World's Best Service 2012
The city hotels, resorts, airlines, and cruise lines that nabbed top honors for service in T+L’s annual World’s Best Awards survey.
Top 10 Hotels Overall: City
1. Park Hyatt, Milan 98.95
2. Stafford London by Kempinski 98.40
3. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest 98.07
4. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi 97.50
5. Milestone Hotel, London 97.39
6. Olissippo Lapa Palace, Lisbon 97.33
7. Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires 96.92
8. Eliot Hotel, Boston 96.84
9. Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago 96.67
10. The Peninsula, Bangkok 96.53
Top 10 Hotels Overall: Resorts, Inns, and Lodges
1. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand 100.00
1. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 100.00
1. Posada de Mike Rapu, Explora Rapa Nui, Easter Island 100.00
4. Singita Sabi Sand at Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve (Ebony Lodge, Boulders Lodge, Castleton Camp), Kruger National Park area, South Africa 99.54
5. Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India 99.49
6. Singita Grumeti Reserves (Sasakwa Lodge, Sabora Tented Camp, Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 99.13
7. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee 99.00
8. Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa 98.82
9. Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand 98.75
10. Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo, Uruguay 98.67
10. La Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos 98.67
Top 10 Hotels: Continental U.S. and Canada
1. Eliot Hotel, Boston 96.84
2. Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago 96.67
3. Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 96.07
4. Woodlands Inn, Summerville, South Carolina 96.00
5. Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park 95.83
Resorts and Inns
1. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee 99.00
2. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana 98.62
3. Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah 97.42
4. The Wauwinet, Nantucket, Massachusetts 97.33
5. Four Seasons Resort, Jackson Hole, Wyoming 96.67
Top Hotels: Hawaii
1. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island 97.74
2. Travaasa Hana, Maui 95.29
3. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea 95.18
4. Halekulani, Oahu 94.82
5. Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele 93.64
Top Hotels: Mexico
1. One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos 97.39
2. Ritz-Carlton, Cancún 96.67
3. Esperanza, an Auberge Resort, Los Cabos 95.79
4. Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita 94.84
5. Las Ventanas al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort, Los Cabos 94.12
Top Hotels: The Caribbean
1. Curtain Bluff Resort, Antigua 97.65
2. Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France, St. Bart’s 97.14
2. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis 97.14
4. Amanyara, Turks and Caicos 96.84
5. Jade Mountain, St. Lucia 96.76
Top Hotels: Central and South America
1. Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires 96.92
2. Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires 96.25
3. Hotel Monasterio, Cuzco, Peru 95.89
4. Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua, Guatemala 95.46
5. Four Seasons Hotel, Buenos Aires 94.58
Resorts and Lodges:
1. Posada de Mike Rapu, Explora Rapa Nui, Easter Island 100.00
2. Four Seasons Resort, Carmelo, Uruguay 98.67
3. Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo 95.60
4. Victoria House, Ambergris Cay, Belize 94.17
5. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru 93.68
Top Hotels: Europe
Resorts and Inns:
1. Turnberry, a Luxury Collection Resort, Ayrshire, Scotland 97.65
2. Hotel Villa Cipriani, Asolo, Italy 97.50
3. Château Eza, Eze Village, France 97.33
4. Palazzo Sasso, Ravello, Italy 96.80
5. Domaine Les Crayères, Reims, France 96.36
Top Hotels: Asia
1. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India 100.00
2. Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India 99.49
3. Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand 98.75
4. La Résidence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos 98.67
5. Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India 97.22
Top Hotels: Africa and the Middle East
1. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi 97.50
2. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at the First Residence 95.65
3. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza 95.29
4. Burj Al Arab, Dubai 95.15
5. Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town 94.00
Resorts and Lodges:
1. Singita Sabi Sand at Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve (Ebony Lodge, Boulders Lodge, Castleton Camp), Kruger National Park area, South Africa 99.54
2. Singita Grumeti Reserves (Sasakwa Lodge, Sabora Tented Camp, Faru Faru Lodge, Singita Explore Mobile Tented Camp), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 99.13
3. Royal Malewane, Kruger National Park, South Africa 98.82
4. Ol Donyo Lodge, Mbirikani Group Ranch, Kenya 98.29
5. Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 97.65
5. Mombo & Little Mombo Camps, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana 97.65
Top Hotels: Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
Resorts and Lodges:
1. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand 100.00
2. InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, French Polynesia 96.67
3. Lilianfels, a Luxury Collection Resort, Blue Mountains, Australia 90.67
4. Voyages Longitude 131°, Ayers Rock, Australia 86.67
5. Reef House Boutique Resort & Spa, Cairns, Australia 85.33
Top Airlines: Domestic
1. Virgin America 86.77
2. JetBlue Airways 80.77
3. Hawaiian Airlines 80.61
Top Airlines: International
1. Singapore Airlines 91.95
2. Etihad Airways 89.68
3. Emirates 89.61
Top Cruises: Large-Ship
1. Crystal Cruises 97.30
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises 94.85
3. Disney Cruise Line 92.45
Top Cruises: Small-Ship
1. Seabourn 98.26
2. Silversea Cruises 95.25
3. SeaDream Yacht Club 94.82
Top Cruises: River
1. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection 93.26
2. Tauck 91.79
3. Viking River Cruises 91.08
World’s Best: Winning Service
For the first time in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards history, three resorts, all in far-flung destinations, received perfect service scores. Here’s how they stack up.
Location: Remote, 6,000-acre oceanfront escape on New Zealand’s North Island.
Staff-to-Guest Ratio: 1:1
Top Activity: Teeing off on the par 72 championship golf course, on a bluff with views of the Pacific.
Employee Spotlight: Shaun Cawood, the food and beverage manager, once drove from his home to the hotel in the middle of the night to fulfill a request for Cognac and cigars.
Extreme Request: Arranging a car purchase for a guest’s three-month stay.
T+L Readers Say: “The staff predicted our every need.”
The Details: $$$$
Location: Gilded retreat overlooking Lake Pichola, in Udaipur, India.
Staff-to-Guest Ratio: 1.6:1
Top Activity: A ride around the courtyards and reflecting pools atop one of the hotel’s Indian elephants.
Employee Spotlight: Roop Singh, the caretaker of the property’s 20-acre Bada Mahal conservancy, educates guests about the on-site spotted deer, wild boar, and peacocks.
Extreme Request: Dinner and a private stargazing session with one of Udaipur’s most renowned astrologers.
T+L Readers Say: “I’ve traveled widely and have never stayed at a better hotel; the service is impeccable.”
The Details: $$$$
Location: Hilltop lodge on Easter Island, a five-hour flight west of Santiago, Chile.
Staff-to-Guest Ratio: 1:4
Top Activity: A trek past moai sculptures, along the volcano’s edge, to natural rock pools.
Employee Spotlight: Head guide Joanna Faulkner plans unique experiences, such as a private picnic in a volcanic cave within earshot of the surf.
Extreme Request: Coordinating a helicopter arrival from a yacht to the island’s mountainous terrain.
T+L Readers Say: “Excellent custom hiking adventures led by in-the-know locals.”
The Details: Three-night minimum. $$$$$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
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 and more results, 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.
St. Regis Hotel, Singapore
24-hour butler service, a fleet of Bentleys, and one of Asia's premiere private art collections (including an original sketch by Joan Miró) await you at this splendid, downtown high-rise. The 299 rooms are packed with edgy perks like self-defogging mirrors, Jim Thompson throw pillows, and leather-bound writing desks, highlighting bespoke luxury. Choose from any of the three fine-dining restaurants on site, inspired in style by everything from an imperial Chinese court to a distinctly English parlor. Ardent shoppers can take pleasure in the hotel's prestigious Orchard Road address, within a stone's throw of brand-name boutiques, while those not-so-inclined can stroll through the city's tranquil botanical gardens, just a short walk away.
The Milestone Hotel
This stately red-brick Victorian hotel with plush, antiques-filled interiors, opposite Kensington Palace has 57 rooms, 6 apartments, 1 restaurant, and 1 bar, all perfectly refined and with the best service around. The property has a residential feel, thanks to its intimate size and personal gestures like English sweets at turndown. The top pick for service in the 2008 Worlds Best Service awards, the Milestone Hotel is so much better than being at home. All of the rooms are individually decorated.
The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street
One of the Ritz-Carlton’s new-look hotels, this funky, modern Financial Street outpost bears no traces of the chain’s signature country-estate grandeur. Instead, an airy, clean-lined aesthetic prevails, lending the 253 guest rooms and suites an almost W-esque feel, with muted color schemes of cream and dove gray, angular light fixtures, bold black-and-white wall photographs, and gleaming marble-and-chrome baths. Clever design touches abound: the Chinese character for “comfort” is embroidered on the crisp white duvets; remote-controls for the flat-screen TV’s are housed inside miniature cheongsam-style dresses; and each room’s entryway is decorated with glass animal sculptures—bats, horses, ducks, and the mythical bixies—to ensure good feng shui. The hotel’s common areas are equally cool; in the lobby lounge, walls are adorned with 60,000 sculpted resin bamboo leaves, as well as a specially commissioned painting by famous local artist Bo Yun. And the enormous indoor pool (part of a 15,000-square-foot spa complex) has a giant movie screen at one end where classic black-and-white movies are shown.
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.
Burj Al Arab
In a city full of opulent hotels, the Burj al Arab is like no other. Located on its own private artificial island, the Burj is constructed like the sail of a boat—and has served as a shimmering symbol of glamour and opulence in Dubai's ever-evolving coastline since its completion in 1999. It's often mistakenly cited as the world's first seven star hotel (even the owner insist it's only five star) but one can hardly blame the world for jumping to such conclusions when the Burj boasts features such as its own helipad, a fleet of Rolls Royces, and a bridge that shoots jet flames to acknowledge the arrival of VIPs.
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.
Voyages Longitude 131°
Modeled after luxury safari camps in Africa, Longitude 131° aims to bring guests face-to-face with nature. The rooms are individual tents on stilts, with glass doors that look toward Uluru—the massive block of stone formerly known as Ayers Rock—and slide open to the desert.
Room to Book: Tents 12-15 have direct, uninterrupted views of Uluru.
Doubles from $1831 all inclusive (two-night minimum)
The Oberoi Udaivilas
Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp
Edwardian-style tented camps on a ridge in the western Serengeti.
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Located near Tokyo Station in the Mitsui Tower, the Mandarin Oriental rises above the historical merchant district of Nihonbashi—and enjoys unprecedented city views. Inside lies a sophisticated and modern oasis of calm. Hushed public areas complement its 178 understated rooms (including 21 suites), which feature the latest and greatest technology amenities—massive television screens will make you feel like you have your own private theater. The hotel’s exceptional restaurants include authentic Cantonese at Sense and French-inspired food at Signature. But for a unique dining experience, reserve one of the eight seats at the intimate, Tapas Molecular Bar, headed by Jeff Ramsey. In additional to standard treatments, the award-winning on-site spa, with its sauna, steam room, and pools, offers more unusual rituals, including Japanese kiatsu—a technique involving acupressure and energy work, performed in rooms with outstanding vistas. Plan extra spa time for a soak in the power-jet “vitality and tonic” pools after your treatment.
W Mexico City
To look out over Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue Mall with its leafy trees and august statues is one of the main charms at the Eliot. In your room, you’ll feel a pre-war, pied-à-terre grandeur that’s knit together via elegant sofas, tasteful draperies, and welcome amenities that include bathrobes and mini-bars.
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao
Positioned in the hills above the former royal capital (and now UNESCO World Heritage site) of Luang Prabang, this Orient-Express property is a charming luxury spa escape. As the first of its kind in the area, the Mekong Spa relies solely on local organic gardens and farms for ingredients that fuel its traditional Laotian herbal remedies and therapies, from the ambitiously titled Jet Lag Delight to the gentler Seven Flowers Royal Treatment. Guest suites contain rosewood furniture and Laotian cotton sofas, and are surrounded by fragrant frangipani. Sit by the freshwater infinity pool, laden with emerald tiles, while taking in the goose-bump-inducing view: lush mountains studded with golden pagodas and shrines.
Park Hyatt, Melbourne
Well-rounded 20-story hotel with Art Deco-style interiors and a top-notch spa, next to the Fitzroy Gardens downtown.
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).
Olissippo Lapa Palace
This hilltop hotel surrounded by gardens in the embassy district was built in 1870 as a private villa and feels straigh out of Old Hollywood. Enjoy the palm-shaded outdoor pool and the bird's-eye view of the city's red-tile roofs. Take a stroll through the hotel’s beautifully manicured gardens.
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.
The glistening cherry on the regional luxury hotel chain cake is the one, the only, Emirates Palace. Located along the corniche in Abu Dhabi, this behemoth hotel, which took a cool $3 billion to create and is operated by the Kempinski Group, is a glittering sand-colored palace of wonders. The sheer size of the property—it's just over 3,000 feet, wing to wing—will have you wishing you left a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back to your room (one of 394) as you explore the palace's 14 restaurants, private cinema, and more than 9,000,000 square feet of manicured gardens.
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.
Hôtel Chateau Eza
Secluded 17th-century hotel with modern bathrooms, stone balconies, and panoramic views abutting ancient rock walls in the medieval village.
Woodlands Inn, A Salamander Resort
If the walls at Woodlands weren’t so discreet, they’d tell a tale of antebellum grandeur, party-giving as civic duty, and romantic skullduggery. This 1906 neo-Georgian mansion with a whiff of Tara was commissioned by Pennsylvania railroad baron Robert Parsons as a winter getaway in Summerville, 24 miles outside Charleston. In Parsons’s time, Summerville was a destination for people who had a deep desire to be considered fashionable. One hundred years later, it remains a hot spot, thanks to Woodlands’ second act as a 19-room hotel in a setting of forests and formal gardens. At check-in, the tack-sharp concierge serves guests peach-infused iced tea, with orange slices and simple syrup on the side. And every time you turn around, someone is offering you a biscuit.
The Stafford London
With three very distinct buildings, this refined property offers something for everyone: The main house, fresh from a renovation, features tastefully appointed rooms with a traditional decor; rooms in the Carriage House have a country flair; and Stafford Mews houses modern suites that sprawl over seemingly endless square feet. The Game Bird offers modern British comfort cooking, featuring local, seasonal produce alongside time-honored British classics. Among other offerings, there is a classic Sunday Roast each weekend. At the American bar, more than 3,000 memorabilia items (knick-knacks, photographs, airplane models, ties) hang from the walls, and the in-house wine cellar specializes in Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Four Seasons Hotel, Cairo at the First Residence
Glass tower with Egyptian and Neoclassical design influences, overlooking the Pyramids, Botanical Gardens and the Nile.
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.
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.
Turnberry, A Luxury Collection Resort
The Scottish invented golf, and with Turnberry’s opening in 1906 they pioneered the golf resort as well. This is archetypal Scotland: a massive Edwardian estate on a rocky coastal bluff, miles of rolling countryside, a 19th-century lighthouse at land’s end, and two championship golf courses overlooking it all. Of Turnberry’s 150 rooms, 40 were redesigned and reappointed in 2009, with large casement windows—some framing the sea—and a tartan cashmere throw at the foot of each king-size bed.
Las Ventanas al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort
The Taj Mahal, the epic monument less than half a mile away, is undoubtedly the focal point at this 102-room luxury resort. Fusing Mughal and Moorish architecture, the property is a rich spread of reflection pools, terraced lawns, and a grand colonnaded entrance, while interiors are flourished with sandstone floors, French doors, and four-poster beds. If you can't get enough of the Ayurvedic amenities in your bathroom, head to the spa, where an extensive menu of treatments are inspired by ancient, Indian healing methods— some almost 5,000 years old—for both men and women. Take comfort in the fact that though the Taj Mahal is closed once a week, the close-up view from the hotel bar is open all week long.
Hotel Villa Cipriani
Former home of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with a garden overlooking the surrounding countryside.
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).
Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle De France
Curtain Bluff Resort
A dream location straddling two beaches—a protected swimming lagoon on the Caribbean side and a wilder, white-sand stretch along the Atlantic—has made Curtain Bluff a favored getaway since 1962. A clubby, old-world atmosphere pervades; many guests have been coming here for years and are on a first-name basis with staffers. The classic, colonial-era aesthetic also suffuses the resort’s 72 rooms and suites, outfitted with rattan and sea-grass furniture, tiled floors, and wide, white-louvered windows that look over the ocean. Apart from sunning and swimming, there’s tennis, squash, yoga classes, and water sports like water skiing and deep-sea fishing—none of which you’ll pay extra for, since the resort is all-inclusive.
Just south of Sydney Harbour, the InterContinental hotel is adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens and only a 10-minute walk from the Opera House. Rising from the sandstone façade of the 1851 Treasury Building, the hotel houses a total of 509 rooms and 28 suites, each decorated in warm neutral shades with deep purple accents. Many rooms have built-in window seats with panoramic views of the harbor, although the most impressive vantage point is the rooftop club lounge. Additional amenities include a salon, a health club with an indoor pool, and two restaurants serving modern European and international cuisine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About 25 minutes from Knoxville, Blackberry is like a south of the Mason-Dixon Line edition of a Currier & Ives print: ribbons of white fences, a pond stocked with catfish, and houses constructed from Tennessee fieldstone. Set on 4,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry’s 62 rooms—spread throughout the main house, three guesthouses, and 20 cottages—are done in a plush Anglo-American idiom, complete with fringed swags and decorative pillows in fancy fabrics. Regulation rockers are soldiered onto the front lawn for the day’s Big Moment: sundown with tumblers of Hirsch 20-year-old bourbon.
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.
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.
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.
Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley
A Norwegian-style chalet halfway up a peak at Deer Valley ski resort. When you drive up, valets will unload your skis from your car. Free guides will show you around the mountain. Ski magazine's readers have consistently voted it the best ski resort in America. The comfy-luxe hotel evokes holidays from a century ago. Sip mulled wine by the fire in a lobby decorated with Norwegian sleds, skis, ice skates, dolls, and elves. If you order a tree for your room, it'll be trimmed while you're on the slopes.
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
Since 1899, this pink-faced colonial beauty—just a stroll away from the Company Gardens—has been the reigning queen of Cape Town’s hotels. Originally built by a shipping magnate to host wealthy Europeans, “The Nellie” today is operated by Belmond and hosts celebs like Richard Gere and Paris Hilton. The property includes nine acres of sweeping lawns and rosebushes, burbling stone fountains and swimming pools; the 209 high-ceilinged guest rooms are sophisticated aeries, decked out in white and cream–colored damask, dark-wood antique furnishings, and (in many cases) dramatically canopied or swagged beds. Colonial-era tradition is observed during afternoon tea service in The Lounge, while modern-day decadence abounds at the new (opened in 2008) Librisa Spa.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
34 floors of polished, updated rooms and public spaces, plus the city’s largest outdoor pool. From the sky-high atrium lobby to the clubby hotel bar and spacious outdoor pool, this classic in the Rocks never disappoints. Best for Unbeatable service.
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.
Esperanza, an Auberge Resort
Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada
The grand dame of San Miguel's ever-expanding collection of luxury hotels, Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada (made up of six Spanish-colonial mansions) exudes colonial charm and laid-back stylishness.All 37 unique, colorfully painted rooms blend historic and modern furnishings, with tables, rugs, and headboards from the 18th and 19th centuries alongside hand-stenciled walls, talavera-tiled bathrooms, and copper bathtubs all made by local artisans. Suites have 12-foot-high beamed ceilings, fireplaces, and hand-carved French doors that open onto a central courtyard lush with geraniums, climbing bougainvillea, and jacaranda trees. There's also a small pool, a temezcal (traditional Mexican steam bath), and a sundeck with city and mountain views. Bonus points: the Blue Bar and Andanza restaurant, both contained within the main facility, are outstanding.
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.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace
Landmarked 179-room Art Nouveau masterpiece (gold mosaic towers; 19th-century stained-glass portraits; winter gardens) at the base of the Chain Bridge and a short walk from Vaci Street.
“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.
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
From its staff to its amenities, the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole—the first mountain resort from the luxury hotel family—set a new standard for both the brand and for luxury ski lodges throughout the U.S. when it opened a decade ago. All 156 rooms at the ski-in, ski-out resort have fireplaces and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. Staff members are experts in their field: a biologist gives wildlife tours in the summer, and adventure concierges lead guests down the slopes during the ski season. After a day hiking or on the slopes, head to the heated outdoor pool surrounded by three whirlpool hot tubs; dry off with heated robes and towels before heading to the new THB restaurant (which stands for The Handle Bar) and bar at the base of Teewinot lift for a whiskey on ice.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos Resort
Posada de Mike Rapu, Explora Rapa Nui
Explora’s LEED-certified lodge, which opened in 2007, offers accomodations worthy of its legendary (and legendarily remote) setting 3,700 miles off Chile's coast. Built to blend into the arid, rocky landscape, the Posada uses pine wood, local stone, and a cylindrical glass-heavy design endowing all 30 suites have enormous windows with broad views of the Pacific (good thing, because there are no TVs.) The property is paradise for active travelers: each morning, guests choose from a menu of excursions, including volcano treks, horseback rides along the coast (bring a picnic lunch!), and scuba dives. Explora has wisely hired almost all locals, and it's a treat to examine the moai—those giant basalt statues—up close as your guide explains their story the way his ancestors told it to him. At night, dinners of just-caught kana kana fish, island-grown vegetables, and South American wine are enjoyed on the restaurant's expansive terrace.
Park Hyatt Milan
Business travelers are especial fans of Milan’s Park Hyatt, located just five minutes from the stock exchange and financial district. The 24-hour Business Centre includes a multi-lingual staff, secretarial services, and several state-of-the-art boardrooms for meetings. Upstairs are 106 rooms and suites designed by architect Ed Tuttle that include subtle autumnal colors, a travertine work desk, marble bathrooms, Murano glass fixtures, and silk and velvet upholstery. The 30-foot glass cupola over the hotel’s lobby lounge makes it a hugely popular spot for Sunday lunch.
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai
A miniature Thai kingdom with 123 Lanna-inspired suites and villas on 60 acres that's the setting for a Buddhist prayer house, a 33,000-square-foot spa, and an arts-and-crafts village.
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.
Hotel Casa Santo Domingo
Long the preferred choice for luxury in Antigua—partly from inertia, but mostly because it deserves the attention—this 16th-century convent turned hotel has 129 distinct rooms, a colonial-art museum, and an archeological center. First-time guests are prone to pause in the complex's stone corridors to admire the wood-beam ceilings and meander about the religious statuary-dotted courtyards, which represent some of the best-preserved examples of colonial architecture in the UNESCO-protected town. Even basic rooms—once nuns' quarters—are a transporting experience, with stone hearths, antique furniture, and 17th-century oil paintings on the walls. Chipping paint, visiting tour groups, and unhurried service do little to diminish the magic of Casa Santo Domingo.
Reef House Resort & Spa
Formerly the The Sebel Reef House & Spa
Breezy 69-room resort with three pools and a great spa, between the rain forest and the reef in a beachside village just north of Cairns.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
Perched in the heart of downtown Chicago along the Chicago River, Trump International Hotel offers stunning views throughout all aspects of its 92-story frame. The 339 guest rooms, 23,000-square-foot spa, and modern-American restaurant, Sixteen, have floor-to-ceiling windows, providing photo ops of the city and river at almost every turn. Spacious accommodations allow plenty of room to relax, with custom furnishings, stainless steel kitchens, photos and artwork of Chicago landmarks, and wood accompaniments. The central location is within walking distance to the Art Institute, Chicago Riverwalk, and shopping along Michigan Avenue.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club
Wicker-furnished cottages on a palm-fringed 18th-century former sugar plantation.
ol Donyo Lodge
At Kenya's ol Donyo, Great Plains has partnered with the local Masai community to protect the area's wildlife while helping to support neighboring villages. While there, ride alongside a herd of giraffes on a horseback safari. Nights are spent in completely revitalized standalone thatched villas boasting cushy fabrics and elegant decor with views of the savannah below and Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. The balcony’s day beds make excellent napping spots. Baths feature indoor and outdoor showers and dual vanities. Most villas boast infinity plunge pools. Everything from candlelit dinners under the stars to daily laundry is included in the rates leaving guests with little to worry about beyond seeking out the Big Five.
Nights are spent in completely revitalized standalone thatched villas boasting cushy fabrics and elegant decor with views of the savannah below and Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. The balcony’s day beds make excellent napping spots. Baths feature indoor and outdoor showers and dual vanities. Most villas boast infinity plunge pools. Everything from candlelit dinners under the stars to daily laundry is included in the rates leaving guests with little to worry about beyond seeking out the Big Five.