It List 2009

In compiling Travel + Leisure’s fourth annual It List, our editors once again visited hundreds of new hotels around the globe. So whether you’re looking for a quick getaway or hoping to get away from it all, we’ve found the place for you.


Beach

Miami Beach
Fontainebleau

It’s got Rat Pack glamour and now, after a $1 billion renovation, the Fontainebleau also has top restaurants and lounges (11 of them, including Alan Yau’s much-anticipated new outpost of London eatery Hakkasan) and 1504 guest rooms, with plasma TVs and iMacs. The staff is still adjusting to the demands of such a huge hotel, but it’s the public spaces that really impress: the epic lobby, the glowing floor of the Bleau Bar, and, outside, a seemingly endless series of pools, lounge chairs, palm trees, and more pools.
4441 Collins Ave.; +1 305 538 2000; fontainebleau.com; doubles from $327.

Hainan Island, China
Ritz-Carlton Sanya

The 450-room Ritz-Carlton is a standout among the growing number of resorts on Hainan, China’s only tropical island. Amid crowds of well-heeled mainland Chinese (including lovestruck newlyweds in matching Hawaiian shirts) we found a Forbidden City-inspired retreat with gardens, reflective lagoons and wooden pillar-lined walkways. After a day spent by your villa’s plunge pool, don’t be daunted by the distance to the seawater-themed Espa at the other end of the resort: a personal butler awaits to drive you there. Yalong Bay National Resort District; +86 898 8898 8888; ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $250.

Phuket, Thailand
Six Senses Destination Spa

Spa-obsessed jet-setters, take note: Six Senses has brought the best of South-East Asia’s healing arts to a speck of land off Phuket’s eastern coast. A 10-hectare retreat houses four individual spas – yes, four – each dedicated to Chinese, Indian, Indonesian or Thai traditions. Many of the practitioners have trained for years to fine-tune a single treatment, which became apparent during our deep-tissue Indian Abhyanga massage. Between appointments, we lounged by the ocean and ordered seaside delivery of addictive Thai dishes such as chili lobster. 32 Moo 5, Tambol Paklok, Amphur Thalang; +66 76 381 010; sixsenses.com; doubles from $3500, including treatments and meals.

Trancoso, Brazil
Uxua Casa Hotel

Bahia’s sexiest beach village takes a giant leap forward with this nine-suite gem masterminded by the creative director of Diesel. The design is outdoorsy elegant, with burnished reclaimed timber, billowing muslin curtains, and mid-century Brazilian furnishings. The three best villas open onto the Quadrado, Trancoso’s town green, and every evening, bossa nova wafts across the lawn. +55 73 3668 2166; uxuacasahotel.com.br; doubles from $1040.

Jamaica
Geejam
Björk and Gwen Stefani have checked in to music producer Jon Baker’s treetops resort, where seven Zen-spare suites on 2.4 hectares overlook Port Antonio and the Caribbean Sea. With a staff-to-guest ratio of four to one, anything you ask for is possible, from a picnic of jerk chicken and planter’s punch on Frenchman’s Cove to spontaneous staff-led rafting trips. You can even have a band to back you up in the recording studio should you feel so inspired. In a world of cookie-cutter boutique hotels, Geejam is truly bespoke. Port Antonio; +876 946 1935; islandoutpost.com; doubles from $780.


Design


Zurich
Dolder Grand

It’s rare that a hotel feels both stolidly conservative and explosively futuristic, but that’s the effect architect Norman Foster has achieved with his redesign of the Dolder Grand, in Zurich. The hilltop property overlooks the city and lake, and the original 1899 facade and turrets, now restored, are flanked by dramatic new stone-and-glass buildings, the Golf Wing and the Spa Wing. Inside, gently curving hallways evoke a 2001: A Space Odyssey sort of mood, and wooden doors open to reveal quietly modern guest rooms – off-white leather upholstery, smoked-oak flooring, and private terraces. 65 Kurhausstrasse; +41 44 456 6000; thedoldergrand.com; doubles from $1010.

Barcelona
ME Barcelona

We may never have ventured into Poblenou, Barcelona’s emerging tech district, if it weren’t for Dominique Perrault’s 122 metre tall glass-and-steel den of cool. Barcelona’s beautiful people bear the 15-minute cab ride from the city centre to arrive at this hotel, where they gather on ebony wingback chairs and chalk-white daybeds at Angels & Kings, an outpost of musician Pete Wentz’s New York bar. We couldn’t get over our room’s perfect views of the Sagrada Familia, the Agbar Tower, and the hills of Catalonia beyond.
272 Pere IV; 1800 221 176 (Australia only); me-barcelona.com; doubles from $310.

Miami Beach
Mondrian

Dutch designer Marcel Wanders’s Baroque-minimalist palace on the calm waters of Biscayne Bay is a feast for the imagination: Step inside, and South Beach’s Art Deco aesthetic melts away. In the lobby, stark white surfaces lead to a latticed black spiral staircase and rooms come with enormous digitally manipulated femme-fatale paintings. When it all becomes too much – the chandelier that turns out to be a showerhead; the trompe l’oeil cloud-mosaic bathroom tiles – retreat to the hotel’s waterside patio to take in the Technicolor sunset over downtown Miami. 1100 West Ave.; +1 305 514 1500; morganshotelgroup.com; doubles from $650.

Shanghai
Park Hyatt Shanghai

Situated atop the towering 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Centre, the Park Hyatt radiates calm. Interior designer Tony Chi’s decor is almost monastic in its restraint, but unlike monks, guests are invited to indulge: cream-of-artichoke soup with caviar in the Dining Room, an acupressure massage in the dreamlike Water’s Edge spa, or a swim past curious egg-shaped sculptures in the infinity pool. 100 Century Ave.; +86 21 6888 1234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from $1058.

Los Angeles
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills,
A Luxury Collection Hotel

Combine Philippe Starck’s exuberant interiors with the genius for tapas of chef José Andrés and the retail vision of design curator Murray Moss, and you have a hotel unlike any other. Though the lobby may border on chaotic, the guest rooms are whisper-quiet and minimalist, with sliding doors between the bath and boudoir. Ultra-trendy though it may be, SLS delivers service that is doting to a fault. 465 S. La Cienaga Blvd.; +1 310 247 0400; slshotels.com; doubles from $510.

Hong Kong
W Hong Kong

The “Whatever, Whenever” motto of Starwood’s boutique brand couldn’t
be more appropriate in Asia’s frenetic financial capital. Sure, the concierge can have a bespoke suit tailored in just 24 hours, but if money is no object he can also have a private jet at the ready for that last-minute trip to Shanghai. All 393 guest rooms have skyline views and remote-controlled everything (blackout curtains; multicoloured mood lighting; iPod docking stations), but be sure to request harbour-facing rooms, as the ICC tower obstructs the panorama on the Hong Kong city side. 1 Austin Rd. W., Kowloon Station, Kowloon; +852 3717 2222; starwoodhotels.com; doubles from $340.


Rustic


Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Estancia Vik

You’ll find a boho-chic crowd in José Ignacio at Estancia Vik, the town’s first luxury guest estancia. All 12 spare suites feature installations by Uruguayan artists; big names, including sculptor Pablo Atchugarry and painter Clever Lara, have work in the public spaces. The location – on 1600 hectares of pasture eight kilometres from the beach – is still close enough to town that you can grab dinner at midnight, as locals do. Km 8, Cam. Eugenio Saiz Martínez; +598 64 675 838; estanciavikjoseignacio.com; doubles from $980.

Mombarruzzo, Italy
LaVilla Hotel

If Piedmont’s Slow Food movement has meant better eating for everyone, an unexpected consequence has been the increased popularity of this once sleepy corner of western Italy. Which is why LaVilla, just east of the town of Le Langhe, is such a welcome addition. The 17th-century palazzo sits amid rolling hills and its rooms are understated, with covetable antiques (claw-foot tubs; 19th-century armoires) and all the comforts (heated tile floors; overstuffed down pillows; an honour bar stocked with the best Barbera wines). The complimentary breakfast of freshly baked croissants, fruits, artisanal cheeses and prosciutto is a highlight.
7 Via Torino; +39 041 793 890; lavillahotel.net; doubles from $270.

Madikwe Game
Reserve, South Africa
Molori Safari Lodge

Tucked into the hills of South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve, the five-suite Molori Safari Lodge presents a compelling argument for the place of indulgence in a recessionary world. South African designer Stephen Falcke mixes traditional elements (thatched roofs; carved-wood statues) with Fendi chaises and gilded Louis XVI-style chairs. Indeed, the lodge excels at fantasy fulfillment. Fancy a romantic wood-fired braai? A candlelit table and chef are at the ready. And let’s not forget the game drives: two a day with an expert ranger. Madikwe Game Reserve; +27 82 613 5723; molori.com; doubles from $2440, all-inclusive.

Bothwell, Australia
Priory Country Lodge

The 1848 Tudor-style lodge in Bothwell, a Tasmanian town known for game hunting, offers a dizzying roster of activities. Guests can fill their days with trout fishing, rounds of golf (the nearby course is the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere), visits to a whiskey distillery and walks through World Heritage-protected wilderness. The bush dinners are also a hit – especially the highland favourite: braised lamb shanks on mash. 2 Wentworth St.; +61 3 6259 4012; thepriorycountrylodge.com; doubles from $720.

Okavango Delta, Botswana
Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge

Amid the colonial-throwback camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, there’s an iconoclastic new kid in town from &Beyond, the safari company formerly known as CC Africa. The 25,000-hectare reserve, one of the largest in any permanent African delta, is a part-land, part-water experience. Guests from the nine pinewood suites punt for hours along water channels in mekoro dugouts, or make incursions into the acacia- and palm-studded plains, hot on the trail of hippos, Cape buffalo and a profusion of wild cats. Okavango Delta; +27 11 809 4300; doubles from $1795 per person. ∫

Mane-en-Provence, France
Le Couvent des Minimes

Relais & Châteaux has the Provence hotel scene sewn up, especially now that the company has put its stamp on Le Couvent des Minimes, a country hideaway near the eastern edge of the Luberon Valley. Set in a former convent, this 46-room retreat welcomes visitors with a cloistered courtyard and strategically placed bouquets of lavender – all handpicked from the terraced herb garden and used in the spa, the first in France from L’Occitane. Chemin des Jeux de Mai; +33 4 92 74 77 77; couventdesminimes-hotelspa.com; doubles from $500.


Resort


Mauritius
Four Seasons Resort

Mauritius – a fascinating melange of Indian, Creole and French cultures – has long been known for luxurious resorts, so when a newcomer raises the bar a notch it is worth taking note. The 123 abodes, some of which reside on private island Ile aux Chats, are hewn from local dark wood and volcanic stone from Mauritius’s lush hilly interior. The design is simple, allowing the view to dominate: be it the tranquil lagoon or the breathtaking vista of the Bambou Mountains. This range lends its name to the Four Seasons casual diner which – along with French-influenced fine diner Beau Champ and Italian Acquapazza – sees head chef Andreas Haugg use local ingredients like palm hearts and venison to great effect. Add an Ernie Elms-designed golf course, overwater spa treatments and the hands-down best service on the island and you will want to make this a regular retreat. Beau Champ; +230 402 3100; fourseasons.com/mauritius; doubles from $900. ∫

Phuket, Thailand
Anantara Phuket Resort & Spa

For its first Phuket property, Anantara eschewed bare-bones minimalism in favour of a fresh take on classic Thai aesthetics. Hidden within a former coconut plantation are 83 bougainvillea-covered villas, whose wooden walls and sloping roofs make guests feel as if they’re meandering through a local village. But there’s nothing rustic here: each villa, clad in teak and raw silk, comes with a swimming pool, an outdoor daybed and a terrazzo bathtub. The expansive spa lured us from our rooms for the kind of massage that makes jet-lagged muscles thankful to be in Thailand. 888 Moo 3, Tambon Mai Khao; +66 76 336 100; anantara.com; villas from $1100.

Dubai
Atlantis, The Palm

In a place that already defines excess, Atlantis manages to push the envelope further. Situated on the arch of the Palm Jumeirah artificial island, the Dubai incarnation of the Bahamas resort is ersatz-oceanic in style – with a 4-million-gallon Aquaventure theme park, a mile of powdery man-made beachfront, and a 65,000-creature marine habitat. And then there are the rooms – 1539 in all – with waterfront balconies that look onto the Persian Gulf or the construction-project-in-action that is Dubai. +971 4 426 1000; atlantisthepalm.com; doubles from $650.

Zighy Bay, Oman
Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay

Just getting there is an adventure – whether by 4WD on a dirt road cresting a jagged mountain, by speedboat, or by paraglider. But once you’ve arrived at this rough-hewn yet ever-so-stylish and comfortable eco-hideaway, stretched out along a white sand beach on Oman’s remote Musandam Peninsula, you won’t want to stray far. There are private plunge pools at the villas; dazzling views of the Strait of Hormuz; a spa with two hammams and classic Six Senses and regional treatments; and a cliff-top bar and restaurant overlooking it all. Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula; +968 26735 555; sixsenses.com; doubles from $1660.


Classic


Beijing
Aman at Summer Palace

Amanresorts’ first foray into China is a cocoon of quiet sophistication near the heart of the frenzied capital. The 51 rooms and suites – housed in what was once a Ch’ing-dynasty imperial complex – are steps from the Summer Palace (pop through a private door and you’re on the grounds) and are decorated with Ming-style furniture, carved wooden screens and Jin clay tiles. Some 400 preservation experts and traditional craftsmen worked on the multiyear project, which painstakingly restored and re-created the internal courtyards and ornate pavilions. 15 Gongmenqian St., Summer Palace; 1800 2255 2626 (Australia only); amanresorts.com; doubles from $550.

Florence
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

If you’ve ever imagined what it might be like to sleep in the Pitti Palace, look no further. A stay at the Four Seasons Florence will make all your Medici fantasies come true. The former papal residence, a short walk from the Duomo, has been meticulously restored. Guest rooms are decorated in silks and velvets chosen to set off the delicate tones of the original painted ceilings. All this and the Tuscan countryside, too, in chef Vito Mollica’s locally sourced menu: eggs come from a farm outside Pisa, Cinta Senese salami from Siena and olive oil from nearby Mont Amiata. 99 Borgo Pinti; +39 055 2626 1; fourseasons.com/florence; doubles from $855.

Cuzco, Peru
Inkaterra La Casona

Since it opened, this conquistador’s mansion has challenged the 10-year-old Hotel Monasterio for the title of Cuzco’s finest address. In fact, La Casona is just a short stroll across the Plaza Las Nazarenas from the grande dame herself. Inside, the 16th-century colonial building has ornate frescoes of monkeys and roosters, beds are topped with hand-woven blankets and large marble baths are furnished with a nearby apothecary’s mint- and heliotrope-scented amenities. The requisite wi-fi and DVDs are available to all – but we swear in the name of Machu Picchu that you won’t use them. 113 Plaza Nazarenas; +51 1 610 0400; inkaterra.com; doubles from $930, including breakfast.

Colca Canyon, Peru
Las Casitas del Colca

The word casita is a misnomer for the first upscale resort in Peru’s dramatic Colca Canyon. These “little houses” (20 in all, scattered on 24 hectares in one of the deepest canyons in the Americas) are 2.7 square metres apiece, each with a private pool. Here, luxury and authenticity go hand in hand: a day might start with condor-spotting or a trip to a pre-Incan village, followed by a massage with plant-infused oils under giant eucalyptus trees. At night in your chandelier-lit guest room, you could almost forget that you’re in the Andean outback – until you step out on the terrace beneath a blanket of stars. Parque Curiña s/n Yanque; +51 1 610 8300; lascasitasdelcolca.com; $680 per person, all-inclusive.

Varanasi, India
Taj Nadesar Palace

Taj Hotels won us over last year with the Umaid Bhawan Palace, so we couldn’t wait to see how they’d transform another former maharajah’s palace, this one in the holy city of Varanasi. Jasmine-scented grounds surround the 18th-century property, where 10 supersize suites are worthy of ∫ prominent former guests (Queen Elizabeth II and Indira Gandhi among them). Gauzy textiles in lotus-petal pinks and marigold yellows are draped over four-poster beds and etched mirrors hang next to claw-foot bathtubs. Our favourite touch: finding a silk pouch filled with palate-cleansing, silver-coated cardamom pods at turndown. Nadesar Palace Grounds; +91 542 2503 001; tajhotels.com; doubles from $520.


City

New Delhi
Aman New Delhi

This new resort is design heaven with interior spaces in warm sandstone and hectares of manicured lawns that enclose the hotel like a verdant moat. We wonder: Will anyone use the plunge pools on the private terraces adjoining most of the rooms? Or will they dive instead into the full-size pool that Italian designer Rosita Missoni described as “a perfect length for swimming laps, which you rarely find in a hotel’,’ never mind one nestled at the centre of a seductive and confounding capital city. Lodhi Rd.; 1800 2255 2626 (Australia only); amanresorts.com; doubles from $715.

Las Vegas
Encore Wynn Las Vegas
In a city where one-upmanship is the reigning mantra, the 45-storey Encore delivers grandeur and a degree of intimacy unprecedented on the Strip. Casino mogul Steve Wynn added the requisite bling to his second namesake hotel (we are in Vegas, after all) in the form of Swarovski-crystal peacock sculptures, and 46-inch swivelling flat-screen TVs in the ebony-and-gold rooms. But we fell for the natural touches: sunlight inside the casino and a botanical backdrop of sculpted flower beds, laurel trees and potted palms that make the huge public space feel downright cosy. 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; +1 702 770 8000; encorelasvegas.com; doubles from $246.

Istanbul
Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus

A former Ottoman palace on the European side of the Bosporus has quickly become one of Istanbul’s most coveted destinations, thanks to a nine-year restoration. Sure, the marble-covered building down the way from Çiragan Palace Kempinski is a hit with Turkish brides, but jet-lagged travellers can still find serenity beneath the Murano chandeliers in the understated guest rooms, or when taking in the views of Asia from the waterfront pool deck. The unfailingly discreet service – not to mention three sultan-worthy hammams – has already proven to be a draw for the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Lenny Kravitz and Colin Farrell. 28 Çiragan Cad., Besiktas; +90 212 381 40 00; fourseasons.com/bosphorus; doubles from $695.

Salta, Argentina
Legado Mítico

This handsome provincial capital, known for its meat empanadas and some of the world’s best-preserved mummies, has lately been burnishing its claim as Argentina’s third city for tourism, after Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Still, we were surprised to come across a hotel so refined, especially on a noisy commercial street near the main square. Each of the 11 guest rooms in this former private residence is named for a notable person (a poet; a gaucho; a sculptor) and dressed accordingly with art from the region. Guests can linger in the courtyard for hours under swaying alamo trees while sampling the region’s tangy, refreshing Torrontes wines. 647 Mitre; +54 387 422 8786; legadomitico.com; doubles from $220. ∫

Los Angeles
Montage Beverly Hills

A Maybach parked out front sets the tone at the Montage Beverly Hills, which channels old Hollywood (beamed ceilings; muralled walls) and new LA (rooftop pool; Pilates studio). Despite the fact that the hotel opened in November – during one of the worst economic moments in history – this sister to the super-successful Montage Laguna Beach still pampers with perks like poolside foot massages and a monogrammed bolster on the bed. Oh, and did we mention the Mercedes convertibles available to guests? 225 N. Canon Dr.;
+1 310 860 7800; montagebeverlyhills.com; doubles from $645.

Istanbul
Park Hyatt Maçka Palas

In the heart of the fashionable Nisantasi district – known for its Art Nouveau facades and high-fashion boutiques – the 90-room Maçka Palas has become a home away from home for European jet-setters. Media moguls and creative types hobnob in the bar of this 1920s palazzo-style town house, sleep in chocolate-and-beige guest rooms (some with French balconies) and feast on dry-aged sirloin at the hotel’s Prime restaurant, the first steakhouse in the city. If you want to feel plugged in, this is the place to go in Istanbul. Tesvikiye, 4 Bronz Sk., Sisli; +90 212 368 1234; park.hyatt.com; doubles from $600.

London
Rough Luxe

Don’t expect a lift, soundproofed walls, TVs, or en-suite baths at this new B&B, in London’s King’s Cross area. What you can expect is a visual experiment that mixes opulence and grit. The Georgian terrace has been partially stripped back to its circa-1827 bones, then draped with a selection of bespoke textiles – ranging from psychedelic riffs on Fortuny damasks to Technicolor pony skin – and a witty collection of contemporary art. It’s not for everyone, but it is worth checking out. 1 Birkenhead St.; +44 20 7837 5338; roughluxe.co.uk; doubles from $300.

New York
The Standard

André Balazs’s fourth Standard hotel, a glass-and-concrete behemoth towering over the Meatpacking District’s low-slung warehouses, has fast become a crash pad for the international style set. Inside the Todd Schliemann-designed building – straddling the city’s new High Line park on 60-foot pylons – scene-seeking denizens mingle over sidecars and single malts. The modish vibe melted away in our fifth-floor room, decorated with a tambour wooden headboard reaching dramatically up to the ceiling; a glass-enclosed shower; and walls of windows showcasing the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and the sprawling cityscape. 848 Washington St.; +1 212 645 4646; standardhotels.com; doubles from $250. π

Edited by Niloufar Motamed, Sarah Kantrowitz, and Jennifer Flowers. Written by Christine Ajudua, Gini Alhadeff, Luke Barr, Lily Becker, Laura Begley, Paul Chai, Jennifer Chen, Tanvi Chheda, Yolanda Crous, Matthew Evans, Elettra Fiumi, Ozgur Gezer, Alice Gordon, Serra Gurcay, Catesby Holmes, Tina Isaac, Karrie Jacobs, David Kaufman, David A. Keeps, Stirling Kelso, Peter Jon Lindberg, Shane Mitchell, Bob Morris, Nancy Novogrod, Bruce Schoenfeld, Clara Sedlak, Swapan Seth, Maria Shollenbarger, Rima Suqi, Guy Trebay, Hillary Geronemus Truslow, Bonnie Tsui and Elizabeth Woodson.

RECENT ISSUES

ARCHIVE

Read featured stories from past issues.