World's Best Service 2010
Attentive service can make all the difference in your hotel stay. Here are the top-rated spots.
Top 10 Hotels: Overall
1. Jade Mountain, St. Lucia 100.00
2. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cedar Mountains, South Africa 99.17
3. The Goring, London 98.68
4. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya 98.61
4. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa 98.61
6. Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so 98.44
7. Eagle Island Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana 98.33
7. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India 98.33
9. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence, Egypt 98.21
9. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 98.21
Top 10 Hotels: Continental U.S. and Canada
1. Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina 97.92
2. Inn at Manitou, McKellar, Ontario 97.79
3. Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia 97.50
4. Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia 97.09
5. Amangani, Jackson, Wyoming 97.06
6. Peninsula Beverly Hills, California 95.59
6. Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, Alberta 95.59
8. Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado 95.31
9. Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 95.00
9. The Wauwinet, Nantucket, Massachusetts 95.00
Top 10 Hotels: Hawaii
1. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii 95.77
2. Halekulani, Honolulu 95.00
3. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea 93.31
4. Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu 91.07
5. Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui 90.99
6. Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the Lodge at Koele 90.91
7. Hotel Hāna-Maui & Honua Spa, Maui 90.79
8. Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Hawaii 90.00
9. Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui 89.35
10. Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay 88.89
Top 10 Hotels: Mexico
1. Esperanza Resort, Cabo San Lucas 97.48
2. Rosewood Mayakobá, Riviera Maya 95.46
3. La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo 93.06
4. Hotel Villa Rolandi Thalasso Spa—Gourmet & Beach Club, Isla Mujeres 91.67
5. Ritz-Carlton Cancún, 91.41
6. Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita 91.02
7. Four Seasons Hotel México, D.F., Mexico City 90.97
8. Las Ventanas al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort, Los Cabos 89.44
9. One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos 88.83
10. Tides Zihuatanejo 88.73
Top 10 Hotels: Caribbean
1. Jade Mountain, St. Lucia 100.00
2. Eden Rock, St. Bart’s 94.05
3. Couples Negril, Jamaica 93.80
4. Anse Chastanet Resort, St. Lucia 92.86
5. Couples Swept Away, Negril, Jamaica 92.79
6. Royal Plantation Spa & Golf Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica 92.50
7. Couples Tower Isle, Ocho Rios, Jamaica 92.06
8. Couples Sans Souci, Ocho Rios, Jamaica 89.67
9. Four Seasons Resort, Nevis 89.09
10. Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, Antigua 88.64
Top 10 Hotels: Central and South America
1. Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo, Uruguay 96.05 Great Value
1. Palacio Duhau, Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires 96.05
3. Explora Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile 93.75
4. Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires 92.92
5. Victoria House, Ambergris Cay, Belize 92.39 Great Value
6. Hotel Monasterio, Cuzco, Peru 91.43
7. Four Seasons Hotel, Buenos Aires 90.63
8. Hotel Oro Verde, Guayaquil, Ecuador 90.28 Great Value
9. Blancaneaux Lodge, San Ignacio, Belize 90.00 Great Value
10. Turtle Inn, Placencia, Belize 89.77
Great Value: Denotes a hotel with a rack rate of $250 or less.
Top 10 Hotels: Europe
1. The Goring, London 98.68
2. Domaine des Hauts de Loire, Onzain, France 96.43 Great Value
3. Ceylan InterContinental, Istanbul 95.75
4. Il San Pietro di Positano, Italy 95.18
5. Le Royal, Luxembourg 95.00
6. Marriott Hotel, Budapest 94.77 Great Value
7. Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski, Munich 94.44
8. Four Seasons Hotel, Prague 93.86
9. Cliveden, Toplow, England 93.75
9. La Posta Vecchia, Ladispoli, Italy 93.75
Top 10 Hotels: Asia
1. Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so 98.44
2. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India 98.33
3. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 98.21
4. Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand 97.50
5. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen, Thailand 96.88
6. Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India 96.67
7. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok 96.63
8. Peninsula Hong Kong 95.98
9. Evason Ana Mandara & Six Senses Spa, Nha Trang, Vietnam 95.83
10. Amankora Paro, Bhutan 95.31
Top 10 Hotels: Africa and the Middle East
1. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cedar Mountains, South Africa 99.17
2. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya 98.61
2. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa 98.61
4. Eagle Island Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana 98.33
5. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence, Egypt 98.21
6. Governors’ Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 97.22
6. Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa 97.22
8. Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa 96.43
9. Singita Sabi Sand, Kruger National Park, South Africa 96.35
10. Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp Western Seregenti, Tanzania 95.63
Top 10 Hotels: Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
1. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand 95.00
2. Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Te Awanga, New Zealand 94.44
3. Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, Katoomba, Australia 92.11
4. The Langham, Melbourne 91.03
5. Observatory Hotel, Sydney 90.79
6. InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, French Polynesia 90.63
7. Huka Lodge, Taupo, New Zealand 88.24
8. Lizard Island, (formerly Voyages Lizard Island), Great Barrier Reef, Australia 87.50
9. Park Hyatt, Sydney 87.29
10. Hayman Island Resort, Great Barrier Reef, Australia 87.00
World’s Best: Winning Service
What does quality service look like? Here, T+L reader and World’s Best Awards Sweepstakes winner David Danzig of Atlanta shares the highlights of his five-day stay at St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain, the No. 1 hotel for service overall.
The Request: A seamless check-in
The Experience: When we arrived we were greeted by a staffer with a lime juice drink and then immediately whisked away to one of the 29 ocean-view sanctuaries. A wireless phone connected us to our majordomo, who—we were told—could be reached at any time.
The Request: Post-beach relaxation
The Experience: Shuttles are available, but we opted to walk more than 100 stairs up from the sand to the room. We arrived to find that the Jacuzzi tub had been drawn with bath salts and rose petals were strewn across the bed.
The Request: A sunset boat ride around the Piton Mountains
The Experience: We weren’t interested in prepackaged outings, so the hotel booked a personal guided tour. We visited the island’s eastern coastline and took a detour to the village of Soufrière for an introduction to the local culture.
The Request: A romantic evening to remember
The Experience: Though we inquired about a beach bonfire, it was impossible because of fire restrictions. But the hotel arranged a candlelit dinner of calypso-marinated kingfish and a customized chocolate cake served next to our private plunge pool.
The Takeaway: In a region where island spirit often equals slow or spotty attention, hotel service at Jade Mountain was flawless. A+ for charm and attention to detail.
Methodology: Rankings are based on reader evaluations collected in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey. For hotels, scores are indexed averages of evaluations for the characteristic “Service.” Readers were asked to rate candidates on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 means “Excellent” and 1 means “Poor.” Scores are rounded to the nearest hundredth of a point; in the event of an exact tie, properties or companies share a ranking. For the full survey methodology, go to TravelandLeisure.com/worldsbest.
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun
Ritz-Carlton's only Mexican property is a hacienda-style retreat on a 17,000-square-foot beach area—one of the largest in the Hotel Zone. All 365 rooms have private balconies with Caribbean views, and specialized suites—including the Itzy, Bitzy Ritz Kids Rooms (targeted at new parents) and two floors of tony Club Level Rooms (a veritable hotel within the hotel)—allow guests to custom-tailor their experiences. Fantino restaurant is one of the country's top-rated kitchens, and specializes in Mediterranean cuisine; sybarites will love the chef's table—which includes a tasting menu, wine pairings, and even cooking lessons—as well as weekly tequila tastings in the Lobby Bar.
InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa
Book one of the 80 floating bungalows at this French Polynesia luxury oasis. The views of marine life through glass-bottom coffee tables makes it worth the splurge.
Farm at Cape Kidnappers
Located on a working sheep and cattle farm in the North Island’s Hawke Bay, one of the country’s top wine regions, this 26–room lodge uses natural fabrics, woods, and metals in sophisticated ways: halls are adorned with black tin animal sculptures, chairs are upholstered with shearling, and burlap curtains hang from large metal grommets. With attentive (sometimes too attentive) service, excellent local wines, and a full range of amenities (the cliff-hugging championship golf course is spectacular), the Farm navigates the fine line between formality and accessibility.
Room to Book: Ridge suites are more private and come equipped with fireplaces.
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.
Located at the highest point of the island, near the west coast town of Soufrière, Jade Mountain wraps around a hillside, its exterior all curves and rough stone. Inside, each of the 29 suites is unique, but they all share impressive features: infinity pools or jacuzzis, 15-foot ceilings, and loftlike architecture—even the raised bathroom is essentially part of one huge space. Walk into the living room and it seems as if you’ve walked into the Pitons: suites have only three walls, offering open-air, panoramic views. Designed and owned by Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the resort has bold and organic architecture that celebrates the natural beauty of St. Lucia.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
“They provide an experience that you could miss in an ordinary concrete box,” says designer Bill Bensley of the tents at the Four Seasons Tented Camp, in Thailand’s Golden Triangle. “Guests can hear the sound of elephants munching their way through the jungle. It’s escapism to the nth degree.” That sentiment is evident in Bensley’s design for the resort. He drew inspiration from northern Thailand’s hill-tribe villages as well as camps he visited in Botswana, and he filled the 15 tents with metal craftwork from local artisans, along with explorer-themed antiques (an old compass, rifles, primitive fishing tools).
The Oberoi Udaivilas
Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp
Edwardian-style tented camps on a ridge in the western Serengeti.
Couples Swept Away
The all-inclusive vacation is a grown-up affair at this refined adult couples-only resort. The 312 airy wood-and-tile suites are spread out over 17 acres of gardens along Negril's Seven Mile Beach. In 2004, a $7 million expansion added nice touches, such as an infinity pool with a swim-up bar.
Couples Sans Souci
The smallest of the Couples resorts, with just 150 rooms, this adults-only, all-inclusive property is built on a cliff above a seaside cove in Ocho Rios. Rooms have a British colonial vibe with fretwork-railed terraces, and are brightened by white tile floors and blue-and-white striped upholstery. There are four restaurants, including Casanova, a romantic dinner spot where jeans and flip-flops will not do. Those looking to break a sweat can take advantage of complimentary tennis lessons, plus unlimited golf at the Sandals Upton just a couple of miles away. For more relaxing pursuits, there are four pools, and the award-winning spa has a natural mineral pool, a spring-fed grotto and additional private cabanas set at the cliff’s edge.
Evason Ana Mandara
On verdant hills that seem to tumble down to the sea, 54 thatched-roof villas face Ninh Van Bay’s natural rock formations, which stand like sentries in the distance. The 2004-built Evason Hideaway at Ana Mandara Resort, sited on a pristine 600-acre lot on a peninsula that can be reached only by boat, takes its design cues from traditional Vietnamese architecture, with exposed, thatched ceilings and teak-and-bamboo four-poster beds. Even the construction methods are traditional: local craftsmen used only interlocking wood (no glue or nails) throughout the property. Rooms have private plunge pools carved into boulders, teak daybeds, and panoramic views (especially from the Hilltop villas). Competing with the view is the Six Senses Spa, where holistic remedies and yoga classes are performed beside the rhythmic sea.
Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
This 201-room property, has huge marble bathrooms and borders a marine reserve that’s home to spinner dolphins. At the pool, attendants nicknamed Dr. Lotion and Dr. Shade will refresh your sunscreen and clean or repair your sunglasses.
Part of the Hotel Villa Rolandi on Isla Mujeres, this upscale restaurant serves Swiss-Italian fare amid panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. Beginning with a private yacht transfer from Cancún, the dining experience at Casa Rolandi is considered the most romantic on the island. The prime seats are outside on the terrace, but the dining room is also impressive, with white tablecloths, colorful stained-glass insets, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bright-blue water. In the kitchen, European chefs prepare specialties like homemade cheese tortellini with truffle oil, and goat cooked in a brick oven with grappa and rosemary sauce.
Lilianfels a Luxury Collection Resort
Positioned on a bluff in southeast Australia’s Blue Mountains National Park, Lilianfels is a country house built in 1889 that has been converted into an 85-room resort and spa, set on two acres of English-style gardens. The proper British aesthetic continues inside: guest rooms, many with gorgeous views of the Jamison Valley, are filled with overstuffed furniture and antique floral prints. In the cream-toned lounge, you can hang out by the fireplace and take in an equally panoramic view while enjoying a steaming cup of jasmine tea, fresh scones, and homemade jam.
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).
Formerly Tides Zihuatanejo.
Recently reopened palm-shrouded villas and palapas on a quiet beach.
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.
A refined 10-room bush camp on the western edge of Kruger offers a roster of throwback activities, such as hot air balloon rides and safaris on horseback.
Post Hotel & Spa
Family-owned chalet-style lodge with a 23,000-bottle wine cellar—one of the country’s largest.
This 69-room family-run hotel deftly balances glitz and English charm. Minutes walk from Buckingham Palace, the century-old pile has long been royally favored: it's where King George VI (and a teen Elizabeth II) came for breakfast to celebrate the end of WWII. Guest rooms layer thoughtful touches with the best of British design. Russell Sage recently revamped four suites using historic silk, some originally commissioned for state carriages of the Royal Mews. In the David Linley-designed Dining Room, guests can feast on British traditional dishes (steak and kidney pie, Lincolnshire rabbit stew) under scintillating Swarovski chandeliers.
Four Seasons Hotel, Cairo at the First Residence
Glass tower with Egyptian and Neoclassical design influences, overlooking the Pyramids, Botanical Gardens and the Nile.
This grand Italianate manor was home to three Dukes, an Earl, a Prince of Wales, and the Viscounts Astor—and hosted Queen Victoria and Charlie Chaplin—before its swimming pool landed it a key role in the Profumo affair which brought down the British government in the 1960s. It’s also gorgeous: impressive National Trust gardens encircle the property and slope down to the Thames; a striking John Singer Sargent portrait of former resident Lady Astor hangs in the Great Hall, alongside a 16th century Burgundian fireplace, 17th-century French tapestries, and imposing suits of armor from 1525. Ornately carved paneling, gilt mirrors, and frescoes feel opulent without being overbearing. Some rooms have handcrafted beds; others look onto the Berkshire hills.
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).
Travaasa is Maui's original resort, having opened its doors in 1946 in the most peaceful corner of the island. This is where luxury, simplicity, and beauty are fused with Hawaiian culture; resort activities include fishing with throw-nets and cooking regional cuisine. Unwind at the unparalleled Spa at Travaasa, or enjoy an evening of authentic Hawaiian music in the Paniolo Lounge. The ocean bungalows are like private cabins with Pacific views, and a private jacuzzi embedded in each deck invites a sunset soak. Since the resort is located all the way in Hana, it's far away from everything—which is exactly where you want to be to unwind, untether, and escape.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, a 351-room resort, shares 1,839 acres of white sand, palm trees, and lava-rock outcroppings with its sister hotel the Mauna Kea. The property’s beach is equally as beautiful as the one that fronts its sister hotel, and although Hapuna’s interiors are more subdued, they maintain a similarly bright, airy feeling. In 2011, two years after Mauna Kea got a freshening up, Hapuna Beach got its turn; 96 of the oceanfront guest rooms and luxury suites were updated with Polynesian-style fabrics and traditional Hawaiian kapa prints, all complemented by raffia and blond wood furnishings, and white shuttered doors that open onto oceanfront lanais. For the ultimate underwater experience, rent fins, masks, and snorkels from the beach club next to the 6,865-square-foot Hapuna Beach pool, and head out to the rocky points at either end of the beach in the early morning, when the water is calm and crystal clear. Come evening, head a mile north to the Mauna Kea Hotel’s Kauna’oa Beach, where a large floodlight shines into the bay so travelers can watch as manta rays feed on tiny plankton lured to the shore.
There isn’t a moment on this Ritz-Carlton property when you don't feel like royalty. From the spacious rooms to the opulent spa to the enormous, three-tiered pool, everything here is topped off with an exquisite air of grandeur. As an added bonus, Kapalua has some of the island's best golf, tennis, and snorkeling.
Las Ventanas al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort
Hôtel Le Royal
Tucked into a leafy stretch of the city’s main business thoroughfare, with two restaurants: one serving international cuisine, the second, French-inflected.
Anse Chastanet Resort
Years before eco-conscious design became trendy, Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy designed and built his dream resort: a series of 49 open-air rooms situated along a verdant tropical hillside above a semi-private volcanic sand beach. Within each nature-centric Sanctuary suite—some with the fourth wall removed—warm trade winds obviate the need for air-conditioning, and one look toward the panoramic Piton views will make it clear why flat-screen TVs were never installed. While you can sit back and observe the abundance of wildlife right from your room, be sure to take to the water; divers and snorkelers will be thrilled to discover that several of the island’s top underwater sites can be found within a few fin kicks (or a short boat ride) from the water’s edge.
Aspen's singular ski-in/ski-out property is also its most glamorous address. It doesn't hurt that almost every single guest is swathed in Loro Piana cashmere and Prada skiwear, many carrying designer dogs to match their duds (the in-room pet dining menu and dog beds make it perfect for pet-porting travelers). The 92 spacious rooms, recently touched up by designer Holly Hunt, blend classic Aspen touches with a residential warmth. Rooms feature gas fireplaces, plasma TVs, and marble bathrooms. As cozy-chic as the rooms are, you may prefer being seen at the new bar, Element 47, sipping a Silver Lining (Colorado vodka and blood orange puree topped with an edible silver Aspen leaf) while weighing the virtues of hedge funds.
Four Seasons Resort, Nevis
After a long-awaited two-year, $24 million renovation completed in 2010, the hotel is back in business and better than ever. This 196-room-and-suite resort, fitted out with the requisite tennis courts (10 of them), a fitness center, biomorphic pools, and all the usual stylistic signatures of a global hospitality brand, is one among a handful of discreet, high-end properties on the island.
Il San Pietro di Positano
One mile outside town seems to be just far enough from Positano’s crowds to attract a constellation of stars (George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Franco Zeffirelli) to the coast’s most famous cliff-top hideaway, which spills down the sides of a rocky promontory, its terraced rooms discreetly hidden amid a profusion of flowering plants. The elegant guest quarters—decorated in a singularly odd mix of gilded 18th-century-style elegance and 1970s fab—all come with sea views from private balconies (and, in some cases, from the showers). Tiled benches scattered around the grounds are ideal for sunset cocktails. Though there is a small pool, most guests opt for the private sunbathing patio and sandy beach—a coup for any hotel along this rocky coastline—reached via a dramatic elevator ride down through the cliff.
Fairmont Kea Lani
Every room in this whitewashed resort is a large, comfortable suite, and the fusion of Hawaiian and Mediterranean ambience creates a classy feel throughout. The resort is one of the island's leaders in eco-sustainability, and to really feel like a rock star for a night, book a two-story oceanfront villa with a private outdoor pool.
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.
Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
25 thatched-roof suites around a busy watering hole; courtyards have carvings by South African sculptors.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Belmond Hotel Monasterio
In the Andean capital of Cuzco, this 16th-century former Jesuit seminary—a relic of Spanish colonial architecture with two landscaped courtyards and covered arcades—has been transformed by Orient-Express Hotels. The 126 guest rooms, no longer the ascetic monks’s cells of yore, are individually furnished with antique-style furniture and modern technology; many ward off altitude sickness with pumped-in oxygen-enriched air. The Baroque chapel houses religious artwork, including an impressive collection of Cuzquenian School paintings dating from the 17th century. After a long day hiking Cuzco's cobblestone hills, guests can unwind in the barrel-vaulted Lobby Bar before dining at Peruvian restaurant Deli Monasterio.
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 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.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills
When it comes to luxury, the opulent Peninsula Beverly Hills has it honed in. The five star property is right in the heart of all of the high end shopping and dining the 90210 has to offer, but you needn’t leave your room to feel like you’re living in the lap. Upgraded rooms and suites boast patios, hot tubs, and kitchenettes, some including verdant garden views. There’s also a rooftop restaurant and garden, a super-chic swimming pool with panoramic L.A. views, and a spa offering gemstone facials.
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.
The Cloister at Sea Island
Long a favorite of the East Coast Establishment; the 1928 Mediterranean-style hotel is set on more than 1,000 acres of a barrier island beach. Luxurious accommodations are a focal point of this hotel (hand-woven Turkish rugs, overstuffed chairs, and exposed wooden beams) as is The Georgian Room: often considered the best restaurant in Georgia. As part of a major expansion, the classic resort recently added a new pool overlooking Black Banks River and will add 63 new rooms set to open in April 2016.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
Open since 1999, the first luxury resort on the Punta Mita peninsula continues to enchant guests with its sweeping views (naturally, it claimed the peninsula's choicest spot when it opened) and pamper them with its famously perfect service. The hotel prides itself on fulfilling even the most unusual request. Most visitors, though, will find lounging in their rooms to be pleasure enough: most suites have plunge pools, some oceanfront suites are set atop cliffs, while others open directly onto the white-sand beach. Those craving more indulgence can try the signature Punta Mita massage which incorporates tequila and traditional Mexican healing techniquees. If you have a family in tow, the game center, ideal for teens, and a children’s center both have been recently renovated.
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.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve
Full-service hideaway with a wellness focus and access to original Bushman art sites, 3 hours from Cape Town.
Room to Book: Deluxes in the 1843 Manor House for historic atmosphere and private terraces.
It was film director Francis Ford Coppola who put Belize on the jet-setter’s map almost two decades ago, when he transformed his 70-acre family retreat in the country’s western mountains into Blancaneaux Lodge. And although the family has opened a handful of lodges since then, this property—a collection of 10 cabanas, six villas, and a cottage set in the jungle of the Maya Mountains—remains the ne plus ultra of Belizean hospitality. Deep in the jungle, it’s the setting and the service that draw travelers from around the globe. The staff will prepare picnic lunches for day hikes to the waterfalls, and an at-the-ready crew of Thailand-trained spa staffers awaits back at the hotel. Though the restaurant’s wine selection isn’t vast, it’s surely elegant—the bottles are imported from Coppola’s California winery—while the straightforward menu does the trick after a day of adventure (order the grilled chicken with red beans and rice). Even now, Coppola’s first hideaway is still the place discerning adventure types are searching for.
The poshest old-school hotel in town (it’s part of the Orient-Express group) isn’t exactly in town; though it’s in the heart of the lively historic Rocks district, it’s tucked away in a peaceful, mostly residential enclave. The setting works well for the hotel’s exclusive clientele (bigwigs and celebs like Nicole Kidman); it also jibes with the elegant, formal aesthetic, which mimics that of a private manor. The 100 guest rooms are decorated traditionally (and a little fussily), with dark-wood wardrobes and dressers, heavy swagged drapes and overstuffed chairs, and lots of brocade and chintz; some have private balconies and arched windows. The common areas have a similarly grand vibe—and include the wood-paneled Globe Bar; the fancy French/Japanese restaurant Galileo; and a spectacular subterranean swimming pool whose vaulted ceiling twinkles like a southern-hemisphere night sky, thanks to hundreds of fiber-optic “stars.”
Room to Book: Rooms 326 and 324 (executive suites) and 310 (a junior suite) have the best views of Walsh Bay.
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.
Four Seasons Hotel Prague
Four buildings from different architectural eras (Baroque; Neoclassical; Neo-Renaissance; Modernista-revival), on the east bank of the Vltava River. 110 rooms in the contemporary wing were remodeled by Pierre-Yves Rochon in 2012, in black and white with crystal accents.
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.
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai proper, with 12 poolside villas, plus pavilions that look onto rice paddies, the hotel’s two resident water buffalo, and the Mae Rim Valley. Head to the timber-hewn cooking school for a day-long dive into traditional Thai cuisine. Head to the local market for ingredients, partake in a traditional Thai spirit house blessing, prepare the region's signature yellow curry noodles with chicken, Khao Soi Gai, and enjoy your labors in the open-air dining room, surrounded by landscaped gardens and a bubbling waterfall.
Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort
With Spanish moss dripping from low-lying oak branches and egrets soaring overhead, life at this plantation-style luxury resort seems to move at the pace of a deep-southern drawl. But the many diversions—a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, fly-fishing, spa treatments, naturalist-led alligator “hunts”—sequestered on 20,000 acres of South Carolina coastal marshland leave little time for ennui. Fifty cottages house enormous rooms and suites (1,150- and 1,350- square feet, respectively), with pine floors, gas fireplaces, and private screened porches.
Esperanza, an Auberge Resort
25 luxe jungle tents outfitted with four-poster beds, freestanding bathtubs, and teak floors, on 20 acres next to Ranthambhore National Park and Tiger Reserve.
Cliff-top hotel with staggering Teton views, Asian-inspired platform beds, and large soaking tubs.
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.
Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo
This rural retreat seems designed to coddle the post-Buenos Aires traveler into a numbed state of relaxation. Designed in Balian style, with Asian-inflected design elements and imported woods, the hotel has 44 guestrooms housed in 20 private bungalows (many of them duplexes) constructed of Brazilian walnut. Some rooms offer views of the vast Rio de la Plata and the distant glow of Buenos Aires, while others are tucked away in the eucalyptus forest. Activities here are decidedly low-key: channel your inner gaucho on a guided horseback outing, then feast at a barbeque at La Estancia, the hotel's ranch and organic farm. Or, you can always just read a book under a palapa on the surprisingly wide golden-sand beach before taking a dip in the (clean) river. The property is best-known for its Bali-inspired spa—with its wood-burning chimney, pool, dry sauna, and Asian treatments—and magnificent, “truest bend” golf course.
Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort
The recently redone Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, situated on a private 300-acre island 10 minutes by boat from Antigua, is still the standard-bearer of Caribbean luxury. Following a $28 million reconstruction, 28 new suites have ocean views and outdoor bathtubs in lush private courtyards. But the most exciting addition is the property’s first-ever spa, Sense, an open-air facility with a garden just 50 feet from the beach; book the Sense Hammock Massage treatment for two.
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski
A vibrant makeover in 2003 has updated the Neoclassical public spaces and 170 of the hotel's 316 rooms; the lobby's stained-glass dome was restored, as well, letting refracted light pour in.
“Barefoot elegance” is the self-described vibe of this plantation-style 42-room hotel, set on an island one mile from the world's second-largest barrier reef. Sleeping quarters—which include thatch-roof casitas, suites, and villas—are chic, with cream-on-white palettes accented with blonde Belizian-wood dressers, bamboo four-poster beds, rich mahogany trim, and framed prints of tropical plants. Sea views abound, and even the thatch-roof casitas, which are set further back in the gardens, come with a semi-covered deck from which the sea can be seen. Because the 20-odd buildings fan out around a central lawn, with two pools on opposite ends of the grounds, Victoria House never feels full, even when it’s at capacity; there’s always an empty poolside lounge chair, plenty of room on the powder-white beach, and an unharried, always-smiling staff. There’s also an on-site dive shop if the urge to scuba or snorkel strikes.
What makes Turtle Inn, a collection of 17 cottages, eight villas, and six restaurants and bars stand out among Francis Ford Coppola’s small collection of Latin American properties? Its location right on the Caribbean Sea, which means that after travelers unpack in one of the hotel’s thatched cottages, they’ll have plenty of time to explore some of the world’s best diving and fishing spots. For even more wildlife spotting, a half-hour boat ride away is the Monkey River, in a primeval jungle that’s home to more than 50 species of birds and colonies of howler monkeys, while nearby Placencia gives a taste of the Caribbean circa 1968, with its hippie cafés and funky guesthouses. (The ideal way to get to the village is on one of the resort’s fleet of wildly painted retro bikes.) Add in a handful of massage therapists from Thailand, and you see why Coppola’s thoughtful details lure travelers to this sandy strip of Belizean beach.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos Resort
Sandals Royal Plantation
Steps from the city center, with a Mediterranean feel and a host of classes open to guests, from drawing to cooking.
Eagle Island Camp
The unique location of this safari camp—it’s set on the island of Xaxaba, smack-dab among the waterways of the Okavango Delta—means you’ll do more of your game viewing via mokoro (traditional carved canoe) than you will via Jeep. After a morning of poling quietly through rivers where kudus drink and wattled cranes and fishing owls hunt, you can relax in one of the camp’s dozen raised thatch-roofed tents; all have air-conditioning, mini-bars, baths, and porches for private dining or lounging. Alternately, you can relax by the 20-meter pool; share sundowners with fellow guests at the alfresco Fish Eagle bar; or get a spectacular aerial overview of the delta and its wildlife on a free(!) helicopter tour.
A collection of 5 stylish eco-lodges in western and central Bhutan. Guests are provided with a full-time guide and driver.
Room to Book: You'll stay in five different rooms on your Amankora journey; each is magical in its own way.
Doubles from $1,400, all-inclusive.
World's Best Service, 95.31, 2010
Marriott Hotel, Budapest
Affordable, unadorned guest rooms with Danube views.
Near Taksim Square, with a new spa that features a glass-walled circular relaxation room overlooking the Bosporus.
Room to book: 1216 is a standard room with top-notch views: you'll see Old City, the Marmara Sea, and Galata Tower from your bed.
1932 ivy-covered lodge with grounds that are home to a herd of giraffes.
Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa
Riverside tents and some of the area’s best guides, set on the former hunting grounds of colonial-era governors.
Room to Book: Tent 31 for privacy and striking savannah views.
Inn at Manitou
A 34-room lakeside resort offering a range of activities, including sailboats, 10 tennis courts, and a championship golf course.
Room to Book: Rooms 12 and 13, for newly renovated baths and best views of the lake.
Editor's note: The Inn at Manitou was closed in late spring, 2010.
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.
La Posta Vecchia
Lavish 17th-century mansion (the former residence of J. Paul Getty) built atop Roman ruins by
the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Room to Book: The elegant Torre Suites with views of the sea.
Hotel Oro Verde
Downtown high-rise just 8 minutes from the international airport, with Guayaquil’s best business amenities.
Room to Book: Those facing the inner courtyard are the quietest.