Hotels and Resorts
Cigar Aficionado's panel of travel experts picks the most luxurious, most outstanding, most exciting range of destinations in the world
From the Print Edition:
Jim Belushi, November/December 2010
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TIE: Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, Lake Garda, Italy; Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy
There is no doubt about it—Italy has the world’s best hotels. Feltrinelli won our original poll, and this time tied with the Splendido, a spectacular property that has the best location in what many consider the most beautiful seaside town on earth, the pastel fantasy that is Portofino. If this is not enough, the Splendido also owns the best spot on the actual harbor, maintaining a satellite restaurant, where the front row seats coveted by passing throngs are reserved for hotel guests. In the case of the Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, set in Mussolini’s former villa, be careful what you wish for when booking, because Carrie Wallace reports that, “After staying at this idyllic lakeside hideaway, many clients claim that they have been ‘spoiled for life.’ ”
Honorable Mention: The Rest of Italy. As in previous polls, Italy totally dominated the world beyond the U.S. borders, and other acclaimed choices included Verdura Resort, Sicily; Palazzo Sasso, Ravello; Il San Pietro, Positano; Four Seasons, Florence; and the Cipriani, Venice (a previous winner).
Best Hotel/Resort Caribbean
Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
One of the best new things to come online since our inaugural poll in 2005 is this fantasy creation of architect owner Nick Troubetzkoy. Untroubled by any rules of the hotel industry, Troubetzkoy indulged his every whim to create a one-of-a-kind property perched on a mountaintop, above a beach he also owns, with some of the world’s greatest views, including St. Lucia’s famed twin peaks, the Pitons, and the stunning sea. “It’s one of the most photographed resorts in the world due to its dramatic architecture and stunning scenery, yet also one of the most exclusive. Everyone dreams of visiting Jade Mountain,” says Jetsetter’s Farryn Wiener. There are just 28 suites, each butler serviced, an incredible array of facilities, dining options and activities, including one of the finest scuba centers in the Caribbean, and each open-air suite is more like a luxury home. My wife’s reaction upon arrival was, “this is all ours?” The suites are called “sanctuaries,” and as Valarie D’Elia, host of the popular “Travel With Val” segment on NY1, puts it, “Each of the ‘sanctuaries’ at Jade Mountain has one missing wall exposed to the elements, facing the fuzzy Piton mountains. I felt like I was watching an IMAX movie, tuned to the same glorious scene.” Every Sanctuary also has an open-air infinity pool and multilevel decks.
Runner-Up: Parrott Cay, Turks & Caicos (a previous winner)
Best Hotel/Resort Mexico
One & Only Palmilla, Los Cabos
Air conditioned golf carts on the Jack Nicklaus Signature course is typical of the spare-no-comfort approach taken at the One & Only Palmilla, especially for guests in the newer butler-served luxury wing. A complete rethinking of a longtime favorite Los Cabos hotel, this won earlier for Best New Beach Resort, Mexico, and was previously a runner-up in this category. The biggest news is that it displaced multiple previous winner Las Ventanas al Paraiso, long regarded by our panelists as the world’s benchmark for luxury tropical resorts. “It boasts the only swimmable beach in Cabo. The attention to detail is impeccable—the light fixtures alone impress, and as the sun sets staffers meticulously set countless candlelit lanterns along paths and flowerbeds, and the property takes on a magical air. More than just a gimmick or glorified housekeeping, butler service here is memorable,” says Elaine Srnka, editor of Virtuoso Life. Anne Scully adds, “Luxurious suites complete with butler service keep the guests coming back year after year. This resort has the best among the best in dining, golf, spa, deep-sea fishing and yacht charters,” as the resort has its own marina.
Runner-Up: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Los Cabos (a previous winner)
Notable Mention: Two newer resort communities fared very well in our polls, but simply had too much of a good thing, splitting votes between their own multiple luxury hotels. Either Punta Mita, on the West Coast, with its Four Seasons and St. Regis, or Mayakoba, on the East Coast, with its Rosewood and Banyan Tree, would be the top vote-getter if considered a single resort.
Best City Hotel Far East
Peninsula Hong Kong
Don’t call for a bellman until you are ready to leave, because they might be knocking before you hang up, such is the service at this legend. Five years ago we called the Pen the “800-pound gorilla of our survey, no other hotel could touch the Peninsula.” Today, that honor has shifted thousands of miles west to Paris’s George V. After a massive wave of ultra-luxury openings across Asia, especially in Tokyo, Hong Kong and pre-Olympics Beijing, the margin is much, much closer but the venerable Peninsula still wins, with several properties nipping at its heels. Ironically, these include several sister hotels, or as top tier travel agent Jason Miller puts it, “Peninsula Hong Kong, Peninsula Beijing, Peninsula Shanghai, Peninsula Tokyo, Peninsula wins the prize in the Far East!”
Runners-Up: TIE: Peninsula, Tokyo; Peninsula, Bangkok; Shangri-La, Tokyo; Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi.
Best Resort Far East
Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand
Another previous winner in this category still claiming its throne, this property is even better thanks to its association with smaller sibling, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, which shines in two other categories. “You couldn’t ask for a more tranquil, quintessentially Asian setting for a resort. It’s not hard to pass the entire day on your verandah gazing across the bright green rice paddies,” says Wallace. Of course, if you want to get off the verandah, the resort, smack in the cultural heart of Thailand, offers a culinary school with four Thai cooking classes, plus a chef’s tour of the local market, every day. There are two golf courses within five minutes, balloon rides, and many other local activities.
Runner-Up: Amankila, Bali.
Best Hotel/Resort Australia/New Zealand
South Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
“I still remember the hundreds of kangaroos hopping around us at sunset…this is a visit to Jurassic Park with a five-star luxury resort attached… views of the wild southern ocean from one of the 21 suites... look for the koala bears in the trees and the wallabies running around playfully,” recalls Anne Scully fondly. Despite a fine collection of urban hotels in both Melbourne and Sydney, our experts picked this tiny sanctuary on off-the-beaten-path Kangaroo Island, often called “Australia’s Galapagos.” The luxury lodge sits on bluffs with tremendous views and is almost entirely glass for nonstop jaw dropping.
Runner Up: Park Hyatt, Sydney.
Notable Mention: Because New Zealand is much less urbanized, and tourists visit for nature’s grandeur, votes were widely split amongst several smaller, far-flung properties worthy of mention: Kauri Cliffs; Cape Kidnappers; Whare Kea Lodge. “I’m not someone who says ‘Oh my God!,’ but when I stayed at Whare Kea this year, OMG (or OMFG) was all I could manage for three days,” recalls Abel, who made this her most impassioned pick in the poll.
Best Hotel/Resort South/Central America
Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
First The Godfather, then fine California wines, now a beloved eco-luxury resort in Belize. Blancaneaux is the work of acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola and has quickly garnered praise throughout the travel
industry. “Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge truly feels like a movie set; perched in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, one of Belize’s oldest national parks, 21 thatched-roof villas and cabanas are built into a hillside above the swift-moving Privassion Creek and waterfall…perfect for those who want a rustic hideaway with luxurious extras,” says Wiener, while Srnka simply says, “Love Blancaneaux Lodge.”
Runner Up: Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica.
Best Urban Hotel Spa, U.S.
Mandarin Oriental Miami
It’s not enough that Miami’s top hotel has a wonderful setting overlooking the Bay from Brickell Key, or that it is home to Azul, widely considered Miami’s best fine-dining restaurant, but also has an incredible, three-story spa that includes half a dozen VIP suites with floor-to-ceiling windows. The spa offers every wellness bell and whistle from an elaborate treatment menu to belly dancing lessons. It has won countless awards, yet is being improved again with an extensive renovation to be complete by the end of 2010. “This celebrity-favorite city spa promises to be even better when it emerges from an October refurbishment,” says Srnka.
Honorable Mention: The rest of Miami. When it comes to urban spas, this South Florida city was tops, with panelists praising several properties including the Viceroy and Canyon Ranch Miami Beach.
Favorite Large Hotel & Resort Chain/Brand
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