- 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
2020 Best of the Best Hotel Awards
New decade, new hotels to drool over. If the world’s best new hotels have any sway over where you’re headed in the coming year, you’ve got a lot to be excited about. This go-around, Asia dominated the spotlight, where standout openings in Singapore, Bhutan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Japan (host of the forthcoming Summer Olympics) have us earmarking funds for long-haul flights. The U.S. also had a moment, and we’re not just talking about our beloved NYC: properties from New Jersey to Utah are enticing jet-setters to stay stateside. And, while London, Paris, and Rome are all duly represented, properties in less-visited destinations like Bolivia's salt flats and the Scottish Highlands make a strong case for exploring outside your travel comfort zone. Wherever the new year takes you, these 21 stays deserve a look.
BEST BIG CITY SLEEP
THE WINNER Belmond Cadogan Hotel, London
THE FINALIST Hotel de la Ville, Rome
Not much has changed for the social scene at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel—known simply as The Cadogan when it opened in 1887 in Chelsea. It was here that Oscar Wilde lived and hid before his 1895 arrest, and it was also here that socialite Lillie Langtry seduced the future King Edward VII. Today, a who’s-who crowd still flocks to these five Queen Anne–style townhouses, now a 54-room escape of 19th-century design, art, and exclusivity. Look out for working fireplaces, stained glass windows, century-old wood-paneled walls, and more whimsical touches—a crystal peacock in the dining room; an installation of 600 bronze books in the library—that lighten the otherwise stately air about the place. Drinks before dinner at chef Adam Handling’s namesake restaurant are de riguer, as is a stroll through Cadogan Place Gardens next door (of which only Chelsea residents and hotel guests have access).
BEST STYLE STEAL
THE WINNER Hotel Chapter Roma, Rome
THE FINALIST Sister City, New York
We haven’t loved a high-design Roman boutique as much since G-Rough came to town. In this case, a 19th-century building blocks from the Pantheon was the muse for South African interior designer Tristan Du Plessis, who left the original brick archways. Rooms at Chapter Roma are a spirited mix of industrial-chic meets Art Deco, with vibrant pops of color—pastel velvet armchairs, brass pendant lights, graffiti art—that bring new energy to the building’s old bones. It’s a microcosm of the old meets new that perfectly suits present-day Rome, where both young creatives and sophisticated jet-setters can—and do—coexist in the multi-use lobby bar and on-site market. While the hotel has no full-service restaurant, you happen to be in the Regola district, home to some of Rome’s hottest tables.
THE WINNER The Fife Arms Hotel, Scotland
Scotland is no stranger to tartan-clad hunting lodges, but this one has introduced something entirely new—sexy even—to the Highlands, and it’s got hotel and art lovers raving. In the bucolic village of Braemar (the seat of Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved Balmoral Palace), two Swiss gallerists have turned tradition on its head at The Fife Arms, a 19th-century Victorian inn that moonlights as a contemporary art museum. Inside, more than 12,000 artworks, from rare objects to original paintings, vie for your attention. Simply step through the front door and you’ll spot a glass-blown chandelier by Richard Jackson, a Steinway piano carved into a topographic map depicting Robert Burns scenes, and paintings by Lucien Freud and Queen Victoria herself. Walls are covered in moody tartan-tweed fabrics and even the air smells of Scottish flora thanks to the hotel's signature scent. And there’s more, including a tiny Art Deco bar home to Man Ray photographs devoted to fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The mood is imaginative, romantic, whimsical, and sophisticated—a model for what future hotels can be this side of the U.K.
BEST FOR ROMANCE
THE WINNER Finca Serena, Mallorca
THE FINALIST Aman Kyoto, Japan
Beautiful grounds, incredible cuisine, complete seclusion—what more could a couple want for a quiet sojourn away? This adults-only finca (Spanish for “country estate”), tucked away among cypress trees and olive groves far from the nightclubs and resort-lined beaches of Palma, is unlike anything you’d expect from Mallorca. Whitewashed stone buildings house contemporary rooms that set the romantic mood—think modern and antique furnishings, an earthy palette of wood and linen, and sweeping views of the vineyards. Between treatments at the spa, naps in hammocks on the veranda, farm-to-table meals featuring estate-grown ingredients at Jacaranda restaurant, and weekly suppers among the vines beneath the stars, this is a place where love stories are made.
THE WINNER Trunk(House), Tokyo
THE FINALIST Maison de la Luz, New Orleans
The micro-hotel concept gets a serious—read: ultimate—upgrade at Trunk(House), and we’re here for it. There's just one bedroom inside the 70-year-old former geisha training house in Tokyo’s "Little Kyoto," and those who manage to secure a reservation (and stomach the price tag) will have full run of an oasis as atmospheric as the neighborhood it hides in. From the original stone genkan entrance to the interior's wood-paneled ceilings, stained-glass windows, and terrazzo floors, every angle is gorgeous, and you'll have plenty of chances to soak it all in during meditation in the tatami mat tearoom, dinners whipped up by a private chef, and soaks in your sento-style bathroom's cypress wood tub. There’s even a karaoke-disco-bar with neon signage and a glitter ball—because if you’re going to live it up this big, you might as well invite some friends.
BEST ON THE BEACH
THE WINNER Lekkerwater Beach Lodge at De Hoop, South Africa
THE FINALIST Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, Greece
Stays at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge are for true beach people—for those who love the sand as much the life that thrives on and around it. You’ll find some of the best whale-watching in the world in De Hoop Nature Reserve, three hours outside Cape Town, and from Lekkerwater’s private beach and ocean-facing guest rooms, you’ll get a front-row seat to all the action as dolphins and Southern Right whales migrate here (July through November) from Antarctica. During South Africa's balmy winter months, starfish-studded rock pools and oceanside hiking trails work just as well to lure guests from their cozy, solar-powered cabins. At night, everyone reconvenes for hearty communal meals—Cape Malay curries; South African braai; wines from the nearby Hemel-en-Aarde valley—which can be served in the open-kitchen restaurant or down on the beach. We highly recommend sand between your toes.
THE WINNER TWA Hotel, New York
THE FINALIST Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, Dominica
Airport hotels are not a new hospitality concept, but the experience at the TWA Hotel harkens back to those days when flying was an event. And for JFK, one of the busiest airports in the world, this was a long time coming. We thank the stars that the powers that be didn’t raze Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal to the ground when the airline shuttered in 2001. Instead, it’s been given new life as a hotel—though instead of walking into 2020, guests step back into the 60s. In the lobby, a sunken lounge features bright red banquettes where guests can sit beneath a ticking flight board and order martinis from waitresses clad in retro uniforms. In guest rooms, rotary phones and runway views are aviation geek gold. Outside, a retired propeller plane is now a swish cocktail lounge called Connie. And on the terminal roof? An infinity pool where you can watch takeoffs and landings. It almost makes you want to miss your flight.
THE WINNER Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana Resort, Dominican Republic
THE FINALIST Miraval Austin Resort & Spa, Texas
Don’t believe everything you read: the Dominican Republic is still one of the best (and best bang-for-your-buck) Caribbean islands to spend time away—in no small part because this island knows how to run an all-inclusive. Coming in hot are the Hyatt Ziva and adults-only Hyatt Zilara resorts, two hotels that sit side by side on a prime stretch of beachfront in Punta Cana. Both share important amenities—lagoon-style pools, an underground spa, Hyatt’s largest hotel gym, nine elevated dining concepts including an old-school diner, stunning ocean views—but Ziva gets our vote for its more whimsical design, kids’ and teen clubs, and water park featuring seven slides and a lazy river.
BEST OVER-THE-TOP LUXURY
THE WINNER Banwa Private Island, Philippines
THE FINALIST The Nautilus, Maldives
Looking for something truly over the top? How does “the most expensive resort in the world” sound? For a cool $100,000 a night, you and up to 47 close friends (if you choose to invite them) can have Banwa Private Island all to yourselves. Along with arrival by private helicopter or seaplane, you'll have complete run of the 15-acre tropical isle, which is home to six beachfront villas (think infinity pools and butler service); 12 garden rooms; and a hilltop residential suite. As for what to do, here's a tiny taste: unlimited treatments at the spa, gourmet meals with wine using ingredients from Banwa's organic farm and freshwater spring, scuba and diving excursions to Tubbataha Reef via the property’s yacht, golfing, paddle-boarding, jet skiing, sailing, tennis, soccer, and yoga at the studio or on the beach. If getting one island to yourself still isn't enough, there’s a catamaran for overnight journeys to surrounding isles.
THE WINNER J.K. Place Paris, France
THE FINALIST Soho Warehouse, Los Angeles
From the onset, boutique hotel group J.K. Place was always about style—their hotels were designed for fashion people, not just travelers. That might explain why it took five years to find the perfect setting in the perfect neighborhood in Paris for their first venture outside Italy, but find it they did. Inside the former European Consulate building overlooking the Seine, this new member of The Leading Hotels of the World features 30 individually designed guest rooms by Michele Bönan that are as chic as can be, with custom Italian furniture and Parisian flea market finds (a Hermès desk lamp; mirrored consoles) alongside marble fireplaces and larger-than-life bathrooms. The guests who stay here are as beautiful as the digs, so get ready for some fantastic people-watching as you lay by the indoor pool, check into the Sisley spa, and sit down at the northern Italian restaurant.
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THE WINNER Experimental Chalet, Switzerland
THE FINALIST Virgin Hotels San Francisco, California
Ten years ago, three childhood friends reset the standard for bar culture when they opened the speakeasy-inspired Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris. A decade (and three hotels) later, they’ve entered the après-ski scene in none other than Verbier, Switzerland—the kind of exclusive, who-knows-who resort town the brand is all about. Rooms at the Experimental Chalet are streamlined and refreshing, all whites and jewel-tone greens and pinks with balconies overlooking the Alps, but the public spaces are where it’s really at. Enter the first-floor Cocktail Bar and you'll find a roaring fire place surrounded by a stylish crowd sipping drinks with rye whiskey and vermouth before sitting down to hearty comfort dishes like rösti and spaetzle. The biggest draw for partygoers, however, is The Farm Club in the basement—a late-night Verbier legend now owned by the hotel that has entertained the likes of David Bowie and Diana Ross over the years.
BEST POOL SCENE
THE WINNER Asbury Ocean Club Hotel, New Jersey
THE FINALIST The Calile Hotel, Australia
The Jersey Shore regained its cool factor when the buzzed-about Asbury Hotel debuted to much fanfare in 2016. The Asbury Ocean Club Hotel, the hotel’s follow-up just around the corner, is another notch in the belt of NYC’s hottest summer escape. Rooms are bright and airy with their 11-foot ceilings, wood-paneled floors, and slick design by Anda Andrei, while the hotel's beachfront real estate and accompanying ocean views keep guests from venturing far—not that you'll need to. The beach is fab—all guests get their own beach bell attendant for towel and food service—and the pool is arguably even better, lined with sunken beds, trees, a granita cart serving up juices and smoothies, and the feeling that you’re miles (and miles) from the big city.
THE WINNER Raffles Hotel Singapore
It’s been a long two-year wait since Singapore’s esteemed Raffles Hotel shuttered to the world, but the 1887 landmark finally reopened, and the results are as magnificent as we’d hoped. Rooms are brighter and airier, suites feature new enhancements and butlers for every guest, and an overhauled food and beverage program includes destination restaurants like La Dame de Pic (French) and 藝 yì By Jereme Leung (Chinese) along with new details like plantation-inspired patterns on the historic Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. History buffs, don't fear: despite new trimmings and trappings, the hotel’s colonial heritage was kept perfectly intact. You’ll still find iconic turbaned doormen in white uniforms manning the entrance along with the gravel driveway, which harkens back to when horse-and-buggies would come and park there.
BEST SAFARI LODGE
THE WINNER Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House, Rwanda
Kwitonda, a silverback gorilla who once roamed Volcanoes National Park, lent his name to Singita’s Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House, the latest in luxury lodgings to open in the hills of Rwanda. Just eight suites surround the main lodge, all built from reforested wood and other sustainable materials, and include features like fireplaces, heated plunge pools, and a covered veranda for taking in the property’s 178 acres. Kataza House, a private four-bedroom villa, takes things further with a private chef, media room, and gym. No matter where you choose to unpack your bags, a luxe home base is guaranteed for those with gorilla trekking on the itinerary.
THE WINNER Rosewood Hong Kong
THE FINALIST Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing
Inside a 65-story skyscraper, the marble-lined Rosewood Hong Kong is an attractive ambassador for West Kowloon’s urban renaissance. Spacious rooms are jade-tinged visions decorated with intricate Asian motifs and geometric chandeliers by Taiwanese design star Tony Chi and were inspired by the property’s polished pedigree. (Rosewood Hotel CEO Sonia Cheng is an heir to one of the world’s largest jewelry store chains, Chow Tai Fook.) Elsewhere, Damien Hirst butterflies line the walls at the airy all-day tearoom while refined Cantonese plates—minced fish soup, barbecued meats—are the draw at the Legacy House. Don’t miss a cocktail at the Dark Side, the hotel’s glamorous jazz bar.
BEST FOR COMMUNING WITH NATURE
THE WINNER The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection, Utah
The Lodge at Blue Sky, a 46-room resort on 3,500 acres outside Park City, is a next-level approach to ranch life. Yes, there’s horseback riding and mountain biking but also fly fishing and heliskiing. Among the restaurants and bars are The Tavern, a remote 1800s cabin turned saloon that cooks breakfasts and dinners over an open campfire, and High West Distillery, which produces its own whiskey. There’s also a 7,500-square-foot spa with open-air soaking pools and, for skiers, an exclusive ski-in/ski-out lounge at the base of the mountain where tune-ups and gear storage are supplemented with hot drinks and fireside snacks. Let’s not forgot the rooms. The Sky Lodge and Earth House are built into the hillside with grass roofs and feature outdoor fireplaces overlooking Alexander Canyon.
BEST FOR WELLNESS
THE WINNER Shou Sugi Ban House, New York
THE FINALIST Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, a Sensei Resort, Hawaii
As if you needed another reason to escape to the Hamptons, this design-forward, Japanese-inspired spa retreat in Water Mill has wellness nuts buzzing. Landscape designer Lily Kwong was tapped for the three-acre overhaul, which added pebbled pathways, bubbling fountains, manicured gardens, and cherry trees around the standalone cedar studios. Rooms are just as spare and simplistic—all glass and natural wood with gas fireplaces, Kobe-style beds, and freestanding Hinoki wood soaking tubs. The effect is instantly soothing, and paves the way for rejuvenating days ahead: tea ceremonies, hydrotherapy treatments, fitness and yoga classes, meditation sessions, beach walks, and communal feasts in the barn designed by Noma co-founding chef Mads Refslund do equal work to recharge and re-energize you. Whether you stay for a half-day spa ritual or seven-day all-inclusive experience, it’s an easy, come-as-you-are space to heal and refocus from city life.
BEST FAR-FLUNG ESCAPE
THE WINNER Six Senses Bhutan
The isolated, landlocked country of Bhutan opened its borders to foreigners for the first time in 1974, but the process has been slow going as the government works to slow tourism’s negative effects. The good news? More luxury hotels are finally beginning to open their doors, including one of the most exciting projects ever by Six Senses. Not just one but five separate lodges, spread out across mountainous Bhutan, have made exploring a bit easier. Lodge-style Thimphu is set on a forested hillside above the capital city; farmhouse-style Punakha sits in a valley of rice paddies; Paro is close to an ancient ruin; Gangtey borders a monastery frequented by black-neck cranes; and Bumthang hides in a pine grove. Experiences and designs vary between properties—some have outdoor infinity pools, others feature private balconies—but are connected by the brand’s wellness lean. Hikes to local monasteries are a favorite activity, and at every spa, meditation halls and local-inspired therapies deepen guests' connection to this mystical, spiritual land.
THE WINNER Kachi Lodge, Bolivia
THE FINALIST Islas Secas Reserve, Panama
If you couldn’t afford a roundtrip ticket on Richard Branson’s inaugural Virgin Galactic space flight, don’t fret: you’ll still feel like you’ve left the stratosphere when you get within eyesight of Kachi Lodge. There’s no denying the lunar-like quality of this remote corner of the Earth. Just six geodesic domes (five of them suites) are arranged in a row at the edge of the world’s largest salt flat, where guests will feel as alone as they are. As show-stopping as your room may be—all bespoke furniture, handwoven alpaca throws, art, and transparent window cutouts that allow for stellar stargazing—it’s your surroundings that make the biggest impact. Go on as many guided excursions through the surrounding altiplano as you can muster so you can take in the Thunupa volcano, various archaeological sites, and resident flamingoes.
BEST FOR FOOD
THE WINNER Puro Vik, Chile
THE FINALIST Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Mexico
If at first you do succeed, why change the recipe? Alex and Carrie Vik’s luxury wine estate Vik Chile took the South American hospitality scene by storm when it opened in 2015. Their follow-up, Puro Vik, sits just down the hill, but unlike its predecessor, this is no traditional vineyard hotel. Just 19 glassed-in casas by architect Marcelo Daglio, tucked in the trees overlooking Millahue Valley, are as much about design as they are about views. No two rooms are alike: one is Japanese-inspired, with shoji screens and tatami mats; the Spanish-style “Letras” suite pops with color and eccentric objects like a boxing glove-shaped chair. Whichever one you book, you’ll find an outdoor bathtub on your back terrace with Andes vistas that almost beat the food. After touring the vineyards and making good use of the Wine Spa (treatments incorporate grape seeds), make your way to Milla Milla, where local ingredients and estate-produced wines give you a tangible taste of the landscape.
BEST FOR FAMILIES
THE WINNER Baker's Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton, Florida
THE FINALIST Disney's Riviera Resort, Florida
With its endless sunshine, incredible beaches, and unbeatable accessibility, the Sunshine State is a perennial favorite when it comes to group getaways. Baker’s Cay Resort, on the outskirts of Key Largo, puts families well within reach of the Keys but far enough away from the crowds that it still feels blissfully secluded. Of the 200 rooms, corner suites offer the most space—though all come with balconies and mini-fridges. As for what to do here, well, you might run out of time before trying it all. There’s a nature trail that guests can tour with the resident biologist. On the water, you can sail, snorkel, go kayaking, or hire the resort seaplane for taking a scenic cruise down the coast. Back on property, lawn games and movie nights fill extra downtime. Even the formal restaurant Calusa offers children's menus. Rest assured, though, that kids aren't the only ones having fun: a separate adults-only pool and Dry Rocks bar featuring fire pits and live music keeps the young at heart happy, too.
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