The World's Best New Hotels & Resorts
Top-tier brands remain on our travel experts' radar, but boutique properties and South American and Vietnamese destinations are also garnering rave reviews
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007
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Explora Hotel, Easter Island, Chile
This hotel is so new it doesn't officially open until December, but our insiders were able to preview it. It comes as no surprise that it topped the category since Explora, a boutique Chilean company whose mission is to marry luxury lodging and expert guides with environmental sensitivity, has won twice before in our polls for its flagship property in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.
This new hotel is especially notable because Easter Island is one of the world's true "must see before you die" attractions, with an economy entirely tourism-based, yet Explora is the first and only lodging on the island remotely approaching luxury status, and as such has essentially no competition. The new resort is a compound of circular buildings entirely comprised of local stone, terraced into the hillside and linked by glass hallways, outdoor terraces and paths, with sea views from all 30 rooms, the glassed-in dining room and the outdoor Jacuzzis. Cifelli says, "Explora's strength has always been hiring the best guides and offering the best accommodations, excursions and cuisine in whatever setting they enter, and on Easter Island this is even more the case than usual."
Private Island Resort
Rania Experience, Maldives
With pristine lagoons, one of the world's best service economies and no more than one resort per island, the Maldives has become one of the hottest luxury beach destinations on earth. Despite offerings from Four Seasons, Como, One&Only and other top resort brands, only one truly private island is available for individual takeover, and that is the Rania Experience. Staff includes an international team of chefs, spa therapists, dive master and private butlers. This is the first of its kind in all of Asia and accommodates a maximum of 15 people.
Ranch/Dude Ranch Resort
Resort at Paws Up, Montana
Another repeat winner, Paws Up sits amid 37,000 acres teeming with activities, from horseback riding to sporting clays. There are more than 100 miles of trails separated for specific use for ATVs, mountain bikers and hikers; a litany of guided wilderness activities, including kayaking, canoeing and rafting; and seven miles of private blue-ribbon fly fishing on the Blackfoot, made famous in the film A River Runs Through It. Indoors, Paws Up is no slouch either, with 20 luxury Old West—style homes. A second resort within the resort called Tent City evokes the golden age of safaris, right down to the "camping butlers" and a "spa village." The remote Encampment at Bull Creek is the third lodging option. Travelocity editor Amy Ziff finds the best of both worlds, a place where she can "wake to the sounds of nature all around you, but never miss a moment of the best amenities that a top resort offers."
Four Seasons Westlake Village, California
Just 40 minutes from Los Angeles, this newcomer has raised the bar, challenging our perennial winners such as Canyon Ranch. East meets West here, as a spa that blends traditional practices such as meditation and yoga complements the adjacent California WellBeing Institute, which offers cutting-edge science. All this good-for-you activity is mixed with the kind of lodging, cuisine and service that top-tier brand Four Seasons, a consistent winner in our polls, is known for. Journalist Anne Dimon, Canada's leading spa authority, notes that "this hotel offers an innovative spa and luxurious accommodations in acres of lush and exotic gardens."
Larry Olmsted is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.
BEST BY REGION
From downtown New York to the heart of Buenos Aires, these are the best resorts by region.
Since this property took Best Small Hotel honors in the entire country, it is no surprise it won its own city as well, but the Gramercy Park Hotel made a very strong second-place showing in a city awash in new hip hotels.
This small, 18-room, 50-suite boutique hotel, the latest addition to the Italian Baglioni luxury hotel group, packs a wallop. Butler service is included in all rooms, guests are squired around the city courtesy of the hotel's chauffer-driven Maserati Quattroporte and its Italian eatery, Brunello, is one of the city's best.
Another key city hotel that also won our Best Urban Hotel in the international category. Our panelists were emphatic about this newcomer, as no other hotel in the City of Light received a single vote.
Four Seasons Resorts Lana'i
Long known as the Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay, the Four Seasons group bought the two properties and merged them into one luxurious resort. Both hotels closed for six months and underwent a combined $100 million in upgrades, from new restaurants and spas to a complete revamp of every guest room. The result is a unique pair of sister hotels that share fantastic facilities, including two top-notch golf courses, shooting and riding centers, and white sand beaches. The Four Seasons Resorts Lana'i offer the only high-end lodging on the island, affording guests privacy and a return to pristine Hawaii.
Hotel Caruso, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Another classic hotel that achieved "new" status, in large part because ancient ruins were uncovered during a face-lift, stretching the renovation out to nearly six years. Set amid lush gardens with a stunning infinity pool perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, the Hotel Caruso immediately regained its status as one of the world's great hotels when it reopened in 2005. The hotel is currently adding new luxury suites, and once again has stumbled onto archaeological finds, but the "new old" structure is fully open for business—and pleasure.
Four Seasons, Hong Kong
In a region dominated by top luxury chains, more new hotels have opened than anywhere else: Peninsulas in Tokyo and Beijing, Mandarin Orientals in Hong Kong and Tokyo, Park Hyatts in Seoul and Saigon, and Ritz-Carltons in Tokyo and Beijing. Amid this clamor, the Four Seasons stood out for its waterfront location, connected luxury mall, air-conditioned pedestrian links to the ferry terminal and airport express train, and array of excellent restaurants.
Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau, Buenos Aires, Argentina
In another region with a plethora of high-end newcomers, the Park Hyatt won over voters with its combination of old and new, combining a modern tower with a loving renovation of an existing classic mansion. "This is the most artfully and yet thoughtfully designed hotel I've ever been in," says Amy Ziff, adding, "Located in the charming Recoletta neighborhood, it's also as romantic as it is divine."
TOP 10 CIGAR-FRIENDLY HOTELS & RESORTS
Cigar Aficionado's editors pick the best hotels and resorts in the world for cigar smokers.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai
Dubai is a mecca for cigar lovers and many of its public spaces are havens for lovers of the leaf. The sumptuous 202-suite Burj Al Arab hotel is no exception. A Jumeirah property, the hotel has been built to look like a billowing sail that commands the city skyline. Rich furnishings abound, from jewel-toned velvet pillows to silk coverlets to plush sofas. The Juna Lounge offers an extensive list of premium Cuban cigars, including Montecristos and Cohibas, all of which can be paired with one of the largest selections of single-malt Scotch in the region.
Hotel Byblos, St. Tropez
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, St. Tropez's iconic hotel is a jet-setter's and cigar smoker's dream. Each of the Byblos's 96 rooms and suites is elegantly decorated in neutral hues and Mediterranean reds and blues. The hotel caters to those wanting exclusivity amid rich nightlife as well as those who'd rather relax with a good cigar. Owner Antoine Chevanne developed a cigar menu that includes a brief history of the cigar industry, Cuba's role in it, and a definition of the various shapes and sizes and the famous Cuban marques including Cuaba, Saint Luis Rey, Vegas Robaina and Bolivar.
Hotel Caruso, Ravello, Italy
This stunning 45-room luxury hotel, perched on a cliff high above the picturesque Amalfi coast, was a favorite haunt of Humphrey Bogart, Tennessee Williams and Jackie Kennedy. Spectacular Mediterranean views abound from the luxuriously appointed rooms. Patrons can take excursions to nearby Capri, Positano or Pompeii or just relax in lovely Ravello. But cigar lovers need look no further than Caruso's Portico terrace at which they can savor a Cuban Cohiba, Partagas or Montecristo from the hotel's list, organized and overseen by head barman Carlo Carlino.
Isle de France, St. Barths
The Caribbean has many outstanding properties and one of the best is this alluring, privately owned hotel on the French island of St. Barths. Designated the top hotel in the Caribbean by Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, Isle de France on Baie des Flamands beach proffers 33 sumptuous rooms, suites and villas, each distinct yet lushly decorated in an island style. The hotel caters to cigar smokers, who can enjoy a Cohiba Siglo or Partagas Serie D No. 4, among others, at La Case de l'Isle, the beautiful open-air French restaurant.
Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong
This renowned, environmentally conscious 700-room hotel has some of the most spacious accommodations in Hong Kong. Each modern room, with its neutral tones and state-of-the-art amenities, features a huge bay window with breathtaking views of the city or Victoria Harbour. The Kowloon also houses one of the only bars in the city where cigar smoking is allowed. The stylish Tapas Bar, known for its extensive wine list, sells Montecristos, Cohibas and Davidoffs. From time to time, the bar also invites cigar rollers to demonstrate the cigar-rolling process for guests.
The Lanesborough, London
Situated on Hyde Park Corner in the heart of London, the 98-room Lanesborough, a St. Regis hotel, re-creates the timeless elegance and romance of the Regency period. Rich velvet pillows pepper sateen coverlets, plush sofas dot the living areas and Carrera marble decorates the bathrooms. Although London laws forbid smoking in dining and drinking establishments, the Lanesborough offers a haven for cigar smokers: The Library Bar features pre-revolution Cuban cigars, such as the La Gloria Cubana Sabrosos and Trinidad Diplomaticos for guests' smoking pleasure.
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
Nestled on a private island in the Turks & Caicos, Parrot Cay caters to those who want beauty amid exclusivity. Guests can rent spacious beachfront villas with swimming pools or rest in one of 56 tranquil hotel rooms. A mile-long white sand beach beckons sun worshippers while the world-renowned Como Shambala retreat lures yoga lovers. Cigar devotees are not neglected. Smokers are welcome at the Terrace and Lotus Bars, where they can choose from a list of distinctive Cuban cigars, including the Bolivar Tubos and the Hoyo de Monterrey Coronation.
Sea Island Resorts, Georgia
Georgia's scenic barrier islands play host to one of the world's most beautiful golf resorts. Built in 1928, Sea Island offers golfers a choice of three unique championship courses. Guests can stay at the historic 156-room, antique-furnished Cloister at Sea Island or the English manor—style, 40-room Lodge at Sea Island. The Smoking Lounge at the Cloister showcases leather chairs, pecky cypress beams, heart pine millwork and antique maps, as well as an array of single-malt Scotch, private-label brandies and Ports, and cigars, most notably Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Stories and Ashton Cabinet Vintage torpedoes.
St. Regis Temenos, Anguilla
With its spectacular Greg Norman—designed golf course and its stunning views of tranquil azure seas and St. Maarten, the ultra-exclusive St. Regis Temenos in idyllic Anguilla is a vacationer's and golf aficionado's dream. Guests can stay in one of three decadent, four- and five-suite whitewashed private villas (a 120-room hotel and additional villas will open in 2008), relax on the pristine private white-sand beach or hit the challenging 18-hole course (the 10th hole is particularly tough), where one can enjoy cigars.
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Safari-goers who don't want to rough it often venture to Sir Richard Branson's vast African game reserve in South Africa. Located in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, the 10,000-acre Ulusaba provides luxury amid a rugged terrain of unsurpassed beauty. On a given day you could spy wild game in the bush and get a world-class massage. No stone is unturned for guests, even cigar aficionados. Many Cuban marques are for sale and with much of the property being open air, cigar lovers can find many a spot to reflect as they enjoy their smokes.
—Shandana A. Durrani
60 Hyde Park Gate
London SW7 5BB
Burj Al Arab
Jumeirah Beach Road
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dublin 4, Ireland
Américo Vespucio Sur 80, Piso 5
46 Avenue George V
75008 Paris, France
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