‘Coûte que coûte’ goes the punning family motto of Sir Charles Coote, for whom the opulent Ballyfin estate was conceived in the early 19th century. ‘No matter the cost’ is how this loosely translates, proving as apt an adage in the 21st century as it was then. Many millions of euros may have been lavished on this stately pile in County Laois, both in its original construction and, more recently, its painstaking restoration. For the architectural historian, the house is a head turner – the culmination of Regency craftsmanship brought together in lusciously modelled plasterwork, scagliola in varying colours, stained glass and staggeringly intricate parquetry. For the sybarite, the house is a place of comfort and grandeur, not least in the Gold Drawing Room where walls are hung with lustrous silk and vast windows frame views of the 28-acre lake. Bedrooms are also decorated with rich fabrics and wallpaper, fine antiques, fresh flowers from the garden, art and books – a fabulous amalgamation of Anglo-Irish panache. New this year is Ballyfin’s 21st room and first standalone property: the tiny Gardener’s Cottage overlooking, to the rear, the walled gardens, which supply Ballyfin’s kitchen with organic fruit and vegetables. The grounds are made for strolling in the complimentary wellies, with grottoes and rockeries, a folly and a fernery, a rose garden and an aviary. There is no finer Irish-country house experience. By Pamela Goodman
Past guests find little to complain about at the Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver. Thanks to the convenient downtown location and the personable staff, recent visitors are quick to call this Shangri-La outpost their favorite Vancouver hotel. Accommodations are appointed with floor-to-ceiling windows, deep soaking tubs, free Wi-Fi and 42-inch flat-screen TVs. For total pampering, guests suggest heading to CHI, The Spa or unwinding by the outdoor pool and hot tub. Travelers also recommend grabbing at least one meal at MARKET by Jean-Georges for inventive, locally sourced Michelin-starred seafood dishes. Though the luxurious amenities cost a pretty penny, recent visitors say the experience is worth the splurge. You'll find the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver in central Vancouver, a few blocks south of Coal Harbour.
Hotel Bel-Air offers lodgers a taste of respite and romance within easy commuting distance of top city sights. Guests appreciate the property's quiet atmosphere and superb customer service, while the rooms and suites win visitors over with bright, airy decor and tech-savvy amenities like in-room iPads. The spa, outdoor pool and on-site eateries are also popular at the No. 2 Best Hotel in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Hotel Bel-Air)
People talk about old classics, but this one has roots dating back to the 11th century. Shipwrecked en route to Constantinople, a wealthy Italian family built the foundations of the Caruso on a limestone bluff above Ravello, a symbol of their power and good fortune to have escaped unharmed. And here, their high eyrie remained, withstanding the wars of the Middle Ages, neglected, repaired, neglected again, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso stepped in and turned it into a hotel. Belmond (then Orient-Express hotels) took over in 2000 and began a serious restoration: art historians were shipped in to unearth the building’s arcadian frescos, archaeologists arrived to uncover the original medieval foundations. Today, Old Masters hang in the marble corridors and the 50 bedrooms have been brought up-to-date, but not charm-crushingly modernised. They retain their original vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta tiles, and have bathrooms stashed with bottles of Penhaligon’s. It has just opened Villa Margherita too, a two-bedroom retreat deep in the heady gardens. Guests feast on lunches of lobster, langoustine and truffles, or head down to the water to explore the craggy coastline on the hotel’s pretty wooden boat. It’s a place synonymous with seclusion, with its lemon-scented air and hanging gardens spilling down onto the Tyrrhenian Sea, stony nooks and quiet spots to sit and take in the dizzying views. And romance: it is said to be where Jackie Kennedy and Gianni Agnelli began their affair, where Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf came to hide out. A truly brightening, timeless place. By Martha Ward

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
This 24-acre resort offers panoramic views of the beach and Maui's Kapalua Bay. Visitors can spend their time with activities that range from snorkeling and zip lining to Hawaiian luau and 'Ulalena shows. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Maui is also home to two golf courses, an infinity-edge pool, multiple tennis courts, a spa and several restaurants. (Courtesy of Montage Kapalua Bay)
Proximity to all the attractions in Old Quebec of our interests. Comfortable, spacious room with ample storage; quiet, effective air conditioning. Nighttime silence despite location on the main street into the central location for street performers in front of the famous Hotel Frontenac and promenade overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. Helpful staff willing to haul our heavy suitcases up the steep and narrow stairs to our room.

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
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
Right from its opening in 1999, this little gem has punched above its weight, a super-slick alternative to Boston's bigger hotels. With just 63 rooms tucked into a meticulously restored, 10-storey Beaux Arts building, this is one of the East Coast's most stylish boltholes, with finely tuned service to boot. The entrance is a dramatic, black-walled lobby with a charming cage lift from 1902. In the bedrooms, there are gas fireplaces, marble busts and huge four-poster or canopied beds, while corner studios provide views of Boston Common. The hotel keeps a couple of Lexus limos to ferry guests around town, and minibars are packed with Krug (and chilled cucumber eye cream) for post-shopping-trip pampering. Sassy steakhouse Mooo serves buttery Wagyu beef as well as classic seafood dishes (caramelised sea scallops, linguini with white clams) and has a 30,000-bottle wine cellar. Places this good don't keep on top of the game by resting on their laurels, and the hotel recently had a discreet facelift, also adding a rooftop deck with a hot tub. More than a decade after it opened, XV Beacon remains popular with CEOs and visiting actors: a boutique-hotel leader in the heart of Brahmin East Coast America.

The USA is a year-round destination and when (and where) you go depends on whether you fancy skiing, surfing or just lazing in a spa. Generally speaking, the North tends to be warm in the summer, but can be cold and cosy in winter. The South is generally warm throughout the year, with milder winters and sweltering summers. The spring and autumn can be the most spectacular time to visit, with beautiful wildflowers and fall colours in many regions. Of course, Hawaii and the national parks have their own microclimate, so talk to your luxury hotel concierge for insider tips on what to expect.   


This 24-acre resort offers panoramic views of the beach and Maui's Kapalua Bay. Visitors can spend their time with activities that range from snorkeling and zip lining to Hawaiian luau and 'Ulalena shows. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Maui is also home to two golf courses, an infinity-edge pool, multiple tennis courts, a spa and several restaurants. (Courtesy of Montage Kapalua Bay)
The building’s textile-clad façade and verdant latticework by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma creates a palpable sense of calm – ideal for meditating on the deeper cultural meaning behind contemporary Chinese artworks in the atrium, such as Beijing Memory No. 1 and No. 2, Li Xiaofeng’s wearable cheongsam and military breastplate covered in Ming and Qing-dynasty porcelain shards, and ceramicist Fiona Wong’s ghostly, lace-like White Wings. There’s also a 20ft-high Chinese apothecary chest of 6,000 drawers in the lobby, and the multilingual staff shuffling around in all-black outfits further add to the art-gallery vibe. More straightforward are the 99 open-plan guestrooms finished in oak wood and Turkish sandstone, with Japanese-style furo soaking tubs and powerful overhead rain showers. The complimentary ‘maxi-bar’ features craft brews from the nearby Arrow Factory and bottles of orange-flavoured Arctic Ocean soda, the nectar of any Beijing childhood. A decade after the hotel opened, the Sanlitun area surrounding the House has blossomed. Cross the street to Dover Street Market, where you’re likely to spy staff nipping out to pick up niche items at pop-up events. Follow the scent of date wood back to the hotel’s Jing Yaa Tang restaurant: cumin-laced lamb skewer and fiery kung pao chicken from a cage-free farm south of Beijing deliver just the right amount of anticipation while the master roaster glazes your duck with his secret combination of osmanthus, honey, vinegar, molasses and crushed dates. Order an Old Peking as nightcap, made with Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum, Mancino Vecchio vermouth and finished in a cloud of date wood smoke – the only type used by serious Beijing duck roasters. By Cynthia Rosenfeld
Tucked in the Virginia countryside amid the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland attracts travelers looking for a mix of activity and relaxation. There is no shortage of things to do here, from kayaking and golfing to horseback riding and stargazing. The property also has a spa, and hosts yoga and meditation classes. And guests appreciate the variety of accommodation options, too, with a traditional lodge, suites, cottages and even tree houses to choose from. (Courtesy of Primland)
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