, in memory of his crocodile-hunting late father Jack, the camp is a place to be adventurous and also educated. The guides are all long-standing experts in their fields, from zoology to palaeontology, and walkabouts are led by a resident bushmen clan. Jack’s is big on the classic, old-school East African safari experience, with Persian rugs, paraffin lanterns, brass fittings, mahogany campaign furniture, antique four-poster beds and raucous, communal dining in a mess tent. But it’s the choice of experiences, some dictated by the dramatic seasonal changes to the landscape, that ultimately thrill the most. In the dry season, meerkats and brown hyena are the unlikely stars of the show and zooming across the pans on quad bikes is obligatory. After the summer rains, lush grasses attract migrating herds of zebra and flamingos in their thousands. At any time of the year, it’s a photographer’s dream. Those who get to camp out under the stars near Kubu Island can consider themselves members of an elite club. By Jane Broughton
The individual lists were sent to Janice Tober, executive editor of Hotel-Addict.com. "There were some hotels we all agreed should be on the list; others, we discussed and, yes, there was even some cajoling involved as we stood up for our favourites," said Tober. "The process was intensive and included looking at numerous readers' suggestions. It took us several weeks of careful review before we created the best 50."
This go-slow country retreat might just be the most romantic hotel in Italy. The Baccheschi Berti family bought it in 1980 after growing tired of their gallivanting life in Milan, going on to restore the sprawling 12th-century castle into an under-the-radar escape. Each of the eight suites is gorgeous; some with rustic spiral staircases, others with enormous freestanding tubs beneath wood-beamed ceilings, gorgeous velvet upholstered armchairs and endless little corners for reading and gazing at the enduringly bucolic views. This is, after all, the family’s home, and old photographs are displayed among curios gathered from their travels: little taxidermy birds and well-thumbed volumes of Architectural Digest on antique wooden tables. The airy flagstone kitchen isn’t a restaurant; rather, it’s a place for guests to gather around long wooden tables. Instead of menus, the day’s freshest farm-to-fork ingredients sourced from the estate are cooked up: wild boar, eggs scooped from the chicken coop and freshly baked cakes made of windfall apples from the trees outside. Everyone is encouraged to poke their head in for an impromptu cooking lesson throughout the day – or perhaps mix a blood-orange Negroni from the honesty bar. The land around here is made for exploring, with gentle hiking trails, streams and two pools tucked into the hillside; one carved from cooling marble, the other beside the newly built spa gazebo overlooking stands of olive trees. Among all the big castle renovations and hamlet reimaginings on the Tuscan hotel scene, this is a smaller, completely personal, utterly spoiling alternative. By Sophie Goodwin
The Beverly Hills Hotel is an icon in Los Angeles. The Pink Palace sits on 12 acres along a secluded section of Sunset Boulevard. Travelers say the customer service is just as legendary as the property itself, praising the hotel staff for being warm and welcoming upon arrival and the wait staff for being attentive through meal services. At the No. 3 Best Hotel in Los Angeles, guests can lounge around the palm tree-lined pool, book a massage at the spa or sample the cuisine (and keep an eye out for celebrities) at the infamous Polo Lounge. (Courtesy of The Beverly Hills Hotel)