1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

How did it strike you on arrival?
Calm and cool, modern, and with a palette of serene neutrals, the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is meant to let the outdoors in, and accomplishes that with plenty of natural light and greenery (including lots of plants everywhere) and iconic DUMBO neighborhood views.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Gwyneth Paltrow was a recent guest at the hotel and documented the stay on her Instagram. Enough said.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The all-natural theme extends to the guest quarters, where even the smallest rooms are a spacious, natural light-filled 300 square feet. Eco-warriors will love the sustainable touches, like water glasses made from recycled bottles, reclaimed wood bed frames, and organic cotton mattresses. Many rooms have stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The organic cotton mattress and sheets and corrugated leather headboard make for a special and comfortable night's sleep.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The water glasses, made from recycled green bottles, aren't only eco-friendly, but are so pretty (we'd love them in our own kitchen), as are the pendent leather lampshades.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Mahogany, glass, and marble make up the gorgeous bathrooms, which features a triple-filtered rain shower and all natural bath products.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Fast, free Wi-Fi.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The rooftop pool has amazing views out over Manhattan and is where you'll want to be on warm days.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The serenity is amplified by knowing the entire hotel is sustainable and eco-friendly, using recycled materials for all furniture, LED lighting and a grey water irrigation system.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Few things are as "New York" as the 1 Hotel's location at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Aside from that, it's a thoughtfully designed, supremely attractive place to call home for as long you're a guest here. Plus, it has one of the prettiest farm-to-table restaurants in all of Brooklyn: the Osprey.

Ace Hotel Chicago

How did it strike you on arrival?
Humming, industrial-vibe magnet for Google employees who work across the street, and urban nomads checking in to check out the banging West Loop—and the city's cultural attractions beyond.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Curious and cool.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Medium rooms feel like an industrial loft, down to the grid system on one wall, where a Martin Guitar hangs (not in all rooms; though some have turntables, too). Nice built-in plywood credenza along the picture window doubles as a desk with a view.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The box-spring-free bed on a metal frame resembles a queen-size cot, but sleeps much more comfortably than it looks. Style points for the striped woolen blankets that cover the beds.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Ace excels at the small touches, from the Martin guitar or turntable in the room to the works by Art Institute of Chicago students on the walls.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Breaking with tradition, this bathroom is done in dark blues and blacks that make the piles of cushy white towels stand out. Rudy's toiletries supplied.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Good Wi-Fi and included.

Room service: Worth it?
Room service comes from the hotel restaurant City Mouse, from the much acclaimed chef Jason Vincent, but the burger is so much better when you can soak up the hipster vibe in the restaurant.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The restaurant, City Mouse, comes from chef Jason Vincent (see Giant in Logan Square while you're in town), who does small and larger plates that span cultures and ethnicities and all just somehow work. That same easy, voracious vibe fits the hotel to a tee. Great art all around, including in a dedicated gallery, and even in the gym. The rooftop bar Waydown offers skyline views and nightly live music.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Heartbreaking: not having time to play all the records supplied with the turntable.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Well worth it for the insider access to a great restaurant, skyline-framing rooftop bar, and exposure to local art.

The Adelphi Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
The hotel, on Saratoga Springs’ main drag, is unmissable with its Victorian wedding cake of a facade and three-story high pillars. The lobby preserves the elegant retro vibe with a modern twist: plushly upholstered settees in golds and greys, a grand staircase, and even an old wooden telephone booth. To one side is the dark wood-paneled Morrissey’s, which has become the go-to local watering hole.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
A mix of well-heeled travelers who are visiting for one of Saratoga Springs’ many seasonal cultural offerings (thoroughbred racing, the New York City Ballet at the famed local Performing Arts Center), stylish locals, and parents visiting their kids at nearby Skidmore College.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I was frankly surprised by how big the rooms are, given that historical properties are usually a warren of small chambers (the five-year reno took the place down to the studs). I had a Premier Broadway Suite (overlooking the street lined with Victorian facades) and the whole thing read “classic hotel” (you could almost imagine a pillbox-hatted bellhop ringing the doorbell). The bedroom had a leather-upholstered headboard and navy bordered hotel sheets, and the sitting room featured a long couch facing a built-in wood bar and entertainment system—all of it in a handsome cobalt blue and gold palette. But the real revelation was the bathroom, with its marble walls, radiant penny-tile flooring, double sinks, Toto toilet, heated towel rack, and freestanding soaking tub.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The bar area was a lovely surprise, with cut-crystal tumblers and free seltzer, beer, and soda. As in many new hotels, the room has a one-touch lighting, shade, and sound system, which worked nicely (once you’ve figured out how to use it).

Room service: Worth it?
The hotel has plenty of food options. The Blue Hen, in a Victorian-style greenhouse with outdoor patio, is the hotel’s farm-to-table option (pasture-raised chicken; herb-roasted lamb chops) and serene breakfast spot (less serene when rented out for private events some evenings). In the adjoining building, Salt & Char is a modern take on a classic martini-style steakhouse serving up all sorts of aged cuts (Delmonico, Strip, Porterhouse…) and with an excellent raw bar, too. And in the hotel lobby, Morrissey’s—named for prizefighter/gangster John Morrissey, credited for bringing racing to Saratoga, who died here at the bar—has a gentlemen’s club vibe (dark wood paneling, leather banquettes, herringbone floor), serves up tasty wood-fired pizzas and crudo, and is never not hopping with locals and hotel guests.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Its location, right on Broadway, couldn’t be better, and the hotel lets you take out its signature gold bikes to explore surrounding parkland, race track, and hot springs.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
The hotel is really the first true luxury game in this Victorian spa town (the Gideon Putnam, where you can still book a soak in the Roosevelt Baths, is a classic, but a bit staid and outdated), and it does a great job honoring Saratoga Springs’ glamorous legacy.

Anvil Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
From the outside, the main building—a renovated mid-century motel built on the foundations of a former blacksmith shop, painted a dark, inky green—looks slightly ominous. But the lobby, with a roaring cast-iron fireplace, wooden tables and benches for reading or coffee drinking, and a “mercantile” lined with beautiful (and deceptively expensive) sweaters, moccasins, and blankets—feels a bit like a Western movie-set (that you’d want to live in). Half of the rooms, including the excellent restaurant, Glorietta, are located in a second building.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
A global-nomad type crowd: young, hip, and in no rush to be anywhere.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The 49 rooms—most with double queens, a few with single kings or queens—are modest and the walls thin (request a room at the end of the hallway: 204, 208, 212). What redeems them completely is the style: custom cast-iron beds, Woolrich blankets, trendy brass light and sink fixtures, parquet flooring with kilim rugs, and beadboard walls in a frontier-chic palette of slate-grey, white, wood, and brass—all designed by Brooklyn-based Studio Tack.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
I had my eye on the cool assemblage by the minibar: an ice bucket made from a vintage ceramic dairy crock, Thunderbird Real Food bars, and (Venice Beach fave) Moon Juice “Spirit Dust.” I would definitely make off with one of the Woolrich blankets. And the Bigelow bath products.

Room service: Worth it?
Room service isn’t an option here. But the hotel’s restaurant, Glorietta, is outstanding. The kitchen serves up Asian twists on traditional Italian—logical, considering that the restaurant's first executive chef was from L.A.’s Pok Pok and the current chef came from Momofuku Vegas. The grilled artichoke with chili salt and aioli and whole bronizno in coconut broth were excellent, especially washed down with a craft cocktail (I’d plug the Perma Grin, with Blanco tequila, grilled pineapple, lime juice and smoked salt) dreamed up by the team behind New York City’s Death & Co.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Arlen, the kid working reception. His enthusiasm for Jackson Hole is infectious, and he can rattle off all of the OG legends of adrenaline sports who live there, from snowboarder Travis Rice and extreme skiing pioneer Doug Coombs, to climbing-school founders Paul Petzoldt and Glenn Exum. He’ll also steer you right if you’re looking for a good breakfast spot (Lotus, down the block), or an unusual mountain sushi resto (King Sushi).

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For stylish rooms and a cozy lobby (plus, you're within walking distance from everything), the price is right—and you can put up with a little noise from your neighbor.

Austin Motel

How did it strike you on arrival?
"Motel" isn't a misnomer: Last year, famously-hip hotelier Liz Lambert transformed the 1930s-era white stucco Austin Motel into a retro motor inn. As you park your car outside your hotel room door, take note of the iconic (phallic) red neon sign.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Most guests are here to take advantage of SoCo's live music and nightlife.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Rooms have been updated but are original to the hotel (apparently they didn't need closets in the '30s). The decor is funky and playful: red, tufted-vinyl platforms, custom Voutsa wallpaper in a pattern of lips, old school push-button phones.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Casper mattresses will make this bed feel like home to many.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Pick up snacks and beer/wine at the Bodega; there's no mini bar (nor turn-down services).

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The small bathrooms have Alaffia Everyday Coconut products in the shower. But shucks, they're bolted to the wall so you can't steal them.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free and fast.

Room service: Worth it?
There's no room service, but the gift shop sells protein bars, candy, local beers, and a small selection of wine that oeneophiles would approve of.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
On warm days, the massive kidney-shaped pool is filled with guests, almost all with a cocktail or Austin Motel koozie in-hand.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Pets are welcome the red Barcelona chairs in the courtyard are a peaceful place to sit.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Its proximity to bustling South Congress is ideal for some travelers, but this is a true motel (not hotel) experience.

The DeBruce

How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s the sort of old-school mountain resort you don’t see much of these days, a place where you can fly fish, or hike on private trails, or sit by the fire slowly draining a bottle of wine, or swim in the pool, or just nap, gloriously. The edges are still rough at The DeBruce, which is set in a decades-old building that was, long ago, a hotel. It’s been repainted and spruced up, but the Dirty Dancing-style rathskeller on the ground floor and lack of straight edges in the hallways are either charming or not.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
A lot of people from Brooklyn. The DeBruce is about two hours northwest of NYC, and it's the sort of escape-the-city retreat that's big with weekenders and people looking to populate their Instagram. It’s the newest and most luxurious of the Foster Supply Hospitality properties in the area, a sister to North Branch Inn and Arnold House.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I was in Room 7, with sweeping views over the Willowemoc Creek that runs right next to the property. It wasn't super spacious—this is an old hotel—but it was plenty chic with a clawfoot tub, lots of lamps, and a very comfortable bed.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
No minibars here, but you don't need 'em: This hotel is a destination not so much for the setting—which is lovely—as the food. Chef Aksel Theilkuhl is making it work with locally foraged ingredients and a restrained hand with foams and other avant-garde techniques. That same dedication spills over to the drinks, which are on offer at the basement bar or in the lobby or pretty much anywhere else you want. When it comes to a snack, a drink, or anything else, just ask.

Room service: Worth it?
You probably wouldn't eat in your room when the dining room is just downstairs, but definitely you're here for the food. The first time I ate pickled deer heart, chef Theilkuhl brought it to me hanging from a wrought iron cross. The weird thing was, it wasn’t nearly as gimmicky as it sounds. Weirder still, I was having a fantastic time eating his nine-course tasting menu that was imaginative, delicious, not nearly as stilted as “nine-course tasting menu” makes it sound. And the deer heart? It was pretty damn good.

There’s an a la carte menu every night but Saturday, so you don’t have to go all in unless you want to. But really my favorite meal was breakfast: Roll downstairs at whatever time you want, grab a cup of super dark coffee, and get the duck hash, topped with an egg from just down the road and housemade aji chile hot sauce. I’d eat it every single day if I didn’t have to save room for cured deer hearts.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
I didn't get to try the pool on my visit—it was well below freezing—but even better is the trout-filled creek running through the acres and acres of land behind the hotel. They've also got a network of private hiking trails and can hook you up with fishing guides, hunting excursions, or pretty much anything else you wanna try in the realm of country pursuits. You won't miss the fact that there's no gym.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Absolutely. While it sounds kinda like Twin Farms or The Point, there's not exactly that level of polish here—though most people won't mind. It's not exactly a cheap place to stay, but the rate includes pretty much everything—including dinner from chef Aksel—and is a great value all things considered.

Detroit Foundation Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
Stylish and busy, with a great mix of historic architecture and well-designed modern touches. This former firehouse has preserved a lot of its best elements, like the original, untouched terrazzo floors and wood-paneled walls. Most of these details are in the public spaces, but a few, including the terrazzo floors, extend to the guest rooms. Local art appears on every floor.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
It's one of those hotels where people actually want to hang out in the lobby. You'll see local creatives, hipsters, and boss ladies decamping in the lobby for meetings or to use the podcasting studio and an adjacent small, quiet lounge. When I visited, Decades Vintage was in town with vintage Chanel dresses and purses. The restaurant and bar attracts guests, a moneyed suburban crowd, and new downtown scenesters. Those actually spending the night are tasteful travelers who care about the details—the type looking to be exposed to Detroit artisans and have a Michelin-starred chef behind the hotel kitchen. Martha Stewart, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, and top athletes check in when they visit Detroit.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Everything from the wallpaper to furniture to the Owen Wilson "Wow"-worthy furniture is made by local artisans. Blackout shades ensure that the flashing city lights, including a highly visible LED video billboard, don’t interrupt sleep. If I could have my pick, I'd stay in the Commissioner’s Suite, a former fire commissioner's office that's been turned into a gigantic suite with floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and separate sleeping, lounging, and dining areas. Feel like splurging? Book it with the adjoining Secretary’s Suite.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
In-room amenities are slightly above standard: flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi that actually works, plus a mini bar with local snacks and not-mini bottles of spirits—Two James gin and Our/Detroit vodka—made at local distilleries to imbibe in-room or take home. There's also Le Labo toiletries in the bathroom.

Tell us about the food: Worth it?
The menu from The Apparatus Room is always changing but is known for its shareable feasts—like the communal pork shoulder—and its riff on the Detroit coney dog, a plate of homemade pici pasta with beef-heart bolognese topped with chopped onion, dijon mustard, and grated horseradish. Vegetables are divine, and sourced from Recovery Park Farms, a leader in the urban farm movement using vacant lots to truly farm in the city. The restaurant stops serving at 10 p.m. during the week (which includes in-room service), so make sure to make other plans if you're arriving late.

For next level, try to book a spot at the Chef’s Table—a communal dining experience that overlooks The Apparatus Room and is led by chef Thomas Lents. Tickets ($175) sell out immediately when they are released the 1st of every month, so you have to plan in advance.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Service is friendly and attentive, but not over the top. It’s a busy place, so you have to ask for what you need. They work hard to make you feel like you’re one of the “gang,” but aren’t swooping in inconspicuously to grab your bags and open doors.

Bottom line: Worth it, and why?This is a rare hotel for Detroit, with an authentic scene and a top restaurant (for the city, period). The Foundation Hotel could be a game-changer.

Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club

How did it strike you on arrival?
Located between South Beach and Bal Harbour, Surfside had faded into the background in recent decades, but all that changed in 2017 when The Surf Club—a legendary, members-only beachside retreat that first opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1930—got a Four Seasons makeover. While many of the building’s original details, including its fabulous Mediterranean Revival architecture, remain intact, the nine-acre hotel has been reimagined for today’s iPhone-toting, Tesla-driving travelers. The hotel is steeped in history, and you feel it the moment you walk through the door; it’s a pleasant trip back in time to a kind of unfussy elegance that’s not so easy to find these days.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
In its original form, The Surf Club built its reputation as a place where the world’s rich and famous could be a little naughty, but feel confident that any sort of harmless impropriety would never go beyond the beach. (Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, and Frank Sinatra were fans, and Winston Churchill was known to while the days away painting in his beach cabana.) While our current social media climate probably means that any bad behavior might get tweeted about, the hotel nevertheless attracts a crowd of beautiful people hoping that what happens at The Surf Club stays at The Surf Club.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Since you never can have too much beach, we opted for an Oceanfront Room. In addition to being an already-spacious 700 square feet or so, the room’s clever design maximized the generous floor plan. The elongated frame of a cozy sectional sofa in the corner of the room, overlooking the water, extended into a sturdy writing desk. Just a few steps away, floor-to-ceiling glass doors opened up onto a private balcony that had a pair of chairs and a marble dining table. (The frameless glass balcony railing made it a truly unobstructed view). The room and everything in it mimic the colors of the beach below, with lots of soft creams and ocean-like greens.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Guests of The Surf Club get some serious VIP treatment: If the brand’s signature down pillows aren’t doing it for you, you can request orthopedic or hypoallergenic varieties. And if you’ve got an issue with the standard bed’s cloud-like comfort, you can change it up and ask for your preferred type of mattress topper (signature, plus, and firm are your choices).

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Tech enthusiasts will appreciate that with a couple swipes and taps, a single tablet can assist you with ordering room service, nabbing you a restaurant reservation, booking a spa treatment, reading your morning newspaper, and even controlling the room’s lighting, temperature, and drapes. A refrigerated private bar makes a nice touch, and PlayStations on request are great for jet-setting youngsters (and the young at heart).

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
The complimentary Wi-Fi is strong—strong enough that you can continue that Netflix binge-watch you started on the plane.

Room service: Worth it?
When you’re facing the day knowing you’ll be in a bathing suit for most of it, a hearty breakfast doesn’t always seem like the best idea. What I thought would be a simple fruit plate ($20) turned out to be a bit more than a bowl of bananas and strawberries. Though the fruit changes regularly, it’s a seasonal plate of Mediterranean fruits—which made it feel all the more substantial.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
With only 77 rooms to speak of, The Surf Club is a bit on the smaller side, which makes it a much more intimate experience. Nowhere is this more evident than on the beach and at the pool, where you’ll be doted on so endlessly by the staff that you might just think you scored a personal butler for the weekend.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The beach in Surfside is just a little bit calmer than South Beach, and so is the crowd. The hotel’s pristine private beach was its main selling point back when The Surf Club first opened in 1930, and remains so to this day. You can also splash around at one the hotel’s three pools. If you’re traveling with kids, know this: the hotel is more than happy to give you a little private beach time by distracting your kids with a gaggle of beach toys and regular sand castle-building competitions. Amazingly, the hotel’s biggest selling point may not have anything to do with the sun and sand at all: The Surf Club is home to its own outpost of Le Sirenuse, a Positano, Italy-based eatery that just may be the Amalfi Coast’s hottest table.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Though it’s just a few minutes from both Bal Harbour and South Beach, in a way, The Surf Club is in the middle of nowhere. And for this particular trip—which was all about a quick beach weekend—the idea of not having to leave the resort was part of what prompted our decision to stay here. We were not disappointed.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
If you’re looking for seclusion and don’t mind paying top dollar for it, The Surf Club is a wonderful option, and more centrally located than the many luxury resorts you’ll find in Sunny Isles Beach.

Freehand Los Angeles

How did it strike you on arrival?
Stylish hostels are nothing new these days—but this Roman & Williams-designed space, which opened in summer 2017, takes the lowly genre to new levels. From the street, you can see through the expansive windows into the high-ceilinged lobby, with its stunning original 1930s tiled bar, an earthy and wood palette, and custom American craftsmen-inspired furniture.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
In-the-know millennials, all-laptops aglow, who favor communal-style living to privacy.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Freehand LA—located in Downtown's historic Commercial Exchange building—offers 167 private rooms (from studios to suites) and 59 shared. They're simple yet stylish, with vibrant hand-woven textiles, painted tiles, custom lights and furniture, and works by local artists. The shared rooms are better and more thoughtful than some private ones out there, thanks to custom cedar bunk beds that have privacy screens, outlets, and reading lights.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Tiled bathrooms have toiletries by Argan. They have an elevated dorm-style feel, with built-in showers that have curtains.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free in rooms and public spaces

Room service: Worth it?
Room service features a rotating menu with dishes from the on-site Exchange restaurant. Don't miss the popular "Exchange Burger,” served with brown butter, American cheese, lettuce, and griddled onion ($16).

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Communal seating and lots of greenery set the stage for The Exchange's Israeli-influenced menu of shared plates. On the floor, you'll see original mosaic tile owls (from the Owl Drug Store that was located in the building). In the lobby, Rudolph’s Bar & Tea has loungey vintage furniture and creative tea-infused cocktails, while on the rooftop, the James Beard Award-nominated Broken Shaker serves up tropical drinks and killer views. There's also a rooftop pool.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Worth it for the Downtown location, affordable rates, designer interiors, and rooftop bar/pool.

Holiday House Palm Springs

How did it strike you on arrival?
This is definitely an Instagram-worthy hotel, if there ever was one. Located in downtown Palm Springs, the recently remodeled Holiday House pulls out all the stops: a pristine white facade, an impressive art collection (including David Hockney and Roy Liechtenstein), spacious rooms, and a gorgeous pool surrounded by mountains and towering palm trees. There's only 28 rooms, so you never feel overcrowded, and the atmosphere is relaxed, exactly what you'd crave for a quick weekend getaway. Plus, the drink of choice is rosé—what more could you ask for?

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Rooms are light and airy, strewn with royal blue accents and big windows. There's art everywhere, from portraits propped on bedside tables to clusters of paintings on the wall. Each bathroom has an oversized shower.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about? How was the wifi (and was it free?) If money was no object, what was the first thing you'd buy in the mini-bar and how much did it cost? If we lived in a lawless hellscape with no rules, what is the first thing you'd steal?
There aren't any TVs in the rooms, a choice the hotel made to foster a "communal environment." But there is a fully-stocked mini bar, as well as Malin + Goetz products in the bathroom.

And how about the food?
The on-site restaurant, The Pantry, offers "classic, simple Americana fare," with a light breakfast (homemade breads, pastries) served complimentary in your room, as well as brunch and lunch options. The menu rotates; however, there is a weekly "Fried Chicken Friday" that you can make a reservation for. Be aware that while the bar is open until 11 pm, the restaurant closes at 4.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
With chic artwork and a relaxed, elegant vibe, this hotel is worth it for the decor alone. It's a great place to unplug and relax on a long weekend.

Hotel Californian

How did it strike you on arrival?
Even for just one night, this felt like a taste of Europe—or at least a slower pace than L.A., with an abundance of delicious food both at the hotel and nearby. I wanted to bring everyone from L.A. who felt like a fresh air, laid back, walkable weekend escape either by car straight up the Pacific Coast Highway or by taking the snazzy new trains running from Downtown L.A. The station is less than a block away from this 121-room hotel on Santa Barbara's slice of the Pacific Ocean, with charming staff, a Moroccan-spa and two fantastic restaurants.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
The guests are millennial to middle age couples, mostly escaping LA or San Francisco! From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, I never saw a child on the property. Guests are dressed for the Hamptons or Malibu, with their copies of 'What Happened' balanced on top of their carry-alls. You can tell the guests here live nicely at home—they're not here to be impressed by the in-room gadgetry or number of towels. They're here to explore the area they've come to.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
While the rooms are super comfortable (the robe was so plush I could have worn it all weekend) there is no couch for stretching out except in the most expensive suites. But this is a fantastic base—the deck offers some of Santa Barbara's best views through palm trees to the Pacific Ocean with an outdoor fire pit and cozy, shabby chic couches.

Room service: Worth it?
You'd be a fool to order room service when you're just above Blackbird, the hotel's restaurant. Overseeing the menu is Alexander La Motte (previously chef de partie at The French Laundry after stints at Jean George and Boulud.) Our server Katie steered us to the seafood charcuterie, a root salad of multicolor carrot slices with smoked blue cheese, peanut and coriander and then a succulent King salmon with artichokes, garbanzo beans and olives. The deserts were in a class of their own—the "chocolate forest" tastes as good as it sounds.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The complimentary car service proved vital, as it's hard to get Ubers around Santa Barbara. Also, ask the hotel to organize a tour of the wine tasting rooms around Santa Barbara so you don't have to drive all over the Santa Ynez Mountains (especially after a few tastings.) It's also worth noting that Santa Barbara's weather is usually a little cooler than in LA.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
The hotel is perfectly positioned to help you discover the area, thanks in no small part to the switched-on team who can be relied upon for their on-point recommendations. The front desk never pushed their own eateries, but rather directed us only to good spots nearby (and arranged a complimentary hotel SUV there.)

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
At seven stories, The Rowan is the tallest building in downtown Palm Springs, so you truly can't miss it. Though built from the ground up, the property's mid-century aesthetic feels very old-school. The sprawling lobby boasts a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and a two-story, picture window looking out on the San Jacinto mountains.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Travelers craving a social scene—like most Kimpton hotels, the Rowan hosts nightly happy hours in the lobby. Both guests and visitors crowd the Window Bar in the lobby, and the High Bar, on the rooftop.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
We stayed in one of the Spa Suites, which was spacious, and in keeping with the mid-century vibe. The balcony had a beautiful view of the mountains, and we found a yoga mat in the closet, in addition to the usual robe and slippers. The luxurious bathroom had a huge spa-style shower, and Malin and Goetz bath products.

What about the mini bar and the shower goodies? Anything find its way into your suitcase?
I loved that each nightstand had both a USB plug and a actual outlet (and yes, the free wi-fi worked perfectly). I would definitely steal one of the white PUBLIC bicycles that are available for guests.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's all about the view from the rooftop, either while dining at the restaurant, 4 Saints, or having a poolside cocktail. Don't leave without trying the Jasmine cheesecake with matcha. Breakfast at sun-drenched Juniper Table was fantastic, I had the vanilla-bourbon french toast two days in a row.

Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley

How did it strike you on arrival?
With Beringer Estate vineyards’ cabernet vines as the backdrop, St. Helena’s newest hotel makes quite the splash. At the center is a turn-of-the-century Victorian mansion, now called Acacia House, which includes celebrated chef Chris Cosentino’s restaurant, and a romantic porch perfect for aperitivo at sunset.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Everyone is dressed in their best wine country attire. That means most women in fancy sandals or heels and flowy linen dresses, and men in collared pastel shirts. Everyone has that Napa flushed-cheek look—a combination earned from the sun, wine, and unwinding.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The spacious guest rooms are new construction, marked by their sleek contemporary aesthetic: light wood paneling, bronze fixtures, and glass doors blur the line between indoor and private outdoor spaces. Most of the terraces face west, for an ideal view of the sun setting over the vineyards. Splurge and book one with a private fire pit or tub.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Outfitted with custom furnishings from Italian designer Casa Zeta, it's easy to drift off to sleep and almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning. You probably wouldn't, if you didn't want to miss the daily breakfast served just down the footpath.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Little touches like complimentary healthy organic snacks go a long way with hotel guests. It’s easy to envision the Moss and Lam artwork in your own living room.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Bespoke bathroom amenities like Naturopathica products are made exclusively for Las Alcobas (and some incorporate grape and wine as a nod to Napa)—so stock up! Just don’t take the bathrobe, even if it’s the softest you’ve ever felt: they come at a steep price (though you can purchase one at the spa).

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Free and fast Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel—not that you’ll want to use it while on vacation here.

Room service: Worth it?
For a $6 service fee and 21 percent gratuity, you can get Chris Cosentino’s cooking delivered to your room. The rigatoni with kale pesto ($26) held up well with a glass of Ancien pinot noir ($16).

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The server at Acacia House for the warm service and on-point recommendations.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The saltwater pool and 3,500-square-foot farmhouse-style Atrio spa are not to be missed!

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The view over the vineyards at sunset from the private terrace.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
In a valley full of expensive hotels, this one earned its reputation as a gem.

The Line DC

What's this place like? Give us the wide-angle view.
The façade is awe-inspiring, which was—and still is—the point of the building. This former First Church of Science, built in 1912, is an enormous neoclassical structure with a soaring domed ceiling, ionic columns (which kinda make it look more like a presidential memorial than a former house of worship), and a huge copper vestibule door that has patinaed to that chalky old-penny green. The hotel is located on the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgans neighborhood, which has always been one of D.C.'s only 24-hour 'hoods; but it's becoming legitimately cool with good restaurants and shops, rather than the rough-around-the-edges, score-some-weed-and-visit-a-dive-bar kind of cool it used to be.

Who else is staying here? Anyone cool?
The hotel is home to three excellent restaurants, a great bar, and a really cool coffee spot—so not only is it pulling in your average tourist, but it's also attracting young, local foodies who are there just to eat and drink. It's also a draw for hip travelers who are in D.C. for fun, rather than for business (or at least, not government-related business).

How was the room? Anything you were super-excited about?All 220 guest rooms are located in a seamlessly annexed new build (the lobby and bar, as well as the restaurants, are in the old church part of the hotel). This is the Line's second property—the first is in Los Angeles—and while there isn’t really a shared aesthetic between the two, there’s definitely a philosophical through-line: each feels spot-on for its location. For the D.C. property, this means design details that wink at the building’s ecclesiastic history: Wood floors in guest rooms mimic the church’s herringbone oak floors, original mahogany pews are repurposed as lobby seating, salvaged pages from hymnals and yellowed collection envelopes are beautifully framed and hung in the rooms, and unlacquered brass hardware in the bathroom will eventually patina to the same green as the vestibule door that you walk through to enter the hotel. The individual rooms are bright and airy, with huge windows, white walls hung with original artwork, bright, graphic yellow and black bedspreads, and industrial-chic brass light fixtures. All the rooms are big (over 300 square feet) so if you don't need the extra bed, the entry-level king room is just great. The real splurge is the 1,200-square foot monumental master suite with a 1,300-square foot terrace that has panoramic views of the capital. If you need two beds, the double queen is the way to go, though some of the rooms and suites can also be adjoined for group or family travel.

Give us the deets: how was the Wifi? The amenities? The little things that make the difference between a great stay and a just so-so one?
The wifi was free and fast. The hotel has its own radio station (a first for me) called Full Service Radio, which is a community podcast network and internet radio station that broadcasts live from a studio in the lobby. If you tune in, you'll hear local hosts, plus programming that spotlights D.C.'s art and culture, F&B, and music scenes.

Did you order room service? How was it?
You can order food off of the Brothers And Sisters menu 24 hours a day, but it was the roaming cocktail cart that patrols the halls from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. that I was most excited about. Call the front desk to arrange in-room cocktail service from a traveling bartender.

Quick: tell us something (or a few things) you really loved about the hotel.
The food and drink offerings are a real draw here, both for locals and visitors, and include A Rake’s Progress (headed by Spike Gjerde of Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen) and Brothers and Sisters (overseen by Erik Bruner Yang of D.C.’s buzzy Maketto).

So, should we book it?
The hotel is absolutely worth it. In a city that's traditionally very industry and sort of "meh" when it comes to anything that's not a museum or a monument, it stands out for being a seriously cool hotel with excellent design and really great food and drink offerings.

Made Hotel

Tell us everything: what's this place like?
It's good vibes, personified. To start, the lobby is bright and airy with a heavy dose of organic decor. Plants are everywhere, and there's lots of wood, shibori, and patterned throw pillows, plus a coffee bar right when you enter. It's all warm and welcoming—the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and pour overs in progress is a lovely way to be greeted at any time of day—but in the morning, it's really buzzing, with cute locals and travelers in need of caffeine. The rest of the lobby is more of a comfortable place to hang out during the day, where you can do a little work or meet a friend; at night is when the bar really gets going.

Who else is here? Please tell us there's some good people-watching to be had.
Japanese hipsters, mid-level fashion peeps, young but savvy international travelers who want to sleep in beds with Frette linens and who can appreciate the brass hardware in the bathroom, but can't fork over $500 per night.

How were the rooms? Any secrets you want to let us in on?
The rooms are lovely—not huge, but they're spacious enough, especially for Manhattan. What makes the difference is that they're smartly laid out and designed: the beds are on a platform with pull-out drawers with a safe in one, a hair dryer in another, and room to unpack if you like. There are also updated versions of mid-century shelving units for the minibar goods, a built-in bar for hanging up clothes, and a small pull-down desk (because who needs those huge wooden whoppers these days?). The vibe is sort of Japanese (shibori throw pillows, low bed) meets-Pacific Northwest-meets-Danish modern-meets Indo—in a really good way. Lots of walnut wood, "ethnic" soft goods, wicker lamp shades. Everything is super considered.

Talk to us about the extras: anything you loved, and want a lifetime supply of?
The room amenities were fantastic; the Davine bath products are what I use at home, and the towels and bed linens are Frette and super dreamy. But if I was going to steal one thing—and this is in a fantasy world—I'd totally swipe the bed. The mattress is Sapira by Leesa, a sort of foam/coil hybrid, and one of the most comfortable I've ever slept on. I'm not a huge minibar person—but I will say I couldn't help but open and devour the locally made chocolate bars. Also, the bathrooms are really well done; beautiful stone sinks, and the brass fixtures were beautiful. I'd pocket those after I stole the mattress. (Hey, we're still in the fantasy world).

Any staff members you want to shout out?
Everyone that works at Paper, the lobby coffee bar, deserves a trophy—they are adorable, chipper, and know their beans. It can get a little crowded in the mornings, but, unlike many coffee spots with cooler-than-thou baristas, they never seem annoyed that you want oat milk instead of soy, and are a pleasure to interact with.

Quick: what's one thing that really wowed you?
The rooftop bar is one of the better, zero-cheese factor ones in the city, with epic views of the Empire State Building.

Does this place warrant another stay?
This hotel is totally worth the money and is, in my opinion, a great deal for a Manhattan hotel. The rooms are high-end in all the right ways (great amenities, quality, linens, and covetable bathroom fixtures) but not at all over-the-top.

Minam River Lodge

How did it strike you on arrival?
Keep your eyes on the runway—guests, at least those not up for a long horseback ride or an 8.5-mile hike, arrive by private plane. (If you don't have your own Cessna, the Lodge can arrange a flight from Enterprise, Oregon). Minam redefines the word remote and is located on 126 acres in Eastern Oregon’s spectacular Eagle Cap Wilderness, which is about a five hour drive (plus that hike or horseback ride) due East from Portland. The draw truly is the setting. You're surrounded by old growth forests, more than 40 glacial lakes, and the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains—perfect for hiking, fishing or, if it's your thing, hunting deer or elk. The quiet afforded by such isolation is pretty rare these days; there’s zero cell service or Wi-Fi, and absolutely no television. Entertainment at the lodge involves sitting by the fire with a book, chatting with other guests over coffee and Ponderosa pine sugar cookies or maybe a Terminal Gravity IPA, and sitting on the porch of your cabin trying to spot elk or black bear.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
If you're not the kind of person who would consider hiking 8.5 miles or riding a horse to reach your hotel, this won't be your new favorite place. The crowd is, in true Pacific Northwest fashion, understatedly well off (gear heads who now work at Amazon, Wieden + Kennedy creatives, Seattle architects). The uniform? Patagonia and the least offensive style of Tevas possible.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The main lodge has just four charming rooms, with lots of pine, striped camp blankets for bedspreads, and beamed ceilings. Three of the lodge rooms have queen beds and share a toilet and shower room that's down the hall. The lodge's Eagle Cap Suite is the splurge with more space and a gorgeous free-standing copper soaking tub. For more privacy, go for one of nine lodgepole pine log cabins: Each has a wood stove, a queen-sized bed with duvet and goose down pillows, and waterfall showers. If you're up for getting in touch with your inner scout, book one of three platform tents.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There is no wi-fi (the whole point of the place and a real treat) and no in-room or in-cabin mini bars, which is actually a great thing: in the middle of the wilderness, snacks lead to critters.

Room service: Worth it?
Again, you don't really want to be snacking in your cabin, but the food, which is locally sourced or grown onsite and served ranch-style in the main lodge, is divine. Chef Carl Krause fixes epic dinners that spotlight the bounty of Oregon in summertime: local grass-fed rib eye cured in barley koji; just-foraged chanterelles, sautéed with butter and garlic; spaetzle with caramelized onions; mountain blackberry crisp with bourbon crème anglaise. You'll be glad you have to hike those 8.5 miles back to your car.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
You can put on your bathing suit (or not) and venture into the woods to star gaze from the wood-fired hot tub. Heads up: The lodge is only open May through October, and has a limited number of rooms, so you really need to book in advance if you want to hit that window.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
If you're into nature and really want to disconnect, you'll love it. It's a hike, literally, to get here, but really is worth the time, money and effort.

Pendry San Diego

How did it strike you on arrival?
When Montage decided to open a line of trendy, design-centric hotels geared toward the millennial traveler, the company looked to San Diego for its inaugural outpost. This bright, 12-story hotel opened in early 2017 and brought some much-needed modernity to the Gaslamp Quarter, a downtown neighborhood that veers on the kitschy, touristy side. The lobby is spacious and sophisticated with hip twists, like staffers in plaid outfits—a nod to the hotel brand's signature print.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The hotel caters to a young, hip crowd. See: the Moët & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine in Provisional Kitchen, Cafe & Mercantile, their casual restaurant.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
There are 317 rooms, including 36 suites. The decor is filled with wood, whites, and metallic gold touches—like a West Elm catalog come to life. Take a look at the Magic Eye-style wallpaper, a blue swirl pattern made up of surfers, rabbits, and palm trees.

Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows; book one of the top floors for the best views.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Get ready for some of the best sleep of your life. Their huge beds are beyond comfortable.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The mini-fridge is stocked with booze, snacks, and kombucha. Note that if you want to move items in the fridge to make room for your own, they charge $25 (!). Instead, you can request an empty mini-fridge from housekeeping. The macarons on your bed for nightly turndown are a classy touch.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The highlight of the room is the epic glass-door, walk-in shower lined with subway tile. Robes are so plush and comfy you'll want to take them home (and you can, for $110 each).

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
It's included in the room rate.

Room service: Worth it?
Provisional Cafe cooks up the 24-hour room service menu. Entrees like chilaquiles, banana French toast, and a pork Cubano sandwich are $15 each, on average. Larger meat and seafood plates will run you about $25. There's an abbreviated overnight menu, served from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. with breakfast and dinner items.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Maybe it's because they just opened and are earning that positive reputation, but every single staffer will be friendly, attentive, and professional.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
This is as much a dining and nightlife venue as it is a hotel. There's casual all-day fare at Provisional; high-end seafood at Lionfish; a casual beer bar with the best soft pretzel around at Nason's Beer Hall; Vegas-style partying at the subterranean Oxford Social Club; the lively rooftop Pool House; and classy cocktails at Fifth & Rose. Provisional, co-designed by LA-based Alchemy Works founders Raan and Lindsay Parton, is the most photogenic of the bunch. The restaurant-marketplace includes a coffee bar and mini-boutique with luxe home decor, jewelry, and leather goods.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
There's a lot to love, from the clean design and bright rooms with beautiful showers, to the central location and ample dining options.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This hotel promises style, service, and a central location.

Proper Hotel San Francisco

What's this place like? Give us the wide-angle view.
Walking up to the Proper Hotel at 5 o'clock on a Friday night, there was an hour-long wait down the block to get into Charmaine's, the hotel's hip, swanky rooftop bar—who could resist firepits and views of the city skyline? The high-end hotel opened in November of 2017 to much fanfare; a month later, it was still tough to find a seat for a drink in the lobby, which is decked out in the artsy-cool stylings of designer Kelly Wearstler. Pattern and color reign supreme at the Proper, with bright florals on furniture, rugs, and pillows, mixing with mirrors, eclectic groupings of paintings running up and down the walls, and graphic black and white prints. It's a lot, but it's fun—and a serious shift from the neutral tones that run rampant in San Francisco's other hotels.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The Proper is the height of cool; on a Friday night, you can see cocktail dresses and blazers, leather and boots. When LCD Soundsystem performed in San Francisco, the band stayed there.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Here's something you don't see at a lot of hotels: a bunk room, albeit way fancier than the one you had as a kid. At The Proper, these walnut double-deckers have built-in brass ladders, outlets, USB ports, and TVs with built-in headphones. If ladders to beds aren't your jam, don't fret. The Proper also has plenty of regular rooms, both standard size and junior and premier suites.

Regardless of the size you choose, Wearstler's fizzy aesthetic carries into the rooms, with graphic and floral wallpaper—sometimes on adjoining walls—geometric lamps and tables, and patterned throw rugs on wood floors. The hotel was also able to preserve the original windows of the 1904 flatiron building.

How's the bed situation? Did you get a good night's sleep?
Guests in beds of all sizes sleep in California Aireloom king mattresses tucked in crisp Italian Bellino Fine Linens, topped with down comforters and striped Kelly Wearstler cotton blankets; the comfort factor is dialed way up.

And the amenities? Anything you desperately wanted to sneak back with you?
So much. Oblong marble coffee tables, tablets in every room, Bluetooth speakers, and Google Chromecast for streaming. Even the bunk rooms have rainshowers. All bathrooms are stocked with Aesop beauty products, Bellino Fine Linens towels, and Kelly Wearstler cotton kimono robes. I'd take one of everything, given the choice.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
The Proper app in the in-room tablet can call up the concierge and any host of services, including document printing and in-room IV and vitamin boost shots "administered by local VIP doctors." Seriously.

Bottom line: would you stay here again, and why?
The location is going to be a turn-off for a lot of travelers, but it's very swanky and hip; it's also convenient for business travelers who need to run off to meetings in the Mid-Market neighborhood.

Public

How did it strike you on arrival?
As the name might imply, the public spaces are a big factor here, and once you walk through the ground-level garden and take the glowing, futuristic elevators up to the lobby, an entire community awaits—one with big white sofas, work spaces, and plenty of locals who come to get some work done in a setting that's a bit more exciting than their neighborhood cafe.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The neighborhood, the Lower East Side, is arguably Manhattan's edgiest and hippest, which means the tribe here is expectedly largely creative and mod, many of them undoubtedly freelance designers and art world folk.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Sleek and minimalist, the Queen rooms have an almost Japanese-farmhouse sense of simplicity and zen, with hardly any extraneous objects aside from the bed, side tables, and sitting area. It's all light wood and spare, neutral colors. The floor-to-ceiling windows help to lighten up the space.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The bed is perfectly comfortable, and equal parts soft and supportive.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Considering you're in the middle of the Lower East Side, you probably won't be in the room much, but when you are, it's great to have a 50-inch Apple TV and Bose Bluetooth speakers—in-room entertainment isn't a problem here.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The attractive bathroom maintains the stylishly sleek look of the rest of the room, which is also sheathed in bands of wood. And the hotel's branded products rival the big name labels you'd find in other high-end spots.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
The hotel claims to have the fastest Wi-Fi in the city (and it's free).

Room service: Worth it?
No room service here. Instead, you order from the in-room TV, then head downstairs to pick it up.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
There is no check-in desk (it's all done by phone or tablet), so interaction with staff—for better or worse—is pretty minimal.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
No matter what you do, make time for a drink at the rooftop bar, which has truly incredible 360-degree views of Manhattan (either from floor-to-ceiling windows inside or the expansive terrace outside). Sunset is the ideal time, though after dark, the bar morphs into a nightlife hotspot.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
For minimalists, the rooms are just right—clean-lined and totally free of distraction.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
At Public, it all comes down to great value—a fair price for super stylish rooms and a massive lobby lounge that doubles as a social gathering place. Plus, the location is hard to beat for fans of this kind of hip, downtown version of Manhattan.

The Rossi

How did it strike you on arrival?
Walking into The Rossi feels more like walking into a home than into a hotel—it's intimate, quiet, and wonderfully run by Marina Rossi and her daughter, Avalon. The small lobby has just a laptop and fireplace, and opens onto the incredibly green and lush walled courtyard. Totally peaceful, but the downtown location is walking distance to everything you need.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
My favorite guest policy: pets are welcome; no children. It's just 11 suites, and is basically the anti-Ace Hotel—quiet, romantic, and tranquil. The other guests we met were all young couples, either from L.A. or S.F., and even though at least half of the rooms were booked, we generally had one of the two pools to ourselves.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The Fountain Hacienda suite has its own private entrance, a small garden with olive and lemon trees, a living room that opens on to a veranda, and a jacuzzi. It felt like our very own casita—the best combination of hotel amenities and Airbnb privacy.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There was a cute, handmade guide book in the room with great recommendations. Marina and Avalon have decorated each room uniquely, incorporating an eclectic mix of pieces they've picked up while traveling—the lobby pairs an African wall hanging with an Italian, leather sofa.

Room service: Worth it?
There's no restaurant, but they do offer a small breakfast at the poolside bar each morning.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Definitely the manager Josh, who gave us his cell number in case we needed anything—plus, he instinctively knew when it was time to refill our poolside bellinis.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's a perfectly manicured oasis in a great downtown location

Surfrider Malibu

How did it strike you on arrival?
A 1950’s motel was transformed into this light-filled, design-forward inn owned by a California-born architect Matthew Goodwin, his Aussie wife Emma Crowther-Goodwin, and their restaurateur friend Alessandro Zampedri of New York’s Rebelle.

The small lobby and cozy upstairs library are designed to look like the living room of a California beach house. You’re immediately at ease, and feel like you’re staying in someone’s home—Emma is likely working away at her computer or having a snack at the wooden table, and will stop everything to greet you and show you around. Their motto is “Make yourself at home,” instead of “Enjoy your stay,” and that feeling really comes across—guests have even been known to walk around barefoot or in socks.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Cool, stylish creative types who want a low-key stay near the beach.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The whole hotel is done in natural materials, including limestone, teak, and white oak, and custom designed pieces from locals. It’s super simple and super chic. Of the 20 rooms, quirky No. 2 is the only one without a beach view, but according to the owners, it’s actually the most booked despite being under the kitchen and facing the mountain side (and often by surfers who blow into town and need a last-minute place to stay). We’re also fans of the Surfrider Suite, with its California King four-poster bed, spa rain shower, ensuite kitchenette with locally made ceramics, outdoor terrace with loungers, a hammock and outdoor dining area facing the sunset.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Most rooms have Bellino linens. Beds are custom, ranging from four-posted California King to teak queens.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Not in-room, but custom surfboards made by local shapers are available for guests to borrow, done up in pastel vintage shades of yellow and pale blue. Beach towels are provided, and if you head to the sand across the street, you can text in a food order and they’ll deliver it right to you. Suites come with Bellino linens, Grown Alchemist amenities, Bose speakers, Parachute robes and a mini bar stocked with local California treats.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Bathrooms come with Grown Alchemist amenities.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free

Room service: Worth it?
There’s no reason to eat in your room when there’s a roof deck that’s only open to hotel guests. There’s a proper bar with stools and multiple seating areas commanding amazing beach and sunset views—including comfy linen-covered couches facing a firepit. The all-day menu of local and organic dishes includes an Earth Bowl (hummus, quinoa, shaved Brussels sprouts, pickled cranberries, roasted squash, avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved manchego) that will convert even the biggest carnivore. Both tacos—seared tuna and pulled pork—are also fantastic, courtesy of freshly made tortillas.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The owners are always on hand and willing to chat, and give advice about the area. You really do feel like guests in their home.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
No pool—but the ocean is just yards away. The restaurant and bar are on the roof (see above). Finally, parking is included, and there are plenty of spaces out front.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The warmth of the owners, the fresh, clean, light design, and the location across from the beach makes it memorable.

Troutbeck

How did it strike you on arrival?
It's the country retreat you wish your multi-millionaire great aunt invited you to every weekend. This historic inn about two hours north of NYC has been pulling in the literati and politicos for more than two centuries, but it only just got a massive refresh from Champalimaud Design (The Little Nell, The Dorchester), who seriously stepped up the vibe. This is still a country inn—tick off the reading nooks: the fireplace, the bar, the library—but one you'll absolutely hate to leave on Sunday night.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Talk about variety: While all the rooms get Frette linens, down duvets, and Malin + Goetz bath products, there's every imaginable configuration here, across a variety of buildings. The One Bedroom Suites in the main Manor House are probably our faves.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There's something about a classic Braun alarm clock that screams class—or however you say "class" in German. They've got 'em here, along with Tivoli radios, cozy robes and slippers, and sculptural bedside lamps you'll want to take home. The deep soaking tubs ain't bad either.

Room service: Worth it?
Breakfast in modern canopy bed? Yes, please. At lunch or dinner time, it's all about farm-to-table in The Dining Room, and late-night snacks can be grabbed from The Pantry, which is sorta like the world's biggest minibar, with drinks and snacks ready to go.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
There's tons to do on the inn's 45 acres—pool, tennis, formal gardens—plus plenty more nearby. You could even do a full-property buyout and have a lovely Hudson Valley wedding here.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For New Yorkers looking for a dose of fine country living, it's got everything you'd expect—plus a bocce court and some of the best grilled Gruyère sandwiches anywhere.

Ventana Big Sur, An Alila Resort

What's so special about this place?
It's entirely laid-back (with blessedly little cell reception), and the first thing you notice is that you're surrounded by insanely beautiful nature—specifically, the dramatic Pacific coastline and redwood forested mountains. Big Sur is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth and Ventana's mission is to spotlight and champion its setting. This resort, which has been around since the 1970s, was recently purchased and revamped by Alila. However, there is still a groovy NorCal 70s vibe that thankfully hasn't been wiped clean (including one clothing optional pool--lest you've forgotten, the Esalen Institute is just a few miles south on Highway 1). There are just 59 rooms scattered among 150 acres, several pools, and a sprawling terrace restaurant; the property never feels overrun.

What are the other guests like? Give us the scoop.
This is NOT a crew who stakes out pool chairs! The bulk of Ventana’s guests come from L.A., followed by San Francisco; the rest trickle down from other parts of the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, and Asia. I suppose a celebrity might go here to hide away, but it would be an east coast actor à la Mark Ruffalo—someone low-key, and not seeking attention. It's not a kid-friendly, kids club kind of place, but one for adults in search of a restorative break (there is a new glamping program open to older kids, however—15 safari-style tents set in a 20-acre canyon—so kids aren't strictly verboten). Think guests with dogs, guests with yoga mats. Naturalists will love Ventana for the guided hikes: you can learn about indigenous wildflowers, trees, and birds, and oenophiles will dig the daily wine tastings. The spa offerings aren’t extensive, but the indoor/outdoor massage cabanas are wonderful and face the majestic mountains at the back of the resort. There really is something for everyone here—except for maybe the type A person who needs lots of scheduled activities.

What was your room like? Anything you want to shout out?
Ventana is not about stunning you with its architecture—the series of buildings meld into the scenery, which is the the real reason your here. The 1970s accommodations were updated in late 2017, and the 59 mid-century-meets-rustic-chic rooms now feature working fireplaces, muted colors, lots of stone and wood, sea grass baskets, and super-sized TVs. 'Neutral' and 'natural' are the operative words, and the aesthetic veers toward masculine, with many of the rooms featuring dark, leather chairs and heavier woods.

How about the amenities? Any good stuff, there?
The Wi-Fi is free, but the cell reception is pretty much nonexistent. The in-room amenities are sort of random, but, I have to admit, practical: in addition to the current baseline of artisanal potato chips and house-made praline, there was also sunscreen and condoms (long live the 1970s!).

How's the room service situation?
I didn't try it, but the main restaurant for dinner, Sur House, is fantastic. It's connected by a stone path from the rest of the hotel and is a lovely 3/10 of a mile walk through the Redwood. Don't even think about ordering a cocktail, it’s all about the wine. The Ora King salmon with kohlrabi at dinner and wild rice was excellent.

Quick: tell us something (or a few things) you loved about the hotel, or that we absolutely need to know.
If you can, fly into the Monterrey airport (if you land in San Francisco, you really have to be aware of the time of day you head south because you'll be driving through Silicon Valley and traffic can really blow). You'll want to rent a car to explore the surrounding parks, nearby Pfeiffer State Beach, and other must-visits like Big Sur Bakery, and the restaurant Djeeten’s for dinner one night.

Why should we come here?
If you want to totally disconnect, and plug in those connectivity-deprived gaps with hiking, forest bathing, spa treatments, and yoga, it's for sure worth it.

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

How did it strike you on arrival?
The first thing I noticed upon walking into the lobby—aside from the triple-height ceilings, floors polished to a sheen, celadon wing-back chairs, and two show-stopping chandeliers—was the fresh scent, one more befitting of a spa. One deep breath, and you're in vacation mode.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The Art Deco-inspired lobby was bustling with a full range of well-heeled out-of-towners and locals—young couples in artfully ripped jeans and Common Projects sneakers, hot shot agents in suits talking on cell phones, and meticulously maintained ladies in head-to-toe Chanel on their way to lunch. Of course there is a Bijan boutique in the lobby, which tells you everything you need to know about this instant Beverly Hills hotspot.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The smallest room is 630 square feet—spacious, to say the least. The interiors were designed by the firm Pierre-Yves Rochon, who also worked on the Four Seasons George V in Paris and the Savoy in London, among other hotel greats. Like much of the public spaces, they're done up in a muted celadon, taupe, and white palette.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Le Bon Garcon salted caramels, $16. They're made in L.A. by a Paris-trained chef. Coffee drinkers will appreciate the La Colombe cold-pressed coffee, $8, as well as the in-room Nespresso machine.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
This is the bathroom of your dreams: spacious, gleaming white/off-white marble and gold accents, and separate tubs and showers. The 51 suites come with Diptyque amenities, while the other 119 rooms have Ferragamo products.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
WiFi is included. Bluetooth audio connections allow guests to connect their music to built-in speakers throughout the room (and even the bathroom!). iPads control everything from the lighting and draperies to the remote control. 4K TVs are loaded with high-definition channels plus streaming on HBO Go, Showtime, and YouTube.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Build in some rooftop pool time—if for nothing else than to snap some photos of the incredible view. On a clear day, you can see all the way to downtown. Jean-Georges Vongerichten manages all of the F&B in the hotel—his first project in Los Angeles. The main dining room is sun-lit and, like all of the public spaces, filled with greenery. Don't miss the avocado pizza—California on a plate.

Next to the pool, servers wearing sunglasses preside over Rooftop by JG, a go-to for an al fresco lunch. In the evening, it's quite a scene, though food is legit (Kabocha squash toast with ricotta, avocado lettuce cups, and crispy fish tacos); make a reservation if you want to get in. The La Prairie spa has six treatment rooms. There's also a Tracy Cunningham salon and an outpost of Bijan, the high-end menswear brand.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
While definitely OTT-Beverly Hills, we appreciate the consistency of the design point of view. Elevator walls are lined in sumptuous white leather that seems like it will stand the test of time, and custom crystal chandeliers feel more like art installations than light fixtures. And the trees! So much greenery, and it really brings the outdoors inside.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Worth it for the big rooms, pool with a view, and top-notch food.

The Whitby Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
It's a bit disorienting walking into the Whitby, as Midtown has rarely seen anything so colorful, playful, and witty. Designer Kit Kemp has created a place that's the antithesis of the staid, neutral-heavy luxury options in the area. It's like an English summer garden come to life in hotel form.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
People who want to (or need to) stay in Midtown, but who want to be surrounded by great, colorful design.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Rooms are individually decorated in a riot of color, from the bright patterned headboards to walls that might be swathed in shades of yellow, crimson, or gray. Furniture is a mix of new and vintage, and the sometimes-quirky art on the walls lends a personal touch that feels more residential than hotel.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The BeautyRest beds are as comfortable as you can get.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
We had never seen Koval dry gin or Widow Jane whiskey in a minibar before, but we're so glad we have now.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Double sinks, a marble large shower, a stand-alone tub, and RikRak products makes the Whitby bathrooms some of our favorite in the city.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Fast and free Wi-Fi.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Don't miss afternoon tea in the light-filled Orangery. The space itself—filled with comfy chairs and pillows covered in gorgeous patterned fabrics—is as compelling as the finger sandwiches and scones.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
It's an interior-design education just being among the furniture, textiles, artwork, and vintage finds. It's a visual feast.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Gorgeous hotel two blocks from Central Park with an excellent restaurant and afternoon tea that make it worth every cent.

Wm. Mulherin's Sons Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
If you weren't looking for it, you'd probably wander right past this tiny hotel built above one of Philly's hottest restaurants, which shares the purposefully difficult to remember name Wm. Mulherin's Sons. Since the original Mr. Mulherin was bottling whiskey at the turn of the 20th century, the Fishtown neighborhood has had a few rough years but is now well on the upswing: Condo developments are rapidly popping up and streets are lined with small shops like Vestige (Caron Callahan trousers, RTH totes), locals-only restaurants like Loco Pez (L.A.-caliber tacos served in an old-school tavern), and no-frills bars like Garage (hit the skeeball) and Frankford Hall, a sprawling beer garden where $10 will get you a liter stein of lager and a warm Bavarian pretzel. As for the hotel and its ground floor restaurant of the same name? They're the perfect home base for a weekend exploring it all.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
It's too reductive to call 'em hipsters: Mulherin's takes all kinds, from cool parents to ex-rockers to old school Fishtown types who've seen it all and then some. There will be stories swapped at the bar, and some of them may even be true.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Holy hell—this place is amazing. Suites have live-edge walnut beds, vintage Moroccan rugs, full kitchens, fairy tale–inspired wallpaper by artist Stacey Rozich, and (in a neighborly nod) Philly-roasted La Colombe coffee for the Bonavita drip brewers. It’s a beds-above-the-bar concept that recalls Chicago’s Longman & Eagle and The Orange in London.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Honestly I'd take it all home if I could. Call ahead to have your kitchenette fully or partly stocked with whatever you like, or just hit the bar right downstairs if you'd rather somebody else do the cocktail shaking. But the thing I'd really love at home is that console stereo system, with a turntable, some vintage Bowie records, and a Bluetooth receiver, too, for those deep cuts that can only be scrounged up on Spotify.

Room service: Worth it?
You could have 'em bring something upstairs, but you're better off reserving a table at the ground-floor restaurant, where your hot coppa Spicy Jawn pie will be fresh out of the wood-fired oven.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Despite being directly above the bustling bar and restaurant, I didn't hear a single sound—thanks to those thick, 19th-century cement floors.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This is the place to stay if you wanna see what's happening on buzzy Frankford Avenue and across the broader Fishtown neighborhood. Bonus: It's one of the most thoughtfully designed and comfortable hotels in the city—if you can actually score a room. They seem to go as fast as the killer pies at the restaurant downstairs.

Acre

What's the big deal about this place? Tell us what sets it apart.
In a town where views of the Pacific and on-property golf courses are the baseline, Acre stands out for not being on a beach. Actually, the resort's not anywhere near the water. Instead, it's located on a swath of agricultural land outside of touristy Cabo San Lucas and the lesser, but still touristy, hamlet of San Jose del Cabo; so its main draw isn't the ocean, but the really cool, destination farm-to-table restaurant and craft cocktail bar (and that was before it added the 12 tree houses). The place is bright and cheery, with patterned terracotta tiles, lots of local wood, and succulents in hanging macrame planters. With its shield of palm trees and agave, it feels like a little oasis in a sprawling, over-developed corner of Mexico.

Sounds fabulous. Who else can we expect to see there?
There are cool Angelenos taking a weekend getaway, and foodies from Mexico City and the U.S. in search of sun and pool time (but who also want to eat well, and trendily). Overall, think younger, cooler travelers who want to explore Baja, and not just stay within the walls of a resort.

What was your room like? Standard, or special?
The rooms are like the best version of the huts on Gilligan's Island,—if those huts were several feet in the air. The walls and ceiling are woven out of the branches of local trees, and each of the dozen 'tree houses' are reached by private foliage-lined paths and have their own bathroom with an outdoor shower, closet, patio, and high-speed internet. The decor is exactly right for the location—high-end (comfy king-sized beds with crisp sheets and a lovely handwoven bedspread) but not at all fussy, and there are lots of local touches that make it feel place-specific.

Dreamy. Any other little touches you loved, or extras you wanted to pocket on the way out?
Each room reservation includes a two-course breakfast and a morning yoga session, which was great. But if I could, I'd steal the framed photos of cacti right off the wall.

Anything else you want to mention about the place?
The grounds are just lovely—great pool, and space for bocce and badminton. In addition to acres of organic farmland, Acre also has a menagerie that includes peacocks, roosters, Nigerian dwarf goats, and a super cute donkey named Burrito.

So should we book it?
Acre is absolutely worth it. It's so charming, not over-the-top expensive, and has the low-key but cool vibe you actually really want when you're in Mexico. It feels perfectly place-specific and really magical.

Bahama House

You've just arrived. How did the place strike you?
From the outside, it looks like one of the many colorful gabled properties that line the streets of Harbour Island’s Dunmore Town. But entering through the side-street gate, you feel as if you’ve walked into a kind of secret garden, with shady palm trees, flowering tropical bushes, and a glimmering blue pool with hot tub, surrounded by blush-colored, two-story cottages.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Eleven Experiences attracts an affluent, adventurous crowd to its seven properties worldwide, including places in Crested Butte and Iceland. While Harbour Island is a more low-key spot, these same folks are here to take advantage of custom-crafted, adrenalized activities on and off the beach.

Got it. Now, the good stuff: Tell us about your room.
It's like a gentrified beach house with an island twist: bamboo furniture with punchy floral throw pillows (custom crafted by Bahamian fabricators), vintage shell-encrusted mirrors and lamps, upholstered headboards patterned in pineapples and paisley, and large island-style shutters to keep the rooms cool. The bathrooms likewise uphold the theme, with hand-stamped Costa Rican floor tiles and vintage lithographs. Plus, the bed was insanely comfortable, and the one-touch lighting and Nest climate control were convenient features.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
I was seriously coveting my room’s skillful accessorizing, which looked prop-styled for a home magazine: stacks of art books weighed down by a hunk of dried coral or a bronze turtle, vintage rattan mirrors, and chic fabric throw pillows. I was also sorely tempted by the Malin + Goetz shower supplies.

Room service: Worth it?
Bahama House doesn’t generally offer dinner (unless you rent out all 11 rooms, which happens about half the time), but going out on Harbour Island is de rigeur, and the staff will happily book you reservations at any number of nearby restaurants, like Dunmore House or the Landing. But cocktails are always on offer from the poolside bar, where Robert mixes up a killer Goombay Smash and a thirst-quenching G+T. And breakfast on the patio, made by chef Niki is always a highlight—don’t miss her Bahamian fried chicken and waffles and lobster omelette.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Richard, the experience director. He grew up on the island and knows all the coolest spots for adventure, from snorkeling and picnicking at Devil’s Backbone and exploring underground caves at Queen’s Bath, to jumping into Eleuthera’s Blue Hole, a natural cenote. He’s also a blast to spend the day with, zooming around on the property’s Scorpion Rib boat. But the entire staff—from Anne, the hotel’s GM and Georgia, a manager, to Christiano, the boat captain and Robert, the bartender—is super friendly and, by your second day, practically familial.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Bahama House really specializes in excursions, and keeps guests busy with bonefishing, snorkeling, or jumping into Eleuthera’s Blue Hole, a natural cenote. For those who’d rather take it easy, the hotel has its own beachfront area with loungers, umbrellas, and a stocked cooler; they’ll drop you off in a golf cart (Harbour Island’s most ubiquitous vehicle) or let you take out your own. Back at the hotel, the rum bar, containing upwards of 50 bottles, is pretty special: it adjoins the library, with a big art book and vintage dried coral collection—a great spot for a puzzle on a rainy day.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Just three miles long, Harbour Island arguably didn’t need a new boutique hotel, with so many chic beach properties already vying for the moneyed traveler with taste. But Bahama House really sets itself apart with its active approach to a beach vacation and its family-like vibe. When they tell you they hope to see you next year, you believe it.

Cartesiano

How did it strike you on arrival?
This gorgeous property is located inside an old ceramics factory in the heart of Puebla's old town, set between brightly painted colonial homes and storefronts. Beautifully restored into a luxury hotel, the Cartesiano does a brilliant job of fusing old and new, knowing exactly where to preserve and where to introduce modern features—the annex, which has whole walls impressed with colorful, hand painted ceramic tiles that were produced from the century-old factory, visible from the roof top pool, is a great example. There's also an indoor/outdoor vibe throughout: The main building and 19th century annex are connected by an large outdoor walkway filled with plants and paved with old ceramic tiles.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Puebla isn't on any kind of hip circuit just yet (it will be soon, trust me), but it's easy to see the rooftop bar at the Cartesiano buzzing with linen clad, sun kissed well-to-do Mexicans and Americans wanting to tack on a city break to their beach flop holiday elsewhere in the country. It's perfect for those who want to do Mexico in a long weekend, too; unlike Mexico City, this town can be conquered easily in three days.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
My room had a neutral palette with lots of stone and fine linens. I would have preferred that all products were local and artisan, in keeping with the hotel's history as a ceramics factory (and who doesn't want their Mexican hotel room filled with local crafts?) but over all, they did a lovely job. The rooms are clean and modern with an emphasis on materials.

Room service: Worth it?
This town is home to mole poblano, and though you can order it from any place in town with a stove top, the chef's sampler here is pretty tasty. But don't eat in your room! Get up to the rooftop dining area!

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The gentleman who oversees their marketing was phenomenal. He is a local Poblano and you could just sense how immensely proud he was of his city. He insisted on walking me all over town and pointing out his favorite shops and vendors, and while I normally prefer to go explore on my own, he was welcome company and an excellent guide. A wonderful ambassador for the hotel—and for Puebla.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The rooftop bar was lovely, and the bartender was one of the few in town who really grasped modern mixology (he could do mean things with mezcal and pretty much any fruit laying around). The restaurant was genuinely tasty, but you don't want to sacrifice the wonderful, rustic mole houses all over Puebla. That said, it's a solid choice for your first night if you have just arrived and don't want to go back out. The pool and gym, meanwhile, are on the roof and have excellent views.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
The Cartesiano is one of those rare properties whose opening will make a destination hot, not the other way around. This place firmly understands its hometown's artisanal legacy and honors it through its smart and considered preservation of the old ceramics factory it occupies. Plus, it has the best address in town: right at the doorstep of the excellent Las Sapos Flea Market (yep, bring an empty suitcase with you).

Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, An Auberge Resort

So, what's this place like?
Chileno Bay is chic and sophisticated, though it skews younger and hipper than most resorts in Cabo, which are either too fancy, too family-oriented, or too tacky (read: you won't run into too many spring breakers). The architecture, with its sandstone brick and white stucco, blends beautifully into the desert setting: modern, but not at all out of place. Rooms are scattered around two gorgeous infinity pools, and most look out over the Pacific.

Sounds pretty perfect. Who else is there?
It's a mix of early 30-something professionals looking for a long weekend away, who want good eats and drinks, and are more eager to relax and hang by the pool during the day than to party it up. You can also expect to see pockets of fashionable parents pooling it up with their well-traveled kids.

What kind of room did you stay in? Was it nice and spacious, or small enough to give you cabin fever?
My family of four stayed in a three-bedroom oceanfront villa. It was, in a word, insane. Huge, with a real indoor-outdoor set up: a spacious kitchen with top of the line appliances that you can actually cook with, and a living room area that opened onto a large patio with a small private pool overlooking the Pacific. The decor is modern and breezy, with wood-planked ceilings, polished stone floors, a live-edge wood coffee table, and a considered amount of local texture and accent; the bathrooms had wonderful soaking tubs and spacious showers. Everything was considered, and really well done.

Wow—I'd go there. What about the amenities? Anything you'd want to pocket on the way out? And the Wifi—good, or were you clinging to a single bar?
I was in a villa with a proper fridge, so there wasn't really a mini bar situation—but there were lovely fruit plates and homemade snacks (spiced nuts, trail mix) brought to the villa each afternoon. The wifi was strong and free.

How was the staff? Any standouts?
The bartenders were fabulous, and super-knowledgeable about local, small-batch mezcals and tequilas. They took a lot of pride in what Mexico is offering to craft cocktail culture.

Is there anything that makes this place really stand out? A feature or two you really loved?
The beach that the hotel is on is probably the only real swimming beach in Cabo—no small thing, since it can be kind of painful to be at a "beach resort" and not be able to take a dip in the ocean (Cabo's waters are notoriously choppy and rough, and not swimmer-friendly). They have a great set-up down there, with snorkeling equipment and paddle boards you can borrow, and there's an excellent, authentic taco bar right on the beach that offers a few different options each day, along with an excellent selection of small-batch mezcal from around Mexico. The restaurant, Comal, does Mexican 2.0—modern takes on traditional dishes, spotlighting organic and local ingredients (think braised short rib with cacao broth). There are also plenty of healthy, on-trend offerings—a green juices and cup of chia pudding will set you right after a night of tacos and tequila. The pools are also great; there's one that's just for adults, and one for the family, though the latter is more of pleasure to hang out at than a punishment.

Given your experience, would you recommend the place to friends?For sure, it's the rare high-end option, but it's not at all fusty or precious, like some other Cabo resorts. It also has a cool restaurant with good, modern food; an excellent pool scene; and it's location, on one of the only swimmable beaches in town, can't be beat.

The Cove at Atlantis

How did it strike you on arrival?
Connected via walkways to the rest of Atlantis, The Cove is a refuge of calm within a resort complex that’s all about activity. The 600-room tower has its own slice of beach with a row of cozy cabanas, two celebrity chef–helmed restaurants (Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Fish, by José Andrés) as well as an outpost of beloved local favorite Harbour Island's Sip Sip, and private access to two adults-only pools. The service is unfailingly friendly if not always prompt. Mementos of its mega-resort subjugation include required wristbands and high prices.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Atlantis is a kid's paradise: between those scarily-high water slides, the dolphin pools, the indoor aquarium and the endless in-and-outdoor activities, it's the perfect place to bring a group of young ones that are just old enough to run around on their own. The Cove is for the grownups: it's quieter and more sophisticated, and the food is genuinely great, meaning there are people who come here sans kids, just to hang out on the beach for a few days.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The rooms feel like sleek Miami condos, with elegant finishes and a beachy color palette, and include a big bathroom (two sinks on travertine vanities, shower and toilet behind frosted glass), a sunken sitting area between the bed and balcony, and two TVs. Ask for a room on a higher floor that faces the water—you can't beat that panoramic sunset view.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Wi-fi is free and abundant, the bathroom products are basic but get the job done, and the minibar is stocked with a Keurig and to-go cups, so you can go straight to the beach without stopping for breakfast if those waves look particularly enticing first thing in the morning.

Room service: Worth it?
Room service is quick and includes all the classics. But you're in the Bahamas! Go eat outside! Sip Sip, the Harbour Island celebrity haunt, has taken over the poolside dining, with a brand new terrace right over the beach. Order a rum punch, a lobster quesadilla, or a grouper reuben. You won't regret it.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The chefs at Sip Sip are magicians, and every staff member you encounter is genuinely friendly in a way that puts you at total ease.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's a three hour flight from New York, and your kids can run free in the rest of the resort while you read a stack of magazines by the pool with a rum punch. Instant, stress-free vacation.

Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana

How did it strike you on arrival?
It's an incredible building, and the view from the roof—where they've got a pool—is amazing. You're there, having a swim, a daiquiri, and everything feels new—because it is. In Havana, all you want is a clean room, a nice bath, and perfect AC, and they've got it all.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
It takes all kinds: Business travelers, Europeans on long holidays, Americans looking for an alternative to Havana's often dreary hotels.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The glorious air con was a relief after long days exploring. The sheets were crisp, the bathroom was terrific (with solid water pressure), and it felt a bit like your typical South Beach hotel.

Room service: Worth it?
You're not here for the food, which, at least at breakfast was OK. The one thing that was great was the coffee.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The rooftop pool was phenomenal, with gorgeous views and a daiquiri that was pretty damn good. (The ones at the Hotel Ambos Mundos might be a tiny bit better, but the bar there doesn't have a view of El Capitolio.)

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
There’s no reason to stay anywhere else. Some of the the old school hotels have more vibe but they lack the services of the Kempinski. Be aware: Even though it’s managed by Kempinski, this is still Cuba, so service (and food and beverage standards) can sometimes be iffy. (And because it's majority owned by the Cuban government, you should double check that your stay won't violate the latest regulations from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control.)

Habitas Tulum

How did it strike you on arrival?
This boutique hotel is made up of 32 ultra-luxe canvas tents, each about the size of a New York City studio apartment, pitched on elevated wooden platforms and topped with palapa roofs. Inside, they have king-sized beds, sleek wood furniture, kilim rugs, and—maybe most crucially—robust air conditioning. Most tented rooms are set back in the jungle among palms and sea grape trees, but the ones to book are the five oceanfront suites right above the beach.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
It's a very specific vibe: the kind of people who stay out dancing until 3 a.m. and then wake up to do an hour of yoga every morning. Lots of stylishly drape-y clothing, tattoos written in a variety of languages, and deep tans.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The "rooms" are in fact tents, although they're built on elevated wooden platforms with private porches, full-sized furniture, midcentury modern dresses, hippie-chic wall hangings, and plush king-sized beds. While there’s a sink and vanity inside each, the rest of the bathroom is relegated to a bamboo enclosure out back. The outdoor showers, surrounded by low palms, are stunning, but while it’s a testament to great design that they’ve managed to make an outdoor toilet feel somehow chic, those who blanch at the idea of a midnight trip to the loo en plein air might want to book elsewhere.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The showers are stocked with divine-smelling organic products made from local honey and coconut oils, the wi-fi is strong and free, and in lieu of an in-room phone, the front desk and concierge can be reached via WhatsApp message—which they answer immediately. There aren't any minibars, although they do keep your rooms stocked with fresh filtered water, and the bar and restaurant are only a few steps away at any given time. There's also a holistic spa with, massage, and a signature treatment called the Tierra Maya, which includes a whole-body clay mask followed by a massage and a honey facial, and a small fleet of bikes by the entrance that you can take out for the day if you want to hop around the beach strip or do some souvenir shopping in Tulum proper.

What's are the food options like?
The hotel’s only brick-and-mortar structure is a three-story glass and steel pavilion that houses the open-air ashtanga yoga studio as well as the restaurant, Moro, where Chef Frederico Cappi makes hearty-yet-healthy dishes like wood-fired salmon with pickled cabbage and chicken tagine, alongside local classics like grilled plantains and fish tacos. There’s also a bar that churns out craft cocktails and fresh-pressed juices for those sunbathing by the infinity pool or spread out on loungers in front of the private beach.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
If you've never been to Tulum and are interested in getting the full experience without being sandwiched onto the main beach with the bachelorette crowds, this is your spot. The vibe is fun, the tents are cute and comfortable, the beach is beautiful, and the food is tasty, healthy and tropical.

Hotel San Cristóbal

What's the deal with this place? Tell us all about it.
San Cristobál feels super on-trend design-wise, but also totally place-specific, with polished concrete walls, hand-stamped tiles, and equipales (traditional rustic chairs made from tanned pigskin and woven cedar strips) found throughout. The tiny town of Todos Santos has long been a retreat for expat artists, hippy-turned-bougie retirees, and scrappy surfers in RVs who are just psyched to be eating epic tacos and surfing some of Baja's best breaks—and, like Liz Lambert did with her Austin and Marfa hotels, she's channeled this local vibe to turn Hotel San Cristobál into the place where the cool kids want to be. Every design and hospitality detail is well thought out, but the overall result feels easy and casual. You're barefoot, but you're also drinking really great mezcal backed with ice-cold Mexican beer, and eating super fresh ceviche and organic produce grown on a farm down the road.

Who else is here?
Surfers, hippy-chic women in Isabel Marant and Ulla Johnson, and those who dig Lambert's vibe and want to see how she's channeled it in Mexico.

What was your room like? Paint me a picture.
All of the rooms are great: simple, but perfectly designed and decorated, and exactly the feel you want in a Mexican surf town. White plaster walls, concrete tiles, bright handwoven Mexican bedspreads, and private or shared patios, depending on the room type. The splurge is the ocean-facing room with a king bed and a private outdoor soaking tub that looks out at the Pacific, where you can beer, bath, and sunset at the same time. Pretty ideal.

Any amenities you really loved? Goodies you wanted to sneak home with you?
Golly—everything is so good! A not-so-sexy but legit perk is the unlimited filtered drinking water—no small thing for your wallet and the environment. The wifi is free and strong. I'd probably steal the brightly colored Mexican blanket-turned-kimono robes in the rooms (which you don't actually have to steal, since the tightly curated hotel boutique sells them, along with huarache sandals and the perfect straw beach bag).

What's the room service situation? Was it good?
Room service is available until 10 p.m., but the restaurant Benno is so much fun and so good (the camorones agua chile with shrimp, cukes, and jicama is a must as are the flautas de camote with spicy sweet potato, avocado and black beans) that you shouldn't sit in your room.

Give us the highlight reel. What stood out to you?
The location right on the ocean is pretty epic, especially if you surf. Even if you don't, though, the beach is lovely to just hang out on (there's a really nice hotel pool, too, crucial since this stretch of the Pacific is really too rough for casual swimming) and you're surrounded by miles of great biking and hiking trails through the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range. You're also an easy four-mile drive from the colonial town of Todos Santos, with its art galleries, taco joints, and boutique shops. It's the best of all worlds, basically.

So, should we do this thing? Is it worth the cost, the flight, and all that?
Absolutely worth it. If you want a Mexican beach vacation that feels a little sceney and cool, in a part of Baja that still feels undiscovered, you can't beat it.

Park Hyatt St. Kitts

How did it strike you on arrival?
When you pull up to the hotel, you'll stop right in front of a long, open-air entry way that leads right to the beach. It's a straight shot of electric blue sea and sky. As far as first impressions go, it's pretty spectacular. Before you even check in, you'll feel instantly relaxed and in pure vacation mode.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I stayed in room 622, a Nevis Peak Suite named for the fantastic view you'll have of the volcano on Nevis, the island directly facing St. Kitts. Room 622 is on the top floor with its own private patio and infinity pool (there are two pools on the property; one of them is adults-only). The room was lovely and comfortable. And everything was exactly where you wanted it to be. It wasn't filled with furniture (sometimes the bigger the room, the more cluttered it becomes) and it didn't scream "You're in the Caribbean!" with florals and bright, poppy colors everywhere you turn. There was a small marble table with fresh fruit and an always full/always cold bottle of Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water set on it. The wall across from my enormous bed had floor-to-ceiling windows with a perfect shot of Nevis Peak. The bathroom was pretty big with a separate soaking tub and there were plenty of hooks for your towels and robe and in all the right places. That was one of the best parts of this suite: it felt like someone actually put some thought into where light switches and towel hooks should be (and there was a little footstool in the shower so you could shave your legs and not tip over). Between the living room and bedroom was a sliding barn door, maximizing the space. Again, really thoughtful.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Wi-Fi was strong and free, though if you're on it too much you're kind of missing the whole point of being here.

You're starving. There's a knock at the door. OMG, it's room service! What's on offer there or elsewhere in the hotel?
Room service is sort of the play for breakfast, I think, especially if you have a room with a private terrace (there are two buffet options at the Great House, but those will run you $35 or $45 per person, which adds up after a few days). The menu was pretty standard (French toast, variety of eggs and baked goods, etc.) but having a fresh green juice in my pajamas on my patio was a pretty good way to start the day.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
I favor beaches (always) over pools and the temperature of the water was so warm and perfect (in November) -- it was like being in the womb. The property also had a super cool kids club (it even has a climbing wall!). The spa is a Miraval spa so it's obviously great. The yoga and meditation room is inside a former sugar mill. It's definitely worth checking out even if you're not contemplating contemplating.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Attractive to a variety of vacationing travelers, set on quiet Banana Bay overlooking the twin sister island of Nevis, this Park Hyatt feels like every detail that went in to building it was thoughtfully cared about.

Rosewood Puebla

How did it strike you on arrival?
This opening turns the volume way up on the type of traveler heading to Puebla. The team at Rosewood have combined history, decor, food, and beverage in all the right ways, and created a hotel that nods to Puebla and heritage by incorporating old ruins into the design, and constructing what may be the most modern rooftop in Puebla, serving New York-worthy cocktails with views of the volcano. The lobby is loaded with colorful local arts which immediately suggest a sophistication the city had not seen before.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Americans, Europeans and Mexicans in their thirties and forties. All people with great taste, who likely know the brand and were drawn to Puebla by the arrival of the hotel.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I had a spacious, mid level suite. To walk between the bed and the bathroom actually took around a full 30 seconds, which is a while when you think about it. The decor was rustic: heavy dark woods, colorful fabrics and local talavera ceramic where possible.

Worth dining in?
This was one area where the hotel let me down a little. The restaurant serves a Texas-style menu: onion rings, steaks and chicken. Don't get me wrong, the food is high end and delicious, but given that Mexico is home one of the world's greatest cuisines, I'm unsure why you'd want one of your few meals to be anything else. But the food that is coming out of the kitchen—especially the risotto and creamed spinach—is incredibly well done.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The rooftop pool—with views of a smoking volcano—is fabulous, and is next to the rooftop bar, which has beautiful tiled floors and comfy lounge seating.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Rosewood is generally ahead of the curve when it comes to opening in a destination right before that place gets hot, and this property is no exception. We love the oversize beds, colorful lines and cool stone accents in the rooms. But even if you are not overnighting, come for the underground bar, which lies alongside former washing vats used by the locals a century ago.

SLS Baha Mar

Tell us about arriving at the hotel.
The scent is what you first notice: fragrant fresh flowers, at all hours, through the lobby and common spaces. They should bottle it. The space is large, but softened with its decor: bouquets everywhere, velvet sofas, stacks of coffee table books. The high ceilings and white walls let the whole space feel sunlit.

Who else did you see at the hotel?
American families who want a convenient holiday without sacrificing taste or style.

Tell us all about your room. Anything of note?
I had a suite, which was large and self-sufficient: a huge kitchen with crockery and a dishwasher, and living space with couches, two bathrooms, and an enormous balcony with views over the pool and toward the glowingly blue Caribbean. Everything was white, from the walls to the pillows. It added a breeziness and beachy vibe, but the room could benefit from a few more considered touches if we have to be picky.

How was room service?
Fantastic grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers, and loads of fries. Though there are plenty of high-end restaurants available in the hotel, room service is just giving the people what they want. Can't argue with that.

What else would you tell us about the hotel?
Ocean access is excellent; the pool is fun and chic. Gym is huge and air-conditioned. There are 12 restaurants, each at different price points and that suit different palates. The pub, open 24 hours a day, was a favorite.

So is it worth it?
Baha Mar, the three-resort complex in Nassau, the Bahamas that opened last April, makes repeat beach weekends actually easy to pull off which is the biggest draw. And not just because all that separates New Yorkers from its two-mile-long coast are a few episodes of Real Housewives in-flight on JetBlue (direct flights go from 12 other U.S. cities, too). The SLS has an adults-only pool serving rosé and avocado fries (every bit as good as they sound). There is a grown-up approach to embracing the destination. Former chief curator of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas John Cox oversees a 2,500-piece collection of local art, and heads up what we think may be one of the greatest hotel gift shops anywhere, where all-local artists create and sell handbags, picture frames, and clothing; it's like having your own arts and crafts market in the hotel.

The Emiliano, Rio de Janeiro

How did it strike you on arrival?
The exterior is a little odd, with all sorts of folds and windows, but indoors is super chic: There is a Burle Marx-inspired vertical garden, midcentury Modern chairs and sofas and a chic brass bar. It feels like the perfect middle ground between the classic scene at the Belmond Copacabana Palace to the north, and the excessive party vibe at the Fasano, just south.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Chic, sophisticated travelers with excellent taste. Maybe architects, designers and those wanting a subtle, tasteful scene

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
My room was large and very comfortable, with lovely touches like plants and plump white sofas that make it feel like your own sophisticated beach side apartment. Plus, they had huge showers and bathtubs, and pillowy robes to lounge in on those couches after a day spent on the beach.

Room service: Worth it?
If room service was comprised of baskets and baskets of the delicious pan do queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread you order at breakfast, you'd be very, very happy. But just go downstairs and do the whole breakfast: healthful bowls of cool acai with grains and nuts, the freshest green juice and that wonderful cheese bread, served warm, is the most perfect start to the day. The breakfast salon has vertical gardens and skylights.

How were the staff?
Here's one negative: the wi-fi was shoddy at best. The staff, however, were exceedingly apologetic and tried to trouble shoot by letting guests access their laptops.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Beach access is great—it's right across the street from the southern part of Copacabana Beach, next to Ipanema—and the rooftop pool is super chic. Unlike Copacabana Palace, the pool gets sun all day long (and the bartenders up there mix a mean caprioska). The spa is a knock-out, too.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This hotel is a welcome new opening and pace on Rio's Zona Sul. It's more subtle and modern to contrast the go-go party scene of the Fasano, yet without the sometimes stiffness of the Copacabana Palace. It feels young and sophisticated, and revives the more dated northern part of Zona Sul, yet it is close to Ipanema and Leblon.

Gladden Private Island

Close your eyes. What's arriving at the hotel like? Give us an establishing shot.
Located in the Caribbean Sea by Belize's barrier reef, the first view of Gladden is an aerial one—because you helicopter in. And once you see two small islands in the sea of crystalline water, the wow factor is immediate. Upon arrival at the villa, you'll be met with classic tropical luxury touches: white linens, hardwoods, open-air rooms among them. It feels like an exclusive oasis, and it is, thanks to the privacy the location allows.

Who else do you see at the hotel?
Absolutely no one, and that's what makes Gladden so unique—it's called a private reserve for a reason, after all. If you want to unplug and disappear, or have a secluded getaway with a loved one, this is the place to go. Even the staff is located on a separate (but nearby) island, and they only come over upon request.

So what are the rooms like?
Instead of individual rooms, there's one two-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot villa. Both bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, outfitted with the curtained beds and windowed walls you'd expect at an island resort. The bathroom has a large walk-in shower and tub, and the living areas (both indoor and outdoor) have clean, minimalistic design with plenty of couches to unwind on. Head to the rooftop deck if you want to enjoy the sun, or take a dip in the plunge pool, which overlooks the water.

Say you finally drag yourself out of the villa. What about the food—or better yet, access to the ocean?
The ocean is right there for you to enjoy, and staff can also organize activities for you—snorkeling the coral reef, diving, fishing, and more. As for food, you actually won't have to go far: a private chef comes right over to your villa and prepares meals. There will be fresh fish and vegetables, and drinks from a full-service bar. Everything is tailored to your liking, and prepared according to your schedule. If you have any allergies or sensitivities, you know they'll be accommodated.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
This hotel is definitely worth it if you're craving a relaxed, private vacation—it's the perfect place to bring your significant other. And the setting is stunning.

Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club, Curio Collection by Hilton

How did it strike you on arrival?
The biggest, new build on Ambergris Caye, Mahogany Bay doesn't feel as large as its 205 rooms might suggest. The short flight from Belize City crosses some of the world's most stunning, turquoise waters, and once you're here you'll feel a million miles from anywhere on 60-acres of palm-filled, lagoon-facing land.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
A true mix of couples, families, destination wedding groups, and honeymooners. But it never feels crowded.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
A nice mix of local, sustainably-harvested hardwoods and simple, Belizean-Mennonite-made furniture. Showers are basic, with corrugated-tin walls (and are partially open to the sky). The style is low-key British-Honduran.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
We'd love to take home one of the zippy golf carts (it's pretty much all that's used in and around the resort—including adjoining Mahogany Bay Village).

You're starving. There's a knock at the door. OMG, it's room service! What's on offer there or elsewhere in the hotel?
The resort is home to a lively village that includes a general store, restaurants, cafes, and shops, so it's unlikely you'll want to hole up in your room when hungry.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
The gardeners who tend to the on-site aquaponics greenhouse are gregarious and well-informed on what can and cannot grow on this tiny island and Josh Parker who harvests cacao beans in Southern Belize to turn in to scrumptious chocolates at the resort.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The private Beach Club, accessible by water taxi every half-hour, is a joy to spend time at—especially in one of the hammocks or private cabanas, both suspended over shallow water.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For a relatively-easy-to-get-to beach escape, Mahogany Bay rewards on many levels—from an excellent variety of dining options, to sports and activities in an out of the water suitable for all ages. Try a session of "aerial yoga" where you'll be contorting while suspended in a hammock.

Palácio Tangará

How did it strike you on arrival?
It rises like a European palace out of the emerald-green Burle Marx park, incongruous perhaps with the sprawl of São Paulo that surrounds it, but all the more welcoming as an oasis to find peace and quiet in Latin America's biggest city.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
This isn't a place that attracts the cool creatives of the world. Rather, the crowd skews older and the hotel is filled with people looking for something quiet, away from the bustle of São Paulo, not those looking to embrace it. Its Eden-like surroundings—located as it is in a giant, verdant park—and its palatial setting means it can feel a world apart from the city that it's in, but what it lacks in local tradition it more than makes up for in grand opulence.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
If you've stayed in an Oetker Collection hotel before, like Le Bristol in Paris, you should know what to expect. It's all European elegance, with flower-laden terraces and white-glove services. The rooms are decorated in muted tones and subtle nods to the region. In a 7,500-square-foot room, besides a luxurious king bed, you'll find a sofa, table with chairs, a large flat-screen TV, and an extensive mini-bar. The bathroom, done up entirely in marble, has its own sound system and a separate tub and shower. Make sure to get a view of the park, an Atlantic rainforest filled with endemic fauna. You might just have a monkey on your balcony when you wake up in the morning.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The lobby, decked out in light fixtures made from antique crystal decanters, is a wonder in itself. There you might find someone playing soft bossa nova on the grand piano next to the bar, or a violinist serenading guests. It's usually a lively scene of locals having meetings or guests enjoying afternoon tea.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The service is seriously exceptional, whether you're dealing with a server at the exclusive-feeling Tangará Jean-Georges restaurant or the concierge. As an example, when I mentioned that I was a fan of Burle Marx, who designed the park, an hour later a folder full of information on the Brazilian landscape architect was sent to my room.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Two large pools, one indoor and outdoor, and the subterranean Sisley spa are additional highlights. As is the opportunity to have a traditional English high tea while overlooking dense the Amazonian foliage that fills the park. Also, don't miss the wine cellar, where you can participate in wine tastings (including of Brazilian varieties) on a bespoke table, made with glass and pequia tree roots.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
While this isn't the non-stop São Paulo you may have expected, that's kind of the point. Here, in the heart of an expansive park filled with birds and monkeys, is a refuge from the frenzy of this teeming metropolis. It's palatial luxury of the kind you'll find all over Europe—but will rarely encounter in Latin America.

Villa Barranco

How did it strike you on arrival?
Villa Barranco has major curb appeal—the two-story, colonial home turned boutique hotel is equal parts stately and charming. Pulling up feels more like arriving at a friend's summer home than a hotel. Once you step through the garden and into the house itself, wooden details—from the twisting grand staircase in the foyer to the collected pieces of furniture scattered throughout—add to the homey feel. Villa Barranco is on par with other popular boutique hotels in neighborhood (like Atemporal and Casa Republica), but it feels more intimate; and the affordable price point is especially appealing.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Every room in Villa Barranco is spacious, but the two-level Master Suite feels like an apartment. The bathroom has enough space to do cartwheels around the freestanding tub, and there's a loft with a single bed, bean bag, television, and entrance to the private terrace outside (chaise lounges and ocean views included). The décor suits the bohemian Barranco neighborhood without overdoing it—think colorful throws on the bed and Persian rugs on the floor, paired with crisp white linens and necessary modern touches like a TV and air conditioning.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about? If we lived in a lawless hellscape with no rules, what is the first thing you'd steal?
The owner of the hotel is clearly a collector—the vintage furniture throughout is impressive, but it's the quirky little objects in every corner of the room that you'll really lust over. The inside of the medicine cabinet is packed with a collection of antique medicine bottles, and carefully selected trinkets like vintage weighing scales on the desk, or a little wooden sailboat hanging on the wall, made the rooms feel wonderfully lived in. The bathroom amenities and other more essential items were less memorable, but all perfectly fine. Of course, what really matters is that the Wi-Fi is free—and it works.

Lightening round reaction time! Tell us something short but important.
Most rooms at Villa Barranco have ocean views, and it's just off Lima's seafront promenade, the Malecón.

How about the extra things—the spa, the gym. Any features worth mentioning?
Because it's built into an eight-bedroom colonial home, it's no surprise they don't offer amenities like a spa or gym, but the walkable location makes it easy to find whatever you need just steps away. There's a lovely rooftop bar, but it's only manned on the weekends and most guests seemed to completely forget about it (though having it all to yourself is appealing enough). Food is limited to simple room service, and the menu doesn't represent Lima's typical dishes—but when you're in one of the most awarded restaurant cities in the world, you'll probably want to go out to eat anyway.

Bottom line: Worth the money, time, and effort it would take to book it?
You can feel the care put into every inch of the restored republican home, and travelers who appreciate getting to stay in such an emblematic property in Barranco will love the value at the price point. Unique features lent by the 1920s shell—communal gardens to eat breakfast in, or terraces and balconies off every room—paired with thoughtful decor will win over most, but travelers who want bend-over-backwards service and a laundry list of amenities at their fingertips will be happier elsewhere.

Treehotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
Suspended from trees in an unspoiled natural setting, the Treehotel has become somewhat of an icon in the world of alternative accommodations. Located in the town of Harads with a population of just 600, the Treehotel offers an authentic Swedish experience despite its contemporary appearance. As of early 2017, the hotel added a 7th room, 33-feet above the ground. Designed by the Norwegian-based Snøhetta architectural collaborative it maximizes its stellar views of the Lapland treetops and Lule River. Twelve skinny pillars support the two-bedroom structure.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Adventurous Lapland travelers—in all seasons—willing to fly to Lulea from Stockholm and drive an hour further into the northern Swedish forest. Winter is especially magical.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Luckily, there's a small elevator for hauling luggage up to the room—guests still have to walk. The exterior is burnt pine, the interior is a combination of ash wood and birch plywood. Furnishings include a Scandia Chair by Norwegian furniture designer Hans Brattrud and a pellet stove in the living area. It's not large by any means—just shy of 200-square-feet— but floor-to-ceiling windows make it feel airy (and are perfect for wintertime views of the Aurora Borealis). Beds are embedded into the floor—very Japanese!

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Note though that there's limited plumbing in the 7th Room (guests must use the hotel's shower facilities in a main house). We'd knick the very minimalist bedside lamps designed by Ateljé Lyktan.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The "netted" terrace, just off of the living room is just that—an outdoor net with a pine tree poking through it and the perfect spot for snuggling-up in a sleeping bag for summer slumbers. Meals in the main house at Britta's Pensionat are a very family-oriented affair.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Combine the wilderness of Northern Sweden with spacecraft-like architecture and lovers of the outdoors and high-design won't be disappointed by this latest addition to the Treehotel.

1898 The Post

What did you think of the hotel when you arrived?
This is the type of hotel you'd imagine in a storied Parisian neighborhood, all spiral staircases and antiques. It is sexy and classy, and you would travel to Ghent just so you could say that you had stayed there.

Who else do you see at the hotel?
Know the Antwerp Six? The fashionable bunch that dominated the global style scene in the '80s and '90s? Their contemporary equivalents. Beautiful, interesting people with exceptional taste—and a better wardrobe that anyone you know.

Sounds cool. Now tell us all about your room.
The rooms are dark and sultry, and reminiscent of, say, a pied-à-terre in Montmartre in the 1920s: deep-green painted walls, heavy grey curtains, dark wood antiques. The beds are crisp and white, though, and pop as a result of the room's palette. Perhaps intentionally, it makes the bed the focal point of the room, which any place you're overnighting in should, really. The split-level Carriage Room feels more like home, with soft pink linen sofas that are magic against those green walls.

What about food and drinks, and is there room service?
Can't speak to room service, but the bar is special. Be prepared for the most on-point old fashioned in town, and a Flemish-speaking crowd whose wardrobe you'll want to steal.

Sold. So, bottom line: worth it?
The Post 1898 is the type of hotel that can make or reinvent a destination. In the past, Ghent was likely a day trip from Antwerp or Brussels; now, it's a definite overnighter—if not weekender—thanks to this spot.

Adare Manor

How did it strike you on arrival?
A stately manor house on hundreds of acres, a raging river, and a picture-perfect adjacent village. The long drive to the hotel's porte cochère is impossibly smooth, parked cars are spit-shined, and staff holding umbrellas make sure not a drop of Irish rain hit a single head or piece of luggage. Am I dressed well enough? This isn't your predictable, gravel-groomed, stiff and slightly-spooky country estate. The renovation and expansion of County Limerick's most famous hotel, the most expensive in the country's history, didn't skimp on a thing. A new wing blends seamlessly, in soft grey granite, with its mid-nineteenth-century main building—which has a total of 365 leaded windows, 52 chimneys, 7 pillars, and 4 towers (based on calendar and season counts, natch).

Nice. What's the crowd like?
An even spread of Sunday-luncheon locals, American tourists, skilled golfers, families, and returning couples curious to see what's changed and what hasn't. The hush in public spaces isn't intimidating and there are myriad of cozy places to sit and converse. No annoying background music, just the crackle from open fireplaces. Refreshingly, the check-in and concierge desks aren't a focus. It still feels much like the home it once was for the Earls of Dunraven. It remains privately-owned, so you'll not find a smidgen of corporate heraldry.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Top-tier rooms, like the Signature Suites, which come with butlers, and are splendidly over-the-top with carved wood panelling, fanciful stucco ceilings, overstuffed sofas, elegant Georgian-era-style mahogany writing tables, freestanding bath tubs, and impossibly-heavy drapery. Mine, chosen for being the lowest priced (a Classic, at Euros 350 per night), was a miniaturized version of its betters but hardly lacked an ounce of grand atmosphere—it helped that the view overlooked the fast-flowing River Maigue and bucolic golf course. A king-size bed and far-from-fussy marble bathroom with rain shower were perfectly-positioned in its 463-square-feet.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Any of the original 19th-century art on the walls of every bedroom and hallway—from oil paintings to etchings to political cartoons. But that would be criminal, so I'll go for having taken photos of the lively wallpaper patterns used throughout, including bathrooms, to have custom-made for my own home one day.

You're starving. There's a knock at the door. OMG, it's room service! What's on offer, how much does it cost, and how was it?
The hotel's toe-to-top renovation included a basement service and kitchen "kingdom" that now runs the length of both buildings, allowing staff to appear, as if by magic, almost anywhere and anytime. Room service included fresh Dublin Bay prawns (Irish langoustines) on an open-faced sandwich to die for. Just the right ratio of bread-to-butter-to-crustacean. Mini-bars are standard, but I'd recommend enjoying a tipple or two of Irish whiskey in the underground, speakeasy Tack Room with shared company.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Hard to pick one, but Susan at the Falconry Centre made my entire stay. The devotion, passion, and intention she shared during my private encounter with eagles and owls of all shapes and sizes, made me believe she might well be part-raptor herself... intensely-focused, with pale blue/green eyes and a mane of wild, red hair.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Beyond a brand new Tom Fazio-designed golf course, opened in April, there seems to be a bit of something for everyone here, and all without a lick of pretense. A movie theater shows kid-focused films during the day and classics for adults at night, there's Ireland's only La Mer spa with indoor pool, retro Pashley Bikes to borrow to explore the estate and village, a Woodland Walk treasure-hunt trail with fairy-driven markers along the way, and beautifully-proportioned parterre French gardens which include a four-hundred-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Adare is a delicious mix of old and new. It's barely 30-minutes from Shannon Airport, making it one of the closest country manors you can reach on seasonal, nonstop flights from the U.S. (it's an easy two hour drive from Dublin in winter). While retaining an old-school, aristocratic vibe, Adare's fanciful gargoyles, genuinely warm staff, grand and intimate spaces, and super-comfortable rooms make it somewhere uniquely and unabashedly the Ireland of now.

Akelarre

What's the deal with this place? Who's here?
Spain's Basque Country already attracts foodies the world over like a magnet. And here at Akelarre, just 15 minutes outside the center of the gastronomic mecca of San Sebastián, you'll find one of their flagpoles. The new hotel is an offshoot of Pedro Subijana's famed restaurant of the same name, which accounts for three of the region's 28 Michelin stars.

How were the rooms? Anything notable?
All 22 rooms are spacious and modern, conceived by the Madrid-based architectural firm Mecanismo. Rather than the belle-époque grandeur found at most hotels in this region, here the focus is on simple elegance embodied in stone walls, oak floors, and earth tones. Those views of the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows aren't so bad, either.

Did you order room service, and if so, did it jam, or tank?
We're talking about Pedro Subijana here, the man behind the world-famous restaurant that shares its name (and location) with this new hotel, so you can bet they're not skimping on room service. Local chistorra sausages paired with creamy truffled eggs en cocotte for breakfast? Yes, please.

How was the service? Anyone you want to shout out?
The rooms are delightful, the spa is superb, but the real perfection is to be found in the food here, naturally. And that extends to the dining staff, who have encyclopedic knowledge of what's on the menu and can answer any question about every unfamiliar ingredient you encounter.

Quick: tell us about something (or a few things) that you really loved.
An almost 9,000-square-foot spa is immaculately decorated—all dark gray granite, and soothing natural hues—and embodies the calm to be found in the countryside surrounding San Sebastián. Settle in for a soak in the hydrotherapy pool, or book one of the double rooms for a couples' massage.

Bottom line: Would you book this place again?
Not all crossovers work. But here, the attention to detail and knack for innovation found in Pedro Subijana's world-renowned Akelarre restaurant are seamlessly transferred to a hotel setting, to stunning results.

Artist Residence Oxfordshire

How did it strike you on arrival?
It might look traditional from the outside, but Artist Residence—the fourth hotel from owners Justin and Charlotte Salisbury—is a slice of boho-cool in sleepy Oxfordshire. Housed in a building that dates back to the 16th-century, there are the flagstone floors and open hearths one would expect from a cosy country inn, but also kilim pillows, House of Holland wallpaper, and a neon artwork by the artist Andy Doig decorating the pub (dubbed Mr Hanbury's Mason Arms) downstairs.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
London's cool crowd looking to escape the city for a few days. And given the intimate size of the hotel, expect to drink a few too many G&Ts with them once evenings swing around.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Artist Residence's now-signature eccentricity extends to its rooms, where you'll find four-poster beds or fancy headboards, copper bathtubs, Morris & Co fabrics, and vintage rugs paired with whitewashed walls, log burners and wooden beams. Stretch for one of the suites, which come with slouchy sofas, terraces, and writing desks, and you'll want to move in permanently.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The bathrooms have rainfall showers and come kitted out with delicious, organic, British-made, Bramley toiletries. The minibars are stocked with locally-sourced goodies.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Given that this is an eight-room inn, the amenities are limited—it's the intimacy and touch of retro glamour that makes Artist Residence a real draw.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Come here for a taste of a traditional country inn without having to lose out on the luxuries.

The Bloomsbury

Tell us what it was like arriving at the hotel.
Full disclaimer: I almost did not make it past the entrance of the Bloomsbury. On your right as you step in through the door, just off of Fitzrovia, is the most beautiful small sitting room, done up with pale green wallpaper, club chairs, and a fireplace, which makes you want to settle in for a solid half hour, possibly with a tea (the staff would happily oblige), instead of going in any farther. You'll realize, though, that the room is a pre-cursor to the rest of the hotel. This is a hotel that shines through its public spaces, and each feel distinct from each other: the Coral Room, certain to be a pulse point for West London, is the type of place you'll want to spend hours on a rainy Sunday, working your way through the cocktail list. Even the sitting room outside the restrooms are beautifully put together, with their millennial pink upholstered arm chairs and wallpaper that you'll want to post to Instagram.

Who else was at the hotel?
The Bloomsbury is new, yet has a 'grandness' reminiscent of London Grand Dames like the Savoy and Claridges. This version is reimagined for the 21st century. This is the spot for 30- or 40-something Parisians with exquisite taste, and New Yorkers who feel they have outgrown the scene out east, to sip English sparkling wines alongside London architects and TV stars.

Sounds very cool. Now, tell us all about your room.
Splurge on a king suite, which is reasonably priced for West London and is twice the size of the superior rooms. Like all rooms, the decor swings between period (Italian marble bathrooms and heavy headboards) and contemporary (designer rugs and artworks), but has a huge living space—unlike rooms in smaller categories. We love the fresh bouquets they place by the beds, too.

How about food and drinks? What's on offer there or elsewhere in the hotel?
When the sun's out in London, every table on the Dalloway Terrace will be packed, and the waiting list for the next free one will be long. That's as much for the atmosphere—on an elevated patio covered in flowers, on a quiet side street off Soho—as it is for its light local dishes like Dorset Crab and Aberdeen Beef. The bar menu in the Coral Room is fun, with its smoked salmon and club sandwiches, but when we dined the truffle fries arrived a little cold and the salad needed some seasoning.

What else should we note about the hotel?
That Coral Room. It's likely to dethrone Dandelyan over at the Mondrian as the hottest modern hotel bar in London.

Noted! So at the end of the day, worth it to stay here?
The Bloomsbury is bringing the Grand Dame back to London. Even if you are not staying there, you have to make time for a cocktail or two at its fabulously designed Coral Room (or duck in to snap some photos of its bright red walls, bar carts, and waiters in white tuxedos). But the location, in central-west London, walking distance to major sites and train lines that can get you anywhere in town, is unbeatable in this city.

Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort Lake Lucerne

What was your first impression when you arrived?
Grand and glamorous. It's hard to miss the resort complex 500 meters above Lake Lucerne—even more so if you arrive via boat at the Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock pier, where the Bürgenstock Funicular will bring you slowly up to the top.

Who else did you see at the hotel?
Wellness-centered pairs looking for an escape, with no expense spared.

What are the rooms like?
There are several complexes within this resort, but all of its restaurants, bars, and common areas are accessible to everyone, no matter if you're staying in the most affordable room or the most expensive. Rooms in the Bürgenstock—with refurbished wood, stone, and other natural materials—are tranquil, much like the spas, and are some of the priciest. (Bathe while taking in the beauty of Lake Lucerne below? Yes, please.) At the Waldhotel, designed by famous architect Matteo Thun, contemporary suites rule, while rooms at the 19th-century Palace Hotel have been reimagined as a more casual version of elegant. Taverne 1879 is both a traditional Swiss mountain restaurant and 12-room residence (think "bijou with alpine charm"); the resort's ten private Lakeview Residences are arguably its most top-of-the line product.

What else should we know about this place?
Bürgenstock has not one, but three, spas: the Alpine Spa (with steam baths, saunas, and a "serenity" room); the Private Spa with three available treatments; and the "Waldhotel," which offers individual treatments based on the resort's "Healthy By Nature" concept. As an all-encompassing wellness resort, the hotel offers rehabilitation and therapeutic services.

So, worth it?
The area has been popular since the hotel was first built here in 1873, so much so that Audrey Hepburn married in its chapel in 1954, and Sophia Loren and husband Carlo Ponti lived in a chalet here for some time. After a £440 million ($626 million) renovation unveiled in 2017, the appeal still holds: You'd be hard-pressed to find a better true wellness resort at the nexus of luxury and location.

Casa Flora

How did it strike you on arrival?
Okay, so it's not quite a hotel. This standalone three-bedroom apartment is owned and operated by the same team as the chic Hotel Flora, which is just down the street. You get your own kitchen, plenty of privacy and space to spread out, and full access to all the hotel's services. And in contrast to most other hotels in Venice, it's sleek and minimalist, each room filled with light, plants, and custom-designed contemporary furniture (every piece was made by Italian designers).

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Well, you have to rent the entire thing out, so you won't be seeing much of anyone—a blessing in a city that can get mercilessly clogged with tourists. It's the kind of place you'd stay if you appreciate beautiful contemporary design and want to be able to be a little anonymous and hidden away from the hustle of the rest of San Marco.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The place sleeps four people across three bedrooms: The Elsa Bedroom is done up in shades of light pink and has views of the Salute church, The Alma is all bright light and muted yellows, and the Noah is all lagoon-y blues. There's a kitchen that can be taken over by a private chef, a dining room with a huge table, separate bathrooms with terrazzo sinks, and a living room with views of Casa Flora.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
You might want to steal every piece of furniture. Plus, the whole place is stocked with art and design books from Bruno, a local bookshop. The hotel staff can set up wine tasting classes in the apartment, private tours of the city, water taxi transfers, or even an appointment to have a custom pair of shoes made by local atelier Gabriele Gmeiner.

Room service: Worth it?
You can stock the kitchen yourself, or you can have a chef come in and prepare dinner in the space for you. You can also arrange to have breakfast brought over every morning.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's a totally unique place to stay in Venice, with privacy, excellent service and amazing design.

Castello di Ugento

How did it strike you on arrival?
What about this hotel doesn't catch your attention? The former fortress in Ugento, Puglia, was also a palazzo before its latest incarnation: boutique hotel, state-of-the-art cooking school, museum, and seaside retreat. Former Pepsi CEO Massimo Fasanella d'Amore di Ruffano and his partner, Diana Bianchi, began renovations four years ago to transform the property—which had gone unused by his family for decades—into this new iteration on the region's Salento Coast. Everything about the place feels grand, from the 18th-century aromatic garden outside to the lofted ceilings and 17th-century frescoes of the salons inside. (There's also the on-site culinary school, the restaurant led by one of the country's best chefs, and the museum wing.)

Nice. What’s the crowd like? Travelers tend to flock to Puglia for its beaches and charming seaside towns, but Castello di Ugento draws the more refined and stylish portion of that set. You'll see lots of couples on a romantic getaway, and travelers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, for whom food and dining is a crucial element of any vacation.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
There are nine individually decorated suites, and you really can't go wrong with whichever one you choose: all feel airy, with vaulted ceilings, large windows, and exposed stonework. All, too, are outfitted in luxury Italian linen, contemporary furniture—including custom made pieces out of noce Canaletto, a fine Italian walnut—an organic olive oil-based products made locally. Since this was a former home, rooms still have their own look and feel, but I'd recommend the master suites. The Master Suite Alcova di Diana has a bathroom you'll have to pry yourself away from, with a monsoon shower, as well as a balcony overlooking the town of Ugento's rooftops. The Master Suite della Loggia's balcony overlooks the courtyard, and has a frescoed living room with fireplace, and an adjacent kitchen.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about?
The best part about staying here is that you never lose the feeling that this has been—and in many ways still is—a home. Granted, it's more as if you were staying at a friend's impressive family estate, but everything is personal, yet top-quality. You don't have room service; you have a restaurant on site run by Odette Fada, one of Italy's best chefs. You don't just take a cooking class; you've got access to the state-of-the-art Puglia Culinary Centre. "Tailor-made luxury," as the owners call it, whether that's a private tour of Salento, or a sunset apertivo hour in the walled garden, or in-room spa treatments.

Is there any room service?
No room service, but no matter. You'd be remiss not to eat at Il Tempo Nuovo, the hotel's restaurant. The kitchen—once a bakery for the soldiers—has been fully modernized, and Fada and her team make full use of it, expertly preparing seafood procured straight from fishing boats and the markets in Gallipoli and locally bred lamb, as well as seasonal produce, per Italian custom. The wine list favors Puglian wines that have become recent cult favorites, like Negroamaro and Aleatico.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Hats off to the owners, who live on-site and amble over to the main building to make espresso for their guests each morning.

What else shouldn't be missed?
The restaurant has been covered, but deserves emphasis: eat there! One wing of the castle is an art museum. The fragrant gardens, which are immaculately groomed, deserve your time and attention. You're not here for bells-and-whistles amenities, you're here to take in the surroundings and dive into la dolce vita.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
You're in a luxury castle in Puglia, between the Ionian and Adriatic seas, where you can savor great food, wine, and art. Living like an Italian royal for your stay is worth every penny.

Château de Fonscolombe

Let's start with the basics: Where is it?
In a completely secluded area—the closest sign of civilization is Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, a tiny 11th-century village nearby. The chateau is a 30-minute drive from Marseille Provence Airport and a scenic 20-minute drive from Aix-en-Provence train station. The hotel can arrange for transfers to and from.

Although the hotel is prepped for guests year-round, it's best to come from April until mid June (due to temperate weather), or between September and early November for seasonal cuisine and wine harvest season.

How did it strike you on arrival?
You can imagine Colin Firth or Gwyneth Paltrow filming a period piece here. Unlike at many “castle hotels” that are more castle adjacent, here, guests are made to feel like they are actually living in a chateau, with full run of the sitting rooms and grounds for meals, drinks, reading, resting, or exploring. Since Fonscolombe opened in June 2017, most of the people checking in are well-to-do families from in and around the region. Many are curious about the opening up of an estate that, until 18 months prior, had been a private chateau for more than 300 years. With only 50 rooms (13 in the castle, 37 in the extension) divided between the castle and the adjoining buildings and 10 hectares of land for guest use, I doubt it ever feels overcrowded. The vibe is relaxed yet indulgent.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Couples and families. There is a total disconnect from city life here. Guests are encouraged to take walks, go biking, swim, or go picnicking on the property; indoors, you're meant to relax, play cards and billiards, and enjoy tea and cocktails.

The good stuff: Tell us about the rooms.
Each room is done with its own unique décor and amenities, though non-castle rooms have a slightly more modern feel. (Since they aren’t historically protected, they come with contemporary updates, like air conditioning.) For the best views, the in-castle garden view suites are spectacular. Outside, the grounds are covered with rare trees and plant species courtesy of the former owner, a renowned botanist. The grounds have a chapel, a vegetable garden, statues, fountains, a vineyard, and a pond that once served as the original family swimming pool.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies? How's the Wi-Fi at a castle?
The Wi-Fi is free though sometimes a bit choppy. The towels, robes, and slippers feel plush and the linens are top notch. There is a mini fridge with complementary beverages. Room service is available from the main dining room. There is also an intimate private dining room upon request.

What's the food like?
The dining area with outdoor terrace is exceptional, and the meals are typical of the region with a changing menu of fresh seasonal produce, meats, fish, dairy, and provincial herbs. Breakfast with fresh jams, breads, and eggs is available buffet style in a gorgeous hybrid room decked out with tapestry rugs and vintage upholstery. A wall of wines is topped with a row of ceramic and clay potted plants. Service is friendly and impeccable. Seasonally, afternoon meals come with live music.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Massages are given in a former family bedroom with a painting of its onetime inhabitant on the wall. Guided tours detailing the history of the chateau and its furnishings are even available upon request. As an anecdote, Queen Elizabeth once planted a tree when she stayed here as a guest of the family. The tree is still here on the grounds as is her room (#201).

Bottom line: Worth it, and why?
I would definitely visit again—maybe during the spring season this time?—and recommend the chateau to anyone who wants to escape it all in an authentic country castle setting.

Château de Sacy

Close your eyes. What's arriving at the hotel like? Give us an establishing shot.
This gorgeous 1850 chateau is set on a hillside just above a small village and surrounded by vineyards, which makes it feel like a little island. Depending on the weather, you can see Reims way off in the distance, including that city’s famous cathedral. The three-story stone house is a textbook example of Napoleon III architecture with its steep slate roof, fretted eaves, and red brick trim around doors and windows. Every room is individually decorated with a mixture of contemporary furniture and antiques.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Guests when I stayed were English and Dutch couples in their forties who’d decided to get away for a few days and travel local instead of heading off long-haul to some place like Thailand. The celebrity who I could very easily see staying here is Caroline Kennedy, since with her intelligence, charm, and good manners, she’d fit right in and love this place. They’d love her back, too. With only 12 rooms, nothing is ever crowded here.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I have two favorite regular rooms: the Marie Antoinette room, because it’s so light, quiet, and romantic, and has beautiful views over the vineyards; and the Winston Churchill suite, which is more spacious (and expensive) and beautifully decorated with a pale green tartan headboard, as well as a British army military map of the Champagne country from World War II. All of the rooms come with parquet floors, big, very comfortable beds, and white marble bathrooms. Some have bath tubs, some showers, some both tubs and shower; bath equipment, along with size, are what make them different.

What about the minibar and the shower goodies? Anything find its way into your suitcase?
No minibar or coffee maker, but two complimentary bottles of mineral water are offered. Linens are good quality, but the thing I’d want to take home is the handwoven woolen bed cover from the Basque country—it’s so soft to touch and really good looking (sand colored, rough weave). The Wi-Fi is excellent.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Service is warm, friendly, and efficient in keeping with the guiding idea of this place, which is sincere hospitality with a lot of charm. The delightful young general manager, Tiphaine Brossier, who previously worked in several luxury hotels in Saint Tropez, sets the tone and is often present to greet guests, chat with them, and make suggestions of things to see and do.

How was the food?
Not surprisingly, the quaff of choice here is Champagne, and they have an excellent selection of bottles from lesser-known small producers and offer Champagne tastings. The idea here is that Champagne isn’t just a party drink but a wine that can be paired with food. The restaurant menu changes regularly but the chicken-and-foie-gras pâté en croûte with cabbage-and-lentil salad in white miso sauce, a starter, is normally on the menu, and is superb. Standout main courses include yellow pollack served with caramelized endives, orange essence, and Champagne sauce, and grilled pork belly with a condiment of olives and capers, spinach, and carrot mousseline with ginger. No room service, but light meals are served during the day in the bar-lounge.

Bottom line: Was the hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
This place is really charming and exactly the kind of hotel you hope to find for a two-day trip from Paris to visit the Champagne caves. It’s also very romantic without having done anything self-conscious to make it so.

Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square

What was your first impression of the place?
Grand, imposing, and historical. The white neoclassical building – with its soaring Corinthian columns and statue of Old Father Thames holding a trident – was built in 1922 to house London’s Port Authority, well served by its position overlooking the river and the Tower of London (it was then the second tallest building in the city). Maybachs and Jaguars frequently pull up to the curb, not least because the building, renovated and reopened in 2017, also houses a private members’ club on the second floor (sadly not accessible to guests). The lobby’s equally grand marble rotunda would feel cavernous if not for the warmly glowing bar beckoning you across the room – with a sexily curved copper top and baroque cabinet of backlit bottles – and the lounge tables scattered around the room under a dome.

Sounds interesting...
The building’s history adds to the sparkle. For one, the rotunda was bombed during the Blitz in the early 1940’s, and later rebuilt. The UN Ballroom, lined with elaborately carved, original walnut paneling (whose tableaux pay homage to former local residents Samuel Pepys, London’s great diarist of the Restoration, and Samuel Chaucer, who worked nearby) is worth poking your head into. It was the site of the United Nations’ first general assembly in 1946, as well as the dance scene from Mr. and Mrs. Smith (in which Brangelina supposedly fell in love). And the site’s legacy stretches back even further: While excavating the basement, certain archaeological finds were made, including chalk-walled cellars and animal remains, which were sent to the Museum of London Archaeology.That said, the overall vibe of the building isn’t at all museum-like. The clever designers infused the public spaces, hallways, and rooms with a sleek and sophisticated masculine palette of greys, gold and blood-red carpeting, with stylistic nods to the building’s Art Deco-era roots (light fixtures, furniture), and whimsical modern flourishes, like the light sculptures designed by Cerith Wyn Evans, a Welsh artist whose work also hangs in the Tate Gallery.

What was your room like?
The first thing you notice once you walk through the heavy door is the silence. The room itself is literally noise-cancelling, with the plushest carpet, slate-grey quilted headboard wall, thick windows, and layered screens that create a total blackout. (Hugely helpful when recovering from jet lag.) Acoustics aside, the room feels a bit like James Bond’s lair, with hounds-tooth wallpaper and a glamorous gold-accented minibar with cut crystal glasses and Plymouth and Sipsmith Gin ready to be shaken into a martini. Appropriately enough for Bond, everything in the room is technologically wired via the bedside iPad, be it room service, television, or climate control.The bathroom’s pretty swank too, lined in winking gold, white, and grey piazza tile that sweeps up to the edges of a large marble tub and sink.There are 100 rooms in this vein, including nine ultra-grand Heritage Suites in the building’s former executive offices. (The top two floors are private residences; 10 of these have recently been added to the hotel inventory.)

The details.
The soaps and shower products are Bottega Veneta. They quickly found their way into my bag.

What else will you find here?
Downstairs there’s a large spa with a Moroccan hammam and a 14-meter swimming pool. And if you need a spare shirt or tie, there’s a Brioni boutique in the lobby.

How about the food?
An international menu is served all day in the lobby Rotunda, where the “Bright Young Things” tea service is also staged in the afternoon. But the real highlight here is La Dame de Pic, a leather banqueted space serving inventive French cuisine dreamed up by Anne-Sophie Pic, the only female French chef ever to receive three Michelin stars. Her gastronomic confections change seasonally, but when I was there in springtime they included (take a deep breath here): pumpkin consommé with bergamot; Jerusalem artichoke topped with a curried and coffee-infused marshmallow; langoustine in carrot juice; cauliflower foam with mimolette cheese; steak washed with coffee and cinnamon leaves; and a Dover sole with a spear of roasted asparagus, itself notched with tiny dollops of apple jelly and geranium leaves in a green apple, green anise, and pine tree bud sauce, as if it had been fabricated by woodland nymphs. The restaurant is a wonderful feminine antidote to the overridingly clubby male feel of the rest of the building. There is also a Chinese-Japanese restaurant called Mei Ume that touts its Peking Duck and which opened a few weeks after I stayed at the hotel.

Why is it worth booking?
London obviously has no shortage of hotels, and this one, near the relatively un-touristed financial district, is also well served by the area’s trendy new social hub, The Ned. But Ten Trinity Square is a hotel for grownups, plain and simple. It is quiet, handsome, discreet, and has a historic pedigree that makes you want to wear the best of whatever you’ve packed. (Conversely, it is not a great hotel for kids; I spent the whole time telling mine to pipe down.)

Henrietta Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
Is it a bar or a hotel? The discreet entrance right in the middle of rather hotel-less Covent Garden makes you do a double take.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
A slick city-savvy crowd comes for the pedigree bar (it’s owned by the Paris-based Experimental Cocktail Club), and stays for the stagger-able rooms upstairs.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Size-wise, the 18 Art Deco-style rooms are average by London standards, but feel bigger than they are with flouncy touches such as dramatic, sculptural headboards and a judicious use (in some rooms) of pastels. The effect is deliciously retro, and rather Gallic—no wonder, since both the owners and designer are French.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The headboards are works of art in themselves, with Art Deco styling including porthole mirrors.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Forget the normal minibar staples—here you’ll find a pre-mixed in-room cocktail in the fridge. The Kota Ternate ($17) is made from rum, spiced tea, pineapple juice, lime and milk.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
There are your standard rainfall showers and fluffy towels, but it’s the bathroom products that rule the roost—they change daily, and can include surprises from Malin & Goetz, REN and Evolve.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
It’s free and fast.

Room service: Worth it?
The room service menu is by Michelin-starred Ollie Dabbous. Don’t miss the Burrata with quince poached in Muscat, with wet walnuts and lemon thyme ($14). You can also get cocktails on room service (from $17).

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The cocktail bar is the heart of the hotel, as you’d expect—and the cocktails are some of the best in London.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The attention to (booze-related) detail is sublime.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
In the heart of the West End, with nightlife literally on your doorstep, this is a great first-time stay.

Hôtel Bienvenue Paris

Close your eyes. What was your first impression of the hotel when you arrived?
Off a small side street in South Pigalle, this boutique hotel is a bit of a Paris unicorn: upscale design, heavy on charm in an ideal location, yet with visitor-friendly rates. The latest in Adrien Gloaguen's portfolio—an independent hotelier who also has Hotel Panache and Hotel Paradis—he enlisted Chloé Nègre, known for her colorful but elegant interiors, for the design. The hotel and rooms may be cozy in size, but Nègre made use of the abundant natural light and a modern pastel palette to keep it light and airy. "Town" rooms sport the pastels in strong monochromatic deployment; "Country" rooms incorporate them into floral patterns that feel fresh and vibrant. The plant-filled interior courtyard has a colorfully patterned floor that's making its rounds on social media. Pedestal sinks, fabric-covered furniture, and plenty of period touches, like wrought-iron accents on doors and windows keep a touch of Old World mixed in with the bight newness.

Imagine that other travelers at the hotel are part of a tribe. Who else do you see at the hotel?
It's no surprise this hotel attracts a stylish and youthful traveler. The staff is young and friendly, and the hotel's charms are many. It just follows that the people staying here don't want a cookie-cutter hotel experience, and are looking for something that feels a little more authentic, yet in-the-know.

Tell us all about your room.
Rooms can fit one to four people, depending on the category you book. You won't be rolling in extra space, but Nègre's designs make smart use of what's there: lots of built-ins rather than stray, bulky furniture; walled sconces; windows that actually open and add to the light and fresh air. Beds are the central focus, with curved, fabric-covered headboards, and crisp, white linens. Some rooms have patterned carpet; some bathrooms have colored tilework. Walls aren't crowded and the general effect is that it's clean and uncluttered.

Let's talk about the small stuff.
There's free Wi-Fi. Also, rooms are accessed via either a tiny vintage elevator, or narrow, curving stone staircase (see: charm). Products are Bonne Nouvelle, a custom line that uses natural plants and herbs. There is an in-house, kid-friendly pastry lesson every week for guests; you'd be remiss not to take advantage of it. This isn't a hotel that goes all-out with extras, instead, it delivers thanks to the design and general on-site offerings like food and drink (not to mention location).

What about room service?
There's no room service, and for good reason. Head downstairs to the restaurant and garden terrace for a glorious continental breakfast, or for fresh French cuisine with Japanese accents at lunch and dinner. The wine list favors natural wines.

What's most notable?
See: the restaurant, garden patio, and weekly pastry lesson. Also, worth reiterating the hotel's location in South Pigalle, one of the city's current favorites among the hipster set.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
In a city like Paris, finding a hotel this lovely, conveniently located, and at these rates is rare. Don't miss it.

Hôtel de Bouilhac

Close your eyes. What's arriving at the hotel like? Give us an establishing shot.
It’s French style and hospitality at its best, which is to say this place is all about casual chic with a reverence for the past. The hotel is a beautifully restored 17th-century mansion of honey-colored stone, originally built by the former private physician to the French King Louis XV, who gave it his name. The two standouts here are the historic atmosphere and the flawless taste of the interior design—Marie-Christine Meloen, who did the decor, is one of the best-known interior designers in Southwestern France, and this hotel is a perfect expression of her style, which mixes antiques and contemporary pieces.

Who else do you see at the hotel?
Clients off-season were English and Dutch—these nationalities love the Perigord, and a few arty-looking locals, whom I was told owned a gallery in the small nearby city of Brive-la-Gaillarde. One night while I had dinner, the charming young French actress Clotilde Courau—wife of Emanuele, of House Savoy, the hereditary heir to the Italian throne—was in the dining room. Frequently seen in the French press, she’s smart, glamorous and very funny, a perfect archetype for this hotel.

So what are the rooms like?
Aside from different bathroom fixtures—some have tubs, some showers, some both—the rooms offer consistent amenities. All come with magnificent walnut or chestnut parquet floors, armoires, wicker side chairs draped with fluffy white sheepskins, and beds covered with soft woolen throws that are locally woven. Lighting is easily operated and excellent—every room passes the "easy to read in bed" test, which is a rarity. Besides the two suites with private terraces and the one with a big Jacuzzi, the one that had a special charm was the Chambre Poudre d’Eau, because it was cozy, quiet, and just the right size for a couple or someone traveling on their own. However, if you’re visiting during the summer, pony up for one of the rooms with a private terrace. They're outfitted with chaise lounges, so you can relax and enjoy views of the river that runs through Montignac.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about? What is the first thing you'd steal, if you dared?
The Wi-Fi worked perfectly. There wasn't a minibar, but there were complimentary bottles of mineral water. Standouts were the excellent quality Italian-made bathrobes and bed linens that are owned by the hotel—not supplied by a hotel laundry service. I’d love to have these linens at home.

Lightning round reaction time! Tell us more, like how was the food?
The restaurant and bar are found on the main level (street level) of the three-story building. The dining room has exposed stone walls, oak tables with white linen runners, and a massive wrought-iron wine rack that occupies a whole wall, lit from behind to create a soft atmospheric light through the bottles. Highlights from the menu—€39 prix-fixe—are a superb goose foie gras, local lamb, and porc noir (from a special local breed of black pigs) from Gascony. The best local seasonal produce is showcased. The bar has a terrific list of local wines—such as Bergerac, Monbazillac—that it pours by the glass. There’s also a beautifully decorated tea salon with walnut trencher tables, cane arm chairs and Nile green velvet-covered armchairs on the first floor.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This is a great address for independent travelers of all ages who like distinctive, one-of-a-kind hotels that are an expression where they’re located. The hotel is charming, yet delivers modern comfort, and has delightful owners—Christopher Maury and his wife Karine are constantly present to greet guests and give advice. I would return to use this place as a base and discover this stunningly beautiful corner of France, at a relaxed pace.

Hôtel de Crillon (Rosewood)

How did it strike you on arrival?
Originally commissioned by King Louis XV, the 18th-century former residence of the Duke de Crillon has for over a century housed one of Paris’s grandest hotels. In 2017, things got even grander: following a four-year transformation, the icon relaunched as a Rosewood hotel, with interiors that have retained the historic soul and gilded style that its well-heeled regulars so love, while bringing in all the necessary comforts today’s travelers demand.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Past the landmarked facade, with its Corinthian colonnade and Coustou sculptures, elegant public spaces give way to 124 rooms and suites that—as a nod to the mansion’s past—have been designed in a residential style. Find a mix of antique and bespoke furnishings (like vintage-style bar carts), custom artwork, and hand-picked objets d’art, plus tech touches like 48-to-55-inch TVs and Bluetooth connectivity. The ten Specialty Suites kick things up several notches with spacious living and dining areas, marble bathrooms with oversized tubs, and a more opulent decor; the Suite Duc de Crillon, for example, features pieces of original 18th-century woodwork from what was once the Crillon family chapel (the rest of the paneling now lives at the Met in New York), while the Suite Bernstein, named for the famed composer, has an expansive terrace with views of the Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The beds draw you in with crisp Rivolta Carmignani Italian linens, and French pillows and duvets by Drouault.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Bathrooms are a sanctuary unto themselves, with rainshowers, underfloor bathroom heating, in-mirror TVs, Buly 1803 products, and thoughtful touches like salon-grade hair dryers.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Rooms come with complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
All rooms—even the entry-level Deluxe category—treat guests to butler service, and with just 124 rooms in total, everyone feels well looked after.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Culinary options include the intimate L’Ecrin for Chef Christopher Hache’s globally-influenced tasting menus, the warm, indoor/ outdoor Brasserie D’Aumont for all-day dining on Parisian classics, and the Jardin D’Hiver lounge, a local gathering spot for afternoon tea and beautifully-crafted sweets. After a day out on the town, relax in the Les Ambassadeurs lounge, which draws see-and-be-seen Parisians with live music and a selection of over 100 Champagnes, or in the new spa, with its indoor heated pool and treatments inspired by the beauty secrets of French grandmothers.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Whether you're a Paris regular or a newbie, there's something magical about staying in the heart of the famous Place de la Concorde, in a historic mansion where Marie Antoinette used to take her piano lessons. Talk about a sense of place.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's a splurge, but fans of French history and style or hotel junkies with a running list of global icons to check in to won't be disappointed.

Hotel De' Ricci

How did it strike you on arrival?
Old school lushes and anyone who enjoys a tipple will love Hotel De' Ricci. This is a place that’s all about the wine, with eight seriously smart rooms. You get the feeling you’re somewhere swanky the moment you walk in, all secluded booths, low lighting, and draped curtains. Oh, and then there are the suites…

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
All the suites are individually decorated, and despite being the smallest rooms on offer, the two Junior Suites have plenty of charm. Inspired by the forties, fifties and sixties. The walls are decorated with Roman art by Italian illustrator Andrea Ferolla, depicting life during those decades. The floor is polished parquet, the walls muted hues of blues and greys, but best of all, each suite has its own fully-stocked wine cellar.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathrooms are spacious and modern, with black tiles and super soft robes.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free, and strong.

Room service: Worth it?
Room service is a classy affair, with smoked salmon and blinis alongside turkey clubs and cheeseburgers. Prices run from €16 for a burrata cheese and tomato bruschetta to €25 for foie gras with bitter marmalade. But it’s the in-suite daily aperitif that really captures the imagination, with a selection of small plates made to match the wines in your cellar.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
This place is all about the wine. The staff are actually sommeliers, and stock the in-suite cellars based on guests’ favourite blends. Guests get a guided tour of the property’s basement cellar, and the staff can even organise private wine tastings.

Hotel Eden

How did it strike you on arrival?
This place could very well be our very own Eden. Part of the Dorchester Collection, it is elegant and calm, with marble floors, a gold-lit ceiling and vases of freshly-picked flowers in every corner. The hotel is set between the Borghese Gardens and the upscale Via Veneto.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
CEOs on holidays with their family, and smartly dressed couples on a romantic break.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Classic Rooms with a view are, well, as classic as they come, with soft carpet underfoot, and furniture in cream and brown hues. It all feels new (the hotel was recently restored), and the views are lovely – you can choose between city or garden. The high ceilings make rooms feel bigger than it is.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The Bang & Olufsen televisions and sound systems are rather flash, and you can even play your own music or stream your own films via Bluetooth.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Bathrooms are pure decadence, all white and gold, with a huge bath and Bottega Veneta products so luxurious you’ll feel like royalty all day long.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free, and strong.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The gym is small but functional, and make sure you book a post-workout steam because the steam room gets busy. It’s impossible to go hungry in any of the three restaurants – take your pick from fine dining with a view at La Terrazza; sink into an armchair, cocktail in hand, at La Libreria; or grab a coffee and pastry at Il Giardino.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Everything is flawless, but it’s the staff that truly stand out, taking care of guests' every need, from tour bookings to dinner reservations.

Hôtel Les Roches Rouges

Close your eyes. Tell us about arriving at the hotel.
The minute I stepped out of the car, I felt like I needed to strap on a pair of handmade Spanish espadrilles and a Panama hat—there's something that feels stylish but effortless about Roches Rouges and, more broadly, St.-Raphaël, and the sensation hit me hard.

Lovely. Who else was staying at the hotel?
For decades, St.-Raphaël was that rare Riviera town that appealed more to families coming by car than to A-listers pulling in by boat. But since Les Roches Rouges reopened here in May 2017, you’re seeing more of the Missoni-draped vacationers you’d expect to find in nearby Cannes, than Peugeots packed with sand toys.

Tell us about your room. Did it get you immediately into vacation mode?
It was clean and bright—monastic, but stylish. The property hasn't exactly reinvented the wheel; the spare design is more meant to emphasize the proximity to the Mediterranean. Walls are white, as are the bed linens, and pendant lighting stands in for bedside lamps; bathroom countertops are marble, and there's abstract art hanging next to the shower. Between the garden view rooms and the sea view rooms, it's a pretty clear choice: the sea view classic rooms have an unobstructed view of the water, and 50 square feet of private balcony space where you can take your morning coffee.

How were the bathrooms and products?
I loved the Le Labo toiletries—they made me feel nice and fresh after a day down at the pool. But it's the HRR-branded candles I wanted to make off with: great aroma and a perfect memento.

Very cool! What else does the hotel have?
You'll want to dine at La Terrasse while you're there—the fresh, flavorful Provençale-inspired dishes, like lou mourre de gat (small, purple, stuffed artichokes) and ouprihoun e tóuteno (octopus, squid, seaweed) are ideal for when you're kicking around in the sun and sand all day—but it is closed for winter, and generally reopens in May. Grab an aperitif at the Terrace Bar before you head to dinner—Dean Shury's tipples aren't to be missed.

Sold; would you recommend staying there, then?
There's an unadulterated, though not overwrought sophistication to this hotel—it seeps out from the spare, Riviera-style design, the simple, locally sourced though elegant food, and the ability to laze around glamorously all day. IT's a 10 out of 10; would absolutely recommend.

Hotel Lungarno

How did it strike you on arrival?
The Lungarno sits in one of the most prime real estate spots in Florence—just steps away from the Arno River. No, really: You can literally step into it from the hotel entryway. The Ponte Vecchio is also just three blocks away, but far enough that you feel far from all the travelers shopping on the bridge and its surrounding stores. As soon as you walk into the hotel, you're greeted by Picasso, Cocteau, and Bueno works hanging in the central lobby, and you'll continue to find more drawings, paintings, and sculptures as you meander through the hotel and its 65 rooms. You might find yourself never wanting to leave the lobby though, with its cozy fireplace and prime views of rowers on the Arno.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Guests are stylish (you have to be, at a Ferragamo property), well-traveled, and eager to see Florence's many tourist sites.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
My king-bed suite overlooked the river, and its (tiny) balcony let me peek my head out every morning to hear Florence waking up. Each room comes with its own unique art—mine was heavy on modernist sketches of cityscapes and abstract portraits—and hues of white and blue filled every bit of the room, including the lush blue velvet sofa and fluffy cream-colored throw blankets. The best part of my room though was my jacuzzi tub... and the heavenly-smelling, Ferragamo-branded toiletries that came with it.

Hotel restaurant: Worth it?
Definitely grab dinner at the Borgo San Jacopo, the hotel's main restaurant that comes with one Michelin star. The chef themed our tasting menu around a single ingredient—in my case, potato—with some of the most innovative food I've ever had in Italy ("pasta" carbonara with pasta was made from potato was my favorite of the night).

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Skip the elevator and take the red-and-blue-trimmed staircase to get from your room to the lobby or restaurant. It's a spiral, velvet-y masterpiece that will make you feel like wearing an evening gown when you walk down it. (I can't lie—it's also a great Instagram opportunity.)

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
You book this hotel for the location—it's probably the best in the city—but you leave feeling like you've discovered a hidden gem, one where the typical Florence tourists aren't as likely to be found and where you can escape the hectic life of the city.

Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers

How did it strike you on arrival?
​You pull up and there's this brooding, black entryway on yet another one of those ​picturesque squares in between the Marais and the Second. It's the sort of low-key cool you want in the heart of Paris. Any standard traveler would miss it, which is sort of the point.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
​It's a fashiony, designy, creative-class scene. At night the restaurant and bar crowd tips toward a bling-y glam that's ever intensifying in Paris of late.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Masculine and muted​ greys and beige and blacks and wood floors and a dose of mid-century convey an all around serene minimalism.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The downstairs bar is pretty spectacular. Some mad mixologist and his crew from the Maremma in Italy mix botanically diverse cocktails in the destination spot in back where you feel like you're having a custom perfume mixed for you from all the vials and scent strips that are put out to guide you to your creation.​ And the rooftop deck has a 360-degree voyeuristic rooftop view of the city.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
A quiet location near a short list of historic sites and cool neighborhoods with thoughtful design, excellent drinks, and dramatically different common spaces make this the new Parisian go-to home base for nomadic creatives.

Hôtel Parister

Close your eyes. What was your first impression when you arrived?
Everything's sexy, everything's sculptural, and I want to take it all home with me. Does that velvet barrel chair in my room come in dusty rose?

Sounds fantastic! What were the other people staying there like?
This hotel sits at a slightly lower price point than some of its peers—but the sleek, Mod decor and of-the-moment Les Passerelles restaurant and cocktail bar ensure a cool crowd. You can readily expect to see the latest litter of Insta-influencers next Fashion Week.

With all the emphasis it has on decor, your room must have been nice.
It feels like everything I put in my shopping cart on 1stdibs showed up it. Between the sculptural furniture, gold Art Deco-style wall sconces, and velvet throw pillows, I may never leave. Or I may cry when I get back to my own apartment.

Tell me about the amenities! I'm dying to know what was in the bathroom.
What's the legal penalty in France for stealing furniture? All kidding aside, the Zenology toiletries were fruity and light, and I won't say I didn't swipe the bottles I didn't use.

What else did the hotel have? Gym, restaurant, bar? Do tell.
Swanky decor aside, the 60-foot-long swimming pool (lit during the daytime by skylights and lined with what look like oversized succulents) is a nice touch; swim a few laps before heading into the hammam. The Sunday brunch, offered between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. each week, is also worth skipping your neighborhood boulangerie for—the spread is a tempting one, lined with Dominique Saibron pastries, a litany of cheeses, and yogurt, with a chef on hand to whip up your eggs.

So, worth it, right?
Hôtel Parister is more reasonably priced than some of Paris's other stays, and it's a bargain considering your relative proximity to big-budget landmarks like Palais Garnier. If you're a design nerd, and get a high off those Mod/mid-century vibes, this is totally and unabashedly right for you.

La Divine Comédie

How did it strike you on arrival?
La Divine Comédie is hidden behind a big gate down one of the honeycomb-colored alleyways in old Avignon, just a few minutes from the Palais de Papes, in a historic district where cardinals used to live. It's incredibly central, but you don't feel it in this majestic mansion with the largest private garden in town, which took seven years to build because it had been so abandoned! The garden was a jungle, overrun with vegetation, but its designer owners embraced the task as a labor of love.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
The owner, Giles Jauffret, is a known decorator and stylist from Paris, and the property had a huge, 12-page spread in a recent issue of Côté Sud magazine—expect to see other Parisians who appreciate aesthetics and the finer things in life.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The decoration is noticeable from the start. Gilles and his co-owner Amaury de Villoutreys (who the French papers call a "cultivated aristocrat") scoured the French countryside to source antiques, and have positioned them among contemporary pieces. The five suites (Venice, Consul, Aphrodite, Naples and Anatole) are all individually decorated around their namesake theme. I stayed in the Venice room, with 45 different gorgeous gouaches depicting Venice from the 18th- to 19th-centuries. Then in the public area you have 1920s chairs that are replicas of Tutankhamun's throne, tulip chairs by Eero Saarinen...

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The Wi-Fi worked—as did the Nespresso machine (and the very comfortable, elegant bed.)

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
The dogs and cats! They lounge around the house. Top marks to the dog for being adorably affectionate.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The hot tub in the garden has views of the Palais and the surrounding flowers—there are 100 different species in the garden, framed by towering, centuries-old plane trees.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
After a mammoth renovation, the maison finally opened in June 2017. Just don't call it a hotel—there are only five luxury suites, making it legally a 'chambres d'hôtel', and a truly intimate space.

The Ned

How did it strike you on arrival?
When it rains, it pours. The Square Mile of the City of London, land of suits and proper pints, was short of exciting hotels, and then, in 2017, along came an urban resort. Dreamed up by Soho House founder Nick Jones, The Ned has nine restaurants, 15 bars, a spa, two pools and a members’ club. The imposing hulk of a building used to be the headquarters of the Midland Bank, and seven of those nine restaurants are arranged, food-court style, around the emerald marble columns and checkerboard floor of the soaring lobby, which is where the bank tellers used to sit. This makes for an impressive, if disconcerting, entrance.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
City slickers—suits and shorts in equal measure

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The rooms are characterful for such a huge scale (there are 252 of them) and have brass or walnut bed frames, vintage-look floral wallpaper, wooden floors, and Afghan rugs. The crash pads are just as well done but minuscule and should only be used as the name suggests.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Bathrooms have mosaic tiles, rainforest showers, and Cowshed products. Large rooms and upwards also get a bath.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Free.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
If you don’t fancy eating in the open, Lutyens Grill does perfect steaks (and little else) in what used to be the bank manager's office. When it comes to pampering, there’s a Cowshed Spa, nail bar, barber shop, hair salon, and hammam. Among the spaces reserved only for guests and members include the rooftop, with its heated pool, and the Vault bar, arguably the highlight of the whole affair, cocooned among 3,000 gleaming safe deposit boxes.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Walking through the 20-ton vault door into the members’ club makes you feel like an extra in Oceans Eleven.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Intimate this hotel isn't—you could lose weeks in here—which, depending on your disposition, could be heaven or hell.

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

What was your first impression of the hotel?
It was a totally different aesthetic for Shoreditch. Dark woods, dark tones. An architecturally bold exterior. Nothing that channeled the usual hipster vibe of the neighborhood. It felt grown-up, if not entirely comfortable with what it was, where it was.

Who else did you see at the hotel?
Business and trendy tech types. This hotel is appealing to where Shoreditch is going (tech and money), not where it has been (hipster, creative).

Tell us all about your room. Anything of note?
There was a Japanese vibe for sure. Old Japanese tea pots made up some of the decor. Clean lines and angles helped keep the hotel on brand. Nothing really nodded to Shoreditch. I did like that they placed blackout screens over the window at turndown. It helps you get a very good night's sleep (as does the king-size bed).

How was the room service, or food on-site?
The real advantage is how they pull off those only-in-hotel meals. Breakfast means matcha waffles with smoked maple ponzu and your choice of teas (try the green jasmine), or a Nobu-esque riff on the traditional full English breakfast, with Japanese sausage and addictive tofu scones. If you’re feeling peckish after a few Brewdog pale ales in the beer garden at the Crown and Shuttle around the corner, room service delivers bowls of fresh tuna poke and beef tataki bento boxes from midnight till 7 a.m.

What else of note?
The restaurant was excellent, of course, and even had some neighborhood-specific dishes. The bar is part of the restaurant and decent, but not worth it if you're not staying at the hotel.

Bottom line: worth it?
If you need to be in Shoreditch, or want to be in Shoreditch but want an experience that strays from the typical "coolness and cocktail" vibe, stay here. Once you step into Nobu, which is tastefully decorated and has stellar food, you don't know you are in Shoreditch at all. This hotel is less about embracing the neighborhood it is in, and more about tweaking how you think of the neighborhood you are in. Nobu is in the Gucci group, and all the tech firms frequenting the hotel speak to where Shoreditch is headed, not where it came from.

Ottantotto Firenze

How did it strike you on arrival?
This renovated historic "palazzetto" in the less-touristed Oltrarno neighborhood has just seven rooms, each decorated with different floral and botanical printed fabrics, antique decor, and funky-cool furniture. Guests enter using a private passcode that's emailed to them before arrival, and check-in takes place in "The Living Room" where there's also a huge fireplace and an open kitchen where the breakfast buffet is served. There's also a shady, stone-paved garden filled with trees and flowering plants.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
If you're staying here, chances are you're not the kind of visitor who's in Florence to check a few things off their sightseeing bucket list. You're here because you want to get to know the real city—the cozy, family-run restaurants, the cool vintage boutiques, and the handmade stationery stores. It's an unpretentious, in-the-know vibe.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Each of the seven rooms has historic bones (wood-beamed ceilings, casement windows, the occasional mantlepiece-turned-headboard) and elegant but un-fussy touches, like fabrics printed with cheerful florals or botanical drawings of monkeys and tropical plants. It's fun and playful without being even a little bit cheesy. The bathrooms are spacious and modern, all done up in colorful tiles. Try to get one of the rooms that overlooks the garden.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
They've got all the basics: free wi-fi, satellite TV, air conditioning (not always a given in Europe!) and a laundry service. There's an honesty bar in the living room stocked with drinks and snacks, and having breakfast in that garden is just dreamy.

Room service: Worth it?
If you're staying in a Superior room or in the suite, you can get breakfast in your room or on your terrace. Otherwise, it's just the buffet and the honesty bar.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
An elegant, unfussy hotel for people who want to see the cooler side of Florence.

The Pilgrm

How did it strike you on arrival?
Most people who walk by the Pilgrm's vivid blue tiled exterior would think the place is a low-key café: instead of a traditional lobby with a front desk, guests are greeted by an espresso bar, a handful of low tables, a wall covered with plants, and a rack of cool design magazines. The only thing that gives it away as a place you can spend the night is the "Lifts to Rooms" sign just to the left of the grand wooden staircase. You might even be surprised that the cool-looking person who appears to be working on their laptop is actually the person who's in charge of checking you in and bringing your luggage upstairs. It's casual and easy in a way that makes perfect sense to the way young people travel today: no pomp and circumstance, just a cool, laid-back place to hang out. Plus, it's half a block from Paddington Station, which is just about as central as you can get (it's also where the Heathrow Express gets into the city).

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Everyone is young, cute and wearing outfits that say "I work at a startup." Stylish but totally un-fancy.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
There are four types of accommodation at the Pilgrm: the tiny, compact Bunk Rooms for two, and Small, Medium and Large rooms. In the Smalls and Mediums, the queen beds takes up most of the room—the space is tiny but efficient, kind of like a boat cabin. In the Large, you get a king bed and a little more wiggle room, with space for a chair and two side tables. They're all sleek and stylish, with beautiful wood paneling, old-school paned windows, and a tidy little wall-mounted closet. Bathrooms are small but well-outfitted, covered in white subway tile and gleaming fixtures. The most notable thing about them, though, is the prices: they're super affordable for what you're getting. Especially in central London, which is notoriously expensive. It's the perfect place to stay if you're trying to save on costs but don't want to skimp charm and cool-factor.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There's not a lot when it comes to in-room amenities, as everything is simple and efficient to keep costs down. Two annoying but not deal-breaking things: the showers are stocked with a shampoo/body wash combo, but no conditioner, and there's basically no counter space to put any of your toiletries. So if you have a lot of products, you end up laying them out on the floor. These are the kinds of rooms you book if you're planning on spending most of your trip exploring the city—which is what most people are doing in London anyway.

Should you order room service?
There's no room service, but on the mezzanine level you'll find a chic lounge filled with guests taking meetings and getting work done on the low-slung velvet couches. The vibe is Soho-House-Lite, without any of the pretension. The all-day menu is more fuel for working (avocado toast, fresh pastries and grain bowls) than it is big meals for savoring, but it's well-done and a convenient spot to grab a quick breakfast on your way out for the day.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's the most stylish, cool and comfortable place you'll get for the price in central London. And even though the rooms are tiny, chances are you're not going to be hanging out in them that much anyway.

The Rectory Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s all about the sophisticated fare at this stone-walled Georgian charmer. Surrounded by expansive lawns and set in the heart of the Cotswolds village of Crudwell, it feels more like a relaxed country home than an upscale hotel, with roaring fireplaces, brick floors, stacks of books, and cosy nooks for afternoon tea.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Well-heeled guests escaping to the country for the weekend.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Rooms are done up in dusty greens, pinks and creams, and the beds come with pretty velvet headboards. The goose down bedding will make you want to stay in bed all day, but there's tea and coffee on hand to lure you away.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There's speedy Wi-Fi and bathrooms are kitted out with organic Bramley products.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The outdoor heated swimming pool is an absolute treat—it almost makes up for the often gloomy British weather.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Great value of luxury rooms in a low-key setting.

Hotel Sanders

How did it strike you on arrival?
Let’s start with the name. The owner and creator is one of Denmark’s most famous ballet dancers, Alexander Kølpin. Alexander’s…. Xander’s… Sanders. After his successful dancing career, he rejoined the family business and bought the run-down Opera Hotel. Kølpin took it from 90 rooms to 54, and commissioned the London-based design firm Lind + Almond to create the perfect interior for the place. It combines a bit of Danish mid-century modern, a bit of colonial British (wickerwork here and there, plus palms in pots), and a classic French bistro-style restaurant in a way that achieves the Holy Grail of hotel design. Instead of a pastiche, the hotel feels like it organically got this look over many years of collecting. Look out for the photos of famous dancers on the walls; you may spot Kølpin himself. The area is also ideal. It’s on a side street, so there isn't much traffic outside, but just walk to the end of the street and you are at Kongens Nytorv, the heart of downtown.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
While no doubt there will be successful business execs staying here, it feels a waste (especially since most rooms don't have desks). This is a place for—and filled with—families and couples visiting over a long weekend. (Rooms 101, 201, 301, 305, and 405 all have connecting rooms, ideal for people with kids.) Both the bar (Tata) and the restaurant (Sanders Kitchen) have access from the street, which was deliberate, so locals can drop in without feeling they have to go through the lobby under the watchful eye of the concierge. The staff wants this places to be part of the neighborhood, which it is.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
I was in Room 405, one of the larger rooms—a master apartment, they call it—which has a connecting room, a living room, and a fireplace. When I arrived, the fire was crackling away behind the glass screen. I never worked out how to turn it on or off (I had to ask room service to pop up and turn it off as I went out) but it was a lovely arrival. There are also some big rooms with mini-kitchenettes (again, good for folks with kids).

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about? If we lived in a lawless hellscape with no rules, what is the first thing you'd steal?
The bath products are from Ortigia, a Sicilian brand, that suited the colonial vibe of the place. There was free Wi-Fi of course and a nice mix of books on the shelves.

How was the food?
I ate in the lobby, which is a good option when you’re solo I think, as I was surrounded by the bustle of the place and didn’t feel like Sad Stanley sitting by myself. The menu has smaller items, just what I wanted: a slider, a croquette, and a potato cake. I also had a lovely dry martini—perfectly made, and in a tulip-shaped glass that was a nice change from the usual. There are also pastries served as breakfast to-go in the mornings.

Lightening round reaction time! Tell us something short but important.
During the day, I borrowed one of the hotel's bikes and pedaled around town. With Copenhagen being one of the world’s great cycling cities, it’s amazing that more hotels don’t do this.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Returning from a bike ride around town, I talked for a while with a staff member about what I’d do the next day. I explained I was going to meet a friend at the House of Finn Juhl, a store that sold the architect's stuff, a little out of the center toward the Little Mermaid area. Off I went to bed. Next morning, I came down, and he had printed off a Google map of how to get there and said, “I laminated it for you in case it rains.” Similarly, at dinner in the lobby the previous evening I’d chatted with the waitress a bit and mentioned I really liked a Danish magazine they had on a shelf there. Two minutes later she returned with a spare copy for me to take. The staff got the tone exactly right—friendly but not too much so, and anticipated what you might need.

Bottom line: Worth it, and why?
From now on, if I’m visiting Copenhagen—and can justify the cost—this is my place. It is, to my mind, incredibly close to being a perfect small-city hotel.

Santa Clara 1728

Where is it?
It's very easy to get to from the airport—about 20 minutes. The hotel sits on a square in the old cultural quarter of Lisbon: really beautiful and less gritty and touristy than the Chiado. It’s also close to the monastery São Vicente de Fora. The only downside is that it's near where the cruise ships dock, but I never saw any tourists right around the hotel.

How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s a stunning space—an architect’s wet dream. There are only six rooms total in an 18th-century building that’s been painstakingly restored (think eggshell blue walls, limestone staircase, giant oil paintings leaning up against the wall). Bonus: The hotel is right on Feira da Ladra Lisbon’s best flea market that pops up every Tuesday and Saturday.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Six rooms = not a ton of guests, but everyone we saw was from somewhere in Europe. It's great for design nerds who want open-plan bathrooms (think shower with no doors) and a feeling of actually being in a romantic, design-forward part of Lisbon. We were lucky enough to meet the hotelier, João Rodrigues, who was seriously the coolest dude. He’s an airline pilot for TAP and opens these small, impeccably designed hotels all throughout Portugal. He knows Lisbon, and would happily recommend a restaurant.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
This whole hotel, including the rooms, is very Cereal: all very lush but minimal and modern, with pale wood and gorgeous linens. All interiors are done by Antonio Citterio, who works with B&B Italia. There's a little espresso machine and a mini fridge stocked with wine, soda, and water. And the sheets are incredible! The bed was so comfortable—like, I wanted to get into it, skip dinner even though I was starving, and just sit in the bed all night. Pro tip: Bring an empty suitcase so you can buy all your linens in Portugal.

Word of warning: The hotel is on a public square that's fun to hang out in by day, but not as fun when vendors are setting up the flea market at 5 a.m. If you're coming in the summer, you'll also need to leave your windows open as there's no air conditioning.

You're starving. What's the food like?There’s always a homemade meal in the communal kitchen (as well as Portuguese wine) and around a communal table where people share breakfast (included in the room cost). There isn’t a restaurant, but the food was incredible.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
The staff is made up of Lisbon's warmest, most talkative cool kids. They'll also carry your bags to your taxi or Uber when the flea market blocks off the road in front of the hotel.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?If you’re a design nerd and want to stay around a romantic Lisbon square (and will lean into the Euro thinking about room temperature control), this is the place for you.

Terminal Neige - Refuge du Montenvers

This place seems like a well-kept secret. Who else was staying there?
Middle-aged Europeans dreaming of their next adventure.

Tell us all about the room situation?
Pairing authentic wooden walls with refurbished furniture, leather trunks, and red and metal accents, dark-hued rooms and suites here feel like the ski chalets of yesteryear—with an upgrade. Traveling in a group? The "Tribe" rooms, with five or seven beds, were designed with you in mind.

What about dining at the hotel?
Talk about a bistro with a view: the aptly named Panoramique Mer de Glace offers indoor and outdoor seats over the Sea of Ice, where it serves classic French dishes like Savoyard stew and roast chicken.

Bottom line: worth booking a room here?
First built in 1880 to shelter mountaineers and visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the Mer de Glace, the Refuge du Montenvers is a historic hotel with serious clout. Though rooms have been redone, the hotel remains a respite for travelers—and a draw for its impressive patio over the Sea of Ice.

Verride Palácio de Santa Catarina

How did it strike you on arrival?
The former home of an 18th-century count, Verride Palácio de Santa Catarina channels Lisbon’s political and design legacies, with Moorish archways and a black-and-white tiled floor inside. The four-story palatial building—located in Lisbon's trendy Chiado quarter—was designed by architect Teresa Nunes da Ponte and is chock full of intricate design details (some restored, some new) like elaborate ceilings, marble pillars, blue and white Azulejo tiles, and jewel-toned velvet couches.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
The stylish guests are definitely here for leisure rather than business—and the rooftop views, of course.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The 18 light-filled guest rooms all come with different views of the city (including the river) and are done up in neutral tones of cream, blue, and gray. The two royal suites are the hotel's trump cards, though, with over-the-top wood-carved or stucco ceilings, 18th-century bathroom tiles, and custom-made, silk de Gournay wallpaper.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The marble bathrooms are filled with Aesop products that you will want to smuggle home with you.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Breakfast at the communal table is not be missed—the chef will make a tailor-made breakfast for you—and while there's no spa or gym, the 360-degree views of Lisbon from the rooftop pool more than make up for it.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Rooms start at €475 ($588) but you're staying in at an 18th-century palace, after all.

Villa Maïa

How did it strike you on arrival?
While many travelers speed past Lyon on the TGV en route to more bucolic points south, in recent years the friendly, walkable of Lyon city has come into its own. And the Confluence neighborhood (where you'll find Villa Maïa) is the perfect example. A former industrial zone, it's now a starchitect's playground, where experimental projects counter the city's relentless antiquity. With this hotel opening, Lyon finally has a hotel that is keeping pace with this rapid evolution. The low slung building sits at the top of a winding cobblestone road, and hugs Fourviere Hill as if it's been there all along.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Speaking of tribes, the designers are a dream team of France's top tastemakers; architect Jean Michael Wilmotte updated the wings in the Louvre, interior designer Jacques Grange did the homes of Yves Saint Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld, and the garden planner Louis Benech did Paris' iconic Tuileries. Expect to be in the company of people with similar taste – on their way to perhaps even similar achievements.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The balcony rooms offer stunning, sweeping views of the red roofed city. Surveying the city across the tops of the cathedral in Vieuz Lyon, over the rivers Rhone and Saone below, all the way to Mont Blanc on the horizon while the bell towers mark the slow passing of time is an unforgettable pleasure. And the other rooms are equalling calming – they face mediation gardens planted with gridded blocks of flowing grass and lavender. All told, this is a hotel that cossets and soothes in quiet ways.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
It'd be heavy, but in the rooms the dark woodwork trim across the walls and Carrera marble and heavy nickel in the bathrooms are a Ryokan-meets-Art Moderne mashup that works and that I could use at home.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The spa is modeled after a Roman Bath, and overlooks the garden through a shadowed arcade. And the hotel's Michelin starred restaurant Tetedoie offers the cooking of Christian Tetedoie (a Paul Bocuse disciple) alongside its thrilling views. Order the lobster or crunchy calves.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
With the opening of Villa Maïa, there’s a hotel that feels right in a reinvigorated Lyon. The designers—a French dream team that included architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (who updated the Louvre), interior designer Jacques Grange (he did Karl Lagerfeld’s home), and garden guru Louis Benech (he redesigned the Tuileries)—have created a sophisticated space that soothes rather than wows with hackneyed design trends.

Vipp Loft

How did it strike you on arrival?
This is a funny one. There’s no doubt it’s a great display of imagination: a vast loft—400 square meters/ 4000 square feet—located above the Vipp offices in a former printing plant. It can sleep 4 people and rents for 1000 euro a night.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
You could imagine, say, Rem Koolhaas checking in, or maybe Bjarke Ingels if he’s redoing the floors at this own place. It’s possible a well-off couple, maybe with two friends, will come for a special anniversary. It would be thrilling to stay here, but it’s just not in a very exciting area. For a regular couple or pair of couples on vacation, it’s just too big and there are, of course, no hotel amenities. I’m sure they could arrange a chef to come in for you, or leave you a tray of breakfast pastries for you from some super local bakery, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you’re in a vast, impeccable loft that’s located above an office in a quiet part of town.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The furnishings are fantastic. You can soak in a huge tub, relax by the fire, cook up a meal in the envy-inducing kitchen area and then serve it at a table that could easily seat 12 people. It’s so well done, and so preposterously huge. But that’s the problem. It can sleep 4 people, but, as that table-for-twelve makes clear, this feels like a big event space (which is how it is often used).

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
There are Vipp products everywhere of course, which is partly its purpose. People who are considering installing a Vipp kitchen can come here and stay and try it. If they then buy the (expensive) kitchen, the cost of their overnight stay is waived.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
The people who showed me around could not have been more pleasant, including the grandson of the company’s founder who invented the famous Vipp trash can. Amazing to think that this all exists because his grandmother needed a place to throw away the trash and his grandfather set out to make a better receptacle.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
It’s in Islands Brygge, which is a cool part of town with some nice small cafes and presumably a few restaurants, but you’re still a ten-minute bike ride or a quick subway (or long walk) from the heart of Copenhagen. So it is not ideal for people who want to explore the heart of the city.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Vipp Loft is a really beautiful space, with no expense spared, and I have no doubt that the people who do stay there will think it a truly memorable experience, quite unlike anything else they’ve done. They’ll tell all their friends. But they’ll omit the fact that it’s a real nuisance to get to the heart of town, that the area is totally dead after 5pm, and that they didn’t really feel very cosy in their enormous loft.

Wanås Restaurant Hotel

Close your eyes. What was your first impression of the hotel when you arrived?
Wanås is a remarkable place. A real if-you-build-it-they-will come achievement by the owners, Kristina and Baltzar Wachtmeister, who are the ninth generation of the family to be running the place. It’s set on a large estate that includes one of the biggest organic dairy farms in Sweden. The farm facilities are state-of-the-art—you can see some of the buildings, including the carousel on which the cows stand as they’re being milked as you tour the place.

Imagine that other travelers at the hotel are part of a tribe. Who else do you see at the hotel?
The other guests were the sort of people you will find in a high-end place in the middle of the countryside: well-off folks who have come for an indulgent weekend away, and groups who have come as part of a shared activity. Nobody drops in because they’re just passing, and it is expensive for the countryside. There is no dress code as such. Country smart, would be what you should go for. Heels would be ridiculous, for example, and smart jeans totally fine. You are in the country, and should dress accordingly, though the place is so wonderfully stylish you don’t want to slum it. The sort of celebrity you could envision here would be someone who cared about eating well, drinking well, and art… I know that the Crown Princess of Sweden, Victoria, has been on a visit and that seems appropriate. The owners are very much Swedish nobility, so they move in those circles I think.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
It’s interesting to note that the architecture that transformed the two twin cowsheds into a hotel and a restaurant/conference space was done by Kristina Wachtmeister —the wife of the inheritor of the place. She and Baltzar had been living in New York and then Stockholm before coming back to the ancestral home. She’s done an amazing job. She’s kept the bones of the buildings but spruced them up so well. The place even smells good! A mix of woodsmoke and great timber and, well, old building smell. It’s wonderful. In the public areas of the hotel building, it’s a nice mix of furnishing styles. There are a surprising number of art deco pieces, but it works really nicely within the ancient bones of the building. Bedrooms have super-modern bathroom furnishings, and incredible beds (great beds are pretty much standard in Scandinavia) with a pair of chairs that look like they would be at home in the late 1930s. Naturally, wooden floors.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Were there in-room amenities or little touches that you'd rave about?
One of the super-smart things they’ve done is that they have a little area known as the mudroom with a collection of raincoats and wellies—Wellington boots, by Hunter, naturally—that you can just help yourself to before you go for a walk in the woods. It’s essential, really, as it can be super muddy there, but it also creates a great sense that you’re a friend who’s stopping by, not a paying guest. A great idea. There are art works dotted about the interior that reinforce that this is an art destination. Some of the interior pieces are linked to the major outworks outside, like the large ant on the wall in the entry way. It was one of the many ants used last summer in an art work that saw the manor house smothered in ants.

How was the food? Exemplary or mundane?
The food—thanks to the chef, Linus—is really extremely good. To be here in the middle of nowhere and have such amazing food is a revelation. But it’s no wonder when you spend a bit of time talking to Baltzar, who owns and runs the farm. They are passionate about organic farming (example: If a cow needs antibiotics, they give them, but that cow is then isolated for a period of time, so that the milk remains unadulterated. They keep close tabs on every single cow, so when they do slaughter one, they know it’s entire history and they use it to make as much food as possible).

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
I loved the dog, Puma, a good-natured golden lab who was often found lying near the fireplace in the restaurant, totally content to be greeted by assorted visitors. One thing I know that is difficult for them—confirmed by a chat with the owner—is hiring staff. It’s tough, in the middle of nowhere, to find staff who are able to deliver top-notch service. The chef, Linus, is really incredible, and he found a sous chef in, of all places, Australia, and brought her over. At dinner I was amazed at how good our waitress (from Kiruna in the far north) was, but at breakfast it was a local girl who was well-meaning but inept, and couldn’t fix a cup of tea which is pretty basic one would think. But you give them a pass. This ain’t the big city, and the smart kids don’t stick around here very long, preferring to more to Malmö or Copenhagen, if not the capital.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
I mean, what wasn’t singular about this property!! It really is a very rare and unusual place. It’s not just that it’s in the middle of nowhere, with a really good restaurant and a great wine list, it’s that the art—which is in many ways it’s raison d'être, is actually very good. I should add: I’m no expert, but I know real rubbish when I see it, which may sound like faint praise but is not. Some of the art in the woods was terrific. They have some great stuff, and they have some big name stuff, and some just surprising stuff. For example, Yoko Ono’s orchard of apple trees to which you can tie a wish was amusing enough. Anthony Gormley’s life size humanoid figure standing alone in the middle of a woodland path. Some of the pieces by artists I didn’t know were really amazing, such as Robert Wilson’s 'A House for Edwin Denby' (2011): A small cottage, lit from within, surrounded by trees that had hidden speakers, so you heard dialog as you circled this tiny wooden house in the woodlands. Totally haunting. Then you have things like Maya Linn’s 'Eleven Minute Line' which despite the viewing platform is quite impossible to take in from the ground level. It’s a cursive ridge of raised land. You have to see aerial pictures to see what it is. But the cows, who live in the field in which it exists, love it apparently. They love to stand on the top of it.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take to visit?
It’s a sign of how great it is that I think it is worth the 3.5 hour train journey from Stockholm, and the half-hour taxi ride, to get there. It’s a totally unique place, and I admire the courage and initiative of the owners who have gone all-in to make something unusual and admirable. The place is unique, I don’t know of anything else quite like it.

Asilia Jabali Ridge

Where is it?In Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania. At 7,800 square miles, it’s the country’s largest park, forty percent bigger than the Serengeti. And while the Serengeti sees around 350,000 safari-goers a year, Ruaha draws just 20,000.

What’s the transfer experience like?You'll fly from the airport in Dar es Salaam in the morning (usually requiring an overnight in Dar the night before, if you're coming in on an evening international flight). It's a 1.5 to 2.5-hour trip (depending on which flight you take; some make an extra stop), during which the city quickly gives way to farms and then mountains and bushland. Upon landing at the airstrip in Msembe, you'll head out on a game drive to take you to camp.

First impressions?It’s nearly invisible until you’re upon it: The treehouse-like stilted bungalows of Jabali Ridge—enclosed by teak shutters and nestlike roofs—hide between giant boulders on a granite outcropping, giving panoramic views of the plains and baobabs.

Tell us about your room, tent, or villa (and how many are there total?)Each of the eight suites (plus one two-bedroom family room)have wide wrap-around decks with built in couches, the better for game viewing right from your room, should wildlife allow. Inside the shuttered walls—the front one of which can be folded open to better bring the outdoors in—a linen and mosquito-netting canopied and curtained bed holds pride of place, made up with soft sheets and hand-woven pillow covers. The beds are made of wood recycled from traditional dhow boats. I loved the double granite sinks set atop the wooden vanity in the ensuite bathrooms, each of which look like they're carved out of small boulders. There's also a WC and a large open rainfall shower. Elsewhere, additional local Tanzania artisanal accents include beaded ornaments. There's also an infinity pool and spa.

Let’s talk about the food. What can a visitor expect?Different meals serve up, variously, dishes based on South African braai barbecue, Zanzibarian curries, and some more continental cuisine. Lunches tend to be family style, while dinners are plated. You'll enjoy the morning meal out on safari, with bush breakfasts of coffee and tea, cereal and yogurt, egg sandwiches or wraps and sausages.

Now, about that safari...Ruaha National Park has ten percent of the world’s entire lion population, and East Africa’s highest concentration of elephants. So many buffalo roam its grasslands and ancient baobab forests that you often think you’re hearing distant thunder. On my recent visit, I found that it delivered big on wildlife and landscape, with no crowds, and was equally thrilled that, unlike many parks where you have to sit for hours in a jostling jeep to glimpse game, I was allowed—encouraged—to take guided bush walks.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would it be?Italian-born driver guide Lorenzo brings a joy and wonder to his safaris that makes you feel like he's seeing it all for the first time—even as his deep knowledge belies that. And he makes a mean G&T.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn’t this property worth the money, time, and effort to get here?
Jabali feels like the first truly luxe lodging in Ruaha, but it would impress even in an area with other equally cosseting competition. That, combined with the feeling like you're alone in the wilderness, makes it a winner.

Berber Lodge

How did it strike you on arrival?
From the outside, you feel like you've stumbled upon a traditional Berber village tucked into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, surrounded by ancient olive trees and stands of palm and citrus. Nine individual lodges, centered around a larger lodge that houses a salon with a large fireplace, a library, a sweet little bar and the dining room, were built using traditional Berber techniques—bricks made from local pink clay, eucalyptus wood ceiling beams, palm thatch roofs. The lodges are elegantly but sparingly kitted out in chic muted earth tones. Vintage Moroccan rugs and textiles mix seamlessly with mid-century and antique French furniture.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The crowd is a global mix of low-key arty types, many of whom probably found the lodge through Instagram or a friend of a friend. This is the same crew who stays at Riad Mena or El Fenn in Marrakech—they want equal doses of authentic and low-key luxe.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The rooms are all lovely. Spacious, with a living area, separate bathroom, and private outdoor space. If you're a couple, the classic lodge is plenty of space—if you're a family, opt for the family lodge or the superior lodge which are bigger and have additional beds. The decor is understated chic and a sort of earth-tone wonderland—brick-colored zelige tiles, terracotta walls, lots of rattan and wood, and cream and black Beni Ourain rugs.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The sweet-smelling bouquets of freshly picked jasmine in the room is a nice touch. I'd for sure roll up a few vintage Moroccan rugs and make off with them if I could. Or the wicker rocking chairs—they feel both Moroccan and mid-century at the same time. The bright checked table cloths in the dining room would also be high on my list of items to swipe...

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
After visiting Marrakech, which, while not a huge city, is a bustling, frenetic, at times too-touristy city, you'll be dying for the quiet remove of this hotel. It's only about a half-hour drive from the city, but you feel a world away, like you've gone back in time. The setting—palms, cactus, orange and olive trees, as well as flower and vegetable gardens all against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains—is what you imagined Morocco to look like.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's a really special place. Glamorous, but in an understated way. It's the rare place where you can just slow down for a few days. The food, like the tagine with quince and peaches from the property’s organic garden, is excellent, there's plenty of cozy nooks in the main lodge for reading and a lovely pool for lounging.

Bisate Lodge

What did you first notice when you arrived?
The thatched UFOs have landed: Bisate's pod-like suites blend into the forest with onion dome–esque verve that look like something out of Dr. Seuss. The luxury level here, though, is no joke: Wilderness Safaris is one of Africa's finest operators, and they've spared no expense in building what's probably the best base camp for spotting gorillas on the planet.

Who else did you see staying there?
We've spotted at least one Hollywood A-lister here, along with safari regulars looking for the latest new thing, and the gorilla-obsessed.

Nice! Tell us all about your room. How was it?
The six rooms—accented with emerald green and black-and-white chevrons—open onto explosions of bamboo and Rwandan color.

Let's talk about the small stuff. Any amenities or little touches that you'd rave about?
Meals are exotic salads, fish, and Asian-spiced pork belly paired with South African reds. Then there are the massages, the attentive Rwandan staff, and the balcony views of the Virunga massif. This is both a safari camp and a luxury resort—just one that happens to be on the doorstep of Volcanoes National Park.

What else should we know about staying here?
Rates may be all-inclusive, but they also start at $1,155 a night—on top of the $1,500 per person you'll spend on a gorilla trekking permit. But when it comes to luxury accommodations in sub-Saharan Africa, Wilderness is truly among the best.

Bottom line: Worth it?
Wilderness has done an admirable job in building a luxe resort in a ecologically sensitive part of the world. If your goal is spotting gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, this should be your home base.

Duba Plains Camp

How did it strike you on arrival?
The Great Plains founders (and National Geographic filmmakers and influential conservationists) Dereck and Beverly Joubert chose this piece of land as their home base many years ago, before opening a camp on the property in 2017. And it's easy to see why: On entering the main tent (surrounded by five smaller tents and a two-bedroom suite) you're met with wide-angle views onto the Okavango flood plains. The classic aesthetic instantly throws you back to a circa 1920’s African safari, with campaign-style chairs and tables, oriental rugs, leather armchairs, brass fixtures, a library, and vintage maps on the walls, all under swagged canvas tenting. The living space opens onto a wooden platform with dining tables and a fire pit, where guests mingle at night.

Nice. Tell us about your tent.
I stayed in the Duba Plains Suite, a two-bedroom tent raised on recycled railway sleeper decking with indoor dining and living areas. Each of the bedrooms has its own plunge pool and bathroom, and indoor/outdoor shower. The wooden canopy beds are shrouded in mosquito netting, and the front window unzips to give the most insane view of the swamp from your bed—and the occasional ellie walking by. (In winter, there’s a fireplace near the bed.) Decor touches like a copper roll-top bathtub and a mini bar housed in a vintage-style campaign chest complete the fantasy. The room also comes with 8x42 binoculars and a new model Canon camera and lenses on loan (you'll go home with a thumb drive of your images). One especially nice touch was personalized Duba Plains stationary, not that I’ve written a letter in years.

Let’s talk about the food.
All meals are included: coffee brought to your tent for that 5:30 a.m. wake-up call; a hearty breakfast, picnic lunches, afternoon tea on the verandah; and dinners, which you can eat communally or on your own (I loved the avocado and snap pea salad followed by leg of lamb). The all-important sundowners are served out in the bush, and back at the tent, there’s a wine cellar with a few hundred bottles hand picked by the Jouberts, whose winemakers all support some kind of conservation or community effort.

Now, about that safari.
Great Plains is the only operator on the concession, so it’s all private wildlife sightings—no Land Cruiser traffic jams at all. If you’re there during the wet season (roughly June through August), the Delta swells up and the “swamp vehicles” plough through water that can sometimes splash through the doors, so prepare to get a little wet. On one drive, we saw tons of kudu antelope, vervet monkeys, bushbucks, hippo, lion, warthogs, and even a leopard family.

Anything else stand out? Were there any other cultural or outdoor experiences that were really interesting?
There are no villages nearby, so there’s not much cultural interaction (except that much of the staff hails from the greater vicinity). But Duba Plains does partner with communities in the broader area, with land lease funds, jobs, and projects like Lamps for Learning and Conservation Camp for Kids, so the populace receive tangible benefits from wildlife conservation. Oh, and the very tempting bush shop sells locally and regionally produced crafts.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This property is top of class in Botswana, with incredible and exclusive landscape, beautiful interiors, and excellent guiding and service.

Time + Tide King Lewanika Lodge

How did this lodge catch your attention?
Liuwa Plain was one of the earliest protected areas in Africa, and as a result, this lodge—the only permanent camp in the national park—feels like a privileged perch from which to take in the surrounding wildlife. You'll hear the cries of animals through your canvas tent, but if that's not enough, there are also day and night game drives, walking safaris, canoeing safaris, and more.

Cool. Who else was staying there?
Those who watched the Jane Goodall documentary, Jane—and then watched it again with their friends.

Tell us all about your room. Anything special about it?
One of the hotel's five villas (a sixth, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, is best for families). Villas are constructed with canvas walls and natural materials, and inside, the safari aesthetic continues with the use of brown leather and muted cotton tones. There are indoor and outdoor showers, but the best perk may just be the simplest: sitting on the deck, looking out over the sprawling plain.

What else should we know about this place?
Access to the 1,390-square-mile national park is easy—you're in it.

Time + Tide Miavana

Who else did you see at the hotel when you were there?
Globetrotters who care about conservation—without wanting to sacrifice the finer things in life.

Tell us all about your room. How was the decor?
Miavana comprises 14 villas, either with one, two, or three bedrooms. Though details differ from villa to villa, each is a minimum of 450 square meters, and includes a private pool, butler service, lounge, stocked kitchenette, and a study, which can be converted into an extra bedroom. Turquoise accents dot the villas, paired with the color of the nearby sea, and hand-cut stone is the same color of the seashells you'll find on the beach.

Any particular amenities of note?
There is direct pool access and ocean views from every villa, which means you're never far from that swim—or #sunset Instagram.

Do you think it's worth it?
As the first five-star luxury eco-lodge in Madagascar, Miavana looked to set the bar on far-flung African luxury when it opened in spring 2017—and set the bar it has. Meaning "to bring together" in the local Malagasy language, Miavana succeeds on many fronts: by bringing guests and local staff together, by bringing visitors closer to knowledge about the local ecosystem and environment through tours and safaris, and through bringing luxury to a corner of Madagascar without sacrificing the environment.

One&Only Nyungwe House

How did the place strike you on arrival?
Nestled within a working tea plantation at the edge of the pristine Nyungwe Forest National Park, this luxury lodge is one of the most upscale hotels in Rwanda. Plus, it gives you easy access to the park's population of chimpanzees, monkeys, and other wildlife.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
The nature treks in Rwanda aren't your average roll-around-in-a-Jeep safari. They often involve hours of hiking, up steep volcanic slopes and on occasionally muddy trails. Which is to say, the people who are coming here are the adventurous types—albeit those who want to come back to a king-sized bed, full-service gym, and spa at the end of the day.

Now, the good stuff. Tell us about the rooms.
There are 22 suites spread across six villas on the property. Each room has an open fireplace, a private terrace, a flat screen TV and a spacious bathroom, and given that most safari lodges in Rwanda don't have TVs or in-room wi-fi, it feels like a major upgrade.

And the food?
If you're heading out for an early trek, breakfast is served at sunrise, otherwise you can have brunch delivered to your room. They'll also pack a picnic for you if you're going to be out all day, and have dinner ready for you in the dining room once you're back. Guests tend to gather at the patio bar to share stories of their treks over a few cocktails at sundown.

Bottom line: Was it worth it?
Once you've done some gorilla trekking in the north, head here to see even more wildlife in a secluded, luxurious setting.

Qorokwe Camp

Tell us about your first impression when you got there.
It was very sleek, very subtle. Lots of clean lines and light wood. The 4WD pulls up to a deck with some steps and from that, you can see a bar, a few comfy seats, and the Okavango Delta behind the property. It seemed subtle but stylish; more understated than other luxury safari camps.

Nice. What about where you slept—how was it?
There is just one category of rooms; all the ten units are the same on the inside. What changes is your view. The suites were spacious, with special attention given to being able to see the watering hole and expansive stretch of Delta outside the tent: even the shower has views of the animals. Decor is stylish but if there was something to fault, it would be that some opportunities to furnish with local products were lost (for example, the blankets were made in India). The decks are killer; you could easily spend your entire three hour siesta each afternoon on their pair of comfy, undulating sofas. The wildlife around the watering hole, which each deck looks out to, is lively. You'll watch whole troupes of baboons, and families of wart hogs and hippos. Per company guidelines, Wi-Fi is not available. You'll have to wait to post that enviable shot of lion cubs once back in Maun.

How was the food, and how was it served? And, of course, the all-important sundowners and cocktails—how were those?
Food was excellent. It is not necessarily communal dining—guests can choose when to have dinner—but they do dine with their guide. I traveled in a big group and thought this was a nice touch, but smaller groups may prefer to dine more privately. I'm sure you could request to dine alone. The menu is set and the main is served buffet-style; guests take their plate and serve themselves. Generally, there will be a choice of proteins and sides, from roast pork and spiced to chicken to different salads and starches. The appetizer and dessert are brought to the table. Sundowners are generally a highlight on safari, and those at Qorokwe were no exception. Guides take special care to scout a good sundown spot while on the afternoon game drive. Some nights, the staff will set up a makeshift bar complete with nibbles (lots of biltong) at a safe spot in the bush for all the guests to meet and mingle before heading back to the camp for dinner.

Now, about that safari. How were the game drives, or expeditions? What did you see?
This is Botswana, which has a unique model: low volume, high expenditure per head. Viewing is fantastic. You'll likely spot the Big Five, which is unusual in many other parts of Africa these days. Due to the low volume of travelers, you won't have to share that moment of spotting a pride of lions with five-plus jeeps around you. Chances are, you'll come back to camp after each drive with stories to tell that go beyond just having spotted a herd of elephants or a baby giraffe. Think: hunts, kills, interactions. The views here are consistently quality.

Were there any other cultural or outdoor experiences that were really interesting?
A selling point to Qorokwe is that travelers can do mokoru—canoe safari—year round (in other parts of the Okavango Delta, they are seasonal). It was a beautiful way to see the flora and bird life more closely than you can when in the 4WD. But you do have to be careful about hippos in the water. Luckily, the guides are excellent and professional, and can read the Delta for signs of danger before the canoes approach the area. Arrangements can be made for travelers to visit local schools and villages if requested.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would it be?
So tough! Alan was an absolute pro. He knew the Delta and the wildlife better than most people know their own city.

Bottom line: Worth it?
Qorokwe is beautiful, comfortable, and incredibly well-staffed. The price point can be around three times less than other high-end camps in Botswana, but with no sacrifice to the quality of viewing or service. Also, it is on a private concession inside the Okavango, meaning you can off-road and do night drives, unlike other parts of the Delta.

The Silo Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
The Silo pretty well defines the adage, “Location, location, location.” The hotel fills six floors atop a former grain silo overlooking the V&A Waterfront, which also houses Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town’s celebrated new Museum of Contemporary African Art. Colorful artworks from the collection hang in the ground floor entrance and around the hotel, including commissioned pieces by Frances Goodman, Jody Paulsen, and Pierre Carl Vermeulen. From there, you shoot up to the reception on the sixth floor and the hotel’s Granary Café, where you get an eyeful of the waterfront on one side and Table Mountain on the other through the building’s huge “pillowed” window bays by UK industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick. You’ll also get a sampling of the brashly eclectic interior design overseen by owner Liz Biden (think colorful silk fabrics, European and Asian antiques, African art, and industrial details).

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Young South African professionals pack the bar after work, as do international travelers from the moneyed creative set.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
What hits you between the eyes is the contrast between the space’s industrial bones—ultra high ceilings and those huge, bulging windows with geometrically patterned ironwork—and the eclectic decor, which runs from French antiques and painted Chinoiserie to Lucite chairs and headboards upholstered in exotic fabrics. Each of the 28 rooms and suites is different, and the effect is a little bit like being in the loft of an eccentric and well-traveled aunt. But as striking as the rooms are, the bathrooms are really the star (and nearly broke Instagram when the hotel opened in 2017). Taller than they are wide (but still as big as some small apartments), with Tiffany-blue cabinetry and black-and-white striped floors, each has a soaking tub stationed just in front of the huge panoramic windows, giving you views of the city while you soak.

Room service: Worth it?
The always busy sixth floor lobby houses the Granary Cafe, which does a kind of elevated take on pub food—think charcuterie platters and potted salmon rillettes to start, followed by bouillabaisse and steak frites—and the Willaston Bar, a sceney locals magnet with an extensive South African wine list.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Not to be missed: the rooftop swimming pool, with 360 views of the city. Only the brave will want to jump in, however, as the pool resembles a glass-sided fish tank. And of course, take full advantage of the hotel’s proximity to Zeitz MOCAA—the nightly rates include entrance to the museum, and private tours of the museum can be arranged via the secret entrance on the hotel’s fourth floor.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
You have to be up for some bold décor choices, but the location and views couldn’t be better and having access to the hottest museum on the continent is pretty cool.

Alila Fort Bishangarh

How did it strike you on arrival?
High atop a hill, the hotel's exterior is dramatic and eye-catching, and they’ve maximized the wow factor by constructing an arrival area at the foot of it. Your first stop is the Haveli, a modern house inspired by the traditional villas of Rajasthan, where the spa, pool, gym, and kids club are located. There’s also a beautiful open air tented pavilion where you can gaze upon the fort—it’s particularly stunning at night when it’s all lit up—and then you take a jeep up to the top of the hill to check in.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Mostly well-to-do Indian families—it’s too new to have made a major impact on the international circuit yet, but wealthy Indians have been descending to see what it’s all about. Politicians, film-industry luminaries, and even the royal family that owns the fort, have been known to drop by for a night.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
While my room was nice and spacious, it didn’t have a lot of the character features the other rooms had. However, I really liked room 406 in the same category type (Royal), which had a separate seating area and a beautiful window, while the bed was nestled into the turret. But my favorite was room 408, a Regal Suite category, which came with a huge circular bathtub in the center of the room and is commonly used as a honeymoon suite.

What about the mini bar and the shower goodies? Anything find its way into your suitcase?
There were decent bathrobes, nice bedding, and a mini-bar featuring snacks from Jaipur dessert shop English Vinglish (almond straws, spiced cashews, stuffed dates). Absolutely nothing was missing, but nothing screamed "I must steal this now," either.

Worth sticking around for the restaurant?
Restaurant-wise, Nazrana is only open during the evening, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., while Amarsar is all day, from morning through 11:30 p.m. Nazrana specializes in traditional Rajasthani “hunter cuisine,” or dishes made over a fire pit, like zamini aloo (potatoes) and fennel-flavored paneer tikka. Amarsar, meanwhile, has an elaborate range of breakfast options—from western dishes like bagels and eggs to full Rajasthani thalis to South Indian dosas—as well as global flavors inspired by the Silk Route on its all-day menu, like deconstructed chilli chicken with chilli vinegar jelly, tempura pearls, pepper puree, and chilli caramelized onion jam. Go to the Haveli restaurant by the pool for delicious flatbreads and salads, a nice change from the heavier fare at the main fort.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
This is a really unique hotel for India. As the country’s only warrior fort turned hotel, they had their share of challenges—the restoration and conversion into a hotel was a 10-year process—and the end result could have been very dark and foreboding (it is an imposing fortress with a maze of hallways and eight-foot-thick walls, after all). Yet while the original structure has been restored and many original features and details have remained, the place is airy, light, and contemporary. And the location, in the famed Aravalli Hills near Jaipur, is much more accessible than many of Rajasthan’s more remote palace hotels, so it’s an easy add-on during a Golden Triangle itinerary.

Alila Yangshuo

How did it strike you on arrival?
Architect Dong Gong of Vector Architects and interior designer Ju Bin of Horizontal Space Design transformed this Cultural Revolution-era sugar mill (built in 1969) in Yangshuo, Guilin into a contemporary resort that pays tribute to the site’s past, which also blends in perfectly with the world famous Karst mountains and caves in the area.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Mostly Chinese, but an increasing number of adventurous foreigners looking to explore the surrounding culture and scenery of the area—a 90-minute flight northwest of Hong Kong.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Rooms feature local materials like bamboo, mountain stone, reclaimed wood from the sugar mill’s old buildings, and a type of concrete indigenous to the region. There are lots of strong, clean lines softened by views of outside greenery and water elements like the riverside pool and water valley square. The use of industrial design elements makes total sense here.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
If there's one thing I'd like to bring home it's one of the patriotic propaganda slogan signs on the walls that were restored instead of covered-up and reflect one of China's most volatile eras in modern history.

What about the food? Delectable or dire?
The best way to enjoy all the local delicacies is by ordering the ‘Yangshuo Flavor’ sample platter in the Sugar House restaurant that includes famous wok-fried Guilin rice noodles (a must-have when visiting the region), local savory and sweet rice cakes, roasted whole-fish with scallions, and stir-fried vegetables—many grown in nearby farms. The 1969 Bar, once a pressing room, today feature a selection of sugar cane-based cocktails like the ‘Path of Sugar House’ with sugarcane juice, sea salt, lemon juice, and Napoleon brandy.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Activities abound here, organized in to five themes: Cultural Learning, Conscious Living, Active Spirits, Culinary Arts, and Couple Celebration. They include on-site outdoor rock climbing to connect and take advantage of Yangshuo’s mountainous topography (weather permitting), sugar-making classes to understand the compound’s former life as a mill, and Tai Chi classes in the mornings by the riverside pool (weather permitting) to connect with Chinese culture.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
The clever redesign of this 1960s sugar mill is near-perfect, transforming the molasses storage tank into the Spa Alila, its boiler room into a library, and water pump room into a private dining space (popular with marriage proposals).

Bawah Island

How did it strike you on arrival?
"Middle of nowhere" is an overused phrase, something you realize immediately when you pull into the jetty at Bawah Island. This, a tiny dense jungle encircled by white-sand beaches, with nothing but the ocean stretching into the horizon, really feels like the middle of nowhere. And it's exactly what you've been looking for. Before even entering your villa on one of the five islands that make up the resort—and you've chosen one of the overwater suites, naturally—it's clear that this is the place to unplug, disconnect, and forget whatever's happening at home, whether it's New York City continents away or Singapore, just 150 nautical miles away by sea plane. Structures made with bamboo and recycled teak blend seamlessly with the environment and the ocean shines electric blue. It's time to dig into that book you've brought...and not do much else.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
It's the eco-conscious traveler looking for luxury without any overbearing frills. They don't want to have to worry about anything, but they also don't want someone doting on them 24 hours a day. It's the person looking for the ultimate in privacy and alone time, whether it's a celebrity or a family just after some quality time (although no kids under ten years old allowed).

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
There are three types of suites available and you can't really go wrong. The beachfront villas will have you stepping out the front door and onto the sand. The garden villas, perhaps the least desirable option due to the lack of direct beach access, are surrounded by the dense endemic plants of the island. But, to really get the whole experience, you should opt for the overwater suites. You could spend an entire afternoon, idly looking out over the ocean from your outdoor daybed. All the rooms here are spacious but simple—this is understated luxury at its best, with an emphasis on sustainable and recycled building materials. Wood, especially teak and bamboo, is used generously throughout the rooms, lending them a sense of coziness. Mosquito nets are draped over the very comfortable beds so you can sleep with the windows open to bring in that ocean breeze without worrying about waking up with bites.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Wi-Fi is available (and pretty speedy, considering where you are) in the rooms. But it's not available in the rest of the hotel grounds. And it's probably intentional; the point here is to relax, think, go for walks, swim regularly, and read a couple of books—not stare at a screen all day. When it comes to the little things, one really special feature is the set of Turkish peshtemal towels in the rooms: Lightweight and pure cotton they dry quickly, unlike the heavy-duty fluffy towels found at most major hotels. Your name written in sand outside of your suite when you arrive isn't a bad little touch either...

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Service is very warm, but not over-the-top. There won't be anyone giving you a cool towel while you sunbathe, but that's not why you came here. Instead, you'll make real connections with the staff, who will be happy to take you out on the water in a kayak, join you for a hike, or whip up a cocktail you've never heard of before as golden hour approaches. By the end of the stay, it can feel a bit like you're leaving family behind.

And how about the food?
Like many places where your dining options are limited, the staff at Bawah Island makes sure to have options for any kind of palate. The flavors on offer are a blend of Western and Indonesian, but the focus is on ingredients that are firmly rooted in the region. You might have lamb one day, but it won't be with the mint-jelly accompaniment you'd expect. Instead it will come with a heaping of kangkong, a local variety of water spinach, and coconut curry. But you'll also find classic Indonesian noodles and Italian pizza, along with simple but fresh breakfasts of eggs, bread, and fruit. The bars and restaurants follow the same bamboo, teak, and rattan aesthetic of the rest of the hotel, but have little signature quirks of their own, like the wire-mesh octopus at the Jules Verne Bar and swinging chairs at the Boat House Bar.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For anyone looking to destress, this little piece of untouched wilderness in the Indonesian archipelago is the place to be. It's luxury without the overbearingness, sustainability without sacrificing comfort, and a tribute to the beautiful environment it sits in.

Cempedak Island

Paint us a picture of this place: what does it look like?
Giant bamboo pillars holding up sloped, densely-thatched roof make it seem like this hotel naturally sprouted from the island. It's clear almost immediately that respecting the natural environment is paramount here, but so is creating an escape from the stresses of daily life. Everything is delightfully understated and rooted in Balinese architecture and design, from the sandy walkways that crisscross the private island, to the basic, but functional, wooden furniture. When the first thing you notice is the way the gentle sea breeze flows through your villa, you know you've found tranquility.

Who else is here?
It's a mixed crowd, with one notable omission: kids. The adults-only rule attracts couples from all over the world, but you'll find mostly Singaporeans taking some time away from the rush of city life (though you'd never guess that's just 56 miles away). All in all, it's the same vibe you might find in your local yoga studio or organic grocery store, ideal as it is for those looking for a luxury escape, but who also put a premium on eco-conscious practices. You won't find people dressing to impress here: The point is decidedly not to see and be seen.

What were the rooms like?
The villas are large, but not just for the sake of opulence, like you're liable to find at other big-name resorts. The lower level is a smartly-designed, indoor-outdoor living and dining space, plus a deck and private plunge pool. Walking up a curved stairway, you'll reach the bedroom and bathroom, with views of the ocean framed by the curve of the roof. Every piece of the design, from the lightweight bamboo to those undulating walls, is intentional and not just for looks: The villas' openness allows for natural airflow, eliminating the need for air conditioning. Furniture is functional rather than flashy, keeping with the rustic, back-to-basics aesthetic of the entire hotel.

Are there any features you just can't get over? Toiletries, artwork, minibar?
Those bed linens! Sleek, lightweight, and so-very-breathable, it'll take all your energy not to run off with the Australian-made sheets. Wi-Fi is good enough to keep up with emails and social media, but don't expect to be bingeing on Netflix (but if that's what you're spending your time doing here, rather than heading to one of the pristine beaches, you're doing it wrong).

How was the service? Did anything stand out to you?
Sure, there's a butler to help check you in when you arrive, and you'll have an iPad, which you can use to communicate your every need. But what sells the experience is that it's nothing but smiles on Cempedak, and the service is so warm that you'll feel like you're a guest in someone's beautiful home, rather than just another paying customer.

Quick: tell us about something (or a few things) you really loved.
Two words: Ocean access. There are two long beaches right at the foot of the hotel. If you're looking for even more isolation, you can make the short hike to a third beach, which is perfect for a moonlit stroll. Another feature I loved was the totally exclusive dining and drinking—no need to compete with other ravenous tourists for a first-rate meal, since these restaurants are only available to guests on the private island. And you won't find the mediocre, almanac-sized menus you might encounter at other beachside escapes here. Instead, it's a daily-changing fixed menu, based on what's fresh, freshly caught, and in season. It might be beef rendang with turmeric rice one day and a whole grilled fish the next. The drink menu is extensive, and three bars means you don't have to have your sundowner in the same place every night. But you might want to, considering the sunset views on offer from Dodo Bar.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
"Crusoe Luxe." "Barefoot luxury." There are a bunch of cheesy, overused terms to describe this kind of linen-shirt-and-flip-flops island vacation, but they just wouldn't feel right here. You know, from the bamboo architecture, the spice-heavy dishes on your dinner plate, and the white sand under your feet, exactly where you are.

Hoshinoya Bali

How did it strike you on arrival?
The discretion and serenity of Hoshinoya sinks into you from the start, at a property where you're more likely to hear the sound of the jungle than the occupants of your neighboring villa.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Stylishly-dressed Japanese tourists, both young old. There's a mixture of friends, couples and even multi-generational travelers. I'd expect to see Sting here, or any celebrity who wants the VIP treatment in a zen-like setting where near anonymity can be achieved. The property is currently aimed at Japanophile Bali travelers, but I think they'll soon break out from this pigeon-holing as the resort has a much broader appeal for anyone in love with Balinese culture, but who is over the congestion and overrun tourism of the island's more beaten paths. Hoshinoya is a quieter, more tranquil place with an emphasis on immersing oneself in nature's beauty rather than a party or art scene.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Luxury minimalism at its best. This is Hoshinoya's first property outside of Japan, and the rooms are larger while the room count is smaller (30 villas total) than most of their other properties. The resort was designed by Rie Azuma, who spent considerable time researching Hindu temples and traditional Balinese culture. It was important for them to keep an aspect of Japan in the design as a Japanese group, but they integrated it seamlessly with local design—beautiful wood and stone carvings can be found throughout the private and public areas of the resort. After getting used to such calm, I found the idea of going into town a bit daunting! My villa (Jalak) had the best views of the jungle and sunrise.

You're starving. There's a knock at the door. OMG, it's room service! What's on offer there or elsewhere in the hotel?
Room service was impeccable. The management staff has worked diligently to balance Balinese warmth with a Japanese hands off approach. They deliver the full dining set-up to your room with the meal, and there's also a nice traditional tea service in suspended gazebos over the jungle in the afternoons, where you're enveloped in nature despite being so close to your bed.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Water is an important element to the property. The villas are arranged around three canal-like pools—different from a typical resort situation where each room has its own. However, there were private sections of the pool off of each villa, so guests could experience both the more typical/secluded swimming environment or venture beyond into a long, river-like pool to do laps or explore the property from the water's edge. And this is all contributing positively to local sustainability: the pools feature a subak channel (Bali's UNESCO designed irrigation system) which runs down to neighboring rice paddy fields. Also, there's a no-tipping policy! Service charges are included in your stay and they've asked staff to flat out refuse any tips.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Luxury minimalism at its best. This is Hoshinoya's first property outside of Japan, and the rooms are larger while the room count is smaller (30 villas total) than most of their properties. The resort was designed by Rie Azuma, who spent considerable time researching Hindu temples and traditional Balinese culture.

Le Méridien Seoul

Why did this hotel catch your attention?
The hotel is a $97 million rebranding of the former Ritz-Carlton Seoul, which was closed in 2016, totally gutted, and reopened in September 2017 as a Le Méridien, with 40 fewer rooms due to expanded room size, removed ceilings, and added lounges. The hotel’s mid-century design, by David Collins Studio, is understated and individualistic, with elegant marble work, mint velvet sofas, and cloud-patterned carpets. The three-level lobby is full of contemporary art, including large canvases by Sol LeWitt, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Roy Lichtenstein, not to mention standout contemporary Korean artists like Jeon Joonho and Park Tae Dong—suites even feature works by Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg. Views of the city and surrounding mountains from rooms on the upper floors are pretty inspiring. As for the location, it’s located in bustling Gangnam, near plenty of restaurants and shopping, and very easy for walking around. It’s probably the best hotel in neighborhood—and arguably the best in Seoul—with Four Seasons being its biggest competition. Nearby attractions include Bongeunsa Temple, COEX Exhibition Center and Mall, and Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Because the hotel is a rebrand, many taxi drivers didn’t know where it is, so you might need to say the Ritz-Carlton so they remember.

Imagine that other travelers at the hotel are part of a tribe. Who else do you see at the hotel?
It is designed for creative jet-setters, but solid and staid enough for business travelers who want to squeeze in a bit of fun art and culture on the side. Guests are international, with an extra peppering of French (Le Méridien started as Air France’s hotel brand and retains a strong French following), mixed with Koreans splurging on a weekend and other well-dressed Asians on work trips. The French bossa nova band Nouvelle Vague stayed and performed there during my visit, and they fit right in.

So what about the room? Anything noteworthy?
The understated mid-century design feels timeless and sensible, letting the art do some of the work. Guest rooms are more plush than extravagant, and feature eucalyptus wall panels, oak floors, turquoise velvet sofas, Illy coffee makers, and exceptionally handsome marble tilework, emphasizing a penthouse-like feel. Also, room windows actually open, even on upper floors, and offer views of Seoul's surrounding skyline and mountains. Beds are especially comfortable, thanks to the high-quality bedding and down pillows. Ask for an upper-level room facing the mountains.

Let's talk about the small stuff—the Wi-Fi, the in-room amenities.
There's free Wi-Fi. The minibar was nothing special. Robes and sheets were white high-quality cotton, but nothing new.

You're starving. Should you spring for room service or head somewhere else?
Room service is available 24/7, but the on-site eateries are where you should go for your meals. There's Edward Kwon’s Elements, and Chef’s Palette, which has a knockout breakfast buffet with especially tender bulgogi; a staggering variety of kimchi made with balloon flowers, wild garlic, and mustard leaf; and even excellent Western fare like blueberry pastry and cheeses. Breakfast also emphasizes healthy, local foods, like seaweed soup and wild raspberry juice with pomegranate vinegar.

How was the service?
Service was attentive and anticipatory, in line with Asian hotels, but not as doting as Japanese service. It was sensible and just right.

Tell us a little bit about the amenities. Any other insider tips?
Don’t miss the art in the lobby, or the art gallery on lower level. The onsen complex and glass-enclosed rooftop pool were also highlights. In Korea, gym members are given workout shorts, shirts, and sneakers to use in the gym, and this service was free for guests. There are also free buffets and wine hours in the club lounge and other perks for Marriott/Starwood members. The hotel published a self guided art tour brochure for the artwork in the lobby and other common areas, which is informative and handy. Spend at least 30 minutes exploring the hotel art; more if you plan to see the gallery, too. It’s a sizable collection.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
With its unbeatable location, understated luxury aesthetic, art collection, spa complex, and knockout breakfast, this is a cultured alternative to the area's business hotels, and a great place to indulge for vacationers.

The Oberoi Sukhvilas Resort & Spa

How did it strike you on arrival?
Surrounded by thousands of acres of the Siswan Forest in the lower foothills of the Himalayas, Oberoi's newest spa resort is reached through a series of immaculately-landscaped courtyards, bubbling fountains and reflective pools—very much the company's signature style, and although a new construction, elements of India's royal Rajput and Mughal architectural heritage are everywhere across the resort's 25-acres.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
The Punjab isn't nearly as well-visited by tourists as adjoining Rajasthan, but those who were staying here had come away with great impressions of the mid-century-modern city of Chandigarh, a 30-minute drive from the resort, commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru and designed in great part by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
Accommodations, 60 of them in total, are split between rooms, villas, and luxury tents. All 13 tents come with private pools, by far our favorite choice here. Lashings of teak, marble, local textiles, historical prints, and fresh flowers fill every room.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
Oberoi's attention to detail is exemplary, and many of the original prints and miniature paintings in the room were highly covetable (luckily, the gift shop has a good selection of similar).

You're starving. There's a knock at the door. OMG, it's room service! What's on offer there or elsewhere in the hotel?
It would be a shame to hole-up in your room, when the resort's two restaurants, Anant Mahal for healthy, spa-inspired fare and Kaanan for traditional Punjabi dishes, are such gorgeous places to eat, with hand-painted frescoes, 24-carat gold flourishes, inlays of semi-precious stones and impressive chandeliers.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
All category of rooms are attended to by proficient and personable 24-hour butlers.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
Oberoi will organize fascinating trips to the nearby village of Palanpur, as well as leopard-spotting outings with its resident naturalists. The spa is of course the highlight of the property, with a vast menu of Ayurvedic treatments and multiple hydrotherapy pools.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
When Oberoi opened their first luxury resort outside of Jaipur, Rajvilas, in 1997, some decried the opulent luxury and new-build emulation of India's famous and original palaces. Now, with this newest property, most agree that the formula has worked, combining the visually-appealing ambience of historically-inspired architecture with all the mod-cons of life in the 21st-century.

Park Hyatt Bangkok

How did it strike you on arrival?
The hotel’s personality is spelled out by the stores in the mall it’s connected to—all upscale, all chic. You’re pointed to the hotel entrance by a series of discrete signs in gold lettering, where lifts take you to the beautiful 10th floor lobby decorated in cream and white and accented with simple, bold artworks, also in gold. Even the sleek, sculpted reception desk looks like modernist art.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Business types, vacationing couples, and families.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
My Deluxe Corner Suite was the definition of mod Thai chic—all clean lines subtly accented with Thai touches, like a lotus pattern engraved above the bathtub and drapes in Thai silk. Plush lime-green rugs dressed the light wood floors. A narrow hallway led to the curved bedroom, which had a work desk, an armchair, a minimalist TV on a stand, floor-to-ceiling windows—and a gorgeous unblocked view of the city.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
I don't remember anything after hitting the pillow—the bed brought sleep on like a dream!

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The Thai touches included an adorable lotus-shaped lamp that I would totally grab if no one was watching.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathroom was huge and felt like an exclusive spa, thanks to the muted lighting and minimalist fittings. The shower area was spacious enough for four. Very plush robes. The products were Park Hyatt’s usual—delicious-smelling La Labo toiletries.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Super speedy and free!

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
There’s a 130-foot tree-lined infinity pool on the ninth floor. The hotel is in a complex crammed with drinking and dining joints, like the Penthouse Bar & Grill on the 36th floor that offers panoramic views of the Thai capital.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Simply chilling out in what must be one of the most beautiful accommodations in Bangkok.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It’s pricey, but the Park Hyatt Bangkok offers top-notch luxury in a prime spot connected to the exclusive Central Embassy mall and Ploen Chit BTS station. The latter’s just a couple stops from the popular Siam Square area.

The Peninsula Beijing

Give us an establishing shot of the hotel, and let us know why it caught your attention.
It would be too easy to say this hotel—fresh off a $123 million refurbishment—has been restored to its former glory. Instead, it's readied itself for the next generation of loyal fans. You'll still be wowed by the traditional Chinese facade, and the Rolls Royces that deliver the hotel's tony guests to their plush accommodations. You'll also love the investment it's made in technology to smooth out and enhance each guest's stay, eschewing traditional check-in desks for staffers with tablets who can do it all, from getting you into your room to booking spa appointments and restaurant reservations.

Imagine that other travelers at the hotel are part of a tribe. Who else do you see here?
Peninsula attracts a moneyed clientele; this location, especially on the heels of its facelift, has its fair share of jet-setting millennials. Almost every nook in the place is made for Instagram, from the iconic exterior to the clean, white lobby with grand columns, to the pool and the art collection selected with Michael Suh, executive director at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing. The stylish guests who breeze through here are taking selfies un-self-consciously, and you'll be joining them.

Tell us all about your room.
In its renovation, the hotel cut its number of guest rooms from 525 to 230; now, all of them are suites. They're also the biggest in Beijing. Decor was inspired by luxury private yachts, so expect lots of light and airiness, furniture that kind of blends into the mix, and muted gray tones with aquamarine accents. Chinese motifs and artwork keep it rooted in its location. Beds are oversized and cloud-like, with comforters and pillows that look impossibly puffy and guarantee you sleep uninterrupted.

Now for the small stuff. What are the in-room amenities you'd tell your friends about?
If you're staying at here, you know that amenities come with the program. But the amenities tend to delight in softer ways—and that's a compliment. It's a grand hotel, but not over-the-top. Rooms are customizable: there are bedside and desk tablets that can be preset in 11 languages to control all room functions, as well as access room service menus. Bathrooms have large soaking tubs and rain showers; Wi-Fi is complimentary, and rooms have printer-scanners and a portable VoIP phone that offers free international calls. The hotel is anticipating its guests' needs and providing them before you even have to ask.

What about room service?
Why not get room service? There's plenty of space to enjoy it! It's accessed electronically, available 24 hours, and features Cantonese, Italian, Continental, Asian, and vegetarian options. A children's menu is also available.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would be the winner, and why?
Don't make me choose just one. The entire staff is a delight.

What else is special about this hotel?
First, the location. It's on Goldfish Lane (Jinyu Hutong) in Beijing's historic Wangfujing district, minutes away from the likes of Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and The National Theatre. The spa is also famous for a reason. Choose from Chinese, Ayurvedic, or European therapies, and don't skip the thermal bathing facilities, or a snack in the Oriental Tea Lounge. Finally, the hotel's programming worth noting: The Peninsula Academy offers custom experiences such as helicopter tours of the Great Wall, rickshaw Hutong tours, tea ceremonies, martial arts, and more.

Bottom line: Why or why wasn't this hotel worth the money, time, and effort it would take an average person to book it?
People pay top dollar to stay at the Peninsula Beijing, but they know it's not a gamble. It's a cosseting experience from start to finish, and a fine way to ensure your entire trip is seamless.

Rosewood Phuket

What was it like arriving at the hotel?
From the drive-up alone, you know this place is special. Lots of blond wood and large flagstones. The design is breezy and the whole resort is spaced out; free standing bungalows go up and down the hillside, while pools, the spa, and bars and restaurants are scattered throughout. The set up lets the property breathe; you never feel like you're sharing space with many others, even when the resort is full. And the Andaman Sea is visible from everywhere.

Lovely! How was your room?
Rooms are all stand-alone bungalows, and designed with privacy in mind. Terraces have sofas and plunge pools, while the decor is breezy and modern: lots of white on white, with cool touches like make-your-own cocktail bars. Outdoor bathrooms were a lot of fun.

Any notable amenities to tell us about?
Wifi is free and fast. Mini-bar was stocked with boutique brands of colas, spirits, and snacks, which made the resort feel on-trend.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would it be?
EVE! My masseuse at the wellness center. She. Was. Magical. I was unable to talk or interact with others (in a great way) for around 30 minutes after my singing bowl massage with her, which lasted one hour. I felt utterly reset. Do yourself a favor, demand that she be your masseuse. You will not be disappointed. I bet after your first treatment with her, you'll book another for each subsequent day that you stay.

Anything special to tell us about at the resort?
Ocean Access: excellent. The resort is on the Andaman Sea. Childcare: there are playgrounds and child facilities available throughout the pool, and spa, and probably why you are here. Ayurvedic treatments and on-site wellness specialists make the spa so much more than a sauna with facial and massage rooms. And hit the restaurant for some of the tastiest fresh Thai fish and chicken dishes you'll ever have.

So, worth it?
The place is gorgeous and ground-breaking for Phuket. Mark my words, Rosewood will make travelers start regarding Phuket as a tasteful destination, to tack on as the beach break during trips to Bangkok or Singapore. Doesn't hurt, either, that flights come in direct from Dubai, so you don't need to make that one more hop once in the hub city to get here, or fly back to Bangkok to get home. It's a special property and a wise way to unwind after the chaos of Bangkok.

Trunk (Hotel)

How did it strike you on arrival?
Pocketed in between Shibuya and Harajuku, Trunk (Hotel)’s two low-rise buildings are four stories each. The exterior look of glass, black steel, and stone is softened by the timber decks and ferns that line each floor's wraparound terrace. It’s a showstopper, for sure, but one that feels part of neighborhood. Inside, a subdued vibe takes over common areas—all of which feel like a lounge, equally suited for a MacBook, a latte, or a cocktail.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
If all of the young and beautiful guests gathered at the same table, they could easily start their own creative agency—it seems to lure stylish, successful types.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
The Living Suite is spun from a hipster’s daydream. The lofty suite actually includes a lofted space for additional guests (up to four), while the interiors are all crafted by Japanese designers. It could easily be called the party suite, considering its mini bar is actually quite large and in the form of a bonafide L-shaped counter (sake, anyone?). A record player brings sounds, and a ceiling projector brings motion-pictures.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Free Wi-Fi.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
There are only 15 rooms spread across two buildings—meaning there’s more to this place than beds. The open lobby cafe and bar slings just as many lattes as cocktails, and the main restaurant, Trunk (Kitchen), brings local flavor to international staples (burrata, for example, made in a shop in Shibuya).

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
Hardly a stone’s throw from some of Tokyo’s most hipster streets, it’s a high cost, but you’re really booking a whole lifestyle.

The Warehouse Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
From across the Singapore River this trio of former godowns (warehouses) cuts a striking profile. Inside, it’s just as sophisticated, with industrial chic details inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis. Think pulleys hanging from the ceiling’s exposed steel trusses. It’s hard to resist the urge to pull out your smartphone and start snapping.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Tastemakers, design fiends, sophisticated hipsters.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
My River View Room had views across the water, once a hub of shipping activity and now a residential area and a wining and dining hub. At 112 square-feet it was a decent size and the rectangular layout was space-efficient. I found the interior – in muted browns and dusky blues – very soothing, and I loved the mod Asian look of the ikat print bedspread.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Comfy bed with pillow top, pillows a tad soft.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
It’s not every day your mini-bar includes local snacks and creamy Hokkaido milk to make hot drinks with. And they’re not the only unconventional offerings in the selection – check out the BDSM paddle.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
How can a bathroom that looks so minimalist have everything you need? Somehow The Warehouse has made this work, with a lush shower, plush towels, a vast vanity and guilt-free products from eco-certified label Ashley & Co.

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
High-speed and free.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The restaurant is by celebrated local chef Willin Low and features jazzed-up hawker staples, like a wrap-it-yourself popiah (pancake with pork and vegetables). A rooftop glass lap pool with pink tiles the color of those in local old-school coffee shops is the icing on the building.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The thoughtful touches and informed design, not to mention the bragging rights that you’ve stayed in one of Singapore’s coolest new hotels.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It’s a tour de force by a team of Singaporean backers, designers, chefs and more – this is luxe local at its best.

Wild Coast Tented Lodge

How did it strike you on arrival?
The tented lodges, as reflected in the name, are definitely the iconic features of the property. Towering just above the foliage line, each lodge is comprised of a facade of egg-white canvas, with a far wall of glass, which opens up to a private wooden patio that looks out onto nearby watering holes. Stepping inside each lodge is a true marvel.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
Most of the guests are comprised of young families in their thirties with young kids; or older couples between their 50s and 60s. There's a diverse mix of backgrounds also, and you'll see everyone around the bar, restaurant and pool area (all housed in the same structure, making it the locus of all activity in the resort.) I'd picture Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson here. The property gives off the same vibes they do as a couple: sophisticated and private, and always bringing something new to the game. This is a place for the traveler interested in wildlife, but not in going down the rustic route. And for someone who wants to properly wash the dust off from the day's safari's and put their feet up with a chilled glass!

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
You're likely to get to bed early here (the restaurant closes by 11PM) but this is a blessing in disguise, as you'll have real time to enjoy the fabulous beds and creature comforts of the room—organic Ophir bath products, soft and luxurious towels and a bed that makes you want to sleep in each morning. Plus, the Wi-fi miraculously works like a charm: Netflix streams effortlessly.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?
Our excellent guide and tracker, Chandika, who really cared about the land he worked on. He shared that Wild Coast is founding a new research centre to track the big cats, and ensure their preservation in the face of ongoing poaching attacks.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
You absolutely need a car and a driver to get to this location—the closest town is half an hour away. But the excellent road network leading up to Yala is a major selling factor–aside from a 45-minute stretch of narrow road, the rest of the journey from Colombo is on wide, smooth thoroughfares with minimal traffic: a rarity in Sri Lanka! Also, skip the spa. It's pristine and functional but doesn't have the ambience of the rest of the property. Taking a nightly dip in the infinity pool, however, overlooking the fierce Indian Ocean and rugged coastline, with the tiny pool lights mirroring the stars above and electric safari lamps lining the pathways is truly something spectacular.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
In no small feat, this Relais & Chateaux property has managed to combine the luxury of a lodge on the African savannah with the wildness of Yala National Park; it's romantic, faux-rustic and dramatically set between the churning coast and dense parkland. The architecture of the property is also designed in the shape of a leopard's paw, in reference to Yala's most renowned sighting (the park has one of the highest densities of leopard in the world.

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

How did it strike you on arrival?
It's really isolated on Motu To’opua, an atoll opposite the main island of Bora Bora. Most of the top resorts (the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Intercontinental) are on the other side of the lagoon, looking at Mt Otemanu, and quite near each other. This one is on its own little Motu with Mt Otemanu behind it. It’s more private and said to have the best sea and snorkeling—because there’s more coral, the sea is several different shades of blue, whereas on the other side of the lagoon it’s all turquoise, all the time. It really has that castaway feeling in the most luxurious way possible. It’s also the only property in Bora Bora built with a hill behind the hotel so the views are unique and expansive, especially from the hilltop spa.

Nice. What's the crowd like?
I wouldn't be surprised to see Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu on a girl's trip here. Over 50 percent of guests are American, the next largest group is Japanese (15 percent), then French, Italian, Austrians and Kiwis. Some Latin Americans, too, mainly Brazilians and Argentinians. Most honeymooners are in gauzy caftans over bikinis at breakfast and floaty long dresses at night, but you do get the occasional cut-off shorts and Hawaiian shirts.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
People love the overwater villas with private pools on decks. You may think it's completely unnecessary to book a villa with a pool, because you’re literally IN THE WATER, but I heard some guests saying that they fear swimming in the ocean after dark, but enjoyed sitting in their pool after the sun sets, and they wish they had upgraded to the pool-deck rooms earlier. The garden villas are beautiful too—they seem to grow out of the hillside amid all of the vegetation and look very Swiss Family Robinson (they're also 10-30 percent cheaper than the overwater villas). The interiors of the standard overwater and deluxe overwater villas are the same, but the view is different; standard villas look out on the sea and others opposite them. Deluxe views of the sunset, Mt. Otemanu or uninterrupted views of the horizon (this last group would be the 12 villas in front of the beach). The villas are rather close together—for more privacy, do the beachfront villas (201-212). Also more private are 301-314, 327-332 and 341-342, which are on docks off of two little islets connected to the resort by a bridge—those are the islands which contain the very sculptural miniature gold course, which is a plus if you’re into it and I suppose could be a minus if you’re not (although it’s a very chic, worked-into-the-environment course and very quiet).

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
The Wi-Fi is free but slow—not annoyingly so, it was fine to upload pics and send emails. You can upgrade for additional cost (XPF 4000—which is almost $40—per day). The robes and towels are plush and cozy but it’s the sheets/duvet that I miss. The duvet managed to be crisp and cool but fluffy at the same time. There was a Nespresso with pods, and a pour-over kettle as well. The treats in the room when you check in are a delight—fresh flowers (changed daily) and cookies and homemade marshmallows. The TV rises from the foot of your bed and swivels if you’d rather watch it from your overwater deck, the villa is Bluetooth equipped so you can hear your own playlist indoors or overwater, and choose which speakers should broadcast it, and you can switch the electricity in the bathroom plugs so you never need to use a converter.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The Hina Spa is worth noting—it’s high up on the hill and each of the 7 treatment rooms (in their own little wooden cottages) has amazing views of the resort unfolding below, and big glass windows to take advantage of them. The poisson cru is great at each of the restaurants—even at breakfast. Desserts at the Iriatai are worth it—I loved the macarons. Unsurprisingly, the tropical drinks are amazing—your piña coladas etc. They’re very fresh. They also make a lot of their own inventions like the Ace of Hearts (Campari, fresh passion fruit, orange, and grapefruit juice and champagne) and brown “rhum” based drinks like the Ace of Diamonds (rum, pineapple liqueur, amaretto, and champagne). There’s room service (or, as they like to call it “in-villa dining”) round the clock.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
What I loved about the resort is the way Polynesian culture is all around—in the greetings and traditional tattoos of the local staff, the food, even the names of hotel landmarks: Hina spa is named for the moon goddess, the Tamure grill pays homage to the hip-shaking local dance moves, the Upa Upa means "music" (and is the name of the sunset bar and lounge) and the Iriatai restaurant comes from the word for "horizon." When you check in, there’s a booklet of drawings and retellings of Polynesian legends waiting for you, and the hotel’s stationery (welcome notes, bills, etc) have the same drawings on them. Also, the gardens and landscaping are super lush—the owner’s wife takes care of the gardens.

Jackalope

Let's start with the basics: Where is it?It's about an hour southeast of Melbourne on Mornington Peninsula, set amid vineyards and rustic B&Bs.

How did it strike you on arrival?
You're greeted by a 23-foot-tall metal sculpture of a jackalope.

Okay... what's the deal with the jackalope?So, it's a mythical creature (a rabbit with antelope horns), as black as Darth Vadar, that's the whimsical mascot of Australia’s newest luxury boutique hotel—which, like its namesake, is a hybrid: part hotel, part winery, with a restaurant and art space. The Jackalope (with a capital J) was dreamed up by Louis Li, 30, a graduate of cinema studies with a penchant for David Lynch who also happens to belong to a family of hotel developers. “Li’s vision was to create a unique escape fueled by his love of film and art,” says Sue Carr, of Melbourne’s Carr Design Group, which did the surrealistic interiors. “Our challenge was to provide excitement while creating a place for calm retreat.”

Sounds pretty cool. What does the space look like?
Carr took design cues from the surrounding vineyards and the “alchemy” of winemaking. Entering the lobby bar is like walking onto a film set of a mad scientist’s lab—zippy white neons illuminate the ceiling, bulbous laboratory flasks ornament the bar, and a series of plaster busts with slabs of agate in place of faces decorate the room. Ten thousand (for real) pale gold bulbs shimmer across the ceiling of the main dining room, designed to echo the fermentation of the grapes that are grown just beyond the 100-foot black lap pool. The 46 guest rooms are marked by alchemical symbols and done with charred timber walls, ebony resin soaking tubs, and brushed-metal fixtures.

Which room should I book?
Depends on what you want. You can book a private terrace room, a west-facing sunset room overlooking the vineyard, or a "lair"—their signature suites—with "loft ceilings, an expansive 30-square-meter terrace overlooking the vines, a double sided indoor/outdoor fireplace, a six-seater indoor dining table, kitchenette, cocktail bar, and a personal wine cellar."

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whatever stuck with you.
The Jackalope’s true magical power is moving nimbly over what could be a thematic trap. The staff, under the watchful eye of Aman alumna Tracy Atherton, is stealthily chic. The innovative menu at its Doot Doot Doot restaurant, helmed by executive chef Guy Stanaway, is sourced largely from the peninsula’s farms and waters, like the spanner crab with potato and bottarga. If it all sounds a bit fantastic, that’s the point. The Jackalope is, after all, a rather exotic beast.

Kokomo Private Island Resort

Let's start with the basics: Where is it?Kokomo is in a set of islands in Fiji’s south, a rarefied stretch that isn't touristy. It was a highlight of my Fiji stay. To get there, I took a 45-minute boat ride from Kadavu, an undeveloped Fiji island known for its waterfalls, choirs, and endemic birds, including colorful kaka parrots and honeyeaters. The hotel owns its own seaplane and helicopter, which is a 45-minute flight from Nadi International. Helicopter takes one hour, seaplane 45 minutes. Rainy season is November to May.

How did it strike you on arrival?
We flew in by seaplane manned by a barefoot pilot, and there was soulful singing on arrival and departure. (The island adjacent is known for its Pacific Gospel Choirs and many staffers are singers.) And the nature is outstanding! You can see turtles, parrot fish, whales, and rays from your villa’s infinity pool, steps from swimmable and thriving coral reef.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Well-dressed Kiwis, Aussie celebs, chic empty nest Brits, laid-back American snorkelers, free-spirited beach worshipers, and nature-loving families. (Villas are spacious and each room has its own bathroom, so it’s ideal for outdoorsy families of four; staff are warm so babysitting is a breeze. Bonus: The resort only has 25 units so it never feels crowded.) An actual celebrity was staying there during my stay—the Aussie singer/star of Kinky Boots—and one night he sang impromptu a cappella for some of the guests.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
If I could could stay in one place, it'd be Room 8, a one-bedroom villa with traditional thatched roofs. It's perfectly located on the eastern side of the island, close enough to walk to the restaurants and spa without a buggy, but still very private. The look? A tasteful and modern take on Pacific design. The resort was originally built as an Aman, but changed to an independent property (family owned by Australian property developers) before design plans were finalized; an Aman sense of discovery remains. There's lots of elegant stonework throughout, contemporary abstract oil paintings on canvases by the island’s resident artist in bright, poppy Pacific tones. High stone walls create privacy, and banana plants and hibiscus dot the private garden. Linens are textured cotton quilts, soft white sheets, and quality down pillows, on par with Four Seasons or Aman linens.

How about the little things, like minibar, or shower goodies. Any of that find its way into your suitcase?
It's a standard minibar with Fiji water and Coke Zero. The free laundry service is pretty clutch, as are the chocolate chip cookies. Bath amenities were coconut based, but nothing special. The spa sells nicely packaged Aussie-based cosmetics and products like jet lag sprays.

Room service: Worth it?
24/7 room service is included in rate. You can order sashimi, avocado toast, or a medium rare tomahawk chop steak with Bearnaise sauce at 3 a.m. The food across the board is good: steak, coral trout sashimi, Fijian beef, lobster kokoda (a welcome upgrade on the usual kokoda of marinated raw fish in coconut milk with chiles, onions, and tomatoes). Caroline the chef can cook you anything. Fresh juices are served in glass jars and the pastries are top notch, all made with local fruits.

Staff: If you could award one a trophy, who gets it, and why?
Chef Caroline and a bartender experimenting with unusual Fiji and Pacific botanicals.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
The gym comes with personal trainer. Free yoga every day in the morning and evening by a dedicated yoga instructor. There are tennis courts, a basketball court, kids' club, tween club, and a forthcoming Chef’s Table Experience on the helicopter pad. Beach shack Walker d’ Plank feels especially authentic and fun for a luxury hotel. It was designed by a resident artist and is set under pine trees and ferns on the clear water. We saw pilot whales and turtles while sitting there. Great Astrolabe Reef is just offshore; there’s an onsite biologist and a glass-bottom boat for exploring.

Bottom line.
So many moments stood out: snorkeling with sharks at the Great Astrolabe reef. Checking out the on-island farm. Coral trout sashimi for breakfast. The craftsmanship of coconut fiber roof beams and thatch work. The departure experience, when the entire staff assembles to sing (with gusto) traditional farewell Fiji songs—it’s very emotional.