Hotels + Resorts
Biarritz is the classic European beach vacation, newly reinvented as a laid-back, surfer-bohemian hot spot.
I met a lot of people from Paris in Biarritz, and they all said the same thing. They were refugees. They were here because life in Paris was relentless, all business, too fast. But here was the ocean, and surfing, a resort town, a community. And yes, that could be said of many places but this one was different. This was not the Côte d’Azur. There were no mega-yachts floating in the harbor here, and there were no private beach clubs or trendy nightclubs or Lamborghinis stuck in traffic like you see in Cannes and St.-Tropez. This stretch of the Atlantic coast in the southwest of France—La Côte Basque—was a less polished place, a little wild, a little young. The landscape was stunning and the ocean was vast and powerful (hence all the surfers) and the general attitude was low-key bohemian.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… flying hotel? Come February 2015, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts will extend its hospitality into the skies and launch its very own branded private aircraft—the first of its kind in the industry. And we’re not talking about a tiny Learjet—this is a Boeing 757 with custom-designed interiors, 52 handcrafted leather flatbed seats, and Four Seasons-worthy onboard dining.
As an editor of Travel + Leisure’s Global Vision Awards, I’m always on the lookout for travel companies that can raise the bar for both sustainability and luxury. In honor of Earth Day, here are five new properties that are getting it right. (If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to celebrate by booking a stay, stat.)
1. Pikaia Lodge, Galapagos: Think of the Galapagos as a cruising destination? Pikaia puts the traditional model on its head, with 14 stunning rooms (think floor to ceiling windows, private plunge pools, and enormous bathrooms) perched atop an extinct volcano crater. When it opens in September, it will have already spent four years rehabilitating the surrounding land—previously deteriorated from cattle farming—and trained locals in sustainable tourism practices to replace the debilitative trade of shark fishing.
2. The Brando, French Polynesia: Just 30 miles north of Tahiti is Tetiaroa, a pristine archipelago of a dozen islands surrounding an incredible lagoon. It’s also the site of The Brando, where 35 thatched-roof villas each get private pools and secluded beach access. Sound over the top? It’s impressively sustainable—the whole property was built with local materials, air conditioning comes via a unique seawater-powered system, and a blend of solar and coconut oil-based energy grids have brought the resort to near carbon neutrality.
3. Ion Hotel, Iceland: Set against the dramatic lava fields of Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, an hour north of Reykyavik, this ultra-minimalist, geothermal-powered resort is a dreamy backdrop for the Northern Lights. A sprawling list of nature-based activities await (hot spring and glacier tours; snorkeling; hiking)—but you’d find me at the ten-meter-long pool with views of the surrounding valleys.
4. Kittitian Hill, St. Kitts: Meet the Caribbean’s latest eco-resort: Its colonial-inspired guesthouses are spread among 400 acres of working farmland. The spa is set in an ancient mango forest. Original crops and fruit trees have been preserved as natural obstacles for the golf course—dubbed the world’s most edible. And with a quarter of the island doubling as protected national park, it’s a haven for tropical birds, flora, and fauna. It officially opens later this year (we hear December).
5. Kestrel Camp, Montana: This new lodge on the site of the American Prairie Reserve’s giant conservancy offers a clutch of high-design yurts (yes, yurts) with a decidedly Wild West feel. Expect geologist-led hikes, bison sightings, and exceptional sunsets over the prairie—best witnessed from your private wraparound deck.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Photo courtesy of Ion Luxury and Adventure Hotel
Because the easiest way to score VIP treatment at a hotel is to either be rich or the ONLY guest, here are eight exclusive accommodations around the world that boast one single room – and your host's undivided attention.
SEE MORE AT THRILLIST
Photo courtesy of Thrillist
Having lived four years, from the age of 5 to 9 on a ranch in Taxco, Guerrero, I was happy to return to Mexico for a business trip allowing me two extra days to visit tow museums of contemporary art and take a day trip to Taxco.
Walking out of the airport I was met by the familiar faces of Mexicans speaking their own form of Spanish which I loved. For my hotel, I made a reservation at Las Alcobas, a luxury boutique property perfectly situated near fashionable shops and great restaurants in the chic Polanco neighborhood. As soon as I walked in I was struck the elegant atmosphere. The lobby was small intimate and very well designed. Behind the counters the staff welcomed me warmly with big smiles.
Eighty percent of San Francisco was destroyed by the April 18, 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire. Some notable structures survived to be renovated and brought back to glory, including the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. (This Persian-tiled billiards room is part of the hotel’s 6,000-square-foot penthouse suite, added in 1926.)
See the Fairmont in World’s Strangest Restaurants
Editor’s Picks: San Francisco
See San Francisco in America’s Best Dog-Friendly Hotels
And America’s Best Pies
And America’s Snobbiest Cities
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Get the Daily Transporter newsletter in your in-box.
Photo courtesy of the Fairmont San Francisco
Travel + Leisure’s Sarah Spagnolo presents three destinations to celebrate spring and the holiday weekend.
New York City: New York City does it up for Easter; there’s the Easter Parade, the Great Faberge Big Egg Hunt display at Rockefeller Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival. Unpack at the W New York Downtown, and you’ll have easy access to it all, plus amazing views of the new One World Trade Center and the city’s glimmering skyline. Price: From $262 a night. Book now: wnewyorkdowntown.com.
Booking a hotel these days can be overwhelming: new names are appearing alongside established ones, and they’re competing for your attention, your dollars, and, above all, your loyalty. T+L has the scoop on the latest trends to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Hotel Brand Trends
A closer look at the innovations that will shape your next hotel stay.
Tech-Friendly Retreats: Starwood’s Aloft is piloting Apple TV’s at its Cupertino, California, property and will soon offer remote mobile check-in at dozens of its hotels. Not to be outdone, Conrad is raising the bar with its Conrad Concierge app, which lets guests book hotel services remotely, be it airport pickup or the timing of their dinner. Mandarin Oriental will soon be rolling out DVR’s and HD Internet TV’s in its guest rooms. Peninsula, meanwhile, remains unmatched for its customized in-room tablets, introduced at the Hong Kong flagship, with everything from temperature controls to flight schedules.
Weary of the unpredictability that comes with a last-minute vacation booking? You’re not alone. But HotelTonight, the always pioneering app for travel procrastinators, is coming to the rescue with a new feature called Look Ahead, intended to facilitate so-called “planned spontaneity.”
Debuting in a handful of the app’s major cities—New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and half a dozen others, with many more rolling out soon—the feature will offer a seven-day estimate of inventory and prices in a particular market, using a proprietary algorithm that factors in local events, weather, and historical data from HotelTonight and other booking engines.
We’ve already introduced you to Baha Mar, the massive-scale resort that’s set to reinvigorate the Bahamian Riviera later this year. But if the $3.5-billion, five-brand hotel and casino has you thinking Vegas, think again: despite being the biggest destination project in the western hemisphere, Baha Mar is surprisingly tapped in to the island’s cultural and natural assets. Here, a by the numbers look:
• 34: the number of football fields it would take to hold all the sand that’s been brought in to re-nourish the beach at Baha Mar.