Our team of editors and contributors criss crossed the globe to put together this year’s Hot List. We started with nearly 500 hotels, and whittled it down to the 75 below, found in 33 countries: in major cities, the dreamiest beaches, and places travelers have rarely heard of before. Our army of hotel sleuths assessed everything from Wif-Fi strength to rooftop pool scene. Ultimately, the hotels that land on this list are the absolute best of the best; the game-changing, boundary pushing, vacation-making openings that are so good, we’re already dreaming about going back. Scroll down to see the complete list. And peruse all of our Hot List galleries to find out what we loved most about each winner.
Namibia’s hotel scene is booming. And among the dozen newbies, this impossibly sleek place from Belgian hotelier Arnaud Zannier, the man behind the stylish Phum Baitang in Cambodia and 1898 The Post in Belgium, stands out for its elegance and focus on conservation. Zannier arrived in Namibia following the advice of Angelina Jolie. She introduced him to her friends Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren, who helped him secure a vacant expanse next to their sanctuary. The Zannier Reserve now abuts the van Vuuren’s domain, so guests get near-impossible access to important conservation projects including rhino, elephant, and cheetah rehabilitation. The lodge itself, however, is almost as impressive as the wildlife. It’s a sexy synthesis of everything a top hotel should have now: locally inspired design, a meaningful setting, a serious spa, and a firm focus on food—many ingredients, such as the feta cheese, are produced nearby. On top of the sanctuary access is the chance to shadow the van Vuurens in their conservation work. But a week could easily be spent just taking in the bush views from the bathtub. Nowhere else in southern Africa offers such a considered approach to immersive safari while staying somewhere so aesthetically sophisticated. FLASH POINT Styled like traditional tribal huts, the 10 lodgings demonstrate a careful attention to design—down to the ceramic espresso cups—and guests can book the entire place. +264 81-127-2425; zannierhotels.com. From about $657 per person per night.
The historic Jaffa neighborhood has become a cachet of Tel Aviv cool, loaded with designer boutiques, cocktail bars, and creative locals inside its 4,000-year-old walls. It’s appropriate, then, that the hotel that shares its name should act as a microcosm of the area. Star architect John Pawson and his team spent 10 years creating an aesthetic within this former convent-turned-hospital that played to Jaffa’s old/new dichotomy. In the lobby, remains of a 13th-century crusader’s fortress discovered during the hotel’s excavation are displayed alongside two Damien Hirst paintings, twin George Condo busts, and bespoke backgammon tables designed by Pawson himself. Stained-glass windows and checkered floors create a bar space that is both biblical and current—especially when beautiful Tel Avivians are sipping Negronis on the brown suede Cini Boeri Botolo chairs. In a city with a spectacular homegrown food scene, The Jaffa made a bold move placing New York’s Major Food Group in the kitchen. The rigatoni alla Norma and grilled octopus recall its Manhattan hotspot Carbone. But the way these dishes showcase the vibrancy of local produce, meat and fish means Israel remains the star. In a city that everyone’s talking about right now, this hotel has made the conversation even more interesting. FLASH POINT Hit the downstairs spa with its insanely sleek hammam in the afternoon to unwind after mornings in the Old Town market. +972 3-504-2000; thejaffahotel.com. Doubles from about $600.
Mandarin Oriental did their homework when launching in the Middle East. The Asian heavyweight’s ornate urban low rise is spread across a prime patch of affluent Jumeirah. It’s not the first luxury brand to stake claim here—the Four Seasons and Bulgari are nearby—but it’s the newest, and, in Dubai, that matters. It means that a Prada-draped mix of locals and expats are already elbowing for tables at the sunlight Noor lounge in the evening before sharing plates of Wagyu at Japanese steakhouse Netsu (all after perfecting their Instagram poses between the lobby’s Forest of Lights, an avenue of bronze trees bearing 900 leaf-shaped crystal lights). Neat rows of palms continue the eye-line beyond the glass rear wall to a beachfront terrace and pools. The architectural symmetry is signature Jeffrey A. Wilkes, the interior designer who owns the landmark hotel game—his other projects include The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. The friendly door staff are dashing in their bright blue frock coats and fedoras, ushering guests towards highlights including the Mediterranean-inspired Tasca restaurant. Superstar Portuguese chef José Avillez has brought some of the aces from his Michelin-starred spot in Lisbon here, including an ecstatically creamy avocado tempura, while edible cocktails crunch with wedges of green apple infused with spearmint margarita mix. Every time a hotel gets added to Dubai, the glitz goes up a notch. Mandarin Oriental manages to add the right amount of dazzle without going too far over the top. FLASH POINT Take a swimsuit to Tasca during lunchtime—here you’ll find the hotel’s best-kept secret, its top-floor infinity pool. +971 4-777-2222, www.mandarinoriental.com/dubai. Doubles from $650.
There is remote, and then there is the Skeleton Coast, a desolate sweep of coastline along the Atlantic that feels utterly isolated. Shipwreck Lodge is from the heavily conservation-driven outfitter Natural Selection and has now opened as the area’s first polished resort with a point of view worthy of such otherworldliness. The 10 wooden cabins set against a flaxen sand dune were designed by Namibian bio-architect Nina Maritz to look much like the many ships that have run aground here over the centuries. Through porthole windows, guests view a haunting, foggy landscape that is home to desert-adapted lion and antelope. During the day, four-wheel drives whiz up and down tawny dunes, past parched terrain, and along the edge of the brooding ocean, which crashes onto marbled sand, littered with whale bones. In the evenings, after the sun has burned the mist away, fynbos-infused gin and tonics are served on the beach. When the shore gets too chilly, it’s onto dinner in the main building, where sofas, cushions, candles, and blazing fireplaces keep things cozy once the all-but-certain sandstorm hits. The lodge scene in Namibia is frenetic; this one slows things down to a speed that reminds guests they are at the ends of the earth. FLASH POINT Go for a drive down the “roaring dunes” outside the lodge, so called for the sound the air makes between the tires and the sand as a car nosedives at 180 degrees. +27 2100-11-574; naturalselection.travel. Doubles from about $230.
Slap-bang in the middle of the Okavango Delta on game-rich Chief’s Island, this is Wilderness Safaris’ star safari lodge, now magnificently reimagined after a complete overhaul. The number of regulars who choose to return here year after year is almost as impressive as the astonishingly good game viewing on this 111,000-acre concession. So how do you improve on such a popular classic? This was the challenge put to architect Nick Plewman and interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn. The result is a glamorous showstopper with the comfortable feel of a pair of soft Italian-leather boots. It is distinctly vintage (antique brass; Chesterfield sofas), yet slick where you want it to be, with handmade Mervyn Gers ceramics, Belgian-linen sheets on hand-stitched, crackled-leather beds, and an iPad in place of printed information. In between game drives, guests can take private yoga classes, relax in the library, swim lengths in the lap pool or sign up for a firm-handed massage in the Africology spa. The food has gone modern, with nourishing buddha bowls and blow-out burgers with truffled fries, and there’s no pressure to take meals communally as before, although a party atmosphere pervades in the boma, which has been fashioned from wood recycled from the old camp. FLASH POINT Mombo has played a pivotal role in the protection of rhinos relocated from other parts of Africa and there is a wall of fame in camp dedicated to each beast (named and dated) that has made the journey to safety, thanks to guest sponsorship. +27 11-257-5000; wilderness-safaris.com; From about $1800 per person per night.
Safari in Uganda and Rwanda has taken off these past few years. East Africa needs a place where travelers can pull off the old bush-to-beach after gorilla-trekking that’s on the level of the One and Only by Virunga, and closer than the hideaways of the Seychelles. With Zuri, guests can be atop those sugary sands within two hours of leaving the jungle. This breezy resort is delightfully tropical, even if its profusion of banana palms feels similar to the overgrowth guests would have been scrambling through earlier, to spy on silverbacks. Those who’ve been to this ancient island will know the second they step out from the open air lobby onto the tiered terraces, overlooking thatched roof yoga pavilions down to the cerulean blue, that this is a game changer. Unlike the fusty ’70s retreats that still serve bad prosecco in swim-up bars nearby, Zuri is incredibly considered. A web of pathways weave through the dense bush, cutting past spice gardens (the source of that lingering vanilla and cumin scent) to the 55 standalone bungalows with outdoor showers of stone and bamboo walls. The indoor/outdoor vibes of the place extends to the dining room, where a selection of featherlight, hand-woven basket and cocoon-like lamps hanging over the tables are designed to catch the breeze off the Indian Ocean, in a sway as gentle and constant as the roll of the waves visible from the table. Zuri instantly makes Zanzibar a bush-to-beach option to rival the level of Mozambique and the Seychelles. FLASH POINT Book a western facing Garden Bungalow to catch the African sunset from the comfort of day loungers on the terrace. +420 226-202-981, zurizanzibar.com; doubles from about $410.
South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the country’s most competitive parks for slick lodges; andBeyond knew this when launching its second outpost here, in December. The hook this time? Exclusive access to areas for prime lion, leopard, and cheetah viewing, an increasingly valuable selling point as the game parks become more crowded. Nothing kills a buzz like waiting bumper-to-bumper to see a hyena. The veteran company negotiated for sole access to an entire 25,946 acres in the southeast of the reserve, including parts of neighboring Lion Sands and Charleston crisscrossed by both the Sand and Sabi rivers. It even closed down some of the rooms at sibling Kirkman’s Kamp to ensure fewer game-drive vehicles. It doesn’t hurt that Tengile, meaning “tranquil” in Tsonga, is next-level handsome too. Each of the ten guest rooms is at least a whopping 2,150 square feet, with an indoor-outdoor living space and a glass-walled bathroom with lots of forest-green marble. Feast on global tapas for a late lunch poolside before treatments at the Africology-stocked spa, which has a sleek gym and full-length lap pool. Bespoke sofas and chairs throughout the lodge are angled for appreciating the 180-degree view that often includes elephants and their babies drinking in the river. The landscape here is so phenomenal you may not even need to leave the terrace to brag about seeing the best wildlife at cocktail hour. FLASH POINT The interiors by Michele Throssell include terrazzo floors with stones from the railroad that linked Johannesburg’s gold mines with Maputo. +27 11-809-4300; andbeyond.com. Doubles from about $1,440 per person.
The past 18-odd months have seen a bonanza of hotel openings in China’s largest city, notably the Capella in the French Concession, the Middle House in the central Jing’an district, and the astonishing Amanyangyun on the outskirts. Bulgari stands out for its ability to channel the city vibe without losing a sense of the brand’s Italian DNA. Foster + Partners designed the tower as a shiny mirror in which to reflect Shanghai’s wild eclecticism and energy. Inside, an immaculately choreographed tussle between Italian and Chinese design is enacted in marble and bronze versus silk and lacquer. There are marvelous views in every direction, though there is no need to take an ear-popping elevator ride to the upper levels to peep at Shanghai’s history. Those familiar with the brand will notice hallmarks of the jewelry house’s other five properties here. The exterior shimmers like a case filled with gems. The 82 rooms—including the ornate Bulgari Suite, said to be the biggest in the city—follow a palette of dark wood and balanced monochrome. Chef Niko Romito’s lasagna, like at the Bulgari hotel in Beijing, is the dish to order at Il Ristorante; you’ll also want to do lemon gelato at Il Giardino, prosecco at La Terrazza, and a knockout negroni at Il Bar. Directly across from the garden is Shanghai’s former Chamber of Commerce, also part of the hotel and redone with a whiskey bar and a superb Chinese restaurant. FLASH POINT The edible jewels at Il Cioccolato are delicious if, on a per-carat basis, not much cheaper than the wearable kind in the boutique next door. +86 21-3606-7788; bulgarihotels.com. Doubles from about $770.
As in other Indian cities that flourished in the days of the British Raj, Mumbai’s old-fashioned club culture is alive and well—across well-heeled generations—in a way that would have made the retired majors of the era scratch their heads in wonderment. But this town has never had an establishment like this before. The familiar Soho House aesthetic (let’s not say formula) works wonderfully here. Nothing has been reinvented: There’s still the same combination of bars, restaurants, theaters, and breakout spaces found in the group’s outposts from London’s White City to West Hollywood. But each Indian twist freshens everything up nicely: the printed textiles in vibrant yellows and reds; the locally sourced wicker-ware and hand-made furniture. Some may gripe about the location, in an 11-story, Art Deco–style tower beside Juhu Beach, not far from the airport. But the fact is that the city’s creative center is shifting northward, and this is now the place to be. It’s a bejeweled stone’s throw from Bollywood. Time will tell how enthusiastically membership is taken up, but you can’t help thinking that Nick Jones has once again gotten it spot-on. FLASH POINT In a departure from Soho House tradition, the Big rooms here are indeed really big, and the ones to book. +91 22-6213-3333; sohohousemumbai.com. Doubles from about $230.
Work began on this Aman 2,000 years ago, in what is now Jiangxi Province, 400-some miles west of the hotel’s present location on the outskirts of Shanghai. Intrigued? The story of Amanyangyun could hardly be more extraordinary. In 2002, Ma Dadong, a self-made billionaire, took a break from business in Shanghai to visit his parents. When he went back to work he took with him some curious souvenirs of his trip—50 disassembled houses from the Ming and Qing Dynasties and 10,000 camphor trees, the oldest of which were dated back two millennia, ancient earth still clinging to their roots. All were slated for destruction to make way for a dam. The houses were reassembled and transformed into 13 antique villas, 24 courtyard suites, and a ravishing cultural pavilion known as Nanshufang. Welcome to Amanyangyun. The old buildings have been cleverly complemented, extended or, in some instances, encased by new ones, discreet, restrained, and hard-edged, the work of Australian architect Kerry Hill. Nevertheless, there are certain elements of pure theater: the carpet of mood-enhancing mist that, at the press of a button, rolls across your villa’s ornamental garden, for example. Yet it is the old buildings and trees that provide the real drama here and impart a unique sense of spirituality and grandeur. FLASH POINT Nanshufang was originally a school and, in a way, still is. Here, guests can enjoy the pastimes of the Chinese literati: calligraphy, painting, music, incense appreciation and gongfu cha, or “labor-intensive tea-making.” +86 21-8011-9999; aman.com; doubles from about $900.
This Taj outpost is set on Havelock, an Indian island closer to Myanmar than its mother country, with dense forests and beautiful beaches. And this hotel has both: In front of it, two miles of pale, floury sand drops gently into a sapphire sea, and soaring above it are jungles of giant mahua and padauk trees that have stood here for centuries. Amid the palm trees and ponds of the landscaped, 46-acre estate are 50 contemporary villas, with whitewashed wooden walls and curvaceous roofs inspired by the homes of the indigenous Jarawa tribe. All have muslin-draped four-posters and deep bathtubs from which to admire the stars through glass-paneled ceilings. Most guests spend their days reclining on day-beds beside the Olympic-length pool, swimming in the Indian Ocean, or propping up on the long bar, chatting to the friendly staff who whip up coconut cocktails and serve sensationally light crab salads, tandoor lobster, and chicken baked in bamboo stems. For the more active there’s fishing for tuna, paddle-boarding to remote beaches, snorkeling in the clear sea, and hiking in the interior with expert naturalists; others might prefer an Ayurvedic treatment in Jiva spa. No one can fail to be impressed. FLASH POINT The waters in the mangroves surrounding Havelock are rich in phosphorescent algae: go kayaking on a moonless night for the full Tinkerbell effect. +91 22-6665-1198, tajhotels.com; doubles from about $710.
Suddenly, there is a very big reason to stay on in Cambodia after seeing the temples at Angkor Wat. Roughly halfway between the capital, Phnom Penh, and the south coast are 850 acres of protected private land hosting a flamboyant new camp—and one of the hottest openings in Asia this year. Opt to arrive by zip-line, landing next to a waterfall with huge double sun loungers in vivid greens and yellows, driftwood statues of life-size elephants, and 15 tented rooms, some with rolltop bathtubs on the riverside deck. It’s signature Bill Bensley, the daring designer renowned across Southeast Asia for his playful flourishes and lush gardens. He has once again partnered with hotelier Sokoun Chanpreda, who is behind three delightful properties in Siem Reap (branded Shinta Mani). The powerhouse pair’s main motivation is conservation. While staying here, join anti-elephant-poaching patrols or explore the hardwood forest between the Southern Cardamom and Kirirom National parks by mountain bike and kayak. There are seemingly unlimited spa treatments, a sensational 100-foot-long pool, and a daily menu under brilliant chef Patricia Yeo, who uses foraged greens, mushrooms, and fruits from the forest. Shinta Mani Wild opens up an entire region to the jetset, with style and a firm focus on the environment. FLASH POINT Ask manager Sangjay Choegyal to take you on a forest walk; he grew up at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Nepal and is a top birder. +855 63-964-123; shintamani.com. Tents from about $2,360 full board, minimum three-night stay.
Once a low-rise cityscape of crumbling French colonial-era villas, brutalist concrete blocks, and an occasional pagoda, Phnom Penh’s skyline has been dramatically and spectacularly transformed by the Vattanac Tower, Cambodia’s highest skyscraper. The 39-story steel and glass structure, shaped like a mythical Chinese dragon symbolizing health and prosperity, has drawn mixed reviews but the Rosewood Phnom Penh, which occupies its top 14 floors, only garners accolades. To say that a 175-bedroomed hotel with five restaurants, swimming pool, spa, patisserie, and whiskey library feels cozy may sound far-fetched. However, awash in toffee tones with an occasional pop of rust, long on dark wood, travertine marble, creamy leather armchairs, and ikat-patterned rugs, it’s akin to staying in a very grand private residence. Art, often with a dash of whimsy, abounds. Cambodian artifacts, carved timber panels evoking the Khmer heritage, and artisanal crafts are here, there and everywhere. There’s a gallery space for contemporary artists and on arrival guests are welcomed by Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, a larger-than-life stainless steel wire wrapped sculpture—as well as an army of impeccable staff falling over themselves to take luggage and whisk you into the waiting lift. In a city where the blending of traditional and modern has been less seamless than its regional counterparts in Bangkok and Hanoi, this Rosewood pulls it off easily. With its star attraction, Sora, the cantilevered sky bar, there is no where else you should stay in this town. FLASH POINT Head to Sora at sunset and order a Cambodian, a blend of gin, absinthe, Prosecco, and cucumber and take in the 360-degree view of the magnificent Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. +855 23-936-888; rosewoodhotels.com. Doubles from $225.
Despite an uptick in visitors over the past decade, magical, spiritual Luang Prabang, in northern Laos, still has genuine caught-in-time appeal: a place to move easily between traditional gilded temples, saffron-clad monks, and francophone bookstores. For those chasing a Somerset Maugham fantasy, the new Rosewood Luang Prabang is the perfect home base. The hotel is on the outskirts of town, a simple 10-minute drive from the historic district. How easy it is to reach the room, however, depends on whether you go for one of the 17 river- or poolside rooms or villas, or one of the six safari-style tents—the brand’s first dip into glamping. The tents, luxe hillside aeries, require light climbing, but the payoff in privacy and sunrises from the balcony is worth it. To reach all of the Bill Bensely–designed rooms (teak and plenty of throwback touches like dial telephones and framed vintage maps), cross a river that snakes through the property. Cleverly, the wooden bridge is also a bar, serving excellent vodka highballs with Laotian snacks. A real highlight is Rosewood’s guest-experience manager Sommaiy, a former monk who leads hikes to forest temples where revered abbots practice the esoteric art of Sak Yant Buddhist tattoo, an insightful alternative to the tourist-packed processions on main Sisavangvong Road. A few days is utterly resetting; it may even compel some to put pen to paper and try for the next great novel. FLASH POINT Rosewood can arrange a private Tak Bat ceremony in Phanom village alongside robed monks chanting Buddhist scriptures. +856 7121-1155; rosewoodluangprabang.com. Doubles from about $490.
The phrase game changer gets bandied around a lot, but the Datai was truly that when it opened 26 years ago, transforming this under-the-radar Malaysian castaway spot into the go-to Southeast Asian escape. With Kerry Hill’s woodsy jungle-luxe architecture, the rain-forest setting, and the crescent of feather-soft sand, it was an instant classic. Fast-forward to now, and it is making its mark again after a $60 million overhaul. Architecture and interiors whiz Didier Lefort has upped the Zen factor, sanding back the villas’ dark wood floors, adding hand-poured bathtubs, and scattering statement artwork—including a 1,500-pound tangle of petrified tree roots—throughout the grounds. Here, dusky leaf monkeys with eye markings like Iris Apfel’s glasses swing through sea-almond trees next to a new nature center overseen by walking wildlife encyclopedia Irshad Mobarak. The grand zigzag steps that descend from the adults-only pool and the veteran staff who know all the regulars’ favorites remain. But there are plenty of new elements to discover: a butterfly garden and a revamped spa with treatments by pedicure maestro Bastien Gonzalez. Most fun is the bigger beach club where families feast on satay as the sun sets. A game changer? Yes. But one that still feels like a wonderfully wild secret. FLASH POINT The new Datai Estate Villa, with five bedrooms in the jungle, is the spot for multigenerational groups. +60 4-950-0500; thedatai.com. Doubles from about $700.
It’s not like Bali needed another hotel, especially around the island’s teeming spiritual hub of Ubud. But the notoriously inventive Bill Bensley envisioned something wholly divergent for this 10-acre patch of jungle north of the city on the Wos River: a fanciful take on a tented camp pitched by early-19th-century spice traders. This is hotel as theater: On arrival, visitors receive a survival kit (sunscreen and insect repellent, a map), plus a carved walking stick to help pick their way over the suspension bridges leading to 22 black canvas tents with saltwater plunge pools. Each retreat is a mise-en-scène representing expeditionary characters: The Naturalist’s Tent is hung with binoculars and watercolors of flora and fauna; the Cartographer’s is home to a mini-museum of compasses and charts. Nor does the food shake the storyline: The Mads Lange, named after a notorious Danish trader, turns out full English breakfasts in cast-iron pans. Bensley’s light-footprint approach (not a single tree was felled) means the camp blends seamlessly into its backdrop, the tent walls porous to the hooting birds of the jungle. It’s ideal for those looking to approach Bali in a more conscious way—staying here is like returning to the island’s former wild self. FLASH POINT Participate in water blessings at the Wos River temple, which was restored with the help of villagers. +62 361-2091-888; capellahotels.com. Tents from about $1,345.
Six Senses has long been adept at capturing the spirit of a destination in design, from Zighy Bay in Oman to Portugal’s Douro Valley. But this may be the group’s most place-specific hotel yet, and among the most soulful. The 138-room Art Deco Maxwell opened last December inside a 1929 building in Tanjong Pagar, Singapore’s historic and now ever-so-trendy Chinatown district. It’s the sister property to the Six Senses Duxton a few blocks west, the first urban entry from the brand, known for its eco-savvy, wellness-forward hotels. The Maxwell expands on the Duxton’s winning formula, with almost three times as many guest rooms and even more visual flair, courtesy of Hôtel Costes designer Jacques Garcia. Walls throughout the building are hung with framed handwritten indentures, real-estate contracts dating from the neighborhood’s early days. The clubby library is filled with books guests actually want to read and will soon be lending to the public. Also set to lure locals: an 80-foot rooftop lap pool, with an alfresco bar and an edible garden, opening this summer. Upstairs, intimate is a kind word for guest rooms that make the most of a minimal footprint, with yacht-like cabinetry and space-saving design. (Try not to bring more than two suitcases.) The minibar, however, is as maximal as they come: a marble-topped set piece stocked with William Yeoward crystal, a wellness guide, and baoding balls to help unwind. FLASH POINT Baoding balls aside, the best way to relax after the long flight is a scoop of chili-chocolate ice cream from the free cart at the hotel entrance. +65 6914-1400; sixsenses.com. Doubles from about $270.
Since it first opened in 1965, the Oberoi’s been a de facto clubhouse for Delhi’s who’s who, just as popular with locals dropping in to see and be seen as with visiting prime ministers looking for a place to lay their head between meetings. A two-year closure for a top-to-bottom revamp left a gaping hole in the city’s social calendar, but ever since it reopened its freshly buffed doors in 2018, New Delhi has had its high-society haunt back. Stepping inside is arresting—not only because of the jewel-encrusted screen that anchors the lobby but also because the hotel has a purification system that promises the cleanest air in the pollution-choked city. Adam Tihany was tasked with the redo and took subtle cues from the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect behind the layout of modern New Delhi. The 220 rooms are generously sized—taking a gamble by reducing the count from 283 paid off—and details like gilt-edged Art Deco touches and sprawling stand-alone bathtubs are suitably ornate. But what will ensure that Delhiites keep returning to celebrate engagements, host reunions, or just because it’s Saturday are the restaurants and bars: Beloved Threesixty is better than ever, while newly added Omya and Chinese restaurant Baoshyan are both run by chefs with Michelin-starred spots in London. The magnificent landmark is restored as the pulse point of the city. FLASH POINT Rooms look over the Delhi Golf Club and 16th-century Humayun’s Tomb. +91 11-2436-3030; oberoihotels.com; doubles from about $360.
Joali’s strongpoint is simple: an island hotel in the relatively undeveloped Raa Atoll that’s sensible and unselfconscious, its Maldivian natural wonder combined with a Mediterranean feel (the owner is Turkish). This mood sets it apart from other Maldivian hotels, many of which scrabble about trying to reinvent the country’s Paradise Found with some trumped-up USP. The laid-back Med luxe is epitomized in the sunset-facing Mura Bar, the sky-blue shutters, wicker globe lamps, and chic cane sofas making it the hotspot for a sundowner and a suck on a shisha pipe. Every last detail is simple and delicious, down to the coconut croissants. And there’s been no scrimping when it comes to design: Istanbul-based architects Autoban, known for the extraordinary Baku airport international terminal and London’s Duck + Rice, have created 49 overwater and 24 beach villas that are both smart and vast, with palm roofs and rose-gold taps resembling giant pebbles. Slinky silk gowns hang in the wardrobe—a one-off print by Ardmore, which designs for Hermès—while the island is peppered with unexpected sculptures including a manta-ray tree house by artist Porky Hefer and an underwater coral garden by Misha Kahn. Japanese Saoke, one of three restaurants, serves 50 different sakes. But the highlight is lying back in a hammock and watching soft-bellied fruit bats swoop down while nursing a cocktail. FLASH POINT Overwater pools are different sizes so as to not impact the coral reef in the lagoon below. +960 658-4400; joali.com. Beach villas from about $1,917 per night.
Long-time travelers to the Maldives will know the second they glimpse this Lux* that it is unlike any other hotel they’ve stayed at here, including its more traditional sister property in the south. But then, white stone villas that resemble something in Greece or Ibiza have never been done over these waters before. Isabelle Miaja, the diving-enthusiast designer who was also behind Ozen by Atmosphere on neighboring Maadhoo, wanted it to feel like the type of place Bond (Craig, not Connery) would escape to post-mission, when needing a hit of punched-up sexy solitude. Bathrooms are decidedly modern and concrete, and have tubs that sink down deep in that way only hotel bathtubs ever do. The sapphire-blue pool has pops of red and an ice-cream cart straight out of South Beach, while the Barium private dining room has aquariums for walls. And then, well, there is INTI restaurant where the eye-roll-inducingly fresh ceviche blows the typical menu of grilled fish out of these turquoise waters. This is a place where the children of families who used to come to the Maldives every year are now choosing to return to themselves as grown-ups. FLASH POINT Those wanting more privacy should book a palm-shrouded beach villa. +960 730-2605; luxresorts.com. Villas from about $1,480.
The fourth in Swire’s House Collective (after Beijing, Hong Kong, and Chengdu) is a gorgeous gauge of Shanghai’s modern zeitgeist, arranged across two towers clad in dark aluminum blinds that add privacy and seductive shadow-play throughout the day. Rich textures and subtle cultural references are combined in the lobby, which is decorated with bamboo-sculpted emerald-porcelain walls and contemporary Chinese artworks in the glow of a 3,760-piece Venetian chandelier. Italian architect Piero Lissoni continues to weave his minimalist magic in the 111 bedrooms (there are also 102 long-stay residences). Here, moody, dark woods are contrasted with pops of blue and canary yellow. Walls of windows (on three sides in the Studio 90 rooms) create the illusion of floating in a swell of skyscrapers. The complimentary Maxi Bar and oversized tassel-cord by the bed that triggers the master switch are fun touches, but the glass-walled bathrooms might be a bit too revealing for the more prudish. In addition to a modern Chinese restaurant and rustic Italian kitchen, there’s also European comfort food at Café Gray Deluxe. The city’s high and mighty have been coming to try locally inspired cocktails such as the Six God, with jasmine-infused vodka, lily, cucumber bitters, and thyme, on the large garden terrace overlooking central Shanghai. FLASH POINT Connecting the two hotel towers is an incredible subterranean wellness center with a pool, 24-hour gym, Hypoxi fitness studio, and spa. +86 21-3216-8199; themiddlehousehotel.com; from about $430.
If anyone understands what discerning visitors to the Maldives want, it’s Lars Petre, the Swedish entrepreneur who not only developed the country’s first sea-plane company, but co-manages nine other island resorts. On Kudadoo, he has created the country’s first solar-powered hotel and its first all-inclusive luxury resort—all off a tiny coconut-forested sandbank. Arranged around a circular wooden walkway out at sea, its 15 rooms conjure spacious Japanese ryokans: designed by minimalist Tokyo architect Yumi Yamazaki from soothing wood, stone, and reed-thatch, and fronted by a wide deck, plunge pool, and ladder into the swirling blue sea. When Petre says “all-inclusive” he means it, whether that’s two-hour Healing Earth treatments in the airy spa, a butler 24/7, jetskiing and deep-sea fishing, or feasts involving fine wines (80 from Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list) and impeccably presented dishes, from light Japanese teppanyaki to Maldivian seafood curry, concocted by French chef Antoine Lievaux, who has worked for Joël Robochon and Alain Ducasse. Unusually, thanks to the 989 solar panels that roof the airy living area, there is not a single generator to be heard, just a gentle lap of waves on creamy beaches, and the occasional thud of a coconut. FLASH POINT The Himalayan salt room is the perfect morning spot to detox after a night of wine-tasting. +960 662-2000; kudadoo.com. Doubles from $3,800, all-inclusive.
At first glance, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, which opened its gilded doors last August in the heart of Paro, is very similar to the kingdom’s original luxury hotels. Like Aman and COMO, which both debuted in 2004, the hotel takes its design cues from traditional dzong—fortresses with whitewashed stone walls and flared roofs. Bhutanese hot stone baths are a centerpiece of the spa and cultural activities include lessons in archery, the national sport. But where Aman and COMO facilitate country-hopping around Bhutan’s five major valleys—Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, Punakha, and Paro—via a circuit of luxury hotels, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary wants guests to stay put and journey inward with an all-inclusive model that includes spa treatments. The 24-room resort caters to wellness junkies who want a dose of culture along with their farm-fresh food and meditation sessions. Rooms, the smallest of which are 580 square feet (double the size of COMO Uma Paro’s standard rooms), all have views of the historic Eutok Samdrup Choeling Monastery; a copy of The Restful Mind sits bedside in case the view alone doesn’t facilitate a meditative state. Upon arrival, guests perform a butter lamp ceremony and then meet with one of the Sanctuary’s traditional Bhutanese doctors. After he reads your pulse and observes your tongue, he’ll prescribe a customized program that might entail monk-led meditation, a soak in a hot stone bath, and daily kunye (Tibetan massage). Call it a new recipe for Bhutan’s famous state of happiness. FLASH POINT Bhutan is known as the Land of Medicinal Herbs. Join your spa therapist on a foraging excursion around the grounds and collect ingredients for your hot compress treatment. +11-975-827-2224; bhutanspiritsanctuary.com; doubles from around $668, all-inclusive.
Myanmar’s political isolation has meant tourism has been slow to develop. Wa Ale opens as something new: a collection of slick safari tents that slip easily into the surrounding jungle, 55 nautical miles west of the mainland. This 9,000-acre private island adrift in the Andaman Sea honors rather than impedes its natural surroundings (20 percent of Wa Ale’s annual net profits go towards its conservation mission, the Lampi Foundation). Centuries-old strangler fig trees muscle up beside 11 smart tent-villas, while a pair of reclaimed-wood treehouses hover in the lush rainforest canopy. A warm sea breeze blows through the mesh windows, and mosquito nets are draped across grand four-poster beds. Bathrooms, meanwhile, have open-air showers and dark teak decks running between tropical shrubs. The only soundtrack is the clicking of thousands of cicadas through the heat of the late afternoon, and the muffled thud of macaques and squirrels acrobatically dashing on top of the main pavilion. It’s here that barefoot adventurers in board shorts and panama hats share tales of diving, kayaking, and hiking excursions at night as they feast upon barbecued seafood skewers, slow-roasted lamb shoulder, and spicy papaya salads in zingy, lime-infused satay sauce. This a wild corner of southeast Asia where time has stood still. A Bali or Boracay before the hordes arrived. Those repelled by the excessiveness and hyper-development of those islands will be mesmerized. FLASH POINT Join one of Wa Ale’s resident naturalists on a hike at sunset. +95 942-380-0224; waaleresort.com. From $395 per person per night.
The rocky outcropping of Uluwatu has largely been immune from the crowds and construction afflicting much of the island, and these terraced 10 acres—built onto a towering cliff at Bali’s southernmost point—drive the sense of isolation home. The open-air lobby overlooks the wind-latticed surf, while winding stone switchbacks lead past rows of white stone villas with carved wooden doors to a wide infinity pool that stretches to, well, the infinite horizon (and beyond it, Australia). Like at all Six Senses, the focus here is on wellness, and the spa pavilion has 10 rooms for sessions with local healers or Balinese-inspired scrubs and wraps that incorporate herbs grown in the hotel’s organic garden; this is where anyone seeking physical and emotional betterment should stay while here. This fertile plot, with its own mushroom hut and beehive, also produces a good portion of the kitchen’s produce, which turns up in fresh takes on Indonesian classics—lawars and nasis—and an surprisingly sharp Nikkei-style chef’s menu (that’s Japan by way of Brazil) at the hotel’s smaller restaurant, Crudo. Not surprisingly, sunset from this vertiginous perch conjures a hotel-wide hush, best viewed while sipping a cocktail spiked with arak, the local coconut palm elixir, in the Cliff Bar, or sprawled in a chaise by each breezy villa’s own plunge pool. FLASH POINT Guests seeking deeper transformation can submit to individually prescriptive Wellness Screenings offered at the spa. +62 361-209-0300; sixsenses.com; one-bedroom villas start at $850 per night.
The hook of this place is how it lets us—forces us, really—to stop. Owner Claire Gemes has thoughtfully put together a relaxed retreat on the property she and her family have lived on for more than a century: 200 lush acres, hidden away on a hill by the ocean on the Bellarine Peninsula near Melbourne. Each of the seven rooms is filled with warm, earthy interiors inspired by the surrounding landscape: moody seas and rolling dark greens. Lon is a place to do everything, including rambling without a map, or nothing at all. Massages at the simple spa are very good; a soak in the mineral pool is even better. The honesty bar and Makers and Growers pantry are full of regional beers, wines, and ciders, while the furniture and art, including the over-head beach photography by Gemes’s brother-in-law, are homespun too. Breakfast baskets are filled with banana bread and granola to graze on in bed or on the balcony while taking in the views in every direction. All the talk in recent years might have been about the Mornington Peninsula, but Lon makes a compelling case for the lo-fi charms of lesser-known Bellarine. FLASH POINT The mineral-rich water used in the spa treatments is sourced from a natural rock pool on the estate. +61 3-5258-2990; lonretreat.com.au. Doubles from about $256.
Every so often a new hotel announces that a destination has arrived. The Calile does just that for Brisbane. Because this hotel—candy-colored but Brutalist, with no shortage of Aussie fun and cheek—is a poster child for the town’s evolution from mundane, if sunny, business capital to a tastemaking second city. Local star architects Richards+Spence gave the place three separate entrances to help truly integrate it into the buzzy James Street precinct, a once-industrial wasteland that now has more than 130 bars and restaurants. Each entrance inevitably leads to a designer’s playground of textures, styles, and colors. The vaulted lobby is cool and airy with honey-hued travertine walls and roughly hewn stone floors, softened by mid-century-modern furniture. Upstairs, the private pool deck has mint-colored cabanas and a flush of tropical plants to create a sophisticated hideaway for beautiful people in small swimsuits and large straw hats. In the snazzy guest rooms, there’s an ice-cream-parlor palette, offset with smooth concrete ceilings, that feels completely right in this sun-drenched beachside city. All have some form of balcony or terrace for air and views; those architects knew better than to rid guests of the blazing sun and bluer-than-blue Queensland sky. FLASH POINT Blow off the neighborhood bars for a dinner of taramasalata and baked snapper at the excellent on-site modern Greek restaurant Hellenika. +61 7-3607-5888; thecalilehotel.com. Doubles from about $183.
Among Australian cities, Melbourne rules the design and foodie game. But until now it has fallen shamefully short on the hotel front and developer Darren Rubenstein knew it. When asked advice by a friend on where to stay in his hometown, he was completely uninspired. So he decided to become a hotelier and sort it out himself. The result is a gift to his friend and anyone planning to visit Melbourne. Rubenstein enlisted architect Sue Carr to create a four-story, glass-and-concrete new-build opposite Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens in the upscale suburb of South Yarra, just 10 minutes from the city center. Of the 12 smart yet understated rooms, those in moss-green tones have views of the gardens; the others, in shades of dusky pink, overlook the neighborhood. Every detail here is carefully considered and in line with the taste level expected in this style-driven city. There are expansive balconies for relaxing with a dram of Sullivans Cove whisky, distilled in Tasmania, and a Patricia Urquiola Redondo sofa to curl up on in the living area. There’s no lobby, just a discreet entrance, and the shadows of a custom-made Laura Woodward kinetic sculpture draw you towards the lift to your room. Each morning, a seasonal breakfast (yogurt with berries and dark chocolate) is delivered at a time that suits. FLASH POINT Ask the concierge to book you a table at Scott Pickett’s hip, fire-fueled restaurant Matilda on the ground floor. +61 3-9866-6467; unitedplaces.com.au. Doubles from about $460.
This place certainly doesn’t front like a standard hotel, and that’s a great thing. Creatives in all black and sharp glasses sip flat whites and hold lunch meetings over slick Mac laptops in the sun-drenched Paramount Coffee Project, ostensibly the lobby of the hotel. Wander toward the back, taking in all the mid-century olive green and exposed brick from the building’s past life as the Paramount Pictures Studios building, and make an educated guess that the woman smiling behind a desk selling T-shirts and jackets is also your check-in (she is). It’s quite the welcome to this hip new Surry Hills hotel, which not only serves to anchor an already food-and-culture-focused neighborhood but has become a de facto hang for locals—what all hoteliers want these days. Thankfully, the guest rooms are just as welcoming: Should you be suffering jet lag, just pull the blackout curtains shut; take a leisurely bath in the Japanese wooden soaking tub; settle into the insanely comfortable bed, the blush-and-blue duvet and recycled Merino throw pulled up to your chin; and pass out for 12 hours in what feels like a friend’s chic apartment. Paramount House is the only truly cool boutique hotel in a Sydney neighborhood you want to be in, with food and design to make you stay indoors all day. FLASH POINT Chef Mat Lyndsey of the city’s hip Ester runs on-site Poly, which steals a lot of the crowd from Chin Chin, an outpost of Melbourne’s legendary Thai spot across the street. +612 92-111-222; paramounthousehotel.com. Doubles from about $170.
In a city of hotels targeted at the business traveller, Bogotá’s new boutique Casa Legado breaks the pattern. Owner Helena Davilá, who spent the past decade opening and running a string of small shops throughout the city, had this exact idea in mind—“I wanted to give the city a hotel for leisure travelers; something that would fill with people on the weekends, rather than emptying out.” The seven-room midcentury home is nearly incognito from the street; inside, a world that feels like a second home, with an eye for curated, subtly whimsical decor that would make any Anthropologie shopper nod in appreciation. Harmoniously mismatched dishware garnishes the breakfast table every morning; in the living room, natural-fiber furniture from budding Colombian designers sits alongside antiques from Davilá’s grandmother’s home, below the watchful eye of family photographs on the wall. Each of the seven rooms, named after Davilá’s nieces and nephews, is unique—the Lucho suite boasts a sunny terrace with a hammock, whereas the Natalia has a dreamy soaking tub right in the bedroom—with four in the main structure of the home, and three in the bright atrium behind it, where sun streams through a tangle of vines hanging from the second-story glass ceiling all the way down to the black-and-white tiled floor below. Casa Legado isn’t the first hotel to call itself your home away from home, but the sentiment here feels more genuine than most. FLASH POINT Give one-day’s notice, and the host can set-up an in-room massage, or a private yoga class in the atrium or garden. +57 300-9108-75, casalegadobogota.com. Doubles starting from about $330.
A private island resort is one thing. An entire archipelago in one of the most ruggedly beautiful, previously inaccessible parts of the world is a whole other level. Islas Secas, a retreat comprising nine guest cottages and 14 otherwise uninhabited islands in Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui, is a rare example of the kind of hotel that offers a level of service and privacy that genuinely feels like a private home. As one of a maximum of 18 others, guests can spread out and feel they have the run of the place (and access to the cool, discreet, expert staff) without that awkward “we’re the only people here” feeling. It’s adventurous but not too rugged, eco-minded without being sanctimonious, and luxurious but neither precious nor overly fancy. Proof: The place runs entirely on solar energy, but the air conditioning works perfectly. Spend the day fishing or diving with sharks, then unwind after a fresh-caught dinner with a bottle of crisp, dry rosé while playing chess in a Hemingway-inspired lounge. The rooms and main pavilion were thoughtfully designed by Tom Scheerer, an architect who does low-key, old-school coastal elegance like no one else (he’s also behind the recent revamp of the Lyford Cay Club in the Bahamas). Wicker and rattan are well-deployed, fabrics are all crisp natural whites, sage greens and light blues, and everything is indoor-outdoor wherever possible: Each casita wall is constructed with louvered slats to let in the breeze, massive doors slide open and turn the whole room into the chicest screened-in porch ever. Even the shower can be had both ways, depending on which way you position the door. Panama has been emerging in Central America’s luxury tourism market for the past couple of years. Islas Secas marks its arrival. FLASH POINT Set aside an afternoon to have the staff motor you over to Isla Pargo, one of the other islands in the archipelago, where they’ll leave you with a pair of lounge chairs, a picnic lunch, and paddleboards. 800-377-8877; islassecas.com. Doubles from $1015 per person, per night (3 night minimum, includes boat transfer, on-site activities, meals, and drinks).
The Santiago de Chile-based Awasi group doesn’t rush things. This, its third venture, was 10 years in the making. The challenge? To deliver a low-impact, personalized experience (as at its Atacama and Patagonia properties) as close as possible to the high-footfall Iguazú Falls. The result, opened in February, is a small lodge on a bluff over the Iguazú River. Surrounded by Atlantic rainforest, with blue morpho butterflies and capuchin monkeys the only neighbors, it has just 14 bright, airy villas built from sustainable hardwoods; all are pristine, pared-back counterpoints to Mother Nature’s clutter, with whitewashed walls, vast white beds, plain textiles and expansive wooden terraces with plunge pools. Expert guides take guests kayaking on the Yacu-i stream and birding in off-radar forests; easy hikes are planned over mocktails laced with yerba maté, the local tea-like brew. The highpoint is, of course, the cascading cataracts themselves, viewed with a private guide at canny times of the day. Back at the lodge, Venezuelan chef Aarón Castillo Telleria balances the requisite Angus steaks Venezuelan chef Aarón Castillo Telleria balances the requisite Angus steaks with flavorsome chilled soups, delicately flavored pacu and surubí fish, and locally grown manioc and plantain. Wines range from robust new Malbecs to floral Torrontés and small-volume blends. Head barman Juan specializes in old-school Argentine apéritifs and digestifs, such as the vermouth-like Hesperidina and more of that yerba maté, this time infused in gin. FLASH POINT Iguazú has always been world-class spectacular; now it has a hotel to match. +56-2 2233 9641; awasiguazu.com. Two-night all-inclusive stay from about $1,940 per person, based on two sharing.
Like many special hotels, this one is tricky to find. There are no sign posts. No terrace on the street flowing with hotel guests and a stream of waiters with spritzes. Only the discreet stone archway that leads off the square to what was once a private family home—then a school run by nuns—indicates you have arrived. Can Bordoy today has been entirely renovated by much-in-demand husband-and-wife architects Jaime Oliver and Paloma Hernaiz of OHLAB. Their aim was to respect the building’s rich heritage but to bring it up to date with contemporary notes. There’s a shady courtyard and a long, stone bar with a low-key reception area, a living room with beautiful creeping vines across the ceiling connects to a dining room, and a library with views out to the back. The designers have excelled in filling this space with natural light and drama with a mix of both vintage and new furniture. Their vast, custom-made walnut beds and in-room cocktail bars with integrated stereos are real highlights. The basement spa and rooftop sundeck with 360-degree views and a glass-bottom plunge pool are delightful, as is the Botànic restaurant run by chef Andrés Benitez, focusing on locally sourced organic ingredients. Among the crush of boutique offerings in medieval Palma, Can Bordoy captures the true heart of the place in a way worthy of the moment. FLASH POINT The hotel’s ace in the hole (and a rarity in the city) is a large, secluded garden with café chairs and a swimming pool. +34 871 -871-202; canbordoy.com. Doubles from about $425.
Finland’s handsome capital has never topped the list of Nordic cities on a traveler’s radar. It doesn’t have an Old Town like Stockholm. Or the food scene of Copenhagen (though Tommi Tuominnen’s mini empire is starting to change that). It didn’t even have a hotel doing for the city what The Thief did for Oslo. Until—until—last May, when homegrown hotel group Kamp turned an old newspaper publishers a couple blocks from the water into a modern Grande Dame. The stylish St George walks the line between show pony for local design and emporium of international tastemakers. There is the charmingly minimal blond wood desk and chairs in each sunlit room, where function matches design in a way to make Alvar Aalto proud. Ai Wei Wei’s wonderfully bizarre hanging dragon commands the space downstairs from the check-in desks. Down the checkered hallway, a Monocle cafe where sharply dressed Finns tap at laptops and sip strong coffee channels Stockholm but serves the city’s most fragrant rye rolls, a Finnish staple. The 18th-century building was originally designed by Onni Tarjanne, who also did the National Theater across town; it’s why the grand public bar resembles the old winter gardens, with its canopy of plants and pale blue walls, that were fashionable in the 1700s. It’s an appropriate way to modernize the city’s past, in a hotel that will finally land it on the traveler’s itinerary. FLASH POINT The sleek downstairs sauna has a huge thermal bath and sells Finnish beauty brand Lumiere, which is hard to track down outside the country. +358 9-4246-0011; stgeorgehelsinki.com; Doubles from about $180.
Parisians are not so unlike Londoners and New Yorkers. Come Friday, they, too, hightail it to the country for 48 hours of blissfully slower living. Their options for where to spend the weekend have been mostly restricted to ancestral manors and castles that require serious mileage to reach—as well as a dress code at dinner. Last summer’s opening of rustic Le Barn changed all that. This former horse-riding academy turned nature camp for grown-ups, 34 miles southwest of Paris, is an extension of the very cool boutique-hotel scene sweeping the city’s north-central arrondissements; one that marries urban taste and country retreat. So much so that the Isabel Marant–wearing crowd drinking at the Hoxton in the Marais on a Wednesday is the same one soaking in Le Barn’s outdoor Nordic baths the following Saturday. Design Studio Be-poles, which was responsible for the louche interiors of Le Pigalle hotel, did a fine job of keeping the countryside in focus here, placing plants throughout and blending raw materials such as corkboard in the rooms, which were used to store grain in the 1950s. Though it’s what’s on the outside that counts: hikes through the surrounding Rambouillet forest, outdoor film screenings, and yoga under the trees. As Paris moves in a direction that feels increasingly hipster, Le Barn is the type of place where those breathing new life into the city go to recharge. FLASH POINT There is no set checkout time on Sundays; don’t rush through a brunch of local charcuterie and cheeses, organic fruit jams, and oven-fresh baguettes and croissants. +33 1-86-38 -00-00; lebarnhotel.com. Doubles from about $165.
Did Grace Kelly have a sense of humor? If so, you might think of the gorgeously reinvented University Arms as the Grace Kelly of hotels. It’s got that same ravishing combination of fire and ice: the fire courtesy of whimsical interiors by wunderkind Martin Brudnizki; the ice applied with measured classical precision by architect John Simpson. But it’s also marvelously witty, warm and fun. To those who remember the old dour, turreted Victorian pile that loomed over one side of Parker’s Piece, the common near the town centre where the rules of football were formulated, the new place will seem all but unrecognizable. Though the rooms, particularly the larger ones overlooking the green, are terrific—respectful to the past without being beholden to it—it’s the public spaces on the ground floor that clinch it. The highlights among these are Tristan Welch’s sprawling, light-flooded contemporary-British restaurant Parker’s Tavern and the cozy, velvet-upholstered bar where you should absolutely order a whisky-heavy Sixth Man, sprinkled with salted-caramel dust, to be enjoyed in the adjoining library. Cambridge has been arguably the smartest town around since about 1209. A mere 800 years later, it has a hotel to match. FLASH POINT The liveried bicycles in Cambridge blue are perfect for exploring the streets or making a quick getaway to nearby beauty spots such as The Orchard at Grantchester. +44 1223-606066; universityarms.com. Doubles from about $269.
If it all sounds a bit over the top, it is. Just uphill from the pretty village of Hautvillers where Dom Perignon lived and died, is the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa, architect Giovanni Pace’s stunning refurbishment of an historic coaching inn where Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly overnighted. And, in the pop of an effervescent bubble, the region has its first modern five-star hotel (with the area’s only destination spa) as golden and whimsical as its namesake sparkler. Blond wood and glass walls render the whole triple-deck interior Champagne-colored and the golden-leafed sculpture hanging in the atrium is truly lovely. Very large bedroom terraces, indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzi all offer panoramic views of the world-famous (and now UNESCO World Heritage-listed) vineyards, while the top-floor bar has access to the cellar’s 257 different Champagnes as well as views that look over the vineyards. Restaurant Le Royal, with its giant images of Napoleon’s women and witty plates decorated with excerpts from his love letters, won a Michelin star within six months of opening; the casual restaurant, also overseen by chef Jean-Denis Rieubland, glitters beneath crystal pendants intended to evoke the gloss of Champagne. Everything, including the giant indoor pool, its tiles the turquoise of a mermaid’s tail, glows, but the effect is unexpectedly restful: even guests who don’t take advantage of a Biologique Recherche treatment will leave restored. But you’re here to drink Champagne in Champagne, which calls for a little bit of bling and indulgence. FLASH POINT Borrow an electric bike for an effortless cycle through those steep vineyards to a glass of Champagne in Hautvillers, its supposed birthplace. +33 3-26-52-87-11; royalchampagne.com. Doubles from about $443.
As anticipated openings go, this one was a humdinger: Stories about the extraordinary restoration of Heckfield Place made the rounds for 10 years before the redbrick Hampshire mansion opened to guests last September. It’s all the more impressive, then, that the 18th-century estate has wildly exceeded expectations. Designer Ben Thompson, who was also behind Stockholm’s divine Ett Hem, set off the elegant bones of the property with a color scheme redolent of the countryside—with buckets of natural light—and softened its Georgian might with touches of cozy deshabille (strewn wool blankets, blowsy bouquets of rosehips from the cutting garden). On site are two restaurants overseen by super-chef Skye Gyngell, who has the run of 300 acres of organic farmland to fuel her menus, and a 67-seat cinema showing new releases three times a week. Gerald Chan, Heckfield’s billionaire owner, has a passion for 20th-century British art, and many pieces from his private collection are hanging here; keep an eye out for the black-and-white photographs by Elsbeth Juda lining the main staircase, and the striking portrait of Virginia Woolf by Marguerite Mary Darbour. Like Babington House some 20 years before it, Heckfield confirms that big-city tastes can translate to the country, and that doing so does not mean compromising the intimacy urbanites so desperately seek when needing to escape for a long weekend. FLASH POINT The largest of the 45 rooms has 180-degree views of Hampshire’s rolling countryside and costs a bank-breaking $13,200 a night. +44 118-932-6868; heckfieldplace.com. Doubles from about $465.
It takes imagination and sensitivity for a global brand to turn a much-loved local favorite into a chic little beach hotel without accusations of cultural imperialism. Soho House has done just that with this Barcelona arrival. Originally built in the 1950s and admired for its Art Deco-style appearance, it is situated right on the sand at Garraf—a tiny, off-the-radar stretch of shore half-an-hour’s drive south of Barcelona, cradled by rolling hills covered in scraggy Mediterranean pines. The design team ditched the old hotel’s lino and laminex tables to create a calming concept with handmade, natural-wood decor, combined with a measured dose of the group’s signature hedonism. There are only 17 rooms, including one duplex with a private terrace, so staying here feels more like a cheeky weekend away with your best friends. Everybody greets each other in the restaurant, where lunch is selected from an ice-packed fish counter, or when claiming their striped sunbed on the beach. DJs in the bar—a stunning space where the floor-to-ceiling windows let a sea breeze in—provide gently rocking vibes in the evenings. Massages using Cowshed products are given outdoors on the terrace. The vibe in Garraf is off-beat. With this opening, Soho House injects the town with an alluring dose of urbane sophistication and the right amount of local sensibility. FLASH POINT If the urge for the bright lights of Barcelona hits, there is a shuttle bus between Little Beach House and Soho House Barcelona. +34 935-221-552; littlebeachhousebarcelona.com. Doubles from about $280.
With the hotel buzz in the British capital generally gravitating eastwards, there’s something comforting about Belmond’s reimagining of Chelsea’s Cadogan Hotel. It has quietly seen it all since it opened in 1887 on the corner of Sloane and Pont Streets: from Oscar Wilde’s arrest in 1895 to the Sixties rockers and Eighties supermodels who would flee the King’s Road crowds for a cup of tea and a stroll around Cadogan Place Gardens. It was tired, of course. Following Belmond’s four-year renovation of the five adjoining Queen Anne townhouses—one the old home of socialite Lillie Langtry—now the vibe is understated, marbled elegance but with Saatchi-worthy art and a crystal-encrusted peacock. With just 54 rooms, it’s a quarter of the size of Claridge’s, so staff are expected to know not just your name, but whether you take lemon in your Earl Grey. There are fireplaces in some rooms, and a side entrance makes it feel like a city crashpad (Belmond’s Oxfordshire property Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons being the country pile). Rising Scottish star Adam Handling runs the restaurant, bar, and tearoom, designed with relative restraint by Russell Sage, who also did The Fife Arms. A short British menu hints at Handling’s Gleneagles training, but there’s playfulness alongside the veal sweetbread and Highland wagyu: alt-J on the sound system, and a Jammie Dodger with the strawberry-infused Old Fashioned. Belmond has planted its U.K. flag firmly in a corner of Chelsea that was threatening to ossify, pulling at the classic hotel compass usually pointed at Mayfair. FLASH POINT The tea room is the heart of it all. Wondrous afternoon teas include salt-cod croquettes served next to cozies made by Handling’s mother. +44 207-7048-7141; belmond.com. Doubles from $617.
This glitzy Mediterranean playground might not register on the average hipster’s summer-holiday hit list. But last year’s reopening of Épi 1959 could change that. Set away from the hubbub on Ramatuelle beach west of the town proper, and tucked behind the sand dunes, it is the antithesis of loud-money Saint-Tropez. It’s cute, cozy, charming and low-key. There are 10 simple, whitewashed cabins, designed by Madison Cox, the man behind the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. If it feels like the riviera of Brigitte Bardot’s heyday, that is precisely the point. The Épi first opened in the late 1950s and for decades it was the destination du jour for stars such as Johnny Hallyday before fading from the limelight. Then last year the place was given a spruce by Italian interior designer Monica Damonte. She turned to old pictures and vintage furniture to recreate the feeling of the golden age. Time travel is not at odds with modern luxuries though. There’s a big focus on food, of course (Épi takes its name from épicerie, or grocery). The restaurant serves the most delicious langoustines and rosé, and smoothies can be delivered by the pool before a knockabout on one of the two clay courts. There’s also an old-school games room in which to take a break from the sun over table-soccer. Though it is tough to resist the deep-blue Mediterranean, so close you can hear the lapping waves. This is the riviera, brought back to its roots. FLASH POINT Guests get allocated space at the pool and staff keep a supply of fresh blueberry and watermelon juice coming. +33 9-6366-8267; epi1959.com. Doubles from about $1,000.
The quiet, confident arrival of the Vilòn gave Rome a boutique hotel to showcase the city’s sharp sophistication, which too often gets lost among its antiquities—or trumped by that of Paris and Milan. In its Adelaide cocktail bar, large-scale black and white prints pop against maroon walls and golden curtains that surely recall the fabulous living rooms of the smart designers along Via di Monserrato, a Gimlet (or three) is a revelation. That is not to say set designer Paolo Bonfini, who exercises his craft with restraint and exquisitely clear vision here, brushed off Rome’s history when transforming this former nunnery into a vibrant 18-room hideaway down a central side street. Rather brilliantly, he found ways to make it feel relevant and not forced, which rarely land so easily in Rome. Rococo-style columns are discreet against mid-century-modern furniture, while the city’s famous monuments are referenced in works by contemporary Florentine photographer Massimo Listri. The result is fresh but mature, and self-assured with no ego; the type of place that is not trying to attract hipsters—as so many now are—but rather the finely tuned 40-year-olds they’ll grow up to be. The Vilòn stylishly captures a vital facet of the direction the city is headed in. FLASH POINT The building borders part of the papal Palazzo Borghese; inward-facing rooms overlook the loggias and statuary of the Borghese gardens. +39 06-878-187; hotelvilon.com. Doubles from about $525.
The third hotel from Paris’s charmingly raffish Experimental Group, who opened the cheeky Grand Pigalle and London’s perky Henrietta after establishing cocktail bars around the world, may be the most irresistible yet. The Hôtel des Grands Boulevards is tucked away in the 2nd Arrondissement, one of the most diverse and dynamic parts of the city. It’s where to find ornate theaters and arcades as well as whimsical textile workshops, and a healthily quirky dose of les flaneurs moving between them all. Staying at this converted 18th-century townhouse places guests properly amongst the muck, and with three bars and restaurants from which to watch the daily life unfold with an elderflower cocktail in hand, naturally. Interior designer Dorothee Meilichzon took her cues from the neighborhood when decking out the 50 rooms with textures, shapes, and colors. Petite guestrooms have luscious greens, blues, and pinks; against this palette the plump all-white beds seem like fluffy, cozy clouds.Tiny wooden stools near windows with ball-gown length drapes create the atmosphere of a Parisian parlor. Though when the bustle of the 2nd all gets a little too much, the ideal escape is on the rooftop, where gin joint The Shed serves a mean vodka with lemongrass to young locals who will no doubt be dressed better than yourself. Paris rarely feels as fun as it does from the inside of a hotel run by a bunch of bartenders. FLASH POINT The space that houses the hotel was built just before the French Revolution on top of an old garden, which is now accessed through a long passageway that cuts through the building. +33 1 85 73 33 33; grandsboulevardshotel.com; doubles from around $210.
The third installment from Adjara makes the local rock-and-roll hotel group’s Rooms and Fabrika properties—both game-changing, both achingly cool for their time—feel like warm-up acts to headliner Stamba. Occupying a Soviet-era printing house, the hotel struts that building’s original Brutalist bones, from its unpolished concrete beams to its double-height ceilings and gilded bathtubs fit for Tamar the Great. It’s far more glamorous than the cozy, vintage-Brooklyn-style interiors that Rooms ran with in 2005—and the rooms here are much more spacious. The overall feel is far from austere, because of the floor-to-ceiling shelves of antique books, collection of tropical plants that borders on a mini rainforest, and sumptuously upholstered furniture—good luck getting back up after sinking into one of those wool-lined moon chairs. Gadgets and McIntosh stereo systems make it easy to stay behind guest room doors, but then visitors would miss out on the chandeliers and red-clad croupiers of Casino Aviator, which recalls the louche gentlemen’s clubs of the USSR. Drinks on the gambling floor and in the lobby-level Pink Bar put the focus on locally distilled spirits such as Sarajishvili brandy. Any morning-after headaches are cured with an adjarian khachapuri, or egg-crowned cheese bread, baked to order at Stamba Café. Tbilisi has emerged as one of Eastern Europe’s most dynamic cities, and Stamba cranks the energy levels up a notch. FLASH POINT The hotel has its own Bell 505 Jet Ranger X helicopters: the fastest way to hop up to Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, the group’s chic chalet high in the Caucasus. +995 322-02-11-99; stambahotel.com. Doubles from about $200.
While old-school Italian seaside destinations such as Capri and Portofino can seem stuck, Tuscany’s Maremma is shining ever brighter. At the heart of this stretch of long beaches backed by rolling olive-and-wine country is Orbetello, a laid-back town in Grosseto with something of a Spanish feel, scenically set on an isthmus in a coastal lagoon. And at the heart of Orbetello is Casa Iris, this rising destination’s first truly chic place to stay. With the help of Giorgia Cerulli, the interiors eye behind Rome’s G-Rough hotel, owners James Valeri and Matthew Adams have created a one-off design mix: a brilliant blend of Art Deco, mid-century modern, and ’70s eclecticism in the furniture and fittings picked up at shops, fairs, and markets across Italy. And it’s perfectly in keeping with the meticulous spirit of Casa Iris that Valeri and Adams should have asked a specialist who worked on the Sistine Chapel to restore the frescoes, which date from the 18th to early 20th centuries. But what makes Casa Iris really special is that it is essentially a three-bedroom family apartment—with a powder-blue kitchen where breakfast is served, starring homemade jams from the garden of the Valeri family’s Monte Argentario house. Staying here doesn’t feel remotely like checking in to a hotel. It feels like being allowed inside one of Italy’s most stylish private homes. FLASH POINT Get involved in Orbetello’s post-beach aperitivo scene with some persuasive nibbles at Barakà on Via Vincenzo Gioberti. +39 392-529-8010; casairisorbetello.com. Doubles from about $160.
There used to be a singular motive for skiers in Switzerland’s pinot noir-producing Rhine Valley to ditch the glitz of St. Moritz and head an hour northwest to the village of Fürstenau après their après: Schloss Schauenstein, an understated 16th-century castle with a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. Now its chef, Andreas Caminada, is giving them reason to stay the night. Last October, he opened the exquisite Casa Caminada in a born-again barn on the castle grounds, where rustic ambience is tempered with urban touches, and authenticity replaces the musty luxuries ubiquitous in Swiss mountain-palace hotels. Upstairs, 10 sun-flooded rooms retain original exposed beams, enhanced by reclaimed larchwood parquet floors and furniture custom-made by local carpenters. To soften the masculinity, Patricia Urquiola added pops of refined Italian style, including brass-and-magenta-linen loungers for absorbing sunshine or finishing a novel. It is unexpected and fabulous. The airy new restaurant offers buttery and crunchy maluns (crumb-like dumplings made with shredded potatoes) and walnut tortes baked in a volcanic-stone oven. Casa Caminada places the design and food expected of Milan, 123 miles south, in one of the most glorious natural settings anywhere on earth. FLASH POINT To access the village’s 14th-century Protestant church, use the honor-system key in the box by the cemetery gate. +41 81-632-30-50; casacaminada.com. Doubles from about $200.
Plenty of pubs in Scotland have names like the Flying Stag. The one in the new Fife Arms hotel in the Highland village of Braemar, however, actually has a taxidermy stag, with added swan’s wings, poised not so much in mid-leap as in mid-launch over the bar, like an antlered space shuttle. The sense of energy here is irresistible. Same goes for the place as a whole, down to the shocking-pink cocktail spot, Elsa’s, named after Italian Elsa Schiaparelli (turns out the designer adored the Highlands). The 46-room Fife Arms takes a familiar tartan-clad template and—with love and respect and even a kind of delicacy—blows it to smithereens. Braemar hasn’t seen the like since Victoria and Albert built the castle at nearby Balmoral. Its owners, Swiss art dealers Manuela and Iwan Wirth, previously hit the bull’s-eye with their gallery-restaurant-hotel in Bruton, Somerset, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of art lovers since 2009 and transformed the community. The Fife Arms is different, in that it’s primarily a hotel, not an exhibition space—though, bedecked as it is in works by Picasso, Freud, Richter and so forth, you could be forgiven for thinking of it as one. Even the rooms, from designer Russell Sage, which range in size and budget and bear grand names such as the Duke of Fife Suite, are a mastery of textile and layering. His sense of humor, more blatantly on display at London’s Zetter Townhouse, shines through—and its impact could well be as dramatic. FLASH POINT Ask for a room on the river side and fall asleep to the murmur of the fast-flowing Clunie Water. +44 1339-720-200; thefifearms.com. Doubles from $328.
The staid 16th arrondissement hasn’t exactly drawn visitors over the years. So it’s a testament to the cool factor of Evok Hotels that it can take a former mail-sorting facility in this bourgeois, residential district and make it le talk of Paris. After a four-year renovation overseen by designer Philippe Starck, the resulting hotel is as much about a lifestyle as it is a place to crash. For one thing, the buzzing restaurant draws fashionable locals from breakfast until the early hours with its patisserie, plates to share, and potent drinks. A terrace bar lures the pretty people, as will the rooftop vegetable garden when it’s converted into a bar (currently only suite guests have access). The subterranean fitness club channels a ’30s boxing gym and had a wait list the minute it opened. Even the swimming pool booms with a killer sound system. The party continues in the rooms, each with its own mini concept store (the minibar is so 2018), stocked with pre-made cocktails by the Avantgarde Spirits Company. The design smacks of Starck’s typical sassy eclecticism: walls covered in rich rosewood and leather, African masks and Maasai-style beadwork, and potted cacti next to the bathroom sinks hewn from unfinished blocks of marble. Who knew that the 16th, of all places, would become the city’s next hip address? FLASH POINT Book the Suzanne Suite for the terrace, where you can soak in a hot tub facing the Eiffel Tower. +33 1-44-30-10-00; brachparis.com. Doubles from about $565.
Something about the name Verbier feels like it should indeed be a verb as well as a town: ‘To make beautiful and bright in the manner of the famed Swiss Alpine resort.’ Here, valleys wide and deep are arranged for southern exposure and endless skiing. Not that the guys behind the Experimental Chalet can take credit for that. Such stuff is in the hands of God or geology. The French hospitality hotshots burst onto the scene in 2007 with the Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris, which they followed up with wonderful bars, restaurants and hotels in London, New York, and Ibiza. The new place—actually an old place that has been given the Experimental treatment—is a remarkable addition to this great winter playground, a town that is proud of its discretion and sporty credentials. It lacks the loud money excesses of, say, Courchevel, but it possesses a disco soul that’s been captured at this inn. Italian designer Fabrizio Casiraghi redid the ’50s building with Portuguese tiles, pistachio panelling on the walls, and custom-made headboards carved with mountain goats. The restaurant—regional with flair, pairing saucisson cooked in brioche and earthy Pinot Noir—is superb, and the bar better still. This is mid-century hipster with high-altitude flourishes never before seen here, proving that cool has its place among the classic in Verbier. FLASH POINT Don’t resist the call of those pulsing beats coming from the basement. That’s The Farm, the Alpine after-hours institution, dispensing cheesy pop and vintage Champagne since 1971, which the Experimental crew inherited with the premises. +41 27-775-4000; experimentalchalet.com. Doubles from about $355.
When this landmark hotel on Paris’s bohemian Left Bank was unveiled in 1910 it became an instant hangout for Hemingway and Joyce, then Matisse and Camus. Last summer, its glass doors reopened after a spectacular four-year restoration by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who also designed the Mandarin Oriental across the Seine. Determined to honor Lutetia’s glamour, Wilmotte cut the room count down to 184 and enlarged the 47 suites, adding Hermès silk throw pillows, Art Deco-style pieces by Poltrona Frau and Statuario marble in the bathrooms; the bigger rooms have balconies with views of the Eiffel Tower. Yet in keeping with Lutetia’s social legacy, special attention was given to the public spaces. The famous bar that lured in the luminaries is now Joséphine—named for Baker, also a regular—with a menu that includes Champagne-topped vodka cocktails and croque caviar toasted sandwiches. Star chef Gérald Passédat dishes up marinated langoustines and oysters soaked in aloe vera at Brasserie Lutetia, while exquisite millefeuille is served inside the sun-flooded Saint Germain salon just as in Hemingway’s day, but now under a graffiti-colored glass roof by conceptual artist Fabrice Hyber. With Paris’s hotel scene skewing more boutique by the minute, Lutetia’s masterful restoration reminds us that this has always been a grande dame city at its core. FLASH POINT The original Art Nouveau frescoes inside Bar Joséphine were discovered during the renovation and painstakingly restored over 17,000 hours. +33 1-49-54-46-00; hotellutetia.com. Doubles from about $1,005.
London’s center of gravity wobbles this way and that, but the South Bank has clocked a prime view of the action since Roman ships scudded up the Thames. Though never has it seen so much urban drama as right now. Despite a profanity of high-rises gobbling up the sight lines, the Bankside Hotel is appealingly succinct at just six stories behind Blackfriars Bridge, angled to catch the light. It’s been curated by Dayna Lee, the film-set designer for Dances With Wolves. What it brings to mind, though, isn’t Hollywood but the set of a ’60s TV show, with bob wigs and mod dresses. It’s all those sheer white walls and honeycomb concrete, jaunty Scandi chairs, pottery shelves with lineups of bone-white vases, and abstract shapes in every direction. One of the standout pieces, however, is the ceramic mural running along one wall of the restaurant and bar, picking out scenes from riverside history: Viking boats, fishing, and the Great Fire. Pick up Tom Ford sunnies and even engagement rings from the elevator-side vending machine. There are water-carafe stations on each floor, single-use plastics are banished, and key cards are made from paper. A mezzanine gallery with arts titles for browsing leads onto a garden terrace—views of the river and St. Paul’s are a little restricted, but you’re still in the box seats up here. There’s a midcentury positivity, a festival of British optimism; this is a thoughtful pied-à-terre hotel for dedicated followers of London. FLASH POINT There are water-carafe stations on each floor, single-use plastics are banished, and key cards are made from paper.+44 20-3319 -5988; banksidehotel.com. Doubles from about $380.
When Cap Juluca opened on a mile-long white crescent here in 1988, it was widely considered—to quote its sanguine American-born owners—“the best hotel on the best beach in the Caribbean.” The domed villas, a few with then-scarce plunge pools, brought worldly glamour to a squiggle of an island that had only recently acquired roads and drew discretion-seeking jet setters from chockablock St. Martin. Families flew to Cap J year after year, while major handshake deals would go down on Maundays Bay, and legendary parties would keep the drinks flowing at Pimms restaurant. Eventually, of course, the crowd moved on, and the beleaguered owners sold the property to Belmond in May 2017—just before Hurricane Irma barreled in. No matter: In a $130 million refurb, Rottet Studio (the Surrey in New York) added five new villas and recast the interiors, replacing the Moroccan carpets and lanterns with soft linens, rattan, and seagrass. While Pimms is still here, dishing out a neo-Caribbean tasting menu, the real star is Cip’s, an offshoot of the Belmond Cipriani’s Venetian lagoonside restaurant, serving the best grilled-lobster pasta in the Leewards. Approving regulars are back, though no sooner had they crossed into the new lobby than LVMH announced it had snapped up Belmond—a sign that memories are the most precious things we can own. Cap Juluca shows that classics can be reinvented, and be just as alluring as the original. FLASH POINT At the beachside Cap Shack there’s calypso and rum punch on tap all day. +264 497-6666; belmond.com. Doubles from about $925.
There are a few givens we look forward to with beachside mega hotels. Water toys—paddleboards, overwater trampolines, jet skis—are fun and plentiful. There’s a pool for every type, from child-free to swim-up-bar to infinity. A Rolodex’s worth of restaurants and bars means what you want to eat is always available. The year-old Rosewood Baha Mar, with its 237 rooms rising high over Nassau’s waters, nails all of the above. But it also pulls off something exceedingly rare for its genre: It captures the destination in a way that goes beyond the conch-fritter shack off the beach path (which we also love). A heavy dose of mahogany in the large guest rooms nods to the island’s British heritage. Large murals in the lobby recall the Bahamas’ history. For a more satisfying glimpse of art, stroll the complex, where the 2,500-piece collection including stained-glass sculpture and photography is all local and curated by John Cox, formerly of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. In fact, it’s likely guests will meet the affable Cox while here. He heads up Baha Mar’s creative space, where a selection of local artists craft bags and clothing in a large studio on the property’s first floor. All are sold on-site, resulting in the perfect version of a hotel gift shop. This mix of locality and cerulean sea makes Rosewood Baha Mar the easiest place to stop in to for winter sun without becoming a total beach bum. FLASH POINT At the Caribbean-style high tea, eight types of Bahamian-grown bush blends are served. (242) 788-8500; rosewoodhotels.com. Doubles from about $595.
Cabo has a secret it doesn’t like to tell: it’s tough to swim at most of its beaches. While dramatically beautiful, this stretch of the Pacific is rough and rowdy with sneaky undertows and crashing beach breaks that keep even lifeguard-strong swimmers land bound. Not a big deal if more a pool person, but when the honeyed, late afternoon sunlight hits the cobalt blue water just so and it looks like a thousand little diamonds are winking, there will be a primordial pull to set down the frosty drink and leap, giddily, greedily, into the sea. The lack of wade-in-worthy property has never stopped hotels from building here, in fact the area is having a boom just now with big name openings lined up like relay runners. Which makes it all the more magical when a great hotel has access to a dive-right-in section of sea. Montage Los Cabos, the first international property from the Orange County-based brand, is said unicorn. Located on 39 quiet acres of beachfront between the overdeveloped hotel zones of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, Montage looks out on the serene, divinely swimmable waters of Santa Maria Bay. As impressive, is the fact that all of the 122 guest rooms, suites, and casas (not just top-tier rooms) have ocean views, expansive terraces with daybeds and dining areas, and outdoor showers—just the sort of breezy indoor/outdoor setup you want on a beach holiday. And in a town where things can go from place defining to cliché quickly, Montage gets it right. Interiors have a Mexican 2.0 aesthetic that leans into local materials while executed in a sophisticated desert palette (lots of native wood, earth-toned woven throws and hanging tapestries, creamy sandstone), and landscaping embraces native, drought-resistant plants like agave, flowering desert figs, and saguaros. The food at the fine dining Mezcal and the casual beachfront Marea is traditional in flavor and ingredient but executed with a light touch and an eye toward health (Marea has a separate vegan menu) and seafood—lobster ceviche, scallop tiradito, grilled Baja prawns—is always the way to go. The real treat, though, is to sit by the pool with a book and michelada, knowing that the Pacific is there waiting when you’re ready for your plunge. FLASH POINT At the 40,000 square foot spa (that has the most tranquil pool on the property), the resident shaman performs a renewal ritual that starts with sage burning and setting an intention and ends in a massage with healing mezcal-infused oil—it’s clear the head, opens the heart, and invigorates the entire body. (800) 772-2226; montagehotels.com/loscabos/; doubles from about $350.
This incredibly pretty pueblo is Mexico’s artistic epicenter. But UNESCO-protected San Miguel, two-and-a-half hours northwest of the capital, had been resting on its Crayola-colored laurels, overlooking the trends of its creative counterparts around the globe. Enter first-time hoteliers Mariana Barran de Goodall and Taylor Goodall. After getting married here four years ago, they bought a 300-year-old former mayor’s residence in the cobblestoned center and transformed it into a guesthouse with cheerful touches to appeal to cool-hunting travelers. A lovely courtyard filled with bougainvillea, towering palms, and a cobalt-blue-tiled fireplace opens up to a salon with a mezcal bar and a café. Four stately ground-floor rooms have bronze four-poster beds decorated with Oaxacan textiles, paintings from the couple’s private art collection, and vintage furniture sourced from Europe. Upstairs is the fifth room, with a mural by Argentine artist Lucas Rise, steps from the rooftop restaurant Bar Margaret, which serves Latin-Southern small plates such as shrimp and grits topped with pico de gallo and a curated wine list heavy on labels from nearby natural wineries. Hotel Amparo knows exactly how to honor the history and artistry that have been the calling cards of San Miguel for decades, while making it modern. FLASH POINT Locanda will open in a parlor off the entrance by midsummer, with a rotating menu of handmade pastas and Sicilian wines. +52 1-415-152-0819; hotelamparo.com. Doubles from about $200.
Unique on an island well known for profligate excess, Parisian Anne Jousse, owner of a portfolio of small hotels in France, including the groundbreaking Bel Ami in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, sought to introduce more than a modicum of eco-responsibility to St. Bart’s. The glamorous hotelier had fallen for Manapany, a once-upon-a-time chic spot on the sleepy north shore, on family trips. She bought the place in 2016 and initiated a top-to-toe reconstruction of its 4.2-acre beachfront on Anse des Cayes. Two years and one major hurricane later, it’s been reborn. Water is heated by solar panels, no chemicals are used in cleaning or maintenance, towels are made of woven bamboo, and only electric cars are permitted beyond reception. Yet Jousse’s endeavor isn’t lacking a lick of luxe. All 43 sea-view rooms and villas—eight directly on the sand, others a mighty but rewarding 80 steps above and with enormous terraces—are gracefully decorated by Parisian designer François Champsaur, with walls painted peppery red, turmeric orange, mint green, or ultramarine blue. Impossibly attractive staff serve artfully crafted rhum agricoles at barefoot dinners, and a Dr. Hauschka–supplied beachside spa has raised St. Bart’s wellness game. With its design ethos and ecological focus, Manapany represents the next wave of Caribbean hotels. FLASH POINT All the citrus, avocados, and mangoes served at breakfast are plucked from the property’s orchard. +590 590-27-66-55; hotelmanapany-stbarth.com. Doubles from about $365.
Word may now be out about this tiny isle off the Yucatán Peninsula, but that has not compromised Holbox’s subtle charms. Along its northern edge, a string of taco shacks and palapa-style hotels with thatched roofs and adobe walls stretches across the uninterrupted sands. One block inland, this phenomenally well-designed hideaway stands out from the rest. Guadalajara-based Estudio Macías Peredo kept the thatch but placed it on top of 12 slick villas of red bark and limestone stucco, inspired by a Mayan building technique known as chukum, arranged in the shape of a triangle. The knockout element is what fills the open space between them. Instead of a traditional courtyard or terrace, Peredo created a swimming pool where the water, the same milky green as the Caribbean, laps right up against the villas’ cedarwood doors. Yet for all its style, Punta Caliza retains the island’s relaxed, flip-flops-at-dinner ease. The friendly owner, Cuauhtémoc Muñoz, is quick to share an icy Corona and a chat with guests after mornings spent on the hotel’s private beach. Breakfasts of fresh orange juice, chilaquiles, and tropical fruit are set up poolside, and insanely fresh octopus ceviche is served in coconut husks. FLASH POINT Head to the bar inside the adjacent tower at sunset for incredible views over the colorful sea. +52 99-8800-0119; puntacaliza.com. Doubles from about $210.
In a clear indication that the landscape in Tulum is shifting, its trendiest address right now is miles from the powdery sands bohemians came for two decades ago. Derek Klein, who opened barefoot-funky bar Gitano here in 2013, wanted to create a space where the creativity that has been pushed off the waterfront due to development could thrive. A 10-minute bike ride from the beach right at the entrance to Tulum town, his stylish Casa Pueblo has a chalkboard-like dark stucco façade and unpolished wooden shutters. Inside it is open-plan and airy, appropriately communal for the set of wandering and local journalists, techies, and designers who share the long wooden tables and laze around the salt-water pool. The design game is high: sharp Caribbean sun warms the black-slate walls through the massive atrium, while a profusion of palms and philodendrons create shady corners for hiding out in. Klein drove all over the country to source top ceramics and weavings to place throughout the hacienda-style rooms—terra cotta vases from Chiapas are particular favorites. The food is served in red clay plates from Puebla and is as fresh and colorful as the fruit-filled mezcal cocktails. The wifi is the best in town—especially important in a place where digital nomads need to switch on and switch off. FLASH POINT Casa Puebla has easier access to the under-explored jungles and cenotes of the area than the beach hotels do. +521 55-1139-8466; casapueblotulum.com. Doubles from about $150.
This may quite possibly be the only hotel anywhere in Mexico that provides the level of wellness travelers now hop planes for with the country’s trademark sugary beaches. It is a worthy second act from the brand whose resort, Chablé, in the jungles of the Yucatán, made waves in the wellness world with its intelligent, stylish approach to holistic health two years ago (that cenote! that spa!). The focus hasn’t shifted at Maroma, but this place does feel remarkably more resort-like than its younger, boutique sibling. With 70 neutral-palette suites, it’s nearly twice as large, and each has its own pool, terrace and palm-shrouded outdoor rain shower. And let’s not forget its access to Riviera Mayakoba’s powdery beach (we definitely missed the surf at Chablé). True to the brand, Maroma’s bright spa remains deeply rooted in Mayan healing traditions (the temazcal ceremony, led by a local healer, is the real-deal, requiring a two-hour commitment). While your schedule in the Yucatán is packed with fitness classes and spa sessions, Maroma encourages time spent sipping margaritas by the infinity pool, as any Mexican resort should. Chef Jorge Vallejo of Mexico City’s top-ranked Quintonil oversees the menus at both resorts, sourcing ingredients from on-site ka’anches, Mayan gardens. Naturally, seafood is the star at Maroma, showcased at the rooftop raw bar and at casual restaurant, Kaban. The tasting menu-only restaurant Bu’ul is more ambitious (and delicious, in our opinion) than the Yucatán’s fine dining spot. Regional dishes like mamey fruit tartare topped with glazed escamoles, surprisingly tasty ant larvae, will challenge (and wow) your palate. In a world where travelers are increasingly having to choose between the amenities of something big scale and the consideration of a boutique property, Maroma’s lets us have both. FLASH POINT The property’s mischievous spider monkeys are known to pilfer food (or drying swim trunks for that matter) left out on the terrace. +52 998-387-0044; chablemaroma.com. Doubles from around $550.
Sydell, the red-hot group behind the Freehand in Miami and NoMad in New York knew they had to be bold to open in Austin. This is Liz Lambert territory, after all, matriarch of louche, petite boutiques done with ease and style. Their LINE, on the other hand, is big. Texan-style big. We are talking 428 rooms big. Though with Sydell’s knack for transforming spaces into landmarks of urban sophistication, it comes off as intimate and considered. Inside a modernist mid-century building, formerly the Crest Inn and known amongst city old timers for its in-house jazz recording studio, guest rooms are done up in neutral, earthy tones and have original works and books by Texas artists. (In a nod to Austin’s growing visual arts scene, the LINE also has an artist residency program.) But the biggest selling point is location. The LINE is in the heart of the heart of downtown, a former dead zone where suits packed up at 5 and went straight home. The Line, like Lambert’s San Jose did for South Congress in 1999, is changing that. Designer Sean Knibb and on-the-ground partner Michael Hsu brought the outdoors in public spaces—most notably Arlo Grey, a fine dining restaurant and bar helmed by Top Chef winner Kristen Kish—with natural materials such as concrete, canvas, blond and dark woods, and tropical plants spilling from hanging brass pots. Dive bar Dean’s One Trick Pony beckons late night crowds with bohemian décor and booze absorbing eats (a double beef patty burger, among other options). And across the lobby, a discrete elevator takes guests to P6, a rooftop cocktail lounge with panoramic water views. Decorated with floral chairs, potted plants, and a hall of daybeds, it’s evocative of a greenhouse in Southern France—one with a Texas-sized sunset. FLASH POINT P6 has a front row seat to Austin’s nightly bat show, so you can sip a martini while watching the Mexican free-tailed colony, 1.5 million strong, flood out from under Congress Bridge. (512) 643-6609; thelinehotel.com. From $325.
The historic roadside motel is a particularly definitive piece of Americana, a challenging romantic notion to mess with. Take the modern makeover too far, and you lose the impromptu, drive-up magic of a time when maps—and arguments in the car—unfolded like cozy blankets for weary navigators. Not enough, and there’s the risk of it bordering on seedy. Motels are having a massive moment right now, and El Rey is the gold standard for how to do them right. Here, Santa Fe lands an 86-room update to the ‘30s El Rey Inn on Route 66 that’s true to its one-of-a-kind kiva fireplace and pine-scented sense of place. Like the sun-dried mud and straw architecture under the whitewashed walls, Santa Fe-style earthiness underlines everything here. For their redesign, Jay and Alison Carroll spent a year collecting pieces reflecting the elemental, tactile aesthetic of a prehistoric desert landscape that inspired modernists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Alexander Girard. The New Mexico palette plays out in organic and geometric forms: ceramic lamps by Wannamaker Pottery in Arroyo Seco; hand-woven tapestry headboards by Centinela Traditional Arts in Chimayo. It says a lot that the revamped El Rey also attracts locals—and at night, in a town where most food and drink is scarce after 8 p.m. This motor lodge is a thoughtful reimagination of classic American cool, in a southwestern city, that should never only be seen as a drive-through. FLASH POINT The new La Reina mezcal and tequila bar is the place to gather around the fire every night of the week. (505) 982-1931; elreycourt.com. Doubles from $110.
Savannah, Georgia, is known for its grand homes, Southern hospitality and eccentric side—‘like Gone With the Wind on mescaline,’ according to Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. But for a long time, that charming quirk never did seem to reach the hotel offering. Now there’s Perry Lane. Take, for example, the house muse, Adelaide Harcourt, a globetrotting Savannahian who amassed a diverse modern-art collection (oil portrait by Deborah Brown, collage by Marcus Kenney) that she used to decorate the property, along with her inherited family heirlooms. She never existed—like in other hotels that have used such a ploy. But there’s no denying this place feels exactly like the home of a young Southern benefactor, one who lays on jars of fresh-baked cookies in the bedrooms, bikes to mooch around town on, and a local car service. As the hotel is on the southern part of the historic district, where so much is happening—the grand Mansion on Forsyth Park and the latest outpost of Sean Brock’s Husk restaurant—that access seems especially thoughtful. Back at base, there are expertly made cocktails at The Wayward, where local chefs and bartenders go to kick back after work, a sure sign that this cleverly thought out arrival is a hit with both residents and out-of-towners. FLASH POINT The hotel’s rooftop pool is one of only three in town, but it has the best views and a bar, Peregrine, with lawn games such as cornhole. (912) 415-9000; perrylanehotel.com. Doubles from $395
Until last fall, anyone seeking a cozy place in Laguna Beach would have gotten as far as the imposing Monarch Beach Resort before realizing they should have hit Malibu instead. But now, pull up to this Californian dream of an inn—a space that exists somewhere between bungalow, motor lodge, and your best friend’s beach house—to find a suntanned crowd sipping beers on sofas by the fire in the indoor-outdoor living room. The vibe is relaxed, even by Southern California standards. Owner Paul Makarechian, who has a string of small hotels on the West Coast, wanted Joaquin to be a place to drop in to: barefoot, rule-free. Staff are cheery; guests will know everyone’s first name by the end of the weekend—including George, Joaquin’s resident adventure guru, who is likely to stop by during dinner to see who wants to go kayaking on the Pacific the next day. The lived-in charm is folded into the design, too. Robert McKinley, who did Montauk’s sunny Surf Lodge, picked up vintage chairs and oil paintings at flea markets in Normandy and tore down ceiling panels to leave exposed rafters in rooms. The food may be the only departure from the designer-surf-lodge narrative. But then, when Leo Bongarra, formerly of L.A.’s Sunset Tower Hotel, is whipping up octopus carpaccio to turn that best friend’s beach house into a Beverly Hills dinner party, no one complains. Finally, the boutique scene has landed on this otherwise hyper-developed stretch of classic California coast. FLASH POINT Shaw’s Cove, a walk away, is the closest anyone can get to feeling like they have accessed a private beach in a state where all are public. (949) 494-5294; hoteljoaquin.com. Doubles from $343.
It’s a given that young visitors to New York don’t want to blow the budget on a fancy hotel room. Better to book something that’s at least clean, comfortable, and strategically located, and spend the extra cash on that restaurant everyone has been posting about. Freehand takes this compromise and somehow manages to make it feel sexy and stylish. Rooms, including queens, kings, and bunk rooms for four, are basic—verging on dorm-like—but brightened up with artworks that sometimes snake across the walls and ceilings. Like the model that Ian Schrager engineered with Morgans Hotel in the 1980s, here it’s all about the public spaces, which the design studio Roman and Williams filled with glossy tiles, dark woods, and walls in deep turquoise, with quirky touches such as sheepskin rugs and plants in mismatched ceramic pots. Most importantly, there’s a feast of food and drink options: an outpost of award-grabbing cocktail joint Broken Shaker on the roof; a to-go counter off the lobby, an offshoot of downtown favorite breakfast spot the Smile; and two restaurants and another bar from Gabriel Stulman, of the West Village’s Bar Sardine. Freehand captures everything travelers come to New York for, under one well-designed, well-priced roof. FLASH POINT Skip the often crazy line for Broken Shaker; have the front-desk staff send you up in a separate elevator. (212) 475-1920; freehandhotels.com. Doubles from $250.
Boutique brand Palisociety is quietly creating a mini empire of pretty patterns and breezy living room-style salons around greater L.A., having opened four hotels with less than 50 rooms from Santa Monica to West Hollywood in the past decade (a fifth arrives soon). Culver City, a peripheral neighborhood of old film studios that’s having a creative renaissance, marks Pali’s entry into an emerging Los Angeles scene. The hotel rises above a residential corner with walls painted like the brand’s signature wallpaper, topped with a neon sign. Something about the design, which lands on the smarter side of kitsch, with heavy woods, flannel blankets, and groovy floral prints, recalls the classic, ‘60s Frankie Avalon film Beach Blanket Bingo. Yet there are no teen idols cutting a rug in Pali’s indigo-blue outdoor bar. Instead the hotel is drawing in the cool kids from Silver Lake who have finally started taking Culver City seriously and who are likely to be discussing the latest detox over mushroom sandwiches and salad Niçoise at its Simonette restaurant. As the Los Angeles hotel landscape is starting to mature quickly, Pali’s fun, young vibe is a refreshing counterpoint that taps into the SoCal spirit in a way big-wig arrivals just can’t. FLASH POINT In a former life the hotel was a boarding house, rumored to be where Joan Crawford first lived when she moved to the city. (424) 321-7000; palisocietyhotels.com. Doubles from about $250.
Slopeside bragging rights weren’t enough for Wes Edens, the billionaire hedge-fund titan and visionary behind Caldera House. His eight-suite dream hotel at Jackson Hole had to be tramside, with north-facing rooms actually looking out upon Big Red, the 100-passenger aerial shuttle going up and down the peaks. Edens and his three ski-addicted business partners spent six years and nearly $100 million building their ultimate adventure base, culminating in a collection of penthouse-like suites that feel like private chalets masquerading as a hotel. Rooms either have two or four bedrooms, and each is slightly different, with residential touches such as George Nakashima furniture and Boffi kitchens. L.A.-based studio Commune and local architects Carney Logan Burke collaborated on the American Craftsman-meets-alpine-hideaway interiors. Perks include valet parking (priceless in a town with not a spot in sight), an on-site gear shop, and the largest ski lockers in the country. Wanting to embrace the community, Edens opened an outpost of universally loved Italian restaurant Old Yellowstone Garage on the second floor and curated a team of regional legends, including Olympic skiers, to help create guest experiences. This is where ski bums can get a taste of five-star living and rags-to-riches billionaires can wax nostalgic about their ski bum days. FLASH POINT One of the ski lockers doubles as an honesty bar stocked with Veuve Clicquot, craft beer, and old-school sweets such as candy necklaces, Pez, and Charleston Chews. +1 307 200 4220; calderahouse.com. Suites from $2,495.
Last fall, when the Hoxton plunked itself down on Williamsburg’s Wythe Avenue—the neighborhood’s unofficial hotel strip—it was as much for New Yorkers as for visitors. Cases in point: a quirky, retro lobby that’s perfect for long, lazy Sunday afternoons; an events space that has hosted, among other things, a pop-up tattoo studio; a rooftop bar that doesn’t have a line (yet). The U.K.-based Ennismore designed the hotel to feel extremely Brooklyn, dotting it with locally sourced vintage furniture and bookshelves displaying hefty tomes on contemporary art, and ’70-style chandeliers hanging from the lofty ceiling. The three on-site restaurants—seasonal Summerly and Backyard and the year-round favorite Klein’s—are overseen by Jud Mongell and Zeb Stewart, the names behind Williamsburg’s beloved Five Leaves, Union Pool, and Hotel Delmano. The cocktails are a delight (order the mezcal-infused Fire Island), and the food spans everything from New American comfort at Klein’s to New England–style lobster rolls at Summerly. Upstairs, the 175 rooms, like the ones at the Hoxton in Paris, are not massive but fit king-size beds and have views of either the Manhattan or Brooklyn skyline. For a brand that’s opening two more Stateside locations this year, the Hoxton in Williamsburg signals that L.A. and Chicago have a lot to look forward to. FLASH POINT The outdoor, all-brick courtyard hosts igloo dining in the winter and parties once the sun’s out. (718) 215-7100; thehoxton.com. Doubles from $170.
Former J. Crew creative director Frank Muytjens and his partner, chef and artist Scott Edward Cole, bought this 18th-century school house in 2017 and spent the next year fixing it up into a B&B that far exceeds anything else in this neck of the Berkshires. The duo painted the walls of each guestroom themselves (no two are the same) in rich, moody Benjamin Moore shades and sourced much of the elegantly eclectic furniture and objects from their personal collection and local shops such as Sandy Klempner, adding lush linens by Matteo and blankets from Faribault Woolen Mill. A color scheme of camel, navy, grey, and olive, and touches of wool and leather, were inspired by Mutyjens’ menswear career. There are fireplaces in the front and back parlor rooms, a free bar with all the drinks fixings, chessboards, and an impressive collection of art books and back issues of The Face to flick through. A short drive away in North Adams is the peerless MASS MoCA with its collection of masterful contemporary art, while the Tanglewood performance space is the summer residence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Yet even nights of Wagner hardly compare to mornings back at the inn, where Muytjens pours the coffee, Cole bakes pastries, and they both whip up granola and eggs to order. If you’re lucky, their sweet Vizla pup, Dutch—the unofficial concierge—will show up, too. This is the high-taste country estate to stay in while exploring the arts finds of the Berkshires. FLASH POINT Room Three has a deep charcoal-painted master bathroom with a fireplace and freestanding tub, which is hard to leave. (413) 698-8100; theinnatkenmorehall.com. Doubles from about $355.
While every hotel now trades on its experiential offerings, only the very best have the talent to follow through with resonance and meaning. Blackberry Mountain, a ground-breaking adventure-and-wellness retreat in rural Tennessee, knows that experiences alone aren’t enough; experienced people are crucial, too. This property comes from the family behind the wholesomely ground-breaking Blackberry Farm, which transformed the U.S.’s foodie-escape scene. And like its sister hotel, this 36-room mountain retreat makes a point of hiring staffers who are extremely good at what they do, whether trail running or vinyasa yoga, mountain-biking or mushroom foraging. Naturalist Boyd Hopkins has traced every corner of the 5,200-acre Smoky Mountain wilderness—he takes guests scrambling up, up, up to Cat’s Paw Ridge in search of bobcat and black bear. Master potter Polly Ann Martin can teach even the clumsiest newbie to throw a near-perfect vase, while a deep-dive consultation with Dr. Jill Beasley, Blackberry’s naturopath, will have guests wishing they could get her on speed-dial for when they return home. Inside the stone-and-timber cottages are roaring fires and floor-to-ceiling windows for gazing at the misty blue peaks of the Smokies. But the most memorable part of this singular playground—even more than the unspoiled surroundings—are the unforgettable people who bring it to life. FLASH POINT Don’t miss a sound-bathing session. For 50 trippy, transporting minutes, the resident sound healer will guide you into a meditative state using the deep vibrations of tuning forks, rain drums, and a massive symphonic gong. * (800) 993-7824; blackberrymountain.com. Doubles from $1000.*
This West Hollywood hangout confirms that boutique group Kimpton has the design chops to rival the NoMads and Firmdales of the hotel world. In large part that is down to the bold aesthetic of the interiors by Gulla Jónsdóttir, a West Hollywood resident who channeled the lava fields and waterfalls of her native Iceland with a frosty grey-and-black palette in the guest rooms and lobby, with leather walls, bulbous light fixtures, and a collection of Saba sofas. Bright blooms from star florist Eric Buterbaugh undercut the heaviness of it all. Things perk up outdoors, where a sun-flooded bar that’s already a hit with the cool kids of West Hollywood wraps around the small swimming pool. Artworks from graffiti pieces by Retna to a topographical installation of the city are on display behind the front desk. Even the walls of the lift are covered in floral murals by Japanese graphic artist and Apple collaborator Kahori Maki. Staff may let you ride it all the way to the top to peek at Jónsdóttir’s nature-inspired wood, metal and stone furniture in the 1,400-square-foot penthouse. As West Hollywood continues its reinvention as a design district, Kimpton La Peer is a worthy anchor of it all. FLASH POINT The hotel’s Viale dei Romani restaurant does pizza-sized ricotta flatcakes at breakfast, as well as a great avocado toast—even by L.A. standards. (213) 296-3038; lapeerhotel.com. Doubles from about $420.
New independent hotels have played a vital part in Detroit’s regeneration. Though none embraces the city’s past, present and future as holistically as Shinola. Of course, there’s the fact that it sews together two old buildings on central Woodward Avenue: the brick-fronted, 1915 TB Rayl Co. department store and a former Singer sewing-machine factory (more recently, a wig shop). But there is also the fact that it uses contemporary elements to highlight the city’s history. Surrounding the check-in desk, floor-to-ceiling panels woven by local artist Margo Wolowiec represent important Detroit moments: graffiti, urban farms, Martin Luther King’s raised hand during his 1963 Walk to Freedom march. There’s a bustling living room instead of a lobby, where art, curated by the Library Street Collective, covers almost every square inch of wall, including a giant glittering sequined piece by Nick Cave. Interiors are chic yet relaxed, with plush velvet sofas, cool marble surfaces and curated help-yourself book shelves. Chef Andrew Carmellini shines in the tile-clad southern Italian restaurant San Morello, and the Evening Bar is moody and beguiling. This landscape-changing arrival from the eponymous Detroit-based watch brand lets people know that the city’s hotel game has been officially upped. FLASH POINT In every guest room there are Shinola products to make you a convert: a Runwell desk clock and turntable, and a beautiful striped alpaca throw, designed exclusively for the hotel. (313) 356-1401; shinolahotel.com. Doubles from $190.
Few would argue that Washington, D.C. needs more places and spaces devoted to activism and inspiring Real Change, but when it happens to be a hotel, it’s noticed. The first in a new global brand, called Eaton Workshop, from Katherine Lo, daughter of Langham founder Lo Kah-shui, Eaton DC has the trappings of any cool city hotel: a botanical-heavy, Instagram-ready rooftop bar that slings strong cocktails and pan-Asian tacos; a wellness studio offering alternative therapies like reiki and crystal-healing; rooms (a staggering 209) curated with records and mini-libraries; and a see-and-be-seen lobby modeled after, rather confusingly, Swiss bus terminals of the 1960s. (Eaton DC’s destination restaurant American Son, which delivers neat plates like tofu gnocchi and coffee-braised beef cheek, doesn’t hurt, either.) But unlike at many hotels, a stay here won’t leave you siloed in the room—in fact, mingling is part of the spirit of the place; it’s Eaton DC’s surprising-for-hotel amenities that make it notable. There’s an in-house radio station, a 60-seat movie theater screening documentaries related to social justice issues, a multi-wall library with books about gender, sexuality, race, and inclusive narratives, and a co-working space. Eaton DC also takes its hotel-as-community-center ethos seriously, hosting talks, seminars, and workshops on everything from Kintsugi pottery to the freedom of the press. “I want to create a space where artists, journalists, politicians, and people of all ages and classes can come together, learn, and grow,” Lo told us last year. Mission (so far) accomplished. FLASH POINT A riff on the lobby gift shop, a newsstand-like store called Hometown, stocks the latest issues of magazines from around the world and lets visitors flip through archival copies of Life and Newsweek. (202) 289-7600; eatonworkshop.com; doubles from $200.
Of all the boutique hotels that have landed here over the past few years, none gets into the bones of the city like this one. Beyond the heavy mint-green doors, the foyer smells of gardenias. It’s bright, airy, colorful, with a canary-yellow check-in counter and equally bright welcome. Star design team Ash NYC has revived the former 19th-century Catholic church, schoolhouse, convent, and rectory in the boho Marigny neighborhood, just northeast of the French Quarter and a walk from the sax-trumpet-clarinet licks of jazz epicenter Frenchmen Street. As with other Ash NYC hotels—the Dean, in a 1912 clergy house in Providence; the Siren, filling a Renaissance Revival building in Detroit—this place is meant to double as a destination, with sophisticated communal spaces that beg to be sat in with a chicory coffee or a Sazerac. In a city of sensory overload, Hotel Peter & Paul is the anti–Bourbon Street, where the bed linen is crisp—and a little austere, like a convent holdover—and the crowd at its Elysian Bar, brought to you by homegrown wine bar Bacchanal, is European-house-party cool. FLASH POINT All furniture is selected from the antiques markets of Europe or New Orleans’s oldest estates, or made to order by local artisans. (504) 356-5200; hotelpeterandpaul.com. Doubles from $119.
It’s remarkable how much Downtown L.A. can feel like New York City. The height of its structures. The grid. The fact that in peak summer buildings here sweat in a way native New Yorkers would recognize—but never feel homesick for. Today, cultural signposting is driving this home even more. As Downtown’s museums, restaurants and hotels more closely resemble that cityscape out east, the NoMad cements this area as L.A.’s hub for urban cool. Like its sibling in Manhattan, the hotel called on Jacques Garcia to add his flair to the interiors. His trademark, heavy, layered, tactile approach might seem like the antithesis of where we would want to be on a hazy Los Angeles Sunday. But his more-is-more approach completely does justice to this Twenties building. The hotel so blatantly channels Old Hollywood glamour that, had a designer tried to spin it into a sun-kissed dreamland, it would not have worked. Garcia’s green and purple velvet salons, and 241 elegant guest rooms, seem like exactly the type of place Hepburn and Bogart would hang out. On Fridays an after-work and pre-dinner set gather by the rooftop pool and in the lobby bars before heading off to explore the brilliant food scene that is giving New York a run for its money. NoMad has a level of cosmopolitan refinement that feels right in Los Angeles now. FLASH POINT Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s insanely fresh peekytoe crab suggests that, of all the NoMad ventures to settle out west, the chef and restaurateur duo may have landed the most naturally of all. (213) 358-0000; thenomadhotel.com. Doubles from $355.
For a long time after its Fifties and Sixties heyday, Palm Springs was in a mid-century-design time warp, frozen in a world of extremes—Bacchic pool parties and staid games of golf. Over the past few years, though, a different energy has emerged, with young Angelenos choosing the town as a drivable weekend destination. A different type of traveler has followed—one seeking sun but also wanting to hike in Joshua Tree, catch live music at Pappy & Harriet’s and get inspired at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Sands, a reimagined Fifties motel, has this more worldly visitor in mind, like Rossi and The Rowan did the year before. Interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, sought after for his ability to color with wild abandon, applied his flair here: bubble-gum-pink walls, Warhol banana-yellow against black and white. He channeled another desert 6,000 miles away with Moroccan zellige and ceramic tiles, kitting out the 46 adults-only rooms with Beni Ourain rugs, ikat upholstery and zebra-striped furniture, and shading the chaises longues at the pool with Bedouin-tent-style cabanas. But not forgetting Sands is in the Sonoran not the Saharan desert, there are just enough Hollywood nods to bring you back: mirror-backed liquor cabinets in the rooms; an obvious homage to the Beverly Hills Hotel in the leaf-print wallpaper of the Pink Cabana restaurant; and photographs of stars including Farrah Fawcett. This is next-level Americana escapism, with a global influence. FLASH POINT Next door at The Nest, a swinging Rat Pack-era haunt, dancers of all ages still sweat it out till the wee hours. (760) 321-3771; sandshotelandspa.com. Doubles from about $249
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