Here at Hotel Scoop we publish a new post each weekday, which means we collectively review more than 200 hotels and resorts over the course of a year. Which ones really stood out for us? Which ones would we go back to in a heartbeat?
Each of our contributors took on the tough task of deciding which hotel or resort they stayed in ranked as the “best of the best” for the year. Here’s our rundown of the best of 2016.
[Editor’s note: to see the more updated version from a year later, go to the latest list of our best hotels of the year.]
Editor Tim Leffel says he would love to move into the condo room he stayed in beachfront at the Venetian Resort in Turks & Caicos, but the most memorable property was a barefoot luxury 14-villa one on the island where the movie The Blue Lagoon was filmed: Turtle Island Fiji.
Yes, it’s a sensual place, ideal for a honeymoon or anniversary. It doesn’t hurt that every other day you’re assigned a private beach you can have all to yourself. The staff brings you everything you need, like a picnic lunch and a full cooler, then they take off until it’s time to return, putting up an “occupied” sign where the golf cart would enter.
Dana Rebmann hopes to make it back to The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch for the 2017 ski season, but until than she’s found the perfect getaway less than an hour away from her Northern California home, at Poetry Inn.
After being buzzed through the gated entrance, there’s a few more turns before the Napa Valley hotel comes into view. Perched on a hillside of Cabernet Sauvignon you can’t take in the full view until you park your car and walk inside. That’s when you’ll let out the first of many WOWS.
The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem has raised the bar for luxury not only in Jerusalem and Israel but even beyond. In a region known for what have been termed seven-star hotels, the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem took the industry by surprise when it was named the 2015 Best Hotel in the Middle East by Conde Nast Traveller. The honor catapulted the hotel to the stratospheric ranking of #7 in the world, eclipsing all its sister Waldorf Astoria standard bearers.
It’s the single fresh flower placed on the bathroom vanities. The hotel-supplied pajamas carefully laid out on your bed. The water bottles adorned with graceful calligraphy, done by a hotel staff member. And the at-your-service staff who greet you by name and do their best to accommodate any request.
She had one of her best meals this year, too, at Nadaman, the hotel’s elegant kaiseki-style dining room.
When it comes to luxury, fine dining and family-friendly activities, The Resort at Paws Up takes the cake (or the gourmet cookie) according to lodging expert Nancy D. Brown. An equestrian enthusiast, Brown was over-whelmed with the level of service provided at this western Montana all-inclusive resort, as well as the caliber of horses available to guests.
Framed by the Scapegoat Wilderness, Bob Marshall Wilderness and Mission Mountains, the resort calls to nature lovers, artists, foodies and families. Yes, there really is something for everyone in this part of Montana, unless you prefer the sounds of city life to silence. Don’t fret, you’ll still have the luxury of heated bathroom floors, high thread count sheets and wireless internet, but you’ll wake up to the sounds of birds chirping or if you are a real early bird, you might watch the horse round up (the jingle) or join an early morning cattle drive.
Is great food enough to justify a stay at any hotel? Contributor Michele Sponagle says, “Yes!” Her stay this summer at Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island was a delicious one, thanks to the culinary wizardry of owner/chef Michael Smith who is behind the stove at FireWorks. From outdoor food stations with ocean views to homemade fortune cookies left in rooms as a turndown amenity, this property dazzled guests at every turn. Understandably, the restaurant was listed among the 10 top new restaurants in Canada by en Route magazine.
As a grand finale at FireWorks, servers come out with a role of butcher paper and roll out wide strip down the middle of the table. Then they throw handfuls of honey granola along its length, then squeeze out a variety of sauces onto the paper. It’s an artful looking mess, created to go along with the vanilla goat cheese cake. Guests scrape up the granola and sauces as they like to top off their dessert. It’s a fitting end to a delicious evening – a casual affair that is much like the island’s famous kitchen parties where people gather and bond over good food and drink.
A memorable hotel is not only comfortable, but evocative of place. Contributor Susan McKee is a fan of art glass, so when she went to Sweden’s Kingdom of Crystal she booked a night at the Kosta Boda Art Hotel in Kosta. More than $2 million worth of art glass by name designers is featured throughout the property, from the lobby through the hallways and into the individual guest rooms. Even the bar is designed by one of the Kosta glass artists.
Although I could have specified a glassmaker whose works I wanted to see in my guestroom, when I went to Sweden’s Glasriket (“Kingdom of Crystal”) I wasn’t familiar with the artists (seven have hallways of rooms). Taking potluck, I ended up in Room 121 with original art by Kjell Engman, but I could have “stayed” with Anna Ehrner, Goran Wärff, Bertil Vallien, Ulrica Hydman-Vallien, Asa Jungnelius or Ludvig Löfgren.
When it comes to hotels, travel writer Diana Rowe is rarely surprised, but exploring her backyard of Colorado this past year, she has stayed in some (surprisingly) over-the-top hotels. The one that stands out for her in 2016 is the Downtown Denver masterpiece, the ART Hotel.
Whether you are an art connoisseur or a traveler that just enjoys the finer hotels in life, you’re going to love the 165-room ART Hotel, which opened early summer of 2015. Located in downtown Denver’s Cultural District, the boutique hotel is simply unique, capturing the contemporary art scene as if the hotel were its sketching pad. Yes, it’s all about art here, but the ART hotel is also about customer service, fine dining, and spectacular views.
For Mike Dunphy, 2016 saw some of the most intensive travel of his life that took him from New York, through Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy, before landing in Croatia for the winter. Of all the hotels he stayed at along the way, none stick out more in his memory—particularly the olfactory—than Terre Blanche, the former estate of Sean Connery in the hills of Provence.
The first thing you should do after stepping onto Terre Blanche is take a deep breath. It’s not to calm yourself or re-establish your yogic center, but to inhale the air of quite possibly the best smelling resort in the world. The culprit for the fantastic aroma is 750 acres of delicately rolling Provençal countryside bursting with lavender, thyme, rosemary, jasmine, and myrtle.
Jamie Rhein’s travels took her on a hopscotch across the U.S. and onward to Vietnam and the Philippines. Picking the best of the bunch from B&Bs to historic hotels to boutique and upscale swank was a daunting task. However, given that the Edgewater Hotel in Winter Garden, Florida was a most marvelous find, she deems it the hotel with her biggest thumbs up.
The Edgewater Hotel is a perfect combination of historic, unique, and charming with a most welcoming vibe. With its 1926 Otis elevator, antique scale that’s re-purposed as a candy dish and granola bar bowl, the made to order hot breakfast, and a parlor that looks like it’s your great aunt’s house (but more interesting), the Edgewater is a repeat visit type of place. Winter Garden, just 14 miles from Orlando is a gem of a town as well. This is old Florida at its finest.