HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO | LAS VEGAS
Vegas deals in volume, so this 668-room resort is the closest that Sin City offers to a boutique. Strategically placed one block off the Strip, the Hard Rock is near enough to feel the nightlife pulse, but far enough to steer clear of the crowds. In terms of style, though, it's miles away: rooms are airy (they even have windows that open), the lobby's chockablock with rock relics (Eric Clapton's guitar, Prince's idea of fashion), and the pool is lined with cable-ready cabanas and tons of imported sand. The trendy Nobu restaurant calls this place home, as do the MTV set, who come to town to hit the craps tables. You'll also find them kicking up their heels at Baby's, the late-night disco. Are you ready to rock?4455 Paradise Rd.; 800/473-7625 or 702/693-5000, fax 702/693-5588; doubles from $69.
ÉLAN HOTEL MODERN | LOS ANGELES
What was once a retirement home is now L.A.'s newest boutique hotel, a two-story property just steps from the Beverly Center. The concrete and stained-glass structure has an atrium courtyard filled with sparkling shards of smooth, tumbled glass (yes, you can walk on it), and public spaces that glow in turquoise, sky blue, and lime greens—both testaments to the city's dramatic tendencies. But there's also a softer touch: the Élan's 50 smoke-free, earth-tone rooms are kitted out with DSL lines, goose-down comforters, and designer toiletries. The lobby, where retirees once played bridge tournaments, is now a stage for L.A.'s designer-clad beauties, who take meetings with casting directors while seated in geometric chairs and on faux-ostrich sofas. 8435 Beverly Blvd.; 888/611-0398 or 323/658-6663, fax 323/658-6640; doubles from $165.
MAISON 140 | BEVERLY HILLS
Behind the simple brick façade, dark hallways yield to 46 lively red-and-white-and-black guest rooms. French crystal chandeliers are juxtaposed with Lucite barstools and low Asian-style tables, all under designer Kelly Wearstler's watchful eye. Wearstler combines everything but the kitchen sink, from Orientalism and classicism to twenties and seventies styles, creating a look that defies easy labels. But don't spend all your time in your quirky (and small) room, decoding the design scheme: the bar is the spot for a late-night cocktail and catching a glimpse of a rising star. 140 S. Lasky Dr.; 800/432-5444 or 310/271-2145, fax 310/281-4001; doubles from $160.
LAUREL INN | SAN FRANCISCO
Above the youth and flux of San Francisco's commercial districts, Pacific Heights has always been demurely aloof. The beige Modernist shell of the Laurel Inn maintains the neighborhood's sense of secrecy, concealing the plush, dark comfort within. Forty-nine spacious guest rooms set a halcyon mood with walls and furnishings in honeyed hues and carbon blacks, accented with an occasional flourish of royal blue. Benches by George Nelson, carpets with a Matisse-like paper-cutout motif, and velvety fabrics add a forties flair. Any austerity suggested by the simple composition, however, is dispelled by the domestic hospitality of a welcoming concierge and the fresh muffins served in the lobby. 444 Presidio Ave.; 800/552-8735 or 415/567-8467, fax 415/928-1866; doubles from $145.
HOTEL DIVA | SAN FRANCISCO
Bay Area visitors who want to stay in an ultra-sleek hotel just steps away from Union Square book themselves a room at the Diva. Shiny chrome, bold cobalt, streaks of yellow light, and knife-sharp angles give the lobby and 111 rooms a high-tech finish, while in-room Nintendos, bowls of bright green Granny Smiths, and a videotape vending machine add a dash of humor. The rooms are small—the doubles or kings, covered with silver bedspreads, take up much of the space—but still pay mind to detail: curved stainless-steel sculptures adorn the walls, molded mesh chairs and leather sofas surround oval Noguchi-like coffee tables, fixtures are industrial-strength. To warm up from the cool style, head next door to the California Pizza Kitchen (which also tends to room service) or the Starbucks, or ask the receptionist to recommend a sizzling night spot that San Francisco scenesters would prefer he keep secret. 440 Geary St.; 800/553-1900 or 415/885-0200, fax 415/346-6613; doubles from $149.
5TH AVENUE SUITES | PORTLAND, OREGON
Near the heart of downtown, this 221-room hotel is an oasis of calm. Guests nestle into overstuffed armchairs in the canary-yellow lobby, reading novels or joining in the nightly wine-tastings. A sizable fitness center has treadmills and Stairmasters at the ready for athletic types; the in-house spa provides services for those who prefer being worked on to working out. And the rooms: high ceilings, golden carpets, and towering padded headboards bring cheer to the doubles; cappuccino-striped wallpaper, apricot silk curtains, and French doors enhance the spaciousness of the suites. 506 S.W. Washington St.; 800/711-2971 or 503/222-0001, fax 503/221-0004; doubles from $139.
ACE HOTEL | SEATTLE
Occupying the second floor of an old flophouse in Seattle's hip Belltown neighborhood, the Ace caters to young creatives prepared to spend $65 for a utilitarian white room with a platform bed and access to the white-on-white lobby. Of course, for that price they'll have to settle for a hike down the hall to use the bathroom (but they might run into alternative-music artists such as Rufus Wainwright or the Propellerheads on the way). Rockers—or laypeople—who prefer privacy can rent one of 16 deluxe suites that come with their very own facilities. For the Ace's globally conscious clientele, there's a copy of the Kama Sutra in each nightstand, and condoms are left at turndown. 2423 First Ave.; 206/448-4721, fax 206/374-0745; doubles (with shared bath) from $85, deluxe (with private bath) from $130.
INN AT THE MARKET | SEATTLE
It's the only place in town where guests can stake out white Adirondack chairs next to a rooftop garden, equipped with bottles of crisp Chardonnay and cracked Dungeness crab from the Pike Place Market, to toast the sun as it sets into Elliott Bay. It's just as placid inside: the lobby combines slate floors and Asian accents with contemporary Northwestern artwork, while the 70 guest rooms are dressed with Biedermeier-inspired and soft monochromatic furnishings (10 suites have yet to be updated from their French country design). The spacious, light-filled City Side rooms overlooking First Avenue ($180) are the best deal. But if you're a light sleeper, take a room on the inside (from $200), although those right on the courtyard can be dark. 86 Pine St.; 800/446-4484 or 206/443-3600, fax 206/448-0631; doubles from $180.
ROYAL GARDEN AT WAIKIKI | HONOLULU
If Waikiki's endless parade of mai tais and muumuus gives you sensory overload, take a Continental time-out at the Royal Garden hotel. Here alabaster marble, silk upholstery, and lots of gold trim re-create an airy corner of the Italian Riviera. From the cherubic ceiling mural in the lobby to the four suites done in loud Versace logo prints, the entire hotel reflects eclectic European taste. The only real reminder that you're in Hawaii are the tropical palms in the gardens. If you'd like to spend a day pretending you're in Italy, just walk over a few blocks, where high-octane shops such as Fendi and Prada await your lire. 440 Olohana St.; 800/367-5666 or 808/943-0202, fax 808/946-8777; doubles from $150.