The hotels, resorts, airlines, and cruise lines that earned top scores for service, as rated by readers in the T+L World's Best Awards Survey.
Top 10 Hotels Overall: City
1. The Peninsula, Hong Kong 98.78
2. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina 98.67
3. The Peninsula, Bangkok 98.31
4. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet 98.18
5. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus 98.13
6. Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Elysian Hotel), Chicago 98.10
7. Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin 97.78
8. Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 97.54
9. Morrison House, Alexandria, Virginia 97.50
9. The Peninsula, Shanghai 97.50
Top 10 Hotels Overall: Resorts, Inns, and Lodges
1. Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia 100.00
1. Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Tanzania 100.00
3. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 99.50
4. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana 99.26
5. La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo, Mexico 99.00
6. Hotel Salto Chico/Explora Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile 98.67
7. Singita Kruger National Park, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa 98.33
8. Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, La Fortuna, Costa Rica 98.18
9. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis 97.95
10. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia 97.90
Top Hotels: Continental U.S. and Canada
1. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina 98.67
2. Waldorf Astoria, Chicago 98.10
3. Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 97.54
4. Morrison House, Alexandria, Virginia 97.50
5. St. Regis, Atlanta 97.42
Resorts and Inns
1. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana 99.26
2. Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia 97.65
3. Osprey at Beaver Creek, Colorado 97.50
4. Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands, North Carolina 97.33
5. Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, Gold Beach, Oregon 97.00
Top Hotels: Hawaii
1. Koa Kea Hotel & Resort, Kauai 96.67
2. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii, the Big Island 96.06
3. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea 96.04
4. Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele 94.60
5. Halekulani, Oahu 94.29
Top Hotels: Europe
1. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet 98.18
2. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus 98.13 3. Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin 97.78
4. Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris 96.67
5. The Lanesborough, London 96.30
Resorts and Inns
1. Le Sirenuse, Positano, Italy 97.78
2. Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy 97.50
3. Palazzo Avino (formerly Palazzo Sasso), Ravello, Italy 97.27
4. Domaine des Hauts de Loire, Onzain, France 96.25
5. Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi, Italy 95.86
Top Hotels: The Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas
1. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis, Nevis 97.95
2. Biras Creek Resort, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands 96.67
3. Couples Tower Isle, St. Mary, Jamaica 95.29
3. The Reefs, Bermuda 95.29
5. Couples Negril, Jamaica 95.00
Top Hotels: Mexico
Top Hotels: Central and South America
1. Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires 96.88
2. Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires 95.90
3. Grand Hyatt, Santiago, Chile 94.62
4. Four Seasons Hotel, Buenos Aires 94.12
5. Faena Hotel, Buenos Aires 93.33
5. Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, Chile 93.33
Resorts and Lodges
1. Hotel Salto Chico/Explora Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile 98.67
2. Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, La Fortuna, Costa Rica 98.18
3. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, 96.09
4. Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf-Spa, Bariloche, Argentina 94.62
5. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru 91.85
Top Hotels: Asia
1. Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia 100.00
2. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 99.50
3. Discovery Shores, Boracay, Philippines 97.35
4. Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India 97.14
5. Capella, Singapore 96.34
Top Hotels: Africa and the Middle East
1. Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Cape Town 97.14
2. Cape Grace, Cape Town 96.94
3. La Mamounia, Marrakesh, Morocco 96.30
4. One&Only, Cape Town 95.56
4. Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa 95.56
Resorts and Lodges
1. Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Tanzania 100.00
2. Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa 98.33
3. Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana 97.50
3. Singita Grumeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 97.50
5. Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park Area, South Africa 97.42
Top Hotels: Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
Resorts and Lodges
1. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia 97.90
2. Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia 97.33
3. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand 96.25
4. Four Seasons Resort, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia 94.74
5. Huka Lodge, Taupo, New Zealand 93.75
Top Airlines: Domestic
1. Virgin America 85.81
2. JetBlue Airways 79.31
3. Hawaiian Airlines 79.26
4. Southwest Airlines 78.40
5. Frontier Airlines 75.58
Top Airlines: International
1. Singapore Airlines 94.01
2. Air New Zealand 89.18
3. Cathay Pacific 88.70
4. Emirates 88.67
5. Korean Air 88.64
Top Cruises: Large-Ship
1. Crystal Cruises 95.41
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises 93.05
3. Azamara Cruises 92.89
4. Disney Cruise Line 92.29
5. Oceania Cruises 91.23
Top Cruises: Small-Ship
1. Seabourn 96.92
2. SeaDream Yacht Club 94.76
3. Silversea Cruises 94.31
4. Paul Gauguin Cruises 93.54
5. Windstar Cruises 91.94
Top Cruises: River
1. Viking River Cruises 92.21
2. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection 91.68
3. Tauck 90.57
4. Abercrombie & Kent 87.74
5. Grand Circle Cruise Line 86.25
A Day in the Life of Europe’s Top Resort for Service
Le Sirenuse in Positano, Italy, has provided warm, unscripted service since opening in 1951. Here’s a look at what happens behind the scenes.
8 a.m.: The terrace pool, lined with loungers and potted lemon trees, is the first priority. Attendants Oronato Villani and Ivan Porrazzo open the two dozen umbrellas. On any given day, 200 Frette towels are handed to guests.
9 a.m.: Chef Matteo Temperini corrects his lunch menu to include the catch of the day, pezzogna (sea bream), instead of the usual branzino (sea bass). He will serve it roasted with lemon sauce.
10:10 a.m.: Head housekeeper (and 32-year Sirenuse veteran) Nunzia Della Pietra makes her rounds among the hotel’s 58 rooms and encounters an “exploding suitcase.” She organizes the scattered contents—even matching the socks.
3 p.m.: Captain Franco Galano welcomes guests onto Le Sirenuse’s private launch, the 39-foot Sant’ Antonio, and casts off for an excursion toward Amalfi.
6:45 p.m.: The Michelin-starred La Sponda restaurant, with terra-cotta-tiled floors and bougainvillea-covered archways, is quiet before the 8 p.m. service. But in the kitchen, the staff is busy cutting more than 30 pounds of vegetables.
10:10 p.m.: Ten VIP’s arrive by yacht and order baked lobster and risotto. Maître d’hôtel Vincenzo Galani and a pair of musicians perform “Torna a Surriento,” a regional melody.
12 a.m.: With guests well fed, the kitchen staff heads to a nearby waterfront nightclub. “When the staff is happy, the guests are happy. We are family,” says owner and general manager Antonio Sersale. The vibe is authentic: he is the son of Franco Sersale, who cofounded the hotel 62 years ago. —Peter Schlesinger
Quick Take: Le Sirenuse
130: Number of staffers
Most Unusual Job: Candle lighter
450: Number of candles lit each night (it takes three hours)
Perk: Unlimited cups of Illy espresso
What makes Winning Service?
We surveyed the general managers at the top 16 hotels in each region.
44% Admit to using Google and Facebook to research guests before check-in.
31% Ensure each guest is personally greeted by a manager upon arrival.
50% Have a staff-to-guest ratio of at least 1.5 to 1.
38% Described the service style as “genuine.”
13% Described the service style as “efficient.”
56% Offer room service 24 hours a day.
Methodology: Rankings are based on reader votes collected in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey. Scores shown have been rounded to the nearest hundredth of a point; in the event of a true tie, properties and companies share a ranking. For the complete methodology, go to travelandleisure.com/worldsbest.
Osprey at Beaver Creek, a RockResort
Ski bums, take note: at the base of Beaver Creek Resort, this 47-room hotel is the closest ski-in, ski-out hotel to a chairlift in North America—it’s just 20 feet away. But that’s not all there is to this slopeside gem. Inside, the aesthetic is more modern ski chalet than rustic mountain lodge, with buttery-leather chairs and muted linens. Amenities are up-to-date and include remote-controlled fireplaces (in about half of the rooms) and free Wi-Fi. Après-ski, sip a glass of wine and try the tapas at the lounge or take a dip in the heated outdoor pool.
Southern Ocean Lodge
Contemporary in design and green in attitude, this lodge sits on a sparsely populated island 30 minutes by plane from Adelaide. The 21 spacious suites have limestone floors, pieces by local artisans, and outdoor terraces. Air-conditioning is unnecessary: the property was constructed to take advantage of natural weather patterns. Owners James and Hayley Baillie developed only one percent of their total acreage on the wildlife-filled isle, leaving the rest of the land in a preservation trust. Guests learn about the resort’s sustainability policy upon check-in, underscoring the Baillies’ appreciation of the landscape’s natural beauty.
With its fan-shaped whitewashed balcony railings, riotous tropical color schemes in the rooms renovated in 2009 with nautically striped upholstery and mosaic tiled spa bathrooms, this 234-room all-inclusive, adults-only Couples resort captures the vibrant spirit of Jamaica. The lobby is impressively decorated with paintings and sculptures by local artists. Unlike many other all-inclusive properties, where dining options are spread out, the five restaurants here are located in a central cluster. For something more intimate, call the Romance Concierge to book a private candle-light dinner on the beach for $170 per couple. Free activities include snorkeling, sailing, scuba, tennis and yoga, and the spa was ranked “Best in the Caribbean” by Travel + Leisure. Need to check e-mail? There’s now free wi-fi at the pool and a 24-hr. Internet café. Hate tan lines? There is also a private beach section for sunbathing au naturel.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
Inkaterra's Machu Picchu lodge, nestled in the cloud forest below the Incan ruins, is a welcoming, sustainability-focused hotel a short bus ride from the famed archeological site. The 85 whitewashed, red-roofed cottages are scattered around 12 lush acres, clad in stucco, connected by stone pathways, and set among waterfalls, hummingbirds, and an orchid garden with 372 different native species. Interiors with terra-cotta tile floors, wood-beam ceilings, working fireplaces, and heavy alpaca blankets are enhanced by spa-like bathrooms equipped with environmentally friendly toiletries. The opulent Villas Inkaterra have plunge pools and round-the-clock butler service, while the more private casitas, hidden among the foliage, provide total retreat. The hotel encourages guests to explore the area's history through museum visits, market runs, and walks on the Incan Trail.
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
Some of the city’s largest rooms and a new Chi spa that opened in February 2010.
The Oberoi Udaivilas
Taj Palace Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin
It may be something of an eyesore from the outside (with a hospitalesque brick building that was panned by architecture critics when it opened in 2001), but the characteristically luxurious Four Seasons property has some of the largest and best-appointed guest rooms in town. Even the most wallet-friendly Moderate rooms are 447 square feet and kitted out in customary country style (antique repros, brass lamps, floral upholstery); all 197 rooms have large marble baths with walk-in showers and deep soaking tubs. The two on-site bars are a study in contrasts: while the bar has an old-school men’s club vibe—complete with leather chairs and an extensive whiskey “library”—the ICE bar is a slick, mirrored, white-on-white space meant for cocktail-sipping and sampling tapas. The health-minded will surely appreciate the property’s lovely, glassed-in indoor pool, gleaming fitness center, and the spa offering Sodashi treatments.
Belmond Hotel Caruso
This 11th-century palace perched 1,056 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea on a limestone bluff, was once favored by celebrities (Jackie Kennedy, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart). There’s also a heated infinity pool, private gardens, and two restaurants. Take home a chic Italian souvenir from the Caruso Collection boutique, blooming with handcrafted clothes, jewellry, and accessories inspired by the hotel's frescoes.
Boutique hotel with minimalist lithographs by local artist Ralph Holere and 53 light-filled rooms, overlooking Hagley Park.
The Langham, Melbourne
Melbourne was recently named the world’s most livable city with one of the most livable lodgings being this popular, 25-story 388-room riverside hotel. An attractive alternative to the Central Business District hotels, the English-style Langham opened in 2005. It’s handily located at up-and-coming Southbank near the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Crown Towers entertainment complex, another hotel's neighbor, features restaurants by some of Australia’s leading chefs including Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi. The 11,410 square-foot Chuan Spa, features treatments inspired by the traditional Chinese medicine, as well as an indoor salt-water pool (ideal for Melbourne’s famously fluky weather).
Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
This Park Hyatt feels like two hotels in one. The original 23-room mansion, built in 1934 by French architect Leon Dourge, defines Belle Époque elegance with elaborate ironwork, glass chandeliers, and Persian rugs. Next door is the 142-room Posadas building, a sleek and minimalist tower that opened in 2006. What links the two spaces—in addition to rotating contemporary art exhibits—is impeccable service that elicits kudos from even the most discerning globetrotters. And while the rooms’ appearances vary according to their era (hardwood floors and silk curtains in the Palacio, a natural palate and contemporary furniture in Posadas), all have the highest-end technology, soaking tubs, and bathrooms bedecked in Travertino marble. At La Vinoteca lounge, a sommelier and maitre fromager pair wines from among 3,500 bottles of Argentine vintages with regional cheeses.
Modern Rajasthani retreat made up of well-appointed tents, villas and an Oberoi spa. The luxury tents are air-conditioned, decorated with traditional Indian block printings, and canopies woven with golden thread. Bathrooms are equal upscale, with sandstone showers and standalone, claw-footed tubs. The new restaurant, Rajmahal, uses herbs and vegetables from the on-site garden.
With 24 beaches fringing the Great Barrier Reef, and accomodations for just 40 couples, Lizard Island is in a category all its own. Open-plan suites are done up in the blues and whites of the sea, with hammocks and decks discreetly hidden from view. Count on sunset cruises, torchlit beach dinners, and a staff that will do anything to please (including, once, hiding a diamond ring in a seashell to surprise a bride-to-be).
Set in a fashionable boutique- and townhouse-lined neighborhood, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
On the edge of a collapsed volcano, the hotel has guest rooms with glass-fronted verandas for viewing wildlife. Parents love taking daylong safari, which includes a picnic courtesy of te lodge in the crater. Kids love twilight dance performances by the Masai.
Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf-Spa
This vast 1940 Patagonian lodge is a historic monument—and an ideal base for an Andean adventure. Set on a hilltop between crystalline Lake Nahuel Huapi and smaller Lake Moreno, the 161 standard rooms and suites in the original Bustillo wing are compact and comfortably furnished in B&B style; the best suites are set in the six-year-old Moreno Wing, with private whirpool tubs, modern design, large balconies, and breathtaking vistas of Lake Moreno and snowcapped Mount Tronador. The area is a paradise for hikers and bikers in the cool summers (December to March), a snowy wonderland for skiers during winter, and a gastronomes’ paradise year round.
The Reefs Resort & Club
Hotel Salto Chico/Explora Patagonia
Adventure-focused activities (from hiking to horseback riding) at this 49-room all-inclusive lodge in remote Torres del Paine.
Biras Creek Resort
Biras Creek sits on 140 the hilly and secluded acres on the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda. Guests arrive by boat, helicopter, or ferry from Beef Island Airport, and are whisked off in a golf cart to one of the cottage suites—most of which has an outdoor shower and a pair of bicycles parked at the entryway. A short stroll past a salt-pond bird sanctuary is Deep Bay, where you’ll find a trove of catamarans, wind-surfers, and kayaks for guests to use. To truly escape, untie one and cruise along the scrubby coastline until you spy the perfect cove to call your own for the day.
Formerly Palazzo Sasso
In 1997, when this long-defunct hotel reopened in an ornate 12th-century palazzo, Plácido Domingo set the tone as the first guest. It has remained a consistent fave (often taking top honors for Italy on the T+L 500 list), with rooms layered in 17th- through 19th-century antiques, Vietri tile floors, and Frette and Bulgari appointments. But the main attraction? Sea view, sea view, sea view. Even the gym and heated pool come with sweeping views (the pool from an underwater window), though for the best panoramas head for the rooftop solarium with its twin Jacuzzis. Chef Pino Lavarra’s nouvelle-Italian cuisine has garnered two Michelin stars for Rossellinis Restaurant (open March–October).
The Peninsula Bangkok
370 rooms appointed with teak floors, silk-covered furniture, marble bathrooms, and high-tech control panels, set within a 37-story tower that overlooks the Chao Phraya River. The hotel's spa was revamped in 2007 to an impressive 21,000 square foot space.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
It would be a shame for any visitor to come to Bangkok and miss the splendor of the Mandarin Oriental. For more than 135 years, this Travel + Leisure favorite hotel has been at the center of Bangkok life. The 339 rooms and 35 suites are spacious and elegant and enhanced by lush surroundings and serene riverside locale. The Authors’ Suites pay tribute to the long list of literary greats who have been long-time clients of Bangkok’s Grand Dame.
Wilderness Safaris Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp
Two groups of tents, featuring plunge pools and unshaded decks for prime bird-watching, linked by raised walkways.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
La Casa Que Canta
Pure romance of the white-wine-at-sunset and walk-on-the-beach variety is the allure at this 25-suite hideaway above La Ropa Beach. All rooms have a cool Mexican contemporary vibe, ample ocean views, and private terraces (televisions are notably absent); 11 have private plunge pools. Because of the hotel's construction—made up of three terra-cotta-colored villas built into a terraced hillside overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay—there are lots of secluded decks and hidden corners, perfect for canoodling couples or sunbathers. Of the two pools, our favorite is the saltwater expanse: It's adjacent to the beach is filled naturally by the sea. Lounge there in the evening as the sun sets into the Pacific.
Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Set in the heart of Sultanahmet—a few minutes' walk from Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapı Palace—this property’s century-old Neoclassical building and manicured garden courtyard have hosted hotel guests since 1996. (In its earlier incarnation—as the city’s most famous prison—it was home to longer-term “visitors,” such as dissident poet Nazım Hikmet.) The 65 plush guest rooms here, though outfitted in traditional Four Seasons fashion (genteel wood antique repros, damask upholstery, plush wall-to-wall carpet), are greatly enhanced by the building’s graceful architecture, which incorporates vaulted ceilings and arched windows. Though there’s no swimming pool, the roof terrace, with views across the Sea of Marmara, is lovely in the summertime.
Closed for three years between 2006 and 2009, the hotel glows again thanks to Jacques Garcia, known for gems like Paris’s Hôtel Costes. The 1923 property has been completely restored and modernized, a three-year project that included cleaning and repairing countless mosaics, moldings, and paintings and adding new furniture, fabrics, and woodwork, much of it made by local artisans. Garcia chose a garnet tone as the Marrakesh palace’s signature color; it shines on the grand piano in the Majorelle Gallery and reappears on the fleet of Jaguars and Range Rovers parked outside. The gardens have been enlarged, as has the pool, now the size of a small lake.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele
An upcountry Hawaiian sensibility pervades this 20-acre central-highland property on sparsely populated Lanai. The 102 rooms and suites have verandas, many fronting the perfectly manicured lawns where croquet and lawn bowling are played. The backdrop is green hills, tall pines, and colorful gardens interspersed with glimpses of ocean from the Lodge's entrance. After a day of jeep tours, hiking, horseback riding, or skeet shooting, relax by the enormous stone fireplaces in the rustic Great Hall, sumptuous with dark rich wood, skylights, and libraries and sitting rooms in the wings.
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F.
Only a world-class hotel like the Four Seasons could make Mexico City, a hectic metropolis of 21 million, feel relaxing. Its colonial-hacienda architecture, Mexican gardens (with tropical-fruit trees, orchids, and chirping caged canaries), courtyard dining, and proximity to verdant Chapultepec Park represent an oasis of calm amid the bustle of the capital. The 240 spacious guestrooms also promote tranquility with a neutral palette of taupes and creams, deep soaking tubs, and views of elegant Paseo de la Reforma or the quiet courtyard. In keeping with Four Seasons culture, the large staff is warm, genuinely helpful, and utterly unflappable. The in-house Galería Lourdes Sosa has a rotating collection of Mexican art, including paintings by Jose Luis Cuevas.
Nothing beats Le Sirenuse for traditional, dignified luxury. In 1953, two years after it opened, John Steinbeck described it as “an old family house converted into a first-class hotel.” More than half a century of overexposure later, that impression remains at this storied hotel, now in its second generation of Sersale family management. Nearly all the rooms in the poppy-red, 18th-century villa, with museum-quality antiques and hand-painted ceramic-tile floors, have a private balcony or patio overlooking the bay. Diversions include an alfresco champagne-and-oyster bar, a pool and Aveda spa, and a vintage wooden boat for tooling up and down the coast in 1960s-starlet style. The Neapolitan menu at the restaurant, La Sponda, was devised by chef Matteo Temperini.
The Lanesborough will be closed for renovation from late December 2013 to late 2014.
A Georgian-style building overlooking Hyde Park, the Lanesborough maintains the elegance of an 18th-century private residence. The 93 rooms blend Regency period details--parquetry inlaid furnishings and wood veneers--with state-of-the-art tech amenities (complimentary laptops, Mac mini entertainment systems), ensuring that you'll never have to compromise on either convenience or style. 24-hour butler service means that you'll never have to unpack or press your clothes, and that tea and coffee will be served with your wake-up call. The oak-paneled Library Bar stocks hard-to-find whiskeys and Cognacs (including some dating back to 1770).
Domaine des Hauts de Loire
A former 19th-century hunting lodge with 31 Empire-style rooms set on 178 forested acres between Blois and Amboise.
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
There's a fairy-tale magic emanating through this award-winning Wailea resort, where elegance, opulence, and impeccable service create a sumptuous aura of luxury. After basking poolside in a cream-colored cabana or a 5,500-square-foot suite, you can spring for a soothing massage treatment in the ultra-luxurious spa.
Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
The Dallas icon of luxury, founded in 1980 when oil heiress Caroline Rose Hunt turned a circa-1925 cotton magnate's mansion into an outstanding property, undertook a full freshening up for its 30th anniversary. The updated look, by the interior design firm BAMO, includes Michael Taylor sofas, William Switzer chairs, and limed oak reception desks, befitting the original Italian Renaissance decorative scheme. The 143 rooms have been redone in calm colors and opulent fabrics, and guests manage to feel miles away from a bustling city that is just a block or two from the hotel. Don't forget to make a reservation at the esteemed Mansion Restaurant, which is famous for its tortilla soup.
Park Hyatt Sydney
Short of sleeping inside the Sydney Opera House itself (if only!), the next best thing has got to be snoozing at the Park Hyatt Sydney, which has snagged a brilliant spot curving around the point opposite just in front of the Harbour Bridge. This sinuous contemporary stone building is fairly low-rise, in keeping with its setting, but the heated rooftop pool still boasts stellar views. Kick back on a chaise lounge or nab a private cabin. The Spa is a great place to unwind, harnessing local iKOU products from the Blue Mountains. The 155 zen-sleek rooms and suites here are pretty snazzy, with neutral hues, huge windows, marble baths, balconies, and Aboriginal art. Personal butlers are available around the clock. Waterfront wining and dining means you won't want to leave.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
“Perfect,” “heaven,” and “the best vacation of my life” are just a few ways guests describe this understatedly gorgeous, isolated resort where most of the 243 rooms, in low-rise bungalows, have ocean views. It’s popular with Hollywood celebrities for good reason: the five-star service is impeccable; the grounds border the dramatic volcanic rock coast with seawater and freshwater swimming pools; an open-air spa teems with tropical vegetation; and yoga, personal training, and a full menu of fitness classes are offered daily. The private, oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved right into the underlying black lava, which serves as occasional bunkers.
Alvear Palace Hotel
The posh Alvear Palace Hotel, which celebrated its 80th birthday in 2012, recalls Buenos Aires’s Europhile past. Afternoon tea in the L'Orangerie restaurant combines English tradition with Argentina’s obsession for sweets (try the Alvear Cake, smothered in dulce de leche); chef Jean Paul Bondoux’s La Bourgogne serves the city’s best French cuisine (using Argentine ingredients); the design is pure Louis XV; and even the bathroom amenities are French (custom-made for the hotel by Parisian designer Hermès). A top-to-bottom 2011 remodeling dropped the room count from 210 to 191, expanding room size, adding a new Grand Suite, and installing hydromassage bathtubs and LCD TVs in the bathrooms. Service remains top-notch: a bilingual butler assists guests with everything from unpacking and ironing to drawing a bath.
Hotel Santa Caterina
The original grande dame of Amalfi Coast hotels still reigns in Belle Époque splendor on the coastal road just outside the town of Amalfi. Now in its fourth generation of Gambardella family management, this 1904 looker has rooms spread across the main building, two villas, and a two cozy honeymoon suites. All are filled with original local antiques and decorated with hand-painted or pure-white ceramic floor tiles and whitewashed walls. Two glassed-in elevators descend to a private beach. As you stroll through the lovely secluded, terraced gardens and citrus orchards, it’s obvious why Liz Taylor and Richard Burton chose to hide out here.
Inn at Little Washington
It’s not often that an 18-room inn located in a tiny town like Washington, Virginia becomes a destination in its own right, but that’s certainly the case with the Inn at Little Washington. Every detail at the sumptuous property is incredibly fine-tuned, from the cashmere bed throws and silk-fringed lampshades to the 17th-century wooden floors reclaimed from a French chateau. The property star is chef and owner Patrick O’Connell, a James Beard Award Winner who sourced local ingredients (including items from his own orchard and on-site farm) 30 years before it became popular to do so; even the wine menu includes a number of hand-selected Virginia bottles.
Old Edwards Inn & Spa
The central Highlands grounds of the Old Edwards Inn have deep hospitality roots—the property was originally a boarding house when it opened in 1878, though of course, much has changed. In the last eight yearsalone there has been close to $100 million in renovations; the new owners have added pools, shops, restaurants, and upgraded accommodations. Guests clink champagne glasses at check-in before making their way to one of 68 plush rooms—with 22 more opening in mid-2013—furnished with antiques and Italian linens and framed in local wood and stone. The 25,000-square-foot spa is elegant and warmed by a new solarium with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Carolina Mountain countryside. Guests also have access to the Old Edwards Club, a Tom Jackson–designed golf course and handsome clubhouse, and a swimming pool.
The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs
Set on 6,000 acres of lush, rolling North Island countryside and bushland beside the Pacific, the 22-suite Lodge at Kauri Cliffs is one of three luxe lodges owned by the New York-based Robertson family (the others being the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Matakauri Lodge). Despite its American proprietors, Kauri Cliffs feels 100 percent Kiwi. While golf is the main draw here, there are also two tennis courts, an infinity pool, and a trio of secluded swimming beaches. In addition to the spacious suites, there’s also a 4,200-square foot two-bedroom Owner’s Cottage (these days de rigueur at top New Zealand lodges), nestled in native forest with views of the golf course. The spa, regarded as one of the best in New Zealand, is set in a native totara rainforest with indoor and outdoor fireplaces for chilly Kiwi days.
Grand Hyatt Santiago
A clean-lined contemporary look—Philippe Starck lightfixtures, suede-soft curtains, Bang and Olufsen technology—predominate in this modern 24-story tower, located in the quiet residential district Las Condes. The Grand Hyatt brand’s instinct for the business traveler's needs is sharp; even the smallest guestrooms come equipped with a separate sunken seating area (ideal for impromptu meetings) and ample work space (though the imposing views of the snow-capped Andes might prove distracting). The Thai kitchen at Anakena restaurant turns out spicy curries and traditional wok-cooked noodle dishes like shrimp pad thai that's easily the city's best. For its massages and body treatments, the Ako spa seeks inspiration closer to home, incorporating ancestral techniques and remedies of the Mapuche people.
Though the hotel—ideally located just paces from the subway in tony Las Condes—attracts a primarily business-travel crowd (as does Santiago), the amenities are outstanding for any discerning traveler: indoor pools and a spa are housed in a vaulted glass rooftop, and the sleek 100 Grand bar (which opened in September 2011) is sure to become a neighborhood hotspot. The 205 rooms are accommodating if not expansive, and furnished in elegant, dark-wood furniture. In October 2011, the hotel opened three new restaurants, including the minimalist Arola 100°, an innovative tapas spot by noted Catalan chef Sergi Arola.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos Resort
Tu Tu'tun Lodge
Fronting the Rogue River and flanked by old-growth rain forests, with an emphasis on genial service.
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Take Four Seasons pampering (chilled towels delivered to your pool chaise), cross it with the charm of location (just north of the Nicoya Peninsula, above the placid Gulf of Papagayo), and you'll see why guests return to this hilltop property year after year. The design here falls into the simple-but-luxurious category: bamboo and rattan, indigenous stone and wood, and Costa Rican art. Activities exceed the average menu of options: guests can go horseback riding in nearby national parks; boost their energy with a body wrap using volcanic mud from the Osa Peninsula; spend the day at either of the resort’s two golden-sand beaches or four pools; sign up for a trip to Diria coffee plantation; follow a naturalist on a bird-watching expedition; and much, much more. At the end of the day, you'll be ready to fall back into one of 175 unfussy yet plush rooms, suites, or private residences, complete with verandas and deep soaking tubs.
Triple Creek Ranch
Triple Creek is a service-driven, adults-only property located in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains. The 600-acre landscape has 23 plush log cabins, each outfitted with cozy touches like wood-burning fireplaces, hot tubs, and locally woven woolens. Itineraries are tailored to guests’ interests and can include dinners at the chef’s table, wine tastings, and helicopter tours.
Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
Set along a secluded stretch of Atlantic coast, this 70-room mini-resort is a sanctuary where mountain views, sea breezes, and heady indigenous plant life converge. The property’s original 1929 gabled farmhouse has been added on to over the years, but the extensions are understatedly modern and include a crystal grotto-style spa, a 16-seat cinema (showing classics, blockbusters, and kids’ flicks), and two swimming pools (one a sea-facing infinity pool, the other mountainside and ringed with boulders). Although there’s no direct beach access, the hotel has a free shuttle service that makes the two-minute drive to Camps Bay Beach—and the trade-off is a lush landscape fragrant with fynbos (wild indigenous shrubbery), hammock-swagged picnic spots, and private mountain trails bordered with pelargonium blossoms.
As the former guest villa of Cambodian royal King Norodom Sihanouk, this serene, all-suite retreat was once an oasis for luminaries including Jacqueline Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, and Peter O’Toole. Twelve of the 24 earthy suites—all done up in timber, stucco, and terrazzo—are set around a verdant, central courtyard, while the other half have private plunge pools. The retreat’s central house is a chic living room, regularly replenished with freshly baked cookies and a steady supply of wine and cheese. Its jasmine-scented spa, flanked by an intricatesandstone bas-relief, is equipped with four state-of-the-art rooms, each with a steam bath, shower, and private sound system. For an exclusive look at the nearby Khmer landmarks, Amansara will arrange for you to head out on a guided tour at dawn or dusk on one of its custom-fitted remorks (cycle-rickshaws).It’ll feel like you have the ancient sites almost to yourself.
St. Regis Punta Mita Resort
It’s the top-notch service that travelers talk about after leaving this 1,500-acre retreat on the Riviera Nayarit, just northwest of Puerto Vallarta. Butlers are at-the-ready to confirm tee times and post-golf spa treatments, or to arrange for an outdoor whale-watching excursion or a jungle canopy tour. Part of the appeal is thesmall scale of the Mediterranean-inspired property itself: with just 120 rooms, the property always feels intimate, and many of the amenities, including two Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses and the tennis center, are nestled out of sight—leaving just the view of the deep-blue Pacific and the nearby Marietas islands, beyond.
One&Only Cape Town
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Although overwater bungalows are the most enticing lodgings at the Four Seasons, the hotel has 107 different rooms scattered along the beachside and lagoon of its private motu (small islet). Walls are made of volcanic stone, and thatched-roofed spaces are decorated with teak and merbau-timber furnishings. All have extraordinary views over the turquoise-blue, coral-filled South Pacific, and some offer glimpses of the majestic black-rock peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia.
Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa
Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa
An extensive upgrade and expansion in 2010 transformed the ground floor of the 82-room Sofitel Queenstown into a Parisian-style lobby and lounge, as befitting Sofitel's Gallic heritage. The sophisticated property is a quick stroll away from the top-notch restaurants and cafes of the lively center of town. The award-winning LeSpa combines French and New Zealand products on its menus which include a range of indigenous Maori rituals combined with more familiar European-style massages and beauty treatments.
Couples Tower Isle
It all started here. The concept of a romantic adults-only resort with everything included—food, beverages, activities—began when Couples Tower Isle was launched in 1978 in Tower Isle, an island getaway dating back to 1949. In 2009, the resort reopened after a major renovation that included 20 new rooms (bringing the total to 226), a dive pool, and 10 spa treatment rooms. Guest accommodations all feature king beds and private balconies or patios, and are decked out in a soothing palette of sand and sky blue with vintage-style rattan armchairs. In addition to the healthful Veggie Bar, which serves smoothies and salads, there are five other dining options, including the Pan-Asian menu at Bayside and more upscale Continental-meets-Caribbean cuisine at Eight Rivers.
Camino Real Polanco México
Located on a quiet tree-lined street just one block from Chapultepec Park, the Camino Real Polanco Mexico has a contemporary façade with a pink sculptural wall by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. The 712-room hotel is home to more than 400 works of art by significant Mexican artists, such as painter Rufino Tamayo and sculptor Alexander Calder. Five restaurants operate at this resort, including Bice Bistro, where sea bass ceviche is a lunch favorite, and Centro Castellano, which prepares Spanish specialties such as suckling pig in a wood-fired oven.
Singita Sabi Sand
Two lodges with interiors by up-and-coming African designers—Boulders is high-design rustic built into the landscape, Ebony has a vintage safari feel. Private outdoor showers and well-stocked wine cellars, plus photography-focused safaris and cultural outings to a nearby village to share meals with locals.
Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort
With its arrival in 2009, the 121-room Koa Kea Resort made a splash on the area’s beloved Poipu Beach. The tranquil property offers a more intimate escape than nearby mega-resorts, and because it was constructed on the footprint of a 1960s hotel, it has a superior location that’s closer to the ocean than most other Hawaiian hotels. Arranged in a U-shape around the deep blue outdoor pool, the boutique property still has all the requisite modern-day luxuries: private lanais, dual showerheads in the marble-accented bathrooms, and a full-service fitness center and luxury spa. Don’t miss one of Kauai’s best photo ops: on many warm afternoons, endangered Hawaiian monk seals climb up on the sand to sunbathe.
It’s no wonder that Capella chose the recently revitalized Sentosa for its Asian debut. The 30-acre island off Singapore’s southern coast already has 14 comfortable hotels, but none have this form of colonial grace (public spaces are set in the converted 19th-century Royal Artillery buildings) and modern accents (two new curvilinear wings). All 112 guest rooms, villas, and manors feature teak-lined doors and windows and crisp white-on-white baths; top-floor corner suites open onto patios with alfresco whirlpools. Another spot with standout views: the outdoor dining terraces look out over the bi-level infinity pools, which seem to slip into the South China Sea.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club
Wicker-furnished cottages on a palm-fringed 18th-century former sugar plantation.
JW Marriott Mexico City
JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City is located in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, within a 15-minute walk of the financial district, Auditorio Nacional (National Auditorium), and Avenida Presidente Masaryk. The 26-story hotel is divided into two towers, one steel and glass, the other concrete. Inside, the lobby is decorated with fresh flowers and bold patterned furniture, while the 312 guestrooms contain contemporary artwork, large picture windows, and in some rooms, four-poster beds. The property also has an outdoor pool and whirlpool with panoramic views of Chaupultepec Park. Dining options include Pergamino Latin Flavors and Brasserie Lipp, a contemporary French bistro.
Discovery Shores Boracay
Barefoot elegance is the prevailing vibe on this tiny island, where the 2 ½-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for having the softest sand in the world. The 88 spacious suites feature large glass walls that look towards a scenic rock garden, but chances are you'll spend more time by the water. Take a dip in the pool, or jet-ski on the crystalline sea. For people-watching, head to the Sandbar, where they stir up delicious mojitos, infused with local flavors like lychee and mango. Sing your heart out with the recreation lounge’s selection of 1,000+ (mostly English-language) karaoke tunes.
Singita Kruger National Park
The property consists of the Lebombo Lodge and Sweni Lodge, two lavish lodges—treetop suites or riverside rooms, along with twice-daily game drives and kids’ safaris with tracking tutorials.
Waldorf Astoria Chicago
Architect Lucien Lagrange created this 60-story skyscraper (formerly the Elysian) in the style of a 1920s Parisian grand hotel, complete with a brick porte-cochere for elegant arrivals and departures. The lobby, with dark swirls running through the white marble floor, is gleaming and elegant, as are the 188 guest rooms. Occupying the first 27 floors, they’re done up with platinum and champagne color schemes and luxe furnishings, including tufted headboards and fireplaces—not to mention the Rivolta Carmignani Italian bed linens. From the pin-tucked curtains to the jewelry design–influenced lighting fixtures, it’s all très Chanel and Dior (you’ll find coffee-table books on these designers in some of the rooms). The 14,000-square-foot spa and health club is situated above the hotel’s courtyard and offers Gyrotonic and Pilates as well as Lava Shell massages.
Live Aqua, Cancun
Since relaunching in 2007, Live Aqua has become the alternative all-inclusive for those who crave Cancún but loathe the razzle-dazzle. Small touches help to create the relaxed, anti-stress vibe: consider the aromatherapy (the scent of eucalyptus and lavender wafts through public spaces, including an outdoor contemplation area) and the meditative, mini–Japanese sand garden boxes left in the room at turndown. All 371 rooms are done in neutral tones and natural materials, soyour eyes are drawn straight to the pool deck, where eight swimming pools are rimmed with loungers. Sleep in: there are so many private enclaves that youdon’t have to wake at dawn to secure a beachfront spot.
St. Regis Atlanta
This stately, resort-style hotel in the heart of Buckhead redefines luxury in Atlanta. Expect the same sensibility you'd encounter at other St. Regis properties (Champagne service, poolside Evian spritzes) but with some very obvious—and glamorous—nods to the South. The two curved staircases and brick fireplaces decorating the lobby evoke antebellum estates; and the posh Astor Court, the city's top spot for a power breakfast, also puts on a lavish afternoon tea. The hotel's soothing centerpiece is its 40,000-square-foot "Pool Piazza," where a team of doting butlers fulfills any request, from a frozen fruit skewer to the day's newspaper. Airy guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows feature handcrafted chandeliers and original artwork. The bathrooms—among the largest in Atlanta—are also a trump card: the marble spaces are equipped with soaking tubs, double vanities, separate showers, and an LCD television hidden in the bathroom mirror.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Located inside an 80-acre mangrove and jungle reserve, the all-inclusive Grand Velas Riviera Maya has an exotic, faraway feel within easy drive of Playa del Carmen and other Riviera Maya hot spots. Spread along a pristine, white-sand strand, the resort features both adult-only and family areas, and a range of room choices from tranquil Zen suites tucked in the tropical woods away from the beach to spacious oceanfront suites with private plunge pools and views across the water to the twinkling lights of Cozumel. Though the resort’s 75,000-square-foot spa is one of Mexico’s largest, the real treat at Grand Velas are the eight restaurants, which include Frida for veal osso buco in a molé de olla, Sen Lin for Asian fusion, and Cocina de Autor for Spanish-inspired molecular Mexican Caribbean cuisine. (We loved the liquid quesadilla, a blue corn tortilla with quesillo cheese that accompanies an intensely flavored mushroom soup, seasoned with the wild epazote herb.)