Indulge in a stay at a hotel with above-and-beyond service, as rated by T+L readers in the World’s Best Awards survey.
Good hotels have affable staff to help you at check-in—but those with the best service go further. At Virginia’s Inn at Little Washington, you’ll find seasonal cocktails at the front desk instead of any paperwork. A note from the owner greets you in the room, and in the five-star restaurant, you order from a personalized menu.
Traveling the world over, Travel + Leisure readers stay at beach resorts, urban boutique hotels, mountain lodges, and everything in between. For the 2012 World’s Best Awards, they reflected on those experiences to vote for the hotels that deliver the most impeccable service, whether on a Caribbean beach or in the Montana Rockies.
The results show an appreciation for hotels that provide a seamless check-in process, high staff-to-guest ratios, and personalized amenities like the teddy bears and tailor-made cookies for kids at the Peninsula Hong Kong (No. 6).
Many of these ultra-luxurious properties also strive to impress by cultivating a warm, familiar atmosphere. Antonio Sersale, the owner and general manager of Le Sirenuse on Italy’s Amalfi Coast (No. 17), writes that his goal is to create the “feeling of a private house.” Most staff have worked there for more than a decade; it’s a level of dedication reciprocated by the many guests who return year after year.
Read on for all the winning properties that go the extra mile to make us feel truly on vacation by providing nothing but the best service.
2 of 21Courtesy of Amanresorts
No. 1 Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Within a garden compound 10 minutes from the Angkor Wat temples, this former guesthouse for Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk treats its visitors like royalty—the staff-to-guest ratio is about four to one. Half of the 24 stucco and timber suites surround a lush central courtyard; the other dozen feature private plunge pools. Our favorite amenity: guests coming back from the temples return to a personally drawn bath with floating lotus flowers.
3 of 21Courtesy of Ngorongo Sopa Lodge
No. 1 Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania
Perched on the rim of a collapsed volcano, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge takes living on the edge to an ultra-luxurious level. Perks include the resort’s fresh-squeezed juice, performances by the staff choir, and nightly turndown service with a hot water bottle. So while guests come to the lodge for its prime wildlife viewing and remote locale, they stay for its impeccable service. Anyone who spends more than three nights at Ngorongoro receives a kwaheri (farewell) cake.
4 of 21Courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
No. 3 Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India
A palatial resort designed in Mewari style, the Oberoi Udaivilas sits gracefully on its own 50-acre island near Udaipur. Built on the former hunting grounds of maharajas, the hotel preserves more than 40 acres as parkland and employs a gamekeeper to care for the spotted deer and wild boars. Check-in starts with a private boat ride past palaces on Lake Pichola. Arriving at the island, you’re greeted with a shower of rose petals and a welcoming drink with the general manager. A personal butler will then escort you to one of the 87 rooms and suites.
5 of 21Courtesy of Triple Creek Ranch
No. 4 Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT
This adults-only, rustic retreat in the heart of the Montana Rockies caters to guests’ every whim. It can be tough to leave the great indoors for the great outdoors when you’ve got a cabin with a wood-burning fireplace and fresh-baked cookies. But horseback riding, river floating, and the awe-inspiring backdrop of Western Montana’s highest mountain do lure guests from their comfortable abodes. And roughly half of all visitors are repeat guests.
6 of 21Courtesy of La Casa Que Canta
No. 5 La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
With 25 suites and rooms, La Casa Que Canta offers an intimate escape on Mexico’s Pacific coast, with 25 suites and rooms featuring light stucco walls and thatched palapa awnings. Guests love the resort for its award-winning restaurant and serene pools, one of which is filled with ocean water. The sweeping views over the Zihuatanejo Bay don’t hurt, nor does the individualized treatment given to guests: staff lay out tropical flowers in creative designs that relate to a guest’s personality or special occasion.
7 of 21Courtesy of Peninsula Hotels
No. 6 The Peninsula Hong Kong
Setting the standard in Hong Kong for 85 years, this veritable institution earned a spot on T+L’s 2013 It List for its multimillion-dollar renovation. The 300 rooms now feature burl-wood cabinetry and cream-colored walls with elegant floral appliqués. Also new are the LED touch-screen wall panels and bedside digital tablets, allowing guests full control of all in-room functions. But personal service is still the hallmark of Peninsula’s flagship property. Welcome presents are tailor-made for each guest—one favorite for children is the teddy bear that comes with teddy bear chocolates, prepared by the hotel’s master chocolatier.
8 of 21Courtesy of Explora Patagonia
No. 7 Hotel Salto Chico/Explora Patagonia, Chile
Two things happen when you arrive at the Hotel Salto Chico in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park: first, your jaw drops when you see the Patagonian Andes to the right and the Salto Chico waterfall to your left. Second, the hotel manager delivers a warm greeting. That mix of awe-inspiring, rugged wilderness with personalized service is a hallmark of this luxury lodge. After a rigorous day-trek, guests return to gourmet meals and a night’s sleep in one of the hotel’s 49 tastefully designed rooms.
9 of 21Courtesy of Holger Obenaus Photography
No. 7 Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, SC
Exceptional service starts before even checking in to this boutique hotel: a bellman greets guests at their cars and escorts them to the front desk. The Second Empire Victorian mansion, built in 1886, exudes southern charm in both the architecture (in-room fireplaces, Tiffany stained-glass windows, a rooftop cupola) and the staff, who go above and beyond. House-made chocolate truffles on your pillow nightly do their part to ensure sweet dreams.
10 of 21Courtesy of Singita
No. 9 Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa
Singita Kruger National Park makes sure that every guest is well looked after, thanks to a staff-to-guest ratio of eight to one. Its two lodges are in a private concession of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where the Big Five game animals roam freely. Rooms face out across the plains, and local designers drew inspiration from nearby natural features. Want to feel even more in touch with nature? They’ll set up an outdoor bed complete with turndown service—just one example of the tailor-made service available.
11 of 21Courtesy of Peninsula Hotels
No. 10 The Peninsula Bangkok, Thailand
This 37-story property has a wave-shape design that grants each room expansive views of the Chao Phraya River and the skyline across the water. The hum of Bangkok seems far away when you’re lounging in the hotel’s three-tiered pool, which extends nearly 300 feet and is lined with 12 poolside pavilions built in traditional Thai style. Guests also love the 21,000-square-foot spa, where the attentive and highly trained staff turn pampering into an art form.
12 of 21Courtsey of Four Seasons
No. 11 Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
It’s hard to believe that this 65-room retreat in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district was a prison in its former life. Original architectural detailing, including vaulted ceilings and arched windows, blends seamlessly with the timeless style expected from a Four Seasons. The check-in process is equally seamless: guests arriving by plane are met at the airport by Four Seasons “greeters” and transported to the hotel, whereupon the receptionist greets them by name and escorts them directly to their room, no waiting in line.
13 of 21Courtesy of Nayara Hotel
No. 11 Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, Costa Rica
In the shadow of the (now dormant) Arenal Volcano, Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens blends in effortlessly with its tropical surroundings. Balconies with Jacuzzis, outdoor showers, and views of the volcano encourage lingering in the resort’s wooden casitas. Hiking and bird-watching in the rainforest await, and guests have the pleasure of returning to pamper themselves with a deluxe spa treatment, a wine tasting, or time by the pool whose graceful curves mirror the shape of the Arenal.
14 of 21Courtsey of Four Seasons
No. 13 Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosporus
The hotel has a feel of understated elegance, starting with its location within a refurbished 19th-century palace. Rooms and suites, many of which face the waterfront, feature a calming palette of cream, russet, and gold. Knowing that time is precious, staff make sure that guests get the most out of their stay. For instance, you can avoid the city’s notorious traffic by taking a speedboat from the airport directly to the hotel’s dock.
15 of 21Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria
No. 14 Waldorf Astoria Chicago
Occupying the first 27 floors of a skyscraper in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, this hotel makes a sophisticated first impression. A brick motor court leads guests to the lobby, where a dark swirling pattern stylishly interrupts the white marble floor, and two larger-than-life busts flank the oversize doorway. A platinum and champagne color scheme is present throughout the hotel’s 188 spacious rooms, many with working fireplaces. T+L readers gave high marks to this urban retreat for its services, including the 14,000-square-foot spa.
16 of 21Courtesy of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club
No. 15 Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis
This historic plantation hotel dates back to 1778 and remains both luxurious and unpretentious. Heavy use of wicker, bright wall colors, and uninterrupted views of the white-sand beach make sure that guests in the 36 cabins never forget they’re in the Caribbean. Staff and guests alike share a sense of commitment to the island retreat: nearly half of the staffers have worked at Nisbet Plantation for more than 10 years, and one U.K. couple has returned annually for more than two decades.
17 of 21Courtesy fo Lizard Island Resort
No. 16 Lizard Island Resort, Australia
If you make the long journey to visit Australia’s spectacular Great Barrier Reef, do it right by staying at the Lizard Island Resort. Located directly on the reef, this 40-suite, 24-beach property (yes, there are 24 beaches) almost feels like your own private island. The general manager greets all guests with champagne before taking them to their rooms, each painted in calming blues and whites. Hammocks and plunge pools make for a welcome return after a day diving in the reefs. Behind the scenes, daily all-staff briefings keep everyone alerted to guest preferences and requests.
18 of 21Courtsey of Four Seasons
No. 17 Four Seasons Hotel Dublin
Family comes first at this Four Seasons property. While all guests receive attentive care, it’s the little ones who often come away with the most treats. At check-in, a booster step is provided for children so they can sign their own registration card. Personalized cookies, mini-bathrobes, and a hotel treasure chest filled with chocolate euros make young guests feel special. The 197 elegant rooms and suites overlook Dublin’s leafy Ballsbridge neighborhood. And more than that view clearly makes an impression: half of all guests are repeat visitors.
Perched above the sunny Amalfi Coast, Le Sirenuse is a dignified, ultra-luxurious retreat that has been run by the Sersale family since 1951, when they converted their home into a hotel. Each room is individually decorated with museum-quality antiques, and most come with ocean views from a private balcony or terrace. Notably, 70 percent of the hotel’s staff has worked at Le Sirenuse for more than 10 years, so it’s no wonder that, according to owner and general manager Antonio Sersale, the “staff is like a family.” It all adds up to warm, unscripted service in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
20 of 21Courtesy of Inn at Little Washington
No. 19 Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA
This 18-room inn describes itself not as a hotel, but as “the private home of someone who likes to entertain a lot.” London stage and set designer Joyce Evans has added a theatrical flair to each of the rooms, individually decorated with sumptuous materials. The staff work at both the hotel and the property’s AAA Five Diamond restaurant, so guests see familiar faces throughout their stay. It’s enough to make this tiny town (70 miles from D.C.) a destination in its own right.
21 of 21Courtesy of Roswewood Mansion at Turtle Creek
No. 20 Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas
Once the private mansion of a Texas cotton magnate, this property is a Dallas icon of luxury. The 143 rooms, recently restyled by the design firm BAMO, feature warm colors and rich fabrics that merge well with the building’s original Italian Renaissance style. On arrival, guests find house-made Rice Krispies along with a refreshing serving of passion-fruit iced tea. Deluxe robes for all ages are also available—perfect for lounging on the pool deck.
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