It List: The Best New Hotels 2011
From a pioneering farmstead in South Africa to a sexy Manhattan skyscraper, these are the year’s best new hotels.
Forget check-in counters. When you arrive at the wrought-iron gate of the Shangri-La Paris, a historic mansion near the Seine, a staffer will greet you by name before escorting you through the marble-clad, chandelier-lit lobby. In no time, you’ll be sipping jasmine-scented tea and admiring the Eiffel Tower view.
This latest creation from Shangri-La opened in December 2010 and stood out among the hundreds of hotels we tested for our annual It List, a compendium of the world’s most noteworthy new hotels. As we do every year, T+L editors and writers logged thousands of miles in search of the next best new hotels for you to lay your head.
In Las Vegas, we found a newcomer that will thrill design geeks and food nerds: the 52-story Cosmopolitan, architect David Rockwell’s buzzed-about tower. Rooms have Fornasetti wallpaper in the closets, a generous soaking tub, art you will actually think about, and stacks of Phaidon books bedside. Be sure to make an advance reservation at one of Cosmopolitan’s top-notch restaurants by Scott Conant (Scarpetta), Bromberg Brothers (Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill), and José Andrés (Jaleo; China Poblano). The city expects 2.8 million travelers this year, and many are clamoring for seats at new culinary hot spots like these.
Foodies will also flock to Mazzorbo island in Venice and the Venissa Ristorante Ostello—another of the year’s best new hotels. Here, the former chef of Milan’s Hotel Principe di Savoia, Paola Budel, helms the kitchen, serving innovative dishes such as pan-fried lagoon eel to up to 12 guests. Rates that start at $156 are an added treat, especially as hotel rates in Europe have seen double-digit-percent increases this spring, according to Smith Travel Research.
Back in the States, there isn’t a more famous name in the New York hotel world than Donald Trump, and his three entrepreneurial scions are behind downtown Manhattan’s newest tower, Trump SoHo. In a city with almost 7,000 new hotel rooms under construction, Ivanka set the property apart with her modern design touch—from the puckered-leather headboards to streamlined bathrooms. The exotic twist? The city’s first hammam, inspired by Ivanka’s travels in Istanbul.
Whatever perk you have in mind—from camel rides in Abu Dhabi to wine tasting from a Queenstown lodge—you’re sure to find it among our collection of the year’s best new hotels.
—Jennifer Flowers and Sarah Spagnolo
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Finally, a Vegas hotel for design geeks and food nerds. Guest rooms have Fornasetti wallpaper in the closets, furniture with solid modern lines, a generous soaking tub, C.O. Bigelow toiletries, art you will actually think about, and stacks of Phaidon books on the bedside. Venture into the David Rockwell–designed Chandelier bar and to restaurants by heavyweights including Scott Conant (Scarpetta), Bromberg Brothers (Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill), and José Andrés (Jaleo; China Poblano). Doubles from $195.
Olarro, Loita Hills, Kenya
With a silent partner like Paul Allen (yes, that Paul Allen) backing Olarro, it’s no wonder this hillside lodge overlooking the Masai Mara is becoming Kenya’s next high-profile hideaway. Designer Anthony Russell has worked his magic on the seven thatched cottages and a two-bedroom villa: the tiled floors resemble giraffe markings, and the billowing fabric ceilings give the feel of a tented camp (without the hassle of having to unzip your door). At this new conservancy the wildlife may not be as prolific as in other parts of Africa, but after-dark safaris with night-vision goggles, as well as a perfect perch to watch the annual wildebeest migration, more than compensate. Doubles from $1,370.
GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Jamaica
This property on the northern coast of Jamaica has quite a pedigree: in the 1940’s, Ian Fleming built a villa on a hidden cove to write his James Bond novels and entertain visitors including Noël Coward and Errol Flynn. Now owner Chris Blackwell has transformed GoldenEye into a small but stylish resort. With only 11 cottages and six suites along a white-sand beach and secluded lagoon, the vibe is as exclusive as it was in Fleming’s day and the guest list just as impressive (was that Beyoncé and Jay-Z hanging out at the waterfront Bizot bar?). Doubles from $448.
Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah, U.A.E.
Camel rides? Check. Sand dunes? Check. Private pools? Check. The new Banyan Tree Al Wadi—tucked into the desert and a 45-minute drive from Dubai—is a daydreamer’s oasis. Set on 250 acres, 150 of which are a nature preserve, 101 villas blend regional design elements (bedouin-style tented ceilings) with Far Eastern service touches (the spa specializes in Thai massages). We rose early for a tour of the honey-colored landscape and returned to dine at the resort’s Al Waha restaurant while spotting wild gazelles through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Doubles from $465.
Kenoa, Barra de São Miguel, Brazil
It was a risky proposition for engineer Pedro Marques to quit his career to open a 23-room eco-retreat on a sleepy beach along Brazil’s Alagoan coast, north of Bahia. But the gamble has paid off in spades. The hotel wows with eucalyptus columns and natural wood and brick interiors, all of which reinforce the indoor-outdoor aesthetic that sets the retreat apart. Environmental responsibility is emphasized: staffers are instructed in conservation techniques to avoid disturbing the nearby preserve. Doubles from $630.
Borgo Egnazia, Puglia, Italy
Though this blinding-white stone monolith looks as ancient as the fortified farmhouses that surround it, sprawling Borgo Egnazia is actually brand-new. Rooms are monochromatic, splicing luxe (limestone double sinks; wide shaded terraces) with unexpected design moments (single olive branches in lieu of flowers). Twin pools are lounge-worthy and huge; if only management would designate one of them exclusively for adults. Doubles from $455.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, India
You’ll trade your car for a horse and carriage at the gate of the Taj Falaknuma Palace, which crowns a hill above the city, and be showered with rose petals when you ascend the marble steps. After a 10-year restoration, this former palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad (once the world’s richest man) is now a living museum, with 60 opulent guest rooms done up in ivories and golds. Wander the property if you like: nothing is off limits, including the library of rare books. Adding to the fairy-tale setting, at sunset you’ll hear the lilting strains of a flute in the courtyard. Doubles from $890.
Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong
It’s almost impossible to actually walk anywhere in the frenetic Pudong neighborhood, so lucky for you that Ritz-Carlton’s second Shanghai property offers plenty of reasons to stay put. Topping off Cesar Pelli’s 58-story IFC Shanghai building, the 285-room hotel places you in a cloud-level fantasy. Guest rooms, with their Art Deco touches, have skyline views from floor-to-ceiling windows, Frette linens, and freestanding bathtubs built for lounging. Doubles from $534.
Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand
It’s no wonder hedge-funder turned hotelier Julian Robertson chose a secluded South Island spot for his family’s third hotel, Matakauri Lodge, the latest sibling to the Farm at Cape Kidnappers and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. The property is ideal for adventurers in search of a luxury lodge near Queenstown. The 11 large, timber suites, decorated in rust, orange, and cream by native design doyenne Virginia Fisher, feature walk-in closets, open fireplaces, and the requisite mountain vistas. Doubles from $460.
W Retreat Koh Samui, Thailand
Bringing a long-lacking dose of mod design and youthful exuberance to this ever-popular Thai resort island, W Hotels’ first “Retreat” property in Southeast Asia hews to the brand’s urbane aesthetic. Fans of the cheeky W formula will find all the requisite diversions, from morning Thai boxing classes to midnight mojitos at WooBar. Seeking serenity? The resort occupies a coveted peninsula on Samui’s quiet northern coast. While the lure of the beach may be hard to resist, guest rooms offer plenty of watery temptations as well: all of the 75 glass-walled villas have private pools, and the best offer shimmering Gulf of Thailand views. Doubles from $712.
Hotel Beaux Arts Miami
The latest proof that downtown Miami is heating up? The Beaux Arts, a hotel-within-a-hotel on floors 38 to 40 of the JW Marriott Marquis. We’d wager that the city’s latest star, basketball legend LeBron James, would appreciate the of-the-moment tech amenities (an iPad for ordering room service; 55-inch Bang & Olufsen LCD TV’s) and extra-long (and extra-wide) beds. After a decadent foie gras burger at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne, guests can work off the calories at the NBA-approved basketball court. Doubles from $370.
Four Seasons Resort, Vail, CO
Pulling off a new resort within this compact alpine village was no easy feat. But while the footprint of the Four Seasons is relatively modest, the hotel is anything but. The ground floor is home to a 14,000-square-foot spa, as well as the hotel’s centerpiece: a heated, 75-foot-long saltwater pool around which the 121 guest rooms are arranged. Public spaces reflect a restrained mountain-chic aesthetic (studded leather chairs are in; antlers are out). But what ultimately sets the Four Seasons apart are high-altitude extras: walk-in closets to handle bulky ski gear; free hand warmers at the slopeside ski club; and an armoire filled with heated robes by the central, outdoor pool. Doubles from $675.
Capri Tiberio Palace, Italy
This stylish setting on the Gulf of Naples can be a bit of a scene, which is exactly what makes the centrally located—yet oh-so-tranquil—Capri Tiberio Palace a welcome addition. Fashion designer turned architect Giampiero Panepinto’s soothing pastel-hued interiors are decorated with eye-catching polka-dot wingback chairs and inlaid majolica floors, and most of the 60 guest rooms overlook the Mediterranean. But if getting yourself down to the shore is just too much, lounge by the mosaic-lined indoor-outdoor pool, hang out in the spa stocked with Sodashi products, or arrange a candlelit dinner at Terrazza Tiberio, where dishes such as house-made linguine with shrimp and baby zucchini play a starring role. Doubles from $663.
W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
We loved every sun-soaked minute at W’s first Caribbean foray, a whimsical space by Spanish design superstar Patricia Urquiola. Set within a series of low-slung beachfront structures, polished cement floors contrast with bright geometric patterns; many private terraces overlook two infinity pools. The hushed, spare-yet-sexy spa, with alfresco showers fringed by palm trees, completes the picture. Doubles from $589.
Trump SoHo, New York City
The Masters of the Universe finally have a proper place to lay their heads in downtown Manhattan, thanks to Trump scions Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr., who picked a fashionable corner some 50 blocks south of Trumpistan for their newest hotel project. Forget gold banisters and marble baths: in SoHo, the color scheme is muted, headboards are puckered Italian leather, sheets are custom-made Bellino, and views span from the Hudson River straight to the Verrazano Bridge. The exotic twist? The city’s first hammam, inspired by Ivanka’s travels in Istanbul. Doubles from $459.
Hotel Havana, San Antonio, TX
When Liz Lambert opened Austin’s San José and St. Cecilia, she almost single-handedly revived two fledgling neighborhoods. Now the Texas pioneer has set her sights on San Antonio, breathing new life into a grand Mediterranean Revival castle on a wooded stretch of the Riverwalk district. The 27-room Hotel Havana’s tufted-velvet recamiers and club chairs and acres of dark Bastrop-pine floors create a breezy colonial feel. And it’s no surprise that the hotel’s bar—with red votives and dark, bordello-like nooks—is the city’s top spot for a nightcap. Doubles from $185.
Cap Rocat, Majorca, Spain
With its preening summer crowds and throbbing nightlife, Majorca is a place to be seen. But if you’re looking to go off the radar, there’s Cap Rocat, set in a 19th-century former military fortress along the southern edge of the Bay of Palma. Local architect Antonio Obrador imbued the hotel with cues that hark back to its past (guest rooms built in former munitions stores; stylized bullets for door handles). Add private terraces furnished with all-weather canopy beds, an infinity pool, and easy access to the bathwater-warm Mediterranean for sailing, diving, and waterskiing excursions, and this island getaway certainly hits the spot. Doubles from $685.
Montage Deer Valley, Park City, UT
The Montage hotel group put its luxury stamp on the slopes with the opening of its 220-room mega-lodge last December. Just a 40-minute drive from Salt Lake City in Deer Valley, the 13-floor property offers both Wasatch and Uinta range views and easy access to three high-speed chairlifts and Main Street. All this, plus a memorable après-ski experience: a roaring fire in the great-room-style lounge, daily s’mores at happy hour, and regular appearances by Monty, the hotel’s friendly Bernese mountain dog. Doubles from $845.
Hullett House, Hong Kong
In a city that prizes all things modern, Hullett House gives a nod to the past. At the tip of Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district—not far from the high-end retail shops that line Canton Road—a colonnaded 19th-century building that once served as a marine police headquarters has been transformed into a 10-suite hotel. Half of the guest rooms (the smallest of which is 800 square feet) riff on a different era in China, whether it’s Shanghai Art Deco or the country’s edgy 21st-century art scene (a triptych of Chairman Mao blowing bubble gum). The coup de grâce? Views of Hong Kong’s skyline from each suite’s balcony. Doubles from $647.
Algodon Mansion, Buenos Aires
B.A.’s splashiest new hotel is also its most intimate: with just 10 suites, the Algodon occupies a landmarked 1912 townhouse in the well-heeled enclave of Recoleta. Within, a relaxed air of privilege prevails—from the clubby bar, all smoky cognacs and leather, to the breezy rooftop pool deck. Suites are a study in subtle elegance, with marble-and–limestone baths and Guayacan wood floors. While the in-house restaurant doesn’t yet measure up, the gracious service—24-hour butlers; an amiable and savvy concierge staff—can make even a first-time guest feel entirely at home. Doubles from $640.
Waikiki Edition, Honolulu
Hospitality heavyweight Ian Schrager’s latest project, a collaboration with Marriott Hotels dubbed Edition, is breathing new life into the 84-year-old hotel chain. The 353-room Waikiki Edition, designed by New York–based Yabu Pushelberg, is the first of a series (Istanbul, Barcelona, Mexico City, Miami Beach, and London are in the works). Interiors are an exercise in restraint, with a color palette that stretches from white to vanilla, beige to sand, and accents ranging from natural leather bands on the desk chairs to the dark-stained-wood rolling shutters that abate the Hawaiian sun. Doubles from $375.
Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris
The Philippe Starck–designed Royal Monceau, housed in a 1928 palace hotel a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, is like nothing you’ve ever seen in the City of Light. All 149 guest rooms are designed to feel like a Parisian friend’s pied-à-terre, with framed photographs leaning haphazardly against the walls, a strand of pearls seemingly left behind on a table, and a custom-built acoustic guitar in the corner of the room (go ahead, strum your heart out: the walls are soundproof). Downstairs, the lobby is filled with contemporary art and the city’s beau monde, making the Royal Monceau the new epicenter of cool in Paris. Doubles from $1,115.
The Redbury, Hollywood
Sam Nazarian’s latest L.A. opening has all the buzz expected of his club-centric SBE brand. Yet with its apartment-style suites, the Redbury is more functional than big sister SLS. Creative director and Rolling Stone magazine photographer Matthew Rolston appointed the 57 spacious “flats” with vintage turntables and rock posters in homage to the hotel’s prime location opposite Capitol Records; if the framed photos of Hendrix and Monroe aren’t enough to drive the celeb-centric culture home, the paparazzi lingering outside are a reminder that you are, indeed, in Tinseltown. Doubles from $299.
The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, Messinia, Greece
A onetime stomping ground for ancient Greek royalty, the white-sand beaches of Messinia, in the Peloponnese region, are about to have their second heyday. The 321-room Romanos is the first of an eco-conscious, four-resort development named Costa Navarino. The whitewashed, 321-acre property, virtually invisible from the beach alongside it, has a golf course that’s irrigated with rainwater, and 80 percent of the property will operate on solar power by 2012. Not that the Romanos isn’t about indulging: each of the 32 light-filled suites has a private pool, and the breakfast spread includes five types of local honey. Doubles from $457.
Armani Hotel Dubai
Hyperbole is doomed in Dubai, where over-the-moon excess is as everyday as the caravans of Bentleys that cruise the city’s 12-lane superhighway. In the Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building—Italy’s billionaire fashion kingpin Giorgio Armani made his April 2010 debut as a hotelier with a 160-room property that thumbs its nose at virtually everything that is Dubai. Think sleek and understated, greige and beige, beds topped with bespoke fabrics, and bathrooms lined with smooth Eramosa marble floors. Still, the hotel isn’t completely free of over-the-top touches: a fleet of Maserati Quattroportes and Range Rovers will whisk you around the city, and “lifestyle managers” are at your disposal from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart. Doubles from $735.
Royal Mansour Marrakech, Morocco
The cliché “fit for a king” has never rung truer than at the Royal Mansour. A personal project of His Royal Highness King Mohamed VI of Morocco, the property showcases the best of his country’s craftsmanship, so much so that the hotel’s opening was allegedly delayed until every detail was approved by the palace. It was worth the wait: the 53 one- to four-bedroom riads are arranged around medina-style streets and palm-filled plazas with reflecting pools. Each riad has multiple patios, silk-paneled salons and bedrooms, and (for the ultimate in discreet service) a staff that enters and leaves via a network of underground passageways. Riads from $2,360.
Le Rêve, Santiago, Chile
Trained to seek out soaring skyscraper hotels in boomtown Santiago, we almost missed this 31-room charmer in the leafy Providencia neighborhood. Behind Le Rêve’s scaled-back sensibility is Chilean-born designer Sergio Echeverria, who used classic furnishings (claw-foot velvet settees; gold-framed historical French maps) to create a residential feel. What sold us were the boutique hotel’s thoughtful touches: delicate local lavender Ôrigen soaps and a help-yourself pantry for late-night cravings. Doubles from $219.
Venissa Ristorante Ostello, Venice
The ace in Venissa’s pocket is its location on the remote Mazzorbo island—not to mention its star chef in the kitchen. Six guest rooms mix rustic elements (wooden rafters; vintage wardrobes) with Italian haute design (colorful Driade rugs; light fixtures by Artemide). There’s no mini-bar, but it’s a small price to pay when you have Paola Budel downstairs. The former executive chef of Milan’s Hotel Principe di Savoia, Budel is known among Italy’s top chefs for her experimental dishes. Try her pan-fried lagoon eel with broccoli cream made with ingredients from Venissa’s gardens. Doubles from $156.
Ranvas, Nagaur, India
Deep within a sprawling fourth-century fort near Jodhpur, 10 mansions that once belonged to a maharajah’s wives have been restored to create one of the region’s most stylish new retreats. Sandstone havelis with courtyards—many have hand-carved wooden swings—house 34 rooms and suites with latticed jharoka screens and Rajasthani textiles in shades of crimson, tangerine, and indigo. Moss-covered pathways lead to a dining pavilion and a pool flanked by daybeds, and after sunset, the property is illuminated with hundreds of clay diya candles. Doubles from $223.
Nobis Hotel, Stockholm
Despite a color palette seemingly inspired by the Nordic winter (slate gray; stark white; deep brown), the latest hotel in Stockholm’s central square is far from icy. Owners Alessandro and Stefano Catenacci’s pioneering Italian restaurant Caina has been reborn in the Nobis with a menu of seasonal rustic Italian dishes. For an after-hours splurge there’s the glamorous Gold Bar downstairs, or just turn in: mini-bars in all 201 wood-paneled rooms (designed by Swedish starchitect Claesson Koivisto Rune) are stocked with decadent treats such as Taittinger champagne and hemp chocolate. Doubles from $396.
Green Leaf Niseko Village, Hokkaido, Japan
If you’re looking for Hokkaido’s world-famous powder, the ski-in, ski-out Green Leaf, on Japan’s north island, couldn’t provide a softer landing. New York designer Alexandra Champalimaud styled the 200 guest rooms, which all have Eames chairs and picture windows facing either Hokkaido’s striking Mount Yotei or the tree-dotted countryside. Hanging on the walls are original prints by artist Soichiro Tomioka, whose winter landscapes rival the views outside. Not to be missed: a dip in the onsen after a day on skis. Doubles from $299, including breakfast and dinner.
Playa Vik José Ignacio, Uruguay
Uruguay’s rustic fishing village turned boho hot spot José Ignacio is giving nearby Punta del Este a run for its money with an influx of chic hotels. With this Modernist beachfront compound, a follow-up to Estancia Vik (It List 2009), collectors Alex and Carrie Vik filled the six limestone casitas (all with floor-to-ceiling windows), four suites, and public spaces with museum-worthy rarities from international art stars such as Anselm Kiefer and James Turrell. The focal point of the property—an architectural departure for the destination—is an elevated infinity pool with the best sunset views in town. Doubles from $750.
Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore
Singapore’s mammoth Marina Bay Sands casino complex may be the city’s most talked-about debut, but the real gem is hidden in its shadow across the bay. The 100-room Fullerton Bay Hotel, with spaces by rising design star Andre Fu, occupies a historic 1930’s pier. Handsome rooms are kitted up in rosewood, leather, and chrome, with terraces maximizing views of the city skyline or the Marina Bay. Outsize chandeliers and mosaic Italian marble tiles create a glittering effect in the lobby, while Lantern, the slinky rooftop bar, is the place to be seen. Doubles from $420.
Leela Palace Kempinski New Delhi
In a town like New Delhi, it’s hard for a hotel to make an impression, so the Leela group decided to deliver in the two areas that matter most: guest rooms (starting at a whopping 520 square feet) and service. This goes beyond the gentle “Namaste” greeting to accomplishing the near-impossible (a middle-of-the-night call to change a morning flight). Business travelers will appreciate Leela’s convenient location in the diplomatic district, while the hotel’s four restaurants, including Jamavar, for Indian-inspired lobster neeruli, promise to be a hit with both locals and visitors. Doubles from $559.
Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam
Sybarites in search of Southeast Asia’s next great escape are heading to Con Dao Island, where Six Senses has upped the ante on luxury. Just a 45-minute flight south of Ho Chi Minh City, 50 minimalist villas on a pristine southern coast are constructed in blond wood. Canopy beds are draped in gauzy fabric, while bathrooms have enormous sea-facing windows. Time moves slowly here, from the first steaming bowl of pho at breakfast to a dip in your private oceanfront plunge pool—it’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon while listening for calls from macaques in the jungle. Doubles from $600.