It List 2016: the Best New Hotels on the Planet
What makes a hotel rank among one of the most exciting openings in the world? This year, it came down to three factors: a killer location, impeccable design, and the ability to bring something totally new to the table. Take for example Pumphouse Point, a daring boutique property set in an old hydroelectric plant in the middle of Tasmania’s Lake St. Clair National Park: it’s bringing luxury to a destination that has never known it. Then there’s the debut property from Baccarat Hotels & Residences in T+L’s hometown of New York City. It has crystal everywhere—even the tumblers on your bathroom sink are made by the iconic brand—making it the most over-the-top debut to hit a city filled with over-the-top debuts. Compare it to the Soho House Istanbul, which bring cutting edge design to the old American embassy building in Beyoğlu. Even in a city that continues to reinvent itself, the property feels ahead the trend with its three constantly-packed restaurants, speakeasy style bar, and a buzzy rooftop pool.
All of the properties on our list opened in 2015, but there are a few notable exceptions: among them, there’s the legendary Lanesborough in London and Ashford Castle in Ireland. Both were completely redone in the past year, and are gleaming with new rooms and amenities (the butler service at the Lanesborough earned some serious raves). And of course, there’s Esperanza, an Auberge Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where competition to make the cut was perhaps the most intense (nearly every property made enhancements after last year’s devastating hurricane).
It goes without saying that narrowing down the choices was no small feat. Our team of editors and contributors looked at a whopping 300-plus openings before deciding on a shortlist worth checking into. From there, we dispatched our reviewers and saw which candidates stood up to the test: ordering room service, vetting the spas, checking out the signature dishes at restaurants, and in some cases, jumping on beds. (It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.)
What you’ll find here is a definitive list of hotels worth putting on your bucket list—and if it’s anything like It Lists past, these are the properties that will become instant classics. Consider them opportunities to explore your favorite cities in fresh ways or new excuses to head to the last place you ever imagined. We promise: you won’t regret it.
Edited by Jacqueline Gifford and Nikki Ekstein.
Reporting by Max Anderson, Jesse Ashlock, Tom Austin, Inbal Baum, Christopher Beam, Jeffries Blackerby, Jane H. Broughton, Sara Clemence, Britt Collins, Winsor Dobbin, Nikki Ekstein, Andrew Bradley Ferren, Sarah Firshein, Thessaly La Force, Jacqueline Gifford, Caroline Hallemann, Becca Hensley, David A. Keeps, Millie Kerr, Amelia Lester, Sarah Greaves Gabbadon, Nathan Lump, Alexandra Marshall, Emily Mathieson, Lacy Morris, Ashley Niedringhaus, Pat Nourse, Aoife O’Riordain, Corina Quinn, Marzena Romanowska, Cynthia Ann Rosenfeld, Alexander Schechter, Michael Snyder, Flora Stubbs, Gisela Williams-Kramer, Stephen Whitlock, Stephanie Wu
L’Horizon in Palm Springs, California
The Mad Men look may be everywhere these days, but at L’Horizon—a 1952 estate once frequented by Ronald Reagan and Marilyn Monroe—Midcentury Modern isn’t just a trend, it’s built into the property’s DNA. Originally designed by desert architect William Cody for a Los Angeles power couple, L’Horizon has been brought up to date by designer to the stars Steve Hermann, who kept its lovely bones (post-and-beam ceilings, glass walls with mesmerizing mountain views) and added a restaurant helemd by El Bulli veteran Giacomo Pettinari. The 25 rooms have a sexy weekend-away vibe, with vintage architectural photography, cowhide rugs, and outdoor showers—though some oversights, like impractically placed light switches, suggest a preference for form over function. No matter: thoughtful touches like personalized brass nameplates on each door make every guest feel like a VIP. lhorizonpalmsprings.com; doubles from $605.
Baccarat Hotels & Residences in New York City
Even in New York City, true five-star hotel debuts are still fairly rare. The Baccarat, however, clearly means business. What sets it apart is the ambitiousness of its opulence: think crystal chandeliers, crystal vases, and walls of crystal, plus antique pieces on loan from the French government. This is Luxury—yes, with a capital L—designed for a crowd of global nomads who move between London and Shanghai and Dubai and give the bar an atmosphere that’s a far cry from the minimalism of MoMA across the street. For all the glitz, however, the guest rooms are both serene and restrained, done in a brisk, tailored style that features a neutral palette, extravagant marble baths, and thoughtful use of technology. And there are only 114 of them, small for a hotel of this type, which translates into an experience with a surprising degree of intimacy. baccarathotels.com; doubles from $899.
Chicago Athletic Association
When Windy City native John Pritzker, the Chairman of Commune Hotels and Resorts, decided to turn the 100-year-old Chicago Athletic Association building into a luxury hotel, the whole city seemed to perk up. And with good reason. The long-dormant building—built for the 1893 World’s Fair—had been the subject of local lore: a place where politicians brought their mistresses and where many Chicagoans’ grandparents have cherished memories. Now the second-floor steak house from the 1920s has been reimagined by the culinary superheroes from Longman & Eagle, the subway tiled speakeasy serves coffee by day and scotch by night, and the former Turkish baths have given way to a Shake Shack. Upstairs, the Roman & Williams–designed rooms are filled with references to the building’s history, from wrestling-inspired robes (“One size fits : Featherweights, welterweights, & heavyweights,” they proclaim) to the desks, which resemble monkey bars. But they’re also thoroughly modern, with Bluetooth-enabled speakers and a mini-bar that can actually be put to use making proper cocktails. chicagoathletichotel.com; doubles from $229.
Faena in Miami Beach
Developer Alan Faena tasked Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin with helping him reimagine the historic Saxony Hotel, the anchor of his six-block-long cultural district. The result? A surreal mash-up evocative of late-period Gianni Versace and the Moulin Rouge. The lobby of Faena has eight Juan Gatti murals, including neo-Baroque images of skulls and horses. In the garden is Damien Hirst’s Gone But Not Forgotten, a giant 24-karat-gold-gilded woolly-mammoth skeleton. Los Fuegos, Francis Mallmann’s first U.S. project, serves a rib eye with chimichurri that transcends the hype. And the guest rooms are over the top, with red velvet armchairs and turquoise carpeting. Up next is an arts center by Rem Koolhaas/OMA. Brace yourself, America: the FaenaLand invasion has begun. faena.com; doubles from $745.
Hotel Emma in San Antonio, Texas
Some are calling San Antonio Texas’s next capital of cool—and Hotel Emma is at the center of it all. A brewery turned hotel sounds like a hipster cliché, but the Roman & Williams–designed showstopper advances the industrial-chic aesthetic. Its 146 character-packed rooms have original stonework and vaulted ceilings, along with an urban edge (guayabera-inspired seersucker robes, exposed steel window frames). The Emma also fits in with its epicurean neighbors: the on-site larder stocks breads from nearby Bakery Lorraine, the restaurant draws from the biweekly farmers’ market, and throwback iceboxes in each room hold the fixings for margaritas. Be sure to hit the bar Sternewirth—the former watering hole for brewery workers, which dates to 1883—where old fermentation tanks double as banquette seats. thehotelemma.com; doubles from $325.
Ivy Hotel in Baltimore
How do you know when an up-and-coming city is ready for the spotlight? In once-gritty Baltimore, the opening of the Ivy, an urban resort by Relais & Châteaux, is a surefire sign. Located in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood—a few blocks away from the avant-garde Center Stage theater and just 10 minutes away from the restaurant-packed Hampden district—the refurbished 1889 mansion has 18 sumptuous rooms, each one different from the next. Most have plush four-poster beds draped with modern printed fabrics, gas fireplaces, and “bar-moires” designed by local artists; they’re like luxe country cabins in the middle of the city. Each guest gets a complimentary glass of champagne and a guided tour upon check-in—part of a “highly inclusive” philosophy that extends to gratuities, cocktails, and private car service. Not included but worth the splurge: the Diamond Energy facial at the small but lovely on-site spa. Charm City, indeed. theivybaltimore.com; doubles from $500.
Mama Shelter in Los Angeles
If “Hashtag L.A.” were an aesthetic, its ultimate expression would be the 70-room Mama Shelter. The first U.S. location of the French boutique hotel chain—known for its whimsical Philippe Starck interiors and wallet-friendly prices—is tucked into a 1930s building between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Its design (by Starck protégé Thierry Gaugain) includes colorful graffiti and mismatched vintage furniture in the lobby and a bright, airy restaurant that serves a mean duck confit. Like so many things in this city, though, Mama Shelter is more than just a pretty face. The beds are extraordinarily plush, the marble-tiled bathrooms have custom-made organic skin-care products by Absolution, and the bedside tables are piled up with movie scripts (in our room: The Big Lebowski and Swingers). Sure, the hipster touches can be over the top—forget your toothpaste and you’ll be paying $8 for a carry-on-size tube of Marvis. But let that ultracool, loungey atmosphere and those Hollywood Hills views do their thing, and soon you, too, will be dreaming of your big break. mamashelter.com; doubles from $159.
Palace Hotel in San Francisco
When it first opened its doors in 1875, the Palace was the epitome of grandeur in a bustling new city. Now, after a top-to-bottom refresh, the hotel has joined the Luxury Collection and reclaimed the superlative—just in time for San Francisco’s second golden age. The lobby’s landmarked Garden Court is prime for people-watching; its restored stained-glass ceiling, marble columns, and dazzling chandeliers are perhaps even more impressive than they ever before. The beauty extends to the 556 rooms, which have been updated in a pleasing gray on ecru color scheme. Suites are worth the splurge, particularly if it’s a corner one with a massive sitting room that overlooks the busy streets below. And don’t forget to pack a swimsuit: the glass-domed indoor swimming pool is an urban oasis that’s not to be missed. sfpalace.com; doubles from $255.
South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas
Austin has cool kids in spades—but it’s in strangely short supply of cool hotels. (Visit during the annual SXSW festival and you’re practically forced to book through Airbnb.) Enter the South Congress, which takes everything you love about the Live Music Capital of the World and rolls it into a three-story structure on ultra-vibrant South Congress Avenue. Its 83 rooms are done up in masculine materials like denim, exposed concrete, and brown leather, brightened up by streams of sunlight that pour in through oversize windows. The real action is in the common spaces, though, which include three restaurants—including the city’s long-awaited , Otoko—and cult New York import nail salon Tenoverten. southcongresshotel.com; doubles from $320.
1 Hotel South Beach in Miami Beach
South Beach is famous for many things—but truly comfortable, non-nightlife-centric hotels are not its strong suit. That’s what makes this oceanfront property, the debut effort from a new green-leaning brand, all the more refreshing. The smallest rooms start at a palatial 700 square feet; they have bathtubs you could almost swim in, cushy white
sectionals, and king-size beds raised on reclaimed-wood platforms. The eco-friendly touches include a living wall on the façade, organic-cotton sheets, and triple-filtered water in the taps (begone, plastic bottles). But this is Miami, after all—so there are four Instagram-worthy pools, including one on the rooftop. 1hotels.com; doubles from $699.
Arctic Light Hotel in Rovaniemi, Finland
Why make the trek to Rovaniemi, a remote city in the heart of Finnish Lapland? Well, it’s the official hometown of Santa Claus, complete with a holiday village; the views of the northern lights are unparalleled; and there’s now a stylish hotel to welcome adventurous souls in from the cold. Set in the former city hall, the 57-room Arctic Light Hotel celebrates its northerliness to the extreme, delicately walking the line between cool and kitsch with star-spangled headboards, impressive black-and-white photos of native Laplanders, and an 11-foot-tall wooden polar bear standing beside the entrance. (Parents, take note: there’s even a Santa’s Suite with a Christmas tree.) Service couldn’t be friendlier, and the lobby is an inviting, warm space in which to gather before venturing out on a dogsled ride. Staying in is also an option: the Arctic Boulevard restaurant incorporates local ingredients in sophisticated, hearty dishes like lobster bisque with sweet hay. arcticlighthotel.fi; doubles from $271.
Ashford Castle in Lough Corrib, Ireland
Ashford Castle has had many acts: in the 13th century, it was a fortress; in the 19th, it was the Guinness family’s country estate; and in the 20th, it became a hotel and served as the backdrop for John Ford’s The Quiet Man. Last year, the property emerged from a $50 million revamp by its new owner, Red Carnation Hotels, to once again be Ireland’s finest retreat. The 82 unique rooms, which needed a little TLC, still feel classic, but have been freshened up with sumptuous new fabrics, elegant antiques, and red, green, or blue color schemes. Longtime visitors to the 350-acre estate will find that favorite pastimes like falconry, archery, and horseback riding are all still in play. But there are a host of new diversions, including a swimming pool, billiards room, and plush, 32-seat cinema, to take it into the 21st century. ashfordcastle.com; doubles from $265.
Batty Langley’s in London
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to time-travel to the 18th century, now’s your chance to find out. Set in cobblestoned Spitalfields—once an area home to vagabonds and thieves, and now London’s most of-the-moment neighborhood—Batty Langley’s is the brainchild of hoteliers Peter McKay and Douglas Blain (you may be familiar with their first endeavor, Hazlitt’s). The duo restored two Georgian town houses to design perfection, and named their project after a celebrated architect from the era. To enter this exclusive address, you’ve got to ring a special bell (only overnight guests can get past the locked front door). Once inside, you’ll find spacious ground-floor rooms including a parlor and library—but no buzzing restaurant, and that’s intentional. The 29 guest rooms drip with authentic period details, from the carved-oak four-posters and oil paintings to the cast-iron roll-top baths—think Downton Abbey right in the heart of town. battylangleys.com; doubles from $438.
Cotton House Hotel in Barcelona
If a city hotel could ever mimic the why-bother-going-out feeling of a resort, it would be the Cotton House. Set in a 19th-century Neoclassical landmark—once the Cotton Producers Guild—the 83-room gem from Autograph Collection has been deftly reinvented by designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán. His preservation of many original features, like the spiral staircase, tiled floors, and intricately carved ceilings, gives the lobby a sense of history. The location by the boutiques of Passeig de Gràcia is another plus. None-theless, we saw guests content to stay on-property, lounging by the rooftop pool and reading in the library. hotelcottonhouse.com; doubles from $263.
Domaine des Étangs in Massignac, France
The French countryside is not short on château hotels with magnificent gardens. But the Domaine des Étangs, in the pastoral Charentes département, takes the conceit to a whole new level. This restful retreat, once the vacation home of the Primat-Schlumberger family, is set on 2,500 practically virgin acres. And it’s all yours to roam in total freedom, be it on horseback, mountain bike, or in an electric car. As for the main house, rising design star Isabelle Stanislas restored the 11th-century building’s great bones, mixing in chic contemporary furniture and fixtures by Philippe Nigro and Michael Anastassiades (along with some pieces of her own design), and photography and art by the likes of Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hans-Peter Feldmann. Six old stone cabins are also bookable for families, a rare consideration in the French five-star universe. A former chef at the French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park provides hearty locavore fine dining, magnificent in-cabin dinners (complete with waitstaff), and perfect picnic baskets. Staff is friendly and efficient, but otherwise invisible, so as not to interfere with anyone’s idyll. domainedesetangs.com; doubles from $652.
The Gainsborough in Bath, England
The arrival of this 99-room retreat comes with much fanfare. YTL Hotels and Champalimaud Design meticulously restored two landmark limestone buildings (one a former hospital) into a thoroughly modern retreat. Inside, black four-posters, neck-craningly high ceilings, and a distinguished color scheme of dusky mustard and heritage blue are a soothing, pared-down precursor to the pièce de résistance: the spa village. The hotel is built directly above mineral-rich thermal springs, allowing guests to make like the Romans and simply float in three heated pools, or go 21st-century with a Watsu treatment and aromatherapy massage. Don’t miss the signature drink: hot cocoa with a cardamom kick. thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk; doubles from $400.
Hôtel des Galeries in Brussels
Brussels is Europe’s next great art capital, and now it has a showstopping hotel to match. The passion project of prolific art collector Nadine Flammarion, the Hôtel des Galeries is a 23-room ode to modern aesthetics set in the city’s historic center. At its doorstep is the epitome of European charm—the neighborhood is pedestrian-only, and a soaring 19th-century shopping arcade is next door—but indoors, it’s a whitewashed dream punctuated by Marimekko accent pillows and dramatic pops of color (fire red velvet curtains, foyers in vivid shades of green). The standout spaces are the bathrooms, lined with glossy, jewel-toned geometric tiles designed by the owner’s daughter, who also created the ceramic side tables in many of the rooms. And if those custom pieces don’t wow you, head up to the property’s mezzanine level, where you’ll find a kaleidoscope-like art installation by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren that was painstakingly crafted from dozens of colored plexiglass squares. hoteldesgaleries.be; doubles from $163.
House Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey
The first thing that distinguishes the House Hotel is its location in Ortahisar, a picturesque village off Cappadocia’s main tourist track. Gone is the stuffy, museum-like quality found in many of the region’s properties: the 29 understated guest rooms deftly blend past and present, with frescoes and fifth-century natural stone walls alongside rain showers and heated Turkish-marble floors. The designers know you’re going to be outside exploring the iconic fairy chimneys—and yes, you should take one of those now-ubiquitous hot-air-balloon rides—which is why many of the rooms have fireplaces and tubs to take off the chill. At check-in, ask for a crisp glass of white wine made from Emir, a grape native to the region. thehousehotel.com; doubles from $141.
The Hoxton in Amsterdam
These days, everyone wants to cater to monied millennials. Hoxton manages to do just that—without alienating anyone else—with its own youthful breed of hospitality. Want tickets to the Van Gogh Museum? A staffer will show you a hard-to-find website for VIP access. Want breakfast in bed? Hang a paper bag outside your door, and it’ll be loaded up with fruit and yogurt by morning. And if you feel like the DIY spirit is incongruous with the stunning rooms—some with ornamented ceilings and canal views—think again. The Hoxton knows that those who march to their own tune can still appreciate a good Brunello. thehoxton.com; doubles from $135.
JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Venice
Tucked away on peaceful Isola delle Rose—but just a 20-minute boat ride from bustling St. Mark’s Square—the JW Marriott offers a respite from Venice’s tourist swell. The island was artificially created in 1870 (which explains its rectangular shape), and the hotel is housed in a former hospital that was built in the early 1900s (which explains some funky designs and entrances). But this is Venice, a place that will never escape its own history, and despite such quirks, the hotel is a wonderful place to stay—particularly for families, who often feel cramped in the city’s otherwise small rooms. The property’s grounds, all windswept willow trees and expansive green lawns, are pretty and quiet. The clean-lined, spacious, and light-filled rooms are tasteful and not overwrought. A rooftop terrace with a sexy pool overlooking the city offers a view like a Turner painting, and the bar serves a great negroni, updated just enough not to feel too fussy. jwvenice.com; doubles from $387.
La Fiermontina in Lecce, Italy
Puglia’s most sophisticated resort yet is the project of French-Puglian businessman Giacomo Fiermonte and Roberto Benigni’s set director, the local architect Antonio Annicchiarico. Together, they spent 10 years masterfully building a hotel around the ruins of a 17th-century house within the massive stone ramparts of Lecce’s centro storico. To preserve a sense of place, the pair chose soft Barocco Leccese limestone—an indigenous material used to carve the city’s 18th-century Baroque churches—for the exterior. French design firm Charles-Philippe & Christophe then scattered local fishing baskets, Italian furniture, and elegant European antiques and art from the owner’s personal collection—including pieces by Le Corbusier and Tobia Scarpa—in the public spaces and 16 individually decorated rooms. It all feels as if you’re staying in a friend’s effortlessly chic private home, complete with a swimming pool, 200-year-old olive trees, and beautiful sculptures, including a Cubist couple by Fernand Léger. lafiermontina.com; doubles from $230.
La Grande Maison in Bordeaux, France
What do you get when French wine magnate Bernard Magrez and celebrated chef Joël Robuchon team up on a hotel-restaurant project in Bordeaux? A total feast for the senses. They spared no expense revitalizing this 19th-century mansion: the dining rooms are unabashedly formal, with Christofle silverware, Baccarat tumblers, and cart service with 10 types of house-made breads. In the six individually decorated guest rooms, you’ll find eclectic patterned wallpaper, Carrara-marble bathrooms, and a handwritten welcome note from Magrez himself. And the wine cellar, as you might expect, stocks the region’s best—all of the Grands Crus Classés—but concierges can always arrange for château tours if you want to go straight to the source. lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com; doubles from $428.
The Lanesborough in London
After an 18-month renovation that cost a rumored $70 million, this Knightsbridge landmark is somehow more grand than before. Under the watch of Oetker Collection, the austere Regency building was practically gutted and filled back up with crystal chandeliers, parquet floors, and antiques. The opulence extends to the 93 rooms, each with 18th-century paintings and mahogany writing desks. Afternoon tea at Céleste is an exercise in old-school finesse, where polished staff deliver warm scones and cucumber sandwiches on floral bone china. The only indication that you’re in the year 2016 is that your butler can be summoned at any hour of the day—via iPad. lanesborough.com; doubles from $876.
Phum Baitang in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat tops many a bucket list, but the crowds can make seeing the temple a frenetic experience. Siem Reap’s latest resort, with 45 villas on stilts amid lemongrass fields and rice paddies, puts a serene, five-star spin on the area’s traditional wooden farmhouses: each suite has an indoor and an outdoor sitting area, a deep soaking tub, and panoramic jungle views. Continue your cultural immersion with a coconut-milk massage at the seven-room spa, modeled on the area’s unesco-designated temples, or a crash course on Khmer cuisine at restaurant Bay Phsar. phumbaitang.com; doubles from $417.
Sant Francesc Hotel Singular in Palma de Mallorca, Spain
No longer do travelers to Mallorca have to choose between a location in the historic city center of Palma and the comforts of a five-star resort. Right in the heart of town, the 19th-century home of a showy noble family has been masterfully converted into a plush hotel, packed with historic charms and modern amenities. The lobby, once an entrance for horse-drawn carriages, is now a soaring space with pale Santanyí stone pillars and preserved geometric moldings. The 42 rooms, meanwhile, are all crisp lines and cool shades of gray—a minimalist complement to beamed ceilings and courtyard views. Sure, you have all of Palma at your fingertips, but don’t skip dinner at Quadrat, a Mediterranean-leaning restaurant in the house’s former stables—the wine list features plenty of local bottles that never make it off the island. hotelsantfrancesc.com; doubles from $258.
Six Senses Douro Valley in Lamego, Portugal
Six Senses may have started as an eco-leaning, rustic-luxe hotel brand, but one of its latest openings—a 19th-century manor house turned 57-room hotel in Portugal’s stunning, vineyard-packed Douro Valley—puts the company’s more-luxe-than-rustic ambitions on full display. The result is a sophisticated, hyper-local guest experience. For starters, the female wine director runs tastings in the wine library before dinner, which is served in a contemporary dining room. The concierge will arrange access to otherwise off-limits quintas (estates) to sip 100-year-old ports. Vinotherapy treatments are a hallmark of the 10-room, 24,000-square-foot spa, as are of-the-moment trends like forest bathing, rose-crystal lymphatic facials, and sleep wellness programs. Rest up between sips at the river-facing swimming pool, or in your room’s custom Naturalmat bed, made of organic lamb’s wool and sustainable latex. It’s as if somebody knew you’d need to nap off those glasses of red you had at lunch. sixsenses.com; doubles from $270.
Soho House in Istanbul
Hotels have been opening in Istanbul at quite a clip lately. But none captures the energy of the city quite like the Soho House in Beyoğlu, set in a cluster of buildings that includes the former American Embassy. The inlaid wood and gilded interiors had been hiding under drywall and white paint; now, they embellish a private club for members and hotel guests, with three restaurants, a speakeasy-style bar, and a rooftop pool, where a glittering crowd smokes and air-kisses into the night. The rooms, in a new structure across a pretty courtyard, impress on their own: warm, tactile cocoons of dark wood layered with beautiful textiles. Think of them as a necessary respite from the formidable chic next door, so close and yet so far. sohohouseistanbul.com; doubles from $272.
Amanera in Playa Grande, Dominican Republic
Aman has done it again: the standard-bearer for Zen-inspired resorts has landed on a Robinson Crusoe–style beach on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast, putting the country back on the map for luxury seekers from around the globe. This time, the standout feature of the hotel is a fully integrated golf course—the brand’s first—originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. After practicing your swing, order a round of passion-fruit caipirinhas and lobster rolls at the beach club, then take a siesta in your casita—one of 25 minimalist boxes of Indonesian teak and concrete set among dense native foliage, many with private pools overlooking the Atlantic. Young travelers are welcome, and they too get to live the fabulous life: the kid-friendly pool is a gleaming, all-white marble beacon, and the resort’s knowledgeable guides cater to guests of all ages on expeditions through the surrounding jungle reserve—all 2,000 acres of it. amanera.com; casitas from $950.
There are no planes in the sky, no big boats on the horizon, and no sounds but wind and waves at the remote paradise of Barbuda Belle. You arrive by boat to Antigua’s under-the-radar sister island, where six bamboo bungalows are splayed out along a pristine beach. After a few days spent kayaking among the mangroves, bird-watching at the nearby frigate sanctuary, and lying on the pink sands, you’ll realize exactly what you’ve found: perhaps the most untouched hiding place in the increasingly developed Caribbean. barbudabelle.com; doubles from $1,190.
Casa Fayette in Guadalajara, Mexico
Grupo Habita, Casa Fayette’s owner, has a knack for creating buzz around Mexican destinations. This time, the company has anointed Guadalajara the next “it” city—specifically Colonia Americana, a bougainvillea-covered neighborhood of galleries and restaurants. Housed in a 1940s Art Deco mansion, the 37-room property has been given an avant-garde remodel by local firm Estudio5. The interiors mix serious design pieces with whimsical, retro touches. Chairs in the bar are upholstered in a palm-tree print and are dripping in gold tassels; the bathrooms are wall-to-wall marble lit by Midcentury fixtures. Come Saturday night, a who’s who stops by the dramatically lit bar. casafayette.com; doubles from $132.
Casa Malca in Tulum, Mexico
Casa Malca’s arrival in Tulum is a little like Morticia Addams gliding into a yoga class: it’s a dramatic, elegant, and slightly Gothic newcomer amid a patchouli-scented crowd. Locals swear that the 36-room property—a whitewashed villa complex fronting a secluded 600-foot-long beach—was built by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar back in the 1980s. Regardless, it’s now in the talented hands of New York–based art dealer Lio Malca, who bought it in 2013 and gave it a thorough redesign. The expansive guest rooms have polished concrete floors and floor-to-ceiling velvet drapes in shades of chartreuse and royal blue—draw them open to reveal views of the ocean or a lovely garden. Even more striking are the works of contemporary art that Malca has installed throughout the hotel: paintings by Kenny Scharf, giant fiberglass ants by Rafael Gomez Barros, video art of clowns by Marion Peck. Some pieces, like the vintage dentist chairs perched on the second floor, can be a little unsettling, but the Keith Haring–papered bar is cheery, and the lure of the wide beach and blue-tiled pool are undeniable. casamalca.com; doubles from $700.
Esperanza in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas may have one of the highest concentrations of five-star hotels per square mile in the world. But Auberge Resorts’ Esperanza—which received a stem-to-stern renovation after Hurricane Odile—is the first to bring the Mexican hacienda aesthetic into the 21st century. The 57 suites and casitas now have woven-leather headboards, pillows made from locally embroidered fabrics, and high-tech binoculars for whale-watching. Perhaps more important, they also have the area’s largest private patios, with hammocks or hot tubs facing the Sea of Cortés. The intuitive service is another selling point, especially when it includes free impromptu massages at your poolside cabana. aubergeresorts.com; doubles from $550.
One&Only Ocean Club in Paradise Island, Bahamas
When A&P heir Huntington Hartford II conceived his Bahamian retreat a half-century ago, it’s unlikely that he could have pictured guests arriving in Bentleys with Wi-Fi. But times have changed—and so has this property,
following a partial but impactful face-lift. The most exciting addition is the oceanfront infinity pool, where couples sip elder-flower martinis from butler-serviced chaises. The 52 rooms in the original Hartford Wing were also enlarged and redone; the colonial-style décor was swapped out for clean-lined furnishings and blue-and-cream hues. Hartford would definitely have approved. oneandonlyresorts.com; doubles from $1,035.
Four Seasons Casa Medina in Bogotá, Colombia
If the unassuming colonial building that houses the Four Seasons Casa Medina looks as if it’s been there for decades, it’s because it has—it was built as a mansion for (and by) architect Santiago Medina Mejia in 1946. But the impeccably preserved home has been reborn as the hot place to stay in Bogotá’s booming epicurean haven, Zona G. Half of the 62 rooms are in the original estate; with slanted wooden beams, hand-carved doors, and fireplaces, they retain the intimacy of a residential guesthouse. (The rest are in a neighboring annex built in 1988; some of these are slightly more spacious.) All include Nespresso machines for Colombian coffee on demand and access to a full-service spa, where treatments incorporate the local ingredient of choice: gold. Be sure to stop by the sun-filled courtyard that connects the two buildings. It’s now covered with a glass roof and includes an all-day Spanish restaurant, Castanyoles, where you can grab pastries with house-made jams by day or dine on tapas under the glow of string lights by night. fourseasons.com; doubles from $199.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in Sacred Valley, Peru
The Sacred Valley, with its lush panoramas and impressive ruins, has typically played third fiddle to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, in part because there have been few luxe places to stay. But now Inkaterra provides a reason to stop and linger awhile. Its 36 rooms are an homage to Andean craftsmanship, with exposed eucalyptus beams and handmade furniture. When you’re not lying in bed, staring agape at the forested countryside and surrounding mountains, you can tour nearby ruins like Ollantaytambo or visit the property’s 10-acre farm, where lima beans and medicinal herbs are grown for use in the restaurant. A standout on the excellent menu is the pastel de choclo: corn cakes with guinea-pig ragù. Inkaterra.com; doubles from $462.
andBeyond Benguerra Island in Mozambique
Luxury resorts have been moving in to the Bazaruto Archipelago—a 550-square-mile protected marine park off the coast of southern Mozambique—and after a yearlong overhaul, andBeyond Benguerra Island has emerged as the best of the bunch. The 13 stand-alone, thatched-roof suites, which sit by the water’s edge, stylishly pay homage to the area’s Afro-Arabic-Portuguese roots with mahogany four-poster beds and hand-painted tiles depicting animal scenes. You can order up a private picnic or go diving at Two-Mile Reef. Just sitting with a cocktail at the beach bar—a converted dhow—is also perfectly acceptable. andbeyond.com; doubles from $1,530, all-inclusive.
Angama Mara in Masai Mara, Kenya
Perched on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the Masai Mara, the 30-suite Angama Mara has one of the world’s most spectacular settings: it’s where Out of Africa was filmed some 30 years ago. The place was designed so guests feel they are floating in air; you could easily spend all day in your beautifully appointed room—a modern take on campaign chic. But owners Nicky and Steve Fitzgerald, who helped build andBeyond into a safari powerhouse, have hired expert guides to tempt you onto the Mara plain below, where you can get up close and personal with the region’s diverse wildlife. angama.com; doubles from $2,800, all-inclusive.
Brown Beach House in Tel Aviv
Until recently, Tel Aviv–bound beach lovers and partygoers have had two choices: crashing at a staid chain hotel near the shore, or heading inland for a more stylish stay. Now the Brown Beach House—a spin-off of the Brown TLV in Neve Tzedek—is filling the gap, offering design-conscious digs one block from the Med. The lobby is equal parts 1950s urban glam and tropical fiesta, with canary-yellow chesterfields, wall-to-wall bookshelves that form a cool crosshatch pattern, and giant palm trees in planters; the first impression becomes even better when you’re handed a glass of champagne at check-in. There are only 40 rooms, all with an Art Deco look and feel (details include Modernist four-poster beds, pineapple-shaped brass lamps, and terraces with sea-facing daybeds). Bonus: staying here means the party comes to you—or at least, to the buzzy bar on the second floor, where a straight-out-of-Vogue crowd throws back herb-infused cocktails under the glow of a giant neon flamingo. brownhotels.com; doubles from $225.
Mandarin Oriental in Marrakesh, Morocco
In a city associated with sensory overload, the Mandarin Oriental—set amid 50 acres of olive trees, roses, and palms—is a breath of fresh air. Instead of zellige tiles and gilded accents, the 54 villas have riad-inspired courtyards with all-white furniture and heated plunge pools. But they still feel Moroccan. Inside, you’ll find Berber rugs, silver tea sets, and steam showers. The nine suites have Atlas Mountain views, and even the smallest clock in at 1,450 square feet. Elsewhere on site, there’s an organic garden that supplies 94 (yes, 94!) varieties of tomatoes and assorted vegetables to three restaurants. If all else fails to soothe your senses, order a nightcap and stargaze outside your villa as the scent of jasmine wafts by on the breeze. mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $700.
Singita Ebony Lodge in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
After a thorough renovation, the 23-year-old flagship of the Singita brand is now setting the bar even higher for luxury in the bush. In each of the 12 suites, new glass walls dividing the bedroom and the veranda allow natural light to flood in. (You don’t even have to get out of your mahogany four-poster to see elephants splashing in the Sand River below.) Design team Cécile & Boyd set aside the traditional dark wood aesthetic in favor of a more contemporary look: think antique campaign furniture mixed with sepia photography and animal-print fabrics (in a nod to conservation, there are no more animal skins). Dining and sitting areas were moved closer to the river to provide even more dramatic views. What has thankfully stayed the same is the professional staff, as adept at keeping children in fits of giggles as guiding couples through a tasting of South African wines in the property’s incredible cellar. singita.com; doubles from $2,294, all-inclusive.
Wilderness Safaris Linkwasha Camp in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is hands-down the hot safari destination of the moment, and Wilderness Safaris has wasted no time upping the ante in game-rich Hwange National Park. Here in the private Linkwasha concession, you can witness enormous concentrations of elephant and buffalo right from your ultramodern tented suite—there are nine in total, each set on a raised platform for optimal views of the grassy plains. The tents themselves are like self-contained sanctuaries, with king-size beds, private dining areas, and indoor-outdoor showers. The real luxury, however, is access: guests rarely run into other vehicles during game drives, and Linkwasha’s guides and trackers are trained according to the most rigorous standards in all of Africa. wilderness-safaris.com; doubles from $1,856, all-inclusive.
Ahilya by the Sea in Goa, India
The Goa you’ve heard of—all beaches and parties and seaside shacks—is 40 minutes by taxi from Ahilya by the Sea. But staying here offers another Goa entirely: a place of lazy mornings and long siestas, peaceful, elegant, and just a touch eccentric. Built 10 years ago as a trio of private homes by the granddaughter of Antonio Xavier Trindade, Goa’s greatest painter, the property was converted last year into a nine-room boutique hotel. Still flamboyantly decorated with the owner’s selection of antiques and artworks, Ahilya by the Sea feels less like a hotel and more like the retreat of a generous and worldly friend. Wake to a delicious breakfast by the pool, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Make your plans for the day (a stroll around the pretty colonial center of Panjim, the state capital, just across the river? A visit to the magnificent churches of Old Goa, a short drive inland?). And then promptly put them off for a couple of hours when the sound of crashing waves reminds you exactly where it is you are. ahilyabythesea.com; doubles from $320.
The Temple House in Chengdu, China
Finally, one of China’s most buzzed about cities has the gem of a hotel it deserves. At The Temple House, the dichotomy of old and new is a running theme: the hotel is part of a modern mixed-use development, and its lobby occupies a Qing dynasty government building. Inside, the spacious rooms have punctilious details like patterned screens made from carved dark wood, while a sleek black-and-white color scheme calls to mind the city’s famous pandas. And if you head to Jing, the hotel bar, you can get vintage-inspired cocktails with a local twist—think peppercorn-infused Sichuan Mules. thetemplehousehotel.com; doubles from $260.
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Bali, Indonesia
The third resort in Ritz-Carlton’s ultra-exclusive Reserve group, Mandapa occupies a pristine, 24-acre swath of land where the Ayung River meets a plunging valley in the heavenly high country of Ubud. Step into the breathtaking open-walled lobby, which looks down onto jungle and water, and you’re hooked. Expansive, yes, but Mandapa is also serene and select, with just 60 rooms. Higher ground is given to penthouse-style suites that are cool and spacious (even the bathtubs command views); the lower valley villas are walled garden retreats featuring private pools, some so close to the river’s edge you can hear a soothing babble. Personal butlers will arrange tours to villages, temples, and craft markets, but the rhythms of Balinese life can also be seen on site. Every morning and afternoon, local villagers leave offerings at a century-old temple, while farmers work the bucolic rice fields that form Mandapa’s core. How’s that for a sense of place? ritzcarlton.com; suites from $570.