Built by Ulysses S. Grant’s son in 1910, the 270-room U.S. Grant Hotel is one of the most celebrated and respected hotels within San Diego, known for its American luxury with a traditional European twist. Rooms are bright and classically elegant, with crown molding, crisp white linens, and modern amenities like flat-screen TVs. Bathrooms have large walk-in showers and deep bowl sinks. Although the hotel’s overall elegance and luxe vibe are charming and captivating, the fees for parking and Wi-Fi can add up.
Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort is an all-inclusive boutique luxury resort in the South Ari Atoll. The 48 villas have sophisticated decor, espresso machines, minibars, private decks, outdoor showers, iPod docks, and comfy king-size beds; some rooms have semi-private pools. Sandbags, crabs, reef sharks, and fish are common sights in the surrounding lagoon and the island’s location is ideal for spotting whale sharks and dolphins year-round. Standout and unique features include a chic airport lounge, beachside infinity pool with large bar, laser light shows, large overwater spa and gym, and small wine bar. There’s an all-inclusive option that includes alcohol — not especially common for the Maldives — but this former adult-only resort doesn’t have much for kids to do. The comparable Lily Beach Resort & Spa is kid-friendlier.
Known for its extraordinary service, the grand, century-old St. Regis New York is a high-end hotel located on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, blocks from Central Park and Rockefeller Center. Its 229 rooms are elegant, with sophisticated decor, upscale amenities, and sleek Italian marble bathrooms. Personal butlers are on call 24/7. One of the hotel’s most outstanding features is the iconic King Cole Bar, which draws locals and visitors alike for its famed Red Snapper cocktail and elegant atmosphere. Other highlights include an excellent restaurant with afternoon tea service, a 24-hour fitness center, and a renowned hair and nail salon. In this price range, the Mandarin Oriental, New York features a full spa and an indoor pool with striking views.
Soneva Fushi is one of the top luxury resorts in the Maldives, and the lush jungle interior and charming Robinson Crusoe-style decor make the private island feel like a camp for wealthy castaways. Beautiful beachfront villas and overwater bungalows feature butler service, outdoor bathrooms, upscale amenities, and perks such as slides to the sea and/or private pools. The spa is a highlight here, as are the observatory, the outdoor movie theater with free screenings, and the top-notch diving and snorkeling. Rooms and food are among the priciest in the Maldives, but an all-inclusive package covering local alcohol is available. Guests should be prepared to bicycle barefoot through the wilderness and get a little dirty. It’s comparable to Gili Lankanfushi in its vibe, level of luxury, and celebrity cachet, but lacks Gili’s communal swimming pool.
Nestled on 160 acres of thick redwood forests abutting the ocean, the adults-only Ventana Big Sur, An Alila Resort looks like a rustic cabin — yet it features luxurious, streamlined rooms and impressive facilities. Chic rooms have wood and leather accents, upscale bathrooms with separate walk-in showers and soaking tubs, and high-end amenities. All units feature spacious balconies or patios with views, and many have fireplaces, creating a cozy retreat vibe to fit with its surroundings. Glamping facilities are also available here, complete with high-end canvas tents, luxe shared showers with heated floors, and fire pits. The overall goal of the hotel is to create a zen, holistic retreat with such offerings as yoga classes, discovery walks, afternoon wine and cheese, Japanese baths, and two heated outdoor pools (one of which offers ocean views). The restaurant offers local cuisine with a view, but some guests have complained that portions are small and overpriced. Overall, this is one of the area’s most impressive properties, with only the Post Ranch Inn surpassing it in terms of luxury.
The luxury, family-friendly DoublePool Villas by Banyan Tree offers 26 stunning villas with private pools situated around a lagoon, near Bangtao Beach in Phuket. Each spacious villa has a large infinity pool with built-in hot tub, living space, bathtubs and separate shower, and outdoor gazebo with loungers, plus perks such as butler service and free minibars. One-, two-, and three-bedroom villas are available. All other facilities are shared with the adjacent Banyan Tree, including well-regarded restaurants serving Thai, Japanese, and Mediterranean fare, an elegant spa with couples’ treatments, a kids’ club, an 18-hole golf course, and daily activities such as yoga and cooking classes. This is a stellar luxury pick for both families and couples, but the lack of beach views and ocean sometimes being too rough for swimming are notable downsides. Additionally, the resort is about a 25-minute drive (without traffic) to the touristy Patong area and airport. Travelers looking for even more features should consider the cheaper JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa.
Situated on beautiful Wailea Beach, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea established itself as one of Hawaii’s premier luxury resorts when it opened in 1990. Today, after a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2016, the 383-room oceanfront stunner still maintains its elite status and doesn’t charge a resort fee (a rarity for Hawaii). Modern guest rooms are spacious and sumptuously outfitted with bathtubs, separate showers, and luxe amenities. Three restaurants provide varied dining options, and Wolfgang Puck’s acclaimed Spago is one of Maui’s best eateries. Families and couples are equally catered to here with two family-friendly pools, a game room, free kids’ club, secluded adults-only oasis pool, and a world-class spa. However, some couples or solo travelers may find the hotel to be a bit too family-friendly. Travelers looking for a more hip, adults-centric property may prefer the Andaz Maui at Wailea Hotel.
The luxury, 501-room Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda is one of the best family-friendly, all-inclusive resorts in Playa del Carmen. Its Family Concierge section includes a private pool and lounge, butler service, private beach area, and tons of in-room perks for children. But even those who book a standard all-inclusive package have plenty of options, including two pools — one of which has a pirate ship with water slides — a wonderful spa with a serene outdoor hydrotherapy pool, and a full range of daily activities, from wine and tequila tastings to workshops to fitness classes. Contemporary rooms have sitting areas, free minibars (restocked daily), free Wi-Fi, and furnished balconies. Many also feature outdoor hot tubs, and some offer swim-up access. Dining and drinking options include everything from a great buffet to Mexican and Asian a la carte restaurants. Couples can be happy here but may want to check rates next door at the adults-only Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla.
The 210-room InterContinental Mauritius Resort Balaclava Fort is a family-friendly luxury property located right on the beach of Balaclava Bay, on the northwest coast of the island. Tons of features cater to guests of all ages, with two heated infinity pools, land and water sports, an activity-packed kids’ club, and entertainment such as dance performances. Multiple beach areas are lovely and lined with loungers, but the coastline is rocky and not great for swimming. Four excellent restaurants offer buffet and a la carte dining, and an all-inclusive package is available for meals and drinks. Attractive and spacious rooms have swish amenities such as stone bathtubs and separate showers, flat-screen TVs, bathrobes, and furnished balconies or terraces with ocean views. However, some past guests have complained of maintenance issues and unpleasant odors in rooms. Travelers wanting a resort with a better beach should consider LUX* Belle Mare, which has similar offerings.
Occupying an 1893 building that was previously an elite men’s club, the upscale Chicago Athletic Association Hotel retains its old style and atmosphere with a modern twist. It has a fantastic location along the Chicago Cultural Mile on Michigan Avenue, adjacent to Millennium Park. The 241 rooms are handsome and modern, with marble rainfall showers, flat-screen TVs, and charming touches such as pommel horses as bedside benches. However, many units are on the small side and past guests have complained of noise issues. Although lacking a pool and spa, features are excellent, with standouts being Cindy’s, a rooftop restaurant and bar, the Game Room, a bar with billiards and bocce bay, and the speakeasy-style Milk Room. A daily resort fee covers Wi-Fi, 24-hour fitness center access, free coffee or tea, a welcome Champagne toast, access to the on-site basketball court, and free bike rentals. Overall, this is a good pick for travelers intrigued by the property’s history, style, and bar offerings, but those wanting a more traditional upmarket pick with a spa and pool should consider the Waldorf Astoria Chicago.