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Hotels

2018 Best of the Best Hotel Awards

The past 12 months have been busy for the hotel industry—making our job of narrowing down our annual Best of the Best list harder than ever. If there's one thing we've learned from selecting this year's winners, it's that you've got to deliver way more than stylish looks and 1,000+ thread counts. These are important, of course, but there's also the food, the art, the sense of place, the value for money... After endless debate, we came up with 21 properties that check off all the boxes and more.

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BEST BOUTIQUE

THE WINNER The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

THE FINALIST The Whitby, NYC

When a hotel opening is as hotly anticipated as The Silo, it’s nearly impossible to meet every expectation set by the world’s biggest hotel critics. But The Silo immediately hushed the naysayers and became an instant landmark on Cape Town’s illustrious V&A Waterfront. The address didn't hurt, of course: the upper floors of the 1920s-era abandoned grain silo now house 28 guest rooms tricked out with Persian carpets, Egyptian crystal chandeliers, and freestanding tubs set in the center of protruding pillowed glass windows overlooking Table Mountain. There are also three restaurants with similarly swoon-worthy vistas, a private basement gallery, and, just six floors below that, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which we like to call the inverted cherry on top.

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BEST STYLE STEAL

THE WINNER The Drifter, New Orleans

THE FINALIST The Hoxton, Paris

America’s obsession with old-is-new-again mid-century modernism continues in New Orleans. The Drifter, a ways away from downtown on gritty Tulane Avenue, is a gorgeous homage to the life and times of the footloose Beat Generation. You’ll still find the original awning and neon road sign that beckons drivers off Route 61, but inside this low-slung 1956 motel, everything is newly nostalgic. Troweled concrete walls, pink-and-green palm-leaf wallpaper, and tiles sourced from Oaxaca give new life to the 20 guest rooms, while Frette linens and Aesop amenities add a touch of luxe. In the pool area, a giant disco ball casts prisms of light onto the water, and waiters hand out Japanese beers, sakes, and frozen cocktails. In lieu of a restaurant, a café serves up baked goods and La Colombe coffee while a host of rotating food trucks parked nearby whip out dishes from Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and beyond. Altogether, it’s a surprising departure from the French Quarter’s typical bijou boutiques—and with a price tag that's equally appealing.

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BEST BIG CITY SLEEP

THE WINNER The Ned, London

THE FINALIST Nobis Hotel Copenhagen, Denmark

What do you get when you combine the brains behind the Soho House, Nomad, and Freehand brands? One of the edgiest hotels to hit London in decades. Following a four-year renovation, all that remains of the original Midland Bank building is a host of green verdite Corinthian columns. The ground floor hall has been transformed into a vast emporium of restaurants and bars including a branch of Cecconi’s and the Californian-inspired Malibu Kitchen, done up with tufted leather and velvet banquettes, tiled floors, and antiques sourced from Belgium and France. The 252 upstairs rooms are just as glamorously appointed, with mahogany four-posters, Afghan rugs, fully stocked drinks cabinets, and paisley fabrics in rich aqua and chartreuse hues. Along with a barber shop, a boxing gym, and a spa, there’s a killer rooftop (with views of the Gherkin on one side and St. Paul’s Cathedral on another) and a subterranean Vault Bar, where new twists on classic cocktails are served in a high-drama space lined with steel deposit boxes.

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BEST FOR ROMANCE

THE WINNER Conrad Bora Bora Nui

THE FINALIST Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas, Costa Rica

It doesn’t get more honeymoon-ready than French Polynesia, whose turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, and tropical islands have been luring couples for as long as we can remember. This year, all eyes are on Bora Bora, Tahiti’s most famous island, where a multimillion-dollar renovation has transformed a former Hilton into the the first five-star resort to open on the island in a decade. Asia-based BLINK Design knocked down walls, built out decks with nap-worthy catamaran nets, and added floor-to-ceiling glass doors to give each of the 114 accommodations more light and gorgeous ocean views. There are also six restaurants and lounges as well as a mini golf course and spa. But the biggest reveal is the two-story suites, a first for the island.

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BEST DESIGN

THE WINNER Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula, Australia

THE FINALIST 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York

A giant sculpture of a jackrabbit with antlers, known as the fictional jackalope, guards the entrance to this marvel in Australia’s Mornington Peninsula—a perfectly surreal introduction to the property, where buildings covered in jet-black zinc stand against rolling vineyards. Inside, you'll find 46-rooms with Japanese soaking tubs and one-off furniture pieces by design firm Zuster. The hotel's two farm-to-fork restaurants are also statement-worthy: an undulating 10,000-bulb-strong chandelier installation lords over the seasonal tasting courses served at Doot Doot Doot; a brick floor and origami ceiling frame the more casual Rare Hare. And the perks don't end there: a yoga lawn, a 60-foot infinity pool clad in black tile and porcelain, site-specific art installations, and a spa housed in a crystal diode pavilion complete the picture.

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BEST ON THE BEACH

THE WINNER Hotel San Cristóbal, Todos Santos, Mexico

THE FINALISTS The Loren at Pink Beach, Bermuda; Park Hyatt St. Kitts

Texas hotelier Liz Lambert, the designer behind some of our favorite sleeps in Texas (including the stylishly boho El Cosmico in Marfa and Austin's Hotel San José), has finally forged beyond her home state. Located in the sleepy fishing town turned bohemian enclave of Todos Santos, her newest venture, Hotel San Cristóbal, is a true stunner. Everywhere, from the 32 adobe-style rooms to library to the mirador (seaside lookout), has a stylist’s touch—think colorful tiled floors, potted cacti, and a glittering pool angled towards the sunset, where bronzed guests sip mezcal margaritas and watch as fishermen hoist in their daily catch. Like Lambert's previous properties, providing a sense of place is key: the staff is largely local, volunteer activities include helping baby sea turtles, and the food, courtesy of native chef Edgar Palau, is as authentic as it gets.

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BEST GAME-CHANGER

THE WINNER Foundation Hotel, Detroit

THE FINALIST Hallmark House, Johannesburg, South Africa

After decades of rising crime rates and a drowning economy, Detroit is making a comeback in the form of artsy new restaurants, public spaces, and hotels. Many of them have set up shop in beautiful heritage buildings—a point of pride for a place in dire need of a morale boost. Housed in Detroit’s former Fire Department Headquarters, the Foundation Hotel was one of the first to debut and pays homage to all things local. Native artists and brands were tapped for the interiors, from the bartenders' uniforms and turndown sweets (BonBonBon) to mini bar goodies (nips of Our Vodka’s Detroit; McClure’s potato chips) and rentable wheels (Detroit Bikes). We especially love the industrial nods to the Motor City in the guest rooms, which feature Detroit Wallpaper Co. patterns and repurposed wood headboards sourced from the Architectural Salvage Warehouse. Don't miss the Apparatus Room for excellent Midwestern-inspired American fare from Michelin-credited chef Thomas Lents and an ovular center bar framed by hanging Edison bulbs.

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BEST ALL-INCLUSIVE

THE WINNER UNICO 20˚ 87˚ Riviera Maya, Mexico

THE FINALIST Serenity at Coconut Bay, St. Lucia

Forget the cookie-cutter details that make most of us dread the “all-inclusive.” At this adults-only beachfront hotel in Akumal, the breezy rooms are done up in hand-woven hanging lamps and artwork by local artisans and custom-designed excursions (and butler service) ensure your stay is as “you” as you want. The unlimited meals use local ingredients by star chefs, there are complimentary daily spa treatments, and yoga classes, meditation, cross training, and tennis are also on offer. After all the excitement of the day, grab a cocktail at Bar Balam or whip up your drink of choice using the customized cocktail kit in your room.

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BEST OVER-THE-TOP LUXURY

THE WINNER Kokomo Private Island, Fiji

THE FINALIST Bulgari Resort Dubai, UAE

In a destination where "private island luxury" is standard, Kokomo re-sets the bar. The setting is especially lush, set on a 140-acre rain forested island fringed by white-sand beaches and just a stone’s throw away from the world’s fourth-largest coral reef. The accommodations are on a level all their own: the 21 open-plan beachfront villas each have their own infinity pool, rainforest shower, walled garden, and separate butler’s entrance, and there are five standalone hilltop residences if you like your pampering with a view. Take a dive with the resort’s PADI 5 Star Dive team, get a massage at the spa, and pay a visit to the turtle sanctuary all before a dinner of mahi mahi or yellowfin tuna.

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BEST-LOOKING GUESTS

THE WINNER Hôtel Les Roches Rouges, Saint-Raphaël, France

THE FINALIST Sir Joan Hotel, Ibiza, Spain

Everyone’s heard of southern France’s glamorous Côte d’Azur, but far fewer have discovered the tiny town of Saint-Raphaël, sandwiched between glitzy Cannes and Saint-Tropez. That’s about to change thanks to the opening of Hôtel Les Roches Rouges. "It" girls Camille Charrière and Olivia Lopez were spotted here just days after the hotel’s quiet debut back in May, and hundreds of style-setters have ‘grammed their way through since. Like the company it keeps, everything about Les Roches is effortlessly chic, from the guest rooms’ jute rugs and terra cotta lamps to the earthy all-natural palette of blues, whites, and ochres. Take in the scene at one of two pools, followed by a round of sunset pétanque (this is France, after all) or an open-air movie screening.

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BEST NIGHTLIFE

THE WINNER Public, New York City

THE FINALIST Freehand Los Angeles, California

Studio 54 founder and masterful boutique hotelier Ian Schrager made a splash this past summer when he debuted Public in New York City’s Lower East Side. The sleek, minimalist rooms designed by Herzog & de Meuron start at $150 a night, but you’re not here to just sleep. Along with 367 rooms, the ultra-hip interiors include a co-working social space with ample WiFi and USB ports, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas and dim sum, and not one but three bars, including a rooftop number with stunning skyline views and a basement nightclub that moonlights as a theater and screening room.

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BEST POOL SCENE

THE WINNER Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, California

THE FINALIST Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, Spain

Waldorf’s designers were given a blank slate at this brand-new build on the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire, and what they delivered is an elegant crossroads of Beverly Hills and classic Los Angeles: on the outside, a streamlined Art Deco façade à la Old Hollywood; on the inside, a bi-level lobby with a statement chandelier, a La Prairie Spa with a salon by colorist-to-the-stars Tracey Cunningham, and 170 sophisticated rooms finished with cherry wood doors and soothing palettes of celadon and gold. Whatever luxury you find between floors 1 and 12, however, doesn’t truly prepare you for the visual punch of its limestone roof deck. Sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills—all cottonwood tree canopies and terra cotta rooftops—and downtown L.A. in the distance provide a swoon-worthy backdrop for its guests-only pool, where Hollywood’s pretty and powerful gather by the water to dip in their toes, work on their tan, and chow down on bites courtesy of Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

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BEST COMEBACK

THE WINNER Hôtel de Crillon, Paris, France

THE FINALIST Hotel Eden, Rome, Italy

The history behind this opulent Parisian palace dates back centuries: Marie Antoinette studied piano in one of its first-floor salons, the French-American treaty recognizing the Declaration of Independence was signed here, and the guest list includes top celebrities, from Charlie Chaplin to Sophia Loren. But everything ages, and, like the Ritz Paris and Hôtel Plaza Athénée, the hotel eventually shuttered. Four years later, under the watch of architect Richard Martinet, artistic director Aline d’Amman, and three Paris-based decorators, the hotel is back with a far more modern look. Guest rooms have been pared down from 147 to 124 and updated with 50s-era armchairs, marble, and original art. The lobby’s frescoed ceiling was raised three feet to let in more air and light, a wine cellar and cigar lounge were added, and the freshly designed subterranean spa now includes a guests-only pool lit by skylights. But its 18th-century grandeur is still intact: the heritage rooms, the gilded mirrors, the views of the Place de la Concorde, and the palatial 18th-century neoclassical façade Louis XV commissioned in 1909 all remain as eye-catching as ever.

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BEST SAFARI LODGE

THE WINNER Bisate Lodge, Rwanda

THE FINALISTS Time + Tide’s King Lewanika Lodge, Zambia; Jabali Ridge, Tanzania

For the first time in decades, safari-goers are shifting their gaze away from the Big Five and onto a species far more remote: the endangered mountain gorilla, found in just two forests on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Congo. Twenty-plus years since Rwanda’s darkest hour, hotel development—and time—has begun to heal this verdant corner of the world, and, thanks to disciplined anti-poaching efforts, gorilla tourism is back on the safari circuit. Perhaps the biggest symbol of this newfound optimism is Wilderness Safari’s eco-luxe Bisate Lodge. Its six freestanding thatched villas are luxuriously plush—think hand-woven screens and fabrics, central fireplaces, traditional art, and private decks overlooking Volcanoes National Park—but it’s the company’s investment in the region that delivers the greatest impact. More than $500,000 was put into the local economy in the purchase of the land, local jobs opened up for temporary and permanent positions, and some 15,000 trees were planted on the sanctuary in an effort to expand gorilla territory.

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BEST BUSINESS-MEETS-PLEASURE

THE WINNER Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square

THE FINALIST Mondrian Doha, Qatar

A palatial 1922 neoclassical building, formerly the Port of London Authority, sets the stage for the city’s second Four Seasons outpost—and she's a looker, alright. Guests enter through the original limestone façade, flanked by Corinthian columns, to a re-created rotunda before making their way towards the sophisticated lobby bar. Upstairs are 100 rooms with their original plasterwork, heated bathroom floors, pillow menus, and dead-on views of the Tower of London, just across the street. The location in London's financial hub is unbeatable for anyone passing through on business, while its extras offer just the right amount of diversions to start—and end—the work day. After a dip in the pool or treatment at the spa (don’t miss the Turkish-style hammam), tuck into regional staples with a French twist—smoked Brittany pigeon with foie gras; Scottish langoustine with heirloom carrots in bouillon—at the Michelin-starred restaurant La Dame de Pic, helmed by acclaimed French chef Anne-Sophie Pic.

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BEST FOR COMMUNING WITH NATURE

THE WINNER Awasi Iguazú, Argentina

THE FINALIST Wild Coast Tented Lodge, Sri Lanka

Like its sister property in Chilean Patagonia, Awasi Iguazú manages that impossible feat of matching the beauty of its surroundings with sustainable architecture that blends seamlessly into the landscape. Just 14 villas, hewn from local woods, sit on stilts above the forest floor and are done up with indigenous textiles, handwoven baskets, and private plunge pools and outdoor showers. The serenity you’ll find here is unmatched, but that’s not all you’re paying for—as at every Awasi property, the full-board rate includes meals at the restaurant and your own private guide, who can lead treks through the rainforest to spot toucans and capuchin monkeys, organize visits to local tribes and archaeological sites, and set up sunrise or sunset picnics at the base of the mighty Iguazú Falls, just 15 minutes upriver.

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BEST FOR WELLNESS

THE WINNER Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, Switzerland

THE FINALIST Waldhaus Flims Mountain Resort & Spa, Switzerland

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, stars like Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, and Sophia Loren wintered in Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne region, and sought out the romance of the clifftop Bürgenstock Resort. That legacy was reborn after an ambitious revamp of the grounds this year to include four hotels, 12 restaurants, and the largest wellness spa in Europe. While many of the heritage buildings were saved, some received a jolt of new-age design: the Waldhotel built by Italian architect Matteo Thun, for example, and the Brutalist-inspired Bürgenstock Hotel, whose 102 rooms, restaurant, 100,000-square-foot spa, and wine cellar feature quartz and walnut sourced from Bürgenberg. Once you arrive via the 1888 funicular, make a beeline for the 1950s indoor and outdoor pool for unmatched views of the lake and surrounding Alps.

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BEST FAR-FLUNG ESCAPE

THE WINNER Miavana, Madagascar

THE FINALIST Cempedak Private Island, Indonesia

Despite being the fourth-largest island in the world, Madagascar—that isolated land of baobabs and rainforests, fossas and lemurs—off the southeastern coast of Africa remains, for many, an unattainable dream. But this year’s debut of Time + Tide’s Miavana, on the satellite island of Nosy Ankao, is giving luxury seekers a new reason to make the journey. Those who do will find 14 low-impact villas along with unprecedented access to everything the island’s tropical side has to offer, from whale-watching to snorkeling, diving, deep-sea fishing, and—yes—lemur trekking. After a long day in the jungle or more leisurely one on the beach, guests are free to spend their evenings browsing the main lodge's “cabinet of curiosities” (which houses dinosaur bones, among other artifacts), strolling the French garden, indulging in a spa treatment, or simply relaxing in their 5,000-square-foot beachfront villa and private plunge pool.

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BEST GROUNDS

THE WINNER Amanyangyun, Shanghai, China

THE FINALIST Adare Manor, Ireland

What do you do when human development threatens to destroy a centuries-old forest village? You move it, of course. At least that was the case for Amanyangyun. A testament to conservation, the property was built from 400-year-old Ming and Qing dynasty dwellings that were disassembled from China’s Jiangxi Province and reassembled, brick by brick, on the outskirts of Shanghai, 500 miles away. The suite and villa interiors, courtesy of Australian architect Kerry Hill, marry old and new, with lattice screens, bamboo surfaces, carved wooden sculptures, and recreations of the building's old historic courtyards. After dropping your bags, indulge in a treatment at the signature Aman Spa or any number of immersive activities (including calligraphy lessons and tea ceremonies) or walk the grounds now shaded by replanted camphor trees.

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BEST FOR FOOD

THE WINNER Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley, California

THE FINALIST Hotel Il Castelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy

You can’t get much closer to Napa’s world-renowned vines than at Las Alcobas, whose Victorian-style farmhouse faces Beringer Vineyards, one of Napa’s oldest wineries. Views aside, design gurus go crazy over the hotel’s Yabu Pushelberg–created interiors: the custom furniture by Italian carpentry Casa Zeta, the off-white hues in the 68 rooms, and organic materials like stone and wood that perfectly complement the surrounding green landscape seen through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The hotel's bestselling asset, however, is the food: Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino heads up the hyper-seasonal fine-dining menu at Acacia House, whose dishes spotlight only the best of Napa’s sustainable bounty. On any given night, you might be treated to chilled heirloom melon soup or sweet corn and basil risotto paired with wines from lauded California labels like Frogs Leap, Stony Hill, and—yes—Beringer.

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BEST FOR FAMILIES

THE WINNER Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, the Bahamas

THE FINALIST Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs, California

It took ten years—and multiple missed construction deadlines—for the first hotel in the Baha Mar resort complex to open its doors, but it was worth the wait. There’s simply nothing this 1,800-room hotel lacks for families, from the lobby’s massive aquarium swirling with tropical fish to the sprawling casino, signature ESPA spa, full golf course, and vast pool area complete with waterfalls, cabanas, and a swim-up bar that together occupy just a sliver of the 600-acre property. But this is not just another Atlantis: the guest rooms are cozy with window-facing beds and soaking tubs, and adults have plenty of poolside space to sip their frozen drinks while the kiddos explore the nature pool—home to stingrays and nurse sharks—or get an introductory lesson in conservation courtesy of the Explorer Club (ages 3-12). When those amenities start to bore (impossible!), guests can take advantage of included-with-your-rate activities like snorkeling, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and even sailing between meals at the property's nine restaurants.

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Disclaimer: All winners included in Jetsetter’s Best of the Best Awards are hand-chosen by our editors according to their merit, and in no way influence, pay for, or receive compensation for, the final results.

Be sure to check out our 2017 Best of the Best Awards to see who made last year’s cut.

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