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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Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
Not satisfied to win for Best Beach Resort, this new property, the top finisher in our entire poll, also wowed panelists with its Silver Rain La Prairie Spa. From the Champagne served in the lounge after treatments to a Swedish massage that Luxury Travel Advisor editor Ruthanne Terrero says will "remove kinks in your back that have been there since birth," nothing was missed at this superlative facility. New York magazine's Tara Mandy was skeptical but won over, saying, "The Caribbean has always been good at creating spa environments, but the treatments are usually subpar. Silver Rain is not only spectacularly designed but also offers treatments and aestheticians that would hold their own in any of the top spas in New York or L.A. It's by far the best spa in the Caribbean."
Notable: The rest of the votes were cast in far-flung places, from South Africa's new Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa in Knysna to Bora Bora, where both the Thalasso Spa and St. Regis got nods. Likewise, several properties in Thailand received votes, including Sila Evason Hideaway & Spa at Samui, a Six Senses property and the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi. The only property in Europe to garner a vote was one that also fascinated our golf panelists, the Four Seasons Provence at Terre Blanche in France.
Ski Hotel—North America
Tie: Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Four Seasons Resort Whistler, British Columbia
It was pretty clear what brand our panelists thought did the best job of luxury ski-in/ski-out hotels, with a tie between Four Seasons' two newest ski properties. From the stunning après ski sushi offerings and four-day heli-ski, cat-ski and guided backcountry ski luxury adventure packages at the Jackson Hole property to the "Ski or Snowboard with an Olympian" offerings at Whistler, it's easy to see why these two hotels led the poll. Travelocity's Ziff says of Jackson Hole: "I could put this vote down just for having an amazing spa, but it's really the stellar lodge and service that make the Four Seasons Jackson such a standout. The rooms are as delicious as your warmed boots brought to you by the ski valet before you hit the slopes."
Notable: Several of our panelists were impressed by the three-year-old Park City Hotel in Park City, Utah, which just added even more upscale lodging in the form of its new Cottage Suites. The Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, an environmentally friendly, green-design luxury hotel in Teton Village, Wyoming, is the most anticipated new hotel in the area and will be a direct competitor to the Four Seasons Jackson Hole.
The Omnia, Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is the quintessential alpine town, its main street blissfully car-free and lined with cuckoo clock—style exteriors, making the very contemporary Omnia a radical addition to the long unchanged lodging scene. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and balconies boasting views of the Matterhorn from every room, this new hotel wowed travel journalist and ski guru Everett Potter and travel industry insider Janine Cifelli, who says, "The Omnia gives Zermatt the best of both worlds: you can eat up the classic atmosphere of town, right down to the fondue, but then retire to luxe lodgings more like something out of Singapore or South Beach than Switzerland."
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."
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