- 1 BEST BIG CITY SLEEP
- 2 BEST STYLE STEAL
- 3 BEST BOUTIQUE
- 4 BEST FOR ROMANCE
- 5 BEST DESIGN
- 6 BEST ON THE BEACH
- 7 BEST GAME-CHANGER
- 8 BEST ALL-INCLUSIVE
- 9 BEST OVER-THE-TOP LUXURY
- 10 BEST-LOOKING GUESTS
- 11 BEST NIGHTLIFE
- 12 BEST POOL SCENE
- 13 BEST COMEBACK
- 14 BEST SAFARI LODGE
- 15 BEST BUSINESS-MEETS-PLEASURE
- 16 BEST FOR COMMUNING WITH NATURE
- 17 BEST FOR WELLNESS
- 18 BEST FAR-FLUNG ESCAPE
- 19 BEST GROUNDS
- 20 BEST FOR FOOD
- 21 BEST FOR FAMILIES
2019 Best of the Best Hotel Awards
The time has come again for us to reflect back on all the incredible hotel openings of the past 12 months. It's been a banner year for surprising destinations—Namibia and Rwanda, of all places, dominated news from Africa—while others, including spots in the Caribbean and the Middle East, are reclaiming the spotlight. After weeks of deliberation, we’ve come up with 21 stays worth shaping a trip around. All we have to say is, you’ve got your 2019 travel plans cut out for you.
BEST BIG CITY SLEEP
THE WINNER The NoMad Hotel Los Angeles
It took nearly three years for chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara—the genius duo behind New York’s Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad Hotel—to make the jump to the opposite coast. The wait was worth it. The renaissance of once-derelict downtown L.A. has now been anchored by the opening of the NoMad Los Angeles, inside a landmark 1922 former bank. Glimpses of the past remain (the blue-and-gold coffered ceiling in the neoclassical lobby is one of our favorite details) but the 241 guest rooms are all new, courtesy of maximalist designer Jacques Garcia, who added Fortuny lamps and lots of velvet. Expect the food offerings to be on par with its Manhattan counterpart, including two fine dining restaurants, an all-day café, and a rooftop pool and bar—all of which share bathrooms housed in an original bank vault.
BEST STYLE STEAL
THE WINNER Tourists, North Adams, Massachusetts
THE FINALIST Ryo Kan, Mexico City, Mexico
Much like what Scribner’s Catskill Lodge did for Hudson County back in 2017, Tourists did for the Berkshires when it debuted near North Adams this past summer. Long weekenders looking to escape the city now have stylish accommodations fit for their art-filled itinerary (MASS MoCA is just down the road), but this 48-room roadside motel is more than just a place to sleep. Guest rooms are Insta-worthy, of course—all blond wood, mini bars stocked with local fixings, some with private decks—but the 55 acres are another kind of destination. The same landscape firm that worked on the Clark Art Institute’s redesign replanted apple and maple trees, built a boardwalk that leads down to the river, and installed a saltwater pool and yoga pavilion that make it all feel like a kind of grown-up summer camp. A restaurant and cheese cellar are in the works for 2019.
THE WINNER The Siren Hotel, Detroit
THE FINALIST The Hoxton, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Detroit is officially America's next hot getaway. The biggest news that came out of 2018: the opening of the Siren Hotel, which has given the abandoned 1920s Wurlitzer building a second chance at life. If you loved what Brooklyn design firm ASH NYC did for The Dean, in Providence, you’ll love their second go: 106 guest rooms marry the city’s industrial past with its stylish present (think timber floors, original terra cotta signs, and angular retro furniture), while six separate food and drink venues signal this is a more than just your average hotel—it’s a rarefied meeting point. Along with a florist and barber shop, you’ll find a 14th-floor rooftop bar with views of Canada and the Detroit River, a cocktail lounge, and an eight-seat counter whose tasting menu was put together by James Beard-nominated chef Garrett Lipar. Not enough distraction to get you through check-out? The shops of Woodward Avenue and Comerica Park (home of the Tigers) are just steps away.
BEST FOR ROMANCE
THE WINNER Capella Ubud, Bali
The highly anticipated Capella Ubud proves that over-the-top luxury can be delivered without cutting down a single tree—which also explains how hidden this property feels. A natural ecosystem of rice terraces and lush rain forest sets the stage for 22 canvas tents pitched along the banks of the sacred Wos River, where you'll feel like it's just you and the trees. Holing up for an entire day (or two) would be forgivable: each accommodation features a private saltwater Jacuzzi pool, indoor-outdoor bathroom, and personal assistant reached via your own complimentary smart phone, who are on call to deliver meals straight to your door or arrange day trips to nearby Hindu temples. When you both do decide to emerge, there's lots to discover, including the outdoor rainforest pool, a gym and spa (which occupy their own tents), two restaurants that prepare flavor-forward Indonesian cuisine, and a local storyteller who mans the campfire come nightfall.
THE WINNER The Rooms of Rome, Italy
THE FINALIST Arctic Bath, Sweden
Art, architecture, and design come together seamlessly inside The Rooms of Rome, which opened quietly late last year. French architect Jean Nouvel was tapped to transform the 17th-century palazzo into a five-floor hotel, and fashioned its 24 apartment-style stays into individual aesthetics wonderlands. Unfinished concrete, trompe l’oeil panels, midcentury furniture, beamed ceilings, exposed brick—it all comes together in a flourish of beautifully imperfect details. Even more unexpected is the way everything is run: there's no concierge, turndown service, spa, gym, or staff of any kind. Instead, the ground-floor lobby is a gallery of sorts on Italian history and art, while housekeeper Kike Sarasola arranges activities as needed, from private museum tours to cooking lessons. We especially love the restaurant occupying the fourth and fifth-floor rooftop, which serves up Italian specialties (linguine with truffles and bottarga; cheese-stuffed ravioli) and features three large terraces and windows that look out over the Forum, the Arch of Janus, and the Roman hills.
BEST ON THE BEACH
THE WINNER Silversands, Grenada
Grenada, part of the Lesser Antilles islands, has rarely ever been at the top of Caribbean vacation wish lists. It could be because, for decades, the only real luxury option to stay at was Spice Island Beach Resort, a legendary but aging all-inclusive on the sands of Grand Anse. All that changed this year when Silversands came to town. Although it also fronts Grand Anse Beach, everything else about this property is unlike anything Grenada has ever seen. Paris-based architects AW2 (behind design-forward properties Six Senses Con Dao and Amanjena) have created a contemporary stunner—all light marble, blond wood, and 43 suites overlooking the sand and a central swimming pool. There’s also a rum and cigar bar, a spa, and—get this—a Thai restaurant, a swift departure from the usual Creole and international cuisine outlets found at so many other resorts here. The Caribbean’s recovery following recent storms has been inspiring, and, thanks to Silversands, Grenada is among the first of many islands to bring the spotlight back to the region in a big way.
THE WINNER The Retreat by Heaven, Kigali, Rwanda
Wilderness Safaris’ Bisate Lodge and, most recently, One&Only’s Nyungwe House continue to up the luxury quotient of one of Africa’s most prized safari experiences—a gorilla trek through the rainforests of Rwanda. Before those would-be trekkers can reach the mountains, however, they must fly into Rwanda's capital of Kigali, where the only upscale lodging option for decades was the four-star Hôtel des Mille Collines. This past summer finally gave jet-setters a new place to stay: The Retreat by Heaven, the city’s first five-star boutique hotel. Built by American expats Alissa and Josh Ruxin (who also happen to run acclaimed international restaurant Heaven right next door), each of the 11 rooms has been stylishly designed with stacked stone walls, peaked roofs, indoor and outdoor showers, and a private terrace. There’s also a gym, saltwater pool, spa, small farm-to-table restaurant, and a team dedicated to arranging whatever cultural immersion you desire, be it a craft workshop or on-site dance performance—an immersive introduction to the country you've flown so far to see.
THE WINNER The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, Dominican Republic
THE FINALIST Jewel Grande Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cheesy this new all-inclusive is not. The five-star Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, the first of its kind from Meliá Hotels International, is set to redefine the all-inclusive luxury experience in the Dominican. All 288 rooms are suite-style, with freestanding soaking tubs, walk-in showers, separate living areas, and private balconies with whirlpool tubs—though it’s the swim-up suites you want to book for direct access to an exclusive pool and a solarium. In addition to a luxurious private beach, beach club, and on-site Aqua Park (Four pools! Waterfalls! Water slides!), you'll have your pick between seven restaurants to refuel at, from a sushi joint to a ceviche bar specializing in pokes and tartars. For the gals, the spa features 14 treatment rooms and Natura Bissé products, while for the guys, a cigar bar—a first in the Meliá portfolio—rolls some of the best varieties available in the Caribbean.
BEST OVER-THE-TOP LUXURY
THE WINNER Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches
THE FINALIST Joali, Maldives
If you thought the original Four Seasons Resort Seychelles—a swath of 67 villas and 27 residences on Mahé on a forested hillside overlooking the beach—was special, wait until you see its follow-up. Just 40 breezy open-plan beach bungalows line the sands of remote Desroches, a private paradise far more intimate than its neighboring island. Every villa comes with its own private plunge pool, indoor-outdoor shower, and uninhibited access to beaches, coconut groves, an offshore reef, and sandy trails that guests have all to themselves. (Everyone gets a bike to explore them.) There are two onsite restaurants—one serving French-Italian fare, the other elevated seafood in a lighthouse at the island's far end—as well as a spa and water sports like scuba diving and kayaking. Still interested in a change of scenery? The sister property is just a 35-minute flight away.
THE WINNER The Bodrum EDITION, Turkey
THE FINALIST Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, Italy
As more and more European yachts dock off its shores and the culture class pours onto its beaches, Bodrum is reclaiming its place as Turkey’s summertime playground for the social elite. The resurgence is all thanks to a boost in international investment—first with Six Senses Kaplankaya, and again this year with the new EDITION Hotel, which is drawing an international jet-set lured by its private bungalows (each with their own pools), overwater cabanas, and restaurant helmed by an Ell Bulli alumni. The guest list is star-studded but discreet: actor-jeweler Waris Ahluwalia, designer Seda Celikturk, models and influencers who've come to snap their own portraits after a high-profile Harper’s Bazaar photoshoot. The central infinity pool overlooking the Aegean Sea is where to be seen by day; by night, a DJ spins at mini nightclub Discetto while tropical cocktails flow.
THE WINNER Freehand New York, New York City
THE FINALIST Hotel des Grands Boulevards, Paris
A new trend is taking hold in the New York hotel biz, where style and substance can now be found at a fraction of the usual cost. The design-y Freehand's flexible room layouts and social hangouts make it more than just a place to sleep in thanks to the stylish touch of Roman & Williams (who added details like barreled ceilings, grand pianos, student graffiti, and acclaimed restaurant Simon & The Whale). However, it was rooftop bar Broken Shaker—an outpost of the ground-breaking venue that put Miami’s cocktail scene on the map—that everyone wanted to be seen in this summer, where cocktails like the Bad Attitude (made with toasted coconut-infused rum, Campari, sweet vermouth, and mango vinegar) earned it a James Beard Award nomination. If the line is too long, head to the second bar downstairs, where a portrait of George Washington oversees the eponymous space.
BEST POOL SCENE
THE WINNER The Setai Tel Aviv, Israel
THE FINALIST Katikies Mykonos, Greece
Its address in Tel Aviv’s ancient port city, Jaffa, tells you all you need to know about The Setai, a luxury hotel built inside a fortress. Guests come here for the history—there are stone archways dating back to the Crusades and iron-barred windows from its Ottoman-era days as a prison—but stay for the atmosphere courtesy of London-based firm ARA Design, who injected a heavy dose of Middle Eastern drama into the guest rooms (Turkish rugs, Arabic-patterned light fixtures) and an artful blend of old and new in public spaces (12th-century coins and a clutch of old weapons along with jewel-tone armchairs and glittering chandeliers). The rooftop, though, is the true stunner. In a city full of pools (this is the Middle East, after all, where summer temps hang in the mid 90s), the one at the Setai, angled towards the Mediterranean Sea, is definitely the sexiest. Get there early to nab a sunbed, and don’t move a muscle until you take in one of Tel Aviv’s storied sunsets.
THE WINNER Hotel Lutetia, Paris
Hotel Lutetia, an Art Nouveau icon on Paris’s Left Bank, has been a hub for intellectuals and artists like James Joyce and Picasso ever since it opened in 1910—but over the decades, it became old news as other fading grande dames (Ritz Paris; Hôtel de Crillon) became new again. Following a four-year-long, $234 million renovation completed this year, the hotel is now as lavish as ever. Original details like stained-glass windows and a unique fresco-painted ceiling have been restored, while the 184 guest rooms (down from 233) are more subdued but no less opulent—think oak flooring, Murano glass wall sconces, and an elegant color palette of blues and caramels. The hotel’s “see and be seen” mentality is anchored at the still-famous Lutetia Brasserie, where chef Gérald Passédat (of three-Michelin-star Marseille restaurant Le Petit Nice) feeds the city’s elite in between cocktails and jazz at Bar Josephine. The Wellbeing Centre is worth booking a treatment at, if only so you can enjoy the gorgeous subterranean infinity lap pool and hot tub.
BEST SAFARI LODGE
THE WINNER Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia
THE FINALIST One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
As far as safari bragging rights go, it doesn't get more unique—or isolated—than northwestern Namibia's Skeleton Coast, whose harsh terrain of shifting dunes broken up by jagged granite mountains is home to some of the toughest species (desert-adapted lions, elephants, zebra, giraffe, and black rhino) in the world. Safari outfitter Natural Selection built not one but two outposts in the past year. The six raised tents that comprise Hoanib Valley Camp, however, are not nearly as stunning as Shipwreck Lodge, one of the most architecturally (and aesthetically) interesting hotels in Africa. The standalone cabins built from recycled wood resemble beached ships and are decked out with faux fur blankets, wood-burning stoves, original Namibian artwork, and massive windows angled towards the Atlantic Ocean from across the dunes. After 4x4 excursions to river deltas (where elephants, lions, and hyenas congregate), dune climbs, and the nearby Mowe Bay seal colony, guests return for sundowners and dinner at the on-site restaurant's wraparound terrace.
THE WINNER The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel
THE FINALIST Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing, China
Have you ever been in love with a corporate office? Architects Foster + Partners have repurposed a landmark 1960s government building into a serene city retreat that’s far more beautiful than it has to be. The recessed windows of the 336-room tower (originally designed to keep direct sunlight off workers) allow for sweeping views of Hong Kong and its botanical gardens and are retrofitted with blackout screens and noise buffers that keep the city’s sights and sounds out after a day of long board meetings. Factor in 1,000-thread-count linens, 16 pillow choices, gold accents, and egg-shaped soaking tubs, and you may just find yourself hitting snooze—but try to resist the urge. Breakfast is one of the hotel’s best assets. Between rendezvous at its sexy lobby bar and rooftop restaurant, fill your downtime with a treatment at the spa, lap one of the two pools, or a dance or tai chi lesson.
BEST FOR COMMUNING WITH NATURE
THE WINNER andBeyond Vira Vira, Chile
This past year will forever be known as the year luxury safari outfitter andBeyond finally got “out of Africa.” September debuted andBeyond Vira Vira, a 23-room escape on the banks of the Liucara River in south central Chile’s Lake District—their first venture outside their home continent. Everything here rides on the local experience: guest rooms are fitted with Chilean textiles, handwoven tapestries, and indigenous wood; the restaurant is supplied by the on-site farm; and excursions—a departure from the outfitter's typical game drives—focus on the bounty of the surrounding 100-acre estate, from horseback riding and white-water rafting to skiing, sailing, and snowmobiling Chile's diverse terrain.
BEST FOR WELLNESS
THE WINNER The Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland
THE FINALIST KAI Sengokuhara, Hakone, Japan
It seems perfectly fitting that Iceland’s greatest attraction is now home to the country's most luxurious hotel. The Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland, an ethereal wellness escape at the edge of the Blue Lagoon, embodies everything we love about its home country: the 62 suites are as Scandinavian and tranquil as they come with sleek Nordic furniture and wood-paneled walls, the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows and terraces of the bluer-than-blue lagoon and surrounding 800-year-old lava field are staggering, and (if you book the right room) you’ll have direct access to your own private section of the water. For the full experience, reserve a treatment at the subterranean Retreat Spa, where silica and algae are key ingredients, followed by the seven-course dinner at Moss Restaurant where Icelandic cuisine is the star.
BEST FAR-FLUNG ESCAPE
THE WINNER Sheldon Chalet, Alaska
THE FINALIST Rosewood Luang Prabang, Laos
An adrenaline-inducing helicopter ride is the only way you can arrive at this end-of-the-world hideaway, 6,000 feet up in a glacier valley inside Denali National Park and Preserve. Once safely on the landing pad, glass of champagne in hand, it's all you can do not to stare at the dizzying "amphitheater" of rock, ice, and snow that surrounds you. You’ll feel as remote as you are, 40 minutes (as the crow flies) from Talkeetna, without WiFi, TV, or cell service and miles from any wildlife, roads, or vegetation. The silence and stillness are tangible. Meals and wine tastings out on the deck are intimate, because there are just five guest rooms in total here—all the better for claiming your perfect spot by the fireplace, snagging an additional share of Alaskan king crab cakes, having clear views of the Northern Lights, and getting to schedule your own glacier hikes, sledding excursions, or visit to a private hot springs.
THE WINNER Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat, China
THE FINALIST Relais de Chambord, France
Modern China isn’t just limited to the futuristic skylines of its sprawling cities. Hanjiang, a district in Yangzhou mostly known for its network of man-made lakes, instantly became an architecture-lover's pilgrimage site when Tsingpu Retreat opened its doors. More than just a 20-room hotel, Tsingpu is its own kind of destination. The neglected warehouse has been restored and reimagined as an experience for all the senses. Chinese architects Neri & Hu added a grid of brick walls and pathways that link the once haphazard layout of courtyards, buildings, and gardens together. Guests rooms are soothing oases with white oak, terrazzo, and gold details, and there's also a theater and restaurant, but you might find yourself spending most of your time outside. The bamboo garden, tea garden, flower garden, and water garden—all enclosed but open to the sky—are quiet, private, and transport you in a way only a place like this can.
BEST FOR FOOD
THE WINNER Heckfield Place, England
THE FINALIST Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa, France
It’s a strange concept that the most exciting part about the decade-long transformation of Heckfield Place, a countryside estate in Hampshire, England, isn’t the house (though it’s gorgeous—a 47-room, red-brick Georgian manor) or the grounds (400 some-odd acres of rolling meadows, English oak and chestnut trees, and a shimmering lake that looks like it was plucked from the pages of Pride and Prejudice). It’s the food, overseen by renowned Australian chef Skye Gyngell, that truly wows. Both restaurants, Marle and Hearth, are provided to by the estate itself. Its five-acre farm supplies the vegetables, milk, cheese, honey, and eggs. The orchard, planted with 700 fruit trees, supplies the apples and plums. The greenhouses and gardens provide the herbs and flowers. It all comes together in spectacularly seasonal and fresh menus that never miss a beat: buckwheat pancakes with plum jam for breakfast, cheese-curd dumplings with greens for lunch. Inside a former stable, Hearth is only open to hotel guests, who can watch the tasting menu being cooked on an open fire.
BEST FOR FAMILIES
THE WINNER Hotel Xcaret, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
THE FINALIST 'Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, Oahu
For families seeking a balls-to-the-wall warm-weather getaway with everything you could possibly imagine under one proverbial roof, Hotel Xcaret is your ticket in. The 900-room behemoth in Playa del Carmen has got something for absolutely everyone: along with 10 restaurants (one is run by a Michelin-starred chef), eight bars, three gyms, and several pools (including one with a swim-up bar), guests gain free access to a host of area eco-parks that offer everything from Mayan performances to zip-lining. Tastes of luxury can be found at the upscale spa, the lounger-strewn beach, and guest rooms themselves (picture jetted tubs and terraces equipped with hammocks), while activities keep you busy—river kayaking, complimentary yoga and meditation sessions, snorkeling in caves and coves swirling with tropical fish. Truthfully, with so much on the daily docket, the kid’s club might start to seem superfluous.
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 2018 Best of the Best Awards to see who made last year’s cut.
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