Best Up-and-Coming Hotels 2012
Miami has something new to buzz about thanks to rocker Lenny Kravitz, nightlife guru Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés, and starchitect Philippe Starck, the celebrity dream team behind SLS South Beach—one of 2012’s biggest hotel openings.
Every year Travel + Leisure readers vote on their favorite hotels in the World’s Best Awards survey. Now it’s the editors’ turn. We’ve opened up our little black book to reveal up-and-coming properties like SLS South Beach that we suspect will become future survey winners. From recent openings to groundbreaking renovations, these are the hotels that savvy travelers should book now.
The T+L 2012 World’s Best Awards give us some clues to what is resonating with travelers. For the second year in a row, Tanzania safari camp Singita Grumeti Reserves took the No. 1 spot. Now it has a worthy new competitor: the Lamai Serengeti, Grumeti’s neighbor to the north, with a covetable front-row seat to the great wildebeest migration.
Tierra Patagonia, an eco-lodge set between Chile’s wild pampas and the glacial waters of Lake Sarmiento, is another stylish nature escape on our radar, especially since travel to South America is proving more popular than ever.
With the current Olympic fever, we’d be remiss not to spotlight the Corinthia Hotel London, an extravagant escape that emerged after hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into a Victorian government building south of Trafalgar Square. Across the channel, the Hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom is a dynamic addition to the Austrian hotel scene, complete with glittering glass on the Jean Nouvel–designed exterior and, inside, kaleidoscopic Pipilotti Rist art installations.
Plenty of other big-name hotel brands are branching out: more than 4,000 hotels opened in 2011 alone. The Park Hyatt brand made a splash, literally, with its new overwater property in the Maldives. The Viceroy redid a Riviera Maya resort to give it a boho, beach-chic sensibility, and St. Petersburg’s W Hotel is luring Russia’s fashion-centric new guard.
But you don’t have to cross continents to find a hot new hotel: the flagship Four Seasons Toronto is slated to open this fall, and the new Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch delivers cowboy charm on a 15,000-acre, century-old Wyoming ranch. Check out our complete list of the 15 hotels to watch in 2012.
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, WY
Opened in the fall of 2011 on a 13,000-acre, century-old cattle ranch, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is the newest entrant into the rough-luxe hotel scene in the West. The 37 rooms, split between the main lodge and restored log cabins, are all natural wood and supple leather, with cozy touches such as plaid wooly throws. The all-inclusive rate gives you the run of the place, right down to the hiking, mountain biking, and fly-fishing excursions—and even the always-open wine cellar.
From $720 per night, all inclusive; bushcreekranch.com.
SLS Hotel South Beach, Miami
This whimsical playground—the second property from nightlife impresario Sam Nazarian—is also the pedigreed product of designer Philippe Starck and star chef José Andrés. A $45 million makeover transformed an iconic Art Deco building into a fever dream of trompe l’oeil walls, phantasmagorical murals, and playful kitsch (a towering rubber ducky presides over the 8,000-square-foot pool party, Hyde Beach). The star power extends to the penthouse suite and a private bungalow, both designed by Lenny Kravitz’s new design company.
From $325 per night; slshotels.com.
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
To celebrate more than 50 banner years in the luxury hotel business, the Four Seasons in Toronto is treating itself to a new 55-story flagship hotel in the tony Yorkville area. Opening in Fall 2012, the hotel will have 259 serene rooms with massive bathrooms and a 30,000-square-foot spa courtesy of “it” design company Yabu Pushelberg. Sure to help the hotel’s ascension: preeminent chef Daniel Boulud will open both a Café Boulud and a dbar downstairs.
From $535 per night; fourseasons.com.
Corinthia Hotel London
London got its fair share of glam ahead of the Olympics, and it could be argued that the Corinthia Hotel is the city’s new hotel pièce de résistance. A $488 million conversion sexed up the Victorian bones of this former Ministry of Defense building with a David Collins–designed bar and restaurant, an ESPA spa, and over-the-top themed penthouse suites. But what won us over were the more subtle touches, including the smaller Northall restaurant and its British locavore menu.
From $595 per night; corinthia.com.
Hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, Austria
Vienna hotels have long scored top spots on our World’s Best Awards for their Old World charms. But the 2010 opening of the Jean Nouvel–designed Sofitel tells an entirely different hypermodern story. Impressive 21st-century design elements include projected video installations by avant-garde Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, a living wall of plants by notable landscape architect Patrick Blanc, and the buzzy Le Loft, a French-Austrian rooftop restaurant with 360-degree views of the city.
From $362 per night; sofitel.com.
Palazzo Margherita, Basilicata, Italy
Francis Ford Coppola’s new Palazzo Margherita, a nine-room estate in his grandfather’s birthplace, is as personal as it comes (his daughter, Sofia, married here in 2011). That makes it a perfect fit for T+L readers, who gravitate toward family-owned retreats in Italy. Inside, French designer Jacques Grange fashioned the 19th-century palazzo into an idyll of inlaid herringbone floors and hand-painted Moorish ceilings, with rambling gardens surrounding the property. Guests can get a taste of the area’s local charms in the screening room—stocked with 300 classic Italian films—and in the eat-in kitchen, where chefs lead classes in regional Lucania cuisine.
From $430 per night; palazzomargherita.com.
W St. Petersburg, Russia
The W St. Petersburg’s Spring 2011 opening marked the fashion-forward chain’s first foray into Eastern Europe and also brought a welcome dose of contemporary design to the city’s heart. Case in point: the 137 modern rooms are lit by Terzani disco ball–esque lamps and a Jacopo Foggini art installation. Now Russia’s new guard surveys the palaces of old from the hotel’s rooftop lounge, where the view extends to the Hermitage, just a five-minute walk from the hotel’s happening lobby.
From $550 per night; wstpetersburg.com.
Palacio Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco ranked as the top city in Central and South America in the 2012 World’s Best Awards, and now it has a blockbuster new hotel in the form of the Palacio Nazarenas, a 16th-century convent meticulously converted into an all-suite Orient-Express hotel. Inspiration for the interiors came from artifacts discovered during the renovation, including Incan sandals and Spanish colonial paintings, and the spa has glass floors highlighting the original Incan stonework below. Also on-site? The city’s first outdoor pool.
From $595 per night; palacionazarenas.com.
Tierra Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile
Chilean Patagonia has graduated from scruffy backpackerdom to luxe, eco-lodge haven. But getting there is still a challenge. For time-crunched travelers, the most accessible of the new clutch of adventure hotels is Tierra Patagonia, a beech-wood structure just 90 minutes from Puerto Natales. Here, set along a bluff between the wide-open pampas and turquoise waters of Lake Sarmiento, the roster of outdoor-centric activities includes nature hikes, horseback riding, glacier walks, and Chilean wine-tasting for sybarites.
From $1,950 per person for three nights, all-inclusive; tierrapatagonia.com.
Park Hyatt Maldives, Hadahaa, Maldives
Clean, modern design and impeccable service make Park Hyatt hotels a favorite of Travel + Leisure readers. And the chain’s new private-island Maldives property is no exception. Villas are set above the Indian Ocean or within pockets of lush tropical vegetation; all have decks and outdoor rainshowers and butler service, and many have plunge pools or private beach access. Also on offer: a PADI 5-Star dive center, two pools, yoga classes, and the Maldivian Vidhun Spa, with five private couples treatment villas.
From $884 per night; park.hyatt.com.
Viceroy Riviera Maya, Mexico
Travel + Leisure readers love the romantic seclusion of properties in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, so we’re betting that a stylish 2012 conversion of the former Tides hotel will mean its return to the World’s Best Awards list. Eleven new oasis-like suites (all with private plunge pools, outdoor showers, and tubs big enough for two) are the hotel’s first oceanfront accommodations—a boon that makes a big difference for travelers hoping to fall asleep to the sound of the surf.
From $305 per night; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com.
Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore
Singapore’s Fullerton Hotel debuted on the World’s Best Awards list in 2012, and thanks to design star Andre Fu, its newer sister hotel, Fullerton Bay, likely won’t be far behind. Set on a 1930s pier, this 2010 property bridges Singapore’s colonial past and its cosmopolitan future with a mix of vintage and Modernist staples (antique nautical maps and leather Eames chairs). Locals pack the sexy rooftop Lantern bar, which curves beside the 82-foot infinity pool.
From $410 per night; fullertonbayhotel.com.
Oberoi Gurgaon, India
The Indian city of Gurgaon, 19 miles south of Delhi, is poised to become one of the world’s top business and tech centers. And the proper home base for its savvy visitors is the new Oberoi Gurgaon. Set on nine lush acres, the futuristic glass hotel seems to float above a 36,000-square-foot reflecting pool with teak decks for alfresco dining. The hotel has some of the largest rooms in India, a 24/7 spa, and a gallery of contemporary Indian art, and we bet that the lobby-side floating orb of red carnations is sure to ignite a design trend.
From $706 per night; oberoihotels.com.
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is becoming a who’s who of contemporary architecture, its nascent skyline shaped by Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, and Jean Nouvel. This 66-floor sculptural mass of glass and steel captured our imagination right away. Selections from the owner’s private art collection add cultural context to the understated-for-the-Emirates interiors. On the 63rd floor you’ll find the city’s hottest table, the Asian tasting menu spot Quest, and out back, a fully serviced beach club.
From $327 per night; jumeirah.com.
Lamai Serengeti, Serengeti, Tanzania
A front-row seat to the great wildebeest migration? Coming right up, courtesy of Lamai Serengeti, one of a few hotels to open in this formerly off-limits stretch of the Tanzanian national park. T+L editors love the natural rock swimming pool and how the thatched open-air villas blend seamlessly into the rugged Kogakuria Kopje; travelers will love that the lodge’s privileged location means crowd-free sightings of the big five and the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara River between July and October.
From $4,300 per week, all-inclusive (with the exception of internal flights and park fees); nomad-tanzania.com.