Best Up-and-Coming Hotels
These 15 new hotels are on our radar to contend for Travel + Leisure’s next World’s Best Awards.
Picture yourself swimming under waterfalls during the day, and returning each night to a brand-new eco-retreat for a locally sourced dinner. That’s the experience at the new Cicada Lodge in Australia’s Northern Territory, a resort that’s 100 percent owned and operated by the indigenous Jawoyn people.
The hotel industry is always changing—building, renovating, and reopening properties every day. Here are Travel + Leisure editors’ picks of new and renovated hotels we believe may become future winners of our annual World’s Best Awards survey (including a few that distinguished themselves on T+L’s It List of best new hotels).
You’ll find great new properties all over the globe. In St. Petersburg, Russia, the decade-long transformation of a 19th-century royal palace into a Four Seasons marks the company’s most ambitious restoration project. And in Tanzania, Singita has opened the Mara River Tented Camp; its forward-thinking solar-powered tents may help the new camp win readers’ votes in the next survey.
But you don’t have to travel far to find some of the best new hotels: Langham Chicago is set to open later this summer in a landmark Mies van der Rohe building, and Orient-Express brought its personalized brand of luxury to the newly restored El Encanto in Santa Barbara, CA.
There have also been many notable renovations this year. In the Caribbean, two in particular grabbed our attention: St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, and Puerto Rico’s Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. After multimillion-dollar revamps, both of these two classic resorts are back on the top of Caribbean luxury-seekers’ must-see lists.
Check out our complete list of the 15 hotels to watch in 2013.
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
J.K. Place Roma, Italy
After taking Florence and Capri by storm, Israeli hotelier Ori Kafri’s next project is set to open in late summer 2013 in Rome. Rosewood canopy beds and Italian marble bathrooms await guests in the 30 guest rooms and suites designed by architect Michele Bonan. Next to the Palazzo Borghese and just minutes from the Spanish Steps, J.K. Place is located in the University of Rome’s former architectural school building. Its updated design promises a much-needed breath of fresh air, as does the rooftop bar, where visitors can marvel at the Eternal City from above. jkroma.com. $$$$
Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, Russia
The latest in a string of heritage hotels from Four Seasons (including 2013 World’s Best winners in Budapest, Istanbul, and Florence), the Lion Palace is the brand’s most ambitious restoration yet. The transformation of this former palace, guarded by a pair of lion statues for nearly two centuries, into a 177-room hotel has taken nearly a decade and was completed in July 2013. The building’s original design—triangular in shape, featuring high ceilings and an elegant grand staircase—has been painstakingly restored, with the expected modern comforts of a Four Seasons property (the all-marble bathrooms, for example, are new). A stone’s throw away from St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Hermitage complex, the bright yellow building is itself a site worth seeing. Pushkin certainly thought so: Russia’s most famous poet mentions the palace and its lion statues in his poem “The Bronze Horseman.” fourseasons.com. $$$
Opened in July 2013, the Langham Chicago is located in a landmark Mies van der Rohe building with floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for maximum views of the Chicago River and city skyline. The sense of openness extends into the bathrooms, whose “Reveal” glass walls switch from transparent to opaque at the push of a button. Use of travertine marble throughout the property is just one of the many signs this hotel will be one of Chicago’s classiest. Enjoy Tiffin at The Langham, the brand’s signature tea service, which originated at the London property in 1865. Custom teas, champagne, and light fare, all accompanied by live music, are served in the hotel’s second-floor Pavilion restaurant. langhamhotels.com. $$$
Travel + Leisure readers voted Oberoi Hotels & Resorts the world’s best hotel brand and ranked five of its properties into the top 100 of the World’s Best Hotels. In other words, anything Oberoi does is likely to make a splash, and the brand’s newest property, which opened in June 2013 in Dubai, is no exception. The property’s 252 rooms are finished in muted colors, with red accents and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide views of Dubai’s impressive skyline. oberoihotels.com. $$$$
Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul
With hotels like the Shangri-La Bosphorus opening up, it’s no wonder that T+L readers voted Istanbul their favorite city in Europe. Housed in a former tobacco warehouse, this May 2013 property features more than 1,000 pieces of original art, a three-level atrium, and water views over the Straight in more than half of its 186 guest rooms. At a minimum of 450 square feet each, these rooms are the largest accommodations in Istanbul. Extensive spa and hammam facilities are lined with local tiles and offer both Asian and Turkish treatments. shangri-la.com. $$$$
Mandarin Oriental Shanghai
Hong Kong–based Mandarin Oriental opened its first property in mainland China’s commercial hub in April 2013. Each of the 362 rooms and suites utilize subdued, creamy tones and afford enviable views of the city below. A favorite among art acolytes, Mandarin Oriental has outdone itself at this newest outpost, where big-name contemporary Chinese artists like Lai De Quan contributed a staggering total of 4,000 original works. Miao Tong’s mosaic wall in the lobby of a forest scene is a favorite. mandarinoriental.com. $$$
El Encanto (Orient-Express), Santa Barbara, CA
The storied El Encanto, once a favorite of A-listers such as Clark Gable, reopened in March 2013 after extensive renovations as the first West Coast resort from Orient-Express Hotels. Its 92 California Craftsman and Spanish-colonial-revival bungalows cover the lush, seven-acre property. Pillows monogrammed with guests’ initials and mohair loveseats are luxurious touches, while plantation-style shutters and a hammock give the hotel a down-to-earth feel—this is Santa Barbara, after all. Its farm-to-fork restaurant is the hotel’s star attraction, where chef Patrice Martineau serves California coastal cuisine, including aged white cheddar made with milk from Ellie, El Encanto’s very own cow, which lives at a nearby farm. $$$$
Cicada Lodge, Australia
The indigenous Jawoyn people of Australia’s Northern Territory opened this destination lodge in February 2013 along the Katherine River in the cliff-lined Nitmiluk Gorge. Its 18 airy rooms showcase original pieces by local aboriginal artists, and collected monsoon waters pour from the custom-designed “raindrop” showerheads. Activities abound at Cicada—from swimming under pristine waterfalls and helicoptering to prehistoric rock-art sites to canoeing down the gorge and taking guided wildlife tours. Completely indigenous owned and operated, Cicada Lodge is well on its way to fulfilling its two-sided goal: put the region on traveler’s map while preserving the Jawoyn culture. cicadalodge.com.au. $$$$
Taj Palace Marrakech, Morocco
Taj Hotels have never been known for subtlety, but this 161-room property that opened in December 2012 is truly the brand’s pièce de résistance. Seven years in the making, it blends architectural styles—Moorish, Venetian, Indian, Moroccan, and Thai influences are all on display. Swarovski-festooned curtains, ornate chandeliers, and nearly two miles’ worth of gold leaf keep the interiors shiny, while the building’s five domes compete for attention with the Atlas Mountains in the distance. Over-the-top design is matched by top-notch service: personal butlers for every room and an array of activities ranging from paragliding to camel rides. tajhotels.com. $$$$
Singita Mara River Tented Camp, Tanzania
A commitment to providing access to some of Africa’s best game-viewing, while minimizing environmental impact and maximizing comfort, has earned Singita’s properties repeat appearances in the World’s Best Awards. Situated on a bend in the Mara River and overlooking the Serengeti, Singita’s newest property, which opened in November 2012, just may join the list soon. Renowned Cape Town–based interior design firm Cécile & Boyd’s built the solar-powered camp to be 100 percent off-the-grid, and utilized local designs in the six sunrise-facing tents—a friendly reminder to guests to wake up early for the best wildlife spotting. singita.com. $$$$$
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Puerto Rico
Ritz-Carlton invested $342 million to bring this 1958 property, built by Laurance S. Rockefeller, back to its former glory for its December 2012 reopening. Many of the resort’s beachfront bungalows, decorated in cream-colored fabrics with soothing sand-colored walls, come with private plunge pools. Foodies love Mi Casa, a Puerto Rican–inspired restaurant that marks chef José Andrés’s first foray outside of the United States. Once the hotel of choice for luminaries including JFK, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ava Gardner, Dorado Beach is again attracting big names—football fans might spot New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in the five-acre Spa Botánico. $$$$$
Live Aqua Bosques, Mexico City
Situated on a hillside 50 minutes from downtown Mexico City, Live Aqua Bosques has been a haven for techies since its November 2012 opening: motorized drapes, in-room aromatherapy, and ambient lighting enhance the 135 guest rooms and suites, decorated in champagne and platinum hues. Each floor comes with a dedicated concierge, ready to help guests secure hard-to-catch reservations in the city. posadas.com. $$
Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, St. Lucia
A $100 million rebranding of the former Jalousie Plantation put St. Lucia back on the top of every Caribbean luxury-seeker’s bucket list since its reopening in November 2012. Wedged between the towering Pitons—a UNESCO World Heritage site—and facing the turquoise sea, Sugar Beach is a seductive hideaway. The resort’s 78 white-on-white accommodations, including 59 new villas, blend classic plantation-style architecture with indigenous art and modern comforts. $$$
W Singapore Sentosa Cove
In this business-focused city, the W Singapore is shaking things up. With psychedelic lighting, whimsical wood details, and elevators lined with printed red leather, it’s a far cry from traditional. But it’s more than just contemporary design that has set the W apart from other Singapore properties since its September 2012 opening. The hotel expresses a “work hard, play hard” attitude, providing a space where top executives attend fashion shows and music events hosted by renowned DJs. The WOOBAR lounge, where guests can relax in custom-made swinging chairs, transitions from casual meeting space by day to party hot spot by night. wsingaporesentosacove.com. $$
Refugia Lodge, Chiloé, Chile
Opened in September 2012, this contemporary retreat is a game changer for Patagonia’s west coast. Effortlessly bridging the traditional and the avant-garde, Refugia is the first luxury lodge on Chiloé, an island known for its pristine forests and historic wooden churches (recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites). The lodge, a shiplike structure of wooden shingles and large glass walls, houses 12 rooms, each with sweeping water views and furnishings crafted by local artisans. Guests rave about Refugia’s range of outdoor activities, from the excursions on the hotel’s custom-built boat to penguin colony visits and horseback riding. $$$$