Bauer Il Palladio Hotel & Spa, Venice
The newest hotel on Venice’s exclusive Giudecca island—and housed in a 16th-century Palladio-designed former convent, to boot.
Location Just a 10-minute vaporetto ride from St. Mark’s Square, and right at the water’s edge, with Canaletto-worthy views of Venice.
Pedigree Hotelier (and chairman of the Save Venice Foundation) Francesca Bortolotto Possati has set a high standard for style, service, and social responsibility at her three other Venice properties.
Style + Design Mostly laudable, beginning with the impeccable architectural credentials of Palladio. Public areas have Venetian terrazzo floors, original open-brickwork walls, and antique furnishings; trelliswork stencils and Murano-glass lanterns add intimacy to the 37 rooms and 13 suites.
Service + Amenities T+L visited on what might have been the chaotic first day of the new season, yet the staff was unfailingly efficient. An almost 5,400-square-foot spa opens this summer, with saunas, a Turkish hammam, and an impressive menu of treatments using Daniela Steiner products.
Value for Money Run-of-the-house rooms overlook the back garden and are much more affordable than those with views of St. Mark’s. (The remainder have views of unkempt courtyards and adjacent buildings, and aren’t worth the price.)
33 Giudecca; 39-041/520-7022; www.bauerhotels.com; doubles from $738.
The Barai, Hua Hin, Thailand
The spa suite trend—all the rage in Southeast Asia—reaches new heights at a retreat reminiscent of Angkor Wat.
Location A hotel within a hotel, on the grounds of the 204-room beachfront Hyatt Regency, a one-hour flight from Bangkok.
Pedigree Thai architect Lek Bunnag, who previously worked with Bill Bensley on the Four Seasons resorts in Chiang Mai and Langkawi, has mixed old and new, building spa suites and a garden courtyard and turning a 19th-century house into a beachfront bar and dining room.
Style + Design A maze of pooled courtyards and ocher passageways leads to 18 chamber-style treatment rooms. The eight suites (starting at 1,360 square feet) have steam rooms, soaking tubs, balconies, and massage tables.
Service + Amenities The convenience of a big resort is combined with the exclusivity of a private estate, which features personal butlers at your beck and call. The spa offers regional therapies (such as Hmong herbal compresses) along with a range of treatments using the Kerstin Florian line.
Value for Money Complimentary daily massages, private yoga classes, evening cocktails, and endless snacks like homemade chocolates and dried mango provide wallet-friendly pampering.
888/591-1234 or 66-3/252-1234; www.thebarai.com; doubles from $605.
Four Seasons Westlake Village, Los Angeles
A 20-acre retreat for the mind, body, and soul—alongside a full-service, 240-room Four Seasons hotel.
Location In a San Fernando Valley suburb 17 miles from Malibu.
Pedigree A joint venture between Four Seasons and the California WellBeing Institute, which includes a 40,000-square-foot spa, state-of-the-art workout center, and CWI’s innovative program blending modern science (DNA testing, diagnostic imaging) with alternative medicine, nutrition, exercise, and restorative therapies.
Style + Design Public areas are a bit McMansion-y, with patterned marble floors and 19th-century antiques, but the butter-hued guest rooms dressed in Pierre Deux chinoiserie exude a cozy charm. Service + Amenities The spa staff is doting. The Hydrossage (a detoxifying underwater massage) is a highlight of the extensive menu of wraps and rubs. Don’t miss the creative sushi at the loungelike Onyx restaurant.
Value for Money The California WellBeing Institute’s five-day package runs a steep $5,800, but a full battery of health tests (more than 20 labs are taken during the physical; your average doctor does 5), plus innovations such as DNA testing, make this a life-enhancing splurge.
Needs Work On our recent visit, hotel service was not yet up to speed: it took two calls to housekeeping and a half-hour wait to get turndown.
2 Dole Dr.; 800/819-5053 or 818/575-3000; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $345.