Our Take on 6 of the Best Hotels in the World

Every year Travel + Leisure posts their list of the top 100 hotels in the world and then the best hotels in the USA in different regions. There’s just a quick blurb about most of them, which are voted on by readers (and sometimes ballot-stuffed by the industry), but we’ve got plenty of detailed reviews of these top places to stay right here on Hotel Scoop.

Turtle Island Fiji pool area

There are hundreds of hotels and resorts highlighted, broken down by region, so this would be a very long post if we included them all we have reviewed in each area. Instead we’re highlighting six of our favorites that made the list of the “best 100 hotels in the world.”

Vail’s Sonnenalp Hotel

Our correspondent Dana Rebmann stayed at Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail last year and said it’s easy to think you’re in Bavaria instead of Colorado when looking around this resort. Plus “The Swiss Chalet serves European favorites including Wiener Schnitzel and Spätzle, along with cheese and chocolate fondue.”

Sonnenalp Resort Vail Colorado

Rooms range from spacious to huge (in the many suites) and there are welcome eco-friendly touches like refilled glass bottles of purified water and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries in large reusable/refillable bottles. There are indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs for every season, a game room, kids club, and full spa.

See all the details in our review of Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail.

Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont

Head east to another state famous for its ski resorts and you don’t normally encounter the kind of four-figure hotel rates that are common in Vail and Aspen. You may be paying a couple grand a night though to stay at what may be the most posh option in the state: Twin Farms.

Author Sinclair Lewis bought the property in the 1800s when he proposed to journalist Dorothy Thompson, but the two spit a year later and occupied different parts of the 300-acre estate. Thus the “Twin Farms” name that stuck.

Twin Farms Hotel Vermont

There’s plenty of room to roam, with six private ski trails in winter, as well as lodging choices that range from junior suites to a cottage to a whole farmhouse. A communal cocktail hour allows a bit of mingling among guests who may be staying far apart on the property. It leads up to a multi-course dinner focused on local ingredients, with a 20,000 bottle wine cellar for accompaniment.

There’s a spa on site, plus a long list of activities in all seasons: hiking, biking, billiards, fly fishing, tennis, cross-country skiing, and those downhill slopes served by snowmobile rides back uphill. Your end to the day is sure to be cozy.

With a roaring log fire, antique furnishings, and wood plank floors, Lewis’ farmhouse portrays a near flawless version of New England idyll not far removed from the colonial portraiture on the walls.

See our full review of Twin Farms in Vermont.

Wickaninnish Inn Tofino, BC, Canada

Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino BC Canada

The wild Tofino area of Canada, on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, is known for its big surfer waves and sometimes frighteningly wild weather you can watch while sitting in front of a fireplace. The Wickaninnish Inn offers a civilized place to watch the clouds roll by while sitting in front of the fireplace or having a glass of wine after a stroll along the beach.

What struck our correspondent the most was the attention to details throughout in this family owned property.

[Owner] McDiarmid points out the hand-cut wooden puzzles in the library. The binoculars set on the Douglas fir mantles above the guest room fireplaces. The boot dryer tucked into a hallway closet.

There are locally made soaps, hand-forged lamps, and cabinets crafted from reclaimed boards.

The windows — even in the guest room baths — are positioned to capture the views of the Pacific Ocean just outside.

Most of the comfortable rooms face the sea and come with gas fireplaces, balconies, and music players, while beach backpacks, raincoats, and refillable water bottles are provided for guests. For a splurge, go for one of the split-level loft units that have a skylit bedroom up top, a living room and kitchen down.

See Carolyn Heller’s review of Wikaninnish Inn at Tofino, British Columbia.

Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay in Mazatlan

Mazatlan doesn’t get all that much press in the USA, but it’s a nice alternative to the more gringo-filled resort areas of Mexico. The top upscale resort there for more than a decade has been Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay. The Mexican chain behind the property has a few others around the country, including one we’ve reviewed in Los Cabos, plus extensive real estate operations. That gives them the deep pockets to keep improving and maintaining this impeccable property with its own secluded beach in “New Mazatlan” on the Sea of Cortes.

Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan

Even the standard rooms here are set up like suites, with their own kitchenette for making family meals. There are a few great restaurants on site though and service by the pool and beach for keeping the cocktails flowing. While it’s worth exploring the historic center, the Golden Zone, or playing some golf nearby, a lot of guests are content to kick back and enjoy the service and views.

See Nancy Brown’s review of Pueblo Bonito in Mazatlan.

Viceroy Los Cabos Resort in Mexico

Los Cabos carries the crown of having the most luxury resorts on one strip of coastline anywhere in the Americas and the gorgeous Viceroy there got one of the top hotel nods from T+L. It is a rare “top 100 in the world” list that doesn’t have at least two or three hotels from the bottom of the Baja Peninsula and this year was no exception. Between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are more five-star resorts than you find in entire countries elsewhere. They serve a flow of Hollywood celebs, Silicon Valley billionaires, and southern USA titans of industry that can get on a direct flight in the morning and be sipping margaritas that afternoon.

The Viceroy Los Cabos, designed by a prominent Mexican architect, is a wonder to behold, especially at night when the design elements take on a colorful, less sun-bleached palate. Bars sit in nests, water seems to surround the buildings, and the rooms themselves are unabashedly modern.

Viceroy Los Cabos Resort at night

Viceroy is one of the most polished and consistent independent hotel chains in North America, so the service lives up to the stunning design. There are also lots of eco-friendly touches in place, including a welcome drink that comes in a plastic bag made of corn starch, with a bamboo straw to drink from.

As with most in this region, the beach here is for strolling, not swimming thanks to the dangerous surf. There are two pool complexes to enjoy though and plenty of waiters waiting to fetch you a cocktail.

See more photos and our review of Viceroy Los Cabos Beach Resort.

Turtle Island Fiji

I was fortunate enough to spend my 20th wedding anniversary at Turtle Island Resort in Fiji and can honestly say this is one of the best resorts I’ve experienced in my decades of reviewing hotels. It sits on its own spacious island with so many beaches that guests can reserve one for themselves for the day, with the staff packing them a picnic lunch and whatever they want to drink.

Each “room” here is really a free-standing beach house that steps out on to the sand. It has a full living room, a big porch with a day bed, a romantic king bed, and a fridge for all those included beverages.

From the private seaplane ride to get here to the “bura mama” that takes care of everything you might need during your all-inclusive stay, the service is invisibly pampering without being stuffy. Millionaires spend their vacation in bathing suits and flip-flops and everyone shares meals together at a long table on the beach. Included activities range from snorkeling excursions and boat rides to hiking, but much of the time is spent lounging with your loved one and enjoying the sound of music from the singing staffers. Here’s a video tour to give you an idea of what it’s like:


See our full review of Turtle Island Fiji Resort.

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